GR Direct - Sony - Save up to £300 on selected Bravia OLED & LED TVs
Monday 24 June 2024
 13.9°C   S Gentle Breeze
Ocean Kinetics - The Engineering Experts

News / Arts agency in good health, new chair says

Shetland Arts' new chairman Danus Skene

THE NEW chairman of Shetland Arts has pledged to reduce the organisation’s dependence on the public purse.

Danus Skene was unanimously elected chairman of the arts development agency after former chairman Jim Johnston resigned to leave Shetland and take up a temporary post as an educational advisor to the government of Malaysia.

The former teacher who stood as an SNP candidate during the council elections last year takes over at a time when the agency is still mired in controversy and speculation over the construction of the £13 million cinema and music venue Mareel.

On Monday Shetland Islands Council met for six hours to debate a report following a forensic examination of the building project which was tied to agreeing a bridging facility of £600,000 in December.

After the meeting councillors issued a statement saying they had agreed a plan “to secure the future of the Mareel building as a centre for education, culture and the arts”.

Confidentiality surrounds the nature of the agreement, and on Thursday the arts agency’s main funder Shetland Charitable Trust held back from handing over its annual grant of almost £700,000 until the negotiations were finalised.

It may take some time for the complex details surrounding the building project to be resolved after it was completed 18 months late and £1.5 million overbudget, forcing Shetland Arts to request more cash from the council and other funders.

A legal dispute is ongoing between Shetland Arts and contractor DITT about who is responsible for the delays and who should bear the cost.

On Friday Skene said that now the future of the Mareel building had been secured, the organisation could concentrate on managing it successfully.

“Mareel has not in any way increased the dependency of Shetland Arts on the public purse,” he insisted.

Become a supporter of Shetland News


“But I am absolutely convinced that Mareel can and will do with lessening public support and I am determined that we should manage to wean ourselves off such high levels of dependency.

“We need to increase our income stream and manage ourselves well and that can and will happen.”

He said that over the past five years Shetland Arts had been able to double its turnover to £2 million despite a significant reduction in grant funding, and its finances for the day-to-day running of the organisation were healthy.

It employs 28 full time equivalent staff who keep up a wide range of cultural activities throughout Shetland, with funding from a range of sources, including the Scotish government.

Mareel opened in August and has already had an estimated 75,000 visitors so far, with an even split between town and country residents, well exceeding its original business plan.

Skene said he did not think people in Shetland realised this was “a centre of excellence” which would boost employment and attract people to Shetland in the future.

“I think Mareel is bigger than many people realise,” he said.

Next week theatre manager Holly Burford, from London’s South Bank Centre will take over as Shetland Arts head of operations.

Her first priority will be “drive through a series of changes and improvements” following extensive critical feedback from customers, especially about the café/bar.

Skene has been vice chairman of Shetland Arts for the past two years. The new vice chairman is teacher Irvine Tait.

Become a supporter of Shetland News

Shetland News is asking its many readers to consider start paying for their dose of the latest local news delivered straight to their PC, tablet or mobile phone.

Journalism comes at a price and because that price is not being paid in today’s rapidly changing media world, most publishers - national and local - struggle financially despite very healthy audience figures.

Most online publishers have started charging for access to their websites, others have chosen a different route. Shetland News currently has  over 600 supporters  who are all making small voluntary financial contributions. All funds go towards covering our cost and improving the service further.

Your contribution will ensure Shetland News can: -

  • Bring you the headlines as they happen;
  • Stay editorially independent;
  • Give a voice to the community;
  • Grow site traffic further;
  • Research and publish more in-depth news, including more Shetland Lives features.

If you appreciate what we do and feel strongly about impartial local journalism, then please become a supporter of Shetland News by either making a single payment or monthly subscription.

Support us from as little as £3 per month – it only takes a minute to sign up. Thank you.



Subscribe to a selection of different newsletters from Shetland News, varying from breaking news delivered on the minute, to a weekly round-up of the opinion posts. All delivered straight to your inbox.

Daily Briefing Newsletter Weekly Highlights Newsletter Opinion Newsletter Life in Shetland Newsletter

JavaScript Required

We're sorry, but Shetland News isn't fully functional without JavaScript enabled.
Head over to the help page for instructions on how to enable JavaScript on your browser.

Your Privacy

We use cookies on our site to improve your experience.
By using our service, you agree to our Privacy Policy and Cookie Policy.

Browser is out-of-date

Shetland News isn't fully functional with this version of .
Head over to the help page for instructions on updating your browser for more security, improved speed and the best overall experience on this site.

Interested in Notifications?

Get notifications from Shetland News for important and breaking news.
You can unsubscribe at any time.

Become a supporter of Shetland News

We're committed to ensuring everyone has equitable access to impartial, open and quality local journalism that benefits all residents.

By supporting Shetland News, you play a vital role in ensuring we remain a pivotal resource in supporting the community.

Support us from as little as £3 per month – it only takes a minute to sign up. Thank you.