Trustees turn down Shetland Arts request for early release of Mareel cash

Shetland Arts has been refused money upfront from Shetland Charitable Trust to help prepare for the opening of Mareel. Instead the organisation is to be told to find savings from within its £12.2 million cinema and music venue project or get its supporters to raise extra funds through music or other events.

Yesterday’s snub to Shetland’s flagship arts centre was greeted with disappointment by Shetland Arts director Gwilym Gibbons who was surprised that trustees did not know that any savings from capital spending could not be used towards running costs.

Shetland Arts had asked for a £30,000 advance from the maximum £100,000 one-off grant that the charitable trust agreed in 2007 to help underwrite Mareel’s expected losses during its first year of trading. It wanted the cash to buy stock and pay for marketing in advance of its opening next June.

Trust financial controller Jeff Goddard said Shetland Arts effectively wanted the agreement changed to get the money as a grant rather than to underwrite losses.

But trustees rebelled against the approach, led by Gary Robinson, with the only supporter of advancing cash being Florence Grains. Mr Robinson branded it “slightly like blackmail”, expressing surprise that Shetland Arts had not anticipated the need to buy stock in advance and carry out promotion of the new centre.

He criticised the hiring of London PR and branding firms Make Happy and Franklin Rae when the marketing budget was already over-burdened. “What are they playing at?” he snorted, before inviting Shetland Arts to come down and join the same planet as the rest of us.

Mr Robinson was incensed by comments made by Mr Gibbons on local radio to the effect that funders of Mareel would be outraged if the trust was to refuse the advance.

He moved that it be refused with the £100,000 remaining in the budget for next year to underwrite a loss. However, he did leave the door ajar for Shetland Arts to return with a much better explanation of why it needed money upfront – but only once it had raised some funds itself or found savings. Allison Duncan was quick to second him.

Another enemy of Mareel, trustee Jonathan Wills, said if Shetland Arts does not find the money itself then only the cinema should be allowed to open next year because it is projected to make a profit. He said he was sorry if that would disappoint people.

He also called for the “London-based consultants” to be fired, adding that they should never have been hired.

Even Mareel converts like Laura Baisley, who said she had taken a lot of stick for her support, were disappointed by Shetland Arts’ approach seeking to change the three-year-old agreement with the trust. She called on supporters of Mareel to rally together and put their hands in their pockets for a tenner.

She described it as “throwing down the gauntlet”. “Let’s say to Mareel: go and look for your supporters and see if they can help out. Let’s see what sort of support you’ve got in the community.”

It was actually Mr Robinson who pointed out that it was already Shetland Arts’ intention to do so before the end of this financial year.

Gussie Angus said the project’s budget seemed “as chaotic as ever” and he dismissed the projected audience figures for film and music as “in their dreams”. To grant money upfront for Mareel would, he said, send a signal to the struggling voluntary sector that there was one rule for them and one made for others.

Anderson High School headteacher Valerie Nicolson said too little detail had been given by Shetland Arts to justify why it needed the advance. She said in her job she was required to “account for every ha’penny”.

Mrs Grains, who is the council’s culture spokeswoman, supported the advance, criticising opponents for appearing to prefer to have an empty building standing and the resultant waste of millions of pounds being of no consequence. She failed to get a seconder to advance the £30,000.

Betty Fullerton persuaded her colleagues to ask Shetland Arts to find the money from savings within the Mareel building budget. If it could not find that sum then the whole project “needed looking at”.


Add Your Comment
  • Charmian Johnson

    • November 4th, 2010 12:57

    This is why so many of us voted against this project. It looks like another white elephant, with a wasted budget that could have been used help keep open or upgrade schools which in my view is a more deserving cause than a music venue, which already exists, a cinema which we already have and all the other amenities, which I’m sure there is already provision for within Shetland.

  • John Tindall

    • November 4th, 2010 13:31

    Don’t worry, the supporters can all be identified on the Mareel Facebook Group, the donations will come pouring in.

  • Colin Hunter

    • November 5th, 2010 12:35

    Oh aye! Dat’ll be right! Accordin’ ta facebook dere’s 490 folk in Shetland dat “Like” Mareel. Dat’s oot o’ a possible 22,000 so I say let dem pay fur Gwilym’s folly!

  • Billy Doig

    • November 5th, 2010 23:22

    As far as I;m concerned the money should have been found out of the original funding.I’m a great supporter o Shetland music nd Shetland in all things but money is thrown away on grandiose shemes that it can no longer afford.Look at the amount of talent that was in Shetland and always found a venue either in local halls or bar.There is a need for a picture house and a new theatre.And one of the great supporters of Shetland music was the late and great Gordon(Hank)Smith and we was totally against this project from the start.Shame that most of this council didn’t listen to him.Already they’re rattling their begging tin.Another high paid job to be subsidised from the local budget.Wish I was on the council sometimes to give my suppot Aliison Duncan and co.Need more fol,k like them who do put local interests before poipularity.Tae aa me freends in Shetland,
    Billy Doig.

  • Ted Knight

    • November 9th, 2010 7:06

    A wise decision from Shetland Arts.

    Musical talent will out without handouts of public funds – more so when one considers the call upon monies for the education of Shetland’s children.

  • Ali Inkster

    • November 13th, 2010 2:51

    Well Mr Gwilym you have had a week, how much have you and your 490 supporters managed to cobble together so far. Mybe councilor Baisley should be one of the first to put her hand in her pocket as her constituants told her before she voted yes to your folly that they were against this white elephant, In fact every councilor who voted yes to this should be made to put their hands in their own overstuffed pockets and cough up.


Add Your Comment

Please note, it is the policy of The Shetland Times to publish comments and letters from named individuals only. Both forename and surname are required.

Comments are moderated. Contributors must observe normal standards of decency and tolerance for the opinions of others.

The views expressed are those of contributors and not of The Shetland Times.

The Shetland Times reserves the right to decline or remove any contribution without notice or stating reason.

Comments are limited to 200 words but please email longer articles or letters to for consideration and include a daytime telephone number and your address. If emailing information in confidence please put "Not for publication" in both the subject line and at the top of the main message.

200 words left

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.


Get Latest News in Your Inbox

Join the The Shetland Times mailing list to get one daily email update at midday on what's happening in Shetland.