I’ve been Chair of Creative Edinburgh since 2012, and introduced the fledgling organisation to a large audience alongside Fiona Hyslop in 2011 at The Hub in Leith Street.
It was a grand night with lots of dreams (wandering around the room I heard mutterings of cynicism. “Another (another) creative organisation for Edinburgh, that’s all we need.”) I paraphrase of course. But for a while that was a prevailing attitude that we had to overcome.
However, Janine and Lynsey (our directors) were tough as old boots, rolled their sleeves up, donned creative curatorial hats and said “Stuff ’em, we’re gonna make this work.” (Again, I paraphrase.)
Jim Galloway, of the City Council’s Economic Development team, was not one of the cynics. far from it.
He saw the light.
He had a modest budget from which to draw, and for six years now he has convinced his colleagues not just to fund us, but to celebrate us, endorse us and commission us for consultancy projects (when appropriate).
We’ve never let him down. He’s never let us down.
The cynics slowly dropped away (but let’s never kid ourselves, no organisation is free from its critics, though few in our case are particularly ‘open’ with their criticism).
We’ve done a good job. Of that I am in no doubt. And when I say ‘we’, I principally mean the executive team of directors (Janine, Lynsey and now Claire) ably abetted by their own teams; currently Anna and Rachel but also Jenny, Holly, Catriona and several more.
We’ve drawn on our members to help us in lots of areas and we’ve created an excellent Steering Group who soon put us right when our ideas go a bit off track.
Our board (past and present) has been brilliant. An eclectic, multi-skilled bunch of proper personalities with a grounding in good governance (thanks especilly to Mike Davidson for that).
Our members’ jams, meet ups and surveys have kept us informed.
And so we’ve grown.
One, two, three, soon four thousand (I hope) members.
We’ve travelled, literally, the world – all over Europe, North America and Asia so far.
But it’s been tight; very, very tight – financially.
Each year has seen a couple of stale biscuits and a half bottle of red wine line the cupboard. Half a box of Dairylee in the fridge.
But our funders, and sponsors have grown in variety and commitment. Each year that Dairlyee has looked more likely to be there on April the 6th, and not snaffled by the bailiffs.
And so, yesterday, it was with a mixture of relief and joy that we found out Creative Scotland (who I also have to say have been an increasingly amazing source of support and vision) announced that we, and our great friends and partners at Creative Dundee, had been granted Regularly Funded Organisation (RFO) status along with 114 others.
This is a game changer. Our funding will now be greater than ever before, and ‘guaranteed’ (so long as we deliver) for three years.
It doesn’t mean we don’t need Jim and the other supporters we have taken on over the years, quite the opposite. And hopefully some of this recognition will rub off on them. I particularly have to single out Anderson Strathern, Codebase, FreeAgent, CGI, Chris Stewart Group, Federation of Small Businesses, The Fruitmarket Gallery, Whitespace,The Skinny and others. Thank you all. Please continue to support us as we grow.
We wil be doing more, but not haphazardly. We have a plan to help develop, educate, meet, grow, focus and spotlight the creative industries in Edinburgh.
We’ll work closely with our friends in Dundee. Gillian Easson has done an amazing job there and she too has been recognised as an RFO.
My heart goes out to those organisations that lost RFO funding (and those that were reduced). Sadly in this habitat there are always winners and losers. May you live on and return renewed and invigorated to the fray.
For me, this is a bit of a career highlight.
I’ve known, since I met Janine and Lynsey, that this could, and would, work. They leave a great legacy and are both still heavily involved (formally and informally).
We have a strong, committed, enthusiastic executive and governance team. We have committed members. We now have more robust funding to underpin our vision.
As Jeff Bezos says. “This remains day one.”