David Watt: Partnership culture pays in celebrating Scotland's heritage and rich diversity

The Scottish Government has recently been consulting on a new draft culture strategy for Scotland. Underpinning this new draft strategy is the idea that there is 'no one story of culture in or from Scotland and each individual and community contributes to and shapes their own culture, and society more broadly.'

Drake Music School of Edinburgh and PreSonus Audio Electronics provided equipment and funded rehearsals for the worlds first disabled youth orchestra, supported by the Culture & Business Fund Scotland

It is envisaged that this new ­strategy will align with a revised Scottish Government National Performance Framework including a new national outcome that “we are creative and our vibrant and diverse cultures are expressed and enjoyed widely”.

One key indicator of Scotland’s cultural diversity is the huge ­variety of languages spoken in Scottish homes, calculated to be 158 in 2017. A key strength of Scottish society lies in our rich and varied culture, ­heritage, landscapes, languages, ­traditions and creativity. Places and people underpin culture in Scotland and younger generations inherit ­traditions that they simultaneously steward and make their own.

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At the same time, as urban ­areas become busier and even more diverse, this creates issues of ­integration and people’s sense of belonging.

David Watt is Chief Executive of Arts & Business Scotland.

With the advent of new technology and the loosening of ­traditional local community ties, social isolation is a growing ­challenge, particularly in rural areas, for disabled and older ­people and for newcomers to ­Scotland including refugees. Nurturing culture in all its many and varied forms can play a crucial role in addressing the ­challenges and exploiting the ­opportunities thrown up by an increasingly diverse modern ­Scotland.

The range of culture and business partnerships supported by the Culture & Business Fund Scotland (CBFS) provides a perfect illustration of that diversity.

Launched in April last year, the CBFS programme is managed by Arts & Business Scotland and funded by the Scottish Government via ­Creative Scotland and aims to encourage ­closer collaboration between ­business, arts and heritage by match funding business sponsorship of ­cultural projects.

Enabled by the CBFS, a partnership between Drake Music Scotland and PreSonus Audio Electronics provided equipment and funded rehearsals for the world’s first disabled youth orchestra.

Through the programme, ­independent social care provider Edinburgh Homecare partnered with the Edinburgh Iranian Festival to help fund a special showcase of ­Iranian animation at this year’s Festival.

Many partnerships have focused explicitly on promoting diversity and inclusion. At the heart of a partnership between accountancy group KPMG and Scottish ­Ballet was an opportunity to work with a local school in a deprived area of Glasgow, giving its pupils a unique opportunity to access and experience the arts.

The National Theatre of Scotland’s partnership with the Scottish ­Salmon Company has taken a world class ­theatre experience into schools in some of the most remote parts of Scotland, directly benefiting the ­families of company staff who live and work in those ­communities.

Elsewhere, debt advisers Richmond Oaks have partnered with the ­Scottish Youth Theatre’s National Ensemble to enable a Scotland-wide summer tour of VENT, a ­specially written anthology of plays with themes that are connected to ­mental health.

CBFS partnerships have been ­equally diverse in the different types of cultural activity they have ­supported.

In the arts, this has included ­everything from film, theatre and dance to music, literature and the visual arts while almost one in four of those projects funded by the CBFS during its first year have included a specific heritage focus.

It’s significant and entirely right that the new draft culture strategy for Scotland should recognise our cultural landscape as a melting pot of ideas that is constantly evolving.

In line with that strategy, by ­promoting inclusion and diversity in cultural endeavour, programmes such as the Culture & Business Fund Scotland are helping to ensure that Scotland’s cultural offering continues to evolve in new and exciting ways.

David Watt is chief executive of Arts & Business Scotland.