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Scot:Lands 2017

Edinburgh's Hogmanay
Four stars

A sense of place is everything in Scot:Lands. Half the experience of Edinburgh's Hogmanay's now annual tour of the country's diverse array of cultures seen over nine bespoke stages in one global village is the physical journey itself. Scot:Lands too is about how that sense of place interacts with the people who are inspired inspired by that place.

So it was in Nether:Land, where you could see the day in at the Scottish Storytelling Centre with a mixed bag of traditional storytellers and contemporary performance poets such as Jenny Lindsay. The queues beside the Centre's cafe were further enlivened by the gentlest of ceilidhs was ushered in by Mairi Campbell and her band.

For Wig:Land, the grandiloquence of the little seen Signet Library in Parliament Square was transformed into a mini version of the Wigtown Book Festival. While upstairs provided a pop-up performance space where writers including Jessica Fox and Debi Gliori read either inbetween or over a live string and piano backing, downstairs hosted a series of one to one exchanges with writers and artists that brought life to the library in a way that should be cherished.

St Giles Cathedral played host to Orcadia:Land, where a bitesize version of St Magnus Festival on Orkney saw the Mayfield singers take full advantage of St Giles' acoustics with a selection of contemporary choral works that filtered throughout the building's entire interior.

A harpist played at the bottom of the stairs of the Assembly Hall on the Mound, where the Rainy Hall became High:Land, while New Scots:Land, which moved into Dance Base in the Grassmarket, was where the world opened up to a two-way traffic between home-grown artists and the music, dance and theatre from the rest of the world which has left its cultural footprint here.

A walk through the scene dock of the Festival Theatre and up the stairs led you onto the theatre's stage itself, which was transformed into Let's Dance:Land. Here displays of ballroom, Latin and tango steps as well as contemporary interpretations of David Bowie's euphoric 1983 masterpiece that gave the Land its name were seen in sparkling close-up.

The Playfair Library in the University of Edinburgh's Old College was unseasonally laid out with deck chairs, from which you could view films culled from Shona Thomson's vital documentary archive that made up This:Land. While smaller consoles showed archive footage from all corners of the country, a big screen showed works by pioneering documentarist John Grierson. As if the sweeping black and white land and seascapes weren't enough, these breathtaking images had fresh life breathed into them through live soundtracks composed and played by nouveau folklorist Drew Wright, electronicist Hamish Brown and beat boxer Jason Singh.

As well as places, Scot:Lands highlighted some of the country's less sung talents. Mountain Thyme:Land, which took over Greyfriars Kirk, celebrated the work of Paisley-born poet Robert Tannahill. Again, past, present and possible futures came together in a fusion of words and music that saw the trad-based Tannahill Weavers offset with interpretations of Tannahill by Love and Money's James Grant and Eddi Reader, who both gave soulful renditions of Tannahill's works.

Sorley:Land, situated in Assembly Roxy, did something similar, as trailblazing Edinburgh spoken-word mash-up provocateurs Neu! Reekie! paid tribute to poet Sorley MacLean with a rolling programme of poetry, music, hip hop and turntablism. As rapper G-Croft closed proceedings with a bag-pipe duet over contemporary beats, it was the perfect finale to a day which not only took stock of the past, but looked forward to Scot:Lands yet to come.

The Herald, January 3rd 2017



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