- Brian donaldson
- December 21, 2021
Scottish cultural figures reveal their choice of the year
We walked in and out of blockades and closed before being re-entered into theaters during a year of flux and uncertainty. But the only reassuring constant has been a flow of top cultural activity, whether online or in person. As we approach the end of 2021, we spoke to leading art directors, writers, actors, comedians, musicians, poets and broadcasters across Scotland to share their number one highlight of the past 12 months.
Alain bissett author and playwright
My pick of the year was the new version of Candy. First off, this was the first movie I went to a real theater to see after the lockdown, and as a huge Clive Barker fan, I was delighted to see it make a comeback, although I did. Generally wary of horror reboots because so many of them turned out hollow. However, I thought it was really fresh, it deepened the mythology and its mix of racial and class politics, and the keen look it was casting at the mores of the artistic community was perfectly realized.
Arusa qureshi writer and editor
My cultural highlight this year was Push The Boat Out at Summerhall. Not only was it amazing to have a brand new poetry festival in Edinburgh, but the fact that it featured hip hop as a major element made it all the more special. The program was well organized, with a good mix of panels, screenings and performance events, and I was really happy to be involved and to be showing with so many writers, poets and rappers that I respect. Hopefully there will be more editions of the festival in the future and when it comes back it might be longer than a weekend so we can add even more poetry and hip hop to our lives.
David Greig Artistic Director of the Royal Lyceum Theater
My number one culmination of the cultural year was the second season of Cocaine & Rhinestones, a podcast on the history of country music. Written and presented by the acerbic, astute and knowledgeable Tyler Mahan Coe, it consists of two hour-long deep dives into themes, ideas and artists. The second season centers around George Jones and Tammy Wynette. With long sections on medieval jousting, bullfighting, ballet, drag history in America as well as the beautifully refined explorations of Owen Bradley’s Nashville sound and the invention of the honky tonk piano, it is unlike anything else. what you have never heard before. Quite honestly, this is the Moby dick country music.
dawn taylor Artistic Director of Puppet Animation Scotland and the MANIPULATE Festival
This year, with COP26 upon us, I’ve been inspired by how artists from all disciplines have responded to the climate crisis, large-scale works like Vision Mechanics’ Storm instead of the Landing Hub pop-up. My highlight was the immersive exhibition by Wayne Binitie Zero polar at the Glasgow Science Center. By incorporating trapped Antarctic air from 1765 into his sculptures and an Antarctic ice core that the public could touch or taste, he offered a rare glimpse into the heart of something slowly disappearing. Since most of us are quite removed from it on a daily basis, it was striking to be brought so close to the physical reality of the history and future of our planet’s climate.
Iain De Caestecker actor
He Buco was one of the first films I had seen on the big screen and it left a lasting impression on me not only for its original and distinctive narrative style, but also for recalling the singular and special quality of cinema. In particular, the film’s power to transport you to another place and time was especially welcome this year.
Jay lafferty stand-up & writer
My cultural highlight of the year was the return of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe. In August 2020, I stood in an empty, un-scalloped Bristo plaza and lamented in front of a film crew the cancellation of the world’s largest arts festival. Creatives adapted and a colorful online work event took place; but it’s not the same as sitting in a strangers room, holding a hot beer and wondering if you’re about to see some comedy genius or some makeshift carnage. This year she came back, our festival, and maybe she didn’t have her full party outfit, but after 18 months of crowds and concerts in the outdoor cafes it was amazing to be back in the country’s capital, playing distance selling socially. pieces of people remembering how to laugh and enjoy the moment again.
Jenny lindsay writer and poet
Push The Boat Out, a new poetry festival for Edinburgh, run by Jenny Niven alongside Kevin Williamson, is such a welcome addition to the poetry calendar, with this inaugural weekend featuring a solid lineup of established poets and newer, local, national and international readers, and a digital element as well. As a participant, it was a joy to meet other poets after such a long time and host a panel on the thorny issue of poetry and class, with Liz Berry, Victoria McNulty and Ross Wilson. This is a poetry festival that is not afraid to put forward a range of voices, explore poetry in all its forms, and is programmed by people who care deeply about both poetry and its audience / readers in Scotland. It’s a wonderful and rare thing that I hope will thrive in 2022.
Kapil Seshasayee musician & activist
In September, I was invited to perform in London at the South Asian music festival Dialed In, hosted by the DJ Daytimers collective that had formed during the lockdown. This festival sparked a revival and interest in stages around South Asian music and it was the first time I had performed in front of a crowd that resonated so closely with the narratives of my work.
