Countries all round Europe are coming together today to celebrate Europe Day. Scotland has many connections to Europe, particularly around the arts.
Countries all round Europe are coming together today to celebrate Europe Day. The day marks the anniversary of the Schuman Declaration, which is seen as the birth of the European Union. Schuman was a French foreign minister who in 1950 proposed the pooling of coal and steel production between France and Germany, alongside Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands and Belgium.
Schuman probably had little awareness then of just how his idea would grow on the scale that it has. Today the European Union boasts a membership of 28 countries, who all enjoy collaboration at all conceivable levels, far beyond the origins of coal and steel.
Connections between Scotland and the rest of Europe are particularly apparent through the arts. So, to celebrate Europe Day, we thought we would look at some of the ways in which we share such close ties. Scotland has become a hub for European arts, welcoming international productions for many years. At the same time, Scottish productions and performers are regularly welcomed and honoured throughout Europe.
In 1947 the Edinburgh International Festival (EIF) invited performers from across Europe and the world to perform in Scotland. The festival is celebrating its 70th birthday this year, and this trend has continued year on year. As a result, the EIF has come to be revered for highlighting and celebrating our international cultural links. This year's programme will feature over 2,000 artists from 40 nations, many of them European!
1947 also marked the birth of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, when artists who were not invited to the International Festival simply turned up and did their own thing. This movement has continued to expand leading to the Edinburgh Fringe becoming the largest festival of its kind in the world. The Fringe has also inspired others around the world – at least 200 festivals using the Fringe's open-access model take place around Europe and the rest of the world each year.
This week marks the beginning of the IberoDocs Film Festival in Edinburgh. The festival brings together the very best in documentaries created by Spanish, Portuguese and Latin-American filmmakers. What makes this annual event extra special is that it is run by volunteers from overseas who live and work in Scotland. This is a great example of how the arts are creating links between Scotland and the rest of the world. People are welcomed to Scotland to live, work and study, and also celebrate their own culture and heritage at events just like this.
As well as this, the Edinburgh International Children's Festival is showcasing the very best of Europe this year. The festival will welcome productions from Belgium, Denmark, Germany, France, Wales, the Netherlands and Norway. This highlights not only Scotland's desire to work with Europe, but also Europe's desire to come to Scotland.
This year Scotland is being honoured at not one, but two huge traditional music festivals across Europe. This year's Rudolstadt Roots Folk Weltmusik Festival, which takes place from 6 - 9 July, has chosen Scotland as its showcase country. Superstar songstress Amy Macdonald will open the four day event and a number of special events will take place to celebrate Scottish music and culture.
One of the highlights in Rudolstadt will be a celebration of our national poet, Robert Burns. A Man for A' That: A World Music Tribute to Robert Burns will see international artists perform Burns' poetry in their native languages. This collaborative piece will feature performances by musicians from Germany, Georgia, Israel, Norway, Poland, Portugal, SÌÁpmi (Lapland) and more.
A few weeks later, at the Festival Interceltique de Lorient, Scotland will be the country of honour at the largest Celtic music festival in the world. The 10 day event in Brittany, France welcomes 750,000 attendees into the heart of Lorient to watch over 200 concerts from more than 4,500 performers. Scotland will take centre stage at the festival, as tribute is paid to the vibrancy and diversity of our traditional music scene.
This year the Lorient will feature the highest representation of Gaelic artists in mainland Europe, ever! Promotion of Gaelic language, music and culture is firmly at the heart of Scotland's presence at Lorient, and a huge 'Scotland pavilion' will be erected for all festival goers. This will be free to enter and feature high-quality music, food, drink and crafts from across the country, ensuring you are never far from Celtic influences.
Scotland will also have a presence at this year's Venice Biennale, the world's largest and most prestigious visual arts festival. The hugely talented Rachel Maclean will be flying the flag, showcasing her exhibits which have already received wide acclaim.
The Scottish Chamber Orchestra have also recently toured throughout Europe. The orchestra took their performances of Mozart, Haydn and Dvorak to Toulouse, Luxembourg, Rotterdam, Salzburg and Paris, among others.
These are exactly the type of cultural exchanges that showcase the close relationship Scotland has with the rest of Europe. The collaboration that spawned in Edinburgh in 1947 has continued and strengthened over time and continues to this day. Scotland has long appreciated the importance of multiculturalism, openness and dialogue and this is clearly being recognised throughout Europe as our music and heritage takes centre stage in 2017. Long may these exciting relationships last!