Wednesday 5 September 2012

Members Blog No. 5 Jim Tough, Executive Director

There are also a few notices of activities that may be of particular interest in the coming month.

Firstly I am delighted to be working with our new Convener, David Ward, appointed shortly after this year’s AGM at the Burrell in Glasgow. David is the Convener of the Glasgow Branch and has been a member of the Interim Executive Board over the last year. I look forward to working with him to carry on the changes that were begun under Lorimer Mackenzie’s tenure as Convener. Lorimer was a great support and source of advice and I am very grateful to him for both.

One of Lorimer’s last duties was to make the Andrew Fletcher of Saltoun Award for 2011 to Professor John Manson. John is an eminent MacDiarmid scholar and a very fine poet in his own right, a fact highlighted in Professor Alan Riach’s excellent speech in John’s honour. It was a fine occasion in MacDiarmid’s home town of Langholm. The event happily coincided with the launch of an exhibition in Langholm Town Hall of Sandy Moffat’s painting and drawings of MacDiarmid and the others who feature in his ‘Poet’s Pub’ which hangs in the Scottish National Portrait Gallery.

Doli and Alan Macdonald                    John Manson

Of course both MacDiarmid and John himself are known for their poetry written in Scots. In recognising John we are going some way I think to addressing the question raised by a member at the AGM; can’t we do more to support the Scots language? Certainly it’s a commitment embedded in our objectives and one that I wholeheartedly embrace. In fact encouraged by writer James Robertson and Dr Donald Smith (Scottish Storytelling Centre) we have approached Creative Scotland and the Scottish Government with a view to the Saltire Society convening a session which brings artists and arts organisation together to look at their interest in producing new work in Scots.

Moving seamlessly on to this year’s Andrew Fletcher of Saltoun Award our President Magnus Linklater made the award to Dolina Maclennan in the Scottish Storytelling centre. A lovely occasion featured a moving and entertaining speech for Angus Peter Campbell, music from Kathleen MacInness, Cathal MacConnel, and piper Alan MacDonald who composed a new tune, ‘Dolina’s Saltire’ in her honour.

The other major award event was the Housing Awards where Convener David Ward addressed a full house and welcomed Housing and Transport Minister Keith Brown MSP who spoke warmly of the importance of these awards and the work of the Society more generally. The winner of the Saltire medal was Dualchas a small practice based in Skye. All agreed the range and quality of the 2012 applications had been exceptional and we are indebted to Jane Paterson and Dick Cannon for their excellent work in chairing the panel.

Award and Commendation winners - Kirk House, Dualchas Architects

I mentioned last month the exhibition that was planned around the work of former award winner of our Arts and Crafts in Architecture Award, George Garson. Amongst many others Council member Mary Fleming attended and enjoyed seeing the original award certificates on display. The exhibition is in the Park Gallery in Callendar House and I would commend it to you for a visit.

George Garson’s Saltire Arts and Crafts in        Saltire Council Member Mary Fleming
Architecture award 1975                                 at the Park Gallery

The Saltire presence was also felt to a modest degree during the Edinburgh International Book Festival, where a debate on the future of the Union was presented in association with the Society, and we had books on sale in the Festival Bookshop (70 sales made). I hope to establish a stronger presence next year in some form or other.

On the literature front I am also delighted to let you know we were invited by the Universities Committee for Scottish Literature to include the Ross Roy Medal in our awards event and have agreed to do so. This medal was initiated following a generous donation from Professor Ross Roy of the University of South Carolina, and is awarded annually to the student who has submitted the best doctoral thesis on Scottish literature to a Scottish university.

The Literature Panel agreed this and we have woven it into a slightly scaled down running order for the Saltire Book Awards. The timing is designed to suit a more informal occasion as part of Scottish Book Week, with our awards being held on the 30th November around 4.30om in the National Library of Scotland.

On the wider Edinburgh festivals front we have been developing a proposal to use our Head Office as a small venue as part of the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. With a working title of ‘Word of Mouth’ this would feature song, poetry and prose readings, cabaret style, for perhaps the Thursday and Friday of each week. As well as adding to our profile and attracting new interest in our work, I would hope it could be a place where you as a member could come and enjoy the festival atmosphere.

Certainly we tried to get out and about to various festival receptions in order to make the Saltire presence felt. Drinking warm fizzy wine and eating lots of canapés is a responsibility I take seriously on your behalf!

This Fringe venue idea was partly inspired by the concert we are supporting by ‘Kist of Music’. Featuring Scottish compositions introduced by the pre-eminent music scholar Dr John Purser we have include a leaflet and hope you can join us with the reduced rate (£10) for members. Details are;

Kist of Musick
Hector Scott, Alastair Hardie, Donald Gillan and James Hardie
St Cecilia’s Hall, Cowgate, Edinburgh
7.30pm
22nd September 

The Andrew Fletcher of Saltoun Lecture was held on the 6th September in the Scottish Parliament where Professor Richard Findlay gave an impressive account of ‘Andrew Fletcher in Europe’. We are grateful again to Linda Fabiani MSP for sponsoring the event at the Parliament and to Saltire member Professor Ted Cowan for arranging for the speaker.  Professor Finlay’s lecture will be available soon on the Society’s website.

Professor Richard Findlay

All of this activity runs alongside the on-going developments set out in our Business Plan. We have secured the services of a Marketing and Communications expert, Morag Arnot, who will work with us to enhance our profile and as part of that we are about to tender for a design company to work on our website. We may ask some of you, as members, to help us with that in the form of a small discussion group, to get your ideas on the style and services that the new website might offer. If you are interested in taking part in that by all means let Sarah or I know.

The final piece of the jigsaw for moving us forward is to recruit a specialist fund raiser, and I have had informal discussion with a few potential candidates. And we are driving on with the legal processes for the establishment of a Saltire Endowment Trust which will be a key concern in our fund raising plans. We care also delighted to have Professor Ian Percy join us as Convener of our new Finance Strategy and Audit Committee who will have a key role in advising on the development of the trust, We are fortunate to have Ian on board; he is a highly regarded expert in financial matters.

Of course all this activity, ultimately, is about our core aims to celebrate and promote Scottish achievement across the full range of our civic interest. A good example of that, personified in the enormous efforts of member Margaret Street to have significant Scots recognised, chimes with a new proposal for the Scottish Government. The Commemorative Plaques for Scotland scheme will celebrate the life and achievements of significant historic figures, through the erection of a plaque on their home where they lived, or the building that was particularly synonymous with their achievements.

People are invited to submit their nominations for the historic figures they would like to put forward by filling in an application form on Historic Scotland’s website with up to 1,000 words on two questions explaining why their chosen person is appropriate for a Commemorative Plaque.

There will be a maximum of 12 plaques awarded each year. These will be decided by an independent academic panel and I am delighted to have been invited to serve on that panel.

Ms Hyslop said: “We are launching the Commemorative Plaque Scheme in the Year of Creative Scotland 2012 and are seeking nominations for historic figures in the arts and creative fields. The Commemorative Plaques will celebrate the achievements of people who lived in Scotland, the links between the person and a building which will also highlight the social and human element of local architecture.. An annual theme will be formally announced each year which will guide people to consider nominations within specific industries.”

The closing date for completed submissions is 12 October 2012.

Finally a note about the syllabus that normally comes out about this time. We are not quite confirmed in all of the national events that would be run in the coming year, mainly because we have taken a fresh look at much of our activity. So we will give an outline list of those with the next update letter, instead of by means of the syllabus, to compliment the local branch information.

As ever happy to hear your thoughts and comments on any of the above.

Aye Yours,
Jim Tough, Executive Director

 

 

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