As many of you will know, I’m usually to be found over on the local government pages, posing questions about the nature of local democracy and grilling councillors and council leaders. But for this publication, I’ve been asked to take a brief hiatus and take a closer look at culture and external affairs.
It’s been an interesting task and one made all the more compelling by how packed and busy the past 12 months have been in this particular brief.
While I’ve already spoken at length about this in my overview piece, you can’t mention 2013/14 in cultural terms without mentioning the fire at Glasgow School of Art. Anyone with any interest in Scotland’s arts world, or indeed Glasgow, couldn’t help but feel the collective horror as the flames licked that iconic building and smoke belched from blackened windows. It was only thanks to the skill and bravery of the fire services that the building itself and most of its contents survived in any shape or form.
While this terrible event drove home just how much we value our cultural history and our ability to nurture talent, it was another Glasgow-centred event which showed Scotland’s place in the wider global cultural world.
The Commonwealth Games have provided so many opportunities for praise that it’s hard to fit it all into one small column. Setting aside Scotland’s impressive medals haul, the myriad of theatre, music and other artistic events which have been brought about by the Games has been truly inspiring. The opening ceremony itself, while parts of it were undoubtedly fairly eccentric and eye popping (dancing teacakes, I’m looking at you), was still a great showcase of Scottish talent.
However, for me, few things sum up the importance of culture than the Big Noise project. This is an orchestra programme that aims to use music making to foster confidence, teamwork, pride and aspiration in the children taking part – and across their wider community. It runs in some of Scotland’s most deprived areas and has brought about impressive changes to people’s lives, all through music. It’s a fantastic project and one which is making a real difference.
Whatever happens in the next 12 months, it’s clear our artistic and cultural scene will continue to grow and inspire. And that’s exactly the way it should be.