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I am delighted to open this debate on Scotland’s festivals and the success of festival 2014 and culture 2014, which are the two strands of the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth games cultural programme.
It is fitting that we are holding this debate at this time of year. For many people, August in Edinburgh is inexorably linked to the Edinburgh festivals and the excitement and energy that they bring. They electrify every nook and cranny of the city. The festival of politics will, of course, open tomorrow in the Parliament.
I would also like to take the opportunity to celebrate the many festivals that take place throughout the year across Scotland, which add just as much inspiration, colour and joy to our lives.
I am sure that members will share my belief that this is the perfect time to reflect on the great success of festival 2014 in Glasgow, which ran alongside the Commonwealth games, and the on-going work of culture 2014 across Scotland, which will run until the end of August. Both have done much to share the great cultural riches of the Commonwealth across all Scotland through dance, song, theatre, literature, music, visual art, comedy and much more. Indeed, although 2014 will be remembered as a momentous year for many reasons, we should not forget that it has, arguably, been the greatest year ever for Scotland’s festivals.
The Edinburgh festivals have woven their way into the very fabric of the city to such an extent that it is sometimes almost too easy to take them for granted. Throughout the year, the festivals bring Edinburgh alive for residents and visitors alike, as the city hosts more than 25,000 international artists, more than 1,000 accredited media, and audiences of more than 4 million. That benefit is felt far beyond Edinburgh. The economic, cultural and social value of the festivals generates £261 million to the Scottish economy, with £41 million spent on accommodation and £37 million spent in our cafes and bars.
We know that 77 per cent of visitors from outside Scotland said that the festivals made them more likely to visit Edinburgh again in the future. That means that the festivals are one of the country’s great tourism gateways. They open visitors’ eyes to our wider tourism offer, and they benefit businesses and communities across the whole country.
We must not forget that Edinburgh’s festivals are a source of astonishing opportunity and inspiration for our artists as well. They provide them with the platform to develop, present and promote their work in perhaps the greatest showcase of international performing arts and culture in the world.
The Scottish Government’s Edinburgh festivals expo fund supports the costs of new productions, events or exhibitions that involve Scotland-based participants and are premiered at any of the 12 Edinburgh festivals. This year, a total of £2.25 million will take the overall level of investment to £14 million since 2008.
The Edinburgh festivals are a platform for the wider world. I recently enjoyed a Mandela day performance at the jazz and blues festival in which the incredible Mahotella Queens from South Africa held the audience in rapture with their vocal harmonies and age-defying dancing. If I tell members that the Mahotella Queens were founded in the year in which I was born, that may give them a perspective. I also heard young people from townships near Cape Town perform jazz as part of Artscape’s youth band. We hope to work more with them.
We are not resting on our laurels. I am pleased that the festivals forum, which includes key Edinburgh festivals stakeholders, will undertake a new forward-thinking study to consider the future sustainability, success and development of Edinburgh’s major festivals.
I want to recognise and pay tribute to Sir Jonathan Mills in his final year as director of the Edinburgh international festival. I welcome Patricia Ferguson’s amendment, which mentions him. It is fitting that he has just successfully overseen the second international culture summit in the Parliament, because throughout his stewardship he has not only brought many memorable productions together but shown great leadership in keeping the founding spirit of the Edinburgh international festival alive. He will leave a strong and lasting legacy, and I am sure that all members join me in wishing his successor Fergus Linehan great success in his tenure.
It is, of course, important that we appreciate the full spectrum of festivals and events that make Scotland such a vibrant place to live in and to visit, with our cities, towns and villages playing host to well over 200 festivals each year. From Up Helly Aa in Shetland to this year’s Royal National Mòd in Inverness and the Peebles arts festival in the Scottish Borders, festivals and events cover the length and breadth of Scotland all year round.
I enjoyed speaking at the launch of this year’s Glasgow comedy festival, which this year marked its 12th birthday and has emerged as the biggest event of its kind in Europe, with more than 100,000 tickets on offer for over 400 shows in nearly 50 venues. I was also delighted to attend several events at this year’s 21st Celtic Connections festival in Glasgow, which truly came of age with a vibrant programme that celebrated not only the incredible array of traditional and contemporary Scottish music, but also its connections to cultures around the world.
Some of our most vibrant and exciting festivals are our music festivals, which are as diverse in their styles and genres as they are wide in their reach. I recently had the pleasure of attending the St Magnus international festival in Orkney, where I attended a remarkable lute concert in the magical setting of the Italian chapel. I am sure that Liam McArthur will join me in noting the success of this year’s Orkney folk festival, which is an exemplar of the collaborative, community approach that lies at the heart of so many of our festivals.
It is also an opportune time to congratulate perhaps our premier music festival, T in the Park. In what was a landmark year with brilliant performances from Paolo Nutini and Biffy Clyro, not only did the event turn 21 but it saw the last ever festival to be held at Balado come to an emotional close in front of 85,000 festival goers—including my 17-year-old son, in what is now seen as a rite-of-passage event in Scotland.
This has also been a momentous year with Scotland embracing the Commonwealth games. The Commonwealth games highlights, which were published this very morning, report on the games being the largest multisport and cultural event to be held in Scotland in a generation, with Glasgow being transformed to provide a festival of culture for its games-time visitors.
Alongside the sporting action, the Glasgow 2014 cultural programme is a national programme of new work by world-leading and emerging Scottish and international artists—the most ambitious national cultural celebration that has ever taken place in Scotland.
I congratulate Glasgow Life, Creative Scotland and all the other partners who worked so hard to bring the festival together, as well as the partnerships that have been formed throughout Scotland to help to deliver the Scotland-wide programme. By the close of the programme on 31 August, around 1,500 events will have taken place involving thousands of artists, performers and participants across hundreds of locations and venues the length and breadth of Scotland.
The nationwide culture 2014 strand has showcased the best of Scotland’s rich and vibrant cultural life. The year started with some stand-out performances including the premiere of the new music biennial commissions at Celtic Connections, the restaging of the National Theatre of Scotland’s “Glasgow Girls” and the celebration of diversity through Janice Parker’s “Glory”.
The get Scotland dancing initiative got thousands across the nation active. In May, the big dance pledge, which was created by Scottish Ballet, saw 67,000 people in 24 countries dance along to special choreography created by Scottish Ballet, including 250 dancers performing on the Skye bridge. I had the pleasure of seeing the big dance take place in my home town of Linlithgow, with 750 schoolchildren owning the square in my town. It was a great celebration of them as well as of the Commonwealth and of dance.
On midsummer’s day, people across the world joined hands in a global celebration of Scottish dance in the 24-hour Commonwealth ceilidh, and the get dancin’ initiative is continuing to show that dance is for everyone, with free dance classes on offer in hundreds of locations across the country. It is recognition that, in terms of legacy, not everyone can be Usain Bolt or be an athlete, but everyone can dance, and the get Scotland dancing initiative is part of the activity to try to make sure that all of Scotland is active.
The Big Big Sing has inspired thousands of people to sign up to enjoy the health and wellbeing benefits of singing. I heard some choirs singing earlier today in the Parliament, and a great, infectious enthusiasm for choral singing has been seen both from international visitors and with the Big Big Sing inspiring people here in Scotland. The huge range of opportunities to take part included singing days, workshops and flash-mob choirs, culminating in a 14,000-strong crowd singing their hearts out on Glasgow Green on a Sunday in the rain during the big Big Big Sing, which I had the pleasure to join.
Of course, the visual art world has been well represented through the quite remarkable landmark “Generation” project: an incredible programme of exhibitions celebrating 25 years of contemporary art in Scotland that features more than 100 artists and takes place at over 70 venues the length and breadth of the country, exhibiting many of our Turner prize winners and so many artists who have contributed so much over that 25-year period. So far, I have seen shows by Walker and Bromwich in Orkney and exhibitions at the national galleries in Edinburgh, including works by Steven Campbell, Ciara Phillips and Alison Watt.
During the Commonwealth games, festival 2014 proved to be an enormous success, transforming Glasgow with an invigorating mix of entertainment, culture and enjoyment and filling the streets, spaces and stages of the city. When people said that Glasgow was buzzing during the games, a key part of that was the cultural vibrancy at almost every street corner. There were over three quarters of a million visits to the live zones at Glasgow Green, Kelvingrove band stand, the merchant city and the BBC at the quay, while more than 6,000 performers were involved in more than 1,000 performances in 100 venues around the city.
It was a hugely diverse programme. My personal highlight was “Boomerang”, which was a celebration of indigenous cultures with 21 artists from Scotland, New Zealand and Australia mixing Gaelic song and pipes with the haka, Maori vocals and traditional aboriginal music. The “Empire Café”, based in the Briggait, explored Scotland’s relationship with the North Atlantic slave trade through a thought-provoking programme of music, academic lectures, poetry, debate and workshops. In “The River”, which I had the pleasure of seeing, a 150-strong community cast of dancers, singers and musicians of all ages, together with Barrowland Ballet’s small professional cast, told stories of migration and danced and sang along the banks of the Clyde as the audience followed them.
Those examples additionally demonstrated the rich new international connections that have been developed through the cultural programme: 109 programme projects have stated connections with Commonwealth countries, 27 of which have artists or participants visiting Scotland. The important thing about culture 2014 is that it was not just about broadcasting what Scotland has to the world; it was an invitation for the world to join in that celebration.
It has truly been a momentous few months of activity, but it is not quite finished yet. Culture 2014 is picking up the baton again and bringing it to Edinburgh to mix with the festivals here before climaxing in a final weekend of activity that includes “The King of Ghosts” at the Edinburgh mela; “East End Social” at Richmond park; Scotland’s first international inclusive dance festival, “Gathered Together”, at the Tramway; and Hanna Tuulikki’s “Away with the Birds” on Canna.
The cultural programme has been delivered by a partnership between the Glasgow 2014 organising committee, Glasgow Life and Creative Scotland, as well as hundreds of artists, cultural organisations and communities across Scotland and beyond. I want to emphasise my thanks to all the partners for organising this unique, exciting and diverse programme of cultural activity, which has placed artists at the centre.
In our reflection with representatives of the 23 Governments that were here over the past few days as part of the international culture summit, great interest was focused on the Commonwealth games cultural programme, with many countries looking to learn what we do. For example, the Japanese city of Tokyo, which is hosting the Olympics in 2020, is very interested in what we are doing, and Brazil, which has the next Olympic games, is also very interested in what is happening here.
Of course, what I have just described is only a snapshot, for this is perhaps the greatest year ever for festivals in Scotland, both in the number and in the sheer breadth of the festivals that are taking place. They range from the long-established and internationally renowned to small community events that have risen up, buoyed by this year’s feel-good factor. I want to thank all the volunteers who help make festivals happen the length and breadth of Scotland. Their enthusiasm, dedication and commitment is often the lifeblood of the festivals in our communities.
Our festivals are vibrant, often challenging and always exciting. They provide a chance for both audiences and artists to step out of the everyday and come together in new spaces and under new terms. They provide windows for transformation, both personally and for our communities. They bring neighbours together, they promote understanding of other cultures and other experiences from all over the world, and they improve our sense of who we are and why we matter.
I look forward to hearing members’ reflections on the value of festivals to Scotland. I hope that through consensus on the motion this afternoon Parliament will recognise what a groundbreaking year this is for our festivals, acknowledge that success is often based on the motivation, passion and commitment of local communities, and recognise and, indeed, celebrate the great success of culture 2014 and festival 2014.
That the Parliament recognises that Scotland’s culture is in vigorous health and that this is reflected in the continued success of Scotland’s festivals, including the Edinburgh festivals, which are internationally renowned for their excitement, vision and artistic ambition; congratulates all of those involved in the successful Festival 2014 and the ongoing Culture 2014 on enabling people across Scotland to share in the cultural celebration of the Commonwealth Games; celebrates the vibrancy and diversity of Scotland’s music festivals; acknowledges the importance of all of Scotland’s festivals, both large and small, across all the country, and notes the enjoyment that they bring and their impact on tourism and local economies, and is especially appreciative of the hard work that communities contribute to ensure that smaller regional festivals are a success.
It is only right that we discuss in Scotland’s Parliament the Edinburgh international festival and the other important cultural events that are taking place this summer.
I hope that we will consider the importance of festivals to our country and its artistic and cultural life. We should recognise the ways in which our lives and culture are strengthened by the contribution of visiting artists and performers and celebrate the cross-fertilisation that keeps our culture dynamic and inspiring. We must also acknowledge the impact that our festivals have on the economy, particularly their contribution to our tourism and hospitality industries.
I was reminded when thinking about this debate that we do not ask much of our artists and performers and those who work in the creative industries at festival time. After all, we only ask that they be the best they can be in their chosen field or practice and that they perform, day after day and night after night, to audiences large and small in a diverse range of venues—I use the word “diverse”, because it is the politest way to describe some of the venues that I have visited in festivals over the years.
