(Scots Law) A common; a piece of land in which two or more persons have a common right.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Independent Arts Sector - notes + actions from meeting

from Jodie Noble

Jodie kindly offered to minute Mondays meeting and together with the Catstrand team have put together this useful set of notes and action points. The gathering agreed that these minutes would be published on the blog - please do use the comments on this post to make any factual corrections or make any observations prompted by the minutes or the meeting itself.

Independent Arts Sector - Open Meeting
The CatStrand, New Galloway: 3rd October 2011 4-6 p.m.
In attendance including:
Cathy Agnew ( GCAT), Matt Baker (Artist, The Stove), Linda Mallet (Artist), Mary Smith ( Writer & Creative Business Advocate – literature), Hazel Campbell ( Artist), Malcolm Davies (Artist), James Coutts (National Museums), Alan Smith ( GCAT Board), Fiona Smith, Peter Renwick (DG Arts Festival), Julian Watson ( Mill on the Fleet), Wendy Stewart ( Musician & Creative Business Advocate), Dougie Muego (Artist), Pam Pumphrey ( DG Arts Festival), Margaret Elphinstone ( Author), Mike Brown, Ian Johnstone (Wee Stories), Cate Ross ( Artist, Creative Nonsense Network), Janet Butterworth (Whithorn Trust), Elizabeth Roberts ( Moffat Book Events), Jim Campbell ( WASPS Studios), Inga McVicar ( Destination Dumfries and Galloway), Nic Coombey ( Biosphere), Rebecca Coggins ( D&G Council), Emma Jayne Park ( Dancer & Creative Business Advocate – Dance), Alan Thomson (ex-dgArts), Anne Foley ( A’ The Airts), Will Levi Marshall (Artist, The Stove), Morag Muego ( Artist),  Hugh Taylor (Writer & Moniaive Festivals), Mark McLachlan (The Stove), Adrian Turpin (Wigtown Book Festival), Anne Barclay (Wigtown Book Festival), Bruce McKenzie, Jan Hogarth ( Wide Open), Sue Stirling, Marilyn Crawford, Andrew Mellor (GCAT), Brian Edgar (CatStrand), Stewart Hall, Godfrey Smith, Roger Windsor, Jim Campbell (DDG and Raring To Go),  Ruaridh MacNeil, David Sumner,  Jodie Noble  (CatStrand), Sean Paul O’Hare (GCAT), Karen Ward-Boyd (Holywood Trust), David Stevenson (Buccleuch Centre)
Irene Hawker ( Ryan Centre, Stranraer), Chrys Salt (The Bakehouse), Richard MacFarlane, Dame Barbara Kelly, Graham Main ( Big Burns Supper), Lesley Rogers ( DG Council Creative Arts Business Development Officer), Ken Gouge, Carolyn Yates, Patti Lean, Alex Fergusson MSP, Aileen McLeod MSP, Gill Khosla ( GCAT), Anna Campbell, Jenny Wilson, Andrew Ward, Alex Rigg, Alison Caldwell
Setting the Scene: Cathy Agnew, convenor, outlined purpose & context of the meeting
·       D&G Council’s ‘Stakeholder Seminar’ planned for 28th October in Dalbeattie. 
·       The demise of dgArts & recognition of what they & DGAA have achieved over the last 30 years. 
·       Creative Scotland launch of their strategy at the CatStrand in April 2011; what has happened since? 
·       Feeling on the ground about lack of direction and apparent lack of consultation with independent arts sector. 
·       Recognition that in a rural area like D & G, quality and professional arts provision will always require subsidy.
·       Aim to secure funding for the arts in D & G in a co-ordinated and joined up way.
·        It must be NEEDS led and NEEDS driven. to work out exactly what will be best for us all: the practitioners, the venues, the promoters, the punters, and above all, our communities.

Strengths of arts in the Region
·       Highlighted the strong role of the arts in community development
·       ‘Rural Cultural Region’ & unique landscape/ heritage & relationship of arts with countryside organisations
·       Commonty blog site acknowledged as a good start in joint communications
Relationship with D&G Council
·        Feeling that there is little understanding within D&G Council about Arts & Culture
·       Arts Community should be speaking to our councillors and elected members
·       Planned council consultation with the arts sector has never been fully realised.
·        Creative Scotland obliged to go through council.  The council has a legal responsibility to deliver the arts.
·       How to address our issue with the council? Vote of no confidence on behalf of the Creative Community at the next meeting? Agreed that this would be unproductive at this juncture.  We must work in a spirit of collaboration.
·        What do the arts create in terms of worth for communities? Need to be proactive in showing council what the arts generate in terms of economic benefit £ for £.

