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Moray councillor urged to 'see the bigger picture' in Creative Scotland funding row

By Alistair Whitfield

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Giant puppet STORM making an appearance in Burghead as part of a Findhorn Bay Arts event.
Giant puppet STORM making an appearance in Burghead as part of a Findhorn Bay Arts event.

Two councillors have come to the defence of arts organisations in Findhorn and Forres following accusations that Creative Scotland funding is not being fairly distributed across Moray.

This follows criticism by a third councillor that 93% of the cash goes to organisations based in the IV36 postcode.

Sandy Keith (Elgin North, Labour) labelled the situation 'scandalous' at a council meeting earlier this month, adding that he had written to Creative Scotland to request a meeting.

Sandy Keith earlier this month. Picture: Daniel Forsyth.
Sandy Keith earlier this month. Picture: Daniel Forsyth.

However, two of his council colleagues have taken strong issue with this standpoint.

In addition, the three organisations that received the funding – Dance North Scotland, Findhorn Bay Arts and the Universal Hall – have also written an open letter.

Scott Lawrence (Forres, SNP) called on cllr Keith to "see the bigger picture".

He said: "Although these groups are based in the Forres area, the nature and quality of the work they do reaches people throughout Moray.

"The concentration of creative organisations in the Forres area is something that should be celebrated.

"The work they do across the whole of Moray should be appreciated and not jeopardised.

Scott Lawrence.
Scott Lawrence.

He added: "The diversity of communities within Moray is something to be cherished. Funding of any nature can be distributed to reflect this diversity.

"As councillors, we should always look to understand the different things these communities can offer and help them work together, rather than play them off against each other."

Draeyk van der Horn.
Draeyk van der Horn.

Draeyk van der Horn (Forres, Green) said: "To imply that the IV36 postcode puts the rest of Moray at a disadvantage is uncalled for and unhelpful.

"We are all in difficult times and now more than ever we need to work together and, indeed, celebrate the many creative organisations that we have in Moray.

"My concern is that this work could be put in jeopardy by the perceived lack of support for our creative industries, which in turn could mean that Moray could miss out on future funding.

"What I find noticeable by its absence in this commentary is a 'well done Moray' in recognition of the dedication and hard work of those who run and operate these organisations. They succeeded in bidding for this money from Creative Scotland – money that might otherwise not come to the area.

"Our creative industries bring great joy to thousands of people, improve wellbeing, generate employment and bring in millions of pounds in income and investment for Moray.

"It's worth looking at what arts and creative organisations exist in Elgin and throughout Moray that need support so they too can successfully apply to Creative Scotland."

The open letter has been signed by Karl Jay-Lewin and Elizabeth Egan, the creative and executive directors of Dance North Scotland.

It's also been signed by Kresanna Aigner, the CEO of Findhorn Bay Arts, which despite its name is based in Forres.

The third signatory is Peter Vallance, artistic director of Universal Hall Promotions.

The letter states that all three organisations offer services that reach across the region.

The Universal Hall in Findhorn. Picture: Daniel Forsyth.
The Universal Hall in Findhorn. Picture: Daniel Forsyth.

It says: "Universal Hall Promotions plays an important role on the Scottish touring circuit and presents an eclectic and quality programme of theatre, dance and music, drawing audiences from across Moray and beyond.

"The venue is used by many local organisations, such as Elgin Strathspey and Reel Society plus the Nairn Gaelic Choir.

"Dance North Scotland operates a regional artist network and support scheme that offers financial and practical support to dance artists throughout Moray, the Highlands and beyond.

"RISE, its annual festival of contemporary dance, has performances (many free) in Elgin, Fochabers and at Milltown Airfield, as well as in Findhorn. It regularly hosts shows and events outside of RISE and has brought performances to beaches in Burghead, Forres and an ice rink in Elgin.

"It runs youth dance classes, Dance for Parkinson’s classes and wellbeing classes for the over 60s in Forres, Fochabers, Lossiemouth and Elgin."

The Universal Hall in Findhorn. Picture: Daniel Forsyth.
The Universal Hall in Findhorn. Picture: Daniel Forsyth.

The open letter continues: "As part of the Arts in Moray Culture Collective it, together with many partner organisations, ran a showcase of free arts events during October in Elgin, Findhorn, Forres, Cummingston and Rothes.

"Findhorn Bay Arts provides year-round opportunities that seek to bring cultural, economic and social benefit to the region.

"Covid funding from Creative Scotland enabled it to produce a two-year programme enabling 13 artists across Moray to work with 18 community partners benefitting 1039 people in Lossiemouth, Buckie, Elgin and Forres.

"It was one of 18 organisations to be awarded ‘funding pots’ through Creative Scotland to support freelance artists to work with children and young people across Moray.

"The organisation gave £38,000 to eight project recipients to work with 410 children and young people. Areas included Keith, Elgin and Aberlour.

"A meeting with councillor Keith would be very much welcomed."

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