Edinburgh's arts and culture crisis: Adam McVey is right, we need an emergency summit – Susan Dalgety
It seems that everything is on the critical list, from people’s household finances to the Tory Party. And now we can add Edinburgh’s arts and culture sector to that list.
There is a very real risk that the closure of the Filmhouse and the collapse of Edinburgh’s International Festival is just the beginning of a slow unravelling of an important part of city life, one that is vital to our economy.
Sir John Leighton, the man who runs the National Galleries of Scotland, recently told the Scottish Parliament that a combination of soaring inflation, rising energy bills and lower visitor numbers meant that he would have to consider cutting the opening times of some of the galleries, warning the they will have “an offer that falls severely short of what you would expect from a national cultural organisation”.
True to his word, the Galleries have just announced the closure of the Modern Two gallery until the end of the year.
And Dance Base, the national centre for dance, has just revealed its dire financial outlook, predicting it will have to reduce its workforce by half and cut back on its work.
Some might accuse former council leader Adam McVey of making political capital by calling for an urgent summit to discuss the future of the city’s arts sector, but whatever his motives, he is absolutely right.
Edinburgh cannot afford to stand by and watch its cultural sector collapse. I used to spend half my week living just outside Bradford, a city that was once the richest in the world. It is now one of the poorest in Britain, where a third of children live in poverty.
Our city is not about to plunge into bankruptcy, but these are very uncertain times. Cities do not stand still, and yesterday’s prosperity is no guarantee that the future will be as bright.
The Scottish Government has welcomed Councillor McVey’s call for a crisis summit, with culture minister Neil Gray describing the idea as a “useful next step”.
And I am sure that Sir John Leighton would be very grateful if the government were to hire the Modern Two gallery as the venue for such a vital summit – it may go some way to paying its energy bill.