Pathhead ‘one of Scotland’s most creative places’

A BID to establish Pathhead as an international music centre has received a major boost after it was named one of Scotland’s most creative places, alongside Kilmarnock and Huntly.

• Pathhead in Midlothian named as one of Scotland’s most creative places

• Kilmarnock and Huntly also winners of Creative Scotland awards

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• Creative Place Awards in second year, designed to boost cultural scene outside cities

A BID to establish as an international music centre has received a major boost after it was named one of Scotland’s most creative places.

Patthhead, a former farming and mining community in Midlothian with just 500 homes is already home to 15 of the nation’s most successful musicians.

Now the likes of singer Karine Polwart, jazz drummer Tom Bancroft, harpist Corinna Hewat, pianist Dave Milligan and accordionist Martin Green are set to help the village take centre stage as a hub for performers and music fans.

A £50,000 award under a nationwide “Creative Place” initiative will help pay for the development of a full-time music collective in the area.

The cash will also see a series of one-day festivals being staged, as well as high-profile concerts, workshops, masterclasses and education outreach projects.

Pathhead, which lies 11 miles south of Edinburgh, was up against the likes of Unst in Shetland and Gatehouse of Fleet in Dumfriesshire in the category for creative places with a population under 2500.

Huntly, in Aberdeenshire, and Kilmarnock, in Ayrshire were the other winners grabbing a share of the £300,000 initiative, which is being run for a second year by Creative Scotland.

Judges included broadcaster Janice Forsyth, singer Pat Kane, and Marie Christie, international events director at EventScotland.

Ms Forsyth said an “extraordinary range of musicians” had found themselves living by coincidence in Pathhead and were planning to take existing work at the “grassroots” in the community, including one-to-one tuition, to the next level with their application.

This year’s award winners were unveiled in St Andrews, one of the three winners last year, which was awarded £150,000 to stage a year-long cultural celebration in the town, as well as raise the profile of existing festivals.

Wigtown, which was already hosting a successful book festival, was given £50,000 to develop a year-round programme of events to capitalise on its “book town” status, while West Kilbride was given £100,000 to develop new exhibitions and programmes under its “craft town” banner.

Creative Scotland said this year’s award for Pathhead - in the category for locations with a population of under 2500 - was aimed at recognising its already “inspirational” music scene, which offers local youngsters the chance to open gigs for big-name stars.

Bancroft said: “I think I was the first musician in the collective to move to Pathhead, around 10 years ago, and once three or four other families moved there, there was a critical mass of us.

“We’ve been rehearsing together, and putting on various gigs and family ceilidhs, as well as forming things like a community choir, a fiddle group and a new samba and brass band.

“The big thing we’d like to do is stage a few festivals throughout the year because, as well as the village hall, there are a couple of churches with lovely acoustics, and a hotel with grounds big enough for a marquee capable of housing 400 people.

“Applying for the award has already made us become much more serious about what we want to do here and the money should really help us bring word-class musicians to Pathhead.”

Huntly was recognised for its acclaimed project promoting itself as “the town is the venue”, which has seen international artists working in empty and run-down buildings, while its £100,000 award will go into a project which will see artists help create a series of new walking initiatives and routes through the area. It was honoured in the category for places with a population up to 10,000.

The town’s cultural director, Claudia Zeiske, said: “The main for us, which we try to make a big thing of, is that we don’t actually have a proper arts venue in Huntly, however so many musicians and other artists are living there now as a result of the project.”

Kilmarnock’s award - in the category for locations with a population up to 100,000 - is aimed at helping a string of successful festivals to expand, including bringing empty shops in its town centre back into life as part of a major regeneration programme.

Phillipa Aitken, cultural development leader at East Ayrshire Council, said: “We already have six major festivals in the area and many other smaller events and we will be planning to develop them much further.

“The main thing we want to do is take arts events out of the usual venues and into unexpected places. We really want the town centre a much more vibrant place.”

The Creative Place Awards were instigated last year to boost the cultural scene outside the main cities in Scotland.

Iain Munro, director of creative development at Creative Scotland, said: “These three communities are fantastic examples of how embedding arts and culture within the foundation of a community strengthens and improves people’s lives, impacting the social and economic wellbeing of the community.

“The awards celebrate how arts and creativity can promote the identity and character of a place.”

Local government minister Derek Mackay, who introduced the event at the Byre Theatre, said: “Culture really can be an important catalyst for economic development and a powerful force for regeneration.

“As well as attracting tourists and inward investment - creative and cultural activity helps to support and shape our communities and places – fostering and reinforcing people’s sense of identity and community cohesion.”