A case for the arts

Item Posted: Tuesday 5th January, 2010

Argyll Votes for Music and Culture

When ForArgyll.com announced the winners of the Argyll Awards, decided by public vote in twelve different categories, they can never have expected to be overwhelmed by the grass roots support for the Arts, and especially for traditional <a style="display:none;" music and Gaelic culture. Neither might they have expected that that it would be the seemingly small and community led ventures that appear to be most appreciated by the thousands of Argyll residents and visitors who voted.

There was only one category (Best Arts Programme) that was specific to the Arts. Some categories relating to wildlife, the environment and some web related categories effectively ruled out music and the arts (even to the most enthusiastic and catholic arts voters!). The organisers found that all the finalists in the overall ‘Best Achievement for Argyll’ category represented traditional music and/or Gaelic culture, and that eleven out of fourteen possible winner and runner up positions were taken by the Arts!

Whilst not in any way decrying the efforts and impact of non –arts groups and individuals on community life and tourism, this overwhelming support by residents and Argyll visitors has led me to wonder, yet again, about the discrepancy between what people want and what councils, with a few notable exceptions, and government, seem inclined to support.

I may be talking to the converted, but most of the research I have seen, together with anecdotal evidence, gives traditional music a far higher profile than funders warrant it.
Figures given by the Scottish Executive itself indicates that 7% of tourists come to Scotland for traditional music; research carried out during the Highland Year of Culture showed that traditional music came second out of eighteen possible reasons to visit the Highlands. The perception of residents was not much different –they placed it at third out of eighteen. Yet most of the categories below traditional music in priority for the public get substantially more funding. Even in the narrow, and cash strapped, Arts budget, traditional arts do poorly. Of the Scottish Arts Council budget, despite the unique ‘selling proposition’ and potential for traditional arts only 1% finds itself invested in traditional arts.

Whatever people’s feelings are for and against Homecoming 2009, few would doubt –especially if the local initiatives listed on the Homecoming web site are looked at in detail - the successes it had as a project to attract more tourists from the diaspora were at least partly down to our traditional music and special culture. Yet when the ‘mainstream’ press reviewed the year traditional music was ignored. A two page spread in the Herald ‘How was it for you’ interviewed eleven ’representatives’, including historians, golf, whisky and so on – but no one from the world of music.

There is at least part of the problem. The Scottish press, with notable exceptions of a couple of good reviewers and wide coverage of Celtic Connections, do little for the profile of Scottish music. Last year I met a reviewer from a major paper at a tradition music festival to be told that she normally covered ballet, and this was the first traditional event she had attended. When the press did their usual look back at the decade and look forward to the next Celtic arts were totally ignored other than a brief mention of Celtic Connections.

The angst from the arts world over Fiona Hyslop’s apparent ‘demotion’ to Culture Minister in November, and Labour leader Iain Gray’s remarks about it being a ‘non-job’, hit the headlines briefly but is unlikely to have a lasting or positive result for the Arts. A couple of weeks later another fright was given to the arts sector. Glasgow Council went public with news of its planned cuts, and the following headlines focussed on ‘Teachers warn of treat to music tuition as councils cut spending,’ as music tuition seems to be seen as an ‘easy target.’

There is mounting evidence that music tuition is a vital part of school life and an integral part of children’s social development. Music tuition is about producing musicians, but it is also about much more: ‘Music is the only subject where all the fundamental principles of an organised, decent society are intrinsic to the subject- listening, thinking, expressing yourself coherently, nurturing self-confidence, working for the general good, caring for the needs of others, being individualistic while acutely conscious of those around you.’ If this seems too hi-fallutin’ I’d just make a pragmatic point –if music tuition and playing is not encouraged, and supported, in schools and the community the future of the tertiary music education at RSAMD and others is threatened. If community ventures and venues get no investment there will be few places for budding musicians to play. There will be no ‘new blood’ for the much lauded and supported festivals. In time we may lose much of the traditional musical and Gaelic culture that has seen such a renaissance of late. By 2019 ForArgyll.com’s awards will have lost many of its potential community nominations, and, in my opinion at least, be the poorer for it!

I’ll leave the last word to one of our concert goers: ‘Scotland has a unique culture …The mountains, glens and lochs are the body of Scotland. Music and Arts are its soul.’

