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..."