Creative Scotland 'has not recovered all money for explicit art film'

The arts funding body withdrew money for the Rein project when it became apparent it would contain non-simulated sex.

Creative Scotland has not recovered all money for explicit art film, Scottish Parliament told PA Media

Creative Scotland has not recovered all the money paid out to the maker of an explicit sex project, MSPs have been told.

The arts funding body withdrew money for the explicit Rein project when its pitch for “simulated sex” became an intention to have real sex in the performance, its chief executive has said.

The arts funding body awarded £84,555 to director Leonie Rae Gasson for the project, withdrawing the money in March after a casting call led to the realisation that Rein was “considerably more explicit” than first thought.

However, it has only been able to recover about 90% of the money as some has already been paid to third-party freelancers.

Clare Adamson noted ‘public concern'.Scottish Parliament

A total of £23,210 was also paid out for the “R&D phase” of the project in August 2022 which Creative Scotland is not seeking to recover.

So far, the organisation has not released the original funding application submitted by the director.

She disputes that the funding body was misled and the artists involved say they have been transparent throughout.

Following an outcry about the publicly funded nature of the project and questions from MSPs, Creative Scotland chief executive Iain Munro wrote to Holyrood’s Culture Committee.

He sought to explain Creative Scotland’s reasoning behind the funding award, saying the organisation should not be an arbiter of “cultural taste” and not everyone would agree with its decisions.

He said: “Rein was originally supported in the knowledge it would be a challenging, creatively ambitious piece of experimental performance art, with a clear storytelling narrative, strong sexual themes and simulated sexual performance, and would speak to a particular audience rather than the mainstream.”

Munro praised the “strong track record” of the applicant, saying the issues of queer culture and sexuality would be dealt with sensitively.

He continued: “However, as became clear in March 2024 when the project team developed new content for their website and publicised that as part of a call-out for participants, one new and significant difference emerged which took the project into unacceptable territory.

“That was the intention to include real sex, as opposed to performance depicting simulated sex, in the work.”

Creative Scotland took legal advice and withdrew the funding because of the change, he said, adding that the organisation is reviewing its handling of the application.

The organisation is also seeking legal advice around whether the application can be released, Munro said.

He condemned the “threats and abuse” which had been faced by people involved in the project.

“Legitimate costs” of £8,359 in payments to freelancers will not be recovered in order to protect their incomes, the letter said.

Earlier, Culture Committee convener Clare Adamson had noted “public concern” about Rein and suggested Munro may be called to appear before MSPs.

Opposition MSPs had called for all the money to be clawed back and criticised Rein’s funding at a time when other cultural projects are struggling for cash.

In a statement sent to The Herald newspaper, those behind the Rein project said they disagreed with Creative Scotland’s version of events.

They said the project had been “misunderstood and misrepresented” and would have been “a new, immersive, three-screen, moving image, art installation fusing moving image, multi-sensory set design and dance in an erotic exploration of lesbian and queer sexuality set in the Scottish landscape”.

They continued: “Everyone involved in the project is deeply saddened that the funding body did not seek clarification with the artists, or suggest working together to elucidate to third parties that the project is an artistic moving image film and not what has been widely reported or claimed.

“No opportunity was given to the artists to work towards a joint resolution or alternative outcome prior to the funding body’s decision to defund the work.

“The artists do not agree that they misled the funding body.

“The performer callout did use the new terminology of non-simulated as a shorthand for performers, however, the artists have been transparent about the nature of the work with the funding body throughout both R&D 1 (in 2022/23) and R&D 2 (in 2024).

“The artists will not be speaking with any media or press.”

The Scottish Conservatives’ culture spokeswoman Meghan Gallacher said: “SNP ministers must come clean about how and why a project of this nature was ever allocated a hefty sum of taxpayers’ money, especially now we know that not all of the funding can be recouped.

“Creative Scotland has an important responsibility to oversee the proper use of public funds and must urgently release the original funding application to ensure this sort of situation never arises again.”

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