Year after year our artists and performers deliver and they come back, because they know that Edinburgh in August is the place to be. It is where opportunities arise—sometimes unexpectedly—and where those people will be received by knowledgeable audiences who, more often than not, are on their side and willing them to succeed.
For established artists it is a showcase and for new artists it is a place to serve an apprenticeship—or perhaps undergo a baptism of fire. For the audience it is a chance to spot the next big thing; to spend an afternoon listening to clever, witty and challenging people discussing a variety of literary genres at the book festival; and in the evening perhaps to watch stand-up at the fringe or opera at the international festival.
On the walk from Waverley station every day I am mesmerised by the number of adverts for performances that are attached to the railings on Jeffrey Street, and I am often distracted as I look at them and think of the scale of what is happening in this city at this time.
We talk about the Edinburgh festival particularly to describe the events that take place in August, but of course Edinburgh’s festivals are spread throughout the year, with the hogmanay events in January, the science festival in April, the Imaginate festival in May, the film and jazz festivals in June and July and the storytelling festival in October—to name but a few.
As the cabinet secretary said, there are 12 festivals in total, which between them host 25,000 international artists, more than 1,000 accredited media representatives and audiences of more than 4 million people. Those numbers are quite staggering, so I make no apologies for repeating them. The festivals’ effect on the Scottish economy is staggering, too, generating some £261 million. Bed occupancy in Edinburgh’s hotels reaches 93 per cent in August and £37 million is spent in cafes and bars alone. That truly is part of the energy and dynamism of this city. Many of those who come to Edinburgh then journey on to other parts of Scotland and the United Kingdom.
In 2006 the “Thundering Hooves” report was published, which identified many of those important figures and suggested that more could be done. One of its main recommendations was that the individual festivals needed to work more collaboratively and to have better relationships with other agencies.
In early 2007 I had the privilege of chairing the first meeting of the festivals forum, which went on to become Festivals Edinburgh, which enables strategic planning and decision making to be undertaken. I am delighted that it is now planning a further “Thundering Hooves” report, which I think will help set out the direction of travel for the next 10 years and beyond and will help Edinburgh to retain its jealously guarded pre-eminence in the field. My colleague Sarah Boyack will say more about that in her contribution.
Before I move on from the Edinburgh festivals, I think that it is right, as Scottish Labour’s amendment suggests, to mark the departure of Sir Jonathan Mills as director of the Edinburgh international festival. Jonathan Mills came to Edinburgh from Australia with an established reputation as an artist of renown in his own right but also someone who brought his fierce intelligence and love of the arts to the role of artistic director of the Melbourne international arts festival. Over the past seven years, he has stamped his mark on the international festival here, too, and he will be missed—thankfully he is not leaving us entirely, as I think that he plans to stay in Edinburgh—but he is leaving the festival in good heart and, importantly, in good finance, which his successor, Fergus Linehan, will no doubt be grateful for. Sir Jonathan tells us that while he is in Edinburgh he plans to finish an opera that he is writing, and I am sure that we all wish him well in that endeavour.
As the motion identifies, it is not only in Edinburgh that we find artistic and other festivals and the efforts of EventScotland to promote, encourage and help to fund many of the events is welcome. I think that we are lucky to have organisations as professional and highly regarded as VisitScotland and EventScotland working with local authorities and organisers to make Scotland a year-round destination for those with a love of and an interest in the arts. From Edinburgh’s hogmanay to Celtic Connections in Glasgow, T in the Park, the Wickerman festival and Hebtember—which I must admit was a new one on me—the calendar of events is packed.
The fact that the Commonwealth games incorporates an arts festival is one of the things that I think makes it so special. In its original iteration, the Olympic games also had a cultural festival—indeed, there was a time when medals were awarded for artistic endeavour, too. The fact that the effort has continued to this day with the Commonwealth games is one of the things that it them so special.
Because I was a Clyde-sider, I did not have as much opportunity during the games as I would have liked to experience what was happening in Glasgow, let alone around the rest of the country, but what I did see was remarkable. It is always invidious to compare these things, but, if I may say so, I attended a lot of cultural events in Melbourne in 2006 and I think that we did it a bit better.
From the work done by Depot Arts in my constituency on the day that the baton came through Possilpark, to the live zone at Glasgow Green or the performance of our friend and colleague Pauline McNeill with the band Mc4 in the merchant city, there was some wonderful work going on. Of course around Scotland there were exhibitions such as “Generation” featuring people such as Alison Watt and Toby Paterson. All of it was interesting and challenging—and free.
We saw Glasgow and its people at their best during the Commonwealth games. Indeed, somehow the entire country felt more invigorated and joyful than usual. If Edinburgh can host an arts festival every year, could Glasgow host a festival of sport on an annual basis? Before my colleagues and indeed the cabinet secretary get too worried about that, I stress that I am not talking about anything on the scale of the Commonwealth games, and I am not necessarily talking about an event for our elite athletes—and, yes, I do realise that the sporting calendar is already cluttered. Could we host an annual event for young athletes, very amateur athletes or indeed for veteran athletes? Perhaps it would not work, but it just seems to me that we need to find a way to capture that enthusiasm and spirit. Perhaps a festival of sport would be an option and, indeed, a fitting legacy of the sport and the culture that we enjoyed so much in 2014.
There are so many festivals around the country that it is always invidious to mention some without mentioning others. I am sure that my colleagues will mention those that they are particularly aware of in their local areas. One thing that they all have in common is that they would not happen if it were not for the imagination and ingenuity of people who care about what happens in their communities, who care what happens to art and culture in our country and who are determined to make a difference, and to make sure that they, along with their local communities, friends and neighbours, can enjoy the very best of what Scotland has to offer, wherever it happens to be.
I move amendment S4M-10784.1, to insert at end:
“; congratulates EventScotland on the contribution that it made to Scotland’s thriving festivals scene; considers that the initiative of Festivals Edinburgh in commissioning a further edition of the report, Thundering Hooves, will be an important and helpful contribution to the continuing development of the Edinburgh festivals; congratulates Sir Jonathan Mills on his major contribution to the Edinburgh International Festival and to the cultural life of Scotland as he prepares to hand over to Fergus Linehan, and wishes both men well for the future”.
We are happy to support the Scottish Government’s motion, which endorses the outstanding contribution that festivals make to the cultural, social and economic life of Scotland and its communities. We are also happy to support the Labour amendment, which congratulates EventScotland and Sir Jonathan Mills, as he completes his distinguished career at the Edinburgh festival.
Festivals are all about the celebration—or commemoration, in some cases—of a unique aspect of a community and its traditions. They are about a sense of belonging and purpose, and they usually have their origin in the identities of social, religious or geographical groupings. As the cabinet secretary and Patricia Ferguson said, festivals are full of enthusiasm and, particularly this year, bring a feel-good factor that invigorates the whole community.
Some festivals in Scotland have their history in early agriculture and celebrations of the change of seasons. The Gaelic Beltane fire festivals were all about encouraging the summer crops to grow, the Lammas festivals were about the power of the sun and the breaking of the first new bread following the harvesting of the grain, and the Gaelic interpretation of the Saturnalian festivals, which the Latin poet Catullus described, was all about celebrating the bounty of the land. Of course, in more modern times we have the very Scottish interpretation of the autumn celebration of Hallowe’en.
Many early festivals, particularly in the middle ages, grew out of religious crusades and the pilgrimages that people made to celebrate the life and work of saints. Many such festivals continue today. For those of more pagan views, there were other festivals, some of which dated from much further back in time. For example, archaeologists think that the standing stones at Callanish are there because some of the earliest inhabitants believed that the stones would act as a kind of astronomical observatory that would allow them to watch and worship the movement of the sun and the stars. Like some of the other festivals that I have mentioned, they were a monument to the link between man and his environment. Next week, when we debate the Historic Environment Scotland Bill, we will be thinking about how we understand all that in a more modern setting.
The cabinet secretary mentioned the traditional music festivals, many of which have their foundations in iconic Scottish instruments, such as the harp and the bagpipes, or the very best of Celtic and Gaelic songs and poetry. The festivals are a key means of understanding Scotland’s rich history and how it has shaped our environment.
Festivals that have a sporting edge also have a rich history—I was interested in Patricia Ferguson’s suggestion that we establish a new sports festival. The oldest Highland games come from Ceres, in Fife, and are of particular interest this year, because they were the result of a charter that was awarded to the villagers because of their loyalty to Robert the Bruce at the battle of Bannockburn. Highland games are Scottish in character but international in outreach—and increasingly so, as we see when we look at the countries in which they are copied and the lists of competitors in Scottish events, who come from all over the world. Indeed, at the Crieff highland games, on Sunday, I understand that that great Lancastrian, Freddie Flintoff, will proudly wear his kilt as he tosses the caber.
The cabinet secretary was absolutely right when she said recently that culture has a worth in itself, which should not be subservient to economic or financial gain. That is an important context as we consider the intrinsic value of our festivals, which define who we are and the relationships that we have with our past, as well as the relationships that will help to mould our future.
Nowadays, as the cabinet secretary said, our festivals are as diverse and vibrant as those anywhere else in the world. In the fields of music, art, science, film, food, leisure and religion, they reach far and wide, well beyond our local communities and into every corner of the world. As such, they are an increasingly popular attraction for visitors as well as Scots.
The Edinburgh festival epitomises that breadth and depth of cultural experience. Since its inception in 1947, it has grown in size and stature, and it now encompasses just under 3,000 shows every August. It is still, for the most part, capable of attracting world class artistes on every stage.
When I was growing up in the 1960s and 1970s—I am older than the cabinet secretary—I was privileged to hear a great deal about the Edinburgh festival and its musical direction, because Dick Telfer, who, along with Alexander Gibson, Ian Rodger and Ainslie Millar, founded Scottish Opera in 1962, was a family friend of my parents and grandparents. The ethos on which they went on to found Scottish Opera is one that continues to be admired around the world and that has always had the ability to ensure that Scotland is looking outward as well as nurturing the very best of our home-grown talent.
Yes, indeed, and it can be enhanced, because it is very much in Scotland’s tradition to be outward looking as well as to do our best for our home-grown talent.
I hope that that mix is something that we can always have, particularly, dare I say it, in the context of whatever happens in the referendum. Whoever we are, whatever political party we support, that mix is something that binds us all together. These are very important strands.
Culture is always at its best when it can make Scotland relevant in the international community in a way that celebrates the best of our nation while challenging our imagination and creativity and strengthening our cultural and social future. If any proof were needed, one need look no further than Glasgow this summer. Not only did that city lay on a highly successful Commonwealth games, it laid on a terrific cultural experience through festival 2014 and culture 2014. Much of it was free to enter and it went hand in glove with the traditions and colour of the Commonwealth nations.
Glasgow excelled itself in so many different ways this summer and we debated the legacy in the Parliament last week. The cultural legacy is part of that and I have no doubt that those two festivals will be a reason why many visitors will return to Glasgow in the years ahead.
Festivals are an integral part of any nation, whether they are held in very small communities and organised on a shoestring or in large communities. They are often the means by which communities bind themselves together. They matter to the economic fabric of Scotland and, more than that, they define who we are and, as such, we must celebrate them and do everything we can to support them.
I am pleased to have been called to speak in the debate this afternoon. Scotland is simply one of the most exciting places in the world to be this year. As someone who enjoyed the ydance youth festival during the Commonwealth games and George R R Martin at the book festival, I pay tribute to the tremendous work that has been done across Scotland to make 2014 one of the most exciting and successful years in Scotland’s festivals history.
I was lucky to be an observer at the second Edinburgh international culture summit that was held in the Parliament at the weekend and earlier this week. It was an incredibly interesting and informative summit attended by delegates from more than 20 countries around the globe. They examined some of the cultural challenges that face us.
The summit was brought together by the Parliament and the United Kingdom and Scottish Governments with support from the British Council, and it was a fitting swansong for Jonathan Mills, who was part of the culture summit’s steering group. There were some compelling and interesting presentations that examined the key themes of advocacy and identity in culture, cities and culture, and, controversially, the value and measurement of culture.
Jordi Savall performed with a collective of international medieval musicians and spoke about how his music had informed his peace work across the world. Ea Sola, a French Vietnamese choreographer, talked about how her work in Vietnam had helped to heal the elderly population and allow them to deal with some of the traumatic experiences that they had had during their lifetimes. Perhaps one of the most compelling presentations was from Nandi Mandela, who talked about cultural identity and a source for positive change in the global environment. As she spoke her grandfather’s words, it had a profound effect on me and made me think about how important cultural identity is to nation shaping and to our understanding of one another.
