The three organisations wrote to Councillor Keith and to the editors of The Press and Journal, The Northern Scot, Forres Gazette and Arts Professional who covered the original story.
The letter can be read in full below.
23 November 2023
To the Editors
Dance North Scotland, Findhorn Bay Arts and Universal Hall Promotions provide arts and cultural activities that benefit people and communities throughout Moray.
We are writing in response to the articles published in the Press and Journal, Forres Gazette, Northern Scot and Arts Professional on Thursday 9 November and Monday 13 November respectively, which contained several significant inaccuracies. We are delighted that so many individuals and organisations have reached out to us to offer their support for the work we do across the whole of Moray.
Councillor Sandy Keith has mentioned that a high proportion of Creative Scotland funding goes to the IV36 postcode and singled out three organisations – Findhorn Bay Arts, Dance North Scotland and Universal Hall Promotions. Yes, these organisations are based in Findhorn and Forres. However, all three organisations work tirelessly to ensure that the wider Moray community benefits from the arts as you can see outlined below.
We feel it is important to address some of the issues raised in this article especially as your journalist did not give us the opportunity to respond in advance of the article being published. These three organisations offer services that reach across the region and have cultural impacts that reach much further afield. This is true of many arts organisations and integral to the nature of cultural engagement work; something that seems either to have been overlooked in the research for this article, or not clearly understood.
Universal Hall Promotions plays an important role on the Scottish touring circuit and presents an eclectic and high-quality programme of theatre, dance and music, drawing audiences from across Moray and beyond. The venue is used by many local organisations such as Elgin Strathspey and Reel Society and Nairn Gaelic Choir.
Dance North Scotland operates a Regional Artist Network and support scheme that offers financial and practical support to dance artists throughout Moray, the highlands and beyond.
Every year, the organisation programmes and presents RISE, a festival of contemporary dance and performance. In recent years, the RISE programme platformed work from local, national and international artists, with performances (many of them free) in Elgin, Fochabers and at Milltown Airfield, as well as in Findhorn. Dance North also regularly hosts shows and events outside of its festival programme, and in recent years brought performances to beaches in Burghead and Forres and to an ice rink in Elgin.
Additionally, Dance North runs youth dance classes, Dance for Parkinson’s classes and wellbeing classes for dancers over 60 in Forres, Fochabers, Lossiemouth and Elgin.
Dance North is also part of the Arts in Moray (AIM) Culture Collective (together with partner organisations Moray Arts Development (M.ADE), Wildbird, and the Moray Way Association), which in October 2023 ran a showcase week of free arts events in Elgin, Findhorn, Forres, Cummingston and Rothes.
Now in its 11th year, Findhorn Bay Arts has grown from being synonymous with its biennial festival into one that “connects and celebrates Moray’s communities, places and people”. As such, it provides year-round opportunities that seek to bring cultural, economic and social benefit to the region, as well as those living and working in it.
Findhorn Bay Arts is driven by a passion for celebrating and promoting the rural region of Moray. Over a decade of informed practice, pilot projects and research has informed the organisation’s strategy along with its core activities.
Since lockdown, and with the support of emergency COVID funding from Creative Scotland Culture Collective Funding, it produced a 2-year programme that is embedded in and co-created with communities of identities and place in Moray. In partnership with artists, arts organisations, community partners and communities across the region, this was set up to fill gaps in creative provision and a response to the communities’ needs. This funding enabled 13 artists across Moray to work with 18 community partners and 1,039 participants/community members benefitted in Lossiemouth, Buckie, Elgin and Forres.
Findhorn Bay Arts was also one of 18 organisations to be awarded ‘funding pots’ through the Creative Scotland administered scheme to support freelance artists to work with children and young people across Moray. This scheme enabled Findhorn Bay Arts to award funding of around £38,000 to 8 project recipients, who worked directly with 410 children and young people across the region. Areas worked in included Keith, Elgin and Aberlour.
All three organisations were in receipt of Covid emergency funding, provided by the Scottish Government, and administered through Creative Scotland to support their work with communities across the region during the pandemic and as we came out of it. The contribution that all three play to the whole region is of particular importance to the wellbeing, regeneration and the cultural and community wealth of ALL Moray residents.
Dance North Scotland, Findhorn Bay Arts and Universal Hall Promotions would welcome a meeting with you to discuss their remit within the region.
A copy of this response has been emailed directly to the Editors of each of the mentioned publications above.
Karl Jay-Lewin, Creative Director, Dance North Scotland
Elizabeth Egan, Executive Director, Dance North Scotland
Kresanna Aigner, CEO/Creative Director, Findhorn Bay Arts
Peter Vallance, Artistic Director, Universal Hall Promotions