AN ALL-DAY classical music marathon led by violinist Nicola Benedetti, a showcase of South African work at the Edinburgh International Festival and an exploration of Scotland’s slave-trade past will be part of a huge programme of cultural events to mark the Commonwealth Games.
A series of short films inspired by Shetlanders who voyaged overseas on Clyde-built ships, a visit to Glasgow by an Aboriginal activist to head a showcase of Australian culture, and a new dance production inspired by Vivaldi’s Four Seasons are among the 42 projects.
Others include the formation of a new orchestra to showcase African music, a Commonwealth-themed food and drink strand at the Edinburgh International Science Festival, and a collaboration between Gaelic, Aboriginal and Maori artists to be staged in Scotland, Australia and New Zealand.
In another project, spectacular aerial performances will be staged simultaneously on rooftops in Brazil, Australia and Glasgow.
About 1,000 events are being staged in what is billed as an “unprecedented” programme of new work created by world-leading and emerging artists from home and abroad.
Venues range from flagship venues and village halls, to parks, boats, gardens and river banks.
The entire programme, including a Glasgow-wide festival during the Games in July and August, is costing about £13 million to stage and will feature more than 200 projects covering the length and breadth of Scotland.
The bulk of the costs are being shared between national arts agency Creative Scotland, which is putting in £9.75m of its annual National Lottery funding, and the Games organisers, with further backing from Channel 4, the BBC and the British Council.
Many of the projects will reach a climax during Glasgow’s festival, which will run from 19 July – four days before the opening ceremony at Celtic Park – until 3 August. Music, dance, comedy and film events will be staged at three “live sites” at Glasgow Green, the Merchant City and Kelvingrove Park bandstand.
David Grevemberg, chief executive of the Glasgow 2014 Games, said: “This is a city that lives and breathes culture, but artistic expression is not limited to Glasgow, it’s part of the country’s DNA, and it’s against this backdrop that the Commonwealth Games is taking place.
“Culture 2014 will not only showcase the best of Scottish culture alongside creative work from across the Commonwealth, it will be a fundamental part of the Games experience.”
Jill Miller, director of the Glasgow 2014 cultural programme, said the planned events would be of the “highest possible artistic quality” and create an “unforgettable Commonwealth experience” for the entire country.
She added: “Glasgow doesn’t like to do things the way that other people do it. The approach to culture here has been very different to what has gone before.
“Our objective has been to produce new artistic and cultural experiences to reflect our diversity and Commonwealth relationships. The scale and range of the programme is enormous. It truly is a national celebration of culture.”
Benedetti will perform in three out of seven concerts in July, all be staged at the Royal Concert Hall in Glasgow. The Royal Scottish National Orchestra (RSNO) and BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra will join forces for a spectacular finale.
Dundee and Glasgow will host concerts featuring more than 800 youngsters from the National Youth Choir of Scotland and RSNO junior chorus.
Booker Prize winner Eleanor Catton will visit Glasgow for its Aye Write festival, which will also stage a tribute to Nelson Mandela and hold a “future news conference” for the next generation of journalists.
The Tramway in Glasgow will host a showcase of contemporary culture from Australia, featuring a guest appearance from Uncle Jack Charles, renowned for his one-man shows, while four venues in the Merchant City will hold special events marking the emancipation of African and Caribbean slaves.
Gateway works of art are being created for a woodland park being developed on the banks of the Clyde at the boundary of Glasgow and South Lanarkshire, while leading artists will be challenged to breathe new life into some of the city’s forgotten architectural gems.
Leonie Bell, director of arts at Creative Scotland, who was also involved in the agency’s work on the London 2012 programme, said artists and organisations had “seized” the opportunities offered by the 2014 cultural programme. She added: “We have been overwhelmed by the power and imagination of the ideas and responses that have been coming through.”
She said the programme of events had been carefully spread out to avoid major diary clashes in the same parts of the country.
• For full details, see www.glasgow2014.com/culture
THE CULTURAL MUST-SEES
Classical Marathon Day: A decade on from being crowned BBC Young Musician of the Year, violinist Nicola Benedetti leads a nine-and-a-half-hour extravaganza of classical music at the Glasgow Royal Concert Hall. She will be appear in three different shows, with the line-up featuring the Scottish Chamber Orchestra, Hebrides Ensemble and Dunedin Consort, with the Royal Scottish National Orchestra and BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra joining forces for a grand finale
Grit: The life and legacy of one of Scotland’s groundbreaking musicians, the late Martyn Bennett will be tackled in a major new theatre, music and dance show devised by two of Scotland’s leading theatre-makers, Cora Bissett and Kieran Hurley. The Tramway in Glasgow will host the premiere of the production before it travels to Mull, where Bennett spent his later years
Emancipation Jam: The little-known slave-trade history of Glasgow’s Merchant City is inspiring a one-day special that will see four venues in the area join a worldwide programme of events marking the emancipation of African and Caribbean slaves. Five different art forms will bring to life Scotland’s links with slavery and stories of the abolitionist movements in an event co-produced by the Scots-Jamaican musician, poet and academic Graham Campbell
Edinburgh Festivals: Although details of the Edinburgh International Festival programme are being kept under wraps until next month, its Commonwealth theme for 2014 has inspired a flagship season of work from South Africa. And acts from both South Africa and New Zealand are expected to be showcased in at least five of the city’s flagship festivals over the summer, including the Fringe, the Tattoo and the jazz festival
Ebb Tide: Shetland’s long tradition of its men going to sea, to either new lives or simply to work, has inspired a new project that will see the Shetland Moving Image Archive join forces with local film-makers to produce a major body of work inspired by the Shetlanders who voyaged overseas on ships made on the Clyde. They will be exhibited in village halls, leisure centres, schools and at the island’s flagship new arts centre, Mareel, before a gala at the Tall Ship on the Clyde in Glasgow in July
Aye Write: A major Commonwealth strand for Glasgow’s major literary festival will include a special visit from last year’s Booker Prize winner Eleanor Catton, author of The Luminaries; a tribute event to late South African president Nelson Mandela and a conference for 300 or so young journalists, which will include masterclasses from some of the world’s leading reporters and writers
Marathon Storytelling Cycling Challenge: Actor Tam Dean Burn best known as a star of BBC Scotland soap River City, will be riding across Scotland to read all 167 works of Glasgow-based children’s writer Julia Donaldson. As well as her most famous creation, The Gruffalo, the actor will stage free performances of her less well-known stories and songs
The Four Seasons: The North-east’s changeable weather patterns and Vivaldi’s famous classical music score will inspire a brand new dance production, involving young people from around Aberdeenshire, choreographers and community activists. A gala performance at His Majesty’s Theatre in Aberdeen will be the curtain-raiser to the city’s annual international youth festival
Boomerang: A hugely ambitious international music project will see Gaelic, Aboriginal and Maori cultural traditions celebrated at the Womad Festival in New Zealand, Sydney Opera House in Australia and the Hebridean Celtic Festival, on the Isle of Lewis. The Scottish elements of the show will be curated by the Highland folk band Breabach, previous winners at the Scots Trad Music Awards, and masterminds of the Burns celebration at Glasgow’s Celtic Connections festival
From Scotland With Love: Indie music godfather Kenny Anderson better known as Mercury Music Prize nominee King Creosote, is hand-picking a group of favourite musicians to create a soundtrack for a 70-minute film that director Virginia Heath is making, drawn entirely from the screen archives at the National Library of Scotland, It is billed as “a musical and visual poem from Scotland to the world”