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Reflections on a hand-to-mouth existence: Fiona Robertson, director of sound

Like our colleagues the Dunedin Consort and the Hebrides Ensemble, sound was not on the list of Creative Scotland’s regularly funded organisations that was announced on the 24 January 2018.

Unlike Dunedin and the Hebrides, this has already happened to us. When Creative Scotland changed its funding structure in 2014 we ended up being moved from guaranteed two-year funding to project funding. Both times we were recommended for regular funding and had positive assessments. Both times we didn’t make it through to the final group of core funded organisations. Similar to Dunedin and the Hebrides, the reason given this time was that under the pressures of a limited funding pot ‘other organisations more fully met the strategic needs of the sector’. Those retaining support from our part of the music sector are Red Note, the Scottish Ensemble, Cryptic, St Magnus Festival, the National Youth Orchestras of Scotland, the National Youth Choirs of Scotland and Drake Music Scotland. An ever decreasing list of organisations that have ‘core’ funding.

It’s hard being on the outside. It may seem that the amount of funding awarded is the most important thing, and it is of course key, but the indirect consequences can be as debilitating. You move from having a certain level of financial stability, to having little or none. You have to apply annually for project funding which doesn’t cover the totality of your day-to-day costs. You then have to work extra hard to find other sources of funding to keep you afloat. If you can’t find additional funding, you have to pull activity. You have to say no to exciting projects, some of which are international.

And crucially your national and international reputation is damaged; your national arts funding body has overlooked you; you feel undervalued and left out – indeed you are left out. One of the privileges of being regularly funded is that you get to meet and network with other regularly funded organisations in Creative Scotland meetings. When you’re not in the club, you don’t get invited. And when, like us, you are not based in Scotland’s ‘happening’ Central Belt, you can end up being isolated. You don’t get the opportunity to make the same connections and share with other arts organisations. This is just as hampering as the lack of guaranteed funding. As arts organisations we need to share, to discuss, to discover what others are doing, to question, and crucially to build joint projects with like-minded people.

So that’s it for another three years. Back to the drawing board. There is hope: we’ve survived this far. It’s just hard finding that energy for what is effectively an ongoing fight to carry on supporting the composers who write new music and the musicians who play it and to continue letting our local community benefit from the extraordinary buzz that you get from being part of the performance of new work. We all dream of some enlightened philanthropic donor who will take away all the hassle and pain of the endless funding applications, and let us get on with being creative. But for now we’re just grateful for the countless messages of support from audiences, composers and musicians. That’s what really keeps us going.

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