Insight: All the big Scottish cultural projects and events to look forward to in 2022

Nearly two years after being thrown into turmoil by Covid, Scottish cultural faces a long road back to recovery.But there are no shortage of big events, shows and projects to look forward to in 2022. Here are a few highlights showing how Scotland’s arts calendar is shaping up.

Sunday, 2nd January 2022, 5:00 am

Celtic Connections, across Glasgow, 20 January - 6 February

A year after musicians played to empty venues across Glasgow, but were watched by a 30,000-strong online audience in more than 60 countries, the Celtic Connections festival is due to return “in full force” over 18 days in January and February.

All of the event’s most popular venues, including the Royal Concert Hall, the Old Fruitmarket, the Barrowland Ballroom, St Luke’s and Drygate, will be welcoming back the crowds the festival has become famed around the world for.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

V&A Dundee will be playing host to a celebration of Scottish dancer and choreographer Michael Clark in 2022.

Karine Polwart, Julie Fowlis, Kris Drever, Rachel Sermanni, Le Vent du Nord, Kate Rusby, Old Blind Dogs, Capercaillie, Niteworks, Talisk, Elephant Sessions, Rura and Mànran are among the audience favourites lined up the festival’s comeback.

Special events include tribute concerts honouring the singer-songwriters Nanci Griffith and Jackie Leven, the Orcadian poet and author George Mackay Brown and the Indian musician Ravi Shankar.

Key strands in the festival include a showcase of the latest music emerging from Wales and a celebration of Shetland.

Michael Clark: Cosmic Dancer, 26 February – 4 September.

Rona Munro's new play James IV will premiere at the Festival Theatre in Edinburgh in October.

The first major exhibition confirmed for V&A after the appointment of new director Leonie Bell is also the first ever dedicated to the groundbreaking Scottish dancer and choreographer Michael Clark and the first show at the waterfront attraction to focus on a single Scottish cultural figure.

Born in rural Aberdeenshire in 1962, the routes of Clark’s career can be traced to when he was just four years of age and nagged to join in with his older sister’s Scottish dancing lessons. By 1975 he had been accepted for a place at the Royal Ballet School n London and he became one of the leading figures in British dance after launching his own company in 1984.

The exhibition, originally staged at the Barbican Centre in London, explores how Clarke’s work was influenced by punk, fashion and club culture.

Feauring films, sculptures, paintings and photographs, showcases his collaborations with filmmakers Peter Greenaway and Derek Jarman, fashion designers Vivienne Westwood, Alexander McQueen, and musical acts like Wire and Scritti Politti.

The National Theatre of Scotland is adapting Peter Mullan's acclaimed feature film Orphans into a 'darkly comic musical.'

Cyrano Cyrano de Bergerac, Theatre Royal, Glasgow, 18 – 26 March.

The one thing Scottish theatre will definitely not lack in the early part of 2022 is star power.

That was guaranteed from the moment it was confirmed that James McAvoy, one of Scotland’s leading film and TV stars over the last two decades, would be making a rare stage appearance in in his home city to reprise his lead role in Cyrano de Bergerac, three years after his acclaimed performance in the show in London’s west end.

McAvoy will taking to the stage in the Theatre Royal, on the other side of the street from his old drama school, the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, where he has funded a 10-year scholarship programme.

James Mcavoy will be starring in Cyrano de Bergerac in Glasgow in March.

The Theatre Royal will be one of three venues in the world to secure a run of director Jamie Lloyd’s Olivier Award-winning production.

Dandelion/Unboxed, across Scotland, March – October.

Dogged by controversy since it was instigated by then Prime Minister Theresa May in the aftermath of the EU referendum vote, the UK’s biggest ever celebration of culture and creativity since the 10 projects chosen for the £120 million programme were unveiled in March.

Scotland’s major contribution to Unboxed will combine food growing initiatives with music, culminating in the staging of dozens of harvest festival across the country in September.

Musicians, sound artists, scientists, designers, food producers and community groups are expected to be involved in the six-month Dandelion project. More than 250 “cubes of perpetual light” - from which specially-commissioned music will emanate - will be distributed to island communities, redundant industrial sites, parks and schools.

Scotland will play host to five other Unboxed projects, including About Us, an opening event for the UK-wide programme in Paisley, where buildings and landmarks will become a canvas for cutting-edge an imation and projection mapping taking audiences on a 13.8 billion year journey from the “Big Bang” to the present day.

Emily Hampshire is one of the stars of The Rig, a new supernatural thriller set on a North Sea oil rig.

Other elements include the Dreamachine, an immersive kaleidoscopic light experience – which visitors will experience with their eyes close – based on a 1950s invention, which will visit Edinburgh, where a separate project to create a “monumental pop-up forest garden” will be launched outside the Assembly Rooms with the arrival of a 40 ft tall “supertree.”

StoryTrails will bring together augmented reality and new developments in 3D internet technology for an immersive living history experience to showcase the evolution of Dundee and Dumfries.

