Di­luted deal still places is­land arts or­gan­i­sa­tion in bat­tle for sur­vival

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

THE fu­ture of one of Scot­land’s fore­most theatre and mu­sic com­pa­nies still hangs in the bal­ance af­ter a crunch meet­ing on Tues­day evening saw is­lan­ders’ de­mands only par­tially de­liv­ered.

De­scribed as ‘ wa­tered down plans’ to make Co­mar, an um­brella or­gan­i­sa­tion for Mull Theatre and mu­sic and arts venue An To­bar, ac­count­able to the com­mu­nity, an of­fer of ei­ther four or five is­lan­ders will be brought onto the man­age­ment com­mit­tee. And there was a con­tin­u­a­tion of the stay- of- ex­e­cu­tion for two con­tro­ver­sial high-pro­file re­dun­dan­cies. But is­lan­ders agreed it was a step in the right di­rec­tion.

Five mem­bers would give is­lan­ders an equal vote with cur­rent di­rec­tors but, at the time of go­ing to press, only four seats on the board were made avail­able.

In Au­gust, Mull and Iona res- idents de­manded that the threat of re­dun­dancy loom­ing over two in­flu­en­tial staff mem­bers, mu­si­cal di­rec­tor, Gor­don Ma­clean ,and artis­tic di­rec­tor, Alas­dair McCrone, was re­moved and called for the board of di­rec­tors to re­sign. A shadow board was formed.

But a packed meet­ing on Tues­day night at the Aros Hall in Tober­mory was told the de­mands of is­lan­ders ‘had to be com­pro­mised’ to com­ply with the con­di­tions set by Cre­ative Scot­land, the or­gan­i­sa­tion that funds Co­mar.

Mull com­mu­nity coun­cil was told last week the shadow board be­lieved that, due to an ‘overly tight bud­get’, af­ter the group missed out on some of its ex­pected grant fund­ing, it would be im­pos­si­ble to re- em­ploy the two men and bal­ance the books.

A re­port by shadow board mem­ber, Neil Hut­ton, ended by say­ing the cur­rent di­rec­tors were ‘de­tached, cor­po­rate and anony- mous’. This was in di­rect con­flict to the very rea­sons is­lan­ders wanted to save the unique na­ture of both An To­bar and Mull Theatre.

Aladair McCrone told the meet­ing: ‘Ev­ery­where we’ve been, we have met with the most tremen­dous sup­port from au­di­ences, pro­mot­ers, and press.

‘There is huge back­ing for the work we’ve been do­ing for years and for how we do it.

‘The ac­tions of the Mull and Iona com­mu­ni­ties have struck a chord with so many oth­ers around the coun­try who iden­tify with this sit­u­a­tion and un­der­stand all that you are try­ing to do.

‘I know that the shadow board has been enor­mously ef­fec­tive at mov­ing for­ward what was a dread­ful sit­u­a­tion and giv­ing us at least some hope for the fu­ture.

‘The most im­me­di­ate ef­fect has been the sus­pen­sion of the re­dun­dan­cies, which was con­veyed to us the day be­fore our pro­duc­tion opened.’ He added: ‘ With their cur­rent pro­pos­als, the shadow board has my com­plete sup­port and trust.

‘This is a com­plex and dif­fi­cult sit­u­a­tion but their un­der­stand­ing, their tenac­ity and the pro­fes­sion­al­ism of their ap­proach has made a huge dif­fer­ence.

‘ We still have a long way to go to make things right, but I have con­fi­dence that we are head­ing in the right di­rec­tion, a di­rec­tion which seemed im­pos­si­ble to achieve be­fore you all got in­volved a cou­ple of months ago.’

Ar­gyll and Bute MSP Michael Rus­sell sent a mes­sage to the meet­ing. It read: ‘(These pro­pos­als) are the min­i­mum which would be ac­cept­able and, equally im­por­tantly, ef­fec­tive in se­cur­ing the change needed.

‘If there is any at­tempt by the ex­ist­ing board to wa­ter it down any fur­ther that should be a deal-breaker. Once it is in place, the lo­cally-based elected di­rec­tors will be in charge and can push the en­ve­lope to se­cure greater change. But to get there, they must ac­cept that Cre­ative Scot­land is con­tracted to the Co­mar that presently ex­ists and they will need to be per­suaded that the new board is able to take the reins.’

A spokes­woman for Co­mar said: ‘ Co­mar and the shadow board hosted a meet­ing on Fri­day, Septem­ber 18 in Craignure, which was the fourth meet­ing in re­cent weeks. The dis­cus­sion was en­er­getic and pos­i­tive and good progress was made in mov­ing to­wards greater com­mu­nity in­volve­ment in Co­mar’s fu­ture.

’ The au­dited ac­counts for Co­mar to March, 31 2015 will be pre­sented at the forth­com­ing AGM, cur­rently planned for Novem­ber, 2015.’

A Cre­ative Scot­land spokesper­son, said: ‘ We un­der­stand the shadow board met the com­mu­nity mem­bers on Tues­day and we look for­ward to hear­ing the out­come of this meet­ing.’

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