Today, I’m proudly representing the Scottish Government at the Festival Interceltique de Lorient in Brittany, mainland Europe’s largest showcase for traditional music.
Focusing on the culture of Scotland, Ireland, Wales, Cornwall, Isle of Man, Brittany, and the wider Celtic diaspora, the festival attracts more than 750,000 visitors to the city of Lorient in north west France every August.
Scotland has been selected as Country of Honour for this year’s festival. Over 220 Scottish artists will be featured in 35 different acts playing 180 performances – a fifth of the entire programme and the largest contribution made by a guest nation in the festival’s history.
Our starring role in Brittany this month follows on from France being Showcase Scotland’s special partner at last year’s Celtic Connections, where I enjoyed a range of outstanding French music at a showcase concert in Glasgow.
The fact that so many of Scotland’s finest musicians are now traveling to Brittany is not only an enormous privilege, but also stands as genuine tribute to the quality and excellence of our homegrown talent.
Such strong links reflect the historic friendship shared by our two nations. France and Scotland have enjoyed an illustrious 700-year history of association as well as a rich Celtic legacy of language, storytelling and traditional music. These deep ties were further strengthened by a mutual Cultural Statement of Intent which I signed between our governments in 2013, a partnership that underlines our joint commitment to promote and support cultural partnerships across both nations.
The transformative power of cultural collaboration has significance at an even more fundamental level. As Culture, Tourism and External Affairs Secretary, I’m keenly aware of the positive contribution culture and heritage can make to individuals and communities, as well as how we go about presenting the different dimensions of Scotland to the wider world.
As the home of the Edinburgh Festivals, Celtic Connections, Heb Celt and many other hugely successful traditional and folk festivals, Scotland has long appreciated the importance of bringing artists together, no matter where they are from.
Despite on-going uncertainty surrounding the UK Government’s dealings with Europe, this summer’s Lorient festival promises to reinforce creative cross-collaboration – forging new friendships, deepening existing relationships and inspiring the creation of new works to keep our music alive and relevant among performers and audiences for many years to come.