A Polish delegate summed up the measuring and values discussion by saying that not everything that can be measured counts and not everything that counts can be measured. The cabinet secretary summed that up in the Talbot Rice lecture last year when she said:
“We can’t discuss the economic benefits of culture without also acknowledging the contribution that our cultural work makes to help build long-term relationships and trust overseas. As a country, we continue to punch well above our weight internationally, using heritage, culture and creativity to attract other nationals to live, work, study, travel and do business in Scotland—all of which contributes to growth. Culture helps support engagement with the priority countries and regions identified in the Government’s International Framework and we have some good stories to tell.”
I hope to enlighten members with a good story from this afternoon in this very Parliament. On Tuesday, we had a compelling debate about Gaza, which began with a moving opening speech by Drew Smith. That debate and all the deliberations during the international cultural summit could have been summed up by a few minutes of sublime singing in the Parliament’s Robert Burns room this afternoon. We had the absolute delight of listening to one of the most emotionally powerful shows at the fringe, courtesy of the Dloko high school choir, who come from the Umlazi township in South Africa. That 30-strong choir of incredibly talented young people who sang and danced for us is all the more remarkable because they hail from a desperately poor township outside Durban in an area where violence and sexual crimes are all-too commonplace.
The choir is making its international debut at Edinburgh’s festival, funded by crowd sourcing through an online campaign by the Scottish charity the Iris Initiative. It was fitting that, in the room named after Robert Burns—the man who penned the words
“That Man to Man, the world o’er,
Shall brothers be for a’ that”— the choir included in its repertoire a stunningly beautiful tribute to Nelson Mandela. One young man stepped forward to speak about what their beloved Madiba means to them. In doing so, without blame or accusation and despite their own struggles and experiences of life, they expressed solidarity with the people of Palestine.
The choir was accompanied by Mr Wallace, a retired teacher from Edinburgh who has been involved in the Jabulani Project for eight years. Jabulani has taken the John Byrne award—a Scottish award that is aimed at young people in Edinburgh—out to Durban and has been using it to work with schools there. It is an incredibly important prize, because it involves young people expressing their reactions to other works of culture. Just as in Edinburgh, the aim in South Africa is to stimulate discussion of values and ethics. What a wonderful example of cultural exchange and understanding and of how festivals can contribute to a greater understanding of other cultures and in so doing create a more peaceful and prosperous world.
I welcome the debate. I will focus on Edinburgh and the importance of our festivals to our culture and economy. The Edinburgh international festival was established in 1947, in the wake of the second world war. Its founders believed that the festival should
“enliven and enrich the cultural life of Europe, Britain and Scotland” and
“provide a platform for the flowering of the human spirit”.
That ethos is alive and well today. Sixty years on, the Edinburgh international festival is as exciting and challenging as ever. However, the world has changed and many other cities, jealous of Edinburgh’s success, are keen to emulate our international festival and generate the economic and cultural benefits that come from such a flagship event.
We have had only nine directors of the festival since 1947, and it is appropriate to acknowledge the work that Jonathan Mills has done. It is a significant commitment that someone makes when they become the director of the Edinburgh international festival, but it is a magnificent, unrepeatable experience for a person. Over the years, the festival has grown—and this is what I want to focus on—into a series of nearly year-round events. Festivals Edinburgh alone is comprised of 11 different annual festivals, each of which adds something special to the life of the city. Each of those festivals is important on its own terms, whether social, artistic, scientific or economic.
The “Thundering Hooves” report, which was published in 2006, was commissioned to address the fact that other cities were beginning to get their act together, and that other festivals and big cultural and sporting events were being held around the globe. “Thundering Hooves” has been hugely important for all the various stakeholders and everyone who is involved in the festivals. The construction of the forum has been hugely important, too. As well as enabling us to have strategic co-ordination and strategic discussion of all our festivals, and some sense of collective interest in them, it has been crucial in looking at the challenges that exist and thinking about what needs to be done.
Given that a refreshed version of the “Thundering Hooves” report will be produced next spring, I want us to think about progress on investment and leadership, not just for the international festival but for all the festivals. We need to consider who comes next, who the next performers will be, how the productions are managed and what investment is taking place in research and development and, crucially, programming. The nuts and bolts of the festival need investment. We see the stars and the globally successful people who give the festival a face, but all the work that is done underneath the brilliant surface needs to be invested in if Edinburgh is to retain its pre-eminence as a festival city.
I highlight the issue of support for artists in the future. At the moment, there are simply not enough places for artists to develop their skills, their crafts or their arts. We have one or two hugely important venues in the city, such as St Margaret’s house and Wasps studios, but there are not enough spaces available to meet the demand that exists in the city among artists who are drawn to Edinburgh and those who grew up here.
In addition, we need a lot more investment in venues. Over the year, the City of Edinburgh Council has had to make some extremely tough decisions and has not been able to invest in as many venues as it would have liked as quickly as it would have liked. Major venues still need more investment, including the King’s Theatre and the Queen’s Hall. Although our venues are expensive, they are hugely important from the point of view of the character of the festival. The Edinburgh Filmhouse has aspirations for the future, too, and it needs investment.
A key suggestion in the “Thundering Hooves” report was about the need for the Scottish Government to continue its support. That is essential. Many of the initiatives that the cabinet secretary mentioned are crucial to the long-term success of the festivals. I am referring to investment in galleries such as the Scottish National Portrait Gallery, in the National Museum of Scotland and in the work of Creative Scotland. Those institutions are important because they all underpin the capacity to put on the international festival. Without that national investment, the international festival just would not exist in its current form, nor would the fringe or the range of other festivals that we have.
I add a plea for support for contemporary music. We have recently lost the Picture House on Lothian Road, which was a hugely important all-year-round venue, and we do not have a replacement in the city.
“Thundering Hooves” also made some extremely difficult recommendations. It recommended that, as a start, the City of Edinburgh Council should increase its cultural spend from 2.8 to 4 per cent of the budget, but it had aspirations for a much bigger increase than that. As the report noted, Edinburgh faces the challenge of having a relatively small tax base to draw on compared with competitor cities. The city is actually quite small. In population terms, it doubles in size during the international festival and the fringe, but we do not have the tax base to generate all the investment that we need.
There is cross-party support on the council for the concept of a tourist levy, which is one of the key ideas that came out of “Thundering Hooves”, but the Scottish Government has not yet given its support to that. Today, the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities commission on strengthening local democracy argues for much more financial flexibility and scope for local decision making. I leave that as a challenge for the cabinet secretary to pick up on. If she does not do so this afternoon, I hope that she will have a private discussion on the matter with the Cabinet Secretary for Finance, Employment and Sustainable Growth. That would be a very practical way to empower the city to do a great deal more.
I flag up the fact that we have new festivals springing up all the time, and an all-year-round approach would be great. We have the interfaith festival, the just festival and the take one action festival, which I particularly love. It starts on 19 September, which is a day that we can all look forward to. It is a campaigning festival. We also have the Scottish history festival in November.
The international festival and the fringe—our official festivals—are fantastic and need more support. We need to think particularly about the next generation that is coming through our universities, colleges and schools—our next playwrights, set designers, programmers, artists, musicians and singers. All the young people who are coming through need support. We need the infrastructure, the money, the marketing and the support from the Scottish Government, but we also need to think about our schools, colleges and universities. The future of the festivals is crucial.
Scotland is a nation of festivals. All through the year, up and down the country, a local festival can usually be found. As the cabinet secretary said, 2014 could be the greatest year that we have had for events, culture and sport.
As the MSP for the Edinburgh Western constituency, I am delighted that the debate is happening at the same time as the world’s best and most famous culture extravaganza—the Edinburgh festivals. For that reason, and with respect to festivals across the country, I will, like Sarah Boyack, focus my comments on Edinburgh. That is only because lessons that are learned in the capital can help other areas.
As a resident of the capital, I have grown to love the atmosphere, the colour, the diversity and the opportunities that present themselves at this time of year. However, only after I was elected to the City of Edinburgh Council did I become aware of how vital the Edinburgh festivals are to the economy of the city and beyond.
The global reach of the Edinburgh festivals is phenomenal. We can consider the amount of free international advertising that Edinburgh and Scotland obtain when shots of the castle, Princes Street or the Royal Mile are shown on television screens around the world. It would probably take the Scottish Government’s entire block grant to pay for the equivalent advertising space globally.
The 2013 review of Edinburgh’s festival fringe said that there were 45,465 performances in 273 venues by 2,402 companies, which included some 24,107 performers from 41 countries. Those figures are just for the fringe; when the official festival, the book festival and others are included, we can see how successful the festival is.
The festivals must overcome logistical problems, some of which are similar to those that Glasgow overcame recently during its magnificent Commonwealth games. Local authority transport officials will have to deal anyway with issues of transport management, particularly from the west of the city to the city centre, but things can get crazy during festival time, when thousands of performers and visitors come to the city.
Another problem is festival inflation, whereby accommodation costs soar as lodgings become more difficult to obtain. That is one of the main problems that festivals have in achieving sustainability. If they are not to be seen as elitist and if they are to allow people to break through into the performing arts, to show exhibitions and to be able to see shows, we must find a way of keeping the costs down.
Another plus side to the festival is Edinburgh airport obtaining more direct flights. As Edinburgh becomes more accessible, it is vital that we identify and address the logistical problems.
On the less glamorous side are performance costs and venue safety. When I was the convener of the City of Edinburgh Council’s regulatory committee, one of the most difficult things that I had to do was find ways of keeping the cost of public entertainment licences down.
The arts, culture and sport should not be only for those who have money. I am delighted that the Scottish Government’s expo fund has helped with increased investment of £2.25 million from 2012, which has helped to lever in another £1.5 million from other sources.
In terms of strategy, there has been much success in that the advertising and sales pitch for the Edinburgh festivals has been linked with other events including the Commonwealth games and the Olympic games. The events are working not in isolation but in partnership, and are feeding off each other and offering tourists an option that allows them to take in many events around the whole country—not just in Edinburgh. That is an example of team Scotland in action.
Although Edinburgh’s and Scotland’s festivals are absolutely first class, there cannot be room for complacency. As has been mentioned numerous times today, the City of Edinburgh Council commissioned the “Thundering Hooves” report back in 2006. The threat from emerging festivals throughout the UK and Europe in terms of artistic prestige, patronage, affordability and accessibility required to be looked at seriously. I welcome the news that the festivals forum will review how things are done.
In the years since the “Thundering Hooves” report was published, the City of Edinburgh Council, Festivals Edinburgh and the individual festivals have taken up the challenge. I will mention five of the many people who have worked to maintain Edinburgh’s prominence as the world’s leading festival city. Faith Liddell is the director of Festivals Edinburgh, whose work brings together in a coherent unit the festivals here in the city. Kath Mainland is the chief executive officer of Edinburgh Festival Fringe, whose magnificent work earned her a CBE in the Queen’s birthday honours this year. If ever anyone was perfectly placed in a job, it is Kath Mainland.
Other members have mentioned Sir Jonathan Mills, who has left his mark on the festival over the years. In addition I must mention two local politicians—that is not something that we hear very often in the chamber. The first is the Edinburgh festival and events champion, Councillor Steve Cardownie. It is fair to say that Councillor Cardownie has developed a sometimes controversial image in the city, including through playing a cadaver in a Ukrainian play at the festival some years ago. However, his work over a number of years has shown an incredible commitment to the Edinburgh festivals’ profile at home and abroad. I also commend Councillor Eric Milligan, from the Labour group, who has shown the same passion for the festival, for a number of years.
I am deeply proud to have been involved with many people who are a part of the festival. We can look forward to many successful years of Scotland’s festivals, and not just in Edinburgh.
The debate is welcome, but we should all remember that festivals are not just social occasions for enjoyment and recreation: they can have a huge impact on local economies. That is especially true in areas such as the one that I represent. In remote and rural areas where populations are much smaller, the benefits can be huge as festivals draw in visitors from other areas.
There are not just festivals, as such; there are county shows, highland games and agricultural shows. We can see the impact that the Royal Highland Show has on Edinburgh; up north we have the Black Isle show, which is our answer to the Royal Highland Show. It brings people in from the whole of the Highlands and Islands and beyond, and boosts the local economy.
We also have pipe band competitions—the world championships, for instance, which has unfortunately gone to Glasgow rather than Dunoon this year. That is a disappointment for the people in Dunoon—I hope that they will win the competition back, because it had a huge impact on the economy there. We have to be careful when looking at festivals and their movement, and in encouraging more festivals in.
I would certainly appreciate that, because I know that the competition has had a big impact on Dunoon, and it is really important that we try to get it back for the local economy, which has been disadvantaged over a period of time.
