Creative Scotland bailed out theatre company with £50,000


CREATIVE Scotland lavished over £1m on a theatre company only to bail them out with an extra £50,000 when a show flopped in England.

The troubled quango stepped in to rescue Dundee Repertory after its touring musical Sunshine on Leith, starring Billy Boyd, bombed with audiences south of the border.

Despite already handing out £1.2m of taxpayers’ cash to the theatre, ticket sales for the Proclaimer’s musical were poor in England.

Despite the shows popularity in Scotland, it did not have the same appeal to English audiences and lost the theatre money.

Creative Scotland then agreed to pay an extra £50,000 to the “recovery” of the theatre and to make sure they “learn lessons”.

Taxpayers’ groups have condemned the handout as a “waste” of public money, claiming the cash has been “thrown to the wind”.

This week the chief executive of Creative Scotland, Andrew Dixon, resigned following mounting criticism of the way the organisation is run. Pressure is now building for its chairman, Sir Sandy Crombie, to step down.

The Sunshine on Leith musical was created by the Dundee theatre in 2007, and follows the life of two soldiers returning from a tour of duty featuring hit songs by the Proclaimers.

The touring show, which kicked off in September 2010, starred Lord of the Rings hobbit Billy Boyd, along with a cast of 20 and live band.

Despite its popularity in Scotland, it did not have the same appeal to English audiences and lost the theatre money.

Official funding documentation from Creative Scotland has now revealed that bosses agreed to bail the theatre out following the disaster.

The £50,000 payment went “towards the cost of contributing to the recovery of Dundee Repertory after their tour of Sunshine on Leith and to ensure they learn lessons and put in place measures to prevent a repeat”.

Eben Wilson, director of TaxpayerScotland, said: “This is exactly the sort of bail-out that Scottish taxpayers should not be paying.

“This money has essentially been wasted by those in charge of Creative Scotland.

“Any private company would have had to deal with this loss.

“Creative Scotland, and its managers, should take a budget cut of £50,000 next year so that we get the taxes back that they have thrown to the wind”.

A Dundee Rep spokeswoman admitted “Although playing to packed houses in all Scottish venues over a three year period and receiving the award for Best Production at the UK’s TMA Awards, the production didn’t have the same appeal to English audiences.

“The sum granted by Creative Scotland went towards the recovery of the costs lost during the tour.”

Creative Scotland has also funded the film-version of Sunshine on Leith, which is currently being filmed, starring Peter Mullen and Jane Horrocks.

A Creative Scotland spokeswoman, confirmed: “Dundee Rep was granted £50,000 in July 2011.  This sum went towards the recovery of costs lost on the tour of Sunshine on Leith.”

In October, more than 100 artists and writers including Brian Cox, Alan Cumming, Ian Rankin, and Alasdair Gray, joined forces to launch a strongly worded criticism of Creative Scotland.

In an open letter, they said the arts quango lacks regard for culture, and is confused and intrusive.

Last month, Creative Scotland came under fire for some of its “ludicrous” spending decisions – including £90,000 on a celebration of kite-flying and rainbow-chasing.

The bizarre event was just one of dozens of controversial projects showered with £70m of public cash by arts quango last year.

Other examples to emerge include £7,000 spent on a song for pandas at Edinburgh Zoo, Punch and Judy workshops for OAPs, and cash to write an Olympic relay song in a “Shetland dialect”.

Speaking at the time, Scottish Conservative deputy leader Jackson Carlaw said: “In these tough times, how can Creative Scotland or the Scottish Government possibly justify these ludicrous projects?”

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