Today’s a very good day to bury bad news, as it were, and one of those was the frankly unsurprising resignation of Andrew Dixon as head of Creative Scotland.
You can’t really survive when the community you serve as a funding body for is attacking you so openly, good relationships are one of the key attributes board members in that world must have. Come to think of it, they’re a key attribute for board members in any world: it’s difficult to do business if your bridges are on fire.
The problems with Creative Scotland, however, go deeper than one person. There are institutional issues, as you’d expect for any organisation formed from the merger of two others. There are perceptions of bias against certain types of creativity. Those can be fixed, smoothed over.
What probably can’t be fixed is the fundamental problem of an essentially bureaucratic body attempting to decide what is “good” art, worthy of government support.
Obviously there’s a role for critical analysis, for evaluating art in its wider social context and for ensuring that public funds are used to their best effect.
However, with the best will in the world, nobody is going to get it right all the time. There’s going to be some dross funded and some good work unfairly looked over because with art, as with shares, past performance is not necessarily a guide to the future.
Given that, and because I’m a big believer in the value of art in social disruption, maybe we should allocate some portion of the Creative Scotland budget on a purely random basis. If a project isn’t funded it would go into a pot from which projects could be picked at random until the available budget was allocated. The likelihood of particularly expensive projects taking all the funding could be mitigated by weighting based on budget requirements.
This approach would have some considerable advantages: artists without a track record would have a chance, as would those out of favour with the establishment or doing unfashionable or borderline inaccessible work.
It’s not without its disadvantages. There would be less money available for panels to allocate, but I think that’s balanced by the greater variety of work this would bring. There’d also be some intolerable pretentious rubbish funded which would be overlooked in any just world, but there’s some of that that Creative Scotland will decide is worth funding anyway.