14 highlights of the year ahead in Scotland's arts and culture calendar

As another roller-coaster year for Scottish culture drew to a close, the 2023 calendar was shaping up nicely. Here are just a few of the most intriguing shows, festivals and events being staged around the country over the next 12 months.

The Old Fruitmarket will be among the venues used for Glasgow's Celtic Connections festival when it returns. Picture: Gaelle Beri
The Old Fruitmarket will be among the venues used for Glasgow's Celtic Connections festival when it returns. Picture: Gaelle Beri

Celtic Connections, venues across Glasgow, 19 January-5 February: This time last year, Glasgow’s winter music festival was in turmoil, after the reintroduction of Covid curbs on events just before Christmas left the event in limbo. Only a handful of opening weekend shows were able to go ahead before audiences a fraction of the planned size and the rest of the programme was decimated by postponements and cancellations.

Memories of those dark days are set to be banished with the festival's 30th edition, which features a host of the acts who have graced its stages over the years, as well as numerous rising trad scene stars.

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Breabach, Beth Malcolm and Kim Carnie are among the winner at the recent Scots Trad Music Awards who will be appearing, while Hen Hoose, Ímar, Dallahan, Fras, Project Smok, Trip, Sian, Staran and Westward the Light are among the acts on the rise to watch out for.

All things tartan will be celebrated in V&A's Dundee exhibition in 2023.

Spectra, Aberdeen city centre, 9-12 February: Light installation shows have worked workers in transforming towns, cities, attractions and landmarks over the last 20 years – none more so than Spectra.

Aberdeen's annual festival of light and sound has seen artists and designers take full advantage of the historic landscapes across the city centre since it was launched by the city council in 2014.

Spectra's international reputation is set to be enhanced further with the arrival of a series of giant humanoid light sculptures created by Australia’s Parer Studio, while Spectra will be one of the first events held in the newly-refurbished Union Terrace Gardens.

A Mother’s Song: MacRobert Arts Centre, Stirling, 23-26 February: Ambitious new Scottish musicals have been emerging with increasing regularity in 2007 since Sunshine on Leith made its debut.

The National Theatre of Scotland will be launching a new stage version of Dracula in the autumn of 2023.

With Runrig-inspired show The Stamping Ground already returning after a rapturously-received debut in Inverness last summer, another new musical is in the offing.

Composer Finn Anderson has already scored one major hit with musical Islander, which started life on the Isle of Mull four years ago, before transferring to Edinburgh, London and off-Broadway.

Anderson has joined forces with director Tania Azevedo for new production A Mother’s Song, which will follow the paths of three different women, and the journeys of Scottish traditional music, from 17th century Stirling to 18th century Ulster and 21st century New York City.

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Glasgow Film Festival, venues across Glasgow, 1-12 March: After the sudden and shocking demise of the Edinburgh International Film Festival, the spotlight will fall like never before on Glasgow’s celebration of cinema when it returns in the spring for a 19th edition which will see co-director Allan Hunter bow out after 15 years.

The biggest ever exhibition of work by the artist Grayson Perry will be staged in Edinburgh by the National Galleries of Scotland in 2023. Picture: Annar Bjorgli/National Museum of Norway.

His swansong will include a celebration of Oscar-winning American actor-director Lee Grant, a showcase of new Spanish filmmakers and a free retrospective recalling 10 films where women have taken control of their lives, including It Happened One Night, The Piano, Roman Holiday and Bonnie And Clyde.

The festival will open with the UK premiere of the Glasgow-set and shot mother and daughter coming-of-age Girl, the debut film feature of writer-director Adura Onashile.

The 10th anniversary of Under the Skin, the science fiction mystery which brought Scarlett Johansson to Glasgow, will see the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra providing a live score to accompany Jonathan Glazer’s acclaimed film.

Hebridean Dark Skies Festival, Isle of Lewis, 9-21 March: The fifth edition of one of Scotland's newest island festivals will bring another eclectic mix of live music, film, theatre, visual art and stargazing events to audiences.

Finn Anderson's new 'folk musical' A Mother's Songwill premiere at Macrobert Arts Centre in Stirling in February. Picture Elly Lucas

Highlights include a musical celebration of David Bowie and his space-themed songs, a new alien-inspired indoor show by Mischief La Bas, the long-running Scottish street theatre company, and an exhibition of interplanetary musicology.

Stornoway arts centre An Lanntair, which organises the festival, will also host a huge online digital map of the stars above Lewis, Lewis, created by Edinburgh design studio Ray Interactive, which will show live updates as time passes.

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Kidnapped, touring across Scotland, 28 March-13 May: Writer, theatremaker and performer Isobel McArthur is something of a hot property in Scottish theatre after the barnstorming success of her take on Jane Austen's classic love story Pride and Prejudice, an Olivier Award-winner in the West End after launching at Glasgow’s Tron Theatre and a big post-pandemic crowd-pleaser after returning last year.

She is about to take on another literary classic, this time from the canon of Robert Louis Stevenson, for the National Theatre of Scotland.

Kidnapped, which will reunite McArthur with musical supervisor Michael John McCarthy, will be rebooted as a swashbuckling “coming-of-age rom com for today.” The core friendship of David Balfour and Alan Breck Stewart will be reimagined as a romance played out through their adventures across a country still reeling from the 1745 Jacobite Rebellion.

Tartan, V&A Dundee, 1 April-14 January 2024: Scotland's national design museum has picked an intriguing top for its major in-house exhibition, which will coincide with its fifth birthday celebrations.

The Dynamic Earth visitor attraction will be taking a planetarium north to the Isle of Lewis for the Hebridean Dark Skies Festival in March.

