Ambition at the heart of anniversary year for Saltire Society

Jim Tough
Jim Tough
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At the Saltire Society, we’ve had something extra to celebrate this year after a busy schedule of events to celebrate our 80th anniversary. Our celebrations included awarding a record-breaking sum of more than £75,000 in grants and prize money – a combination of our special Inspiring Scotland programme of bursaries to nurture emerging Scottish cultural talent and a series of awards covering everything from literature to housing, from art to civil engineering.

We have drawn on the recently established Saltire Trust and partnership with a broad range of other organisations to make all of this happen. The funding has enabled young creatives to travel to places such as New York, through the Steven Campbell New York Scholarship; and Berlin, through the Saltire Society International Travel Bursary supported by the British Council Scotland. At the same time, the Inspiring Scotland programme has backed young people involved in a wide range of cultural activities including music, dance, theatre, film, poetry and prose.

Our 80th year celebrations have also benefited from talks from prominent individuals such as former First Minister Alex Salmond, Scottish videogame entrepreneur Chris van der Kuyl, and classical composer Sir James MacMillan. We’ve also hosted unique debates with award-winning human rights campaigner Amal Azzudin, former Bishop of Edinburgh and Primus of the Scottish Episcopal Church Richard Holloway, prominent Scottish journalistRuth Wishart and more.

We were particularly pleased to have broadcaster and writer Kirsty Wark as guest chair of the judging panel for this year’s Housing Design Awards which, now in their 79th year, have been running almost as long as the Saltire Society itself. This year’s awards featured a lively public debate between past awards chairs Malcolm Fraser and Toby Paterson on the subject of Scottish housing design through the years.

Through other awards on the Society’s 2016 roster we have been able to celebrate the cultural achievements of outstanding individuals including John Byrne, Kathleen Jamie and Graeme Macrae Burnet. We also gave special recognition to the 2015 repair of the Forth Road Bridge, the widening of a 400 metre stretch of single track road on the A82 at Pulpit Rock on the banks of Loch Lomond, as well as new public artworks in the Hebrides, Helensburgh and John O’Groats.

Kirsty Gunn’s pamphlet “Notes Towards a National Literature” reintroduced the limited edition Saltire series for the Society’s 80th year.

Central to the philosophy of the Saltire Society is to invest in ideas, innovation and risk. We were determined to honour that philosophy this year, by pulling together a bumper programme of support to help nurture and develop the next generation of Scottish creative talent.

This year’s £50,000 Inspiring Scotland programme was by far the most ambitious bursary funding package we’ve ever been able to offer and it’s been hugely gratifying to see the transformative impact it has had on the opportunities of so many promising young creatives with help from the Saltire Trust and our many other brilliant partners.

I’m really proud to be able to reflect on 2016 as a really special year for the Saltire Society – and on everything we’ve been able to achieve as a small charity with big ambitions.

I’m hugely grateful to all of the many influential people and partners who have helped to make our 80th anniversary celebrations so special. Here’s to the next 80 years of celebrating the Scottish imagination!

Jim Tough, Executive Director of the Saltire Society.