Since the beginning of September I've had a small pile of used event tickets, programmes and flyers on my desk, waiting for me to report on my cultural highlights of the second half of 2013. If I don't remedy this situation my patience will snap, the urge to tidy up will see this paper in the bin and an opportunity missed. To get the job done I've had to resort to bullet points, so here goes:
- Edinburgh's summer festivals had another good year and I again counted myself lucky to live in a city that friends are keen to visit: it's a pleasure to put them up and a bonus to see a broader mix of events and performances as a result.
- During the Fringe this included 'Chalk Farm' (relating the personal experiences and dilemmas of those caught up in the 2011 riots) and 'CIRCA: Wunderkammer' (an Australian display of strength and athleticism).
- This was also a summer of music. Beatboxing and hip hop came courtesy of 'Stanley Odd' (Scottish) and 'Jamie MacDowell and Tom Thum' (Australian). On the orchestral side came Verdi's 'Requiem' courtesy of the International Festival Chorus and the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra at the Usher Hall: stunning.
- The International also ran a well attended series of talks under the 'Interfaces' heading. Described as exploring 'moments when changes and advances in technology enter our lives and affect them in ways we could never have predicted' there was a roll call of some of the cultural commentators I'm most interested in hearing from. In several separate events these included: Aleks Krotoski, Paul Mason, Ben Hammersley, Emily Bell, Tom Standage and Jonathan Mills. An international festival in full flow is a perfect setting for this kind of cultural exchange, with the topics and discussions ranging far and wide into politics, technology, protest, unrest, identity and the turbulent progress of progress itself. I hope that both the contributors and the audiences enjoyed the events and that the EIF continues this good work.
- For pure enjoyment nothing topped a night at 'Hot Dub Time Machine'. Take yourself along, fully hydrated, as anyone who's had any interest in popular music since the 1950s will have a ball.
- Sticking with the music theme, I saw Tim Burgess (of The Charlatans) at the Book Festival, talking with Ian Rankin – who looked like he was having as good a time as anyone in the tent. Other EIBF events included Christopher Brookmyre (thank you to EIBF for my ticket) and Alistair Moffat being interviewed by James Naughtie (thank you to Edinburgh Napier, as we sponsored this event).
- Out with the festivals I've been along to some excellent gigs: Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds (Edinburgh, Usher Hall); Bonobo (Edinburgh: Picturehouse; Glasgow: O2 ABC); and, KT Tunstall (Glasgow: O2 Academy). 2014 may struggle to match that mix, all of which were excellent and great fun too.
- There's been some sport too, seeing Scotland's cricket and rugby union sides fall to Australia (the former in bright sunshine, the latter with the lights off at Murrayfield), with a little more rugby against Japan (a win!) and South Africa (not a win).
There's a lot to look forward to in 2014 – Scotland's year of sport, culture, Homecoming, politics and possible independence. There'll be plenty of events and festivals along the way and perhaps some more regular blogging.Happy New Year!