Music and Arts winners and runners up in the Argyll awards included: Eilidh Steel, the Helensburgh fiddler and composer; Gaelic singer and journalist Joy Dunlop; Lochgoilhead Fiddle Workshop; Islay Festival and Homecoming Parade; Fèis Cheann Loch Goibhle’s St Columba Ceilidh Trail; Royal National Mod, Oban; Fiddle Folk’s Hands Across the Seas Concert Series; Meur Chruachain’s Ceilidhs. For a profile of all the arts winners and runners up, please visit www.fiddleworkshop.co.uk
For details of all the categories awards and finalists visit www.forargyll.com

Other News

One in a thousand!

Wednesday 14th April, 2010

Our pupils have success at Mid Argyll Music Festival ...

Arts Sale to Help Haiti

Sunday 14th February, 2010

Various artists/galleries we know are arranging a charity sale in Oban ...

Harmony Singing Workshop

Wednesday 10th February, 2010

being arranged by one of our members ...

Schools Gaelic Tour

Monday 18th January, 2010

Over 700 local children benefit from tour ...

Celtic Nordic link

Monday 4th January, 2010


Arts Winners in Argyll Awards

Monday 4th January, 2010

A brief profile of Argyll Arts Award winners and runners up More on other awards at www.forargyll. ...

Celtic Connections New Voices

Saturday 2nd January, 2010

New compositions well worth a visit ...


Saturday 2nd January, 2010

Run by forargyll.com these are the winners for 2009 ...


Thursday 3rd December, 2009


Hands Up for Trad Awards

Wednesday 2nd December, 2009


Homecoming out with a bang or a whimper?

Wednesday 2nd December, 2009

The plusses and minuses of Homecoming will be debated long after 2009 is long gone, with the protago ...

LFW/Cowal Open Studios

Tuesday 17th November, 2009

Bring 250,000 to local economy ...

Cowal groups up for and receive awards

Tuesday 17th November, 2009


More Homecoming and Hands Up For Trad

Tuesday 17th November, 2009


Homecoming -last gasp!

Tuesday 17th November, 2009


Culture in Cowal

Tuesday 17th November, 2009

A great weekend of events/concerts in Cowal ...

Rhapsody09 review

Sunday 1st November, 2009

A number of our students ionvolved in Donald Shaw's Rhapsody ...

Mandolin Tour of local schools

Tuesday 27th October, 2009

4 schools have the chance of Mandolin Come and Tries this week ...


Tuesday 27th October, 2009

Three renowned Celtic musicians, Mairi Campbell on fiddle & vocals, Abby Newton on cello, and Ki ...

Award Winning Danish Trio

Tuesday 27th October, 2009

On their way to us! ...

LFW/FF Student wins Mod Medal

Tuesday 27th October, 2009


Tourism Award for Theatre Group Leader?

Tuesday 27th October, 2009

The shortlist for the Highlands and Islands Tourism Awards has been announced ...

Awards for Fyne Ales

Tuesday 27th October, 2009

Fyne Ales have always supported LFW, so we are pleased at their success! ...


Tuesday 27th October, 2009

Finalists announced soon ...

Readers express views on Homecoming

Tuesday 27th October, 2009

Park Weekly News and LFW cooperste to do a series of articles on HC09 Readers letters- ...

BBC Young Traditional Musician Finalists

Tuesday 27th October, 2009

a great illustration of the strength of the piping tradition in Argyll ...


Tuesday 27th October, 2009

You would normally have to travel to Trinity College, Dublin Edinburgh to see two very special arte ...

Great Houses Of Cowal

Tuesday 27th October, 2009


Paisley Festival

Tuesday 27th October, 2009

If yours is a more classical taste try out the Paisley Festival which is on until 7th November. ...

Perthshire Amber

Tuesday 27th October, 2009

Part of our Homecoming series in Park Weekly News on the Dougie MacLean festival ...


Tuesday 27th October, 2009

The emphasis of much of the Homecoming Celebrations for the rest of October will shift to the Highla ...


Tuesday 27th October, 2009

What might on the surface seem an odd combination comes neatly together in part of Cowalfests Homec ...


Tuesday 27th October, 2009

There may be few readers who have not heard of the Royal National Mod, but there will be many who ha ...

Jazz Concerts for Kirn and Lochgilphead

Thursday 15th October, 2009

Dutch jazz fiddler Tim Kliphuis has been hailed as the successor of Stphane Grappelli ...

Rhapsody 09

Monday 5th October, 2009

Celebrating young Argyll ...

View archived news