edinburgh has played host to many gatherings of the great and the good over the years . . . and sometimes politicians too.
On top of that, the Capital is a leading cultural city all year round, while in August the festivals make it the undoubted centre of the arts and entertainment world.
So it makes absolute sense that if culture ministers are to gather together to “debate the power and profile of culture in forging and fostering international relationships” it should be here.
The event, organised by the Scottish and UK governments, does pose a serious question, though – and not just where the ministers and their entourages are all going to stay at this busiest time of the year.
Quite bluntly, how do we ensure that it isn’t just a big jolly?
It may be very convenient to have culture ministers fly up from London after the Olympics for two days of talks, but what exactly are they going to talk about?
Culture Secretary Fiona Hyslop sees it as “an unprecedented opportunity to discuss the use and value of the arts, culture and the creative industries, and their role in encouraging dialogue among nations.”
But what exactly does that mean?
The nation – and indeed every nation sending a politician to Edinburgh – will look forward to seeing the agenda to make sure it isn’t just a good way to extend a fun stay in the UK.
The write idea
all power to Ian Rankin’s elbow in his efforts to get Robert Louis Stevenson better recognised in his home city.
The great man may have had an ambivalent view at times of Edinburgh – he called it “a very sanguinary shop” – but he spent most of his early life here and was pulled back for many visits before he moved abroad.
What’s more, from Deacon Brodie to Kidnapped, his work helped put the Capital on the literary map. In fact, it is arguable that his books resonate more with today’s readers (to say nothing of TV and film- makers) than more obviously celebrated writers such as Sir Walter Scott. There are plaques galore to Stevenson in the city, including in Howard Place where he was born – but not the statue that his contribution to the city and literature easily merits.
Before his own death, Stevenson took it upon himself to try to repair the poet Robert Fergusson’s memorial in the city. It’s good to see one of our most popular current authors paying the same respect to RLS today.