Several iconic Scottish landmarks are expected to feature in Green Space Dark Skies, a project which will see dramatic chains of light created across the UK.

Orphans, touring around Scotland, 1 – 30 April.

It’s nearly 25 years since Peter Mullan’s black comedy Orphans – his directorial debut – was winning international film festival awards and delighting audiences with his story of a chaotic night in Glasgow for three brothers and their sister before they are due to bury their mother.

His film may seem an unlikely contender to become Scotland’s next big stage musical, but the National Theatre of Scotland has assembled something of a dream team for its biggest post-lockdown show, which is billed as “a darkly comic musical about family, grief and forgiveness”.

Burnistoun star leads the cast of a show, set in 1998, the year the feature film was released, which unite director Cora Bissett and writer Douglas Maxwell, who is adapting Mullan’s screenplay.

Perhaps most intriguingly, the score is being created by songwriting due Roddy Hart and Tommy Reilly, whose recent projects have included Steven Spielberg's Animaniacs series, and the feature films Our Ladies and Anna & The Apocalypse.

The Big Top. Royal Highland Showground, Ingliston, June

Live music fans in Edinburgh have complained for years that they have had to leave the city to see their favourite bands in action.

That trend is finally set to be reversed when big-name gigs return to the Royal Highland Centre at Ingliston – reviving a musical heritage going as far back as the 1970s.

Van Morrison, Talking Heads, David Bowie, Genesis, Queen, Oasis, Big Country, The Jam, Rush, Electric Light Orchestra, Iron Maiden, Billy Idol, The Police, Duran Duran and Barry Manilow are among the acts to have previously played there.

Scotland's biggest promoters, DF Concerts, have revealed plans to stage three weekends of 8000-capacity shows in the kind of tent normally seen at full-scale musical festivals.

Biffy Clyro, Snow Patrol, Madness, Fatboy Slim are among the first headliners to be confirmed for The Big Top shows, which will run up to and during the Royal Highland Show, which will be returning for its 200th anniversary year in 2022.

With up to nine gigs planned for the inaugural year, expect more big announcements early in the new year.

The Stamping Ground, Eden Court, Inverness, July

Four years after iconic Scottish rock band Runrig bowed out with two sold-out concerts in Stirling, their fans will get the chance to see their songs and music brought back to life on stage again.

The band’s back catalogue has provided the inspiration for a major new stage musical, the Stamping Ground, which will be launched at Eden Court in July before a planned nationwide tour in 2023.

Morna Young’s story will follow the story of a couple who return home to their Scottish island community and find it is more filled with tourists than residents.

Described by Young as an exploration of identity and belonging, she hopes to capture capture the feeling of Highland people “returning home once another life has been lived.”

Edinburgh festivals, June-August

When Edinburgh’s festivals were heading towards their 75th anniversary in 2017 they appeared to be in rude health as audiences continued to grow.

Five years later, the city’s flagship cultural events are still in rebuilding mode after the Covid-enforced cancellation in 2020 and the tentative return of audiences to venues and events in 2021.

It is too early to tell whether the 2021 edition of the festivals will be more like the record-breaking one of 2019 or the less-crowded but noticeably more chilled recent incarnation.

The biggest change is likely to be the planned return of the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo to Edinburgh Castle esplanade, with a reinvented event promised by new chief executive Buster Howes and creative director Michael Braithwaite.

Elsewhere, expected to see the return of concerts to Princes Street Gardens, while it would be a major surprise if much-missed indoor venues like the Usher Hall, the King’s Theatre, the Assembly Rooms and Leith Theatre are not back in the festival fold.

Scotland's Year of Stories, throughout 2022.

Scotland has staged regular year-long campaigns and cultural celebrations since the first "Homecoming” initiative to coincide with the 250th anniversary of the birth of Robert Burns in 2009.

After a celebration of Scotland’s coasts and waters was staged over two years due to disruption to planned events programme by the pandemic, the spotlight will fall on stories – inspired by, written or created in Scotland.

Tales of the Gaels, Picts, Vikings and Jacobites will be showcased alongside stories of "New Scots" from Syria, Afghanistan and Sudan in a programme of more than 60 events confirmed so far.

They include a celebration of fishing on Mull and Iona, a comedy inspired by the history of St Andrews and a project inspired by reconstructions of people buried in Whithorn in the Middle Ages. Dundee will be turned into “Beanotown” for a summer celebration of the Beano comic, an exhibition will recall how a village on the Moray Firth was swept away in a sand storm in 1694 and an outdoor performance will draw on the the experiences of patients and staff in a Dumfries psychiatric hospital dating back to 1838.

Leading writers involved include Alan Bissett, who is writing a new play on the life of Aberdeenshire suffragette and journalist Caroline Phillips, while Hannah Lavery will lead a project for 28 creative writing groups – including LGBTQ+ and BAME participants, refugee women, the elderly and rurally isolated people – to create new work about their experiences living in Scotland.

