Scotland in 2014: A year like no other

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FROM global sporting spectaculars and star-studded cultural events to landmark celebrations of influential figures and key anniversaries, it promises to be a year like no other in Scottish history.

The hopes and hype over 2014 are nothing new, but now that it has dawned, the sheer scale of events shaping the nation’s calendar over the next 12 months is becoming clear.

The Ryder Cup is just one of a host of global events set for Scotland. Picture: Getty

The Ryder Cup is just one of a host of global events set for Scotland. Picture: Getty

Playing host to the Commonwealth Games and Ryder Cup would be enough for any year. But it won’t just be sport that provides some of the year’s most iconic stories and images.

The 50th anniversary of the Forth Road Bridge, the unveiling of a 130-mile national pathway to honour conservationist John Muir and the centenary of the start of the First World War will all take centre-stage.

Then there is the extra political spice provided by the 700th anniversary of the Battle of Bannockburn and a certain independence referendum.

With multiple marketing campaigns and PR strategies already up and running, Visit-Scotland is attempting to co-
ordinate promotional efforts.

The £6 million Homecoming 2014 campaign already includes more than 430 events, with hundreds still to be confirmed as part of a year-long cultural programme for the Commonwealth Games.

Even lower-profile signature events look enticing – Scotland’s biggest ever celebration of visual art, which will be staged the length and breadth of the country, the most significant national celebration of whisky ever and a two-month showcase of Highland culture.

After the Ryder Cup roadshow packs up from Perthshire, the countdown will well and truly be on to arguably the most star-studded event of them all, the MTV Europe Music Awards, which are being staged in Glasgow for the first time. There is also speculation the year will be rounded off with the BBC Sports Personality of the Year being held at the Hydro in Glasgow in December.

Paul Bush, chief executive at EventScotland, said: “From our key assets such as Celtic Connections and the Edinburgh Festivals and Hogmanay to the major one-off events including the MTV Europe Music Award, the John Muir Festival and the Commonwealth Games cultural programme, 2014 really is set to be the biggest year so far for Scotland’s events industry.”

Pete Irvine, who has been involved in staging major events in Scotland since its first outdoor music festival in 1979, said the country will never again host another year like 2014.

Mr Irvine, who is masterminding the main Bannockburn 700 celebrations, said: “It is amazing how many events are on in 2014. It really is the peak. We were using the phrase ‘Scotland’s big year starts here’ in our Hogmanay marketing, as never again will there by a year like it. It is a very rare occurrence for any country.

“It is the combination of circumstances, the climate and also to do with the politics. The Commonwealth Games and Ryder Cup are globally broadcast and the referendum is of huge interest around world.”

The Homecoming campaign is aimed at generating extra revenue for the tourism industry, over and above what would be achieved anyway through the Ryder Cup and Commonwealth Games.

A three-day Bannockburn festival and the MTV awards have both won substantial public funding, to the tune of £400,000 and £1m respectively. Separately, the new SSE Hydro in Glasgow, which will host MTV’s event, will be staging a gala opening concert for the Ryder Cup, which has been awarded at least £1.2m.

However at the time of writing, the entire Homecoming programme already features more than 430 events at the time of writing, 21 more than ended up in the last campaign.

Caroline Packman, the director of Homecoming 2014 at VisitScotland, said: “The key thing about Homecoming is it is not just about the Central Belt or Perthshire or one peak of activity from the end of July to the end of September.

“First and foremost, we are trying to bring additional tourism revenue to Scotland, we are not really including events like the Commonwealth Games or Ryder Cup, which would be happening anyway this year.

“All our funding assessments are based on the best return on investment for the money we are putting in. But we also want Homecoming to held build events capacity in Scotland and looking to the longer term. We don’t just want a flash in the pan and then a decline in future years.”

Ms Packman and her team have a target of generating £44 million in extra tourism revenue from the tourism campaign - compared to the £54 million said to have been delivered in 2009, with £10 million alone claimed to have come from a controversial clan gathering in Edinburgh’s Holyrood Park.

She said: “When we surveyed event organisers after 2009, around 90 per cent said they would be keen to be involved in something similar and 71 per cent of tourism businesses said they saw a direct business from Homecoming.”

Mr Irvine, whose company Unique Events won the contract to run the three-day Bannockburn Live festival, is wary of commenting on the previous Year of Homecoming.

