2007 - 2022

Crowdsourcing an Arts Manifesto for a Post-Everything Scotland

Bella Caledonia is crowdsourcing an Arts Manifesto for post-covid, post-independence Scotland.

As we start to envisage the possible end of COVID restrictions, we hear many plans for “recovery”, for “stability”, and much talk of “getting back to normal”.  And, of course, we have all been forced to question the ‘normal’ during the pandemic as our existing systems of support are exposed as inadequate. This post-Covid speculating has arrived amid us already guessing at what a post-Brexit UK will look like. For Bella Caledonia we are already constantly looking ahead to the possibilities the might arise post-Independence.

We want to look at Government policy on the arts and what sort of policies would create an environment that supports and nurtures the artistic industries. How do we legislate to make arts accessible to all, both in participation and enjoyment?

Over the next month Bella Caledonia will publish commissioned articles on policy ideas for this ‘post-everything’ Scotland. Leading figures in various sectors and backgrounds will outline their policy ideas. But we want you to get involved too, the artists, the audience and the army of people behind the scenes who make the magic happen.  In the comments section below and after each published piece, tell us one policy that you think would make a difference.

And let’s be ambitious. Jennie Lee’s 1965 White Paper A Policy for the Arts – First Steps was never realised in full. Her vision of the arts embedded in education and culture established the Arts Council but was never reached the goals she had set out. It is, to this day, still the only White Paper on the arts in the history of the UK parliament. Fifty years after its introduction the Warwick Commission Report painted a bleak picture compared to Lee’s optimism. They concluded that the arts was facing rapid decline in schools, that arts audiences were mainly middle class and white, and that publicly funded arts were “predominantly accessed by an unnecessarily narrow social, economic, ethnic and educated demographic”.

Most debate and policy in Scotland on the arts since devolution has focused on structural and managerial aspects, often even reduced to arguments about who got what job. For this manifesto we want to see ideas that don’t just tinker around the edges but that would make a genuine difference. At the end of the process we will gather your ideas together into a manifesto. We hope this manifesto will be a bold aspiration as to what could be possible if the policies, and the political will, was there.

We hope to look at the immediate future, what needs to be done now to “save” the arts, as well as ahead to what might be possible in an imagined future.

Our first contribution, by playwright Peter Arnott, will be published here this week. In the meantime, kick off the conversation in the comments below.


Image credit: Out/Exit Piece, Peter Liversidge, 2020, photo Eleanor Edmondson, courtesy Jupiter Artland

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  1. Pub Bore says:

    1. Deprofessionalise the arts. To give an occupation or activity professional qualities, typically by raising required qualifications as conditions of entry, excludes people who don’t meet the required qualifications from participation in that activity.

    2. Abolish copyright and licensing. Again, limiting the right to make copies of or to reproduce work restricts access to that work.

    3. Introduce a minimum guaranteed income, which facility could be used by people (if they so choose) to help support themselves while engaged in creative activities.

    1. Jim Monaghan says:

      interesting reply 1. I have no professional qualifications, or indeed any qualifications, but have found no barrier to participation as a result of that. 2. For us not so famous artists holding on to the rights and subsequent income from those rights is essential to be able to earn anything. 3. Agree

    2. Gillian Cummings says:

      I don’t think that’s the answer, far too sweeping. There are plenty of professional artists, musicians, writers who create really interesting, provocative work – there are plenty of artists who create this work to in the face of an established cultural hegemony and the constructs that support it. The last thing that those artists need is for their experience to be dismissed. And I don’t think that anyone who comes up through a professional route is to be distrusted.

      I left school at 16 with no qualifications and had my son at 21 – and creatively speaking (as obv I love my son) I value this experience as much as my decision to pursue and attain a degree in my late 20s. Parenthood at that age gave me an unusual insight, even if I was aware of it at the time, into certain attitudes and preconceptions still very much alive and kicking towards young parents at that time.

      But, I also learnt alot from having to buckle down and study the humanities, specifically literature at a degree level later on. So I’d come back to the point I made below – it should always come down to the work.

      However, I think there are certain market characteristics that are conflated with professionalism – professional networking, a certain user friendliness, ease of accessibility, and a big social media following – shouldn’t be the markers for funding and support.

      Everything should come back to the work. But yeah, that work and the ability to produce it or work towards developing it – is significantly affected by socio economic and social markers. So yeah I agree – a universal income would level the playing considerably.

