Christmas is next week, the flu has set in, and my planned magisterial summation of the tumultuous cultural year of 2012 already has been made redundant by very recent events.
So through a haze of Lemsip (other medicinal drinks are available)....here are some thoughts on recent news, 2012 and the future.
•Alasdair Gray's essay, Settlers and Colonists, in the Unstated volume published by Word Power, caused ructions this week. His words and their ramifications have been discussed eloquently, and less than eloquently, on Twitter and in blogs all week, and I have linked to some of those on my own Twitter feed all week (@philipjemiller).
Word Power have now put the entire essay online at their site, so you can read it in full and make up your own mind. Speaking to Alasdair earlier this week, he said he was baffled by the fuss it had caused. He also wrote a letter to The Herald this week, maintaining he is not Anglophobic. Personally, I don't believe he is at all. I don't think there's a bigoted bone in his body. But by using words such as 'colonist' in particular, with its historical baggage of exploitation, he knew he was being provocative.
And Gray may be a genius - I think he is, Lanark being one of the finest novels of the last 100 years - but this phrase, 'The colonists look forward to a future back in England through promotion or by retirement', is very troublesome. How can one know what inspires people to move to and from countries? How are we to divine people's intentions, internal motivations or ambitions? And judge them for it? If you are English and work in Scotland for 30 years (a settler), but retire to a bungalow in Scarborough, are you suddenly a colonist? As soon as you start categorising human beings you always find more exceptions than rules.
•Leaving aside some of the debates that his words inspired, one can focus on one of his points: the preponderance of English or others in positions of cultural importance in Scotland.
How, in practice, could this be addressed, assuming one thinks this is a problem. Each artistic director of our national companies is appointed by a board. How could these boards be told to appoint or interview only Scots? By law? Or by some kind of unsaid pressure from Government? Is legislation required? And how would any new Scottish Affirmative Action bill sit with European equality laws? I raised these queries on Twitter and was told I was missing the point. But I thought the point being raised was: Why are they not more Scots in key cultural positions. Rather than just lament this situation (if you wish to, many do not), I am just wondering, in a practical sense, how can the situation be changed in the short to medium term.
No one, yet, has proposed anything civilised or workable beyond, 'It shouldn't be this way'.
In the meantime, boards will continue to appoint what they believe is the best candidate for the job (which, incidentally, is the view of the Scottish Government).
•Of course Gray's essay row arrived at the same time as we published my interview with the departing artistic director of the National Theatre of Scotland (NTS), Vicky Featherstone. Years ago, I knew she had been shaken and upset by a growing criticism in the press and elsewhere of her programming which prominently mentioned her Englishness. It was, as she said, a kind of bullying. She and the NTS were very upset by some coverage. I know now, for example, that lawyers were going to be involved at one stage. It could have got very nasty indeed. Instead Ms Featherstone soldiered on and the NTS launched the Staging the Nation project to discuss and stage older Scottish plays. And now she leaves for London with almost universal praise for her inspiring and in some senses radical tenure. Her successor, Laurie Sansom, is also English. I met him last week, and he has some intriguing ideas....let's hope his critics, when they sharpen their keyboards, go for the ball and not the man.
•Ms Featherstone and I spoke for a long time and not all of the quotes could be included in the final interview we published last week. We of course spoke about Creative Scotland. This week, Venu Dhupa, director of creative development, announced she was leaving the body in February next year.
It seems a long time, but only actually a few months, since I and colleagues from two other newspapers sat in an office at Waverley Gate and listened to Ms Dhupa's explanation of why the body was removing Flexible Funding from dozens of arts companies. This is going to run and run, I thought at the time. It did.
I may be wrong, but I don't think she has spoken to the press since (not me, anyway). She had been regarded as one of departed chief executive Andrew Dixon's key members of staff. So perhaps her departure is not a huge surprise. What it does mean is that the body's new chief executive will have another position to fill. But I suspect the internal mechanics of Creative Scotland will be changing soon, anyway, and the position she held will not exist anymore.
Ms Featherstone said this about the Creative Scotland crisis: "I think there has a been a long period of not knowing what is happening, and I think it has been hard for the tangible growth of the theatre scene, from the time of the Cultural Commission on. I arrived when the Cultural Commission was happening and I didn't understand it. I didn't get it and didn't understand it and ever since then its been rolling....and it has been terrible for individuals, and [artistic] communities alike, because they have not known what they are doing. And it really has been so difficult for everybody - there really shouldn't be this much grey area for this long.
"I think where we got to last week [the board reports and the resignation of Andrew Dixon], and the movement that has happened, is really fantastic and we have to be optimistic about the change.
"But I feel so despondent about the wasted time inbetween and the effect it has had on people. We don't know what art has been inhibited as a result of that, because of that lack of clarity and confidence. What art hasn't happened? We can't know that."
•After the trainwreck of the Year of Creative Scotland, it is perhaps healthy and good to look forward. So this week I have met at least person who is thinking about applying for the chief executive role at the body when the advert appears. This potential (and yes, Scottish) candidate was full of enthusiasm and (perhaps baffling) optimism, and thinks within a year all the body's major perceived problems can be quickly and efficiently sorted. Hope is a wonderful thing.
It will be interesting to see who emerges as candidates for the job. Bridget McConnell, the head of Glasgow Life, has been ruled out. She is not interested. Seona Reid, the departing director of the Glasgow School of Art is not interested either, I am informed.
•If it hadn't been so incongruous with the miserable year Creative Scotland was having, its awards last week might have been more enjoyable. It would be churlish not to feel happy for the winners, and congratulations to them. The event itself was slickly produced, although it was far, far too long. The categories were odd (Visual Award...one of the most vague categories ever) and of course, the judging panel was all male. I doubt there will be another shindig like it in 2013. Perhaps there will be awards, but with not such a lavish show, and with its obvious deficiencies from this year addressed.
•I've been reporting on the Scottish arts scene since 1999 (you could, indeed, say I have settled here, having moved to Scotland, as a decidedly more willowy and follicly blessed 18 year old, in 1992) and I have never known such a tumultuous, fractious, dramatic and sometimes poisonous year as 2012. Yes, we have seen crises of various kinds at Scottish Opera, the Scottish Arts Council and individual companies, but nothing to compare to the open combat that this year has seen between Creative Scotland and its critics.
Let's hope 2013 is more peaceful.
Happy Christmas to you all.
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