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
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
OUSTED: Alasdair McCrone
OUSTED: Gordon MacLean