Creative Scotland has clawed back nearly £68,000 of taxpayers’ cash from a controversial "hardcore" performance piece, MSPs have been told.

The funding agency took action against artist Leonie Rae Gasson after a public outcry over her show Rein.

However, the team behind the work, which aimed to show an "erotic journey through a distinctly Scottish landscape,” has denied ever misleading the funding body, 

READ MORE: Rein: Minister condemns taxpayer funded 'secret cave sex party'

In a letter to Holyrood’s Culture Committee, Iain Munro, Creative Scotland’s Chief Executive, claimed Ms Rae Gasson and her team had breached her contract with the arts funding body.

He said the application had initially stated that the sexual performance in Rein would simulated.

However, in a call out for participants, Rein said "any sex that features will not be simulated but performed by cast members.”

Mr Munro described this as a “new and significant difference" which "took the project into unacceptable territory.”

He told the MSPs: “This represented a significant change to the approved project, moving it from ‘performance’ into actuality, and into a space that was, in Creative Scotland’s view, inappropriate for public funding.”

Mr Munro said Creative Scotland had“recovered £67,741 from the applicant” which, combined with the 10% of the funding which had not yet been paid, “means that £76,196 of the total award has now been withdrawn.”

Rein had incurred “contractually legitimate costs of £8,359, mainly to sub-contracted freelancers, by the time Creative Scotland informed them that the funding was being Withdrawn.”

These fees will not be recovered.

The project was awarded £23,219 in lottery funding through Creative Scotland in August 2022 for research and development.

That will also not be reclaimed as “the work was completed as set out in the approved application.”

READ MORE: Scorn at safeguarding has prompted Creative Scotland funding porn

According to its website, Rein was to be a “45 minute, multi-screen, immersive, moving image installation” performed by a mix of “dancers, sex workers, performers".

Audiences would be invited to “come see the Daddies lurking in the woods” and “bare arsed lovers frolicking in long grass” before the climax of the show, “a secret cave sex party featuring a feast” of explicit sexual practices.

The website explained that on traditional film sets, "sex is usually ‘simulated’ - performers wear modesty garments, there are barriers between them, genuine arousal is discouraged/prevented, and there would not be any genital contact."

However, Rein was a "sex positive exploration of dyke sexuality, and we are drawing on a long tradition of pornographic, erotic and radical queer performance work where the sex, in all its messiness and complexity, is allowed to be part of the process like other acts and feelings."

In his letter to the MSPs, Mr Munro said it was right that art and artists do not just entertain and inspire but challenge and make people uncomfortable.

He said: “Creative Scotland seeks to fund a broad range of cultural and creative work, across a wide spectrum of creative practice and for a diverse range of audiences, from that which can be seen as mainstream, to work which is far more challenging, provocative, and may risk controversy.

“Themes of sex and sexuality have been seen in art throughout history and continue to be visible in contemporary life”.

He said it was not the body’s role to “censor work, nor be the arbiters of cultural taste.”

However, he said Creative Scotland did have “important responsibilities to the public for the appropriate use of public funding, responsibilities we take extremely seriously.”

Mr Munro also confirmed that Creative Scotland would publish the initial application for funding once they had “completed a thorough review of these materials to remove any personal information, any business confidential information, or any information that, if publicly disclosed, could pose a threat to an individual.”

He told MSPs that since the project became a focus of mainstream and social media, “individuals involved have received threats and abuse, both online and in person.”

Mr Munro added: “There has also been highly discriminatory comment directed at individuals, organisations and groups linked to the project, as well as at Creative Scotland staff.”

In a statement, the team behind Rein said the controversy over the show had been "co-opted by many groups, individuals and the media for aggressive political, anti-trans, and anti-sex worker activity, alongside attacks on arts and culture."

They said the show would have "fused choreographed dance and choreographed sex to immerse the audience in a fantastical otherworld" and was conceived "by and for lesbian and queer artists to express lesbian and queer sexuality, on their own terms with sex-positive narratives." 

They also said that Rein "would not qualify as pornography because it was not intended as a way to elicit sexual arousal as the outcome."

"Performers were to be paid for the purposes of collaboratively creating the artwork, and not for a client," the statement continued. 

They said there had been two programmes of research and development. In the first there was a "no genital contact rule."

However, in the second there was "one proposed scene for three consenting performers (out of nine in the cast), that would be devised through informed consent and an experienced sex-positive safeguarding team where genital contact could be part of the performance of (non-simulated) sex choreography and dance choreography. "

They said once this second phase began a callout for performers "was made using language relatable to the performers the project was looking for including."

"The artists have never used the term ‘real sex’ in any call out, process, documentation or application.

"This callout for a specific audience also included language that was subsequently taken out of context, however, over 40 applications were received in response to this callout from performers who wished to join the company in devising the moving image film. 

"The project has been misunderstood and misrepresented.

"Everyone involved in the project is deeply saddened that the funding body did not seek clarification with the artists, or suggest working together to elucidate to third parties that the project is an artistic moving image film and not what has been widely reported or claimed.

"No opportunity was given to the artists to work towards a joint resolution or alternative outcome prior to the funding body’s decision to defund the work. 

"The artists do not agree that they misled the funding body. The performer callout did use the new terminology of ‘non-simulated’ as a shorthand for performers, however, the artists have been transparent about the nature of the work with the funding body throughout both R&D1 (2022/23) and R&D2 (2024). "