Kevin Buckle: It’s a sin how venues miss out on funding

Scottish Album of the Year award winners Sacred Paws
Scottish Album of the Year award winners Sacred Paws
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An old arts funding veteran recently suggested I should look at the organisations that receive funding from Creative Scotland. He was trying to persuade me to apply for funding for a permanent space for the music exhibition that has just finished at the Fruitmarket Gallery and thought I should see just who was getting funds.

I didn’t do anything about it until a week later when I mentioned this to another old hand in the mysteries of arts funding. I explained I didn’t really have the time but his comment was it would only take ten minutes to get a feel for things.

So I went ahead and looked at the figures, which are all easily available to the public, and sure enough it doesn’t take long to see how the land lies. Now I’ll leave the exhibition for another time because what I have also been interested in is the lack of financial support for music venues. Meanwhile, it is clear theatres all over Scotland receive millions of pounds every year.

After a quick chat with Creative Scotland all became clear. None of the music venues that have closed recently had ever tried to get funding, but on the other hand that should be no surprise as they weren’t eligible. To qualify a venue would need to be run by a not-for-profit organisation. Music venues were foolishly trying to make money while theatres accept their fate.

Now this is where I feel things do become a little disingenuous. A music venue’s owner by simply trying to make money fails the test, no matter how supportive of the arts they may be. However a big theatre will need to install a CEO at a competitive salary and that is OK.

Even the theatre shows themselves attract funding. In one case I saw a musical get just shy of £100K. Bands make the mistake of just turning up and playing when maybe they should be considering an accompanying stage show a la the Pet Shop Boys or U2.

The bottom line here is that if music venues set themselves up as not-for-profit businesses paying their staff well – Creative Scotland are keen people are paid well – with the owner as CEO then those big theatre-style grants should start rolling in.

Music is second only to cinema in popularity and I’m not sure where theatre is in the rankings but there is a strong case therefore for music to get its fair share of funding. Now I’m sure there are many vested interests who will have something to say about all this but the bottom line is that for too long “rock and pop” as it is called has drawn the short straw within music, which itself struggles against the far better organised sectors in the arts.

Hopefully that is about to change but in a 2013 report I was linked to by Creative Scotland it talks about bodies representing genres and says classical has no such body. What it fails to do is even mention “rock and pop” and the lack of a voice. How this is redressed in the future is for others but it certainly is something that needs to be considered when future funding is considered.

Album award is stuck inside Sottish bubble

So personal favourites Meursault didn’t win the Scottish Album of the Year award, with that honour going to the London/Glasgow duo Sacred Paws – now officially better than label mates and Rock Action label owners Mogwai – with their album Strike A Match.

Whether joyous afro-beat is better than post-rock is one thing but as a shop it is hard to persuade customers, especially those from abroad, that in this case Sacred Paws are better than Frightened Rabbit, Biffy Clyro, Teenage Fanclub, Jesus and Mary Chain and King Creosote – all long-listed this year.

It would actually be an easier album to promote as something like “best debut album”. I appreciate there are many on their second, third and fourth albums that would not qualify for this award and would still be up against the big boys and while this may be the first Sacred Paws album both girls are indie veterans.

However, given the remit of the award is to promote Scottish music I do think more thought needs to be given to how the wider outside world views the award and in fact more attention needs to paid as to whether the wider world is even aware of the award.

There would be no harm in having more than one “winner” and certainly more has to be done to promote the award after it is given. Leaving it up to the artist, as currently happens, as to whether they take advantage of winning the award is really not good enough, given the amount of money invested.

Avalanche 84 gets to art of matter

Inspired by my predecessor in the Fruitmarket Gallery Mark Wallinger I may very well return to an art gallery soon. Mark was awarded the Turner Prize for his meticulous re-creation of Brian Haw’s anti-war peace camp in Parliament Square. He remade Haw’s camp in every detail from the tea-making area to banners, flags, photos and posters collected by Haw and his supporters.

My plan is to meticulously re-create “Avalanche’s 1984 record shop” the year we opened. I don’t see how it can fail! Vinyl record shops are all the rage now and this just predates CD so will be nothing but vinyl, posters and of course a small selection of cassettes. I expect galleries to be falling over themselves to exhibit the work, but my preference is the City Art Centre.

For the Turner Prize exhibition at Tate Liverpool Wallinger chose Sleeper a film of him in a bear suit, wandering around the Neue Nationalgalerie in Berlin. I won’t be re-creating that!