Trad Music under threat

Item Posted: Monday 1st September, 2008


The closure of the Yorkshire Dales Workshop reported in the last issue of Fiddle On is sad, and may well be only the tip of the iceberg as voluntary groups everywhere report substantial cuts in arts funding.

The Scottish music scene, the one I am involved with, has seen huge problems with the Scottish Arts Council Foundation funding being withdrawn from numerous groups, including the Traditional Music and Song Association, the Scots Music Group (Adult Learning Project) winner of Community Project of the Year title in the Scots Trad Music Awards 2007, and the Scottish Traditions of Dance Trust. Out of sixty three successful arts funding awards, only one is promoting Scottish Traditional arts.
This decision will put numerous groups at risk of closure, and could undo the sterling efforts of (mainly) volunteers who have played a major role in the renaissance of traditional music.

It is easy for anyone in the voluntary sector to become paranoid about funding – but it does not mean that they are not out to get you! The Scottish Council of Voluntary Services estimates that over 2,500 groups have already had funding cut as a result of money being held back or redirected because of the London Olympics and the Glasgow Commonwealth Games.

What money is available for the Arts (in Scotland, at any rate) appears to be directed in accordance with the latest buzz words for funders – ‘new’, ‘innovative’ and ‘big’. Festivals and large events have a chance of getting the scraps from the funding table, particularly if they can demonstrate the event will increase local tourism and be good for local businesses. Last year’s Highland Year of Culture and next year’s Homecoming funding streams are particular examples of this. This leaves community and grass roots groups who are trying to improve the quality of local life in the funding wilderness.

Rural groups are particularly at risk. Recent fuel cost hikes has meant that tutors and bands have understandably had to try to renegotiate fees; putting on a concert in a rural area, where there are few professional musicians, now costs between three and four times the costs of running the same event in an urban setting because of the costs of a daily rather than hourly fee, travel and accommodation.

Yet this funding crisis has to be looked at in the context of a huge revival. Many festivals, such as Celtic Connections held in Glasgow each January, are selling more tickets than ever. Fiddle workshops, such as ours, who teach in schools, are finding children and their parents are desperate for fiddle tuition. The demand is undoubtedly there, but unless grass roots workshops are supported, where are the future musicians for courses at the academies such as RSAMD and Newcastle going to come from? If village hall venues are not encouraged, where are the up and coming professional musicians going to perform?

All groups who feel they have something to offer want more money, and it would be naive to think they could all be fully funded, but future closures – of which I fear there will be many - will not just be for lack of funding. Many groups who are struggling will cite ‘volunteer burn out’ as a main cause. This is exacerbated by the sheer time taken by multiple funding applications and reports back. In our seven years of running the Workshop we have had to make 35 funding applications, often to the same bodies but under different funding streams. No two bodies have the same requirements for financial reporting, and no efforts are made to simplify the funding procedures. Employees of funders and councils seem to have little perception of how long this takes and no real experience of dealing with the voluntary sector. If they had to spend 40% of their year applying for their next year’s salary I wonder how effective they could be at their job!

Workshops and cultural groups have a lot to add to our cultural life, but are treated as supplicants rather than partners. There is little or no communication
with them as to the strategy for the Arts and they have no chance of involvement in decision - making processes. A new stream of funding is occasionally announced for which they all then have to scrabble. If they were treated as partners in the development of the Arts they could bring substantial expertise to the table, which would be enormously beneficial to the future of culture.

It is a cliché, but it is valid - ‘nations that fail to invest in their own creative life eventually wither and die.’ We need this investment to sustain what has been a remarkable period of achievement in our cultural life. I fear that much of the expenditure focuses overmuch on GDP, tourism and high profile events, rather than on community and future sustainability of our culture. The risk is that the costs will, in the future, be seen as a grudging expenditure rather than as an investment.

Mark Morpurgo helps run the award winning Lochgoilhead Fiddle Workshop in Cowal, Argyll. They teach, in a small rural area, 90 children and 20 adults; put on residential musical weekends; come and try’s; and about 10 professional concerts a year. More details on

Other News

One in a thousand!

