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7:84 group fears ‘elitist’ arts council will cut cash


The artistic director of theatre company 7:84 has hit out at the “unconscious elitism” of the Scottish Arts Council (SAC) ahead of a review of its funding.

Lorenzo Mele said any decision by the SAC on Tuesday to cut 7:84’s core funding would be “completely devastating” and would buck the public’s perception of the politically minded company.

“I feel there’s an element in the SAC drama department of having to fund things that are hot, contemporary and pushing the boundaries of theatre,” he said. “Although we want to be provocative in the politics of our productions we want it to be mainstream and accessible to people who maybe don’t go to the theatre very much. If the funding is cut it will be completely devastating … we’ll no longer be able to function as a company.”

Founded in 1973 by the late playwright John McGrath, Glasgow-based 7:84 has aimed to bring theatre to less-advantaged areas of the country.

But despite the public popularity of shows such as last year’s adaptation of Christopher Brookmyre’s novel Boiling A Frog, SAC assessors have consistently ranked the company’s productions as “very poor” or “poor” in recent years.

Fears that 7:84 was being targeted by the SAC for closure began when documents obtained through freedom of information legislation revealed concerns over the quality of its work and recommendations to reconsider core funding. Mele said the comments reveal an “unconscious elitism” in the SAC.

At present, 7:84 will receive funding until August but the withdrawal of its £230,000 SAC grant – more than half the company’s annual budget – would jeopardise future productions.

The company has the support of more than 20 MSPs, who signed a motion by Sandra White MSP calling for the SAC to continue funding 7:84. She said remarks by SAC assessors signalled “an element of snobbishness” in the organisation.

A spokesman for the SAC said no funding decision had yet been made and denied the organisation was elitist.

“I think it’s fair to say 7:84 are aware we’ve had concerns over the quality of their work for some time. When we’re in a climate of finite and competitive resources we have to take decisions and we try to do that as fairly as we can.”

26 February 2006

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