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Perth Festival is proof creative industries are on top

Looking at the growth figures reported by Scotland's orchestras this past week, as the BBC SSO, RSNO and SCO launched the programmes for their 2014/15 seasons, you can see why any smart government would want to be associated with the creative industries.

With starrier guests, more inventive product and increasing audiences across the board, they are furnishing yet more evidence that the arts in Scotland are a success story that should be mentioned in the same breath as the booming whisky industry.

It goes further than that, though, because the arts are constantly under scrutiny in a way that would have commerce and industry (and I mean no specific slight on our distilling friends) up in arms at the interference.

Everything that arts companies do not only has to comply with company law like any other business, but is also commented upon by an army of paid critics and commentators and a volatile and very choosy paying public, to an extent that manufacturers of cakes and widgets and suppliers of motor mechanical or personal grooming services would find intolerable.

TripAdviser has nothing on this, and many football clubs would certainly have crumbled. Yet despite this - or equally arguably because of it - many arts organisations are thriving and growing, our orchestras among the vanguard.

That is also true of Perth Festival - one of Scotland's longest-established arts events - which announced its full programme this past week, ahead of tickets going on sale on Monday for a programme that runs from May 22 to June 1.

Like a significant number of arts bodies, but to a greater degree that most, Perth Festival of the Arts relies upon the unpaid work of a lay board to make the crucial decisions through the year and an army of enthusiastic volunteers to run it when it happens, with the day-to-day work in the care of its one member of staff, adminstrator Sandra Ralston.

In a way of working that should be the envy of many a private business, the board renews itself with active new members and the festival is constantly developing and changing, while maintaining good relations with important suppliers and clients.

Its classical music core - the Royal Liverpool Phil, Royal Northern Sinfonia, The Sixteen and English Touring Opera are all in the fine 2014 programme - is now complemented by a broad range of other music, including pop trio Scouting For Girls, chanteuse Alison Moyet, and Jools Holland's Rhythm and Blues Orchestra with Melanie C and Marc Almond, as well as theatre and comedy.

New commissions include a percussion concerto by Police drummer Stewart Copeland, and the closing concert's Perthshire Cantata by Dougie McLean.

This year the festival has had to cope with the loss of one of its main venues, with Perth Theatre closed for major refurbishment, but the board and management of Perth Festival have taken the non-availability of one its main places of business in its stride.

It means that the town's relatively new and much-admired Concert Hall, which has already shown itself to be highly adaptable, will be breaking more new ground, with the hanselling of an orchestra pit for The Magic Flute, and the staging of Orton's Entertaining Mr Sloan half a century after its premiere won the London critics' Play of the Year Award.

Folk in some other trades may feel the same, but it seems to me that the industry I work in, by way of contrast, lurches from crisis to crisis, and seems to have done so for much the same time span of 50 years. I serve on the boards of two arts organisations, both of which have had significant financial problems, brought about in very different ways, to deal with. Doing my bit earns me nothing in cash terms, but seeing matters dealt with transparently and successfully is inspirational and beyond price.

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