Arts blog: Musicians on independence | Edinburgh Fringe

Justin Currie's response to the Pop Cop survey raised some eyebrows. Picture: Contributed
Justin Currie's response to the Pop Cop survey raised some eyebrows. Picture: Contributed
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NOW that it’s fewer than 500 days until the referendum that will change Scotland forever, or not, you’ll be hearing lots more well-known names explaining why they’re voting one way or the other.

‘Close-lipped, tight-fisted, and bad at football’

This week, thanks to a poll by music blog the Pop Cop, you could learn what 40 of Scotland’s leading indie musicians think about it all, including Stuart Murdoch of Belle and Sebastian, Scott Hutchison of Frightened Rabbit, Emma Pollock, Karine Polwart and King Creosote. And the result: 13 in favour, seven against, 20 undecided.

Despite being very early, and a little niche, the Pop Cop’s survey makes for very interesting reading. Musicians, as you’d expect, are led by the heart as much as the head. Singer-songwriter Rachel Sermanni says she will vote yes out of “curiosity”, while for John Cummings of Mogwai the issue is very simple: “Countries should be independent. Scotland is a country.” Karine Polwart, another yes, responded by quoting another songwriter, Si Kahn: “It’s not what you’ve been given. It’s what you do with what you’ve got.”

But there is also a lot of thoughtful examination of the big issues. “Are we happy with the UK’s brand of unbridled capitalism?” ponders Stuart Murdoch, an undecided. “Could we come up with something better?” “I am not clear on how the oil revenue would be distributed were Scotland to vote for independence and it is not apparent to me what our major exports would be,” says Dave Hook of Stanley Odd, while Stewart Brock of Prides perhaps nails the way that emotion sometimes trumps reason in this debate when he says: “A lot of people see independence as some kind of solution to something, but they’re not really sure what.”

The most entertaining response by far, though, is Justin Currie of Del Amitri, in brilliantly contrary, bear-baiting form. “I don’t like the Scots. I don’t like them at all. They’re close-lipped, tight-fisted, pass-remarkable and bad at football. They’re cold-hearted and hot-tempered, they’re mottle-fleshed and pig-headed. They’re drunkards, cowards and traitors… Are you ready to be told by some fool who talks like you but has the morals of a goat?” He is, we are guessing, joking.

Fringe benefits

THESE days, the Edinburgh Fringe reveals its line-up in a steady trickle rather than a sudden and almighty flood. The official Fringe programme launch isn’t until the end of May, but some comedy tickets have been on sale for months, the Assembly Rooms revealed its plans three weeks ago, and the Made in Scotland showcase will be announced on Wednesday next week (the British Council showcase has already been announced too).

Meanwhile, as reported on our news pages today, lots more show information goes online at today, including dozens of shows at three of the “Big Four” venues (the Pleasance, Assembly and Gilded Balloon), plus the Stand Comedy Club and the Queen’s Hall. The Traverse is one of the few major venues holding back until the official Fringe launch on 30 May.

Does this reduce the impact of the actual festival launch? Given that the Fringe is likely to have over 2,500 shows in its programme, we suspect not. Even if a few hundred shows reveal themselves early, there will still be plenty to talk about come 30 May. Arguably, it gives smaller shows more of a chance to get the attention of the media and the public. So we already know that Corey Feldman from The Goonies and Elizabeth McGovern from Downtown Abbey (and Ragtime and The Handmaid’s Tale, for those of you with longer memories) are coming.

Once the full programme is out, The Scotsman will put together its annual list of what we think are the must-see shows. Until then, though, we’ll hold fire.

‘Everybody wants to be a cats’

LOOKING through the shortlist for this years Critics Awards for Theatre in Scotland, (CATS), announced this morning, is to be reminded of the importance of prizes like these (alongside the recently announced Scottish Album of the Year Award).

This year five shows have been shortlisted for best production rather than the usual four: Quiz Show at the Traverse; Krapp’s Last Tape/Footfalls at the Citizens’; White Christmas: The Musical at Pitlochry Festival Theatre; The List, premiered at Summerhall during last year’s Edinburgh Fringe; and The Seafarer at Perth Theatre. So much good work was produced by Scottish companies last year, the panel say, that it was impossible to narrow the shortlist down to four choices.

This, at a time of serious financial difficulty for the arts world, is an achievement worth shouting about – and since London-based theatre awards are unlikely to do that, it’s important that there’s a Scottish one which does.

The big winner, on the nominees list at least, is Dominic Hill, former director at the Traverse, now at the Citizens’, whose two nominations this year add to the ten he’s had already in the awards’ first 11 years. Runner-up is surely the Royal Lyceum Theatre, which has matched the National Theatre of Scotland’s eight nominations (just behind are the Citizens’ and the Traverse, with six each). The Traverse must be relieved about this – it’s hosting the ceremony, on 9 June, as part of its 50th birthday celebrations.

andrew eaton-lewis