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Scot:Lands heralds new year with celebration of Scottish culture

As Edinburgh stirs on New Year's Day, heavy-headed from the sparkling celebrations of the night before, the historic Old Town will be dusting itself off and throwing open the doors to more merriment in the shape of Scot:Lands - an ambitious celebration of Scotland's culture, scattered across nine mystery locations.

Scot:Lands banner

Produced by Edinburgh's Hogmanay, Scot:Lands is a pop-up multi-arts festival curated and performed by some of our most innovative artists and arts organisations from as far afield as the Orkney Islands, Galloway and the Highlands. The event promises some utterly unique cultural delights, all free to attend.

Those lucky enough to have secured a ticket to the sold-out experience will be taken on a mystery tour, with fate deciding their path via the spin of a giant compass. As the audience travels from one location to the next, they will encounter dance, music, spoken word, theatre and film.

Several of our Regularly Funded Organisations are involved this year and we spoke to some of them about what they have in store...

Nether:Land

Nether:Land will celebrate and explore the area of Edinburgh’s Royal Mile called the Netherbow, which stretches from St. Mary’s Street to Blackfriars’s Street. Presented by TRACS (Traditional Arts and Culture Scotland) and Flint & Pitch, curator Daniel Abercrombie told us:

"The Netherbow has a huge cultural and literary history and is also home to many stories and songs. The area is alive with cultural activity and is currently home to the Scottish Storytelling Centre, the Scottish Book Trust, the Saltire Society, Canongate Publishers, The List, the Museum of Childhood, John Knox House, Edinburgh UNESCO City of Literature Trust, The Cockburn Association and the Evergreen Studio. A dynamic mix!

Jenny Lindsay - photo by Chris Scott

"We had to find the right blend of family activity through Ceilidh dancing and storytelling, spoken word performance with Edinburgh’s Makar Christine De Luca and Russell Jones, as well as traditional new year activity such as the Galoshins folk drama play, performed by Sokobauno Puppet Theatre.

"All the performers will be adding their own interpretation of what Edinburgh means to them and how others may view it, with particular focus on the Netherbow/Old Town area of Edinburgh. With something of interest for everyone Nether:Land promises to be a land worth exploring on January 1."

Mairi Campbell - photo by Solen Collet

Orcadia:Land

Orcadia:Land will explore the idea of St Magnus as we go into 2017 - the year designated MAGNUS 900, the 900th anniversary of St Magnus’s death. Curated by Orkney-based St Magnus International Festival, Orcadia:Land will involve elements that represent the range of work that the festival would normally programme with traditional music from the Orcadian group GNOSS, choral music from amateur chamber choir, The Mayfield Singers, and contemporary classical music played by The Assembly Project.

GNOSS at Orcadia Land

"St Magnus has always been very much about the new and the emerging as well as its connections to the community and the history and landscape of Orkney," explains Artistic Director and composer Alasdair Nicolson, "and this event will attempt to distil this into an afternoon. 

“Being part of Scot:Lands is a great opportunity for the festival to showcase some of its work to a wider audience and perhaps even intrigue some new audience members to visit in the summer.

Orcadia Land

"The Festival has always had music at its core but, in truth, it’s a hotbed for all art forms and particularly new work in most genres. Having reached the 40th Festival in 2016 we look forward to a new chapter in the history of the Festival with this New Year and where better to start this than as part of Edinburgh’s globally-renowned Hogmanay celebrations.

St. Magnus Cathedral, Kirkwall, Orkney

"St Magnus International Festival is a large-scale event known throughout the world, put together on a small group of Scottish Islands by a very small team with lots of local volunteer assistance. We’re proud to be able to show a little bit of the midsummer madness in Edinburgh“.

Orcadia Land

Wig:Land

Elsewhere, Wig:Land will present a taste of Scotland’s Book Town with a stellar line up of authors, the famed Bookshop Band and a celebration of Burns.