We have had additional events this year such as the Commonwealth games and the Bannockburn re-enactment for homecoming 2014. Although I welcome those additional events, we need to be very careful about their impact on other events. I do not want to bring down the debate, which has been a great celebration of festivals, but in my area the RockNess music festival was cancelled this year because of competition from other events. That is unfortunate, because an awful lot of those events have been in the central belt rather than out in the more remote rural areas. RockNess was a prime music festival for young people, and losing it has had an impact on the economy not only of Inverness but of the south side of Loch Ness, which was very dependent on the festival.
In our area, we had the Commonwealth games and we always have the merchant city festival. We moved the dates of the merchant city festival to coincide with the Commonwealth games. Is that something that might be considered in the areas about which Rhoda Grant is speaking so that events would not clash with other festivals and so that we can get the best of both worlds?
Sandra White makes a good point, but the problem was that, this year, the calendar was so packed that there was no opportunity to move the RockNess festival. I ask that, when we push forward and consider groundbreaking events, some thought be given to ensuring that we do not push out other events that have the ability to become annual and to have an impact on local communities. I ask for careful planning to ensure that an increased number of events does not impact on our more remote rural areas that cannot compete to the same extent.
We have wonderful festivals in the north. For example, the Hebridean Celtic festival—Hebceltfest—has been running for a number of years and has had a huge impact on the local economy. It attracts big names and spreads throughout the Western Isles with traditional and modern music. There is something for everybody. It happens not only in Stornoway but in community halls throughout the islands, allowing everybody to have an opportunity to attend and enjoy it.
I ask the cabinet secretary to have discussions with her colleagues about transport for such events. Events that happen on islands are very dependent on transport by boat. There are concerns in the Western Isles about the new MV Loch Seaforth. Many folk had hoped for two smaller boats that could have increased capacity during peak times to provide additional sailings and allow people to come and go. There are concerns that the one boat is dependent on the linkspan at Stornoway and Ullapool. If there was a problem with the linkspan in Stornoway, it could not be used at all to ferry people to the islands. I ask the cabinet secretary to raise that matter in discussions with her colleagues to ensure that there are contingency plans for such times. Last year, the boat from Scrabster to Orkney was cancelled for a number of weeks ahead of the Orkney folk festival and then bad weather ensued when folk went back on, leading to big pressure on all the sailings from Scrabster and Aberdeen and some people missing out on the festival because of the transport issues.
I will also mention Belladrum. I should, perhaps, register an interest to do with that because I was invited to perform—I say that because that is what it said on my wrist band—or, certainly, to speak at the verb garden tent there. Belladrum is very much a family festival with all kinds of different music. We see people of all age groups. Indeed, I saw wee cots on wheels that wheeled very young people around, especially in the evening when their parents were enjoying events.
Belladrum also has debates, conversations and discussions with experts and campaigners in the verb garden tent, which is interesting for a politician, who can go in and advance views and ideas. That is probably unique in all the festivals that we have throughout the country.
We also have other festivals throughout the area. Up Helly Aa is one, but there are many more—too many to mention in the debate. We need to recognise their importance not only for enjoyment, but for the impact that they have on our local economy and, especially, the fact that the economies in remote rural areas are disproportionately dependent on them.
I welcome the motion and much of the debate that has taken place on the festivals that we can celebrate around the country, which enhance life in our small country in many different ways. I will concentrate on some of the aspects of festivals that go on from year to year—in particular, those in my part of the world.
The large and small festivals throughout the country are the backbone of the festival movement. If we are lucky, we can rely on them taking place if the funding can be found through the systems that exist to pay for part of their existence. I make a plea to Creative Scotland to ensure that it does not always seek new ways to spend money but that it recognises that having festivals from one year to the next is in itself a creative activity.
I want to talk about the fèisean, the festivals that promote the Gaelic language. About 13,000 young people participate each year, with another 4,800 taking part in the youth music initiative that is organised. Benefits for Gaelic culture and history flow from the festivals.
After 10 years of the fèis movement, a report by Comedia in 1996 pointed out, in the case of the adult fèis, which takes place in May in Ullapool, that
“the fèisean make a hugely valuable contribution to their communities at very little public expense”.
It cited the example that, in 1996, the fèisean provided a considerable amount of year round activity for
“less than half the public subsidy allocated, without hesitation, to a single swimming pool and sports hall in Ullapool.”
In other words, many very valuable—and growing—cultural events are supported with a lot less money than many other events are.
We must remember that Fèisean nan Gàidheal is increasing its reach around many parts of the country. A 2001 Highlands and Islands Enterprise report stated:
“The original vision of a community-led festival that passes on the skills of traditional music, song and dance, has developed into a highly effective network of volunteers, tutors and supporting organisations with centres of activity across most parts of Scotland where there are active Gaelic communities.”
That is a tremendous volunteer-led effort, which has public recognition and which contributes to some of the widespread festivals that I have mentioned.
I turn to another very important aspect of festivals. I congratulate the cultural festivals of the Commonwealth games. Last night, Jim Sutherland and Fiona Mackenzie presented a smidgeon of the struileag show. As they said, Gaelic used to be spoken all over Scotland and its speakers’ descendants are spread across the world.
“This scattering of people is the Scottish Gaelic diaspora. Struileag/Shore to Shore is mapping the farthest reaches of this amazing diaspora, connecting with people who feel the call of a culture that is etched into their DNA.”
The show, “Children of The Smoke”, was presented in Glasgow. That major element of creativity arose from the call to ensure that we had a vibrant cultural outpouring at the same time as the sports activities. Jim Sutherland, its creator, must be hugely thanked for creating that opportunity in festival 2014. We must ask about supporting future performances, so that many other people can see the show, too.
“Scotland’s cultural life and heritage cannot be reduced to a single style or image; rather, they are a wealth of what we might describe as ‘stories’ that take many different forms, as diverse as the land, peoples and places of this complex country.”
When one builds on that vision, one must ensure that culture—in all its forms—is supported by our Government. It must be recognised that that can happen not only when one has the powers to promote it, but when one has the money to make the best of those cultural outpourings that are as innate in our people as they are in the peoples of every other country in the world.
I very much welcome this afternoon’s timely debate, which follows the hugely successful Commonwealth games and associated festival 2014 and culture 2014, and which is taking place during this year’s Edinburgh international festival and festival fringe. I am delighted to take part in the debate and make no apology for devoting my speaking time to celebrating another important Scottish festival that is very close to my heart—the Aberdeen international youth festival, or AIYF as it is known, of which I have been a trustee and friend for a considerable number of years. In connection with that, I refer members to my entry in the register of members’ interests.
The AIYF has just finished its 42nd successful season and is now recognised as one of the best celebrations of youth arts that is held anywhere in the world today. It has had Government backing in recent years, with successive ministers, including Patricia Ferguson and the current culture secretary, Fiona Hyslop, attending its opening ceremony. Unfortunately, Ms Hyslop was unable to be in Aberdeen this year because of her Commonwealth games commitments, but AIYF is very appreciative of her on-going support.
The festival was created in the late 1960s by the late Blyth Major, the music director of the midland youth orchestra, and the late Lionel Bryer, the chairman of the International Youth Foundation. They conceived the idea of bringing together youth orchestras from all over the world, using music as a unifying bond to promote international understanding. The first festival of youth orchestras was held in 1969 in St Moritz, in Switzerland.
Invited by the British Tourist Authority, the festival moved to the UK and established bases in both London and Aberdeen for the following five years, during which the festival was able to expand to incorporate all forms of dancing, jazz and choral music thanks to the excellent facilities and local support in the city of Aberdeen. Such was the support within the city—from the council, the university, local businesses and great audiences—that the decision was made to focus the event entirely in Aberdeen and the north-east, and in 1980 the name was changed to the AIYF, as we know it today. The festival now embraces dance, theatre, world music—both traditional and modern—choirs, orchestras, opera and jazz. This year, we even had a large Chinese marching band from Beijing.
In recent years, audience numbers have increased steadily, and the AIYF has continued to expand its educational and community projects. It is able to select the most talented individuals and groups from all over the world, giving them a platform on which to show their talents in a celebration of youth culture that is recognised universally as one of the best in the world. The festival is held in high regard by Aberdonians, and the extended festival performances in towns and villages in Aberdeenshire are enjoyed by capacity audiences wherever they take place.
The AIYF lives up to its founding principle of using music and other art forms to promote international understanding, which is so important in the divided and strife-ridden world that we inhabit today. At this year’s opening ceremony on 27 July, when the participants’ national flags were paraded into the music hall to the accompaniment of the national anthems, it was moving to see young attendees from the Ukraine, the Netherlands, Russia, Azerbaijan, the Czech Republic, Israel, Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, the United States of America, Mexico, China, Japan, Scotland and England all applauding one another’s anthems, and the saltire and the union flag, with everyone standing for the British national anthem. Their faces were a picture, as always, when the renowned Bucksburn and district junior pipe band entered the hall to conclude proceedings. I know that the current and previous ministers have experienced that.
The ensuing week of performances within and beyond the city brought a colour and atmosphere to Aberdeen that we see only when the AIYF is in town. This year, we were blessed with the same wonderful sunshine that was enjoyed at the Commonwealth games—except when we entertained the American schools orchestra from New York to a pre-performance barbecue at Braemar castle, when it simply poured with rain. It was hard to believe that the talented performers in evening dress who entertained us to Beethoven’s eighth symphony just an hour later had been dripping wet in the type of Scottish weather that they had previously just heard talked about. Perhaps my sherry trifle had something to do with their good humour—certainly, their conductor appreciated it.
To see choirs and orchestras performing magnificently together after the scantiest rehearsal time is quite humbling, and I know that that experience was repeated across many different venues where audiences were delighted by dance, theatre and international music.
The performers are catered for in the university’s halls of residence and, every evening, the young people who have not been performing that day provide an impromptu concert for the others and have a great time socially. In that way, over many years, friendships have been made across language and political divides—a number of visiting groups are now brought to Aberdeen by directors and leaders who first came to the festival as teenagers.
One group that has come to Aberdeen for many festivals since 1977 is the Saiga ballet company from Tokyo. This year, it was accompanied once again by its founder and choreographer, fondly known to us as Toshi, now a fit and sprightly 82-year-old who, I am told, still dances. Toshi is an honorary friend of the AIYF and is an enormous fan of Aberdeen. Of course, we were delighted to see her back again.
I was particularly pleased on Tuesday this week to attend the event in the Parliament that was sponsored by Christian Allard to showcase the North East Folk Collective, who also performed at this year’s AIYF. The group was formed in 2009 by Sharon Hassan, a local fiddler from Inch in Aberdeenshire, and plays traditional music from the north-east and other parts of the world. There were 22 members of the band with us on Tuesday, and we all had our toes tapping to their talented performances. I was delighted to hear from Sharon that a large number of even younger children are coming up through the ranks of her group, safeguarding the future of traditional music for many years to come.
I could go on all afternoon, but suffice it to say that the AIYF is going strong and that its current director and chief executive officer, Stewart Aitken, is doing a splendid job of leading it, despite limited staff resources and a budget that is ever tighter, as is the case with most cultural festivals. The core funding from the city council and the University of Aberdeen and the financial support of many sponsors who are too numerous to mention individually but who are led by the oil majors, BP and Shell, are absolutely essential. That money has to be vigorously pursued every year.
There are on-going discussions about the future governance and development of the AIYF, but I have no doubt that there is a will to ensure its future for many more years to come, and plans are in hand for that.
Time precludes me from saying more, but I can assure members of a warm reception and an exciting cultural experience if they come to Aberdeen between 24 July and 1 August next year.
I am a poor substitute for my colleague Stewart Stevenson, but we will hear from him in a minute or two.
It is appropriate to have this debate and celebration of Scotland’s culture in the middle of the Edinburgh festival. The fringe is the biggest arts festival in the world and, when you walk up the High Street, you would think that the whole world has come to Edinburgh.
As Kath Mainland says in her welcome in the fringe programme, the fringe is
“the greatest cultural event on the planet” and we should expect the unexpected. With what looks like around 4,000 fringe events to choose from, it certainly is “unboring”, as the programme says, and there is something for everyone to enjoy.
I have managed to see two events so far. One is called “And the Goat Remained a Goat”, about one Harry Price, ghost hunter and man of mystery, by Professor Richard Wiseman and the fabulously talented musicians, the Creative Martyrs. The show was so weird and so funny that it is a must-see for colleagues in the chamber.
The other show that I have managed to see, which played to a packed-out audience, was by the Scottish Falsetto Sock Puppet Theatre. I have not laughed so much in years. Seeing adults in knots at a puppet show was entertaining in itself, and it seemed to lift everybody’s spirits. We all felt like kids again, for a wee while.
Anyway, enough of the plugs. The festival in Edinburgh is a massive event for Scotland, and the city is the perfect stage for what must surely be the best festival in the world, which brings in huge numbers of visitors and provides an incredible boost for the city’s economy.
