I wrote to Fiona Hyslop MSP, Cabinet Secretary for Economy, Fair Work and Culture on 14 May 2020. See letter and response below
Good Morning Fiona Hyslop MSP
Firstly, thank you for the strong leadership shown by the Scottish Government at this extraordinary and difficult time. Whilst lockdown is challenging for businesses and individuals alike the health of people must come first and a overcoming this cruel virus will give Scotland the opportunity to recover quicker and stronger.
I’m contacting you in my capacity as the director of North East Arts Touring. NEAT promotes professional theatre performances and cinema screenings in rural communities across Aberdeenshire and Moray via a network of dedicated Volunteer Promoters. We also deliver a Young Promoter Scheme to encourage and empower young people to become volunteers and promoters whilst also learning life long transferable skills in arts and events management. Our theatre in school programme provides rural children with the same access to theatre performances as their urban peers. More information www.neatshows.org.uk
Sadly, but rightly so, we had to cancel 64 events between March 20 and June 30 2020. Whilst this pandemic will have a significant impact on our box office income, as a Creative Scotland Regular Funded Organisation our Trustees took the decision not to furlough staff but rather use the public money we receive to adapt our working practice so that we can continue to support rural communities and artists the best we can with the limited resources that we have.
The much loved village hall is the heart and soul of what we do. Our volunteer promoters in 30 communities across the North East work tirelessly to make sure that their community is a vibrant and creative place to live, work and visit.
The recovery of our village halls must also be central to the nation’s recovery, many of these are the last bastion of social integration within rural communities and maybe the demise of small rural shops, pubs and other community services may be greater after COVID-19.
Therefore, I would kindly ask if you could consider the following as part of your role as Cabinet Secretary for Economy, Fair Work and Culture …
• Being a strong advocate for arts and culture in a rural context including volunteering
• Realising the important economic and social contribution that the village hall plays in the provision of affordable and accessible arts and culture events across the whole of Scotland
• Ensure that representation from appropriate agencies and organisations feed into Government thinking and decision making so that rural halls and volunteering have a strong voice at this time and during recovery.
• Proportional financial support is made available to rural third sector arts and cultural organisations including halls
If you would like to discuss further please do not hesitate to contact me.
Wishing you the very best with your efforts in dealing with this pandemic.
Kind regards and stay safe