Jazz orchestra chief in quit threat over funding switch

THE founder of the Scottish National Jazz Orchestra has threatened to quit the organisation if it is forced to “go commercial” due to changes in funding for Scottish arts organisations.

Tommy Smith, a leading jazz saxophonist who set up the orchestra 17 years ago, said plans by Creative Scotland to scrap annual funding for nearly 50 organisations in favour of one-off project grants was “a bitter pill” to swallow.

Currently, the SNJO receives £170,000 a year. Mr Smith heard news of the funding changes after the orchestra had performed for an audience of 1300 in France.

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“To say we were disappointed is an understatement,” he said. “I don’t play to make money or to follow commercial desires. If we have to become commercial to exist then au revoir.”

Michael Connarty MP, chairman of the SNJO, said he was seeking talks with Creative Scotland boss Andrew Dixon and Culture Minister Fiona Hyslop to discuss the changes. The SNJO has argued that it should receive direct funding from the Scottish Government.

“It [the SNJO] is regarded as the primary orchestra in the jazz field in the UK and in Europe,” he said. “Something is amiss in the way Creative Scotland is looking at this.”

Creative Scotland said it is moving 49 arts organisations off “flexible funding” arrangements to individual funding for projects and programmes, funded by lottery money.