Of course, it is important for Scotland, too. We have been blessed with some major festivals and events, including Celtic Connections, which I think celebrates its 22nd year next year and now attracts well over 100,000 visitors to Glasgow in January. As the cabinet secretary said, we have had a huge T in the Park this summer, starring, once again, the equally huge Kilmarnock band, Biffy Clyro. With Bannockburn, the Edinburgh festival and the major events around the Commonwealth games—of course, we will shortly host the Ryder cup, too—surely 2014 will prove to be the biggest and greatest year ever for Scotland. From Glasgow to Edinburgh and from Shetland to the Borders, Scotland has opened its doors to the world. Visitors have come in huge numbers to sample the best of what it can offer, and the Scottish people have been the most fantastic hosts.
The Lonely Planet, Wanderlust and Rough Guide travel guides have put Scotland way up there among the top recommendations for places for people to visit this year. I am sure that, when the figures come out, we will see what a hugely successful year it has been for Scotland.
The events are, of course, important in themselves for the economic benefits and international prestige that they bring to our country, but we all want to see the positive impact that they will have in our communities in the long run on things such as health, participation in sport and increasing general quality of life and job opportunities for our citizens. Those will be the real markers of success.
There have been a number of local festivals and events of note in my constituency over the summer.
Our Stewarton Bonnet Makers Guild festival has been on the go since 1933, and the Corsehill queen this year shared the limelight when the Commonwealth games baton came into town.
Only last weekend, I attended the Newmilns community gala, which has, I am told, been on the go since the days of King James I. If that is true, other festivals have a wee bit of catching up to do.
Our dearly beloved Darvel music festival is now in its 14th year and is attracting an increasing number of visitors and fantastic bands under the dedicated guidance of Neil and Sheila McKenna.
To make all the festivals—whether national or local—the successful events that they are, a rich variety of ingredients is needed, of course. Funding from the Scottish Government, the local councils and private investors makes it all financially possible. The artists and sportsmen and sportswomen need a stage on which to showcase their talents, but what really makes those festivals and events tick for me is the people on the ground who make them happen. I mean the people with a smile on their face when a person is lost and cannot find their way to a venue, and who answer the same questions day in and day out without complaining and go out of their way to ensure that our visitors have a wonderful time. I mean the people in our local communities, such as Stewarton, Newmilns and Darvel, who put endless time and energy into organising those local events, celebrating their local history and culture, and keeping up the traditions that are loved by all and help to define us as a nation.
That is what turns festivals into great events. It is not just about the shows and performances; it is the warmth of the welcome that is afforded to the people who come to visit us that makes the difference. That is what our visitors treasure, and we cannot fund or buy that.
Scotland has been the most exciting place in the world to visit this year. Our people know how to celebrate, put on a show and have a great time doing it. We are a nation that is re-emerging with greater confidence than ever in our history. I hope that the greatest celebration is shortly to come.
For a moment, I thought that I was about to be thrown out with the Willie Coffey bath water.
I certainly welcome the debate and whole-heartedly support the motion and, indeed, Labour’s amendment. In fact, the debate is quite a welcome antidote to the debate on welfare that I sat through yesterday.
I give due warning that I will concentrate most of my remarks on the excellence and vibrancy of what is going on in my constituency—in Orkney—and, like other members, make no apology for doing so. I will touch on some of the themes that I raised during the recent youth arts strategy debate.
I pay tribute—as Patricia Ferguson’s amendment does—to what is being achieved in the capital, notably by Festivals Edinburgh. It is truly a world-class celebration of culture that demonstrates its intrinsic value, as Liz Smith pointed out. The variety is truly astonishing, and that is a fitting legacy from Sir Jonathan Mills, to whom others have referred.
Despite that intrinsic value, we should not be embarrassed in any way by the economic value of the festivals. Edinburgh is testimony to the extent to which culture and festivals drive tourism and generate economic benefit directly, but also by providing the sorts of places in which people want to live and work. By extension, economic benefit is delivered in that way.
It is unusual for us to be here in Edinburgh during August. It is not, as colleagues may be surprised to learn, all upside. Nevertheless, it gives those of us who travel from further afield a first opportunity to attend the festival of politics this weekend, and also to immerse ourselves a bit in the festival and fringe that are going on at the moment.
Those who know me will know that I am no expert or necessarily aficionado of modern dance; nevertheless, earlier this week, I found myself at a production by Black Grace, a New Zealand dance group with Samoan roots, which produced something that was truly exhilarating. The cabinet secretary suggested that everybody can dance. If I had tried half the moves that the dancers made, I would be in traction. However, I put on the record my thanks to Creative New Zealand for its efforts in supporting Black Grace and a number of other New Zealand artists who are present in the festival. They enrich the experience for all of us.
My conversion to modern dance theatre can be attributed to the powers of persuasion of fringe chief executive, the oft-quoted Kath Mainland. As Colin Keir suggested, her CBE is richly merited and is recognition of her achievements in building on the success of the fringe. I congratulate her and her remarkable team on what looks set to be another record-breaking season for the fringe.
It is no surprise, of course, that Kath is a native Orcadian. I recognise that it is not a competition, but surely few places can lay claim to the range and quality of festivals that take place each year in the islands that I represent. Like Edinburgh’s, Orkney’s calendar is packed almost throughout the year. In the one-act play festival in February, Orkney groups reached the national finals in both the adult and youth categories, and there is real excitement that Orkney arts theatre will play host to the Scottish finals next year. That is a reward for the hard work that has been put in by far too many people to mention, and it is also recognition of the healthy state of drama in the islands.
We move on to the Orkney folk festival, which is internationally renowned, as the cabinet secretary kindly acknowledged. It attracts acts from all over the world, but it is firmly rooted in the folk music traditions of Orkney. Stromness was again alive with the sound of music from every bar and hall spilling out into the street. It really was a wonderful atmosphere. I declare an interest as the brother of somebody who is integral to organising the festival, but it has been particularly gratifying to see the number of young acts in recent years who have gone on to star at Celtic Connections and other festivals in Scotland, in the UK and further afield.
The St Magnus international festival in June similarly enjoys an international reputation, blending quality and variety exceptionally well while also taking steps to engage with the wider community through concerts in the smaller isles and rural parishes and workshops in schools.
Agricultural shows then take centre stage for a couple of months before the science festival gets under way at the beginning of September. It is a truly eclectic mix of talks, workshops, concerts and gatherings of every conceivable sort based, often rather loosely, around particular scientific themes. There is something for everyone, as the organiser Howie Firth observes, and, quite rightly in my mind, it is one of the small number of festivals that receives support through Government funding.
If I may, I will start the process of post-referendum peace and reconciliation by inviting the cabinet secretary up to Orkney again for the Orkney blues festival. It runs from 19 to 21 September and, perhaps even more than the festival that Sarah Boyack mentioned, it may be an ideal opportunity to harness the cabinet secretary’s mood at that time.
As the nights close in, we settle down for Orkney’s storytelling festival at the end of October.
Given that array of festivals, as well as the wider cultural and artistic activity that takes place in Orkney during the year, I was delighted but not surprised to hear earlier this week that a two-day creative Orkney event is planned for the end of September. It will be hosted by the centre for Nordic studies and is a celebration of Orkney’s vibrant cultural and creative scene. It will include everything from field trips round neolithic Orkney and tours of the Pier Arts Centre to jewellery workshops and a discussion on the work of photojournalist Gunnie Moberg, whose photos have adorned the walls in this Parliament.
That is all positive, but I will sound a slightly discordant note before I conclude. Those festivals thrive—and perhaps only survive—by being able to attract visitors to the islands. It is therefore disappointing that such significant cuts were made to the lifeline ferry services across the Pentland Firth under the current contract, which was negotiated by the Government. I know that some sailings have been put back this year to coincide with the year of homecoming but, if we are really to be successful in growing the festivals, extending the shoulders of the tourist season and capitalising on the wider economic opportunities, ministers need to review the decision.
I very much welcome this debate. I acknowledge the wonderful story that Orkney and indeed Scotland have to tell with regard to our festivals—in this year, perhaps, more than ever before—and I look forward to seeing a number of colleagues at the festival of politics in the Parliament over the weekend.
I suspect that my cultural horizons are a little closer in than some who will participate in this debate. Indeed, when my wife discovers that I have spoken in a debate on culture she will no doubt express considerable astonishment. However, from where we live it is a three-hour round trip to get to the nearest cinema, a three-hour round trip to get to the nearest professional theatre and a two-hour round trip to get to the nearest amateur theatre—and a very good seasonal offering it is.
However, that situation does not mean that we do not have culture in my part of the country, because culture is often small scale and local. I was slightly surprised that the culture secretary did not mention in her speech the Linlithgow folk festival, which this year is inadvertently taking place in the week immediately before the referendum, thus restricting some people’s ability to go to and participate in it. Part of the event next year will be a celebration of Matt McGinn’s life and contribution to Scottish culture. In Linlithgow, and in communities all round Scotland, we have smaller-scale but very effective and focused festivals that engage a large proportion of local people.
Rob Gibson talked about the fèisean. I would have said more than I am about to say on this, but the Fèisean Bharraigh on Barra and Vatersay has been going since 1981 and it makes a terrific contribution to sustaining Gaelic culture and many instruments that are perhaps not much used in other parts of Scotland. I was a great fan of “The Tales of Para Handy” when I was a youngster. I have probably bought that book six, seven, eight or nine times, because I keep giving it away and not getting it back as it is a compelling read. Much of it was written over 100 years ago, but a lot of the political discussions in it still echo today, interestingly. Para Handy’s instrument of choice was the trump—the jaw harp—which the player just sticks in their mouth and flicks away at, and changes the shape of their mouth to make music. Even that is probably beyond my musical abilities, and it is the simplest of all instruments. I have not heard the trump played for a very long time, so perhaps we should have some Government money for that and keep alive Para Handy’s favourite instrument.
Rhoda Grant suggested that local festivals cannot compete, but I am not so certain. What I heard was a sort of corporatist view of life that there should be great overarching co-ordination of dates and activities. I take an entirely contrary view and appreciate the anarchy that comes from grass-roots activity and a little bit of survival of the fittest but with some focused financial and organisational support. Platforms such as that which was offered by homecoming 2014 publicise local events—that is the kind of help that happens. However, by no means should we be interfering in any way, shape or form with that helpful anarchy that comes from a few enthusiastic individuals in communities across Scotland.
What actually is a festival? It comes from the Latin words “festum” and “festa”, which just mean “feast”. We have not heard much about festivals of food, but in the north-east we have festivals of food, which I very much welcome. Of course, coming from that Latin derivation and being applied across Scotland in many different ways means that a festival can cover almost anything. However, getting co-operation and engagement from across our communities is what sustains our festivals.
How many festivals do we have in Scotland? The answer is quite interesting. I put the term “Scottish festivals 2014” into Google and I got 38.5 million hits. I thought that that might be slightly too many, so I refined it down and the lowest figure that I could get with the most restrictive hit for 2014 was 3,500. There is a lot going on in Scotland.
Not everyone is a great fan of festivals. Detective Inspector Rebus is the creation of Ian Rankin, and members will know if they have read his books that Rebus drinks in the Oxford Bar in Young Street. That pub used to be owned by a guy called Willie Ross, who was a homophobe, an anglophobe, a misogynist—he hated almost everybody. He used to shut his pub for the three weeks of the festival and put a notice on the door that said, “Shut due to festival.”
Thankfully, Willie Ross—who is now deceased, so we can be as rude about him as we want to be and should be—was the absolute exception. I have a Giles cartoon book from 1948 that includes a cartoon about the fringe; that was the first year that the fringe sputtered into life. The fringe has been around a long time and it very quickly travelled across the world and across public discourse.
In my constituency the most important festival of all takes place: the Scottish traditional boat festival. It started 21 years ago, when 200 people came to Portsoy, and it now attracts 20,000 people. Occasionally they get good weather.
We have lots of festivals. I have a huge long list. I suppose that we hope that politicians do not get greatly associated with the Scots fiddle festival—think about it.
The whole point about festivals is not about levelling down great international events, but about raising up local aspiration and achievement and preserving local culture.
It is important and fitting that we are having this debate about the major national and international festivals that are being held across Scotland this year. I very much want to talk about how our major festivals encourage, raise the profile of and raise participation in local festivals and themed festivals across Scotland, not just this year but every year.
I will give members a personal anecdote, if I may. In 1947, at the first Edinburgh international festival, my mother-in-law, Elizabeth Watson, was the soprano for the Orpheus choir and sang for the king and queen of the day. My family is very proud of that piece of history.
We are talking about festivals and culture. I was thinking about why we were having this debate and about why we all enjoy festivals. Are they not about us being able to indulge our passions and at the same time stretch our horizons? We almost have a cultural work-out when we attend festivals. They are about community as well, which we have heard about from other speakers; the cabinet secretary, Patricia Ferguson and Willie Coffey spoke about that.