      1. Niemand says:

        In theory I like the idea of a universal income but I worry it would not be that conducive to good art. Artists like the challenge and struggle, the striving. Maybe make the income barely enough to live on? (joke)

        I would also question that good art has to be ‘provocative’ and ‘interesting’. I think art should be free of such value judgements. Art can be provocative, yes, and that can make it good. But it can also make it bad. It is a neutral characteristic. I worry that when it comes to underrepresented artists especially there is this assumption they are in some way going make ‘challenging’ art about their experience as being underrepresented (or similar) instead of just doing what they want like anyone else e.g. something that is totally aesthetically focussed with more universal themes.

        1. Gillian Cummings says:

          I understand where you’re coming from…to a certain extent. The thinking being perhaps that if making art isn’t just a hobby or a notion – then you’ll stick it out, whatever the circumstances.

          But I think its a cliche to say that all artists enjoy the struggle. I value the emotional, and natural, ups and downs (though some might say struggle) of writing, making art and working within communities. I’ve been doing it for a long time. And, like lots of my peers, I’ve never looked for or trusted a perceived ideal situation. But I don’t enjoy the socio economic dissadvantages or disproportionate struggle of low or no wages and high rents, insecure tenancies and laborious and lengthy funding applications. It’s a struggle that for many artists, is increasingly insurmountable – and a well known cause of the mental health epidemic that affects workers, mostly working class (including artists) across the board.

          But I agree with you re value judgements concerning the legitimacy of art. I’ve sat through many a middle class vanity project at the festival or (snore) yet another adaptation of Jane Austin, fully aware and respectful of the sensibility behind art for arts sake. And I definately agree that authentic reflexivity (whatever the circumstances of your life) is the key to the universality and empathy that underpins an artist’s ability to create art.

          Though, I don’t think that the powers that be, are free from those value judgements – and I don’t think that many from within that establishment would necessarily agree with us.

          Given the current cataclysmic lack of working class voices and diversity in the arts – a dearth so great that even the mainstream has been forced to take note -https://www.google.com/amp/s/amp.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2020/jul/21/pandemic-britain-arts-coronavirus-culture-bailout-unlikely-reach-diverse-working-class

          So yeah I don’t think that working class artists should feel pressured to become a voice for anything, though I suppose there are so few of them…they probably feel the need.

  2. Stewart Smith says:

    Lots of good stuff in this New Socialist piece. I think a key point is for arts policy to be part of wider socio-economic policy – i.e. we need to create the material conditions in which people have the time and space to think, make and do.


    1. Pub Bore says:

      Precisely! I think this might be what I meant when I proposed that ‘the arts’ should be deprofessionalised. Creative work shouldn’t be distinguished as a specialised activity within a global division of labour, as we do when we sector it economically (i.e. ‘professionalise’ it) as ‘the creative industries’. Thinking, making, and doing should be accessible to all, and not just to those who profess themselves to be specialist ‘artists’. And, as you suggest, we lack the material conditions that would allow ‘non-artists’ the existential space and social permission to freely think, make, and do.

      Thanks for the link!

  3. Niemand says:

    Get art schools back. They were such a great breeding ground for rock bands in the 60s, 70s and 80s. Not sure about a minimum wage but some way for artists to live and then do their art and try and make their way in the world. In the early 80s you could stay on the dole and do your thing, at least for a while. Everything is so codified and subject to bureaucratic scrutiny today and it literally kills art stone dead.

    The ‘professional’ thing is interesting. What does it actually mean? Someone who earns their living making art? Or some kind of set of standards that are in fact just normative tropes? I have always like the idea of the amateur, not as a byword for something second rate, but as something you do primarily because you really love it. A teacher once said to me many years ago that money and art are not directly connected but run a crucial parallel course with tentative threads between. This should never be forgotten.

    I dunno, I work, tangentially, in the arts and am also an artist and there is nothing more soul destroying than the scramble for arts funding and the associated justifications required (I mean you have to have justifications in order to decide who gets the money but they always seems so massively exclusionary from the very start not least because they are incomprehensible to artists and then you get a whole edifice of people whose sole job is to help you understand and apply for money, which simply a ludicrous waste of money).

    1. Pub Bore says:

      Yep, the way creative activity is primarily supported in Scotland – through grants and subsidy – is by its nature exclusionary. That’s why I reckon it would be better supported by the introduction of a minimum guaranteed income for everyone in society.

      1. Pub Bore says:

        It would also obviate the need for creators to monetise their work in order to support themselves in their creative activity.

