Commonwealth Games 2014 cultural line-up revealed

ORGANISERS of the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games yesterday unveiled an arts programme which will “touch every corner of Scotland” and celebrate the nation’s “great cultural heritage” to complement the sporting spectacle.

Picture: Sandy Young
Picture: Sandy Young

The year-long strand of events, designed to showcase the best of Scottish creativity to the Commonwealth and beyond, will involve a host of the country’s leading artists, writers, and performers, including novelist Louise Welsh, actor Tam Dean Burn, songwriter Aidan Moffat and comedian Janey Godley.

The diverse line-up includes the likes of aerial theatre, satirical comedy, songwriting, and storytelling events, and will be hosted across an eclectic range of venues and settings, from botanic gardens and cinemas through to rivers and bicycles.

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Highlights from the programme were unveiled yesterday in Glasgow’s Winter Gardens, where organisers also showcased the branding for the festival of culture.

Designed by Turner Prize-shortlisted artist, Jim Lambie, the logo – a fusion of brightly coloured lines with a shooting star – draws inspiration from the star-clad façade of Glasgow’s iconic Barrowland Ballroom.

Hailed as “a celebration for all of Scotland,” the calendar of events comprises two parts. The first, Culture 2014, will begin this month and continue throughout the build-up to the Games.

The second, Festival 2014, will be held during the sporting action, and is envisaged as a “massive Games-time celebration.”

Events announced yesterday include the Julia Donaldson Cycling Marathon, which will see Dean Burn travel by bicycle across Scotland to read all of the former Children’s Laureate’s works; Perch, an international aerial street theatre show held in Scotland, Australia and Brazil; and Big Big Sing, a series of events held both live in Glasgow and online featuring members of the Commonwealth.

The programme will also explore the darker side of Scotland’s place in the Commonwealth, courtesy of the Empire Café, which will be based in Glasgow’s Merchant City for seven days during the Games.

With work overseen by novelist Louise Welsh, it will examine the nation’s involvement with the slave trade.

Humza Yousaf, the minister for external affairs, said: “It is testament to Scotland’s talent and ability that such an exciting variety of projects will be on offer for people right across Scotland and the Commonwealth.”

Eileen Gallagher, the co-founder of the TV company, Shed Productions, and chair of the Ceremonies, Culture, and Queen’s Baton Relay Committee at Glasgow 2014, said: “As we count down the days to Glasgow 2014, the entire nation can celebrate and be part of the Games, with an ambitious programme of performance and entertainment which will touch every corner of Scotland.

“Then as all eyes turn to Glasgow, the city will burst into life with a massive celebration which will provide an entertaining and memorable Games time experience, for citizens, spectators and visitors alike.”

Janet Archer, chief executive of Creative Scotland, said: “Culture 2014 and Festival 2014 are going to be incredible.”

Andrew Eaton-Lewis: ‘Programme is proper art, not a tourism-led add on’

If culture is “our heart, our soul, our essence”, as Scotland’s culture secretary Fiona Hyslop said last month, this programme embodies that idea. If it’s not filled with the kind of obvious big names the public will immediately recognise, it’s strong on inspiration, depth, inclusivity, and a sense of purpose. It feels like proper art, rather than a gimmicky, tourism-led add-on to a sporting event.

Examples of this include two events which – as all good art should – seem set to bite the hand that feeds them. The Empire Cafe is a programme of events exploring Scotland’s relationship with the slave trade – hardly feelgood stuff. Then there’s News Just In, a satirical comedy about organising big sporting events. Random Accomplice, the company behind it, are gentler than Armando Iannucci, but still, this is a big sporting event paying artists to ridicule it.

If Glasgow 2014 is confident enough to include such shows, it’s probably because the sheer diversity of the programme. It’s both internationalist (The Scokendia Ensemble, Commonwealth Poets United) and distinctively Scottish (Janey Godley, Aidan Moffat). There is outdoor theatre (Perch), quirkiness (Tam Dean Burn cycling around Scotland reading Julia Donaldson to children), family events (Blueblock Studio) and tributes to great Scots. Jim Lambie is a great choice to design the logo – a serious, Turner Prize short-listed artist, and also a man in love with pop culture and bright colours.

That sums this programme up – populism with integrity.

• Andrew Eaton-Lewis is The Scotsman arts editor

Travelling shows are among the highlights of exciting festivals

Perch - An ambitious and spectacular global performance on multiple stages, Perch will use aerial and street theatre, community participation, choirs, orchestras and media broadcast in an international collaboration by Conflux, Legs on the Wall and Lume Teatro

Where You’re Meant To Be - Songwriter and raconteur Aidan Moffat will partner multi-award winning filmmaker Paul Fegan to document a Scottish road trip celebrating the art of storytelling and its indelible place in Scotland’s psyche.

GRIT - An ambitious new multi-form, international collaborative theatre production based on the inspiring life and work of musician, Martyn Bennett. Director Cora Bissett and playwright Kieran Hurley will work with a team of international and Scottish Dance, circus and theatre artists.

Journeys to Glasgow - Celebrating the nation’s comedy storytelling tradition, comedian Janey Godley will travel the country gathering stories, which will be performed by her and other Scottish and Commonwealth artists in a tour using a vintage Bedford bus.

Julia Donaldson Cycling Marathon - Acclaimed actor Tam Dean Burn, above, will travel by bicycle to locations across Scotland and read to children all of Glasgow-based former Children’s Laureate Julia Donaldson’s 167 books.

The River - The Clyde and the Thames will be the settings for a spectacular dance production inspired by historical and

personal stories of journeys between Commonwealth countries. Created and performed by Barrowland Ballet’s professional ensemble alongside a large community cast, the project will culminate in two high-profile dance performances accompanied by a live choir along the rivers’ banks and on boats, in London, and in Glasgow.

The Empire Café - Based in Glasgow’s Merchant City, the venue will explore Scotland’s involvement with the slave trade via a series of debates, academic papers, literary readings, films, workshops and art installations. The work is led by author Louise Welsh and Jude Barber of Collective Architecture.