Ashley Smith-Hammond

Ashley’s month summary of news from across Scotland’s culture and arts sector.

Deep breath. It’s almost August. Arms up in the air. Here we gooooooooo!

Awards & applause

Paisley has made the shortlist for the UK 2021 City of Culture! Read the official announcement on all five shortlisted cities and then check out the in depth coverage of Paisley’s bid.

Drake Music Scotland has been named as the Demonstrating Digital award winner at the Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations SCVO’s 2017 Scottish Charity Awards.

The Herald Culture Awards were handed out in July and winners included:

  • Company Chordelia for best live performance
  • Starcatchers for the Judge’s Choice Moment
  • Jackie Donnachie and Rachael McClean (commended) for best visual artists
  • Scottish Opera took the technical award
  • The Barn and CCA (commended) for best venue
  • Celtic Connections and Dundee Design Festival (commended) for the best Scottish events

You can catch all the online conversation using #cultureawards.

Notable Queen’s Birthday Honours to cultural sector leaders:

  • CBE to Colin McClatchie, Vice-President of Scottish Opera
  • OBE to Adrian Brian Turpin, Artistic Director Wigtown Book Festival
  • MBEs to Gillian Dinsmore, former Vice-Chair of Music in Hospitals UK and Convenor Music in Hospitals Scotland; Claire Rashleigh Garnett, founder of Peebles Orchestra and Peebles Youth Orchestra; James Stretton, former chairman of the Lammermuir Festival.



Jennifer Hunter has been appointed as Culture Counts’ new Executive Leader.

Richard Finlay, former Chair of Creative Scotland and the National Theatre of Scotland sadly passed away in July.

Niall Lothian will become the new Chairman of Board for the Edinburgh International Festival.



After a near 10-year renovation process, Dunoon Burgh Hall has reopened as a contemporary art venue.

Edinburgh’s Ross Pavilion (formerly Bandstand) is set for an overhaul. People can see the seven designs at the City Art Centre and vote for their favourite.

Serving the communities across Scotland’s Highlands and Islands the Screen Machine mobile cinema has had a major refit and is back on the road.

Progress is continuing on Collective Gallery’s Calton Hill renovation and Edinburgh Printmakers’ Castle Mill Works centre of excellence.

Recommendations from the expert group reporting to the Royal Botanic Gardens recommends reopening Inverleith House and forging a long term cultural plan for the venue.

There’s a nice ‘behind the curtain’ piece on what it takes to manage an Edinburgh venue during the Fringe with an in-depth breakdown on income and costs.



The Scottish Government has published information about the developing National Cultural Strategy stating, “The strategy will position culture as having intrinsic value and contributing both directly and indirectly to the health, wealth and success of our nation”. A full transcript of the Culture Secretary’s remarks is also available and those looking to read the tea leaves will want to spend some time with it. Coverage in the Scotsman highlighted inequalities in pay and access as a key challenge that the strategy would address while the Herald highlighted plans for a highly participatory process. Culture Republic’s Director, Julie Tait, attended the first National Cultural Strategy meeting on the 26th of June and has shared her experience in our recent blog. Her summary focused on four issues – the challenge of definitions (of ‘culture’ itself and the cultural audience); culture’s connection to other policy areas; who the policy is for and the importance of access, equalities and excellence.

The UK government department DCMS will now officially stand for the Department of Digital, Culture, Media and Sport reflecting the importance and growth of digital sectors.



A long read from Chris Michaels the new Digital Director of the National Gallery, explores new business models for museums, looking at dynamic pricing, free admission and innovative subscription models in particular.

UK Music’s Wish You Were Here research on live music tourism has been published. It shows that a significant proportion (38%) of Scotland’s live music audiences in 2016 were music tourists that generated £334m of economic impact.


Good news

Audience growth is always good news and the Edinburgh International Film Festival reported the highest audience figures in several years – over 53k people attended this, the 70th anniversary festival.

There are a couple of new projects to highlight Scotland’s material history, which cultural organisations may want to tap into. The History of Scotland in 25 Objects is a new website from VisitScotland highlighting 25 notable objects drawn from right across the country. It offers information on where a visitor could see them and more about the area they came from. #Edinburgh101 is a history of the city in 101 objects created as part of the 2017 Year of History, Heritage and Archaeology activities. It highlights many events and objects intimately tied to the city’s cultural history, touching on literature, painting, music, cinema, publishing, sculpture, folk traditions and more.

Arts organisations that work with or in schools understand many of the challenges of offering arts experiences to pupils within education. The Scotsman on Sunday last weekend profiled how the Theatre In Schools project is working to simplify things.

The National Museums of Scotland and the British Council both received substantial awards from the National Lottery “to lead projects which will empower young people to change the face of heritage.”

A new Mental Health Fringe Award has been launched for the 2017 Fringe. It will recognise the show that most successfully explores the subject of mental health.

BBC Radio 4’s new series Opening Night, which focuses on regional theatre, will launch in August with a visit to Fringe and tour to theatres around the UK.

Birds of Paradise are inviting involvement from young disabled people and the cultural sector as the next phase of the BOP Barriers project, which kicked off at the end of last year. The link includes more about the project, its findings so far and how to get involved.

There’s an interesting debate in Arts Professional adding nuance around the question of how to integrate performers and audiences with learning disabilities. Relaxed performances come under particular scrutiny and defence. Those interested in widening participation will want to read the thread and the Separate Doors research as well.

British Council Scotland’s Disability Arts International team have published a useful video and article with their previews and picks for 2017’s Edinburgh Festival Fringe shows with downloadable summaries of audio described, relaxed, signed and captioned performances.

The recent Dundee Design Festival was enthusiastically reviewed in Design Week which profiled the Dundee’s changes over the past 15 years, the role that culture-led regeneration has played and reflected on the importance of it’s status as a UNESCO City of Design.



The Edinburgh Festivals 70th Legacy Tourism Innovation Fund is now open (through September 2017) for applications of up to £9,000 for project that will deliver memorable visitor experiences beyond the 70th Anniversary year.

The British Council’s new Art new Audiences (nAnA) grants are open for East African and British artists, arts organisations, and art collectives, to create new art together and to showcase this art to audiences across East Africa and the UK.

Young people (from 8 – 26) can apply to the Create18 Fund from Young Scot to support events they would like to run as part of the Year of Young People 2018.

In Glasgow, up to £4,500 is available for projects that want to work in one of the city’s Stalled Spaces and create a positive impact on the area.

A new 2-year pilot called FOCUS to help Scottish film and television businesses access the development expertise to achieve significant growth has just launched and is now taking registrations of interest.


For more on what has been happening across Scotland, see our July summary of Scotland’s cultural sector news.


Main image credit: Michigan's Adventure 017 by Jeremy Thompson (CC BY 2.0)