St Peter’s College

St Peter’s Seminary rescue arts group to close

The wrecked interior of St Peter’s College, Cardross, where art group was investing millions of pounds for events such as sound and light shows. Pictures by Bill Heaney

BBC Scotland is reporting tonight that the leading Scottish arts organisation behind plans to rescue the ruin of a modernist priests’ college in Cardross, Dunbartonshire, is to close.

NVA said it pulled out of the project to resurrect St Peter’s Seminary at Cardross last year as it was “unable to guarantee [its] viable future”.

The challenges facing the company were “compounded” when a core funding bid to Creative Scotland was unsuccessful.

Its final project is a production with artist Rachel Maclean due this summer.

NVA was expected to start work on turning the ruins of St Peter’s into a permanent arts venue late last year.

It had reached its £7m funding target for the project, with help from Creative Scotland and the Heritage Lottery Fund.

However in a statement, the organisation said its trustees decided to withdraw last September due to “increasing risks, both financial and physical”.

It added: “NVA’s original plan for St Peter’s was universally acknowledged as bold, with creative ambition at its heart. It was also recognised as a high risk venture for a small independent arts organisation.

“NVA has spent many years working with great passion and determination, with the support of the owners of the site, the Archdiocese of Glasgow, to save this iconic building for future generations.

“We collaborated with public and private stakeholders, the local communities and an amazing design team. Important work was done to begin to preserve and restore the building and to demonstrate the immense creative, intellectual and community potential of the site.

St Peter’s College, Cardross. Pictures by Bill Heaney

“However, despite our best efforts we were unable to guarantee the viable future for the St Peter’s Seminary that we had imagined and hoped for. In the end, we had no choice but to bring the capital project to an end.”

The group said it had hoped to develop an alternative proposal for the building and grounds.

It added: “In practice this has not proved to be possible and the process of trying to define and secure that future and our own, has reinforced the many financial and structural challenges facing the company.

“This was compounded when our bid to Creative Scotland for RFO core funding in January 2018 was unsuccessful.”

It said the NVA board had concluded “with sadness” that the company would not be able to continue.

In 2015/16, NVA received 17% of its income – £230,000 – from Creative Scotland.

It was one of 15 organisations which lost their funding this year – a move which sparked a backlash in the arts community and the resignation of two board members.

A spokeswoman for Creative Scotland said: “NVA has been one of Scotland’s most creatively ambitious companies, producing ground-breaking work that has attracted national and international attention, including their ambitious plans for St Peter’s Seminary.

“We appreciate how difficult this decision has been for the board and staff of NVA and will continue to offer support and advice to all those involved.”

NVA began its work in 1992 and made a name for itself for producing ground-breaking public art.

In Storr: Unfolding Landscapes, 6,500 people took part in a night time climb on the Isle of Skye to witness a unique sound and light show.

NVA was behind another light show in Edinburgh in 2012 when hundreds of runners in special LED suits ran around Arthur’s Seat in Speed of Light.

And in 2012 St Peter’s Seminary was the stage for Hinterland – a light and sound show which launched the Scottish government’s festival of architecture.

Its final presentation is Make Me Up, a co-production with Hopscotch Films, reflecting on the shortcomings of a century of female enfranchisement.

Culture secretary Fiona Hyslop added: “It is very sad that NVA has taken the decision to close. Since its foundation 25 years ago, it had earned a reputation as one of the most innovative public arts companies in the country.

“NVA is to be particularly congratulated on injecting new life into St Peter’s Cardross culminating in Hinterland in Scotland’s Year of Innovation, Architecture and Design.”

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