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Pete Irvine - Scot:Lands 2017

When Pete Irvine talks about Scot:Lands, the multiple-venue New Year's Day extravaganza that will see some 8,000 morning after revellers move around Edinburgh's Old Town, it as if he is navigating his way around an imaginary landscape of his own design. One minute he's singing the praises of the St Magnus Festival on Orkney, the next he's flitting from the Wigtown Book Festival to the Highlands, taking in all manner of mini festivals and home grown folk art en route.

The audiences who have signed up online for the already fully subscribed free event will be able to do something similar after downloading their boarding pass that allows them access to nine as yet un-named indoor venues that hosts this celebration of localism in what amounts to a global village. Beyond geographical borders, they will also be able to explore neglected poets of the past brought to life by a new generation of young radicals, as well as checking out an even newer diaspora of Scots borne of an internationalist outlook.

“The concept, and the thinking behind the programme addresses various different aspects of Scotland and its culture,” Irvine explains. “It's called Lands because it's about different parts of Scotland coming to the capital, hopefully creating an atmosphere of what they express culturally, what is possible and what inspires artists from that particular area. So there's a geographical element to the programme, and over the four years we've been doing Scot:Lands, I always say that we've got people from all the airts, which is the Scottish word for parts, as well as from all the arts.

“Similarly, it's much more practicable to have people from Edinburgh and people who live here involved, because it's new year time, so you can't travel much on the first of January, even from Glasgow, so you've got to be pragmatic about it. But of course, we don't want it to be another Edinburgh festival. Scot:Lands is supposed to be pan-Scotland, and is supposed to be eclectic, and again brings all the arts from all the airts.

“Where each Land happens very much helps create a context of what it is you're going to and what will happen when you get there. We don't say where the venues are, and you don't know until you're given a card, but when you get there it becomes very experiential, and it's no coincidence that each Land takes place in the venue that it does. In Orcadia:Land, for instance, we try and bring parts of the St Magnus Festival from Orkney to Edinburgh on the 900th anniversary of St Magnus Cathedral.”

While Orcadia:Land will feature choral, classical and traditional music overseen by composer Alasdair Nicolson, the eight other Lands on the route will similarly attempt to capture the essence of where they come from.

Wig:Land trades on Wigtown Book Festival's unique status outwith the central belt as it brings together writers such as Harry Giles and Hugh McMillan with Wigtown's own Book Shop Band.

Nether:Land finds Traditional Arts and Culture Scotland (TRACS) joining forces with spoken word cabaret Flint and Pitch for a rolling programme of story-telling and song from the likes of poet Jenny Lindsay, music from the Mairi Campbell Ceilidh Band and performances of what are described as cinepoems.

In This:Land, archive film curator Shona Thomson pulls together a selection of unearthed documentary footage of land and sea set to live soundtracks from the likes of beat-boxer Jason Singh and contemporary folklorist Drew Wright aka Wounded Knee. John Grierson's film, Drifters, will also feature.

Mountain Thyme:Land finds the Paisley-based Spree Festival bringing together the likes of Eddi Reader and Love and Money singer James Grant to celebrate the life and work of Robert Tannahill, the Paisley-born poet who wrote Wild Mountain Thyme and Waltzing Matilda. With latter day Paisley wunderkind Paolo Nutini having headlined Edinburgh's Hogmanay the night before, the town's bid for UK City of Culture 2021 will be given a boost by such iconic artists being given such a high profile.

In Sorley:Land, Edinburgh's premiere promoters of spoken-word musical mash-ups, Neu! Reekie!, celebrate the work of Raasay-born poet Sorley MacLean on the twentieth anniversary of his death. This mixes up music by Neu! Reekie! regulars, Scott Hutchison of Frightened Rabbit, Teen Canteen's Carla Easton and Eyes of Others, aka John MacLean Bryden – a relative of Sorley's – with films by Timothy Neat and eight contemporary rappers performing work by the eight writers depicted in Sandy Moffat's painting, Poet's Pub.

High:Land sees traditional arts organisation Feis Rois celebrate its thirtieth birthday with a programme led by fiddler and composer Duncan Chisholm. As the name suggests, Let's Dance:Land sees in the year with a dance-off that takes in hip hop, Northern Soul, disco, ballroom and even Tai Chi as DJs play everything from David Bowie and Prince to Marlene Dietrich.

Scot:Lands fuses the traditional and often unsung local culture with contemporary grassroots arts scenes that recognise where they've come in a way that both celebrates their heritage while looking forward to reinvent it anew. In this respect, Scot:Lands is a quietly subversive infiltration of a popular civic spectacle, in which artists who might not be programmed in mainstream festivals are exposed to a larger audience than they may get at regular shows. This is a template that was set in place in the years prior to Scot:Lands, when international street theatre companies would take over city centre streets in a similarly anarchic display. Scot:Lands' ,move to indoor venues, however, allows for a captive audience to watch things in more intimate surroundings.

This form of artistic entryism can be seen most noticeably in New Scots: Land, which brings together a plethora of artists with roots in Africa, India, Latin America and Eastern Europe. These include former member of the Bundhu Boys, Rise Kagona, guitarist Carlos Arrendondo and a theatrical collaboration between writer and performer Annie George and Alloysious Massaquoi of Young Fathers.

“New Scots: Land isn't just about Scotland, “Irvine explains, “but is about all the other places as well, and that feels very current. Every night we watch our televisions in despair, but all of the artists here have brought their own cultures to Scotland and have made it an integral part of it. As with all of Scot:Lands, all of the different elements combine to create a completely unique experience.

“We're transforming spaces which aren't usually used as venues, and we're working with a lot of artists who we haven't worked with before in a way that they might not have done before. Scot:Lands is a pop-up in every way, and the performances are never going to happen again. People can go to from venue to venue, stay as long or as little as they want at each one, and experience it in the way that they want. Total freedom.”

Scot:Lands takes place as part of Edinburgh's Hogmanay on January 1 2017 from 1-5pm.
www.edinburghshogmanay.com


The Herald, December 27th 2016


ends

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