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My thoughts on the bizarre decision to cut disability arts funding

January 26, 2018

I’m not usually one to comment on the decisions made by funders.  Funding is limited, and no-one is ‘entitled’ to it.  I’m sure the funders have a tough job choosing between applicants, I know they have guidelines and strategic priorities to adhere to, and I’ve no idea what goes on behind the scenes.

That said.  I’ve done a few bits and pieces of research and evaluation work in the disability arts sector over the last few years (for BoP and others) and based on what I have learned through this I do feel compelled to say a few words about Creative Scotland’s decision yesterday to stop funding leading disability arts organisations Birds of Paradise Theatre Company and Lung Ha Theatre Company as RFOs.

Firstly it is a ‘bold’ choice to cut funding that had been going to disabled people.  I wouldn’t have thought an organisation that claims to “put equalities and diversity at the heart of all our activity” would choose to make it more difficult for disabled people to play a strategic and creative role in Scotland.  Here’s the ‘five ambitions’ of Creative Scotland:

  • Excellence and experimentation across the arts, screen and creative industries is recognised and valued
  • Everyone can accessand enjoy artistic and creative experiences
  • Places and quality of life are transformed through imagination, ambition and an understanding of the potential of creativity
  • Ideas are brought to life by a diverse, skilled and connected leadership and workforce
  • Scotland is a distinctive creative nation connectedto the world.

Scotland’s disability arts organisations are bang at the centre of delivering on that, so this is all just very bizarre.

And secondly all I’ve heard is people talking about the innovative, ground-breaking and world class nature of the disability arts scene that is coming out of the UK at the moment.  In the next couple of weeks you’ll be able to read a report on this blog describing how a huge variety of people from all over the world are looking to the UK as world leaders in the disability arts.  Our approach and our outputs are exciting and our colleagues abroad want to learn from us. I am genuinely surprised that Creative Scotland would want to stifle this, rather than showcase it.  We should be shouting from the rooftops about it.

I choose to live in Scotland because I like the way we do things here, and I think of Scotland as an inclusive and innovative nation.  So this decision sends a very disappointing message.

I hope Birds of Paradise Theatre Company and Lung Ha can find some way around this, to continue their excellent work.

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