Scotland is a cultural nation. Home to the biggest arts festival in the world, great artists, writers, musicians, dancers, composers, poets, bands and singers, there's never been a better time to engage in debate and comment on the state of the nation's arts. Phil Miller has been arts correspondent for The Herald for a decade, and has been covering the cultural scene in Scotland since 1999. In this blog he looks behind some of the headlines, provides some personal views and even the odd review.
You may have read in The Herald about the landmark decision by three sets of interested parties: Glasgow City Council, Glasgow Life, who run the city's museums and galleries, and the Trustees of the Collection, to pursue a new strategy with regards to both the 8000-item collection, given to the city by the shipping magnate Sir William Burrell in 1944, and the lauded but now leaky building in which it is housed.
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).
Two months after that devastating letter now signed by more than 400 artists and practitioners, Mr Dixon is the first person at Creative Scotland to take responsibility for the calamitous year that the national arts funding body has had.
Surely and steadily.
You may remember that the board of Creative Scotland, which is led by chairman Sir Sandy Crombie, instigated two internal reviews, or inquiries, both to be led by board members.
The first is focussed on ‘operations’ at the body, and is led by journalist Ruth Wishart, and the second is focussed on the National Lottery and what can be done with it, and is led by Barclay Price.
Before I set off on my week away from work, it seemed the Creative Scotland issue was heading in a more positive direction.
A series of letters and statements from Creative Scotland seemed to be more conciliatory and open than we had seen previously and, going into the two artist meetings in Edinburgh and Glasgow, one sensed the beginnings of a sea-change at the top of Creative Scotland, at least at board level, and a sense that it knew it a) needed to change its ways and b) would benefit from some internal reforms.
Running from January 17 to February 3 next year, it will celebrate its 20 years of success with another packed programme featuring Salif Keita, some high quality Transatlantic Sessions, Aimee Mann, Old Crow Medicine Show, concerts at the Barrowlands and Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum, amid numerous other highlights.
I'm looking forward to hearing and seeing the brilliant Nic Jones, whose recorded version of Rufford Park Poachers, a favourite folk song, is probably the best (alongside James Yorkston’s stellar version)
But to Creative Scotland first:
The two-sub committees of its board have now begun their work investigating and gathering evidence before major changes are wrought at the funding body. Let’s hope their reports are not shelved or ignored.
The committees will both provide reports to the full board before Christmas. The inquiries were, I understand, actually planned before the letter signed by 100 artists was sent to chairman Sir Sandy Crombie last week. But the impetus behind them is now even more urgent.
We in the media are quick to say any item of news (especially our own) is unprecedented, devastating or a turning point, but this week’s letter signed by 100 of Scotland’s leading artists and sent to Creative Scotland, asking for a “fresh start”, is certainly one of them.
The letter was signed by some of the best known, most respected, most talented and honoured artists in and from Scotland.
“This is a game changer, this is the big one,” a weary voice at Creative Scotland said on Monday night. And they were right.
Why was it depressing? Because I said that I didn't think there was any organised campaign to express the disquiet over Creative Scotland and its policies, funding, strategy and so on.
"It was dispiriting to read that," one person said. I felt it was true. Yes, there are lots of dissenting voices, and many opinions on Creative Scotland, but no cohesive voice, and certainly no defined campaign, counter-weight or plan.
Sometimes it seems that the cloud of controversy surrounding our national arts funding body is the only story in town. It has been the subject of so many of my conversations, email exchanges, and texting marathons in the last year.
Many artists and arts companies I speak to do not want to be quoted by name. Others just want to gossip. Others are trying to conspire to initiate change.
But one thing has bothered me in recent weeks. Where does all this controversy end? Is there an endgame? Resignations? More turmoil? Everyone agreeing to get along?