Wednesday 14th April, 2010

Our pupils have success at Mid Argyll Music Festival ...

Arts Sale to Help Haiti

Sunday 14th February, 2010

Various artists/galleries we know are arranging a charity sale in Oban ...

Harmony Singing Workshop

Wednesday 10th February, 2010

being arranged by one of our members ...

Schools Gaelic Tour

Monday 18th January, 2010

Over 700 local children benefit from tour ...

Celtic Nordic link

Monday 4th January, 2010


Arts Winners in Argyll Awards

Monday 4th January, 2010

A brief profile of Argyll Arts Award winners and runners up More on other awards at www.forargyll. ...

Celtic Connections New Voices

Saturday 2nd January, 2010

New compositions well worth a visit ...


Saturday 2nd January, 2010

Run by these are the winners for 2009 ...


Thursday 3rd December, 2009


Hands Up for Trad Awards

Wednesday 2nd December, 2009


Homecoming – out with a bang or a whimper?

Wednesday 2nd December, 2009

The plusses and minuses of Homecoming will be debated long after 2009 is long gone, with the protago ...

LFW/Cowal Open Studios

Tuesday 17th November, 2009

Bring £250,000 to local economy ...

Cowal groups up for and receive awards

Tuesday 17th November, 2009


More Homecoming and Hands Up For Trad

Tuesday 17th November, 2009


Homecoming -last gasp!

Tuesday 17th November, 2009


Culture in Cowal

Tuesday 17th November, 2009

A great weekend of events/concerts in Cowal ...

Rhapsody09 review

Sunday 1st November, 2009

A number of our students ionvolved in Donald Shaw's Rhapsody ...

Mandolin Tour of local schools

Tuesday 27th October, 2009

4 schools have the chance of Mandolin Come and Tries this week ...


Tuesday 27th October, 2009

Three renowned Celtic musicians, Mairi Campbell on fiddle & vocals, Abby Newton on cello, and Ki ...

Award Winning Danish Trio

Tuesday 27th October, 2009

On their way to us! ...

LFW/FF Student wins Mod Medal

Tuesday 27th October, 2009


Tourism Award for Theatre Group Leader?

Tuesday 27th October, 2009

The shortlist for the Highlands and Islands Tourism Awards has been announced ...

Awards for Fyne Ales

Tuesday 27th October, 2009

Fyne Ales have always supported LFW, so we are pleased at their success! ...


Tuesday 27th October, 2009

Finalists announced soon ...

Readers express views on Homecoming

Tuesday 27th October, 2009

Park Weekly News and LFW cooperste to do a series of articles on HC09 Readers letters- ...

BBC Young Traditional Musician Finalists

Tuesday 27th October, 2009

a great illustration of the strength of the piping tradition in Argyll ...


Tuesday 27th October, 2009

You would normally have to travel to Trinity College, Dublin Edinburgh to see two very special arte ...

Great Houses Of Cowal

Tuesday 27th October, 2009


Paisley Festival

Tuesday 27th October, 2009

If yours is a more classical taste try out the Paisley Festival which is on until 7th November. ...

Perthshire Amber

Tuesday 27th October, 2009

Part of our Homecoming series in Park Weekly News on the Dougie MacLean festival ...


Tuesday 27th October, 2009

The emphasis of much of the Homecoming Celebrations for the rest of October will shift to the Highla ...


Tuesday 27th October, 2009

What might on the surface seem an odd combination comes neatly together in part of Cowalfest’s Homec ...


Tuesday 27th October, 2009

There may be few readers who have not heard of the Royal National Mod, but there will be many who ha ...

Jazz Concerts for Kirn and Lochgilphead

Thursday 15th October, 2009

Dutch jazz fiddler Tim Kliphuis has been hailed as the successor of Stéphane Grappelli ...

Rhapsody 09

Monday 5th October, 2009

Celebrating young Argyll ...

View archived news