Then, the centrepiece clan gathering in Edinburgh failed to attract its expected overseas audience and suffered a financial collapse, leaving a trail of debt.

He said: “It depends how you measure success. The Gathering was very controversial and it was the main event of that year, but there were lots of events around it. Whenever you spread stuff around a lot, it is in danger of being diluted.

“The Year of Homecoming is throughout Scotland, so it’s important to focus on certain things and fund them properly so they make an impact and from what I can see that is happening this year. It’s also a question of how it’s all marketed and how the public see that.”

As with the London Olympics, there is already plenty of discussion and debate about what the legacy of major events being held this year will be.

For Ms Packman, the 12-month programme represents a huge opportunity to “enhance Scotland’s image on the international stage”. She added: “While clearly we want to boost tourism in 2014, it’s about looking beyond that as well. We think the whole year will help to get across that Scotland is a vibrant, happening, contemporary place.”

Paul Bush added: “It is important for us to continue to look forward and to ensure that there is a legacy from 2014.

“We have worked hard over the past 12 months to ensure that come 2015, we continue to have a world-class events portfolio, which will include the Turner Prize alongside three World Championship and two European Championship level sports events.

“While we continue to deliver throughout 2014 we will continue our work to ensure that in 2015 and beyond we retain our position as the perfect stage for events.”

Events programme ‘will complement Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games’

ORGANISERS of the Commonwealth Games and Creative Scotland are masterminding a nationwide programme of events which will complement the sporting spectacle in Glasgow next summer.

They have pledged that the nine-month programme of events will reach ever corner of the country, with theatre, dance, live music, visual arts, storytelling, film and comedy events being staged in theatres, community centres, parks, gardens, art galleries and previously derelict buildings.

Poet Liz Lochhead, actor Tam Dean Burn, singer-songwriter Aidan Moffat, actress and theatre director Cora Bissett, playwright Kieran Hurley, author Louise Welsh and violinist Nicola Benedetti are among the artists working on ambitious one-off projects.

A major strand of the programme, Festival 2014, will be focused on Glasgow itself while the sporting events are taking place, with entertainment expected to be laid on at three “live sites” at Glasgow Green, the Merchant City and the revamped Kelvingrove Bandstand. The BBC is creating a pop-up venue on the Clyde Waterfront.

Highlights in Glasgow include Perch, which will see spectacular shows will unfold above and among the crowds in the Merchant City as aerial artists, choirs, orchestras and street performers deploy some of the area’s most historic buildings.

The Tin Forest, an eight-month National Theatre of Scotland project, will culminate in the transformation of a forgotten industrial landmark on the banks of the Clyde, the South Rotunda, into a pop-up arts venue which will play host to shows inspired by Glasgow’s industrial heritage.

Eileen Gallagher, chair of the Glasgow 2014 Ceremonies, Culture and Queen’s Baton Relay Committee, said: “The Commonwealth Games cultural programme is bringing together performers and organisations in a once in a lifetime celebration of culture taking place across Scotland.

“The breadth and depth of the programme is extraordinary, its scale is unprecedented for this country. It sees new creative partnerships being formed in Scotland and internationally and provides fantastic opportunities for people from communities throughout Scotland to access events and performances and be part of the Commonwealth Games.”

Scottish culture secretary Fiona Hyslop said: “2014 is set to be an exciting and historic year-long celebration of Scotland’s culture and heritage.

“Not only will the eyes of the world be focused upon this country for the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games and the Ryder Cup, our Homecoming activities will showcase our fantastic food and drink, our great outdoors and our unique culture and heritage.

“Add to that the huge variety of cultural events and exhibitions that will form the cultural programme for the Commonwealth Games and which will take place all around Scotland – I expect there to be something for everyone to be part of and enjoy.

“We look forward to people from across the world joining us to spectate, celebrate and participate in what will definitely be a year to remember.”

2014 - A full guide


Celtic Connections, Glasgow: Violinist Nicola Benedetti heads up the opening gala of Glasgow’s biggest festival, which will also expand to the new SSE Hydro for a reunion of Del Amitri and a Homecoming Burns Night concert, featuring the RSNO, the Mahotella Queens, Rachel Sermanni, Raghu Dixit, Karen Matheson, Salsa Celtica and Karine Polwart.

Big Burns Supper, Dumfries: Highlights of a three-day music, cabaret, carnival and theatre festival – billed as the biggest celebration of The Bard in the world – include a 2,000-strong street parade down the town’s High Street on Burns Night itself.


