As cuts to culture funding continue to hit the headlines it’s worth reflecting on the importance of the traditional arts to communities and to Scottish culture in general.
Folk arts are the source of human creativity and value worldwide, but the living flow of traditional song, music, dance, and story enjoys a prominent place in Scottish culture. In them people find meaning and connection. They are part of what allows us to express and share an inclusive Scottish consciousness, and are an important part of our image throughout the world. It is also that very distinctiveness which gives us the security to accept what is unique in other cultures, and to explore what we have in common.
These traditional arts can illuminate contemporary experience, as well as our history, and link directly into regional identity and the three indigenous languages, Gaelic, Scots and English, as well as the cultures and languages of new Scots. They are a collectively created and re-created expression of people’s encounter with geographical, historical, psychological and social circumstance, including the processes of settlement, relocation and dislocation. They are in short what unite collective identity, sense of place and cultural memory.
In practice the arts of tradition are inherently accessible. They enable artistic participation for all levels and abilities with the potential to provide an entry into wider artistic activities. The traditional arts can support renewal and innovation and are an important source of cultural energy and confidence.
This cultural energy also derives, in large part, from the way the traditional arts in Scotland are structured and supported. At their base is a strong voluntary and community effort, focussed on teaching and learning, local festivals, and informal social events. Those who work professionally in the traditional arts acknowledge their debt to this base, and, especially when teaching or working on community projects, never lose contact with it. There is a continuum between voluntary and amateur activity, through to professional, commercial activity, and people will find themselves at several points on the continuum (sometimes simultaneously) at different times in their creative life.
The model for the development of the traditional arts embraces, therefore, five key ideas: Knowledge, Access, Practice, Advocacy and Sustainability: the interlocking of access to the traditional arts for people as creators and audiences, addressing existing and latent demand; an infrastructure for the development of skills; the cultivation of excellence in teaching and performance; support for the traditional arts’ place in Scottish culture, their sustainability and their potential value to communities.
The Traditional Music Forum’s hope and intention is that the value of traditional arts continues to be recognised and that they continue to play a full part in Scottish life.