Agreement that a collective/ voice umbrella group essential
·       What will replace DGArts & what will happen to its assets? ( Central Box Office, Equipment, Marketing capacity)
·       Proposed artist/ venue led grass roots structure needed
·       How does it get divided up fairly across the region? By artform or by area?
·       Shouldn’t be a single organisation but devolved centres around the region – network of hubs: ‘string of pearls’.
·       Not to be a ‘ Bricks & mortar’ organisation but involve partnership working & be administratively light and avoid ‘fiefdoms’
·       Needs to be as flexible as possible so that no groups are excluded or restricted
·       Must support the whole region and not be centred on Dumfries
·       Need to come up with Big Idea for collaborative approach to funders

What is required of a new group:
·       Opportunities for professional development and dialogue with other artists, curators, stakeholders etc
·       Arts Development
·       Clear action plan showing funders that we are working together & can be seen to be leading
·       Funding to be applied for regionally rather than many small organisations applying for small pots of money
·       How should organisations come together?
·       Possible need for rural touring network. Creative Scotland currently commissioning Wee Stories Theatre Company to undertake research into this.
·       Any touring network to include support for small community groups – collective marketing, advice & confidence building.
·       Facilitating the sharing Equipment – showing funders that we are efficient
·       Communication: need for both communication within the community, to audiences within the region & to raise profile outwith the region

-        Need for regular , informal meetings amongst the arts community
-        Listing websites and or publications ( with recognition of the manpower required in updating these)
-        Coordinated approached to social networking
-        Databases of practitioners
Working Group set up to take forward the ideas put forward, with the following action points:
-        Look at other models eg NEAT, touring networks
-        Identify assets & resources – both tangible & creative
-        Look at ‘Big idea’ for the region – how we present ourselves
-        Pull together a collective approach to DG Council on 28th October
-        Lobbying elected members etc

Over 20 people put their name forward to be included in a Working Group.  Clearly this would be too great a number.  Suggestion that Working Group be comprised of a maximum of 8 people to reflect geographical spread, art forms, venues and potential funders.  To meet at least once before DGC Seminar.


  1. Taken together, I think the bullet points from 'strength of the arts in the region' onwards is a compelling list of discussion points to take forward.

    I would like to see another one added along the lines of 'the role of the arts in future rural community development'....which I believe could be part of the 'Big Idea'.

    Narrowing this discussion into the 5 Outcomes listed seems a bit hurried and arbitary to me.

    Why is 20 too big a number for a working group?

    Maybe a way forward might be to start a Doodle poll ( for a date for a working group meeting and let people's availability be the selecting factor that determines the eventual size of the next group session?

  2. Apologies for not making meeting.

    Agree with Matt, I think 20 people covering the whole region is good idea. Would make sure enough could make each meeting.

    ....but a great start and sounds a very cohesive voice.

  3. I didn't find out about this meeting in time to go but I look forward to the seminar to the 28th.

    It's good to see a 'coming together' of so many people from across the region and the different arts sectors. This collective energy is bound to forge a way forward after the sad demise of D&G Arts.

  4. I would still like to represent the arts in Moffat and District (theatre, dance, literature, music, ceramics, fashion, cooking, poetry, gardening etc) on the Action Group, and agree that if 20 people volunteered then 20 should form the group. When do we know when/where the D&G Arts action group is to meet before Oct 28?

  5. Certainly interesting times, could we in the SW be leading the way in rejecting the parasite middlemen(women)and waving cheerio to arts administrators.
    I am seriously fucking fed up of hearing that 'creatives' need a holding hand when dealing with either 'real people' or 'the powers that be'. When will the the powers that be start listening to the real people and wake up to the self-evident truth that the purpose of the arts IS a means of communication.

    Action one: in a place that values culture, prioritise electing people who use the arts as part of the way they understand the place they represent.

    Action two: sack all arts administrators who do not have a majority of artists on their boards

    Action three: redeploy unemployed arts administrators in local government (they work very hard and are good at improvising on small budgets and are very motivated)

    Action four: construct a set of local objectives that are based on the overall health of people and places ie NOT on just keeping people alive.

    Action five: listen carefully as people stop asking for pills and mobility scooters and start asking for theatre, dance, poetry and music.

    Action six: celebrate the fact that the arts are cheaper than pills with a big party organised by the council employees who used to be arts administrators

  6. Very far from a representative meeting unfortunately. What was missing was the audience or, as it is put above, “the punters, and above all, our communities“. That is apart from, of course, the commonity of practitioners and venue holders.

    Is the audience the main reason why art, in all its forms, is created? Certainly must be up there as an answer. If there was agreement that a “collective/ voice umbrella group is essential” should that really be an “artist/ venue led grass roots (eh?) structure”? Would that be in any way representative of the real needs of the grass rooted audience? I think not. The local representatives of that audience we have are the democratically elected D&G councillors…

  7. There was somehow a “recognition that in a rural area like D & G, quality and professional arts provision will always require subsidy.” Why? The marketplace determines our culture. Are the arts here immune from that? Surely there is no obligation on the audience here to buy or see especially what artists in D&G produce or venue holders bring to the southwest of Scotland. Is this a romantic cry to be special, constantly needing subsidy and be somehow not part of capitalism? But perhaps the arts here need to be forever state funded and thus really state controlled?

