IN less than two weeks, Scotland’s capital has lost two long-standing pillars of its cultural scene.

First, the permanent closure of the Edinburgh Filmhouse Cinema and Bar on October 6 ended an institution that had attracted cinephiles to Lothian Road since 1979.

Then, just 12 days later, the National Galleries of Scotland announced that the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art’s Modern Two building – formerly the Dean Gallery – would be shut to the public until at least the end of the year due to a crisis in funding.

It begs the question as to what is happening to the cultural institutions of Scotland’s capital and whether other cities, towns and villages should brace themselves for similar closures.

The National: Director of the National Galleries of Scotland Sir John Leighton Director of the National Galleries of Scotland Sir John Leighton

Sir John Leighton, the director-general of the National Galleries of Scotland, told a Holyrood committee that the pandemic, increases in energy bills, inflation, and over a decade of standstill funding were the reasons behind the Modern Two’s closure.

“Edinburgh is placed perfectly at the intersection of these kinds of forces,” said Rebecca Finkel, a professor of critical event studies at Queen Margaret University.

She added: “There’s a lot of culture in this city and it’s becoming increasingly difficult to safeguard.”

The boom-and-bust economy of Edinburgh’s cultural marketplace – where venues burst at the seams during August and sit empty in the leaner months – means that many places are vulnerable in the long-term, particularly in a volatile economy.

And that’s before the often-freelance labour of the artists themselves is factored in.

Susie Dalton, an acclaimed ceramics artist, said that the climate for creatives in the city had become increasingly hostile over the past decade.

The National: Acclaimed ceramics artist Susie DaltonAcclaimed ceramics artist Susie Dalton

Dalton said: “I’ve been in Edinburgh for around ten years and seeing the change over time in terms of how affordable studio space is has been alarming.

“I am part of a ceramics collective at St Margaret’s House and it’s some of the last affordable studio space going in Edinburgh. Even then, the building was sold in 2018 and we’re just waiting for the guillotine to fall in terms of a development plan being agreed and us being kicked out.”

The genuine grief displayed in the wake of the Filmhouse’s closure proves, Finkel said, that people really value these places and don’t want to see them disappear. But valuing somewhere and sustaining it are two different things.

She went on:“The truth of the matter is that if Scotland wants to be internationally respected for its culture, then preserving its cultural heritage has to be a priority.

“And, yes, that requires investment but we also know that we need to embrace all forms of capital, not just the financial. Maybe it’s time to develop a new way of thinking, a new set of collaborative and innovative ways of responding.”

Indeed, cultural hubs outside of Scotland’s central belt have had to be creative with their funding models as a necessity.

The National: Lucy Summers, a trustee at the Moray Art CentreLucy Summers, a trustee at the Moray Art Centre

“We are the only arts centre in the north-east of Scotland that offers free exhibitions and workshops,” said Lucy Summers, a trustee at the Moray Art Centre.

“People just forget that there is talent and a diversity of voices beyond the central belt,” Summers adds.

The Moray Art Centre is no less vulnerable to the conditions that resulted in the closure of the Modern Two.

However, those that run the institution realised very quickly that relying entirely on grant funding was not sustainable.

“We’re lucky that we do currently have some grant funding that was given in response to hardships we faced during the pandemic,” said Summers.

“We also have a revenue raising programme of workshops, especially our summer school.

“So, with both of those things we know we can survive the next 12 to 24 months.

“But I would say that unless you have your own financially-viable revenue raising schemes, such as workshops or courses, then exhibitions themselves just cannot sustain a gallery unless you have a very high-end clientele.

“And surely that’s not what we should be aiming for. Art should be for everybody.”

It’s a noble mantra but one that’s becoming more and more difficult to practise.

High Life Highland, the charity that oversees the running of numerous venues in the Highlands, including Inverness Museum and Art Gallery, said that more than 90% of its funding is invested in paying its staff.

A spokesperson told the Sunday National: “As a charity, we are also becoming increasingly reliant on generating additional income through commercial and entrepreneurial activities by the teams and other colleagues in order to cover other essential expenditure.

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“Like many other private, public and third sector organisations, High Life Highland is working hard to accommodate rising costs, against an increasingly difficult financial backdrop, whilst at the same time, recognising the challenges that individual HLH customers and users may be facing on a personal basis and doing all we can to keep our services and activities affordable and accessible.”

There is no silver bullet to solving the problems faced by Scotland’s culture sector. However, Finkel and her colleagues at Queen Margaret University’s Media, Communication and Performing Arts department are leading the way when it comes to proposing solutions.

Finkel added: “Education is the way out of this. Yes, of course, we need investment, but there’s also a lot of great ideas and discussions going on about how to solve these problems. This is a sector full of creative people. If we can find ways for them to communicate and collaborate, then we make it possible to imagine a sustainable future.”