Arts and minds

  • The List
  • 24 April 2007

Arts and minds

As the third election to the Scottish Parliament approaches, Allan Radcliffe asks leading members of Scotland’s cultural community to share their aspirations for the next Scottish executive

Mark Cousins: Film writer

I’d like to see art schools for 15-year-olds. I’d like the excitement of philosophy and aesthetics to be taught at primary school. I’d like our media to be more passionate about art and culture. I’d like modern architecture in Scotland to be better. I’d like our urban spaces to be more exciting. I’d like The List to be free for all. I’d like BBC4 to relocate to Scotland. I’d like film producer Andrew Macdonald to move back here. I’d like the British media to be less London-centric. I’d like Scottish Screen to remain separate from Creative Scotland. I’d like a culture minister like André Malraux. I’d like Douglas Gordon, Alison Watt and Mylo to be deputy First Ministers.

Grant Campbell: Singer with St Jude’s Infirmary

In Scotland pop, rock and experimental music are treated like an immature passing fancy, not a vital, vibrant, important, populist art form. Why a European country of our size can’t support a nominal home grown music scheme of any real size is a scandal. There are real common sense ways in which small labels and small bands can be helped to grow. There are also real examples like the Netherlands Pop Institute, which - comical name aside - really does help bands in practical and pragmatic ways.

Solen Collet: Events coordinator Cabaret Voltaire

On a local level, Edinburgh council has a commendable vision for the provision of internationally recognised cultural events, but to sustain this vision with a focus on local talent more support for Edinburgh’s creative arts at a grassroots level is a necessity. On a national level, instead of telling the already-well-aware industry that new Scottish music needs further financial assistance, better that something positive was actually done instead of cutting support for organisations like NEMIS.

Alan Bissett: Novelist

Ordinarily I’d vote for the most left wing of the parties. This election is so crucial for independence, however, that I’m going to vote SNP for the first time. I’m uncomfortable with the SNP’s links to big business, but after a referendum I can vote for the party I really want to run the country. I’m broadly in favour of independence and fear that failure to seize this historic moment could plunge the country into the kind of depression we saw after 1979. Cultural confidence is high in Scotland at the moment. Independence would maintain that energy, while a NO vote could destroy it.

Catherine Lockerbie: Director Edinburgh International Book Festival

If Scotland is to be truly confident in its own culture and open to international inspiration and influence then there is still work to be done. Scottish literature must be embedded in the Scottish curriculum, its fundamental role properly recognised (in our history, language, literacy, sense of ourselves and more). And there must be real strategic joined-up thinking about, and investment in, Edinburgh’s globally renowned festivals, ensuring the national capital leads the world’s cultural cities, offering the most powerful platform for extraordinary artistic experience and ideas.

Tommy Sheppard: Director The Stand Comedy Club

I’ve been involved in starting YouScotland.com, an online forum using modern communication tools to develop new ideas about how our country should be governed. It would be good to see a more dynamic Scottish government keen to harness the creative capacity of its citizens. It would be good, too, to have elected representatives who aspire to control and improve our public institutions and services, starting with taking control over broadcasting and nurturing Scottish television production which can be understood by more than just Gaelic speakers.

Katrina Brown: Director The Common Guild

Art only happens when and where there are artists, so we need to support and encourage artists based here throughout their professional lives. Measures that might do so? Funding that would allow higher education establishments to be less reliant on income from (higher-paying) foreign students through to tax relief for artists. It is vital that the Scottish Executive, whatever its political hue, does not ignore the fact that dynamic internationalism is vital to Scottish culture, not least for all it can do to foster acceptance and understanding difference.

Leigh French: Co-editor, Variant Magazine

Egalitarian aspirations cannot be grafted onto the market, and column-inch election sweeteners of ‘tax breaks for artists’ can never be meaningful. We need to engage in a broader, reinvigorated struggle around the politics of redistribution of wealth, where structural inequalities are dealt with directly and for all. Positive change is something we need to work towards, not vote for. We need to democratise democracy.

Ron Butlin: Novelist

Creative artists come cheap in this country. Writers provide well-paid work for countless publishers, librarians, booksellers, printers, agents, film, radio and television companies, arts administrators and the like. Most artists struggle desperately to make ends meet. Giving them a tax break would be a genuine investment in Scotland’s cultural identity. It would cost very little and achieve a great deal. That said, my vote won’t be based on ‘artist’ issues. My support will be for the Greens and a credible anti-war, anti-Trident ticket.

Hannah McGill: Director Edinburgh International Film Festival

There’s a mode of thinking in this country that can tend to regard creative practice as a sort of indulgence, to be tolerated and only grudgingly backed. This is both depressing and unproductive. The arts in general, and the Edinburgh festivals specifically, need to be regarded as an asset and a resource. Not just because they enrich lives and stimulate imaginations, but because they’re economically beneficial and generate terrific PR for this country. The main task for Creative Scotland is to forward the revolutionary concept that the arts are a good thing and not a burden.

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