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Encore for the arts ambassadors

Scotland's 100 cultural co-ordinators have made "a huge difference in two years", the Scottish Arts Council says.

At a celebratory event in Edinburgh on Monday to mark the first two years of the project, Sylvia Dow, the council's head of education, commented:

"Cultural co-ordinators have made a huge difference in two years. They have raised the quality and quantity of what young people can access out of school by, for example, bringing professional artists and companies into school.

"They have raised the profile of the arts and shown that both the arts and education share the aim of enlightenment."

The project, which is backed by pound;3.25 million from the Scottish Executive and the Scottish Arts Council over four years, has two more years to run. Mrs Dow said it is hoped that it would then become part of the general funding for schools and arts groups.

Remarks by Frank McAveety, Culture Minister, suggested he has even higher expectations of the initiative than previously, having been exposed to considerable invective over the Executive's funding of Scottish Opera, which provoked charges that he and Jack McConnell, the First Minister, were "philistines".

"We need to raise the level of debate," Mr McAveety told his audience on Monday. He went on to call on the cultural co-ordinators to "shape and effect" the deliberations of the commission he has set up under the chairmanship of James Boyle, chair of the SAC.

"We need to raise ambition using the voices of the cultural co-ordinators," Mr McAveety said. "What you do will improve quality throughout the arts at all levels. You are as important as those perceived to be at the top of the cultural tree. You are as valuable as large performing companies or museums."

The SAC, along with the Executive and the lottery, offers funding to every local authority for a creative links officer and up to eight cultural co-ordinators.

Activities celebrated at the conference included a clarsach concert by pupils from James Gillespie's High and Tollcross primary from Edinburgh, dance from the Edinburgh Chinese community and professional children's theatre performances by Dog Daze Theatre Group from Moray.

There were also a dozen workshops where the co-ordinators could try their hand at everything from e-jaying (DJ-ing by computer) to teaching dance to pre-school children.

In his keynote address, Graham Berry, the arts council's director, said that the arts had still not been fully recognised in education but that the cultural co-ordinators were setting the scene. They were encouraging confidence in both pupils and teachers as well as breaking down barriers and building audiences.

Citing Howard Gardner's work on multiple intelligences, Mrs Dow observed:

"It's been said that an adult's role is to ignite the spark of creativity that exists in every child. Cultural co-ordinators are the sparkplugs."

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