Other events will bring together Scotland’s Roma, Gypsy and Traveller communities with newly-settled Eastern European people to celebrate their shared cultural heritage, while Home Fae Home will see refugees and asylum seekers living in Glasgow contribute songs, poems and stories from their home countries.

Songs From The Last Page will create a new body of music inspired by the last lines of great Scottish fiction, Skye singer Anne Martin will explore the songs, stories and objects linking Scotland and Australia and other projects will celebrate Glasgow’s Castlemilk, Possilpark and Easterhouse estates, a Dumbarton-based ship involved in rescuing 600 Allied soldiers from the beaches of Dunkirk during the Second World War and 100 years of Orcadian writer George Mackay Brown.

Burrell Collection reopens, March.

The home of Glasgow’s most celebrated art collection closed to the public to make way for a long-awaited revamp five years ago.

But the finishing touches are now being made to the attraction, which has undergone a £68.2 million makeover, ahead of its grand unveiling in March.

The project will increase the amount of available space by more than a third to showcase the thousands of works collected by the Glasgow shipping magnate Sir William Burrell, who donated his collectoin of medieval, Islamic, Chinese, Egyptian and French Impressionist art treasures to the city in 1944.

Visitors should notice a huge difference thanks to a new entrance bringing them into the heart of the building where a central stairway has been created to encourage people to explore all three floors of the attraction.

The project will allow some objects from the 9000-piece collection to go on display for the first time ever, while others will not have been seen for decades.

Highlights include paintings by the French artists Manet, Rodin, Degas and Cézanne, Chinese pottery and porcelain produced over a 5,000-year period and one of the three earliest surviving Persian garden carpets in the world.

Outside the building - which has had its roof repaired to ensure the building is more air tight and new heating and power systems installed - new landscaped terraces have been created to provide better links between the attraction and Pollok Country Park.

James IV, September-November, on tour around Scotland, from September-November.

Rona Munro’s original trilogy on three generations of the Stewart kings who ruled Scotland in the 15th century was one of the theatrical events of the year when they premiered in 2014, just weeks before Scotland voted on whether to become independent.

Eight years later, Munro will reunite with Laurie Sansom, who directed the trilogy while at the helm of the National Theatre of Scotland, will reunite for a fourth instalment, the first in a series of new works Munro is mapping out.

Set in 1504, the new play will unfold through the eyes of two young African girls who arrive in Edinburgh and quickly become part of Scotland’s royal court, at heart of elite Scottish society.

James IV will return to the stage of the Festival Theatre in Edinburgh, where the original trilogy premiered, with its operator Capital Theatres co-producing the new play with Glasgow-based theatre company Raw Material. Further dates are already confirmed for Glasgow, Dundee, Aberdeen, Inverness and Stirling.

The Rig, Amazon Prime, launch date TBC

Scotland’s film and television was able to emerge from the pandemic much quicker than the other sectors of Scottish culture which rely on uniting performers with audiences.

The last few months of 2021 saw the launch of a spate of top-drawer series made around the country under strict Covid protocols, including Vigil, Crime, Guilt, Shetland and Annika.

There is plenty more to come in 2022, not least the eagerly-awaited Amazon Prime series The Rig.

The first show to be shot at the FirstStage Studios complex in Leith Docks, David Macpherson’s supernatural thriller will see the crew of a North Sea oil rig thrown into chaos when it is enveloped in fog and then hit by massive tremors, cutting them off from all communication with the shore and the outside world.

A host of Scotland's leading actors, including Martin Compston, Iain Glen, Emun Elliott and Mark Bonnar will appear alongside Schitt’s Creek star Emily Hampshire, Game of Thrones star Owen Teale, rising Scottish star Molly Vevers and Bridgerton actor Richard Pepple in a show being billed as an “epic thriller.”

Paul McKenna, Hannah Rarity and Innes visited Glasgow’s Royal Concert Hall to launch the 2021 programme for Celtic Connections.
The new-look Burrell Collection will be unveiled in Glasgow in March.
Dennis the Menace and Mary Queen of Scots paid a visit with eight-year-old Rocco Cesari and five-year-old Francesca Cesari to Luke Winter of the Story Wagon – a touring space offering creative writing, traditional storytelling and story sharing activities – at The Kelpies in Falkirk to launch Scotland's Year of Stories. Picture: VisitScotland/Chris Watt
Projects inspired by 'Scotland’s Year of Stories' include a partnership between Hostelling Scotland, amd The Adventure Syndicate, a group of female adventurers and storytellers who promote mental and physical wellbeing through their outdoor endeavours, to recreate an epic 500-mile cycle and youth hostelling adventure from the 1930s, which 17-year-old hosteller Mary Harvie, from Shotts in Lanarkshire, embarked on.
The Stamping Ground, the new Runrig-inspired stage musical, will be launched at Eden Court in Inverness in July.