Funding questions delay arts chief announcement

An announcement on who will replace departed Shetland Arts director Gwilym Gibbons will “soon” be made – after a lengthy delay due to questions over funding.

The news may already have been announced if the development agency had not held off to allow Creative Scotland funding to be given the green light.

News on the successor is expected, at last, in October. That is six months after Mr Gibbons announced he was quitting his role as Shetland Arts’ first director, following eight years in the job – a period which included overseeing the difficult gestation of the cinema and arts venue, Mareel.

Danus Skene speaking at the Althing debate on Scottish Independence.
Danus Skene: Nothing “abnormal” about the funding application.

Shetland Arts chairman Danus Skene admitted his “frustration” over the glacial pace of appointing a successor.

“Creative Scotland are one of the two significant funders of Shetland Arts, along with the charitable trust.

“Our regular, expected, invited, bidding process to them, along with several hundred other organisations across Scotland, is with them.

“There’s nothing abnormal about that whatsoever.”

However, waiting for funding to be approved has caused a delay in announcing the replacement for Mr Gibbons. Shetland Arts advertised two jobs in July: a part-time artistic director’s role, with a salary of £25,415.50, and a £50,831-a-year general manager. Interviews have taken place but the appointments cannot be made.

“It is a problem because I want a new senior manager in yesterday,” said Mr Skene.

Asked when an announcement would be made, he added: “We’re waiting for financial confirmation of our ability to give someone a contract. You will hear something quite soon.”

He said attention in the immediate aftermath of Mr Gibbons’ resignation focused on completing a “change management process” and getting recommendations for an updated “management structure”.

“In retrospect, for all that the influence on the process and the views that these people had, I rather wish we’d got on with it [appointing a successor].”

Mareel opened £1.5 million over budget in August 2012 – following an 18-month delay.

Last year Shetland Islands Council agreed a complicated £1.1 million lease with the arts agency.

However, since its opening Mr Skene said Mareel had helped Shetland Arts move away from its reliance on external funding. He described the organisation as “70 per cent commercially-self-funding”.

He said it was normal for arts organisations to rely on some level of outside funding.

[socialpoll id=”2224058″]

“Shetland Arts is something like 70 per cent commercially self-funding. Where we are reliant on grant funding is with respect to the arts development activity, and – to some extent – with programmes [concerts, exhibitions etc]… which are not necessarily self-funding.

“With the opening of Mareel, Shetland Arts moves from being less than 30 per cent commercially self-sustaining to 70 per cent.

“Any developmental arts activity of that sort is going to be dependent on funding. Creative Scotland funds a three-figure number of centres of one kind or another around the country.

“The position of the charitable trust is that in principle Mareel as a building and a centre of activity should be self financing, which indeed it is …

The cinema has been very successful, and the catering side and a large part of the use of the auditorium – and indeed the educational facilities which involve cross-financing from UHI and Shetland College.”

In his final director’s statement, as part of Shetland Arts financial statements for the year ended March 2013, Mr Gibbons stated that the organisation had “moved from a 61 per cent dependence on revenue funding to just 39 per cent.”.


Add Your Comment
  • Neil Anderson

    • September 30th, 2014 19:42

    2.5 days a week for £25K !

    How can they possibly condone this level of wages for a part time job ! Arts is a bottomless whole to throw money at , museum , mareel , textiles the list goes on ….. Waste of public money….. CURE !

  • ian tinkler

    • September 30th, 2014 21:05

    He described the organisation as “70 per cent commercially-self-funding”. Do not tell me the entirely self funding Mareel (as so claimed originally)is again broke. 30% loss is not much of a success, maybe I am missing something here!

  • stephen shirmer

    • September 30th, 2014 23:56

    I remember a time when the the public halls where full of folk dancing, bands came and played in the bars & halls all over the isles , all organized by the pub & hall owners and a few like minded people.

    It did not take an arts trust to organize all this or pay themselves a over the top wage, it was a local contact or a phone call which did not cost £25/£50,000 a year to do so !

  • Gary Robinson

    • October 1st, 2014 18:12

    Had I been minded to vote in your poll I would need to know how you define “external funding”? External to what or where?

    Currently Shetland Arts is funded by the Shetland Charitable Trust – (wir money) and the tax-payer funded Creative Scotland – (arguably wir money) and the income from events and facilities.

    Before anyone asks; Council Tax doesn’t contribute to the running costs of Mareel.


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