Arts body knew theatre project included ‘genital contact’ before awarding funds

Freedom of information documents show the details were included in an application to Creative Scotland nine months before the money was allocated.

Freedom of information documents show Creative Scotland was told of the explicit project’s nature
Freedom of information documents show Creative Scotland was told of the explicit project’s nature (Alamy Stock Photo)

A public arts body knew a controversial theatre project would include “a scene with genital contact” nine months before almost £85,000 of public money was awarded, documents have revealed.

Creative Scotland has since withdrawn the funding for the “hardcore” Rein project which was recruiting actors to participate in “non-simulated” sex scenes.

The Rein project was awarded £84,555 in January 2024 despite the application in March 2023 outlining plans for “genital contact” and a “sex party”.

Creative Scotland is now seeking reimbursement of this award, stating the project was “considerably more explicit” than first thought and breached the contract.

However, it is not looking to draw back £23,210 for a research and development (R&D) phase of the project produced in August 2022 which said “explicit sex acts” would not be performed, but stated a final performance was expected to.

In a statement, Creative Scotland has said it was “always aware” of the explicitness of the application, but said it was not clear until March 2024 that the project was moving from “performance to unsimulated sex”.

An advertisement for participants in March took the project to an “unacceptable territory” by including “unsimulated sex”, a spokeswoman said.

But the application obtained through freedom of information requests, and seen by the PA news agency, revealed the explicit contents of the application were revealed to the public body, including nude actors as part of the 40-minute theatre installation.

In the project description, the application states: “In our initial short R&D phase we had a no genital contact rule. In this development phase we will work on a sex scene with genital contact with three of the cast.”

Application assessors were also presented with visual mood boards of the project.

A Creative Scotland spokeswoman said: “We were always aware the project would be explicit and creatively challenging, but it was not clear until the project issued the call out for participants on its website that the project was moving from performance to unsimulated sex.

“It was at this point that Creative Scotland felt that there had been a breach of contract, and this breach of contract was not disputed by the applicant.

“Creative work, across many art forms, can feature explicit depictions of sex. But there is a difference between that depiction and actual sex, which is not appropriate for public funding.”

Scottish Conservative deputy leader Meghan Gallacher said: “Creative Scotland have some serious explaining to do.

“It appears they have misled the public over this scandal, in an attempt to cover their appalling misjudgement in awarding funding to this project.

“The attempted cover-up is more inexcusable than the original poor decision-making. As a publicly-funded body, Creative Scotland have a duty not just to spend taxpayers’ cash wisely, but also to be fully transparent on how they do so.

“Ultimately, SNP Culture Secretary Angus Robertson is answerable for this quango – and the public deserve answers on this growing scandal.”