  8. Commonty gave a voice to a clique, that is, an exclusive group of people who share common interests, views, purposes and even patterns of behavior. I am not saying there is anything wrong in that, some of the stuff posted was most enjoyable, but it is starting to feel like that group now presumes it is the voice of all the arts in D&G.

  9. good thought provoking stuff...I feel I must come back on the point about The Commonty (if only because I have spent so much of my own time servicing the blog) - the original idea and (I believe) realisation of that idea was to create an open access forum for those involved in the arts to communicate with each other and keep each other informed of activity, opportunity and ideas.

    There is an open opportunity for everyone to send material for posting (we have posted everything we have ever been sent). It is a reality of life that no matter how many times an invitation is offered there are always those who would rather place themselves in opposition - it is a traditional and valued artistic tradition.

    However I'm not sure that tradition is honoured by inventing 'paper tigers' when no real 'enemy' exists. (continued)

  10. (continued from above)

    The Commonty is NOT a group - it is a free and uncensored forum that is operated by volunteers. The Commonty does NOT have a voice I have never heard anyone presume to speak 'for The Commonty' - has anyone else? I have never heard of anyone approaching the Commonty for an would they make such an approach - only by sending something to post or by commenting as you have on the blog. The only voice that can answer is the blog itself(ie people who contribute).

    The meeting at Catstrand was NOT organised by The Commonty it was organised by Catstrand who used the Commonty as one of the ways that they sent out their invitation.

    If you would like to help out and be one of the administrators of the Blog then please get in touch you'd be very welcome. In the meantime thank you for your contribution to the forum.

  11. #5 Anonymous, by posting here, are you asserting your rights as a member of the clique?

  12. Dear anonymouses (anonymice?)
    Are you all the same person or different ones? Certainly it is everyone's right to remain anonymous, but it makes it hard to know whether there are lots of people out there with similar opinions, or just one. Could you maybe get a tagline to distinguish one from another? Just because it makes dialogue easier and more productive.

  13. I have been invited to report on the closure of DGarts by Scottish Review. Anyone with info please contact me on

  14. the original anonymousOctober 13, 2011 at 9:34 AM

    Dear Linda - thank you for your timely contribution, I am the original anonymous on this post. As such, I dissociate myself from the self-referential ramblings of my imitators - presumably they are the middlepeople or non-culturally literate elected representatives of whom I spoke?
    The point about the role of the audience is an important one though. The simplistic response here would be say that if you ask an audience what it wants the only response it can give is to talk in terms of what it has experienced BEFORE - but surely the reason for being an audience of the arts is to hear a CREATIVE voice ie a voice that tells you something profound not just repeats a familiar bedtime story.
    There is a bigger point here about how a democratic society commissions art. I believe that the world is changing, people in the arts are forming creative alliances with others from all walks of life, alliances that have amazing potential for society as a whole. Right here and right now we in D+G have a chance to clear the ground (put the right checks and balances in place of course - THAT is what representatives are for) but to place trust in creativity as part of building a positive future.

  15. If a group of people get together in response to an open invitation (cf the CatStrand meeting), and the opinions voiced there are, even if very broadly, representative of the participants' views, and the working group arising from it is self-selected (ie open to all), then that group can reasonably be said to represent the people who were at the meeting. That, incidentally, was precisely the same process by which the Commonty meetings and network arose. To my knowledge, no individual or even group is claiming to be representative of 'all the arts in D&G'. But fair enough, those putting in the considerable time and legwork to make contacts, discuss issues and act on them, are the ones who are going to have the loudest voices. If you (as in 'one') want to sit on the sidelines grumbling, well, get over it.

    As regards audiences... I have always held the view that the function (OK, not the only function) of an artist is to come up with something (ideas, talent)other people haven't thought of. Otherwise the audience could arguably do it for themselves. So yes, I do regard artists as having some element of being special and cliquey, but that doesn't mean the means of communication and organisation between us isn't totally transparent and democratic, indeed a generously shared energy.

  16. As regards audiences… One function you give to artists is to come up with something other people have not thought of - an impossible nonsense.

    Well, are you creating something totally new? I think not. Bt surely working in a cultural tradition and hopefully developing within that.

    And as to, “ As regards audiences”, you continue to not regard them at all in the whole paragraph! It is all about your “held” views.

    At least you admit you regard “artists as having some element of being special and cliquey“. I fear, too push that too far, would claim some elite status for the artist but what makes them special? Do we not all feel? Do we not all have the same rights? If indeed some artist have a special place in society it is because it is won and given by the people not declared by the self-seeking artist.

    By the way, I am not sitting “on the sidelines grumbling“ but fully working as an artist so I have no need to “get over it“. However I am needing to get over the lack of clarity of thought and self-centredness of some of the artists contributors. If we are to break new ground in D&G please let us properly think this through from basics and not just have the same old sloppy pretentious thought repeated by shouting mice.

  17. the original anonymousOctober 22, 2011 at 5:32 PM

    err....and your positive contribution to this breaking of new ground is what exactly?