Scotland warms up with Cultural Olympiad: Over 250 artistic events to mark sporting year

Speed of Light, taking place on Arthur's Seat in Edinbugh during August, is among the highlights
Speed of Light, taking place on Arthur's Seat in Edinbugh during August, is among the highlights
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IT may be almost 300 miles from the world’s biggest sporting extravaganza this year, but Scotland’s cultural contribution to London’s Olympic year will be marked by more than 250 one-off events and celebrations.

With locations ranging from remote beaches and far-flung outposts to iconic landmarks and flagship venues, virtually every part of Scotland is to be touched by a UK-wide festival from June to September.

Spectacular concerts, dance performances, new musical pieces and art installations are among the works commissioned as part of a programme of events costing more than £10 million to stage across Scotland.

Comics will perform impromptu gigs on a canal boat en route to the Edinburgh Fringe, choreographer Michael Clark is masterminding a major new dance event at the Barrowland Ballroom, and love poems will be broadcast from dusk to dawn at “glowing encampments” at sites in Aberdeenshire and the Isle of Lewis.

Read the Cultural Olympiad programme in full (PDF file)

Organisers expect more than half a million people to take part in the “Cultural Olympiad” events.

A surge of activity is expected over six days in June when the Olympic flame travels around Scotland, with plans for the nation to “burst into song”. Special events include a new piece by iconic folk singer Dougie MacLean to be performed in a singing relay through his native Perthshire and an concert at Edinburgh Castle Esplanade.

Michael Clark’s Barrowlands Project will be one of the last “London 2012 Festival” events held in Britain.

The Aberdeen-born dancer and choreographer said: “It’s very exciting to be working on a project like this bearing in mind the origins of the venue as a dance hall in Glasgow, where many couples met and later married.”

Tall Tales From The Riverbank will see impromptu pop-up gigs performed in secret in-land locations, while comedians will also perform from the roof of the boat.

Anthony Alderson, artistic director of The Pleasance, which will be organising the waterway tour of Fringe comedians from London, said: “Mucking about in boats is a quintessentially UK past-time, and what better way than to take comedy London to the Fringe than on a canal boat?”

A 68-page programme has been produced to promote the series of events, which will also feature artist Martin Creed organising a mass bell-ringing event across Scotland to herald the start of the Olympics at the end of July, a concert in Glasgow’s Riverside Museum set to spectacular film from Nasa’s space archive, and a marathon screening of short films made across the UK at Shetland’s film festival.

Scottish culture secretary Fiona Hyslop said: “This diverse programme will inspire, delight and engage communities and visitors across Scotland in a unique creative and cultural celebration.”

Ruth Mackenzie, director of the London 2012 Festival, said: “Every element of this exhilarating programme is a testament to the quality of Scotland’s creative talent and the great producers who have invited wonderful artists from around the world.”

Events that had previously been announced include Lynne Ramsay’s new short film The Swimmer, a classical music concert in the Raploch Estate in Stirling, the Speed of Light events to be staged during the Edinburgh Festival around Arthur’s Seat and Forest Pitch, a one-off football match in a specially-created woodland pitch in the Borders.