Page last updated at 23:40 GMT, Friday, 7 August 2009 00:40 UK

Culture minister salutes Edinburgh

By Michael Russell
Culture Minister

St Kilda
The St Kilda opera will be part of the Edinburgh International Festival

I don't precisely know how I should limber up for my first set of Edinburgh festivals as Culture Minister but I do know that preparation of some sort is necessary.

After all, my diary is already virtually full for the days I can be in Edinburgh.

And this being the Year of Homecoming, Scots events feature heavily in my plans, with Jonathan Mills's latest Edinburgh International Festival Programme, cleverly blending international gems with some major home-grown, or home-linked, highlights.

During my visit to the Western Isles last week almost everybody I met said they were coming to see the St Kilda opera, which will not only be a treat in itself but will also further develop the celebrations of Eilean Hiort which are being built by the Stornoway-based Gaelic Arts Project.

Other musts for me will include the opening concert - I am a Handel fan and one who believes it is time to forgive, if not forget, the connection of Judas Maccabaeus with Culloden - and the Romanian Faust, being held in what is essentially a big shed at Ingliston and which is, by all accounts, more than a little overwhelming.

I have spent a lot of time in the last few months announcing contributions from the Scottish Government's Expo fund to the Edinburgh festivals (money designed to maintain the global competitive edge of what is still the world's leading Festival city, while showcasing Scotland's immense creative talent).

Culture minister Mike Russell
It is Michael Russell's first Edinburgh Festival as culture minister

Also I shall be dipping in to some of the performances which have benefited from that resource, including Scottish Ballet's Petrushka and David Leddy's "Susurrus", which takes place at the Royal Botanic Gardens as part of the Fringe "Made in Scotland" programme.

Add to all that the fact that I am - amongst many other things - doing a day of reviewing with a Scottish newspaper, presenting my own favourite poems at the Book Festival (thanks to an offer from the Scottish Poetry Library) and announcing the winner of the Robin Jenkins Literary Award (a wonderful new culture and environment prize devised by a Festival furth of Edinburgh, the Argyll-based walking event, Cowalfest).

I shall also be hosting a dinner at the last night of the Tattoo (for Historic Scotland craft staff who do so much behind the scenes) and speaking at the first reception to be held by Creative Scotland (marking that organisation's emergence into the full glare of creativity).

I expect to have a whale of a time, even if I shall hardly be rested when the new parliamentary term starts just as the Festival winds down, going out as ever in a blaze of fireworks over Princes Street.

Bring it on!



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