        1. Pub Bore says:

          There’s nothing ‘wrong’ with monetising your work; artists have to eat, after all. The ‘danger’ is that you then come to produce work for sale rather than as an expression of your humanity, the value of which work comes then to lie in its exchange rather than in the recognition and reappropriation of the humanity it objectifies. In Buberian rather than Marxian terms, in monetising your work, you risk that work becoming a silent ‘It’ rather than a ‘Thou’ that addresses its interlocutor in their encounter; it loses that ‘je ne sais quoi’ – that elusive humanity – that distinguishes it as ‘art’ rather than just another commodity.

          1. Niemand says:

            I have more of a problem with changing your work to suit a funding bid that will please the funders than doing stuff you think the public will like and so buy. The latter is narrow and trying to please a tiny elite, who always have an even narrower agenda, quotas and tickbox mentality, whereas the former is more democratic and open, up to a point anyway. Plus that striving / having wider appeal whilst expressing what you want and not compromising excessively is the hallmark of most great art from Mozart to Picasso to the Beatles to Larkin.

            Getting back to the main question my suggestion does come back to education -give children the creative tools and ideas at school – really place importance on art, music, drama, poetry, fund it, encourage it, laud it, make at core in the curriculum. Then let them do what they will with it in life but the foundation will benefit society come what may.

          2. Pub Bore says:

            Yes, funders are the ‘arbiters of taste’, and the market is more democratic in that respect, funding what is popular rather than what conforms to the normative standards of connoisseurs. I suppose that’s also part of what I meant by the professionalisation of the arts.

            But this whole manner of funding creativity as a specialism within the global division of labour rather than through a universal guaranteed minimum income contributes to its commodification; artists are still obliged to create in exchange for grants and patronage as much for sales receipts.

            I also agree with what you say about education. It seems to me that opportunities for free expression through making and play decline the further the child gets into the serious business of acquiring career qualifications and the core skills identified by employers as those most likely to be needed in any work environment. This is hardly a culture that’s conducive to creativity, encounter, and human growth.

          3. Niemand says:

            I am no theorist but is there not a difference between a commodity and commodification? Art is a commodity and for as long as anyone can look people have sought to earn money from it, or to earn their keep one way or another so as to be able to carry on doing it. Art for art’s sake is a 19th century Romantic notion supported either by the idea of the rich artist who needs no income, or one who might have a single rich patron, or they starve, heroically in a garret; the idea being art is tainted by direct association with money or any association with it at all. But just like the idea of the genius creating something as if from nowhere or directly from God or some other supernatural force, it’s deeply flawed – an idealistic notion that has little basis in reality let alone practicality.

            So the question arises, when does making art, a commodity, become commodification?

          4. Pub Bore says:

            There’s nothing wrong with exchanging goods, and – as you say – artists have always negotiated such exchanges. The key property of a commodity is not its inherent goodness but its ‘fungibility’ – the equivalence and indistinguishability of each unit thereof. The objection to the commodification of art is the same as that which is often made to the commodification of labour: people and their expressions are individual, incommensurable goods and not reducible to standardised units of equivalence; neither is ‘fungible’ in the way that minerals, grain, beasts, or mass-produced units of baked beans or computer memory etc. are. Commodification is the reduction of a good to a commodity.

          5. Niemand says:

            Hm yes on board with that, up to a point. My issue though is where is the line? Art can be primarily functional, a mix of form and function and thus much more prone to commodification but such work can be incredibly enriching to our lives too. We can get too hung up on its ‘autonomy’ and mythical status and the dangers of destrying its aura.

            Benjamin suggested reproduction destroys the aura of the artwork but I think this untrue. I have been to galleries and seen painting that I was utterly familiar with (or thought I was) from posters, some of which I had stared at on my bedroom wall for year, and came out in tears, totally stunned by experiencing them in the flesh, They completely transcended their mass reproduction.

            Some music is designed to be almost anonymous e.g. electronic dance music – one track designed to seamlessly flow into the next. It’s ‘pre-digested’ form and ‘pseudo-individualisations’ like a wet dream for Adornoians. Yet it also transcends all this when you are grooving on the dance floor: being ‘obedient’ to the beat is a release and you very much want the music to be commodified for it to retain its spell.

          6. Pub Bore says:

            It’s Benjamin and Adorno that largely provide the cud for my aesthetic ruminations. (I became acquainted with the latter’s Aesthetic Theory back in the ‘80s, while striving to gain proficiency in his method of negative dialectics, and through that with Benjamin’s essay on the Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction.)