Kirstin innes novelist and columnist
While it would be totally wrong of me not to mention the fact that Rose Ayling-Ellis kept me and my five year old gripped, emotional and LOVING every week on our very first Strictly season, if we are talking about C-Capital Cultcha, then the absolute star for me this year has been Burnt coat, the new novel by Sarah Hall. It’s a slim, perfectly formed little gem of a book, an extraordinarily visceral take on sex, grief, creativity, disease, death, and the weird mania of lockdown. I have no idea how she turned around so quickly, but Burnt coat is absolutely the artistic response to the world that we need right now.
Marc Nelson stand-up & writer
My cultural highlight of 2021 is the triumphant return of TRNSMT. Scotland, as everyone knows, has the biggest audiences all over the world. It is a crime to deny their tapes. After the year has passed, seeing Glasgow Green full of folk dancing, drinking and resounding songs from Oasis to Liam Gallagher was simply stunning.
Nicola Meighan writer and host
The books and the conversations surrounding them have cheered me up and sparked ideas throughout the year. I enjoyed moderating a chat with Tracey Thorn about friendship, feminism, The Go-Betweens and rewriting stories as part of Glasgow’s literary love at Aye Write, and loved the hybrid events in person / virtual from the Edinburgh International Book Festival. Highlights include Alison Watt, Andrew O’Hagan, Tice Cin, Warren Ellis, Elif Shafak, Lemn Sissay and Nadine Aisha Jassat, variously reflecting on the wonders of art, the beauty of music, the (s) world (s) around us, magical thinking, the talismanic properties of Nina Simone’s chewing gum and the power of speech.
Pierre Ross author & journalist
The second album by the singer-songwriter of Virginie Lael Neale, Familiarize yourself with the night, summons an atmosphere of personal and spiritual aspiration. Its use, as the main instrument, of an Omnichord (an electronic chimera harp / keyboard / drum machine) gives the whole the ambience of a dusty clapboard chapel in the heart of American lands. The songwriting is masterful, reminiscent of Leonard Cohen in some of the phrasing, and even, in the deep simplicity of ‘How Far Is It To The Grave,’ William Blake’s song. Songs of Innocence and of Experience. This album, which is not yet a year old, already looks like a classic.
Stuart braithwaite musician and songwriter
My cultural highlight of the year was definitely Shadow by Mérou. His music is incredibly captivating and this amazing record could be his best. Highly recommended.
Stuart cosgrove writer and host
The highlight of the year for those of us obsessed with soul music was the
Questlove exit Summer of the soul, an award-winning film that revisits the concerts of Harlem 69 alongside Woodstock. The archives were almost impossible to find and use, and it was assumed that the film would never be finished. Amazing color images of Stevie Wonder, Sly And The Family Stone and an angry but inspiring Nina Simone.
Another must-see movie is Macbeth’s tragedy, Joel Coen’s version of the Shakespearean classic with Denzel Washington. There are many potential routes through the interpretive forest; there is the powerful and disturbing presence of women, among them the three witches and the requisitioned Lady Macbeth, played by the incomparable Frances McDormand. He looks graceful and disturbing with the restless sleep, unruly nights, nightmarish visions, the ghost of Banquo, the counterfeit death, and all troubled tomorrows. It’s a play so rich in performance that it could be Scotland itself …… and I might have forgotten to mention it, but St Johnstone won both National Cups. I love the smell of Brasso in the morning.
Tony mills Artistic Director of Dance Base
I didn’t really engage with the Edinburgh Fringe while filming my own show, so Hidden Door came at a time when I was able to make the most of it. It created a vibe and level of excitement that doesn’t happen often (in my opinion) in Edinburgh outside of the Fringe. Not only was it impressive that the Hidden Door team pulled it all together in the face of the challenges of the times, but it gave so many Scottish artists from diverse backgrounds the opportunity to showcase their work and have an exchange. very missed with live audiences. Attending Hidden Door was invigorating and a great way to end the summer.
Zara Janjua journalist & presenter
As someone who discovered a love of the great outdoors during confinement (the grass is indeed greener when told to stay indoors for 18 months), I fell in love with adventure stories. and there was nothing better than 14 summits: nothing is impossible on Netflix. Intrepid Nepalese mountaineer and former SAS soldier Nimsdai Purja and his crew embarked on a world record journey to conquer the world’s 14 tallest mountains in just seven months. They fought injuries, illnesses and even led rescue missions in the process; it was so inspiring it just might get me off the couch and away from my Hobnob dunkfest.