Playtime Interval Interview: Tom Bancroft interviews New York’s David Berkman ahead of him joining Playtime for a live remote transatlantic improv session on January 29th at 8.15pm GMT (3.15 EST. and 1.15 pm PST. Find the livestream on YouTube
See the three interviews with Matthew Rooke, Nod Knowles, and Ian Smith in seperate blog posts below, along with a text synopsis of each interview:
The last 30 years in the Scottish Music scene have been quite a rollercoaster. The recent hoohah over Creative Scotland funding coincided with the completion of a side project of mine which is laid out here.
I feel that the history of Scottish music funding is very specific – we got here for a bunch of specific reasons and the road was quite winding with some significant winners and losers along the way. I thought it may be important for younger musicians and interested people to know how we actually ended up here. I think it is fair to say no one planned it to happen this way!
Anyway rather than just chunter about my own opinions of this ( I will do a video at some point of my experiences of the last 30 years and my views on how things have gone) I thought it was important to document what has actually happened – at least 3 very knowledgeable versions of what actually happened by the 3 men who were Head of Music at SAC/CS from 1992 to 2016.
Each video has a text synopsis of what each interviewee talks about if you don’t want to listen to the whole thing.
One of the biggest moments was the change from SAC to Creative Scotland and the 3-4 years of limbo that caused.
The way funding is “done’ has also changed massively:
1) with a move to Portfolio funding (where separate artforms now don’t have their own budgets – everyone applies for the same pot),
2) where there has been an apparent retreat from the funders taking a strategic leadership role – by that I mean strategy when you view the world from an ArtForm/Sector/Genre perspective, and
3) an apparent move away from specialist knowledge and engagement with the complexity of the world out there and the different contexts and needs of different genres.
Whilst one can understand the reasons in favour of this shift ( there has been a move towards focussing on delivery of public access, diversity and vulnerable groups, and social equity), none of the 3 Heads of Music certainly feel these trends have been positive.
One other point to make is this. Despite all the genuine intentions about “equality of opportunity” that was front and centre for Nod and Matt – and that was equality of opportunity for artists and musicians from different genres living in Scotland – and the need to redress the balance etc laid out in these interviews, that intervention/re-balance agenda seems much less prominent in current music funding policy – and many things haven’t changed as much as maybe we think.
If you just focus on National Bodies and Regularly Funded Organisations – ie music organisations funded on more than an annual or project basis- ‘Classical’ Music still actually gets 95% of that type of state music funding (which is roughly £30 million a year).
Obviously there is another £13 million or so given out per year in open project and targeted funding, but Creative Scotland doesn’t even list what Artform the recipients are ( ie whether Dance, Music, Visual Art etc) let alone which musical genre – so it would be quite a research job to get an overall figure for all funding. That in itself – that not even Artform is listed in the list of Project/Open Funding Awards – shows how far the modern funding culture has moved away from thinking in terms of Artforms and Genres.
Anyway I hope someone finds these interviews useful. There were enjoyable and educational to do.
Apologies for the sound quality in this interview:
Ian Smith took over from Nod Knowles in 2005 and retired in 2016.
In this interview he talks about how:
- He was a gigging musician in Scotland for 20 years and then worked in the Scottish MU from '93- '05. So he knew the business inside out..
- He had worked with Nod Knowles setting up the YMI and wanted to move from the MU to the SAC job whilst continuing to fix things for gigging musicians.
- When he arrived he had to adapt to the bureaucracy and admin processes.
- He inherited the approach from Nod and wanted to take focus more into commercially aware direction and to focus on what musicians and educators needed to do their work.
- In working with organisations, as well as quality in the musical product, he also wanted similar quality in admin and infrastructure.
- The base of the music funding pyramid had been exapnded to include folk and jazz and now was expanded further to included rock/pop indie.
- He continued the work on showcasing - continuing to develop Showcase Scotland and adding in SXSW and Womex.
Major structural organisational changes happened during Ian's tenure as SAC changed into Creative Scotland.
Within a year of taking up the post the transition from SAC to Creative Scotland started and took 3-4 years. Ian says "the gestation period of Creative Scotland was far too long" and saw this as being difficult both internally and externally with the main negative impact being confusion. There was a limbo period that was very difficult for everyone - and he cited this as a reason why the SJF wasn't successful.
He describes having a good working relationship with Andrew Dixon who he respected, but said that he refused to work on areas outside his specialism and even declined the traditional arts portfolio - including folk music. Ian says the portfolio management culture - where different Art forms competed for the same budget - was a failure. He articulates how he had less ability to influence what got funded and be strategic once the Music Department lost its own budget. He also mentions a lot of successive Senior Management plans at CS, which had the cumulative effect of meaning that there was no clear strategy and a general move away from sector specialism and expertise.
As achievements Ian lists:
• Developing Recording Fund and touring.
• Supporting the development of SNJO to become an RFO - and he feels it should be a National Organisation alongside RSNO and Scottish Ballet.
• Having a good team with a complementary set of skills and knowledge to his.
• Promoting awareness of intellectual property awareness within CS.
• How the education sector has grown including consolidation of the YMI, and looking at the wider range of students leaving the RCS including jazz and folk musicians coming out with a very high skill level.
Towards the end Ian talks about how a coordinated investment in a sector like jazz could have a lot of positive benefits - and when I asked "Why hasn't that happened" he said again "Portfolio management was a mistake."
At the end, following the recent controversy over RFO funding , I asked Ian what he felt about the tension between supporting existing organisations and the need to create new organisations and infrastructure - especially in sectors where they don't currently exist - in a world of decreasing budgets.
Ian points to the SNJO, AC Productions, and SWG3 as signs that new high quality organisations are being created and supported in Scotland but also points out that the demand is too high for the available money and the sector needs more investment. He recommends making SNJO, NYOS and NYCOS national organisations- and that status needs to be more broad and inclusive. He also questions how it is possible to produce world class opera in Scotland and whether the current approach is right. He leaves us with the question:
"If there isn't enough money to go round, how do you fix that..."