            Your account of the difference between your experience of an original work and your experience of photographic reproductions of that same work seems to bear Benjamin out: in reproductions, the aura of the original is lost. The same difference is often reported between live and recorded musical performances. Likewise, your experience of live EDM: would the aura of the live performance not be lost when reproduced outside the moment of the club/concert/festival – as a recording, say, played on a machine in your sitting room?

            In any case, commodification isn’t the same as reproduction, although reproductions (simply in virtue of their reproducibility) are more commodifiable than original works – which, I think, was a point that Benjamin made in his critique of what Adorno later dubbed the capitalist ‘culture industry’.

    2. Gillian Cummings says:

      I don’t think accessibility to art needs art colleges…does it? I mean, I’m not against art college, but people have been making art for thousands of years, no? I think that art, which is really only a particular way of expressing cultural and social experience, needs agency first and foremost…

      1. Niemand says:

        I was thinking of a time when art colleges were a sort of hang out for young people who didn’t want to get a job (and so avoiding the dole) but ended up meeting like-minded people and forming some of the greatest rock bands as a result (so not artists as such at all). And not university courses but local art colleges. So not a million miles from the idea of a universal income.

        1. Pub Bore says:

          Yeah, hangouts are good. A few years ago, just before I retired, I let it be known that I’d be in the local Youthie every Friday afternoon, where anyone who liked to write, and who didn’t want to take part in the extracurricular sports activities to which Friday afternoons were exclusively given over by the school, could come and hang out. We shot pool, ate junk, generally *rs*d about, and played with language – or, to give it its fancy French title, practised ‘Oulipo’, which stands for ‘Ouvoir de Litterture Potentialle’. Sports-skivers of all shapes and sizes used to drop in and have a laugh. After two years, the community eventually passed away, having run its natural transient course, with the kids moving on. The last thing we did was edit and self-publish the writing we’d produced as ‘Wordlab: an anthology of experimental writing’, of which everyone who’d hung out got a copy as a memento of our experience.

          Hangouts are good. Every artist should have one.

      2. SleepingDog says:

        @Gillian Cummings, I agree, the idea that art is what people do when they have the opportunity is developed in works like Art and Society: Lectures and Essays by William Morris. It takes a particularly horrible education system to alienate people from art and crafts.

    3. Gillian Cummings says:

      And I don’t think that art is a commodity. Again it’s a bit of a broad statement. Yes art can be sold and has been sold. But it doesn’t define what art is – ‘always’ as a word – is a bit misleading. It’s not like the motivation for homo sapiens was to charge an entry fee for access to their cave work. Maybe the best universal is that everyone (regardless of circumstances) has a need, a human right to create – and if that’s the case and these policies are about inclusion, maybe the best presumption is that working class people are already creative, but perhaps that creativity is channelled into survival rather than the arts.

      1. Niemand says:

        This is complex I think so you are right about too much generalisation Gillian. But to be simplistic yet again, humans are naturally creative and do it because they want to, love it, are driven to it even. Equally though they naturally want to accrue wealth (taken in its broadest sense so not just about ‘money’) and place differential value on things that can be exchanged. Art has gotten caught up with this for a very long time and I suspect was always prat of it. I bet those cave painters gained status for being good at it.

        Having said all that this is based on cultures I am familiar with and isn’t universally true but where it isn’t, such cultures have no notion of ‘talent’ or even ideas such as music, though they make it e.g the people of the Papua New Guinea rainforests. There world is so totally embedded with the natural environment that its sounds are as much music to them as what they do. But this whole conception is very alien to us: no talent, no leaders, no ‘work’, no ‘art’, no concert halls, galleries; nothing, just the forest. This is what it would take for art to be truly not a commodity.

        I agree though, the right to have space and time for all to be creative instead of striving every minute to survive is essential for a healthy society and I would argue, not as an institutional idea but as part of the community people live in. Mark E. Smith, the anti-intellectual intellectual, ‘white crap who talks back’, was right in a way – the middle classes can destroy creativity, stultify it, ruin it which is why I get so angry at all the funding ‘justifications’ and BS.

        1. Gillian Cummings says:

          The thing is, I don’t think that that form of indigenous culture is alien to us. What about Gaelic culture or Bothy Culture or Doric or the oral traditions of storytelling? We could break these down, but they served a lot more of an intrinsic purpose than just performance alone. There were types of songs that were used to understand and remember family history, work songs, songs that carried the news from one part of the land to another, and phonetics in speech that reflected natural sounds of the environment. There’s a connectedness to this form of folk culture that surely influences any art form that flows from it – and any form of culture needs a healthly permaculture after all. But perhaps our misconceptions re this is wrapped up in the language that we’re taught and the languages that we’ve been extracted from.