A festival is a community of itself. It is a community of those who attend and those who perform, and very much a community of those who produce the festivals, especially when we are talking about small, local festivals. I was delighted that members such as Liam McArthur and Willie Coffey paid tribute to our many local volunteers who work so hard to produce our local festivals.
Members will not be surprised that I want to use a fair bit of my speech to talk about the festivals that we have in my constituency of Strathkelvin and Bearsden and those who work so hard to produce such fantastic events for our communities. Liam McArthur beat me, because his list of events and festivals for his Orkney Islands constituency covered every month of the year, I think. There are four festivals—out of a large number—in my constituency that I thought were important to highlight in this debate.
A festival that has been running for a few years in Bishopbriggs in my constituency is the festival for Thomas Muir. Many members will know that Thomas Muir has the title of the father of democracy—not just in Scotland but across the world. He was born and lived in Huntershill house in Bishopbriggs, where we have had a Thomas Muir festival for quite a few years. We now have a Thomas Muir trail. We do not just listen to the history and debate the philosophy; we actually walk the streets and byways that Thomas Muir walked. Next year will be the 250th anniversary of Thomas Muir’s birth. I hope that we will be able to have an event here in the Parliament to celebrate that most important of births in the democratic calendar.
A new festival that started just last year in my constituency is the Bearsden festival. It was held over one weekend in September last year and it was incredibly successful. Bearsden has about 9,000 households. For the craft festival over that weekend, 1,500 people turned up. Given the millions that we talked about earlier, that sounds insignificant, but 1,500 people out of Bearsden’s population represents quite a significant community turnout.
We have been spurred on to continue this year to have more festivals in Bearsden. It was decided to split the festival into three and we have already had the first. When the baton came through Bearsden, we had the Bearsden sport and Commonwealth food festival. I understand that everybody ate themselves to a standstill, despite the rain pouring down. Remember how the baton went all around Scotland in the sunshine? When it came to us, it poured all day.
East Dunbartonshire cycle festival in Bishopbriggs has been going for a number of years now. Two years ago, it became not only a festival of freewheeling cycling; we managed to add in fair trade as well, so it is now a fair trade cycle festival. Please look and learn—we can promote lots of things at the same time.
I will finish with the Kirkintilloch canal festival, which is to be held on Sunday 24 August. I invite everyone to join the 25,000 people who come through Kirkintilloch in one day. Kirkintilloch—a small town in the centre of Scotland—attracts 25,000 people. It is a fantastic day and so far—for the past few years—it has been sunny every Sunday.
Festivals are fun, educational and neighbourly, but they also boost the local economy—with 1,500 people through Bearsden Cross in one afternoon and 25,000 people through Kirkintilloch in one day.
As a librarian I have to mention quickly the festivals of reading that we have across Scotland. There is book week Scotland in November and the summer reading challenge for young people in our public libraries, which is sponsored by Tesco Bank.
I turn to my two favourites, one of which everyone will expect me to mention. First, for Westerton garden suburb’s centenary last year we had a whole year of festivals in my small village. Secondly, Skye’s tattie bogle festival in Minginish is different, quirky and great. Please go—they have a Facebook page—and look at all those scarecrows.
Festivals are for us to enjoy and to join in. I thank the many people who act and perform in them, but most especially I thank those who help us to produce them.
I welcome the opportunity to talk about Scotland’s festivals, especially the smaller, community-based events that take place all over the country and get very little recognition for what they do for us.
I particularly thank all the parents, aunties, uncles, grandmothers and grandfathers who take toddlers and young people to various clubs up and down the country, and who sit in the evenings and stitch all sorts of garments for them at their own personal expense and make them proud that they can achieve something in the community. These events, which enrich us on a daily basis, take place all over the country throughout the year.
I have seen it time and again that when these small groups apply for funding in councils and various other places they are written off because they are too small and are not important enough. Believe me, those events are where it all starts. They are where people find their niche. They then want to continue to do these things all their life and support other activities throughout the country. Sometimes we underestimate their value. I particularly want to thank all those people who make such a huge effort on a weekly basis to support their young people to engage in community events and festivals up and down Scotland.
Over the past year I have been involved in many events where the community gets together and celebrates all that Glasgow has to offer. The quality of the gigs encourages visitors to keep coming all year round, every year. That is important. It is not just about small events in communities; we also want to share our festivals with other people.
On the face of it, getting people to come to Glasgow in January to listen to traditional music sounds like a big ask, but Celtic Connections continues to go from strength to strength. That is a huge achievement.
A festival that is close to my heart is the Glasgow mela, which has been happening since the early 1990s. Glasgow Life plays a key role in the organisation of the mela every year. The mela celebrates Glasgow and Scotland’s diverse communities and multicultural society, and it has become so popular that there is a waiting list for people who want to participate, who come from all over the UK—despite the fact that it gets rained off every second year.
The mela could not have become so successful without the tremendous support of Glasgow City Council over the past 20 or so years, which I witnessed when I was a councillor in Glasgow. It is also supported by many other organisations, which is wonderful, because I like to see such things eventually become self-sufficient. It started as an ethnic minority mela, but it is now Glasgow mela and it attracts a rich and diverse group of participants. It is a fantastic event.
People sometimes wonder whether all that activity happens because we are part of the UK or because of local spirit. I know that the minority community has copied many events from down south and adapted them to Scottish design and culture. That shows the spirit among Scottish communities; we might import things from other parts of the world but we tend to adapt them to our culture. That is wonderful, because it shows how we celebrate diversity, taking up what other communities do and creating a brand new cultural activity.
The Indian Bollywood industry frequently comes to Scotland to make films, as do the Lollywood film companies, from Lahore in Pakistan. When the film makers come, they tap into the talents of the local community, which can offer something different from what is available in their home towns. We can offer something unique, even though it might be similar to the traditions elsewhere. The expertise and skill of our young people is amazing, and what they can offer is fantastic. Perhaps that is why people from many countries come to make films in Glasgow and in Scotland’s countryside.
Festivals are important, because they add so much richness to people’s lives. I ask the cabinet secretary to make a commitment to the people of Scotland that the Government will not cut funding for such activities but strive to find resources to support them. That would be fantastic. I do not expect the cabinet secretary to give me figures just now—I would not dare put her on the spot. I simply echo the wishes of all the people who put on festivals on a shoestring. They really need support from councils and the Government, so I am sure that support would be very welcome.
I have had the privilege of travelling around the world and I assure members that no one can match our festivals in Scotland. We should be proud of that. That is why I always thank all those relatives who do so much to develop children’s skills.
This is an interesting debate and we all have our own perspectives. As I reflected on my own experience of the Edinburgh festival, particularly the fringe, I thought that what excites me about it is that it is live performance. Members will know that I have a particular interest in music. I was up the road in the Canongate church only last week for a live performance of Bach’s “Mass in B minor”, which is a magnificent work that I had never heard live before. It was a stunningly professional performance and a moving experience. At some point last week, I was in St Giles cathedral, where the resident organist, Peter Backhouse, played a wonderful instrument with a wide variety of sounds. I remember that, at the end, he got Louis Vierne’s “Carillon de Westminster” going, and there was a growling from that instrument that can only be experienced by being there. It is a physical experience and it is an absolutely fabulous live experience.
I also went with my wife to see “How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying”, which is a wonderful parody for how one might succeed in politics without really trying, and it was a fabulous performance by students from the University of Dundee. It brought back memories for my wife, but we do not discuss from how long ago. Also, if members have not heard our own Fred MacAulay discussing current political life, I did so last night and he is on good form. I recommend it.
Nanette Milne talked about the Aberdeen international youth festival. It is a fabulous activity, parts of which get down to my part of the world in north Angus and the Mearns. It gets to Stonehaven, Montrose, Brechin and Laurencekirk. That is hugely important because it means that those youngsters come to different environments and often small venues with enthusiastic audiences who get to hear something that they would otherwise never get to hear.
At Stonehaven town hall recently, we had a typical concert with the Madison boy choir from Wisconsin, the Blackburn with Darwen Music Service Big Band from Lancashire, and some traditional Scots musicians that have been previously discussed. After the concert, when I looked at some of the material that had been produced by some of those organisations, the faces were different from those we saw last year. I was reminded that these groups develop from year to year and we are still handing down the traditions and skills from one year group to the next. They are learning their craft from those who are at the front and from the performers who are around them at time.
I agree that the peripheral AIYF is appreciated—I mentioned Aberdeenshire and clearly it also goes into Angus. Sadly, the festival gets no financial support from Aberdeenshire Council or Angus Council. As the MSP for that area, could the member use his good offices to put a bit of pressure on Angus Council to support the festival that it benefits from?
Can I say that I will try.
I will discuss local festivals, if I may, because north Angus and the Mearns are absolutely full of them. Forfar, my biggest town, has the Forfarfest in May and the Forfar harvest fest in September. Brechin’s music festival is a long weekend at the end of August. The Montrose music festival happened earlier in the summer and, uniquely in my part of the world, they set up bang in the middle of town outside the townhouse and people can probably hear the music from miles away. These festivals bring all sorts together and they have all sorts of small performances, mostly in pubs and church halls because those are the kinds of venue that we have, and they all work because everybody mucks in and makes it happen.
The same applies to the Stonehaven folk festival, which happened a couple of weeks ago. I have a happy memory of sitting on the harbour wall listening to Iain McFadden playing his pipes on one side and traditional musicians over the other side; I could hear them both mingling across the water. Stonehaven also has the world paper-and-comb championships in St Bridget’s hall. It is a serious event, folks, and highly recommended.
More poignant this year is the Mearns connection festival, which happens at the Grassic Gibbon centre near Arbuthnott. Of course, Lewis Grassic Gibbon is famous for “Sunset Song”, a story set during the first world war that depicts the Mearns, in which he lived and wrote. There is an extraordinary poignancy about that this year.
We also have a new festival—Scotland’s tea festival in Laurencekirk, which I am sure will come as news to members. It begins very soon—22 August—and celebrates the local man, James Taylor, who apparently more or less invented the Ceylon tea industry in the 1880s after disease had wiped out the coffee crop. Not only did we invent most of the things in the world, but it appears that we even invented Ceylon tea.
Members have mentioned non-musical events, so I would like to mention the Johnshaven fish festival, which is an annual event down at the harbour in Johnshaven, with stalls, music and a wonderful raft race.
All those festivals have to be organised. As other members have done, I thank and congratulate those who organise them because, without the organisers, the festivals simply would not happen.
“Our size is only limited by our imagination, our reach as extensive as our desire and capacity to explore.”
That struck me as an extraordinarily accurate way to describe artistic endeavour that applies not just in our nation but to anybody, anywhere. Our capacity is largely limited by what we think we can do, although it is of course also limited by our opportunities and, in particular, the educational opportunities that we have when we are young. Although the Scottish Government has made a huge commitment to music through Sistema Scotland, we need to work hard to ensure that instrumental tuition in our schools is developed. I know that that is not within the cabinet secretary’s remit, but it is enormously important that our youngsters have an opportunity to do those musical things. I leave that with the cabinet secretary and the Parliament as a thought for the future.
As others have said, the major festivals, such as those that are taking place in Edinburgh, are world famous and attract visitors from across the globe, contributing many millions to the national economy. However, like others, I point out that it is not just on the international stage where festivals make a valuable contribution, and I want to highlight the contribution that regional festivals make to their local communities. Unsurprisingly, I will do that with reference to my constituency, as Dumfries and Galloway boasts a wide range of popular festivals throughout the year, many of which have been in existence for quite a bit longer than the Edinburgh festival. It will not be an exhaustive list, so I apologise to any festivals that I have omitted—this is a sample.
The first festival of the year is only three years old but it has been remarkably successful in that short period. The Big Burns festival, a contemporary festival that includes events such as a burlesque Burns supper, takes place over the weekend nearest Burns night. Last year, it attracted 14,000 visitors, 15 per cent of whom came from outwith Dumfries and Galloway. As a consequence, plans are under way to extend the festival over nine days next year. The festival also involves a large outdoor arts celebration, which is quite unusual at that time of year, so we always have our fingers crossed that the weather will not be too bad.
Wildlife tourism is valuable to the region and is encouraged by the Wild Spring festival in April and May. This year, it involved around 100 wildlife events, featuring several iconic species that are native to Dumfries and Galloway such as red squirrels, barnacle geese, otters and red kites. The Spring Fling is a visual arts and crafts festival that takes place in May and, in the same month, the Dumfries and Galloway arts festival is a celebration of the performing arts in venues large and small across the region.
