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Plan B 'astonished' by Creative Scotland's silence after decision to deny company regular funding

By Margaret Chrystall

THE artistic director of a Highland dance company has criticised Creative Scotland’s “astonishing” silence after it denied regular funding to the company which has now closed after 29 years.

Frank McConnell has outlined in detail the events that led to the decision by the board and himself to close the doors on Plan B which he says over the last 12 years has:

• created full-time employment for 12 people

• offered more than 400 freelance contracts

• commissioned original work from composers and set designers on 54 occasions

• hosted 45 artist residencies

• worked with thousands of people, old and young, as part of their community and education projects

• and brought inward investment to the Highland economy in excess of £2 million.

The Plan B board and staff took the step of winding up the operation following the decision by Creative Scotland not to grant regular funding to the company.

Although Plan B did receive transition funding for a limited period, it says it proved impossible to sustain the three full-time posts and the many projects – both professional and community – with which the company was engaged.

Though the company accepts that no artist should expect that public funding is a constant, it says “the manner in which the decision was taken and the lack of communication by Creative Scotland still rankles with the company”.

The Plan B board sent a letter to Creative Scotland in January 2018 expressing its disappointment with the decision not to grant regular funding.

But this letter was never replied to, nor even acknowledged, it says.

However, the following day, at a meeting with Creative Scotland staff, Plan B was assured that the funding body was supportive of the company and eager to continue a conversation about its future.

Plan B’s More Sky production.
Plan B’s More Sky production.

Mr McConnell said: “That was the last we heard from them.

“Senior managers at Creative Scotland said they wanted to meet, but they never followed through with arranging any appointments. We wanted to know why our application for regular funding was refused, given that there was no analysis of the artistic programme in the assessment and why two sections of the assessment were left empty. We also wanted to know how Creative Scotland intends to provide for dance to flourish in the future for artists and communities in Easter Ross.

“The lack of a mature and honest discussion around these issues over the last 15 months has been as astonishing as it has been reckless.”

North-based Plan B which performed across the region and beyond has now closed.
North-based Plan B which performed across the region and beyond has now closed.

The Plan B artistic director says he believes that it is symptomatic of a public organisation which seems incapable of taking its remit to promote culture seriously and therefore needs root-and-branch reform of its core values and operations. Only then can Creative Scotland regain the trust of artists and the public in Scotland, he said.

“The senior management team at Creative Scotland hide behind statistics but fail to engage with difficult questions.”

A Creative Scotland spokesman said:“We are disappointed to learn of developments at Plan B.

“The organisation applied for regular funding for 2018-21; however, in a competitive process and within the limits of funds available, we were unable to support them through this funding route.

“Plan B received transition funding to enable them to explore other sustainable business models. Creative Scotland’s open project fund which accepts applications at any time, also exists to support programmes of work of up to two years.”

Creative Scotland says Plan B received £652,036 in regular funding from 2015-18 and transition funding of £108,673 from April to November 2018.

The legacy of plan B looks set to live on in groups they worked with – including the Young Company in Alness, and traditional dance groups in Conon and Ardross – which are in the process of establishing themselves as independent organisations in Easter Ross and the Black Isle.

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