Imagine putting bite-size chunks of a country's culture within walking
distance of each other to create a psycho-geographic map of a nation
steeped in history but embracing the future even as it parties through
its present. So it was with Scot:Lands, a ten-stop New Year's Day tour
of Edinburgh city centre, where a compendium of music, performance and
film were brought together from assorted outlying areas.
Having spun the compass at the National Museum of Scotland, aka
Home:Land, it was possible to be directed to Barn:Land, where Alasdair
Roberts was being sampled live by Ross Whyte at Greyfriars Kirk in a
way that fused traditional singing with electronic experimentation. In
Blether:Land, based in the Scottish Story Centre, you could sample a
half-hour of dark tales of old Edinburgh from Fiona Herbert. Her yarns
about the Jekyll and Hyde-like duality of auld Reekie involved Deacon
Brodie, the Darien disaster and the lengths sixteenth century property
developers, then as now, would stoop to in order to secure a piece of
prime real estate.
Beyond traditional fare, the event's loose-knit film programme featured
Rachel Maclean's wildly inventive pastiche of gothic kitsch, The
Weepers. This was seen at the Pleasance as part of 3 on this Is:Land,
presented by the Mull-based Comar organisation, who first commissioned
One of the performers in 3 on this Is:Land was Kenny Anderson, aka King
Creosote, who could be heard on his poignant score for Virginia Heath's
already lauded montage of footage from the Scottish Film Archive, From
Scotland With Love.
Equally evocative was EDIT, the thirty minute drama put together by
writer Martin McCardie and directors Iain Forsyth and Jane Pollard
after a score by Joe McAlinden. With McAlinden singing the soundtrack
live alongside the screenings that made up Tide:Land in the University
of Edinburgh's Reid Concert Hall, the experience became a profound
meditation on loss, grief and getting through to the other side.
Over in the Hub, Neu:Land was a gathering of some of the finest minds
involved with Edinburgh's regular spoken-word night, Neu! Reekie!
Rooted in a grassroots cultural scene owing as much to Robert Burns as
punk, the likes of co-founder Kevin Williamson and all-female sunshine
pop troupe Teen Canteen showcased what is on Edinburgh's doorstep all
year round. With this in mind, perhaps next year's Edinburgh's Hogmanay
should be shopping local and highlighting other, similarly
unacknowledged delights. In the meantime, as Scot:Lands proved, the
city is there for the taking.
The Herald, January 5th 2015