Sack the board and give us back our cul­ture

ANGER FILLS PACKED MULL HALL OVER HIGH-HANDED AP­PROACH AND THE OUST­ING OF TWO RE­SPECTED DI­REC­TORS

The Oban Times - - News - LOUISE GLEN lglen@oban­times.co.uk

AN OVER­WHELM­ING vote of ‘no con­fi­dence’ in a pub­licly-funded is­land arts body has led to calls for the sack­ing of its en­tire board of di­rec­tors.

Frus­trated Mull res­i­dents turned out in their hun­dreds to the Aros Hall on Mon­day night to call for the arts or­gan­i­sa­tion, Co­mar, set up to pro­mote the work of mu­sic and art space, An To­bar and Mull Theatre, to be dis­banded and its board mem­bers to stand down ‘im­me­di­ately’.

‘Um­brella’ char­ity Co­mar was formed in 2013 and three di­rec­tors were ap­pointed to man­age the artis­tic out­put of the or­gan­i­sa­tion.

In Fe­bru­ary, the di­rec­tors of the Co­mar board - who all live on the main­land - de­cided they had to cut costs and could only af­ford to em­ploy one di­rec­tor.

In­ter­views were of­fered to all three artis­tic di­rec­tors, but last week, both mu­sic en­tre­pre­neur, Gor­don Ma­cLean, and Alas­dair McCrone - a di­rec­tor and es­tab­lished theatre pro­moter - were ‘let go’ while the other di­rec­tor, Sion Parkin­son, the only one ap­pointed by the Co­mar board, was given a per­ma­nent con­tract.

This led to Mon­day night’s mo­tion of ‘no con­fi­dence’ and a call for the re­in­state­ment of the two sacked di­rec­tors.

More than 250 peo­ple at the meet­ing told art-fund­ing or­gan- isa­tion, Cre­ative Scot­land, and High­lands and Is­lands En­ter­prise (HIE), who fund Co­mar, they had got it wrong and should never have ‘squan­dered’ cash on the or­gan­i­sa­tion.

The stand­ing-room only event heard from is­lan­der af­ter is­lan­der who said the grant-funded body had shown ‘ut­ter dis­re­gard’ for the is­land and its own arts and cul­ture.

Linda Devlin from Mull said: ‘There is no theatre this sum­mer, and no mu­sic, but we do have an art show en­ti­tled “Vari­cose Veins”.

‘I doubt that is ap­peal­ing to the tourists or us. All I need to do is look at my own legs. There is no longer any­thing from Mull - or Mull and Iona artists in Co­mar,’ she added.

‘My mes­sage for the fun­ders is this,’ said busi­ness owner and com­mu­nity vol­un­teer, Dun­can Swin­banks, ‘If this had been about some­thing not work­ing we would have had a hand­ful of peo­ple here.

‘What we have here is the re­sponse to two guys who are the em­bod­i­ment and guardians of our her­itage and cul­ture. And they have been sacked.’

More than thirty peo­ple spoke to say they were also frus­trated by a lack of com­mu­ni­ca­tion, off-is­land com­pany di­rec­tors, a lack of trans­parency over fund­ing and ‘a non- ex­is­tent’ events pro­gramme for the sum­mer sea­son.

More than 250 peo­ple in Tober­mory en­dorsed the set­ting up of a shadow board to bring back An To­bar and Mull Lit­tle Theatre into the hands of the com­mu­nity.

HIE’s head of strength­en­ing com­mu­ni­ties, Ker­rien Grant, was called ‘pa­tro­n­is­ing’ when she tried to ex­plain they wanted to bring wider cul­ture to the is­land.

Ms Grant said: ‘What you are telling us is that you want this to work for Mull.

‘We are look­ing to fund some­thing that is a growth-builder for more than just Mull. We are hav­ing to look at what we are able to fund.’

Cre­ative Scot­land’s deputy di­rec­tor, Iain Munro, was held to ac­count by the meet­ing for fund­ing an or­gan­i­sa­tion whose only mem­bers were those sit­ting on the board and mak­ing de­ci­sions – none of whom live or work on the is­land.

He said he would go back to his col­leagues and dis­cuss the ‘ very in­ter­est­ing’ sit­u­a­tion on the is­land.

Coun­cil­lor Mary-Jean Devon, who was praised for her chair­ing of the meet­ing, said: ‘ We asked ev­ery sin­gle board mem­ber of Co­mar, and all your fun­ders here tonight – and we still do not have the an­swers we were look­ing for.

‘We gave Co­mar two of our most cher­ished com­mu­nity groups and you have done ev­ery­thing in se­cret.

‘We are not Teuchters who should be kept in the dark. We are in­tel­li­gent peo­ple who want an­swers.’

Cre­ative Scot­land, who fund the or­gan­i­sa­tion to the tune of al­most £ 500,000, said they would dis­cuss mat­ters next week.

The meet­ing fin­ished with the im­promptu singing of A t- eilean Muileach - the an­them for the Isle of Mull.

What we have here is the re­sponse to two guys who are the em­bod­i­ment and guardians of our her­itage and cul­ture. And they have been sacked

Dun­can Swin­banks

OUSTED: Alas­dair McCrone

OUSTED: Gor­don Ma­cLean

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