Platforms for Creative Excellence: Interim Report

01 Childrens fest opening weekend CAP


Launched in 2018, the Platforms for Creative Excellence [PlaCE] programme was intended to catalyse a stepchange in how Edinburgh’s Festivals enact their role in relation to the development of Scotland’s creative sector, their connectedness to its diverse communities, and the way Scotland presents itself to the wider world.

In a unique three-way partnership between the Scottish Government, the City of Edinburgh Council, and the Edinburgh Festivals, the core public funders have committed £10 million over five years, delivered in two stages, with a further £5 million contributed by the festivals themselves.

The interim evaluation report presents findings of progress for the period before the COVID-19 pandemic. Much of the data collection and the production of the report took place during the pandemic period (i.e., Year 2 of PlaCE) and the report does present evaluation considering the first few months of the pandemic and its apparent impact.

Key Findings

PlaCE has enabled festivals to expand and develop as organisations

  • In some cases, PlaCE funding has had a transformative effect on festival delivery models, enabling some to transition from a seasonal offer to a year- round programme for the first time and others to develop completely new strands of work, engaging communities directly for the first time
  • This is reflected in audience and participant data, with a small number of festivals doubling or trebling the number of audiences or participants reached in a year
  • Not all programmes delivered with PlaCE funding represented new activity or activity that can be separated from ‘core’ activity. In some instances, it has been used to bolster and develop existing programmes, expanding their size, reach or quality
  • The multi-year commitment of the PlaCE funding has allowed some festivals to take a longer-term approach to planning
  • Around half of festivals updated their quality assurance or impact measurement approaches. The same proportion reported an improvement in their approaches to understanding the needs of their stakeholders (i.e., participants, audiences, and partners)

PlaCE has stimulated innovation and enabled festivals to take programming risks

Festivals reported that the PlaCE programme has enabled them to innovate their products and outputs in several ways:

  • Allowing festivals to experiment and take risks with programme content and format without putting box office income streams at risk
  • Funding and resources to programme international artists and cultural professionals
  • Introducing festivals to new models of engagement and partnership — Providing the headroom capacity to support diversification objectives
  • There was insufficient data at this stage of the evaluation to further interrogate the impact the fund has had on diversifying festival contributors and partners, however there was broad agreement that the PlaCE programme has provided festivals with the capacity to diversify

Engagement with communities has significantly increased, but it took time to find ways of working that worked for both festivals and communities

  • 70% festivals increased the number of community groups they were engaging with and 88% increased the number of schools they were engaging with in the first year of PlaCE. Postcode data from reported activities map closely to the SIMD-ranked most deprived areas of Edinburgh
  • Feedback from community partners frequently identified ‘opportunities their communities would not have otherwise had’ as the most valuable aspect of the partnership. 48% of community groups reached were engaging with the festival partner for the first time
  • Qualitative feedback from community partners indicated that the engagement activities have helped to make the festival more accessible to minority groups although some partnerships encountered initial problems where festivals had less experience working with communities and needs and expectations were not aligned

Collaboration has increased and festivals have grown their national and international networks

  • The total number of festival projects co-created in the baseline year was 73, increasing to 252 in the first year of PlaCE
  • A total of 160 partnerships were reported as having been developed through PlaCE, although the number of partnerships formed per festival varied considerably, ranging from 3 to 51
  • For most festivals, international partnerships, which require additional time and resource, have not been a primary focus for the first stage of the PlaCE programme: 88% of new partnerships reported were with Scotland-based partners and the remaining 12% with international partners. That said, 60% festivals reported that their PlaCE activities had been covered in international media, including from French, Belgian, German, Chinese, US, Nigerian and South African outlets
  • Within Scotland, there is not consistent programme-wide evidence of partnerships emerging beyond Edinburgh or the Central Belt. The expectation for impact beyond Edinburgh was not always clear to festivals and funders are encouraged to clarify this moving forward

The Changing Context

The Covid-19 pandemic has had major consequences for the Edinburgh Festivals since March 2020:

  • 2020 Festivals cancelled or moved largely online
  • But new opportunities and incentives to innovate
  • PlaCE has been a critical support to agility and resilience
  • Digital seasons attracted wide local and global audiences
  • Festivals worked across cultural ecosystem to support practitioners
  • Intended community activities had to change, but many festivals reported innovations and adaptations to meet community needs

In Conclusion

PlaCE has added significant value across all areas of festivals’ programme activity:

  • Managed innovation and risk
  • Strategic community partnerships
  • Opportunities for cultural professionals
  • Increased collaborations

To secure and embed the long-term impacts across the future years of the programme, festivals are recommended to:

  • Sustain strategic focus
  • Deepen understanding of mutual needs with community and wider cultural organisations
  • Enhance diversity and inclusion
  • Share learning and practice

To secure and embed the long-term impacts across the future years of the programme, fundes are recommended to:

  • Clarify expectations for Scotland-wide impacts
  • Facilitate ongoing exchange between festivals to share emerging approaches and learning
  • Ensure festivals and community groups/broader cultural organisations can be brought together to explore mutual needs For festivals
  • Continue to develop strategy and processes (organisational strategy, impact measurement, needs analyses etc) as a way to maintain focus and to clarify the need for new programming strands
  • Ensure promotion of professional development activities is broad and inclusive and monitor the demographics of those attending
  • Actively share emerging plans and approaches with peers and stakeholders
  • Work with research consultants BOP to ensure exhaustive and accurate data can be fed into the evaluation in a timely manner

The full Report can be downloaded from the Creative Scotland website HERE.

Back to top ↑