          ‘If two thousand five hundred languages are to be lost in the course of the twenty-first century, don’t be in any doubt about what that means for us: in each of those two thousand five hundreds cases a culture will be lost’

          Andrew Dalby, Language in Danger: The Loss of Linguistic Diversity and the Threat to Our Future

        2. Pub Bore says:

          It needn’t be that complex, Niemand. Whatever their motivations, people make things. These things are functional in many different ways, psychological and social, some of which both you and Gillian enumerate. But the crucial point is that some of those things are not just functional; the maker goes beyond the requirements of functionality in making the object and gives it that additional ‘je ne sais quoi’ of which I spoke before.

          It’s this additional quality that lifts an object beyond its functionality and gives it its own sui generis character or individuality, and it’s this individuality that eludes the commensurability that enables its commodification and elevates it as ‘art’.

          1. Niemand says:

            The complexity to me is at what point does that elevation happen and so at what point does it free itself from commodification? It is fine as a theory, an ideal even, but in practice I am much less sure there is any clear dividing line and ever has been.

            Gillian yes I like the point about folk cultures we are more familiar with being close or much closer to the point I made about ‘alien’ cultures.

            My own area of interest is music and how much the sounds of the environments we live in (natural, industrial, whatever) are actually part of that music in some way (not necessarily literally but that also), rather then shut out, eschewed as undesirable to the ‘purity’ of music. This conception was much more common in past eras but today, is quite an unusual question for many.

          2. Pub Bore says:

            I suppose the question’s a bit like the one the Edwardian scientist was asking, in Wittgenstein’s tale, when he stood with his nose against a painting as slowly moved back in the hope that he could locate the point at which what he saw ceased to be pigment on a canvas and became a picture.

            Here’s what Buber had to say (in I and Thou):

            “I contemplate a tree.

            “I can accept it as a picture: a rigid pillar in a flood of light, or splashes of green traversed by the gentleness of the blue silver ground.

            “I can feel it as movement: the flowing veins around the sturdy, striving core, the sucking of the roots, the breathing of the leaves, the infinite commerce with earth and air–and the growing itself in its darkness.

            “I can assign it to a species and observe it as an instance, with an eye to its construction and its way of life.

            “I can overcome its uniqueness and form so rigorously that I recognize it only as an expression of the law–those laws according to which a constant opposition of forces is continually adjusted, or those laws according to which the elements mix and separate.

            “I can dissolve it into a number, into a pure relation between numbers, and eternalize it.

            “Throughout all of this the tree remains my object and has its place and its time span, its kind and condition.

            “But it can also happen, if will and grace are joined, that as I contemplate the tree I am drawn into a relation, and the tree ceases to be an It. The power of exclusiveness has seized me.

            “This does not require me to forego any of the modes of contemplation. There is nothing that I must not see in order to see, and there is no knowledge that I must forget. Rather is everything, picture and movement, species and instance, law and number included and inseparably fused.

            “Whatever belongs to the tree is included: its form and its mechanics, its colors and its chemistry, its conversation with the elements and its conversation with the stars–all this in its entirety.

            “The tree is no impression, no play of my imagination, no aspect of a mood; it confronts me bodily and has to deal with me as I must deal with it–only differently.

            “One should not try to dilute the meaning of the relation: relation is reciprocity.

            “Does the tree then have consciousness, similar to our own? I have no experience of that. But thinking that you have brought this off in your own case, must you again divide the indivisible? What I encounter is neither the soul of a tree nor a dryad, but the tree itself.”

            And of an artwork he says:

            “This is the eternal origin of art, that a human being confronts a form that wants to become a work through him.


            “The form that confronts me I cannot experience nor describe; I can only actualise it. And yet I see it, radiant in the splendour of the confrontation, far more clearly than all the clarity of the experienced world. Not as a thing among the ‘internal’ things, not as a figment of the ‘imagination’, but as what is present. Tested for objectivity, the form os not ‘there’ at all; but what can equal its presence? And it is an actual relation: it acts on me as I act on it.

            “Such work is creation, inventing is finding. Forming is discovery. As I actualise, I uncover. I lead the form across – into the world of It. The created work is a thing among things and can be experienced and described as an aggregate of qualities. But the receptive beholder ma be bodily confronted now and then.”

