What kind of a year has 2013 been for you?
Busy! We celebrated our tenth edition of the festival this year with a programme of 60 exhibitions and ten new publicly-sited works by leading and emerging artists from Scotland and beyond.
What has changed for the better and what, if anything, has changed for the worse?
I like to think that we continue to improve with age. At ten, we have a bigger programme, we’re more confident and we understand our unique festival context and our place within it much better. And we continue to engage new audiences with visual arts – this year we recorded over 280,000 attendances across the festival programme, many of which were first-time visitors.
What do you wish hadn’t happened this year?
[See next question]
What do you wish had happened this year, but didn’t?
I think my answer to both these questions relates to one and the same thing – viz the recent events at Creative Scotland. The last few months have seen encouraging developments in the organisation, in particular the recent announcement about a clearer approach to funding streams and a return to recognizing the importance of specialist knowledge about different artforms. However, it is hard not to wish that (a) it hadn’t happened in the first place, and (b) that we were a bit further along in the process of building a Creative Scotland which the sector wants and deserves. The combination of change and upheaval, first for the worse and now for the better, means that we have all been in a strange kind of limbo for quite some time.
What would you characterise as your major achievement this year and why?
Parley, our programme of ten new publicly-sited artworks for the city. We’ve been commissioning artists for a number of years now, but this was our most ambitious programme to date, and as well as allowing our audiences to experience ambitious new contemporary work from Scotland and beyond, what was particularly exciting was the way in which it felt that the whole city was engaged in a conversation about art. We had a whole range of buildings (banks, churches, offices, galleries, libraries) taking up Peter Liversidge’s invitation to fly a white flag bearing the word HELLO, and people who had never sung in public before signing up to join the Complaints Choir for Edinburgh (a project originally conceived by Finnish Artists Kalleinen and Kalleinen, with a new Edinburgh edition developed by Daniel Padden and Peter Nicholson).
Is there anything you’d like to have done this year but haven’t?
I would have loved to have persuaded Edinburgh Castle to fly one of Peter Liversidge’s HELLO flags – but hey ho, it seems that the military can still withstand the power of art.
What would make 2014 a better year than 2013?
A few more months to prepare! 2014 is promising to be a major year for Scotland as well as our festival. Glasgow is hosting the XXth Commonwealth Games, the Ryder Cup comes to St Andrews and there’s the small matter of a referendum. That’s without even mentioning the extraordinarily rich programme of cultural events currently in the pipeline, including GENERATION, a unique celebration of 25 years of contemporary art in Scotland, to which many of our festival partners and venues will contribute.