The first major exhibition devoted to the subject in Scotland will explore the impact of the pattern on everything from fashion, film, football and fine art to the retail and music industries.

It is also expected to recall how tartan has been “adored and derided” throughout Scottish history, and how it has been seen to represent unity, dissent, tradition and rebellion, drawing on the archives of designers, researchers, manufacturers and collectors, as well as feature loans from members of the public who have responded to an appeal for tartan treasures kept for decades.

Peter Howson at 65, City Art Centre, Edinburgh, from May: One of Scotland's best-known painters will be honoured with a retrospective exhibition spanning his entire career to coincide with his 65th birthday.

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More than 100 works, some never seen before in Scotland, will be showcased in the forthcoming show, which will explore “his penetrating insight into the human condition, and his heroic portrayals of the mighty and the lowly.”

The exhibition is expected to recall Howson’s experiences working as an official war artist for the Imperial War Museum during the Bosnian War in the 1990s.

Dear Billy, touring across Scotland, 16 May-24 June: Sir Billy Connolly may have been retired from stand-up comedy several years ago, but the “Big Yin” is still expected to fill venues across the country again this year.

Writer and theatremaker Gary McNair is creating a "love letter” to Connolly based on personal stories about the much-loved entertainer, much of them collected from some of his favourite haunts around Glasgow.

McNair and a group of musicians will tour around community venues and arts centres en route to a grand finale at the King’s Theatre in Glasgow.

Art Night, across Dundee, 24 June: Dundee’s blossoming credentials as a cultural capital will get another huge boost in 2023 when one of the UK's biggest visual arts events takes over the city.

Art Night, which was staged in four locations around London between 2016 and 2019, attracting more than 300,000 attendees, has chosen Dundee for its first full free-to-attend festival elsewhere in the UK.

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Special commissions will transform at least 10 locations in the city and into neighbouring Broughty Ferry and Arbroath, with installations, performances and live events lined up for the likes of the DCA, the official host of Art Night, V&A Dundee, Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art & Design and Abertay University.

Grayson Perry, Royal Scottish Academy, Edinburgh, 22 July-12 November: A highlight of the programme for 2023 revealed by the National Galleries of Scotland, its big show for the summer festivals season in the city will turn the spotlight on a figure it describes as “one of Britain’s most celebrated artists and cultural figures.”

The biggest ever showcase for Grayson Perry’s work - which will include his pots, prints, sculptures and tapestries - is promised at the RSA building. The retrospective will show how the Turner Prize winner has tackled issues like masculinity, sexuality, class, religion and politics in his work during a career spanning more than 40 years which has also seen him become a leading TV presenter.

I Am Irvine Welsh, August: Edinburgh-based filmmaker’s fly-on-the-wall documentary will follow the writer at work and play during the most hectic and demanding period of his career.

The making of the film, which will be released 30 years afterthe publication of debut novel Trainspotting, will see Welsh work on a new musical version of Trainspotting, a spin-off TV series with Robert Carlyle reviving his iconic character Begbie, his latest novel and a new series of his hit series Crime.

Welsh is expected to reveal his creative process across literature, screenwriting, and music, while finding time to watch his beloved Hibernian Football Club and get married.

August: Edinburgh’s festivals: Scotland’s biggest cultural celebration has had a turbulent time since a record-breaking season in 2019. August 2020 was a complete write-off thanks to Covid and it was not until last summer that the city returned to its old self – at least on the surface.

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Behind-the-scenes, it was a different story as the economic climate and industrial action by rail and waste workers were among the factors cited for lower-than-expected ticket sales.

After the subsequent collapse of the charity behind the film festival, and moves by the book festival to scale back its programme and cut jobs, there will be growing scrutiny as to how Edinburgh responds to what has become increasingly described as “a perfect storm” for Scottish culture.

This backdrop makes Nicola Benedetti’s arrival on the scene as both the first Scottish and first female director of the Edinburgh International Festival even more intriguing ahead of the big reveal of her inaugural programme in the spring.

Dracula: Mina’s Reckoning, touring across Scotland, September-October: Aberdeenshire has been staking an increasingly compelling claim as the home of Dracula thanks to extensive research into author Bram Stoker’s visits to Port Erroll, near Cruden Bay, to write the gothic horror classic.

Those roots will be honoured by the National Theatre of Scotland this autumn with a reinvention of the story to an Aberdeenshire psychiatric hospital in 1897, the year the book was published.

Morna Pearson’s play will focus on the character of Mina Murray, who seeks refuge at the hospital and shares her experiences of encountering Dracula. The show will premiere at His Majesty’s in Aberdeen, which is co-producing the play, in September before touring to Glasgow, Stirling, Inverness, Dundee, Edinburgh and Coventry.

Paul Sng's documentary I Am Irvine Welsh will follow the writer during the most demanding period of his career. Picture: Chris McCluskie/LS Films
Isobel McArthur and Michael John McCarthy are creating a new version of Kidnapped for the National Theatre of Scotland. Picture: James Chapelard
The Art Night festival previously staged in London is heading to Dundee this summer.
Aberdeen city centre will be lit up when the Spectra festival returns in February.
The 10th anniversary of Under the Skin, the science fiction drama which brought Scarlett Johansson onto the streets of Glasgow, will be celebrated with a special screened accompanied by a live performance of Mica Levi's score by the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra.
Nicola Benedetti will oversee her first season as director of the Edinburgh International Festival in 2023: Picture: Jessica Shurte
Gary McNair is creating the National Theatre of Scotland show 'Dear Billy,' which will be touring the country in 2023. Picture: Tommy Ga Ken Wan
Ayrshire artist Peter Howson will be celebrated in a major retrospective exhibition at the City Art Centre in Edinburgh in 2023.

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