Glasgow Film Festival: The 75th anniversary of the Cosmo cinema, which became the Glasgow Film Theatre in 1974, will see the Hollywood’s “golden year” of 1939 celebrated with revivals of classics like The Wizard of Oz, Wuthering Heights and Stagecoach. Hopes are also high for premieres of new Scottish films Under the Skin, Starred Up and God Help the Girl.


Generation, across Scotland: Scotland’s biggest ever celebration of visual art, spanning the last 25 years, will see new and award-winning work by more than 100 artists – including Douglas Gordon, Alison Watt, David Shrigley, Karla Black, Jim Lambie and Richard Wright – showcased at more than 60 shows the length and breadth of the country.


John Muir Festival, across Central Scotland: 100 years after his death, Scotland’s pioneering environmentalist will be honoured with the first ever festival in his home country, with events in his native Dunbar, the coastal town of Helensburgh, the national park at Loch Lomond and the new Kelpies sculptures in Falkirk.


Whisky Month, across Scotland: The country’s biggest ever celebration of its national drink, and the nation’s finest natural produce, will feature hundreds of events, including huge draws like Spirit of Speyside, the Islay Festival and Whisky Stramash, in Edinburgh.

Grit, Glasgow and Mull: Two of Scotland’s leading theatre-makers, Cora Bissett and Kieran Hurley, join forces for a major new multi-artform production - inspired by the life and legacy of pioneering piper and fiddler Martyn Bennett, one of the most influential musicians of his generation, who died of cancer in 2005, aged just 33. Runs into June.


Grit, Glasgow and Mull (see above).

Bannockburn Live: A re-enactment of the most famous battle in Scottish history will be staged as part of a three-day festival featuring live music, a food and drink showcase, a clan village and outdoor activities.

Armed Forces Day, Stirling: Thousands are expected to turn out for the Ministry of Defence’s annual showpiece, which was held in Edinburgh in 2011. It will include a 1,500-strong parade from the castle esplanade to Kings Park.


Lost Map’s Howling Fling festival, Isle of Eigg: Johnny Lynch, one of the key figures in the Fence Collective movement, stages a three-day event on the Hebridean island where he is now based and which hosted the previous sell-out Away Game festivals.

Festival 2014: Full details of the city-wide cultural celebration which will run alongside the Commonwealth Games are largely under wraps, but historic sites at Glasgow Green, the Merchant City and Kelvingrove Bandstand will take centre-stage while the BBC is creating a pop-up venue next to its own Pacific Quay headquarters.


Centenary of the start of the First World War: Major exhibitions will be staged at Edinburgh Castle, the Scottish National Gallery and the National Museum of Scotland, while the landmark anniversary of the conflict is also inspiring one of the main themes of the Edinburgh International Festival programme.


Forth Bridges Festival: The 50th anniversary of the Forth Road Bridge will be marked with a 10-day event featuring everything from a mass flotilla of boats, a torchlight procession, street parties, VIP trips to the top tower of the structure and a spectacular fireworks finale.

Alasdair Gray at 80, Glasgow: More than 100 works will go on display at the first ever Gray retrospective at Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum, which will run for six months. It will be the centrepiece of a city-wide celebration to mark the Glasgow-born artist’s birthday.

Ryder Cup Opening Concert, Glasgow: Although the line-up for the curtain-raiser to the golf tournament is firmly under wraps, a host of big names are expected to appear in a “once in a lifetime concert which will celebrate the very best in Scotland’s music, film, fashion and culture.”

Highland Homecoming. Runs into October (see below).


Highland Homecoming: The biggest ever celebration of Highland culture will include the Royal National Mod, the world sheepdog trials, the Blas music festival, a huge clan gathering and the Masters World Championship, a Highland Games event which will be part of the 150th anniversary of Inverness’s Northern Meeting Park.


MTV Europe Music Awards, Glasgow: MTV returns to Scotland 11 years after the event was held in Leith. The 13,000-capacity SSE Hydro will host the star-studded music industry event, When it was held in Amsterdam last November musicians such as Miley Cyrus, Robin Thicke, Katy Perry, Snoop Dog and Kings of Leon appeared.


BBC Sports Personality of the Year: Although as yet unconfirmed, the Hydro is said to be lined up for its third major event in the space of four months, which would see tennis ace Andy Murray “defend” his title in his home country.