thank you for your funding proposal to the Arts Council. The panel was deeply impressed by the depth of research and the bold concepts shown in your project ‘The Dark Side of the Tweed’.
We were particularly drawn to your idea of lining up ten children from Hawick and Galashiels, then selecting three out of the ten, highlighting the fact that at least 30% of children in the Borders are living in poverty.
Your idea of creating partnerships and forming teams to go fishing on the Tweed was well thought through and conceptually sound. The panel greatly admired the four-part composition of each team: a poor child, preferably a ‘Grand Old Duke’ of the Borders or at least an ennobled Tweed Commissioner, say a Lord or a Sir or indeed one of the many men who have served as commissioners. At the very least, a man of substance and standing; a ghillie, the river expert who would teach the child how to fish and point out the best spots to catch ‘a couple of fat ones’ as you put it, and finally an artist who would benefit from meeting ‘real people’ in your own words, meaning ‘anyone who isn’t a friend or family member of the artist, or another artist’ (this made us giggle).
The tour de force of the proposal was greatly appreciated by the panel. To find a chef from one of those ‘fancy posh hotels in Melrose or Kelso’ and to have the chef accompany the child, with fish, to their home, to cook a nutritious meal and teach the parent, guardian, grandmother, big sister or whoever does the cooking in a poor household how to cook properly. It should be mentioned that we did feel the use of ‘fancy’ and ‘posh’ to be somewhat provocative. Your suggestion that ‘this might be the most protein the poor kid has had since he suckled at the tit’, though perhaps true, might have benefitted from rephrasing.
However, there were some structurally weak points in your proposal. We felt that it would have been more effective to have the poor child fed at the castle of one of the ‘Grand Old Dukes’, perhaps the meal could even be cooked by the wealthy landowner himself. This type of robust social engagement would educate the poor person in the ways of the wealthy. We also preferred your original title to the alternative ‘Tory Poachers’ which was again felt to be needlessly provocative. Your comment that ‘it would be interesting to see how the Grand Old Dukes get on with their child protection disclosure’ was again felt to be provocative if not libellous. Not all Dukes are the same.
Our conclusion therefore is that your proposal falls short of the standard required for financial support. The panel feels that artists and real people are all in the same boat so to speak and do need to keep the right people on their side. The Borders is a beautiful happy place to live. It benefits greatly from the status quo. Overly contentious and risk-laden political or socially-engaged art might upset the powers that be.
Finally our recommendation to you is to develop your existing strengths. Keep producing those lovely riverside soundscapes, and especially those recordings of folk singers lilting Sir Walter Scott’s wonderful Border Ballads.