It has been a busy week in the cultural world.
The National Theatre of Scotland unveiled its programme for this momentous year which, as you may have read, includes what the NTS regard as their biggest project to date: the "Three James's", plays concerning the lives (and wives) of James I, II and III written by Rona Munro, to be directed by NTS chief Laurie Sansom. They form, festival director Sir Jonathan Mills told me, the centrepiece of this year's Edinburgh International Festival (EIF) programme. I wonder whether their commission will quieten some of the critics who have queried whether the EIF pays enough attention, this year of all years, to questions of Scottish identity. Perhaps not but it will be very interesting to see the rest of the EIF programme in March.
I had heard that Ms Munro was working on a major play about "King James" and assumed (wrongly; luckily I chose not to write the story) it was to be about James VI and I (1566-1625) who unified the crowns of England and Scotland. Instead she is focusing on three, perhaps, lesser known monarchs of Scotland who had disparate and often tortured relationships with England; being variously captives, allies and foes of the country over the Border. The trilogy, and reaction to it, will be one of the key events of the cultural summer. I asked Ms Munro whether the plays were designed to tip undecided votes one way or the other, Yes or No, but she said that was not her intention. Although Scottish, she won't have a vote in September as she lives in London.
Loading article content
Elsewhere, the burgeoning Glasgow Film Festival unveiled a strong programme, Celtic Connections is in full swing, both the V&A in Dundee and the Big Noise children received some handy People's Lottery money, and, on Thursday, Creative Scotland finally published its long awaited Film Review. The review was long on pages and statistics but short, it seemed to me, on detailed conclusions, although it does have a fairly comprehensive list of 14 objectives. It did seem to back the idea of a Scottish film studio, and also the idea of more film funding.
But where this increase in funding is to come from is left in the hands of the power brokers. Scottish Enterprise, which is preparing a report on a possible studio, is going to back such a scheme, I understand, but in what form (and where it should be) may be less clear.
The decision to build a facility would be the end of a long and old song. I seem to have written about the possibilities and plans for Scottish film studio schemes every year since I first started reporting on the arts scene in 1999, and none has come to anything. But a studio, if it is built, must surely go hand in hand with more funds and support for Scottish-based film makers and producers.
The finances needed to double production in Scotland, as the report suggests, will have to come from elsewhere in the CS budget - so from where will it cut? And perhaps some decisions, or signs of decision making, should be made before June, which is when Janet Archer, chief executive, said a new film strategy will be unveiled. She has a few hard choices to make. This will be one of the biggest.