2019 Culture and Arts preview: Queens on film and a Queen’s Hall party among highlights

A Mary Queen of Scots biopic is among the year's cultural highlights (Liam Daniel/Focus Features via AP)
A Mary Queen of Scots biopic is among the year's cultural highlights (Liam Daniel/Focus Features via AP)
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What lies ahead in 2019 for Scotland’s arts scene? Well, quite a lot actually…

What lies ahead in 2019 for Scotland’s arts scene? Well, quite a lot actually…

Rebirth of Aberdeen Art Gallery

It is already running two years behind schedule – but the long wait for Aberdonians to see inside their new-look art gallery should finally be over by the autumn.

In the planning for the last decade, the £30 million project has been dogged by delays since the gallery closed down in 2015.

Highlights of the project include a copper-clad rooftop extension, outdoor terraces, and new spaces for international touring exhibitions.

The overhaul for the gallery, which dates back to 1884 and was designed by Alexander Marshall Mackenzie, is expected to see a huge increase in visitor numbers from the 200,000 who used to flock to the attraction every year before the temporary closure.

Local Hero becomes a stage musical

The distance of time since the release of the classic Scottish comedy Local Hero only seems to have heightened its magic and power.

The prospect of a stage musical would be exciting enough, but expectations are soaring given the dream team assembled for the production that will launch at the Royal Lyceum Theatre in Edinburgh in March. Bill Forsyth, the film’s original writer and director, has reunited with the creator of its iconic soundtrack, Dire Straits legend Mark Knopfler.

Forsyth has also joined forces with David Greig, the theatre’s artistic director, to adapt the script of his 1983 film, which charts the events which unfold when an American oil tycoon sends an executive to the Highlands to try to snap up a remote village for his next refinery.

Mary Queen of Scots on film

If 2018 was the year of Robert the Bruce thanks to Chris Pine’s on-screen exploits in Outlaw King then 2019 promises to cast a new light on the turbulent life of Mary Queen of Scots.

Scottish film fans will have had more than two months to wait for the arrival of the new big-screen epic to dip into the nation’s history books since its world premiere.

It is hard to imagine any bigger-name female stars than Saoirse Ronan and Margot Robbie to depict Scotland’s doomed monarch and her arch-rival and cousin, Elizabeth I.

With Jack Lowden playing Lord Darnley, Mary’s second husband, and David Tennant as her nemesis, John Knox, and the likes of Guy Pearce, Ian Hart and Adrian Lester in the supporting cast, a lot is riding on Josie Rourke’s film.

But despite grumbles over apparent historical inaccuracies, the omens appear to be good, with critics giving the film a noticeably warmer reaction than that for Outlaw King.

Kelvingrove secures Linda McCartney exhibition

Glasgow may have missed a trick when the National Museum of Scotland in Edinburgh staged its celebration of the history of Scottish pop and rock last year.

But Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum has scored a significant coup in securing a major showcase of the McCartney family’s archives.

Drawn from the images captured by the late Linda McCartney, it charts the American photogapher’s life and career from her breakthrough in the mid-1960s.

Images of Jimi Hendrix, Eric Clapton, the Rolling stones and Aretha Franklin are expected to feature in the six-month exhibition, which opens in July.

But the main highlights for Scottish fans of The Beatles are likely to be her portraits of the iconic pop band and family images captured at the Argyll farmhouse where she and Paul McCartney regularly retreated with their family.

New BBC Scotland channel

It will have been two years in the planning by the time it goes on air at the end of February. Scotland’s brand new television channel has a lot riding on it – not least the long-awaited launch of a news programme covering a mix of Scottish, UK and international content. A less formal and more conversational tone has been promised by the BBC, which is also planning a Scottish version of the long-running Question Time debate programme and a half-hour People’s News programme.

However, new comedy and drama series also feature on the channel, which will be getting premieres of hit shows like Still Game, River City and Scot Squad to help get it off the ground.

The BBC is also harbouring ambitions to capture a much younger audience than its traditional programming has in recent years.

Fashion vlogger Jamie Genevieve, cult wrestling star Graeme “Grado” Stevely and rapper Darren “Loki” McGarvey among those confirmed to get their own shows.

Kelly Macdonald and John Hannah star in new legal thriller

Two of Scotland’s biggest screen stars are set to appear in one of this year’s most gripping TV dramas.

Kelly Macdonald and John Hannah will be pitted against each other in a thriller which unfolds after a mother whose nine-year-old son was killed 15 years ago is accused of revealing his killer’s new identity online.

Rising star James Harkness plays a family man who becomes the victim of a vicious attack – but it is not clear whether he is innocent or a dangerous killer.

Hannah plays the experienced detective investigating the attack, with Macdonald’s character accused of interfering with the law.

STV Productions has made The Victim for BBC One, which was filmed on location in Edinburgh, Glasgow and Greenock, and also stars Chloe Pirie, Jamie Sives and Karla Crome.

Revamp of Peter Pan birthplace set to be revealed

After a decade in the planning, the Dumfries house and garden that were said to have inspired JM Barrie to write Peter Pan is to be turned into a major new visitor attraction.

Moat Brae was on the verge of being demolished after falling victim to neglect and vandalism in the 1990s before the intervention of campaigners in Dumfries, where Barrie spent five years as a teenager, from the age of 13.

Now the Georgian home and the grounds Barrie and his school friends played in is set to become Scotland’s National Centre for Children’s Literature and Storytelling.

The Peter Pan Moat Brae Trust, which has raised £5.8 million for the restoration project, will officially unveiled the “birthplace of Peter Pan” in the spring.

Forty years of the Queen’s Hall

While Edinburgh has lost many of its most popular live music venues in modern times, the Queen’s Hall has continued to thrive.

Forty years old in July, it has played host to acts as varied as David Byrne, Nina Simone, Nick Cave, Tori Amos, Blur, Ivor Cutler and Prefab Sprout since it was opened by the Queen.

The Queen’s Hall management has been trying to raise the profile of the venue ahead of the competition it is expected to face from a reopened Leith Theatre and the new Impact Centre on St Andrew Square over the next few years.

An impressively eclectic line-up of music and comedy has already been announced for much of 2019, with Midge Ure, Neil and Liam Finn, Wilko Johnson, Tommy Smith, Blue Rose Code, Julian Clary, Ben Elton and Ardal O’Hanlon all joining the celebrations.

Jazz maestro Tommy Smith and fiddler John McCusker will be among those who will be curating special events, while other big names are expected to be confirmed for the Edinburgh International Festival and Fringe seasons at the venue over the next few months.

Watch this space...