Borders arts venues given much-needed lifeline in funding boost


By Kevin Janiak
Wednesday, 30th September 2020, 4:25 pm
Eastgate Theatre in Peebles.
Eastgate Theatre in Peebles.

Three Borders arts venues have been given a timely boost thanks to emergency funding support from the Scottish Government.

The arts sector has been badly hit by the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, with many venues struggling to keep afloat.

A total of 59 venues across Scotland have received their share of £4.7 million, following a call for applications to the Government’s Performing Arts Venues Relief Fund, run through Creative Scotland.

Heart of Hawick.

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    And in the Borders, MacArts in Galashiels, Eastgate Theatre in Peebles and the Heart of Hawick share more than £168,000.

    The Eastgate Theatre has been awarded £70,000, which will allow the venue to protect jobs and continue to employ artists and freelancers up to the end of March 2021.

    The funds will also be used to help the Eastgate team to develop the new skills needed to increase the venue’s adaptability and build its resilience to cope with continued uncertainties throughout the year ahead.

    Ron Inglis, chairman of the Eastgate board of directors, said: “The board and staff of the theatre have been hugely impressed by the level of support received from the local community and friends from much further afield.

    MacArts in Galashiels.

    “This is especially gratifying because it comes on the back of the intense fundraising efforts of 2019 to develop the building and upgrade the auditorium.

    “The launch of this year’s fundraising campaign by the Friends of the Eastgate allowed management and planning to continue during closure, building the momentum that has made it possible to open the café, begin classes and access this vital Creative Scotland grant.

    “All of this has made a significant and very welcome contribution to the work of the theatre during this very difficult time when physical distancing continues to have a major impact on potential earnings.”

    The Heart of Hawick, run by Live Borders, benefits from a grant of £68,147 to support the return of key staff and develop an exciting range of multi-art activities that includes bringing the Heart of Hawick Waterwheel back to life, and fusing heritage and local archives with moving image, to activate a historical cultural artefact currently inaccessible.

    While the cinema at the venue remains closed for the time being, the popular cafe is open.

    Jane Hogg, director of commercial services, said: “This is a very significant boost for everyone involved. We will be able to begin work with local partners such as Alchemy and work with a number of our other communities in the Borders to participate with us.

    “It will be exciting to work with our heritage and archive team to develop stronger access to the collection through community engagement, workshops, talks and tours.

    “After a long lockdown this award helps to bring some culture and joy into homes right across the Borders.

    “I would like to thank the Scottish Government and Creative Scotland for this funding, that will bring the arts and culture back out to so many people.“

    There are also Christmas plans to work with a team of independent freelance Scottish-based theatre practitioners to bring live stream performances of a specially-created new work, A Scottish Christmas Carol, with ambitions to stream it into local care homes.

    MacArts in Galashiels was awarded £30,000 from the fund so the highly-regarded music venue can retain its two staff after the furlough scheme ends, and to fund exciting projects utilising local artists and freelancers.

    Venue manager Chris Wemyss said: “We are going to put out a call to 12 artists, and help them develop work they have been doing during lockdown, record it, and then, in our 2021-22 programme, put on a big event with the finished pieces of work, whether that is an exhibition of art, a play, or a band’s gig.

    “So it will be a snapshot of where these artists are, and also show that MacArts has not disappeared altogether.

    “We have been able to do a couple of things in lockdown, such as under-12s dance classes and recording – Carla Easson’s new album has a track which was recorded in MacArts and that’s something we want to keep on with.”

    Live music venue, Marmion’s Place @ The Wynd in Melrose has also been told this week that they’ll receive Scottish Government funding from the separate Grassroots Music Venues Stabilisation Fund.

    Local MSP Christine Grahame welcomed the awards, saying: “Our venues here in the Borders are an important part of Scotland’s culture.

    “The creative industry has been hit hard by this pandemic with theatres effectively having to close their doors overnight.

    “These steps were necessary to protect lives, but the SNP Government has acted quickly to help these venues survive.”