New York's Tartan Day parade: Gail Porter and Pulse of the Place will win hearts and minds in Big Apple – Susan Dalgety
Former Portobello High School student Gail Porter is a great choice to lead this year’s Tartan Day parade in New York next month.
She follows in the footsteps of such luminaries as Brian Cox, Edinburgh’s most famous son, the late Sir Sean Connery, and singer KT Tunstall, and will bring her own unique style to the event. It’s all too easy to dismiss the annual parade, and NYC Tartan Week which precedes it, as an over-the-top, schmaltzy celebration of all things Scottish – more Brigadoon than 21st-century Scotland. And from memory, it does feature an inordinate amount of tartan, Saltires and bagpipes. All done in the best possible taste, of course.
I was in New York for the 2004 festival as a member of the-then First Minister’s team, and while Jack McConnell’s infamous pin-stripe kilt stole the headlines, it was clear from the warm reception he got from Wall Street bankers and senior politicians that there was a lot of affection for Scotland.
Hard-headed business decisions focus on the bottom line. An investment has to make a profit, so when top US companies like JP Morgan or IBM look to open new offices abroad, their first consideration is their balance sheet. But sentiment does play a role, and events like NYC Tartan Week are a great opportunity to deepen links between America and Scotland by showing off our heritage and our contemporary culture.
Gail Porter will be accompanied by Pulse of the Place, an Edinburgh youth samba band whose energetic musical style is sure to go down a storm in Manhattan. As Porter pointed out, she and the band will showcase all that is great about modern Scotland. “… We can be an example of diversity, inclusivity, creativity, and resilience throughout the world," she said.
The sight and sound of Pulse drumming their way down 5th Avenue, led by the doughty Gail Porter, who has had to cope with alopecia and poor mental health while in the public eye, will not result directly in major American investment in Scotland. But it will bring a smile to even the most hard-headed tycoon, and who knows, the next time there is a choice between London and Edinburgh, the pulse of our Capital city might just win the day.