Jim Tough: Saltire raises standard for year to remember

Picture: Kimberley Powell
Picture: Kimberley Powell
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CULTURAL events will mark transformative year, writes Jim Tough

2016 marks a historic year for the Saltire Society as we celebrate 80 years of preserving Scottish tradition and supporting local culture and imagination.

Scotland has changed markedly since we opened our doors in 1936. But as with all great things that stand the test of time, central and essential to our longevity has been the society’s ability to adapt and change as Scottish culture evolves.

The history of the Society has been marked by momentous and memorable milestones as it has adapted to the ever changing cultural and economic landscape. The economy has transformed itself from one centred on manufacturing to the emergence of the service and technology sectors. The country has adapted to the information age where medicine and technology have advanced at an unprecedented rate. Throughout, the society has moulded and adapted its behaviour, whilst always promoting its founding purpose: to preserve all that is best in Scottish tradition and to encourage new developments which can strengthen and enrich our cultural life.

Throughout our 80-year history, that ambition has remained constant and it will continue to be the aspiration of the society for the next 80 years. To celebrate that and everything we have supported and achieved since our inception, we plan an 80th anniversary year filled with unique events, awards, lectures and initiatives. To officially launch and announce the full plans for our year of celebrations, we will be hosting a reception in Dundee at the end of March. This programme will benefit from the support of the new Saltire Society Trust as well as Creative Scotland, British Council Scotland and other important partners.

In April, we will be offering one young Scottish artist the opportunity to spend three months in New York, hosted by our partners at City University of New York. We will then host an American exchange student artist later in the year, providing an excellent opportunity to demonstrate the value of international partnership in the promotion of Scottish artistic talent. Also planned is a special conference in Glasgow where we will be inviting four speakers to deliver a lecture each covering a particular theme linked to the changing face of Scottish culture and society we have witnessed over the past eight decades. June will see us launch Scotland’s first ever online literary festival and, during July, we will welcome ten new inductees into our “Outstanding Women of Scotland” community. In August, we will be partnering with the Edinburgh Art Festival to provide exhibition space for young artists in the city and we will announce the winner of a brand new Society award for “Art in public spaces”. Two new bursaries in memory of architect Robert Hurd will be awarded to MSc students at Edinburgh College of Art as one of several initiatives which will tie in with Scotland’s year of innovation, architecture and design.

In September the annual Saltire Society Fletcher of Saltoun awards will take place in Inverness and the latest in the annual Fletcher of Saltoun lectures will be delivered at the Scottish Parliament.

During the final three months of 2016, we will host a digital lecture, the Civil Engineering awards and the Saltire Literary Awards and, to round everything off, a day to celebrate a momentous year and a remarkable 80 years in existence on St Andrew’s Day.

We will continue to celebrate the Scottish imagination and to be an independent champion of the arts and cultural heritage of Scotland. We will strive to protect and promote what matters most to the cultural life of every Scot and will work hard to celebrate the very best of Scotland’s cultural achievements. The Saltire Society will act as a catalyst to ensure the best new ideas are considered and made real, and that the unique and inspirational culture of our diverse and spectacular country is nurtured, supported and celebrated into the 22nd century and beyond.

So, here’s to an exciting and busy year, one which we hope you will join us in celebrating.

• Jim Tough is executive director of the Saltire Society