14 August 2014

S4M-10784 Scotland’s Festivals

The Deputy Presiding Officer (John Scott): Good afternoon. The first item of business this afternoon is a debate on motion S4M-10784, in the name of Fiona Hyslop, on Scotland’s festivals, festival 2014 and culture 2014.

... ... ...

Stewart Stevenson (Banffshire and Buchan Coast) (SNP): I suspect that my cultural horizons are a little closer in than some who will participate in this debate. Indeed, when my wife discovers that I have spoken in a debate on culture she will no doubt express considerable astonishment. However, from where we live it is a three-hour round trip to get to the nearest cinema, a three-hour round trip to get to the nearest professional theatre and a two-hour round trip to get to the nearest amateur theatre—and a very good seasonal offering it is.

However, that situation does not mean that we do not have culture in my part of the country, because culture is often small scale and local. I was slightly surprised that the culture secretary did not mention in her speech the Linlithgow folk festival, which this year is inadvertently taking place in the week immediately before the referendum, thus restricting some people’s ability to go to and participate in it. Part of the event next year will be a celebration of Matt McGinn’s life and contribution to Scottish culture. In Linlithgow, and in communities all round Scotland, we have smaller-scale but very effective and focused festivals that engage a large proportion of local people.

Rob Gibson talked about the fèisean. I would have said more than I am about to say on this, but the Fèisean Bharraigh on Barra and Vatersay has been going since 1981 and it makes a terrific contribution to sustaining Gaelic culture and many instruments that are perhaps not much used in other parts of Scotland. I was a great fan of “The Tales of Para Handy” when I was a youngster. I have probably bought that book six, seven, eight or nine times, because I keep giving it away and not getting it back as it is a compelling read. Much of it was written over 100 years ago, but a lot of the political discussions in it still echo today, interestingly. Para Handy’s instrument of choice was the trump—the jaw harp—which the player just sticks in their mouth and flicks away at, and changes the shape of their mouth to make music. Even that is probably beyond my musical abilities, and it is the simplest of all instruments. I have not heard the trump played for a very long time, so perhaps we should have some Government money for that and keep alive Para Handy’s favourite instrument.

Rhoda Grant suggested that local festivals cannot compete, but I am not so certain. What I heard was a sort of corporatist view of life that there should be great overarching co-ordination of dates and activities. I take an entirely contrary view and appreciate the anarchy that comes from grass-roots activity and a little bit of survival of the fittest but with some focused financial and organisational support. Platforms such as that which was offered by homecoming 2014 publicise local events—that is the kind of help that happens. However, by no means should we be interfering in any way, shape or form with that helpful anarchy that comes from a few enthusiastic individuals in communities across Scotland.

What actually is a festival? It comes from the Latin words “festum” and “festa”, which just mean “feast”. We have not heard much about festivals of food, but in the north-east we have festivals of food, which I very much welcome. Of course, coming from that Latin derivation and being applied across Scotland in many different ways means that a festival can cover almost anything. However, getting co-operation and engagement from across our communities is what sustains our festivals.

How many festivals do we have in Scotland? The answer is quite interesting. I put the term “Scottish festivals 2014” into Google and I got 38.5 million hits. I thought that that might be slightly too many, so I refined it down and the lowest figure that I could get with the most restrictive hit for 2014 was 3,500. There is a lot going on in Scotland.

Not everyone is a great fan of festivals. Detective Inspector Rebus is the creation of Ian Rankin, and members will know if they have read his books that Rebus drinks in the Oxford Bar in Young Street. That pub used to be owned by a guy called Willie Ross, who was a homophobe, an anglophobe, a misogynist—he hated almost everybody. He used to shut his pub for the three weeks of the festival and put a notice on the door that said, “Shut due to festival.”

Thankfully, Willie Ross—who is now deceased, so we can be as rude about him as we want to be and should be—was the absolute exception. I have a Giles cartoon book from 1948 that includes a cartoon about the fringe; that was the first year that the fringe sputtered into life. The fringe has been around a long time and it very quickly travelled across the world and across public discourse.

In my constituency the most important festival of all takes place: the Scottish traditional boat festival. It started 21 years ago, when 200 people came to Portsoy, and it now attracts 20,000 people. Occasionally they get good weather.

We have lots of festivals. I have a huge long list. I suppose that we hope that politicians do not get greatly associated with the Scots fiddle festival—think about it.

The whole point about festivals is not about levelling down great international events, but about raising up local aspiration and achievement and preserving local culture.


Stewart Stevenson
does not gather, use or
retain any cookie data.

However Google who publish for us, may do.
fios ZS is a name registered in Scotland for Stewart Stevenson

  © Blogger templates The Professional Template by 2008

Back to TOP