Three arts organisations have hit out at an Elgin councillor after he criticised Creative Scotland’s distribution of grants in Moray.
Dance North Scotland, Findhorn Bay Arts and Universal Hall Promotions feel Sandy Keith did not recognise work they do across the whole area.
Mr Keith called the national arts organisations distribution of grants in Moray “scandalous”.
It came after figures he received from Creative Scotland shows almost £2.26 million has been given to groups and individuals in Moray since 2020.
‘Reach across the region’
However nearly £2.1 million – almost 93% – went to organisations and individuals in the IV36 postcode. That area includes Findhorn and Forres.
The numbers exclude £615,450 for the youth music initiative run by Moray Council.
But the organisations, all based in Findhorn, feel his comments were unfair.
They believe they work “tirelessly” so communities all over Moray benefit from opportunities.
However Mr Keith said his criticism was aimed at Creative Scotland, and commended the work of all three organisations.
In an open letter, the groups say their services “reach across the region” with cultural impacts going “much further afield”.
They said: “Universal Hall Promotions plays an important role on the Scottish touring circuit and presents an eclectic and high-quality programme of theatre, dance and music, drawing audiences from across Moray and beyond.
‘Eclectic’ arts programme
“Dance North Scotland operates a Regional Artist Network and support scheme that offers financial and practical support to dance artists throughout Moray, the Highlands and beyond.
“Every year, the organisation programmes and presents RISE, a festival of contemporary dance and performance.
“In recent years, the RISE programme platformed work from local, national and international artists, with performances … in Elgin, Fochabers and at Milltown Airfield, as well as in Findhorn.”
They added Dance North also brought performances to Burghead and Forres.
The group also runs dance classes for young people, those with Parkinson’s and the over 60s in several locations.
And as part of Arts in Moray Culture Collective, ran free arts events in Elgin, Findhorn, Forres, Cummingston and Rothes.
Since starting more then 10 years ago, they say Findhorn Bay Arts has grown from a biennial festival into a group connecting and celebrating Moray’s communities, places and people.
They said: “It provides year-round opportunities that seek to bring cultural, economic and social benefit to the region, as well as those living and working in it.”
Also they added the group is “driven by a passion for celebrating and promoting the rural region of Moray”.
All three organisations received Covid emergency funding to support work across the area to fill gaps in creative provision.
It enabled 13 artists to work with 18 community partners delivering benefits to 1,039 people.
‘I congratulate them on their hard work and efforts’
The organisations are calling for a meeting with Mr Keith to discuss their remits.
They also welcomed support they have received since his comments were reported.
It includes backing from councillors Scott Lawrence and Draeyk Van Der Horn. Elgin based theatre company Out of the Darkness has also given support.
Representatives from the theatre company said: “Out of the Darkness has not applied for any funding with Creative Scotland.
Welcome support from councillors and theatre group
“We fully support the work of Findhorn Bay Arts, Dance North, Universal Hall Promotions and all the fantastic work and creative opportunities that these companies bring to Moray.”
Mr Keith had questioned why no grants had been distributed to organisations in Elgin, including the theatre group.
He said: “In no way am I criticising Findhorn Bay Arts, Dance North or the Universal Hall.
“I congratulate them on their hard work and efforts to secure funding. And I wish them every success in the future.
“My issue is with the way Creative Scotland distributes funds.
“It is a publicly funded body, and it doesn’t appear to be monitoring where grants are going.
Creative Scotland funding distribution
“Since 2020 not a single penny has gone to an organisation based in Elgin. I just want to know why that is.”
Creative Scotland gives out funding from the National Lottery and Scottish Government.
It also supports creative industries and helps people gain experience in the sector.
Since 2020 Findhorn Bay Arts has received £726,257 through the organisation.
Awards for Dance North totalled £596,232 and Universal Hall received £328,889.