            Maybe, as Buber suggests, it’s not an ‘either-or’ question; maybe a work of art is at the same time both an ‘It’ and a ‘Thou’, in much the same time that a person is at the same time both a means to some end other than itself (i.e. a functional object) and its own end (i.e. an autonomous subject), and that it’s we who elevate the former into the latter when it addresses or ‘grabs’ us and we respond to it as such.

            This is similar to Heidegger’s aesthetic, and it’s interesting that their respective critiques of capitalism (or ‘modernity’, as they called it following Kierkegaard and Nietzsche) centre around how its relations of production degrade human beings as autonomous subjects into ‘workers’ as mere functional objects. But that’s another story…

        3. Blair says:

          “This is complex I think so you are right about too much generalisation Gillian. But to be simplistic yet again, humans are naturally creative and do it because they want to, love it, are driven to it even.”

          I agree, the solution is to make everyone independent and provide them with all the things that they require to be creative. They can create their own world and decide how it is operates. Total Freedom without anyone interfering unless you want them to. What would you create if anything was possible?

          1. Pub Bore says:

            Yep, I think you’re right, Blair. Creativity shouldn’t be dependent on specialised funding or the laws of supply and demand. A universal guaranteed minimum income would give creatives the independence they need to create freely.

          2. Gillian Cummings says:

            Blair, yes I think we both agree that art is a need, a human right – a characteristic specific to humans. But I’m not sure about the limitless freedom of it or the idea that we are all individuals doing our own thing. In my experience people can become more singular and less collaborative when art is something that’s posited as offering limitless freedom – and I think that there’s an issue in presenting art as a form of escapism at a point in time where we need our wits about us. I suppose there is a certain kind of arts practise that is a bit like – here let’s make a collage it’ll take your mind off the fact that your rent is about to hiked up – artwashing as advertising kind of thing.

            Em, but I think the jump point for this conversation was how to make the arts more accessible, more diverse and more accessible, more representative to and of working class communities. And which policies would enable this? For me these policies would address the cultural and social inequalities first, and perhaps be more open to broadening the activities we think of…when we think of creative practise into areas around employment, agriculture, crafts etc.

            For example we know that Bothy culture didn’t spring up because someone funded an arts initiative for it – it was a natural and social development that sprung from shared and valued work at a community level. And fair enough we don’t live in the early 19th century and everyone has a smart phone.

            But we do have high and insecure unemployment, that’s often poorly paid and monotonous. And we have urban land that could in theory be developed with an eco strategy in mind, which provide employment for those living locally to it – there are also lots of old council estates with big gardens. I’m not suggesting that everyone would necessarily pick up a guitar and subsequently perform – but reintroduce the social and work conditions for growth, and you make the possibility for a flourishing and more diverse arts and craft scene much more possible.

            In terms of policy for existing or developed arts – I’d stick to what I said before. Remove the bells and whistles i.e. unbearable long and deconstructive funding applications, networking as creative practise, big reputations and vast social media followings – and value instead different backgrounds. But mostly support and develop the emotional impact and potential of the work.

  4. CJKelly The says:

    Culture Counts has already begun a crowdsourced cultural manifesto.

    ‘This manifesto has been crowd-sourced by Scotland’s culture sector. We have identified 8 asks for the next Scottish Parliament & Scottish Government for the next 5 year parliamentary term; Place, Diversity, Climate & Environment, Brexit, Covid 19, Education, Health, Procurement.’

    Further details at:
    Cultural Manifesto 2021

  5. Gillian Cummings says:

    Maybe the key is to base any policy decisions on studies that explore the strength of the art itself, in whatever form it takes. And perhaps on the emotional reach and insight that comes to certain communities from nurturing voices from within those communities. I’ve sat in freezing community cafes and listened to people of all ages with spark, depth and most importantly something they need to say, tell the most amazing stories and sing snippets of songs that can silence a room. On the other hand I’ve sat through festival shows mostly based on smoke and mirrors with little more than ego at their heart. I guess it’s a question of which well to draw from? While also acknowledging the difference between policies that support the cultural growth and agency of communities that need it the most – and policies to support the arts that follow on from that growth.

