Arts group resurrecting St Peter's Seminary to close

NVA, the innovative and forward-thinking Scottish arts organisation who hoped to renovate the dilapidated St Peter's Seminary, is to close following its loss of Creative Scotland funding

Article by Jamie Dunn | 06 Jun 2018
  • St Peter's Seminary

We have another casualty of Creative Scotland’s recent controversial round of regular funding. NVA, the arts organisation who were leading a £10m project to save and revive the crumbling St Peter's Seminary, has been forced to close due to lack of funds.

Founded in 1992, NVA’s most recent project centred on the resurrection and renovation of St Peter’s Seminary near Cardross, one of Scotland’s great buildings. Designed in 1966 by architects Gillespie, Kidd and Coia, the architectural masterpiece was abandoned in the 1980s and left to rot for years as the elements and vandals took their toll on the building.

Back in September, NVA were forced to rethink their bold but high risk plans to renovate the structure and turn the old seminary into a permanent arts centre and community facility. “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,” NVA said in a statement. “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.”

NVA explain that they had been developing an alternative proposal to contribute creatively to the future of St Peter's and its grounds, but said that “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.”

These difficulties were compounded, say NVA, when their application to Creative Scotland’s RFO core funding in January 2018 proved unsuccessful. And now, NVA have announced their closure. “The scale of these challenges has led the NVA Board to reflect deeply on the current situation and the company’s future and to conclude, with sadness, that after 25 years NVA (Europe) Limited is now not able to continue,” reads the statement.

Since their inception, NVA has grown to be one of the UK’s most noted independent public arts organisations. Successes over their quarter of a century have included sound, light and performance The Secret Sign in Finnich Glen, the animation of Glasgow’s Central Hotel in 1999, an epic staging of The Storr: Unfolding Landscapes on the Isle of Skye in 2005, the large scale participatory collaborations of Speed of Light, initially commissioned as part of the UK’s 2012 Cultural Olympiad, and Hinterland, staged at St Peter’s Seminary in 2016.

NVA’s final project is Make Me Up, a film from Scottish artist Rachel Maclean, commissioned by BBC Arts and 14-18 NOW to be part of the UK’s official arts programme for the First World War centenary celebrations, and which will have its world premiere at Edinburgh International Film Festival.

Speaking to The Scotsman, Culture Secretary Fiona Hyslop said that she has looked into other funding possibilities for the renovation of St Peter’s. “I have asked Historic Environment Scotland – as Scotland’s lead body for the historic environment – to consider longer-term options so this unique site can continue to fascinate and inspire the public,” she said.

Creative Scotland, who denied NVA’s regular funding application, said in a statement, “We appreciate how difficult this decision has been for NVA’s board and staff and will continue to offer support and advice to all those involved.”