WHAT are you doing for Hogmanay? I’ll be heading north to stay with family and friends in Stonehaven, a town whose inhabitants celebrate New Year by striding up and down the street swinging burning fireballs around their heads.
This year, they’ll be sharing those streets with thousands of probably quite drunk Simple Minds fans. My friends, meanwhile, rarely throw a party without dreaming up an elaborate, costume-swapping fancy dress theme. It’ll be a memorable night, however it turns out.
I’ll be too busy dodging fireballs to catch Simple Minds (and I don’t have a ticket anyway) but like many other people I’ll be raising a glass to Stonehaven for pulling that one off. A town with a population of just 10,000 bagging last year’s Edinburgh Hogmanay headliners? I’d love to think this means the Pet Shop Boys could mark the end of 2014 with a gig in the same Market Square. I might be interviewing them in the next few weeks, Stonehaven, so I’ll put a word in if you like.
I’ll be sad to miss Edinburgh’s big Hogmanay do, not least because, if it wasn’t for family commitments, I could have performed in it this year – as a small part of the show Whatever Gets You Through The Night, being revived as a small part of the just announced Home:Lands extravaganza (I’m in the programme, in fact, although inexplicably identified as “Andrew Eton”. Oh, the indignity). On the plus side, this means there’s less conflict of interest in me saying that Home:Lands looks brilliant – a whole afternoon of quality music, dance and theatre on New Year’s Day, all for free.
It’s very Scottish too. Edinburgh Hogmanay’s Street Party is Scots all the way: Chvrches, King Creosote, the Rezillos, Fiddler’s Bid, Treacherous Orchestra and Django Django (yes I know, but let’s claim them as Scottish for the sake of argument), while Nina Nesbitt (half-Scottish, but ditto) is supporting the Pet Shop Boys in Princes Street Gardens.
King Creosote is back the next day as part of Home:Lands, demonstrating that reports of the death of the Fence Collective have been greatly exaggerated. He’ll be celebrating East Neuk culture with help from the brilliant Edinburgh singer-songwriter Withered Hand – whose long-gestating second album looks set to be one of next year’s musical highpoints – and the Fisheries Museum. For a minute I thought this was the name of a new band I hadn’t heard of, but no, it’s the actual Scottish Fisheries Museum in Anstruther.
Who else? Everyone from Smallpetitklein, a group of Dundee dancers soundtracked by Philip Glass, to the Bafta award-winning Edinburgh art collective FOUND (here assisted, enticingly, by last year’s Scottish Album of the Year Award-winner RM Hubbert) and a long list of folk musicians across several “lands” – one curated by Lau, two more kicking off the new year with different kinds of ceilidhs.
There’s a risk of this column turning into a list, so I’ll just say that if you’re in Edinburgh at Hogmanay you really should go to Home:Lands, and leave it at that.
There’s a footnote to this, which will not remain a footnote for long. “Hogmanay is a time for us all to reflect on the year gone by and look forward to new beginnings,” said culture secretary Fiona Hyslop at Tuesday’s Hogmanay programme launch, “and this is especially relevant as we stand on the threshold of such a momentous year for Scotland.” This was, inevitably, a politically loaded statement – no prizes for guessing what “new beginnings” this senior SNP politician was really referring to. In just over a week’s time, the government will publish its white paper on independence, setting out the SNP’s “vision of Scotland”. Culture, it is expected, will play a significant part in that vision. Earlier this year, Hyslop boldly claimed she was part of “the most culturally ambitious government Scotland has ever had”. Top Scottish writers, including William McIlvanney, have reportedly been approached to add inspirational literary flourishes to the white paper. And Home:Lands’ showcase of Scottish artistic talent is the opening event of a second Year of Homecoming, which the SNP is clearly hoping will inspire enough patriotic pride to help swing the vote on 18 September 2014. Home:Lands looks like a great showcase for Scottish artists, but it will also serve as propaganda. One aspect of the “new beginning” it represents is that, for the whole of next year, for better or worse, art and politics will be inseparable.