Media Release: Traditional Arts Commission announced for Nairn, Edinburgh, Mull & Skye

Traditional Arts Commissions announced

Five new commissions celebrate musical and literary traditions

Funding to create new work which will tour in Nairn, Edinburgh, Mull and Skye

DETAILS of five new traditional arts commissions are announced today, Tuesday 1 April, 2014, including one which will tour in Nairn, Edinburgh, Mull and Skye.

In the wake of Neil Gunn will see award winning Scottish composer Mike Vass collaborate with Calmac Ferries and House of Lochar Publishing to create a new suite of music inspired by and written in celebration of author Neil Gunn and his 1937 voyage around the West Coast of Scotland.

In 1937 Neil Gunn sold his house, quit his job and went off in an old converted lifeboat for a summer to inspire his writing; voyaging around the west coast of Scotland. He wrote about the various communities on the way in his book Off in a Boat, and went on to become one of Scotland’s most prolific and creative fiction writers. Gunn wrote passionately about the local music and culture of the West Coast and was hugely inspired himself by Gaelic customs and folklore.

During the development stage in May 2014 (funded by Enterprise Music Scotland and part-sponsored by Calmac) Mike will re-visit the communities Gunn wrote about, performing celebratory concerts there. He will also bring some lesser known traditional songs, melodies and poetry specific to the ports, unearthed in the School of Scottish Studies Archives, to give depth to the individual nature of each performance.

In the month after the trip Mike will compose the suite of music inspired by the fresh memories of his time at sea, the communities visited, the rhythms of Gaelic which Gunn had a particular love for, the stunning Scottish coast, and the collaborative musical explorations with his fellow musician sailors. He will also use his collection of archive material, photographs, video and audio material collected during the development stage, to inform the composition.

The commissioned piece will then be rehearsed and performed with four of Scotland’s top traditional musicians (Innes Watson, Jennifer Port, Hamish Napier and Anna Massie) and the Cairn String Quartet. The commission tour will take place in October 2014 and visit Nairn, Edinburgh, Mull and Skye. The commission will also be performed aboard a Calmac ferry to tie together the theme of the journey and the sea. This concert will be broadcast live over the internet through Concert Window, so that it is accessible anywhere in the world.

Amount awarded: £22,000

Mike Vass, composer, said: “I am delighted to have support from Creative Scotland for ‘In the wake of Neil Gunn’. The award means I will be able to develop the project to its full potential.

“The commission gives me the time and resources to focus on my composing in order to actualise the piece, and the opportunity to form a large ensemble to perform the work is invaluable. I’m very excited to begin work on the project, celebrating the vibrant traditional culture of Scotland’s west coast and Neil Gunn’s huge contribution to Scottish Literature.”

The commissions are supported with a total of £117,885 through Creative Scotland’s Traditional Arts Programme, which aims to ensure Scotland’s traditional arts are recognised and celebrated nationally and internationally.

The purpose of the fund is to support new commissions of Traditional Arts activity – of various scales and art forms – that can be performed or exhibited regionally, nationally and internationally – reflecting local diversity, and Scots and or Gaelic where appropriate.

Leonie Bell, cirector of Arts and Engagement at Creative Scotland, said: “Traditional arts play a unique role in Scotland’s contemporary cultural identity, communities are bound by the stories and music that surround them, history is kept alive and the future is shaped through projects such as these.

“These diverse commissions draw on different strands of this country’s vibrant musical and literary traditions, creating work that has its own place and meaning in the 21st Century.”

From traditional music performed by internationally acclaimed artists alongside local residents in Aberdeenshire; to a series of Gaelic multi-media exhibitions to commemorate the contribution made by the Western Isles in the First World War; on to Nairn, Edinburgh, Mull and Skye where Scottish composer Mike Vass will tour with a commissioned piece of music in celebration of author Neil Gunn; moving to Stirlingshire for works inspired by Sir Walter Scott’s Tales of a Grandfather; and finally Dundee’s celebration of all things Scottish on St Andrew’s Day.

Other new commissions include:


Bow–Tow, A Newhaven Story, is a commission on behalf of the people of Newhaven. Presenting traditional music by internationally acclaimed artists, alongside performances by local residents old and young, this project celebrates traditional arts and demonstrates how they are applicable to contemporary life.

Bow will present stories and songs about local lives, creating a dialogue and a narrative that relates to the community of Newhaven, one that charts an evolution of traditional music, and one that demonstrates how the traditional arts are applicable to contemporary life.

Amount awarded: £11,385

Jed Milroy, lead musician, said: “Our new production, Bow – Tow, A Newhaven Story, will work with the community to present Newhaven in music and song, creating a dialogue that involves the people of Newhaven at its core. One that charts an evolution of traditional music, and one that demonstrates how the traditional arts are relevant to everyday life.”

Johnny Gailey, project artist, said: “The history of Newhaven is that of the sea, of fishing for and of selling fish, however, the story of Newhaven is one that goes beyond that. It is one of ship building and fishing, of industrialisation and mechanisation and of land and social reform. Newhaven’s story reflects a wider history, a history of Scotland.”

