WHILE major Scottish arts launches are generally presumed to be an Edinburgh-Glasgow preserve, this Saturday sees northern, rural Moray staging Scotland’s first ever Culture Day.
Culture Day will feature a cornucopia of music, theatre, dance, exhibitions, film screenings, storytelling, taster sessions, talks, walking tours and doors-open events – all free of charge – taking place in neighbouring Findhorn, Kinloss and Forres.
With creative practitioners and organisations in the area invited to participate, and conjure up imaginative ways in which audiences might experience their work, it’s a new evolution of the Culture Night concept which originated in the southern Swedish town of Lund in 1985, aimed both at promoting local artistic endeavour and connecting artists more closely with their wider community. Traditionally held on the third weekend in September, Culture Night is now an annual event in several Nordic cities, and has latterly taken off in Ireland, with concurrent festivities this year in over 30 locations, from Cork to Belfast.
Moray – and Scotland – join the party in 2013 primarily thanks to Kresanna Aigner, director of Culture Day organisers Findhorn Bay Arts, and formerly responsible for launching Belfast’s hugely successful Culture Night in 2009. Brought up near Findhorn, she moved home in 2010, and was soon grappling with the logistics of adapting the event’s original urban, geographically compact template to a considerably more scattered populace.
“It really started with one of those middle-of-the-night lightbulb moments,” she explains. “I knew the night-time format wouldn’t work somewhere so rural, but realised a Culture Day could, with these three communities as a manageable hub.”
There followed two years of planning and preparation, from securing funding to arranging shuttle buses. Meanwhile she contacted every artist, performer, cultural organisation and creative business Aigner could find in the area. “The response has been pretty incredible,” she says. “We’ve more than 80 participating groups and individuals – our target was 50 – from highly regarded professionals like Graeme Roger, Mary Bourne and Bodysurf Scotland dance company, to community choirs and local voluntary groups.”
With plans already afoot to continue the event as part of a larger annual arts festival in Moray, Aigner is keen to counter the gloomy news stories arising from Moray Council’s axing of its entire arts budget in February.
“These are tough times, of course,” she says, “but Saturday’s programme proves just how strong and diverse the arts sector is in Moray, and there’s a real collective motivation to work together on finding new ways forward.” And with an estimated economic impact in the region of £200,000, Culture Day marks a significant contribution.