Review: Scot:Lands, Edinburgh, various venues

Scot:Lands events showcase the country’s finest talents

Scot:Lands events showcase the country’s finest talents

Coorie-In Land | Blue Skye-Land | Licht:Land | Rating ****

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Within a few minutes of settling in to Coorie-In-Land at the Grassmarket Community Project, I began to feel just how perfectly the show set up by presenters Jenny Lindsay and Rachel McCrum fitted the cosy, reflective New Year’s Day mood. The cafe outside supplied tea and coffee, and our hosts– in pyjamas and dressing-gowns – not only introduced each act, but also set up a useful improvised flip-board to tell those wandering in between announcements who was on stage.

And the warmth of the party mood combined with a terrific range of work – from poets Colin McGuire comic and Rachel Amey, and musicians Hailey Beavis and A New International, to name just a few – to create a near-perfect Ne’erday experience.

Things were slightly less well-organised at Atlas Arts’ Blue Skye-Land in St Giles Cathedral – a simple programme with approximate timings would have made all the difference to the audience’s enjoyment of this rolling, ­multi-stage event. The quality of the work, though – all related to the island of Skye – was often breathtaking.

I caught Gaelic singer Anne Martin’s stunning collaboration with beat-boxer Jason Singh, and Daniel Warren’s fine film of Hanna Tuulikki’s Women Of The Hill, a song-cycle commissioned by Atlas for an Iron Age women’s ritual site at High Pasture Cave; the setting is breathtaking, and the music – for three female voices including Tuulikki’s – matches it echo for echo.

And then there was Licht:Land at the Scottish Storytelling Centre, presented by Traditional Arts and Culture Scotland, and featuring some light-touch storytelling and country dancing upstairs, and downstairs an entertaining Galoshans puppet play, plus a fine set from the band Malinky. Like many other lands along the way, Licht:Land is fast becoming a place where the weary Ne’erday traveller could easily spend a whole day; but for those bold enough to travel on to three or four different lands, the riches on show are astonishing, and offer an insight into the sheer diversity of Scotland’s creative life, right now.

Joyce McMillan

Sea Bird:Land | Cine:Land | D’Arc:Land | Rating ****

The desire to be a better version of ourselves looms large over most New Year celebrations – what will you do differently, we ask each other. At the National Museum of Scotland, dance company Curious Seed posed the same question.

An atmospheric and thought-provoking installation, D’Arc:Land featured three dancers, two musicians, one visual artist and us. While the professionals did their thing in the middle, the audience moved around the space, encouraged to “respond” to what we saw and heard. Some people drew, some painted, others made mini sculptures with rocks or twigs. And an invitation to write a New Year’s wish or desire on a tag, then attach it to a wire “tree”, echoed the sense of hope and change played out on stage.

For those too tired or hungover to participate in anything, Sea Bird:Land at Old St Paul’s Church offered the perfect opportunity to absorb something other than alcohol. Curated by An Lanntair arts centre in Stornoway on the Isle of Lewis, this simple but effective coming together of live music and film was almost hypnotic.

On a circular screen, Dundee-based environmental artists Dalziel + Scullion showed us the wildlife of Lewis in all its natural glory, while contemporary folk fiddle player Aidan O’Rourke, drummer John Blease and guitarist Graeme Stephen captured the rugged, rain-soaked beauty through their original compositions.

Cine:Land provided some welcome laughs. Taking over six studios at Dance Base, Edinburgh International Film Festival brought us short films, animation, archive footage, hands-on fun and photo opportunities – with special mention going to David Newbigging’s hilarious 2011 short, The Ambitious Potato, which had all ages in fits of laughter.

Kelly Apter

Lyrical:Land | Chemikal:Land | Insider:Land | Blazin’:Land | Rating ****

On the first day of 2016 the country’s musical output was typically well-represented, not least at the Vic Galloway-hosted Lyrical:Land at the Methodist church on Nicolson Square.

Radio Scotland presenter Galloway and poet Michael Pedersen read, 2016’s Scottish Album of the Year Award winner Kathryn Joseph played a fragile acoustic set, and Roddy Woomble – in a change of pace from his indie-rock turn with Idlewild in Princes Street Gardens the evening before – performed a more tenderly folksy set as part of a trio with Sorren Maclean and Hannah Fisher.

Most intriguingly of all, Glasgow-based Mercury Prize nominee Chris “C” Duncan reinterpreted his songs for a hymnal vocal trio arrangement which was beautifully suited to the surroundings.

At Assembly Roxy, a group of representatives from Glasgow’s seminal Chemikal Underground label – singer and songwriter Emma Pollock, virtuosic acoustic guitarist RM Hubbert, electronic producer Miaoux Miaoux and duo Sound of Yell – staged Chemikal:Land, forming each other’s backing band on a set which was as engaging and eclectic as the label itself.

The domed, foliage-decorated central space at Edinburgh University’s Potterrow student union was transformed into compact indoor music festival Insider:Land, courtesy of Strathspey’s Insider festival. Lower-key but invigorating sets from Findlay Napier, Blue Rose Code and Admiral Fallow had a folk edge, and there were crafts and a food pop-up elsewhere.

Meanwhile, for those lucky enough to finish up at Blazin’:Land in Greyfriars Kirk, there was a perfect end to the afternoon – a full-blown ceilidh courtesy of hosts Blazin Fiddles, with the help of guests Rachel Sermanni and Adam Holmes.

David Pollock