Riding the Groundswell

1 May 2012

THE FESTIVAL season is hotting up again, and the Highlands & Islands will enjoy their share of the action.

THE prodigious growth of festivals of all sizes and kinds has been one of the more noteworthy phenomena of the past couple of decades, a fact brought home again by a perusal of the festival guide issued for the second year running by Creative Scotland and The List magazine.

It’s a project that would have fitted on a modest leaflet when the Edinburgh-based magazine first launched in the late 1980s, rather than the substantial (free) publication of 2012. Events like Tartan Heart and RockNess could hardly have been envisaged in the Highlands at that point, either, and they are only the attention-grabbing figureheads of a much larger groundswell of events scattered all across the region.

Tama Barry in Scottish Ballet's A Streetcar Named Desire (photo Andrew Ross)

Tama Barry in Scottish Ballet's A Streetcar Named Desire (photo Andrew Ross)

Music, theatre, dance, books, story-telling, visual arts – you name it, and there is a festival celebrating it somewhere in Scotland. So what keeps the bandwagon rolling, even in these days of squeezed budgets and pinched purses? Is it the chance to see big names that wouldn’t normally make it to the region for one-off dates? Is it the buzz of getting together with lots of other folks – whether the huge celebratory crowds at a RockNess or your neighbours at more modest local gatherings – to lap up the atmosphere and the art?

Setting probably plays a part, too, especially in the outdoor events (hope springs eternal …) and in locations not normally given over to hosting shows. Most likely it’s a combination of all these things (and doubtless a few more besides) that drives the apparently insatiable growth of festival culture.

Given Northings own current austerity measures, our reviewers will be dipping into the festival calendar rather than aiming for comprehensive coverage, but whatever the event you are either involved in running or planning to attend, we hope you have an excellent outcome.

Both Scottish Ballet and Scottish Opera visit Inverness and Aberdeen in the next few weeks, the former with Ashley Page’s last major production before his not exactly amicable departure as Artistic Director later this year (much enjoyed by Jennie Macfie – see her review), and the latter with a revival of a popular production of Puccini’s Tosca.

Page has done a fine job of both resurrecting the fortunes and bringing about the transformation of Scottish Ballet into the modern company we now have. Filling his shoes will offer a considerable challenge for his successor, Christopher Hampson, when he takes over the reins later this year.

Kenny Mathieson


© Kenny Mathieson, 2012