"Wigtown Book Festival has always been a bit of a hoolie" Artistic Director Adrian Turpin tells us, "with a lot of music and visual art as well as more straightforward literary events. At it's best it's a really intimate affair, where people talk to one another.

Crowd outside The Open Book. Photo: Wigtown Book Festival

"We wanted to create that sense at Scot:Lands. But the irony was that the building we were given to work in (and we would have to kill you if we told you what it was) is anything but intimate. Instead it's breathtaking, magnificent, more than a little imposing - and we've been asked to fill two floors. Gulp!

"So what to do? New Year is a time when everyone thinks about where they are coming from and where they are going and we're reflecting that in a spoken word programme called The Turning Point.

"In the same spirit of "something old, something new", we have wonderful traditional music from Stranraer born-and-bred folk musician Robyn Stapleton, but we are also welcoming the wonderful Bookshop Band, who write songs inspired by contemporary novels. They've become fixtures at the Wigtown Festival for the past couple of years and liked it so much that are now moving from Somerset to Scotland's Book Town. Their official moving date? January 1 2017.

Wig Land Bookshop Band - photo Colin Tennant

"In addition, Wig:Land will feature a "pop-up Wigtown". This will include artist-in-residence Astrid Jaekel, a bookbinder, a book doctor advising on what to read, a poetry corner, a bookshop with a twist, and crafts and food from Dumfries & Galloway. 

"The central attraction, though, will be nine "human books"  - including children's author Debi Gliori, performance poet Harry Giles, Saltire award-winner Chitra Ramaswamy, and the world's grumpiest soon-to-be-published bookseller. They will be offering one-to-one audiences for lucky visitors.

"You don't get much more intimate than that."

Let's Dance:Land

If all of that has got you in the mood to dance, Let's Dance:Land will be happy to oblige.

Morag Deyes, Artistic Director at Dance Base and curator of Let's Dance:Land, says: "It's happy feet all round as we play with hip hop, Weimar cabaret songs, a dance-along homage to Bowie, fabulous ballroom dancers and Tai Chi to trigger those post-Hogmanay endorphins back into action.

PRIME at Let's Dance Land

"We curated this Land as we pondered time passing – what's old, retro or vintage? Is it a ballroom dancer making shapes from the dancehalls of the 1940s or hip hop from the 70s? Is someone over the age of 60 truly old? Bowie was 66 and creating the freshest sounds right up until he passed away, and Tai Chi is unchanged after thousands of years. We go under the radar to challenge an old idea of old as an old-fashioned concept.

PRIME at Let's Dance Land

"Dance Base loves the Scot:Lands concept – it's family-friendly, it's bursting with original ideas and fantastic Scottish artists, it celebrates Scotland in all its beautiful facets, and in particular, our Let's Dance:Land also reminds us that we are a dancing nation. Not sure about that? Find a true Scot who hasn't been to a ceilidh!"

Scot:Lands 2017 was supported by Creative Scotland through the Scottish Government’s Edinburgh Festivals Expo Fund, and by the City of Edinburgh Council.

The full list of Lands:

  • Wig:Land - Presented by Wigtown Book Festival
  • Nether:Land - Presented by TRACS (Traditional Arts & Culture Scotland) / Flint & Pitch
  • This:Land - Presented by A Kind Of Seeing
  • Orcadia:Land - Presented by St Magnus International Festival
  • Mountain Thyme:Land - Presented by Active Events
  • Sorley:Land - Presented by Neu! Reekie!
  • High:Land - Presented by Fèis Rois
  • New Scots:Land - Presented by Scary Biscuits
  • Let's Dance:Land - Presented by Morag Deyes and Prime

Photo credits: Chris Scott, Solen Collet, Colin Tennant, Edinburgh's Hogmanay, Wigtown Book Festival, St Magnus International Festival, Dance Base and TRACS.

This article was published on 22 Dec 2016