People interested in recreational tourism are attracted by a number of walking festivals, including those in lower Annandale, Moffat, Langholm, and upper Nithsdale. The region also hosts a number of music festivals. Famously, there is the Wickerman in Galloway, but there is also the Eden festival at Raehills in Annandale in June and, just last weekend, we had Youth Beatz, a free music festival for young people in the region that is presented by Dumfries and Galloway Council and Youth Work Nithsdale. There are jazz festivals in Kirkcudbright in June and in Lockerbie in September, the latter of which was spectacularly headlined by Ruby Turner last year, and I am looking forward to finding out who is coming this year. Moffat incorporates a traditional music festival into its programme for the annual gala and the little village of Moniaive, which has a population of only 487, hosts not one but two annual music festivals—a folk festival in May and the Michaelmas Bluegrass Festival in September.
I think that I am the only representative of the debatable lands who is taking part in the debate, so I must mention the galas, common ridings and ridings of the marches that are celebrations of the culture and history of the south of Scotland. Virtually every village has its own gala, and the larger communities of Lockerbie, Dumfries, Annan, Langholm and Sanquhar have common ridings or ridings of the marches followed by galas and parades, which regularly attract between 100 and 200 horses and riders. All of them are beautifully turned out, but even more attention is probably paid to the appearance of the horses than is paid to that of the riders. It can take many hours to get a horse ready for a riding of the marches.
Most of the galas date from the early 20th century—Langholm’s is older; it started in 1759—but their origins go back centuries to the border reivers of the 13th and 14th centuries. In those times, the marches were ridden to check that no neighbouring clan from either side of the border had made off with the town’s sheep or cattle, or purloined some of its territory.
Some argue that the origins of the common ridings date back even further than that and lie in the Celtic summer festivals that Liz Smith mentioned, which involved horse racing and horse trading. Langholm common riding attracts former residents, who return year after year to stand in Kirk Wynd to witness the horses—this year, I think that there were 174 of them—gallop past at full pelt; I am surprised that no health and safety person has found out about that. They also witness the crying of the fair three times, which involves a man standing on the back of a horse shouting while surrounded by the entire population of the town and the surrounding area. On one occasion, the horse—it was a new horse—took some exception to the proceedings and it looked as if the man would be put off, but he managed to cry the fair before the horse bolted. In most places, people would have been frightened but, as it was Langholm, people just stood back, let the horse bolt through and came back together again.
Annan combines its gala and riding of the marches with a pipe band competition, which culminates in a performance by the massed pipe bands in the town’s high street. I would defy anyone who listens to the performance of “Highland Cathedral” by the massed pipe bands in Annan High Street not to feel the hairs on the back of their neck stand up.
Moffat, with its history as a market town in the wool trade, prefers to celebrate the sheep rather than the horse. The shepherd and his lass are installed the evening before the gala, when the shepherd’s ball takes place. Moffat also holds an annual sheep race, which will take place this Sunday. That is quite an event, too.
There are festivals to suit all ages and interests, but one aspect that they all have in common, as others have mentioned, is that they would not happen were it not for the volunteers—it is often the same people who volunteer year after year—who put in a huge amount of time and effort. One of the local councillors tells me that, in Langholm, the planning for next year’s common riding started the day after this year’s common riding.
Those regional and local events do not generate the income to allow people to be employed to apply for grants, to fill in the necessary notifications or to engage participants and performers. It is ordinary volunteers who have to do all that work, which can be pretty onerous. As I said, the work of organising the next year’s event often starts as soon as that year’s event has taken place.
The festivals do more than provide activity, enjoyment and celebration, and they do more than attract visitors and contribute to the local economy. They promote a sense of community identity and contribute to the wellbeing and cohesion of the community. In fact, I think that the work that is done for the festivals helps communities to survive some of the bad times that can come along. We have seen that in Dumfries and Galloway. Today’s debate is a good opportunity to pay tribute to and thank all those people who work so hard to make such events happen. I thank everyone in Dumfriesshire who contributes to our wonderful array of festivals.
I have thoroughly enjoyed the debate. I think that all the speeches have been fantastic in letting us know what happens not just in my area but throughout Scotland. The debate is very timely, coming as it does after the success of the Commonwealth games, during the Edinburgh festival and before the MTV awards in my city of Glasgow. The way in which it has been conducted has meant that it has served as a great showcase for the whole world of exactly what Scotland has to offer.
My goodness—when we listen to what everyone has said, we see that we have a fantastic country. When I saw the Commonwealth games being broadcast around the world on the television, I had a lump in my throat. I was proud to see everything that went on not just in Glasgow but beyond.
I am in the fortunate position of representing Glasgow city centre—Glasgow Kelvin. A number of festivals—there are probably too many to mention and I will not mention them all—take place in my constituency. Members have mentioned Celtic Connections, which features some of the best Scottish and international talent. We have Aye Write!—Glasgow’s book festival—which celebrates writing, books and reading and features the best of Scottish writers and international authors. We have Glasgay, which is a wonderful, colourful and inclusive festival. We have the comedy festival, the jazz festival and many more, which all—believe it or not—take place in Glasgow Kelvin. Like others, I apologise if I have left out any festivals.
I will concentrate on a couple of festivals that are close to my heart and which I attend all the time, although I also try to attend events in the many other festivals that take place in my constituency. During the west end festival in Kelvingrove, 400 events take place over 80 venues. The parade in Byres Road is fantastic—it was spectacular this year. It attracts thousands of visitors and involves local community groups. This year, the restored Kelvingrove bandstand opened. It lay derelict for many years, but it has been brought back to life. It is much loved and was much used during the festival and the Commonwealth games. I thank everyone, including voluntary groups, who was involved in restoring the bandstand.
The west end festival is run on a pretty tight budget—members have spoken about budgets. I thank the many people who put their heart and soul into it so that we can enjoy it year after year. It will have its 20th birthday next year. I do not like to be a wee bit cheeky, but I am looking at the cab sec; I am not saying that we should get money from the Government, but I am sure that Michael Dale and others would be pleased to speak to the cab sec about some way to get a wee bit more funding for the festival.
Hanzala Malik mentioned the mela, which is another fantastic event. It is held in Kelvingrove park during the merchant city festival and it celebrates all the diverse cultures not only in Glasgow but throughout Scotland. It is fantastic that the mela mixes the traditional with the modern, so all age groups go along and thoroughly enjoy it. Hanzala was right that, unfortunately, it rained pretty badly this year, but we still went and thoroughly enjoyed the mela.
When I intervened on Rhoda Grant, I mentioned the merchant city festival, which is a fantastic success. It takes place in my constituency—not far from where I live—so I know from my doorstep exactly what goes on. The festival is a success every year, but it proved an even bigger success this year. As the cab sec said, Glasgow was buzzing—it certainly was, and no more so than in the merchant city. We had food zones with fantastic food from around the world, we had stages with live groups, we had acrobats and we had a marvellous maze for young kids—perhaps I am a young kid at heart, because I thought that it was really good. The sunshine was wonderful, as were the people—not just the Glaswegians but the people from throughout the country and the world who came along in their droves to enjoy the festival. It will go from strength to strength next year.
There is merit in Patricia Ferguson’s idea of a festival of sport, particularly for younger people. That would fall within Shona Robison’s sport portfolio rather than the cab sec’s. We talk about the legacy of the Commonwealth games, and perhaps that suggestion would be a good way of exploring exactly what legacy has been left and continuing the success of the games. I would be happy to be involved in that.
In opening, I said that we in Scotland have something to celebrate, which we certainly do. The debate has been great and I have loved it. I would love to take a couple of months off to travel round the country from the Shetlands to Dumfries, given what Elaine said. Fantastic work goes on across Scotland. The debate shows that, although even we do not know all that goes on in our country, plenty of people throughout the world know, and more will know this year because of the promotion that Scotland has had.
This is a great place to live and a great place to be. I look forward to more success for not just local festivals but those with an international flavour.
The danger when speaking at the fag end of a debate is not to avoid duplication. We have had an informative discussion today and heard a great deal of praise for all Scotland’s festivals, including festival 2014 and culture 2014. We are all agreed on the success of this year’s festivals thus far, and it is fantastic to hear such unanimous praise for the deserving performers, organisers, back-up teams and volunteers.
I add my voice to the chorus of praise from members of all parties for the plethora of festivals that are being held, including the 20th Commonwealth games, festival 2014 and culture 2014, and many others. With more than 1,000 performers across 100 venues in Glasgow, including so many activities that were free of charge, festival 2014 delivered for Scotland and displayed our prowess to the world. Furthermore, more than 1,000 events over the course of culture 2014 spanned words, movement, song, dance, music, theatre, designs, films, ideas and art. Every cultural craving was catered for.
We must of course pay tribute to the people and organisations whose commitment has enabled such a spectacular show to be put on. I echo the sentiments of fellow members in that regard. The tributes paid by my fellow members have rightly highlighted the fantastic impact of those additions to our country’s cultural prestige.
It is thanks to the people of the Glasgow 2014 organising committee, Glasgow Life, Creative Scotland and many community and cultural organisations that Scotland’s international reputation for cultural prestige has been so entertainingly demonstrated. As my learned friend said, there have been 3,000 festivals, which have highlighted the wealth of cultural talent in Scotland and our ability to put on cultural celebrations that people around the world will remember.
I take this opportunity to draw members’ attention once more to the biggest and most repeated demonstration of Scotland’s creative talent and our rich cultural heritage: the Edinburgh international festival and festival fringe—the largest arts festival in the world. As an Edinburgh local and an MSP for Lothian, I take pride in all aspects of the Edinburgh festival. I pay tribute to its organisers and its performers, and to its lasting impact on the city.
The success of the festival is not attributed to a particular team of organisers or to a particular selection of performances. Rather, its success and worldwide fame is due to the ability of Scotland’s people repeatedly to put on a show that allows our best talent to flourish as well as attracting the world’s best performers to our nation’s capital. The list of people who have come to the festival and the fringe who were not famous at the time but have now become worldwide names is too long to mention.
As we heard from Sarah Boyack, the Edinburgh festival was founded in 1947 in a post-war effort to encourage participation in the arts, and it has been attracting performers and audiences from around the world in ever greater numbers ever since. It brings up a lot of impresarios and other people who want to see who the coming attractions are and what is happening.
The same can be said of the Edinburgh festival fringe, which has grown from a gatecrash by eight theatre companies. Two of those companies have an unbroken record of attendance, and I challenge my learned friend to tell me which ones they are.
Indeed, the 2013 festival saw 45,464 performances of 2,871 shows, and I am pleased to see that this year is also a sell-out. That spectacular growth and repeated success demonstrates the innate cultural progress of the people of Scotland, which I am sure we are all proud of and wish to celebrate whole-heartedly today.
The fact that such festivals go on all over Scotland indicates the strength of our arts, performance and music. It is important that we acknowledge the breadth and spectacular variety of the performances on offer every August. From drama, musicals and opera to dance, comedy and a cappella singing, the international festival and fringe truly offer something for everyone, even if the comedy does not always succeed.
When one considers that there are now—as we have heard—10 other major festivals in the annual festivities, including the Edinburgh international book festival, the science festival, the jazz and blues festival and the international military tattoo, one sees that the scale of Edinburgh’s achievement is truly amazing and deserves the greatest admiration. It is only in Edinburgh, in August, that I can attend a book talk in the morning, enjoy whichever style of comedy suits my taste in the afternoon, watch the military tattoo at night and hear the taxi drivers groaning about the crowds as I come home.
The tattoo has grown since 1949 to attract 220,000 visitors each year and an annual television audience of more than 100 million. It is further testament to Scotland’s ability to put on a world-beating international show.
We have celebrated Scotland’s recent cultural festivities and festival 2014 and culture 2014, as well as touching on our country’s spectacular heritage as demonstrated by the Edinburgh festival. However, I redraw members’ attention to the number of festivals that highlight not only the strength but the breadth of Scotland’s cultural tradition: T in the Park, fringe by the sea, Lennoxlove book festival, Wigtown book festival, Dundee women’s festival, Aberdeen jazz festival, Fife comedy festival, tradfest, Penfest and Coloursfest—any fest you like. We all know the origin of the word fest, or festival, so I will not go into that.
The Commonwealth games, festival 2014 and culture 2014 delivered on the world stage. Our fine festival heritage makes it clear that we can do that again and again. As well as applauding the fantastic work of the Glasgow 2014 organising committee, Glasgow Life, Creative Scotland and the many community and cultural organisations that continue to enrich our culture, I highlight one of the key aspects of the festivals that we celebrate today: they are truly international. International participation among performers and audiences has risen higher and higher in our festivals to foster international understanding and strengthen our well-earned reputation as one of the best countries in the world for all the arts—visual and musical—to flourish in.