Duncan Bremner, ‘citizen curator’, said: “As the last generations who remember the once thriving fishing industry reach old age, Bow – Tow, A Newhaven Story will celebrate and revive the traditions of music making and of oral history that once made this place unique.”


Smallpetitklein Dance Company will celebrate St Andrews Day with a project called Weechin’ Aboot  and working in partnership with traditional arts organisations in the local area to develop a day of fun for all the family.

The day will take place on St Andrews Day at various venues in Dundee City Centre.

The day-long celebration of Scotland will include: An integrated, intergenerational performance that sees five professional dancers, performing to live music alongside 80 local people brought together especially for this event.

Amount awarded: £30,000

Rob Dunn, general manager and producer at SmallpetitKlein Dance Company said: “We are thrilled to be delivering this exciting project, which will see Smallpetitklein engage with audiences in new and exciting ways.

“Weechin’ Aboot celebrates the rich and diverse history of the Scottish arts, and will bring together communities on Scotland’s national day to truly inspire the people of Dundee and beyond in this Commonwealth year.”


Pròiseact nan Ealan (PNE) will create a series of five Gaelic multi-media exhibitions to commemorate the significant contribution the people of the Western Isles made to the First World War. These exhibitions will inform and educate all age groups about the substantial impact of this period on island communities through various art forms.

Collaborating with The Historical Society network, The Creative Cell, arts practitioners, local community groups and schools, PNE aim to collate photographs, Gaelic poetry, stories and song, film, memorabilia and statistics and commission new art relating to The Great War. This contemporary, multi-art response will ultimately be presented in five separate exhibitions across the Western Isles.

The loss of life was significant in the Western Isles (some communities lost over a quarter of their population) and the effects of this are profound. The social, economic and emotional landscape changed during this period and the impact has affected generations. The centenary is a fitting anniversary for the untold stories to be communicated and to allow this generation to absorb and understand the circumstances leading up to deployment and the horrors they faced in an environment so different from the landscape and families they left behind.

Amount awarded: £24,500

Erica Morrison, ceannard/chief executive of Pròiseact nan Ealan (The national Gaelic Arts Agency), said: “Creative Scotland’s Traditional Arts Commissioning fund has enabled Pròiseact nan Ealan (The national Gaelic Arts Agency) to commemorate the significant contribution the Western Isles made to the First World War.

“The Agency can now employ researchers, heritage practitioners, professional artists and designers to create a series of high quality, unique multi-media Gaelic exhibitions. ‘Gairm nan Gàidheal’ will include wartime photographs, Gaelic poetry, memorabilia, story and songs. None of this would be possible without the support of Creative Scotland.”


Inspired by Sir Walter Scott’s Tales of a Grandfather, Tales of a Grandson is Andy Cannon’s story of Scotland. Andy will work with macrobert, Stirling, the Scottish Storytelling Festival and a number of artists to create an immersive theatrical storytelling experience that will both celebrate and challenge the shared inheritance that is our national heritage.

The project has benefited from research and development funding already which has provided Andy with valuable time, space and creative development opportunities with other artists to develop the project ideas further. Andy and his associate artists, Wendy Weatherby and Natasha Gilmore, will create a performance, using the traditional arts of storytelling, music and dance to engage an intergenerational audience.

Amount awarded: £30,000

Alice McGrath, director of Creative Development, macrobert, said: “Macrobert and Andy Cannon have been working together for the last year developing ideas for Andy’s new project Tales of a grandson.

“We are delighted that Creative Scotland are supporting this ambitious project through the Traditional Arts Commissioning fund. Andy has gathered a fantastic team to work on the project including composer and musician Wendy Wetherby, designer Brian Hartley and choreographer Natasha Gilmore. Tales will be presented at macrobert and at the Scottish International Storytelling Festival this October.”



  1. Creative Scotland is the national organisation that funds and supports the development of Scotland’s arts, screen and creative industries.  Creative Scotland has four objectives: to develop and sustain a thriving environment for the arts, screen and creative industries; to support excellence in artistic and creative practice; to improve access to and participation in, arts and creative activity; and to deliver our services efficiently and effectively. In 2013/14 we will distribute over £100m in funding provided by the Scottish Government and the National Lottery. For further information on Creative Scotland please visit Follow us @creativescots and
  2. Creative Scotland works with an external advisory group made up of organisations rooted in Scotland’s traditional arts. This group, including the Scottish Storytelling Forum, the Traditional Music Forum, and Voluntary Arts Scotland, meet regularly to discuss the key issues facing the sector, and in previous years their work has led to the development of specific funding initiatives for the traditional arts such as the Small Traditional Arts Fund, the Traditional Arts Mentoring Fund, and Traditional Arts Commissioning Fund. In 2013/14, Creative Scotland increased the financial support available to the traditional arts from £250k to £500k. This money is intended to support specific activities that will strengthen and develop the traditional arts sector in Scotland.
  3. In 2013/14 the total budget available for Traditional Arts Commissions is £320,000. Awards are regularly in the region of £5,000 – £30,000.

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