Steve Byrne Appointed As New Director of TRACS

TRACS (Traditional Arts and Culture Scotland) is delighted to announce that they have appointed Steve Byrne as their new Director. A noted performer, researcher, folklorist and community activist, Steve Byrne will take up his appointment from March 2023, continuing the work of TRACS and its three forums for traditional music, storytelling, and traditional dance; and developing and showcasing Scotland’s rich cultural heritage.

Born in Arbroath and educated at Arbroath High School, Steve Byrne trained at the School of Scottish Studies at Edinburgh University, before embarking on a distinguished creative career. As a founding member of Scottish folk band Malinky, Byrne toured widely, while also contributing to the digitisation of vital early recordings of Scottish music and storytelling.

From early in his career Steve has been a strong advocate for community use of folk culture as a resource for local education, development and wellbeing. He is the author of two key strategic documents for the folk arts in Scotland: Dig Where We Stand (2015) commissioned by TRACS, and Mapping Intangible Heritage in Scotland (2021) commissioned by a number of public bodies, including Creative Scotland, Museums and Galleries Scotland, and Historic Environment Scotland.

A savvy communicator, Byrne also led the effort to save poet, songwriter and political activist Hamish Henderson’s letters and papers, readying them for transfer to a public collection. More recently, he crowdfunded to buy the bouzouki which Roy Williamson played in The Corries’ first version of Flower of Scotland, gifting it to the St Cecilia’s Hall collection of historic instruments.

Steve Byrne’s previous organisational roles include Traditional Arts Officer at Edinburgh City Council, Development Worker for almost a decade at the Scots Music Group, and Chair of the Traditional Music Forum. More recently he has been involved in the TRACS’ People’s Parish project in the Bainsford & Langlees area of Falkirk. This Scotland-wide project involving all of Scotland’s 871 parishes supports communities to discover and rediscover a ‘sense of place’ for present and future generations through stories, traditions, and heritage history.

TRACS was founded in 2011 after extensive research and consultation led by the Scottish Government’s Traditional Arts Working Group. Its purpose is to advocate for traditional arts and to make music, storytelling and dance inclusive and accessible aspects of everyday life across Scotland. Since its inception TRACS has been based at the Scottish Storytelling Centre on Edinburgh’s Royal Mile, with which it works in close partnership on major ventures such as The Scottish International Storytelling Festival.

For the last decade TRACS has been led jointly by David Francis and Donald Smith. Though standing down from their shared leadership role, both will continue to actively support forums and projects within TRACS.

New Director of TRACS, Steve Byrne said:

“I am absolutely delighted to be appointed to lead an organisation that I consider to be key to the future of traditional arts in Scotland.  I am looking forward to working with the TRACS team and communities across the country in celebrating our local cultures in all their vibrant forms, hybrids and languages, and sharing Scotland’s living traditions with the world.”

Andrew Bachell, Chair of TRACS, who led the recruitment process, commented:

“In Steve Byrne, TRACS has found a new Director who reflects the spread and depth of talent in Scotland’s traditional arts. His appointment is a confident step towards the tough challenges that cultural organisations face over the next two years.”

Former Directors David Francis and Donald Smith said:

“We are delighted to be handing on the leadership baton to Steve Byrne. He is an outstanding creative, an excellent communicator, and committed to nurturing folk culture from the roots. His appointment is a boost to the vital role traditional arts and culture play in our society, past, present and future.”