  6. SleepingDog says:

    On the digital aspect, which seems oddly neglected in some of the links. Particularly during the pandemic, more stories about the way the Internet allows collaboration in the arts over space, yet software and digital commons allow collaboration over time as well, and increasingly over other barriers as interoperability, internationalisation and accessibility practice improves. Access to digital creative and publishing tools are practically essential in the modern world to connect your creations to audiences. Much can be done to make these free (many already are, under open source frameworks). The BBC is involved in some of the standards bodies that develop interoperable technologies, although they are perhaps not as ambitious on the accessibility front as they could be. An example would be that even the most basic, free video editing software should provide tools for closed captioning. Much more digital content can be made available under licences that encourage sharing, such as:


    There is nothing so artful as a lie. And digital technology has exponentially increased artistic ability to tell lies, from old-fashioned image-editing to deepfakes. So that everyone can belong to a political class that understands the artifice behind artists’ proliferating propaganda and fabrication opportunities, I would recommend that education tackles these issues as broadly and as early as possible. Everyone who can should be familiar with, for example video editing (and therefore the essence of the controversy around BBC news flipping the order of events at Orgreave, to give a specific noteworthy news item). In other words, digital literacy is currently required for political literacy, and in the general population to guard against creative and other forms of elitism.

    1. Pub Bore says:

      Yep, embracing la mort de l’auteur, I published my writing (heteronymously, of course) under a creative commons license for many years, contributing to the vast pool of content that could be copied, distributed, edited, remixed, and built upon, all within the boundaries of copyright law (though the pool would be much broader and deeper if copyright law was simply abolished). Indeed, when I was working, a lot of my work was itself a remix of material drawn from that pool. To this very day, none who’s ever known me knows that I wrote, and none who has read anything I wrote can know that it was I who wrote it. Like prog rock, it’s not about ‘me’ (whatever that might be); it’s ‘all about the music, man’.

      And I agree: being media-savvy is nowadays a prerequisite of literacy. One needs to be able to read actively and not just consume passively to get the most out of the content one accesses. But that’s always been the case.

      1. SleepingDog says:

        @Pub Bore, the creative commons licences (except in Canada?) have nothing to do with the ‘death of the author’, as they reinforce rather than diminish the moral rights of authorship:
        In terms of our inheritance of primate politics (I have been reading the graphic novel version of Sapiens: The Birth of Humankind by Yuval Noah Harari), people may still rely on indicators of (mediated) interpersonal trust, like ‘an honest face’ or whatever in a politician. Of course, if a creative person edited in footage of that same politician in an off-guard moment, looking shifty…

        1. Pub Bore says:

          Yes, I know; which is why I characterised them as operating ‘within the boundaries of copyright law’. Such licenses can be used for myriad purposes, though, and I put them to use in my ‘la mort de l’auteur’ project.

          If you’re at all interested in learning more about this project, take a gander at Roland Barthes 1967 essay of that name, which spawned a line of thought taken by Foucault in his 1969 lecture, ‘What is an author?’, which line of thought I was putting to the test.

    2. Niemand says:

      Interesting comment but in the second bit are you not talking about journalism / material that purports to be transparently representational rather than art? As someone once said (can’t remember who), ‘the artist lies to get closer to the truth’.

      1. SleepingDog says:

        @Niemand, my point was intended to be much more general. After reading several assertions that artists as a class are ‘truthtellers’, it might need more than a simple comment’s rebuttal. I would blog a short (quote-free) article if I can be bothered. Quote-free because artists’ expressed opinions on art are even more suspect. But I mean all kinds of general, everyday stuff too: the way people (mis)represent themselves, the white (or malign) lies they tell, the stereotypes they (over/ab)use, the imagic exaggerations, the dubious moral tales, the fantasies, the diversions from reality, and so on. To be brief, what kind of society would we have if everyone did tell the truth all the time? More artistic than ours (I think not). Less art, more matter, as the Queen said to Polonius.

    3. SleepingDog says:

      And as commented over on the FoE story, creative industries are responsible for enormous environmental load and damage. Just to continue the digital theme here, I have worked on Internet content and design optimisation, and the potential global savings from ultra-inefficient coding and content formatting are astronomical in energy, storage space and time. Every time there is an increase in bandwidth or storage space, there is a loosening of design efficiency. When I was working in the field, websites could commonly be redesigned to take up 1/100th of the file size without negatively impacting on user experience, and indeed enhancing it through faster rendering (and less data plan consumption/charges). Design is getting ever more bandwidth extravagant, with monstrous features like infinite scrolling.

      So I propose a policy of environmental design built into every creative project and educational course. This is also more globally just, since such content will become accessible to more people everywhere.

      I’m guessing you will also want a reflection on cultural appropriation too.

      1. Niemand says:

        With you on this one about web design / band width SD. Infinite scrolling is not only power hungry it is a kind of abdication of responsibility.

