Tuesday, 13 November 2012

Creative Scotland Awards part 2: my victory speech

When Creative Scotland announced that one of their awards was for an Arts' Ambassador, I immediately set to work. My acceptance speech took me a few hours, because I had so much to say about how my contribution to the arts was vital to its on-going health, and quite a few anecdotes that ended with the line - "needless to say, I had the last laugh..."

It turns out that Mr Criticulous didn't make the short-list. Fortunately, I am as gracious in defeat as victory. I thought I'd give everyone the chance to read the speech... just imagine me in my grubby black suit, badly shaved and my hat pulled over my unwashed hair: striding to the podium and holding aloft my trophy...

"I'd like to thank everyone who has come here tonight: I know you've been forced to sit through a delicious meal and hear from some of the greats in Scottish Arts, but now the main course has arrived. Gareth K Vile, also known as Mr Criticulous - and a variety of other aliases that even my parents aren't able to name - the great ambassador not just of the arts, not just of Scotland, but of criticism itself.

While it was obvious that this award would end up in my hands, I'd like to take a moment to remember the plucky outsiders who were nominated alongside me. Allowing them to bask in my reflected glory seems only fair.

First of all - The National Theatre of Scotland. It has been a real pleasure, during my time as a critic, to watch the NTS grow in strength. In this year, when they embrace a new artistic director, The NTS continues with its commitment to expanding audiences and making theatre that is experimental - think of Lifeguard at the Govanhill Baths, which combined Adrian Howell's intimate performance with community development - and popular, like Appointment with the Wickerman
Apart from providing my radio show and blog with a stream of interesting guests, The NTS has managed, despite the diversity of its output, to find an articulate, coherent voice . Eschewing a house style, they nevertheless have an identity that is recognisable. The writing of David Greig has helped with this and works like Glasgow Girls, The Strange Undoing of Prudencia Hart, Black Watch represent the combination of the populist and the challenging. 

The NTS is restless, always looking for new ways to reach out: their policy, of being artist led, has allowed them to support a new generation as well as the veterans. And frankly, being a national theatre is a minefield - Scotland itself has enough diverse groups that "staging the nation" was always going to be a challenge. Yet, like me, the NTS has never lost its belief that it can speak to the world.

Donald Shaw has presided over Celtic Connections during a period when it has moved from a wee fill-in during a quiet season to a showcase of folk from around the world. Rather than be insular, he emphasises the "Connections" and brings musicians from around the world who would never make it this far north.

Again, CC has given me plenty of guests for the Radio Show, and defines my playlist from November until the end of January. It has never lost its inclusiveness - plenty of chances to learn as well as listen. In a time when national identity is a major question for Scots,  Celtic Connections brings the world to Glasgow, showing off the city's eclecticism. It is more than a question of letting Glasgow see the richness of music around the world - there's no tokenism in the programme: it reminds the world how switched on and smart Glasgow audiences can be.

The third nominee is Patrick Doyle. Glasgow has some world class composers - James MacMillan springs to mine, Matthew Whiteside, so many more even ignoring my weekly contribution to sound art through the Vile Arts Radio Hour. Yet Doyle is out on the international stage: his scores have enhanced  Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, Sense and SensibilityHamlet, and Disney/Pixar’s Brave.

I liked him best when he used to turn up on a Saturday morning on ITV, but his alliance with Kenneth Brannagh took him to the silver screen. His score for Thor is my favourite, as it supports the comic book fantasy of the story with lush, evocative composition. 

I suppose what all three of this nominations do is remind us that Scotland isn't just making work for local appreciation: as a nation, it punches above its weight and adds to the sum of international creativity. The borders may be up for debate, the relationship with England in discussion: yet Scottish art carries an identity that makes it part of the global heritage."

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