I hope that Scotland continues to add to its fantastic repertoire of festivals, shows and every sort of cultural event imaginable, because we have shown that we can deliver and the world is impressed. Furthermore, I hope that the debate and the attention that the festival celebrations will bring deliver some of the recognition that Scotland’s festival organisers and performers deserve for their invaluable contribution to Scotland, the arts and international collaboration.
I have no hesitation in supporting the motion and the amendment.
This has been an interesting debate and it has been worth our while to hear colleagues talk about what interests them and what is happening in their local areas.
I add my thanks to all the staff of Glasgow Life and Glasgow City Council who worked so hard to make festival 2014 such a success. I also thank all the volunteers who participated in the games opening and closing ceremonies. At one point, I calculated that some of the dancers performed constantly for two hours in very bright sunshine, wearing what looked to me like very heavy costumes and brandishing chairs for some of the event. Our thanks go to them, too.
My one regret about 2014 is that the calendar has been so cluttered—not to mention the fact that we have another interesting event coming up in only a few weeks—which has made it difficult to get to as many things as I would have liked to attend. However, I suppose that it is not a bad thing to have an embarrassment of riches.
Liz Smith brought a welcome historical perspective to our festival offering. I am glad that she made the connection with the built heritage, because I agree that culture and our built heritage help us to have a sense of ourselves and a sense of the place that we inhabit. That must be a good thing, and must be what we come back to and root ourselves in time after time.
I agree with Clare Adamson that this year has been exciting, but I think that Scotland is exciting every year. I am sure that she would agree with me.
One of the events that I was not able to get to was the performance of the choir at lunchtime today. I very much regret that. However, I happened to have the door of my office open and, although I was on the other side of the building, I heard every note. It sounded stunning, but that just made me regret all the more the fact that I was not there to hear it.
Nigel Don hit on something important when he talked about the experience of live performance. There is something remarkable about sharing a live performance; I think it is something that we all enjoy whether or not we are consciously enjoying it. Perhaps sharing it is just one of the things that adds to the experience. I am not sure, but I think that it is an important aspect.
My colleague, Sarah Boyack, was absolutely right to remind of us of the international outlook of the Edinburgh international festival. That may sound a bit like an oxymoron, but I think that members know what I mean. It is that outlook that makes the Edinburgh festivals so exciting.
Demands for additional venues and on the budgets of the City of Edinburgh Council and the Scottish Government are made, of course. In a sense, that is no bad thing because it means that the people who are involved are constantly striving to do better and to do more.
A parliamentary debate about a tourism levy is an interesting idea. There are arguments on both sides of that dilemma, but the time has come for us to give the idea a proper hearing.
It must be a challenge for Edinburgh to support all that is happening and, at the same time, to have that ambition—that we all share—to see the festivals develop and become bigger and even better still. That is an important aspect of the “Thundering Hooves” review that will happen shortly.
I was very struck by what Colin Keir said about free advertising for the city of Edinburgh; he was absolutely right. He reminded me of something that struck me last night when I was watching the BBC news coverage of Mark Carney’s conversations from yesterday. The national news piece, which was filmed on Calton hill, showed the most stunning views of Edinburgh. To be honest, I am quite sure that most people were not listening to what was being said about Mark Carney; rather, they were enjoying the Edinburgh view because it is probably one that most visitors to the city do not see.
Colin Keir was also right to talk about the important contributions that have been made by Faith Liddell, Kath Mainland and Jonathan Mills. To that list I add Councillor Steve Cardownie and Councillor Lesley Hinds who, as a former chair of the Edinburgh festivals, had a keen appreciation of, and interest in, the festivals.
I was sorry to hear about this year’s experience with RockNess in Rhoda Grant’s constituency. Perhaps we need to look at more constructive collaboration. I am very conscious that I attended a wonderful event in Wigtown—it was years ago—for which Glasgow City Council had loaned some of its Glasgow boys paintings. There was a hugely successful summer of exhibitions, talks and conversations about that. Perhaps we need to work more closely together across our country to make such events happen in a way that benefits all.
Rob Gibson rightly mentioned last night’s Commonwealth games celebration in Parliament. It was a joy to hear part of Jim Sutherland’s excellent piece, as was having it contrasted with the New Zealand group, Haka, performing some of its traditional music. It also reminded us that we have a shared interest in music and dance, too, that brings us together and helps us to understand our place.
I was very pleased that Nanette Milne mentioned the Aberdeen international youth music festival. I congratulate her on taking the opportunity to lobby Nigel Don for funding from the two local authorities in his area. I am sure that that is a constructive partnership that can be developed.
In reflecting on Stewart Stevenson’s concern about the demise of the mouth harp, I wonder whether that might have something to do with our new concern about our teeth. As a very inexperienced player many years ago when I was a child, I found that playing the mouth harp interfered with good dental work. That might be part of the problem; I do not know.
Hanzala Malik was right to draw our attention to the Glasgow mela. It is a stunning event—it is the most enjoyable, diverse, bright and colourful event that a person can attend. Edinburgh and other places in Scotland also host melas. If anyone has not been to a mela, they should go because it is an experience to enjoy and savour.
I mentioned that Nigel Don had hit on something when he talked about how special live performance is when shared with others. I also reflected on his comments about the paper and comb festival, which led me to wonder whether he and Stewart Stevenson might want to join together to form a two-person combo playing the mouth harp and the paper and comb. I am not suggesting that I would necessarily buy a ticket to watch them, but it might be something that they would like to do.
The idea of holding a tea festival in Laurencekirk is intriguing. As Nigel Don said, that not only shows the ingenuity of Scots, but demonstrates that we do not need a lot of encouragement to find something to celebrate and to enjoy with others.
I hope that members will forgive me for recounting a personal anecdote. Elaine Murray’s explanation of the burlesque Burns supper in Dumfries reminded me that, a number of years ago, I was asked by a wonderful man with a particular sense of humour, who came from Glasgow—he is now deceased—but lived in Dumfries for many years, whether I would organise a Labour Party Burns supper in that area. I did so, and it was a huge success. However, Elaine Murray’s comments caused me to reflect on what Iain Jordan’s comments about a burlesque Burns supper might have been. I am sure that they would have been unparliamentary in language and probably unprintable.
Sandra White was right to reflect on the west end festival’s approaching its 20th anniversary. Why not lobby the Government for some money for that event? I say that with a slight vested interest, as it touches on my constituency.
The debate has been interesting and shows that there is a real commitment to art and culture across the chamber and in Scotland. It also reminds us of the endeavour that our festivals help us to celebrate. I look forward to hearing more about “Thundering Hooves” part 2 and to considering what the Government and the Parliament can do to help and support those festivals.
Sandra White was right when she said that the debate has been a showcase of Scotland. We are a nation that is rich in festivals, and it is clear that there is a shared appreciation of and passion for all our festivals whether they are big or small, international or local and community focused.
I was particularly interested in the fact that there were 25,000 people in Kirkintilloch on one day for the canal festival, which was mentioned by Fiona McLeod. Rhoda Grant reflected on how disproportionate the impact of festivals is in smaller areas. There is a consensus around the importance of festivals—the enjoyment that they bring and the impact that they have on tourism and local economies. As Elaine Murray said, we should reiterate our appreciation for all the hard work that local communities put into the smaller, regional festivals to ensure that they are a success.
Nigel Don referred to James Taylor and the tea festival in Laurencekirk. I reassure him that the tea festival is already international. Only last week, the Sri Lankan high commissioner was the first to tell me about the tea festival that is taking place in Laurencekirk.
I am delighted that we have also had the opportunity to celebrate the great success of festival 2014 and its on-going partner, culture 2014. It is important that we recognise that it has been the most ambitious national cultural celebration ever to have taken place in Scotland.
Patricia Ferguson referred to a number of our festivals, including the book festival. Yesterday, I was pleased to be with the Irish culture minister at the book festival, where we introduced a discussion on the exchange between Neil Gunn and Maurice Walsh. Patricia Ferguson also mentioned the Imaginate festival, which we should perhaps celebrate more. At the recent culture summit, the Maltese delegation said that she is taking the idea of the Imaginate festival to Malta. She also made the suggestion that Glasgow host a festival of sport. I will make sure that my colleague Shona Robison hears about that.
It is important to recognise the embracing nature of festivals, which have often involved sports and culture. Liz Smith took us back to the origins of many festivals, some of which focused on nature and some of which focused on religion. Festivals can also recognise the importance of food and drink, as Stewart Stevenson highlighted. My suggestion for the west end festival is that, given that next year is the year of Scotland’s food and drink, that might be an appropriate focus in its search for additional funding.
Sarah Boyack took a realistic and pragmatic approach to the issue of capacity. The second “Thundering Hooves” report will be important in ensuring that we are not complacent and that Edinburgh takes a competitive look at where it is. Liam McArthur recognised that some capacity issues might be related to transport, while Sarah Boyack talked about the need for investment in venues, which is an important point for all cities to understand. That is why the references by Colin Keir and Nanette Milne to the role of local authorities were significant. I try to support investment in culture wherever I can, including investment in venues in our cities, but that investment relies on local authorities also seeing festivals as powerhouses of their local economies. We have to work together to secure that support.
Willie Coffey reminded us of the joy of festivals and the sheer joy of enjoyment. That is an important point. He also pointed out that the Darvel music festival is only 14 years old. Many of our festivals are new and are developing. As Rhoda Grant alluded to, there is a tension around the idea of whether it is possible to nationally programme festivals.
Stewart Stevenson talked about challenges, and perhaps we need a bit of the helpful anarchy that comes from the fact that festivals can come and go at different times. We look forward to Rock Ness returning, but that is a decision for the private promoters.
On Saturday night, in my hometown of Linlithgow, I was at the party in the palace, which featured Hue and Cry and Deacon Blue. Although, in this crowded year, people might say that too much is on, that was a new celebration that took place. We should think about the growth in the range of festivals, and about the fact that some are extremely new.
We should also reflect on the fact that festivals should share their experience. For example, the taste of the tattoo events have been taken to Stirling, Glasgow and Dundee, and Festivals Edinburgh has advised the Scottish history festival, the Edinburgh international fashion festival and the Aberdeen festivals collective, sharing its knowledge and understanding.
I recognise the important work of EventScotland and its partners for the year of homecoming. It has invested more than £3 million in more than 1,000 events in Scotland.
On what we get from our festivals, we must remember that they are also an expression of who we are. One of the performers at Glasgow green during festival 2014, a Malawian rapper called Tay Grin, commented that Scots really know how to embrace their culture and support one another. For me, that is one of the key messages to come from the Commonwealth games. In terms of the legacy and how we build on the success of that incredible programme, it is vital that we continue to embrace and celebrate our culture in all its forms.
I heard what Rob Gibson said about Struileag and “The Children of the Smoke”. We need to take some of the great performances that have been experienced and think about how we can share them more widely.
I want to end not on the majesty of the tattoo, the glamour of the international festival or the spectacle of culture 2014 but on some of the local festivals. There are two in my area that I want to mention in particular.
The Bathgate music festival has been running for only seven years. However, this year, it featured LaFontaines, who went down a storm at T in the Park last month and performed at Scotland week in New York earlier this year. There is also the Linlithgow folk festival in September, which has been running for 16 years. It has a small but highly talented and enthusiastic group of volunteers. As with many of the festivals that we have heard of, the contributors and the volunteers who take the tickets and steward the events must be celebrated.
As we once again find ourselves looking at the world stage, it is worth reflecting on the deeper meaning of festivals. As we find ourselves facing images of turmoil from around the world, we recall that the Edinburgh international festival was established in the wake of the second world war as a platform for the flowering of the human spirit, with the aim of bringing together the countries of the world through culture. In a powerful speech, Clare Adamson talked about the Durban choir. I am sure that we all heard how excellent the singers were, even if we were not in the room. She talked about the importance of the power of culture to connect cultures and peoples, to foster understanding and, yes, to be a bridge to peace in a way that other interventions perhaps cannot be.
We have had a fantastic celebration of the Commonwealth games. I am glad that culture has been able to play such an important role in that—it will build partnerships that will take us forward.
We must remember that all our festivals and the stages that they provide—be they the wooden floor of a school hall, a vast amphitheatre or, as Patricia Ferguson mentioned, strange venues such as the dissection room of the veterinary college, which is now Summerhall—are important in letting our nation’s voices, hopes and aspirations be heard by ourselves and by the rest of the world. We are a creative nation, contributing to the world, and are recognised for our global impact. Culture and our festivals are a huge part of that.
I believe in a Scotland that embraces its culture and heritage but which also generates a dynamic momentum and has a cutting edge that allows us to share our innovations with the world. Our festivals provide such a platform.
I will end with what I think was the best point of the debate. Fiona McLeod reminded us that festivals let us indulge our passions and stretch our horizons.
I thank all the members who have spoken, and ask them to agree to the motion in my name.