Brian Ferguson: 2014 a year of many highlights

Kelvingrove Bandstand's rebirth was perfectly timed for the Games and symbolic of Glasgow's cultural renaissance. Picture: Lisa Ferguson
Kelvingrove Bandstand's rebirth was perfectly timed for the Games and symbolic of Glasgow's cultural renaissance. Picture: Lisa Ferguson
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WHATEVER 2015 may bring, expectation levels in the arts world for the new year are nowhere near where they were 12 months ago.

Mostly, this year lived up to expectations, particularly the cultural programme for the Commonwealth Games. Kelvingrove Bandstand’s rebirth was perfectly timed for the Games and symbolic of Glasgow’s cultural renaissance, but hats off to whoever decided it would also be a good idea to use the arts to spread the benefit of the Commonwealth Games throughout the country.

It was a treat to experience the power of Cora Bissett’s theatre piece about Martyn Bennett on the isle of Mull, where he had spent his final years. The Hebridean Celtic Festival played host at Glasgow Green to Boomerang, an ambitious project which brought Celtic, Aboriginal and Maori performers together for huge shows in Scotland, Australia and New Zealand.

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Generation, Scotland’s biggest ever celebration of visual art, which saw the work of more than 100 artists showcased in 60 venues across the country, was a visionary project that showed the power of collaboration between the National Galleries of Scotland and Glasgow Life, the trust that runs Kelvingrove and the city’s Gallery of Modern Art.

T in the Park signed off in style from Balado, with Calvin Harris, Biffy Clyro and Paolo Nutini topping the bill.

The Edinburgh Festival might not have seemed like a vintage year at the time, as the city shivered through August after Glasgow’s sweltering July, and with the referendum threatening to overshadow proceedings, but there is no doubt it was a good one for the Edinburgh International Festival in Sir Jonathan Mills’ swansong, particularly with the success of The James Plays, the big Scottish Government-backed production, which helped take the sting out of the row about his refusal to address the historic poll.

The Fringe was dominated by the controversial cultural boycott led by many of the key artistic figures in the pro-Yes campaign, with some uncomfortable moments for chief executive Kath Mainland, but the growth in Fringe shows and box-office figures spoke for themselves, and it would be a major surprise if the momentum did not continue.

The individual with arguably the biggest challenge next year is Fergus Linehan, who has already put his stamp on the Edinburgh International Festival with a surprise move to align its dates with the Fringe again in 2015, the securing of Oscar-winner Juliette Binoche for his theatre programme, and a decision to have two different launch dates. With the first of these in just over a month’s time, he seems likely to arrive with a bang, well before the event’s fireworks finale next August.

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