Creative Scotland funding cuts: our statement

Creative Scotland cuts Birds of Paradise Theatre Company’s funding,
in organisation’s 25th anniversary year

Award-winning theatre company Birds of Paradise has lost its £450,000 three year funding from Creative Scotland, in a year set to celebrate the work of Scotland’s only professional, disability-led arts organisation.

2018 is a year that will see Birds of Paradise celebrate it’s silver anniversary with artist development programmes, cabarets, regional outreach and shows, including a world premiere and flagship production called ‘My Left / Right Foot – The Musical’ co-produced by National Theatre of Scotland over the Edinburgh Festival Fringe 2018. My Left / Right Foot is a high profile opportunity to create a piece of popular theatre that can have a big impact, reaching a wide audience while challenging the stereotypes of representation of disabled people that persist in areas of arts and culture. We hope that Creative Scotland, who recognise us as the only disabled led theatre company in Scotland, will still support us to realise this work.

Talking about Creative Scotland’s decision, Artistic Director of Birds of Paradise,
Robert Softley Gale said,

“The board and staff are devastated at Creative Scotland’s decision. This is particularly difficult, in a celebratory year, when we were set to showcase how we are making exciting, innovative work that is looking to the future. Now our future is uncertain.

“As a company, Birds of Paradise is at the forefront of promoting access, diversity and inclusion; creating positive images of disabled people through world-class work, and participation to the arts for all.

“We are committed to working with and employing disabled and non-disabled actors and practitioners, putting them centre stage, and creating award-winning, critically acclaimed productions that tell new and diverse stories.

“Just last year, we produced and toured two critically acclaimed shows that employed 10 performers, of whom 6 were professional disabled actors; 60% of the workforce. Each of these performances were integrated with Audio Description, BSL Interpretation and Captioning, further encouraging access and inclusion in the arts.

“As a vision we work towards a culture where disabled artists are recognised for their excellence, breaking down barriers, by supporting emerging disabled artists and offering consultations and training to create positive images of inclusion. Last year we worked with 47 artists, and held Disability Equality Training sessions which benefited 197 people across 12 organisations.

“Central to the impact that we have, and the benefits that we bring to the arts in Scotland, is the role that we play in putting the stories of disabled people on stage; both for artists and audiences. Be these stories of men with Cerebral Palsy who are husbands and fathers, or stories of disabled dancers in 19th century Paris, or stories for young people to show them strong role models who are disabled.

“By Creative Scotland cutting us in this way, it feels that these disabled stories aren’t meant to be part of the arts ecology in Scotland and that it is no longer a strategic priority to have an exemplar of a disabled led company that guarantees disabled people and their stories are present in our theatre culture.

In the assessment it noted:

“[BOP] are established and successful disabled performers without whom the representation of disabled people on stage in Scotland would be severely limited.

While Creative Scotland acknowledge our contribution, this funding outcome is partly based on the idea that we aren’t succeeding in making the wider Scottish arts sector more inclusive of disabled artists and audiences. If however, disabled-led and disabled-focused organisations take such a strong hit, how can they push for further representation, and in turn equality?

This comes at a time when the arts community should be engaging with social and political issues, and so this is a strong message to us. It feels that disabled artists do not fit into the artistic mould or community, and this is the most devastating message of all.”


For PR:
Joy Parkinson