Shock cuts to theatre companies

Jan 25 2018 | By More

Mixed results in Creative Scotland’s latest funding round

Edinburgh’s Catherine Wheels and Lung Ha theatre companies have had 100% core funding cuts in a day of mixed fortune for the city’s theatre as Creative Scotland announced its latest funding round.

Both companies were so-called Regularly Funded Organisations, with guaranteed funding for three years – £213,750 a year for Catherine Wheels and £147,818 for Lung’ Ha’s. This was a major part of their income and they will now have to apply for a part of a new competitive £2million a year touring fund.

Lyceum to get previous cut restored. Pic: Royal Lyceum Theatre

Also stripped of their RFO status are the Edinburgh Festival Fringe Society and The Festival City Theatres Trust which runs the King’s and Festival theatres – although both received only single figure percentages of their funding from Creative Scotland.

Although Stellar Quines remains part of the RFO network, the “award winning Scottish theatre company that celebrates the value and diversity of women and girls” is to lose 22.5% of its £176,0000 annual funding

There is better news for Grid Iron, the site-specific specialist company, which has had a 2% uplift in funding to £224,000 a year.

The Royal Lyceum is to have the cut it received in the last round restored, leaving it on an annual grant of £1.21million. Next door, the Traverse remains on £886,666 a year, without its cut restored.

Gaining RFO Status

There is better news for three Edinburgh-based companies which join the RFO network and will each get £100,000 a year: Magnetic North which has reinvented itself as a company that facilitates theatre makers to develop their practice; early-years specialist Starcatchers, which has also developed a model where it helps theatre makers start working with that sector; and the Lyra centre in Craigmillar.

Ian Cameron and Andy Manley in White from Catherine Wheels which is being dropped from the RFO network. Photo: Douglas McBridge

Three Edinburgh-based organisations which form part of the Scottish theatre infrastructure are also RFOs. Receiving stand-still funding are Imaginate which runs the International Children’s Theatre Festival and receives £365,000 a year, and Puppet Animation Scotland which is behind the Manipulate and Puppet Animation festivals will continue to get £183,667 a year.

Moving from annual funding to join the RFO network is the Federation of Scottish Theatre, which looks after the interests of all professional theatres and theatre makers in Scotland. It will get £265,000 a year.

The Edinburgh International Festival also carries a stand-still budget and will continue to be Creative Scotland’s biggest single grant with £2,317,333 a year.

The changes are part of a strategic plan by Creative Scotland to change the way it funds touring theatre in Scotland. Five companies which have lost out in this round, including Catherine Wheels, will continue to be funded until the end of the 2018/19 financial year when the new £2million a year fund will be introduced.

In a document seeking to explain its decisions, Creative Scotland says: “In the Regular Funding Network, 2018-21, the Theatre cohort has been built around two component parts.


“Firstly, we used our understanding of the theatre sector nationwide and awareness of the current economic environment to identify the bedrock of the sector, ultimately focusing on organisations which support and develop artists and reach deep into their local community.”

This includes building-based companies such as the Lyceum and Traverse.

The document adds: “Secondly, consideration was given to the Review of Touring which has been underway over the past 18 months and which involved extensive sector input.”

The response is the touring fund, which will be available to all performing arts organisations and will, according to Creative Scotland: “provide those not included in the RFO network with a further potential source of funding support, alongside Open Project funding and other Targeted funds.”

“openly competitive”

Creative Scotland believe that: “the creation of an openly competitive Touring Fund will address concerns of erratic supply of work and create the conditions needed for high quality work to be enjoyed by more people more widely.”

However, makers of theatre for children are not convinced. Catherine Wheels’s loss of funding, combined with a similar 100% cut to Visible Fictions in Glasgow, leaves Scotland without any regularly funded theatre companies making shows for children apart from Starcatchers which specialises in unde-fives.

In a statement, Imaginate lamented its own standstill budget but added that the loss of Catherine Wheels and Visible Fictions is particularly acute.

“These companies have helped build Scotland’s reputation for excellence in the young audience sector and they are now being put in a position where they will struggle to create work. It is bad news for them and consequently bad news for us. In the Year of Young People, Scotland is now the only country in Europe without any fully funded theatre company for children.”

strategic importance

Catherine Wheels’ own response points out that not only has it had huge touring significance – last year it toured toured 11 productions, working with 20 performers, 11 stage managers, 8 creators, 5 directors, 3 producers and 2 writers. But it is also of strategic importance to the sector.

The company said: “We need regular funding to support an infrastructure that allows us to continue to strategically develop the theatre sector in Scotland and respond to international demand for our work and expertise.

“We are being penalised for our success. We are nationally and internationally renowned for critically-acclaimed artist-led work, work which creatively engages and inspires young people. We are instrumental in supporting artists and organisations’ development. This work can only happen with consistent funding.”


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