Brian Ferguson: what Scottish arts events will be making headlines in 2017

Trainspotting actors Ewan McGregor  and Ewan Bremner. Picture: PA
Trainspotting actors Ewan McGregor and Ewan Bremner. Picture: PA
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The new year was just a few seconds old at Edinburgh’s Hogmanay street party when there was reminder of what promises to be one of 2017’s biggest cultural moments.

The familiar beats of Underworld’s track Born Slippy received a roar of recognition from the crowds packed into Princes Street – where the opening scenes of Trainspotting famously unfold.

The BBC's head of programmes and services, Scotland, Donalda MacKinnon

The BBC's head of programmes and services, Scotland, Donalda MacKinnon

Now the countdown is well and truly on to the release of its long-awaited sequel, arguably the most hyped Scottish film since Danny Boyle’s original adaptation of Irvine Welsh’s best-selling novel.

The groundbreaking film virtually changed the face of UK cinema in 1996, the year after the release of both Rob Roy and Braveheart put the country on the global movie map. It has taken 15 years since the release of Welsh’s follow-up book, Porno, for Boyle to be able to patch things up with Ewan McGregor and reunite him with Robert Carlyle, Ewen Bremner and Jonny Lee Miller.

Despite the release of a thrilling trailer in November, little is known about the film’s plot. But, intriguingly, it appears McGregor’s character, Mark Renton, has some making up to do with the friends he betrayed at the end of the first film.

The release of T2 will allow Edinburgh to steal a bit of the cinematic limelight from Glasgow in the early part of 2017, with the latter’s film festival just missing out on Boyle’s sequel, which will see the light of day on 27 January.

It will release its own programme in the middle of this month, but has already unveiled plans for its own taste of mid-1990s nostalgia with a celebration of the record label Chemikal Underground. Alex Kapranos from Franz Ferdinand, Stuart Braithwaite from Mogwai and Emma Pollock from The Delgados will be among those performing after a screening of Lost in France, an acclaimed documentary about an explosion of talent in Glasgow’s indie music scene 20 years ago.

More nostalgia is on offer in the mid-February festival, with special anniversary screenings of Secretary, which will see the film festival stage its own fetish night, and cult vampire thriller The Lost Boys, which will see fans transported to a secret location on the city’s outskirts.

Although the film festival’s red carpet guests have yet to be confirmed, another movie star, Olivia Newton-John, will be among the headliners at Glasgow’s first festival of the year, Celtic Connections. Its fans have just over a fortnight to wait until Brit Award winner Laura Marling opens the event with a one-off collaboration with the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra.

Evelyn Glennie, Martha Wainwright, Liz Lochhead, Fairport Convention, King Creosote and Karine Polwart are among the other key attractions of the event, which runs 19 January-5 February, along with reigning Scottish Album of the Year winner Anna Meredith.

February and March will see the arrival of a brand new festival in Glasgow, when Take Me Somewhere stages performance art events in spaces across the city, including the Tron Theatre, the Tramway, the Citizens Theatre, Platform and the CCA. However, its creator, Jackie Wylie, will have less than a month when it wraps up before she takes the National Theatre of Scotland into its long-awaited new era.

This time last year it was gearing up for a globe-trotting 12 months to mark its first decade of shows. Previous hits The James Plays, The Strange Undoing of Prudencia Hart, Let The Right One In and Our Ladies of Perpetual Succour were lined up by artistic director Laurie Sansom for its tenth anniversary.

But he sent shock-waves through the Scottish theatre world by announcing his resignation, shortly after speaking out over the impact of cuts in its funding from the Scottish Government. Two months later he was gone.

NTS embarked on a lengthy period of soul-searching before embarking on a hunt for a replacement, with Wylie’s appointment not confirmed until October.

Before Wylie starts at the end of March, NTS will have unveiled its first permanent headquarters. Sansom played a key role in the development of Rockvilla, which will have transformed a former cash and carry warehouse on the banks of the Forth and Clyde Canal by the end of this month. But it is likely to be much later in the year before Wylie is able to reveal her first line-up of shows and the direction she will be taking the company.

A new leader is already in place at Pacific Quay in Glasgow after the appointment of Donalda MacKinnon as BBC Scotland’s first female director in December. While the fate of the much-debated “Scottish Six” bulletin will no doubt be at the top of her in-tray, many of those working in the nation’s troubled screen sector may be more intrigued by early pledges to get more home-grown drama and comedy programmes made north of the Border.

The BBC is under growing pressure to allocate a greater share of licence fee money generated in Scotland to productions made here. While Shetland stole the glory from Outlander at November’s Bafta Scotland Awards, major new dramas are already in the pipeline.

Clique is a brand new six-parter, in which two best friends are drawn into an elite group of girls by a lecturer during their first few weeks at Edinburgh University. Trust Me, also set in Edinburgh, will follow a nurse who loses her job for whistleblowing and steals her best friend’s identity to try to provide for her daughter.

Drama takes centre stage in August when an almighty month of cultural celebration will mark the 70th anniversary of the Edinburgh International Festival, Fringe and Edinburgh Film Festival.

While the prospect of Brexit has overshadowed planning for the landmark EIF programme, expectations are already how it will outdo Deep Time, the 2016 opening event which saw the Castle rock transformed. Director Fergus Linehan has kept his powder dry so far, but with the EIF programme launch just two months away, fans will not have long to wait to start plotting their summer.

Fringe-watchers will be looking to see whether new chief executive Shona McCarthy – now into her first full year in the High Street hot seat – can deliver on pledges to take the event out of the congested city centre and broaden its appeal to local audiences.

The Film Festival will start the party early in June with its own 70th anniversary bash and will be hoping for big names to follow in the footsteps of McGregor after his special appearance at the Filmhouse last November.

Elsewhere, the focus is likely to fall increasingly on Dundee, where building work on its much-anticipated V&A museum is expected to be finished by the end of the year ahead of its planned opening in 2018, while the city’s new design festival will be back at the former West Ward Works printing plant after a successful pilot in 2016.

The city’s ambitions to become European Capital of Culture in 2023 will be bolstered by the staging of its first major outdoor musical in August, although it may have a rival in Glasgow from the creators of T in the Park, the loss of which has left a huge hole in the calendar, especially in Perthshire.

However, Perth itself will be out to make headlines for all the right reasons before the end of 2017 by being named UK City of Culture for 2021 to coincide with the unveiling of a new look for its historic theatre. Some of the stiffest competition for the title is likely to come north of the Border, with Paisley unsurprisingly making the most of backing from Edinburgh’s Hogmanay headliner Paolo Nutini.

The home of the Paisley pattern has already unveiled plans for an international weaving festival as part of a year-long programme of events under the banner of Scotland’s Year of History, Heritage and Archaeology, which will also include a celebration of 250 years of Edinburgh’s New Town.