Andrew Dixon’s first tour of Scotland arrived in Glasgow today for the latest in Creative Scotland’s open forum series, the first to feature the newly installed CEO. Developing themes which he has in the past few weeks aired in a variety of settings from Ullapool’s Ceilidh Place to an RSA event held in the offices of solicitors Anderson Strathearn, Dixon gave pride of place to, well, ‘place’.
The importance he attaches to the development of places (alongside branding and a culture of investment rather than subsidy) is perhaps not all that surprising given Dixon’s previous role leading the Gateshead initiative. It might also be seen as an effective way to balance the emphasis we’ve seen to date on Creative Scotland being an artist and practitioner-led organisation with a broader sense of community benefit and participation in arts and culture. Beyond that laudable aim however, one can also see a certain tactical and rhetorical shrewdness in emphasising how particular communities, localities or regions engage with arts and creative industries. It immediately brings into focus the critical importance of partnership with local authorities, Scottish and Highlands and Island Enterprise, and all the other national bodies that spend the 70% of the Scottish Government’s cultural budget that CS doesn’t control.
Clearly Creative Scotland isn’t responsible for supporting the totality of cultural production, arts access or creative industries development from the Borders to Shetland. Given its assigned leadership role in the Scottish Cultural Industries Partnership though, staking a claim to improving the cultural life of Scotland as a whole by marshalling the disparate players in the culture and creativity game into a cohesive team could translate into material benefit if it leads to clear visions, suitably resourced and managed, of how places as diverse as Kilmarnock and Killin can join equally in the benefits of a Creative Scotland. But as Dixon noted, in these strained fiscal times, CS will require clearer priorities and ways of measuring success than we have seen before.