        Regarding artists’ ‘lies’ and their role as ‘truth tellers’, I’m less sure of the critique. There is no absolute truth in art and artists are under no obligation to tell it in my book (except in certain specific instances). All art is subjective no matter how objective it purports to be, and open to interpretation, and is also very much historicised, so I think it the fault of the recipient who might assume it is somehow objective, who then gets angry when it turns out it is ‘all made up’ as if making it up is not what art in fact is.

        1. Pub Bore says:

          I agree, Niemand. Art isn’t reportage; it’s expressive rather than discursive.

        2. SleepingDog says:

          @Niemand, I am glad you demand a rational argument with supporting evidence rather than a rhetorical statement or poetic flourish (which is kind of my point), but perhaps a pertinent example will cast light on the issue. Wikipedia describes Gone With the Wind (1939) as “still the highest-grossing film in history”. I have to rely on reviews here as I have never watched it (nor read the source novel), but anyway the article says the movie “has been criticized as having perpetuated Civil War myths and black stereotypes” and perpetuates a dangerous myth about the acceptability of marital rape. My point is that any lies we see in the movie today were lies when it was made. The reason the movie has become more controversial is in because that some authorities have now conceded that these lies matter.
          Yet GWtW is hardly unique in its portrayals, representations and stereotypes. These are the kinds of intentional distortions common throughout novels and feature films, and when they apply to historical eras and/or real people (like, say, The Crown), then the artistic licence to lie is rightly under scrutiny. I use ‘lie’ in the common sense of deliberate falsehood, rather than definitively attaching moral judgement. Just like ‘truth-telling’ can be banal or malevolent, but here I likewise mean just something like honesty.

          1. Pub Bore says:

            Well, you see, I’d argue that Gone With the Wind simply reflects the acceptability of the racial stereotypes and of marital rape at the time and, in doing so, is a valuable historical document that lets us see into the ‘mind’ of the place and time of which it’s an expression. If you’re going to criticise Gone With the Wind for its historicity, then you might as well criticise David Hume for perpetuating ‘lies’ about the institution of slavery.

            Of course, such practices are no longer acceptable in our place and time. What are ‘lies’ now weren’t ‘lies’ then. As Niemand pointed out, ‘truth’ and ‘lies’ (in the sense that you’re using the latter) are relative rather than absolute judgements. God is dead.

          2. Niemand says:

            SD, yes I take the point and example and there are many similar one could think of. I could argue this is one of what I described as ‘certain specific instances’ but that would too easy a get out.

            So the point remains. I think PB’s argument about truth and lies being relative is a good one in response since even though GWTW is a good example of ‘lies’ and potentially damaging ones, would not the majority of films made in the era, in one way or another, also fall into the same category? We cannot dismiss them all and we can also overlook some things in order to appreciate others. They therefore also represent a truth of when they were made even if one calls that a truth that people were happy to lie (about the matters you describe) – that historicised perspective is crucial.

            And then in 50 years time will people then do the same to what we think now is fine (or fine enough if you ignore some aspects)? And in terms of creativity I still hold people should do what they please, ‘lie’ or whatever. Art should be free, within the law. Yes, it may lead to criticism but if it leads to self-censorship or gross condemnation, then we are stifling creativity not aiding it – freedom means the freedom to make mistakes, offend, do the wrong thing as much the opposite. And you can’t stifle only those you think deserve it as it never works like that.

            Do i think artists should strive for integrity and not ‘lie’ in the manner of GWTW? Yes I do and pointing it out is legitimate, but I’m not sure where else one goes with such a view other than to hold it, say it and then ignore the film.

  7. Hilary_Lucky_Cat says:

    Great initiative. We need to democratise culture, and make it accessible to all. I would love to see the below brought in now, as urgent action is needed, as venues are shutting and crew having to seek any job at all to keep food on the table. With massive concerns about secondary kids going back to school, and physical difficulties in schools re social distancing, at the same time as our theatre and gig venues shut. There are thousands of talented, learned and passionate venue staff and freelancers sat stuck at home, with no income, while the venues they normally work in remain closed. I’d love to see an option of kids being taken in small, socially distanced groups into these spaces to learn about what jobs and roles there are, while these venues remain closed, with freelancers paid for their time. This would:
    1) Widen the career opportunities that young people are aware of, and provide kids the opportunity to learn first hand, from passionate experts in their field.
    2) Provide desperately needed income for freelancers and venue staff
    3) Place the arts at the centre of society
    4) Greatly help the mental health of of freelancers and venue staff to be doing something useful, that uses their skills
    From this, there could be a national database of Work experience opportunities could be built to link schools in with venues for when the revolution comes!

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