For a New York minute, Tartan Week begins to criss-cross the mind
IN A poetry club at the back of a cafe in New York's Bowery district, a girl takes to the stage.
She's had a number one hit in the UK, but the guys in charge here don't know who she is.
Once they hear Sandi Thom sing, they know they'll remember her name, and where she comes from.
Lorne Cousin, a piper who toured with Madonna, has already made sure the beat boxers and jazz singers there that night know just how cool Scottish music can be.
More than 7,000 runners set off around Central Park. Many have come to prepare for the New York marathon, but they're soon caught up in a mass of sweaty saltires and, spurred on by the skirl of the pipes, are agreeing with the man on the megaphone at the Scotland run, that they're all Scots for the day.
In Grand Central station, a commuter stops to pick up a brochure at a Scottish marketing stand, uses a computer offering a genealogy tracing service and walks away with a heritage.
In a country that has become home to people from every country in the world, assessing a cultural impact in the United States can seem an impossible task. But it is one that the Scottish fashion designers, musicians, business people, politicians, tourism promoters and actors in New York for Tartan Week are determined to achieve.
But it is not easy. Tartan Week banners may hang from scores of lampposts in Manhattan and the Scottish Village, a showcase of national products and services based at Grand Central, may have attracted more than 300,000 visitors last year. But when people ask me what I'm doing in New York and I tell them I'm covering Tartan Week, many just look blank.
Not everyone though. In the first taxi I take after arriving, the driver knows all about Scotland and Tartan Week. In fact, with optimism, he tells me he may well be in Scotland soon, producing a leaflet he has picked up from the station offering the chance to win a stay in a Scottish castle - one up for the VisitScotland marketing team.
Struggling to get my bank card to work in a chemist's off 44th Street, a woman in the queue says: "Oh you're Scottish. Are you over here for Tartan Week?" Not only has she seen the signs, but she has already met other Scots over for the event.
Later, the Dressed to Kilt fashion show - the reason Thom, Cousin, Miss Scotlands Lois Weatherup and Nicola McLean and other Scots names and faces are in New York - is due to take place. The event's honorary chairman, Sir Sean Connery, is due to attend.
But the real impact of Tartan Week comes from young Scottish singers, musicians and designers. It is they who will leave the longest lasting impression of modern Scotland on New Yorkers after the banners have fallen from the city's lampposts.
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