THE old year was our best yet, but the new one could be even better for celebrating Scottish talent, says Jim Tough.
Farewell 2014. What a truly amazing and inspiring year.
What struck me most about the momentous events – particularly Glasgow 2014 and the independence referendum – was the sheer scale of civic Scotland becoming the author of its own cultural stories. Events inspired us all to discuss, debate and celebrate who we are, what we have achieved and our hopes for the future. During that year I was acting chairman of Voluntary Arts Scotland and that was a privilege as we saw the many hundreds of volunteers involved in all aspects of Glasgow 2014, not least the opening ceremony.
The Saltire Society played a small part in the independence discourse. Very fine essays in our Saltire Series of pamphlets presented the very different views of two of our finest authors. William McIlvanney’s Dreaming Scotland and Alan Massie’s Nevertheless spoke of their personal views on independence. Many have spoken of the success of the referendum simply in terms of the sheer levels of involvement. My hope for 2015 and beyond is that all of this energy and imagination can continue to play out in the future. Politics is clearly too important to be left to politicians!
It has been a tremendous year for the Saltire Society. We have successfully set new records that we look forward hopefully to breaking once more in 2015.
Earlier last year we set out to raise awareness of the Saltire Society and introduce a new audience to the work that we do and for that work to be about some of the big issues of the day. For example, leading up to International Women’s Day in March, the Outstanding Women of Scotland Twitter campaign was born.
Through this campaign we have been able to honour the achievements and legacy of the many outstanding women of Scotland through the ages. Leading equality campaigner and economics professor Ailsa McKay was the most popular choice for those participating in the Twitter poll and a truly worthy winner for her campaigning work on the cause of gender equality.
The announcement was followed by the sad news that Professor McKay had passed away that same week following a battle with cancer. I hope that the nomination offers a fitting tribute to a life dedicated to academic excellence and the fight against gender inequality.
Throughout 2014, we have continued to receive written nominations for inclusion in a permanent archive of Scotland’s outstanding women. In partnership with Glasgow Women’s Library, we also plan to announce an inaugural list of ten outstanding women of Scotland at a celebratory event on the eve of International Women’s Day 2015.
For the first time ever, we opened our doors in August as a Festival Fringe venue. Over the course of four days, the Saltire Speakeasy events provided an opportunity to use our newly refurbished headquarters and participate in the world’s biggest performing arts gathering.
We were delighted to be able to include seasoned performers such as Jenny Lindsay, Dave Hook (Stanley Odd) and Alan Bissett alongside newcomers Tim Armstrong, Adam Hunter and Kara Swinney. The unique and varied programme meant that no two shows were the same, but all offered an eclectic mix of discussion, music and spoken word performance.
This year’s annual Saltire Celebrates event, held on St Andrew’s Day weekend, allowed us not only to celebrate all winners from the 2014 Saltire Awards programme but also to launch the Saltire Society Endowment Trust with confirmed assets totalling more than £2 million. With an ambitious target to increase that to £5 million by St Andrew’s Day 2016 (our 80th anniversary), the trust aims to provide funding and support to help Scotland’s exceptional cultural talent to flourish. Achieving this goal would allow us to support and celebrate many more Scottish achievements, enriching all of our lives as a result.
The 2015 Saltire Awards programme will be launched in February and as ever we will be looking to celebrate Scottish achievements across arts, literature, science, engineering and architecture. In 2014 the standard was raised to an extraordinary level and I am eager to see how our 2015 entrants will match and better the accomplishments of their predecessors.
It is great for the Saltire Society to be able to look back on 2014 as its most successful year to date while feeling equally inspired and enthused in anticipation of what 2015 can potentially bring. Speaking for the Saltire Society, I would actively encourage people throughout the country to take full advantage of the myriad events and activities on offer over the coming year. We’re looking forward to another exciting, eventful and successful year for Scotland.
• Jim Tough is Executive Director of the Saltire Society. For further information, please visit www.saltiresociety.org.uk