Scotland's post-Covid cultural rebirth is going to be amazing – Angus Robertson MSP

Fiddler Eryn Rae has been declared BBC Scotland’s Young Traditional Musician of the Year (Picture: Alan Peebles)Fiddler Eryn Rae has been declared BBC Scotland’s Young Traditional Musician of the Year (Picture: Alan Peebles)
Fiddler Eryn Rae has been declared BBC Scotland’s Young Traditional Musician of the Year (Picture: Alan Peebles)
Live cultural events are back in Scotland. Audiences and performers alike have been enjoying in-person shows and it feels good to be entertained in the company of others.

This week saw the end of the highly popular Celtic Connections, with well-attended, in-person performances at Europe’s premier winter music festival.

I had the pleasure of attending the final of BBC Scotland’s Young Traditional Musician of the Year, at which 21-year-old Eryn Rae was crowned as the deserved victor.

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Rae’s extremely high-standard competition were Glasgow’s Breanna Wilson on fiddle, Sophie Joint on piano and Malachy Arnold on clarsach, Inverness’s Saffron Hanvidge, Gaelic song, and Skye’s Malin Lewis on Highland bagpipe.

The award, established in 2001, has seen young musicians – both winners and runners-up – spring-board on to great success in the folk and wider Scottish music scene.

The final was broadcast on BBC Alba, as have been other concerts throughout the festival. BBC Alba has really shown its value in this time, as some of the world’s best folk and traditional musicians aired on the Scotland- and Gaelic-dedicated channel.

It is great to see Celtic Connections back in person. Last year was a largely virtual event, with 270,000 tickets sold to an audience made up of viewers from over 60 countries. It was an amazing trial of how an online festival can work.

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This year, the virtual pass was back, making for a hybrid event that gave viewers across the globe access to 12 hours of exclusive, filmed live content from across the festival during the three-week programme.

The hybrid format of Celtic Connections has shown how festivals and events in the culture sector have managed to be a great success in spite of the pandemic, and how they can use last year’s adjustments to enhance their future offerings. With recent changes to Covid public health advice around 60 concerts were attended across Glasgow by grateful audiences.

This all bodes well for the cultural year ahead in Edinburgh when the capital celebrates the 75th anniversary year of the Edinburgh International Festival and the Fringe. When the biggest arts festival in the world kicks off, there will be great shows to see including the National Theatre of Scotland’s premier of Burn starring Alan Cumming.

This year will also see the Edinburgh International Culture Summit, a global forum without comparison, which brings together politicians, policy-makers and artists to discuss, share experiences and find new ways to inspire positive and creative change.

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The summit offers a unique opportunity to explore new thinking in the development of cultural policy, to develop and nurture key networks in the fields of arts and culture, and develop policy proposals which will secure recovery and renewal.

The Edinburgh International Culture Summit underlines the leading position that Scotland continues to play in the international debate about the role and value of culture.

As we emerge from the Covid pandemic in Scotland, it is hugely important to support the recovery and renewal of the culture sector. Huge efforts are being made to keep audiences safe and grow confidence for the public to attend events. Now is the time to support the recovery of the arts community.

Take a look at what is on offer in 2022. There are amazing things to see.

Angus Robertson is the SNP MSP for Edinburgh Central and Constitution, External Affairs and Culture Secretary

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