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Just Janice: this year's Scottish cultural lows

Surely this is the best time of the year? Not Christmas Day or Hogmanay, but these precious days in-between.

PMT (Pre-Meal Stress) is gone, you’ve probably worked your way through most of the left-overs and can move on to non sprout-related meals, and relax before the next burst of socialising and party-hat wearing.

A good opportunity to mull over the last twelve months, and, for folk involved in the Scottish arts scene, a chance to re-charge batteries, because, as Frank Sinatra almost sang - ‘It Was A Very Odd Year’, and along with the myriad of high-points and successes, there were bad and sad times, too.

Creative Scotland lurched towards crisis, and heads rolled after artists expressed their dismay at how the organisation was run. There was concern over the new Creative Scotland Awards and the all-male panel of judges. And then there’s the George Square redesign project - also steered by a men-only group. In the middle of all that, the brilliant Vicky Featherstone, artistic director of the National Theatre of Scotland, announced her departure.

It was a dramatic end to the year, leaving much in disarray. Who knows what 2013 will bring? Perhaps a Downton Abbey style denouement whereby Alasdair Gray and Jim Kelman take over the top jobs at the arts funding body, and the all-male George Square judges rip off their face masks, Scooby Doo style, to reveal themselves to be a bunch of radical Guerrilla Girls with plans for a wimmin-friendly Georgina Square.

Which brings me to the low-point of my TV year - Julian Fellowes’ appalling, melodramatic, Downton scripts, which infuriated me so much, I had to ask my stable-lad to saddle up the horse so I could go for a ride to clear my head.

In film, another visually stunning piece, The Master, was let down by PT Anderson’s incoherent narrative. Meanwhile, the frame rate of Peter Jackson’s The Hobbit made me feel seasick. Fortunately the film was so dull, I had a nice snooze in the middle and woke up feeling fine.

The worst film of the year, though, was Nativity 2 - a waste of David Tennant’s talent, and the irritation onscreen compounded by the fact that the couple next to me were noisily eating their own body weight in crisps.

Also no laughing matter was Edinburgh University’s eviction of arts venue, the Bongo Club, whose final night will be on Hogmanay, but there’s hope of them finding a new home in the New Year. There was no such respite for the Collins Gallery, closed by Strathclyde University after decades of superb exhibitions - a real loss.

Sadly, 2012, was also the year that we lost three creative mavericks - Compass Gallery founder, Cyril Gerber, artist, George Wyllie, and singer-songwriter, Michael Marra.
Their work and encouragement of new artists is their legacy and will be remembered long after the funders and bureaucrats have gone to the great quango in the sky.  Happy New Year!

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