‘It’s about time’ a woman led Tartan Day parade says KT Tunstall

KT Tunstall will become the first woman to lead New York's Tartan Parade.
KT Tunstall will become the first woman to lead New York's Tartan Parade.
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KT Tunstall has declared it is “about time” a woman led the annual Tartan Day parade through New York - as she admitted gender equality in the music industry was being held back by a lack of female role models.

Speaking ahead of leading the 20th annual event, the Fife singer-songwriter said she hoped female Grand Marshals would be a “mainstay” of the event in future.

Tunstall said she was conscious of being a female artist in the middle of a “tipping point” of gender equality.

However the Brit Award winner said a lack of female musicians was partly to blame for the male-dominated line-ups of festivals.

She said there was a “real lack of girls playing instruments in bands” to inspire future generations to forge a career in the music business.

Edinburgh-born Tunstall, who was brought up in St Andrews, played in a series of indie banks before famously finding fame in 2004 after being called in as a last minute replacement act on the TV show “Late...With Jools Holland.”

Previous Grand Marshals at the Tartan Day parade have included Sir Sean Connery, Alan Cumming, Brian Cox, Kevin McKidd and Sam Heughan.

Tunstall said: “It is the 20th anniversary and it is about time that a woman was leading it. I have been told that women have been asked in the past, but it has just not ever worked out. But I hope that from now on it is much more of a mainstay.

READ MORE: KT Tunstall to be first woman to lead Tartan Day parade through New York

“There are so many brilliant Scottish women who’ve got so much to offer. But the important thing for me, with gender equality sweeping the globe, which is fantastic, is being in the middle of a tipping point that is happening in real time.

“You’ve got to have visibility - for me that is key. I started out with a public career in 2004 and still if you look at a festival lineup and take off bands that don’t have a woman in them you’re left with a small number, maybe five or six bands.

“It is not entirely because organisers and bookers are not actively making sure that they’re booking bands with female members or female artists, it is also because there is a real lack of girls playing instruments in bands. There are still not enough women in roles for young girls to look at and say I want to be like that.

“It is an extra really significant leap for kids. Look at what has happened with the film Black Panther.

“It was an incredible experience when I went to see it in LA. Every single one of the 15 screens at the Arclight in Hollywood was playing the film and there was possibly 10 per cent of white people in the cinema.

“It was extraordinary watching the relief and joy, the celebration of people seeing themselves in roles that they hadn’t seen themselves in before.

“It is the same thing here at Tartan Week. It is a ‘why not a woman?’ moment.”

Discussing her Tartan Day outfit, which was custom-made out of recycled pieces of tartan from her own wardrobe, Tunstall, said: “I decided that I really wanted to really accentuate the amazing relationship between tartan and rock n’roll. You have the Bay City Rollers right and then Vivienne Westwood who really brought tartan into music as a mainstay fabric. It was a very recognisable punk rock emblem. I guess tartan was a rebellious, tribal feature in clothing. So, for me, growing up as a musician, tartan has always been a rock n’ roll thing to wear.

“I really wanted to bring that spirit into it. If I was to wear something really traditional it would be wearing me. It’s just not what I would wear. So I thought: ‘what could I do?’

“As Grand Marshal, you are the most visible person, so I was thinking about how to really stand out, because being the first woman to be the Grand Marshal is important.”