If 2022 was the year the performing arts sector cautiously stepped away from pandemic-fuelled disruption, 2023 is the year where it can break into a full sprint; and play a key role in helping break the cycle of economic gloom in which the country is currently trapped.

I’m not suggesting for a second that the creative industries can or will do this in isolation; rather, that the arts is a high-value sector for Scotland – and this is something we should acknowledge, champion and – crucially – support.

The Scottish Government states that over 15,000 creative industry businesses employing 70,000 people contribute more than £5 billion to the economy every year. It’s a staggering set of numbers, and it is little surprise the arts have been signalled out as a growth sector.

Scotland, if you did not know it, has been a leading force in the development of the performing arts for many years. For a small nation of only 5.5 million residents, we boast numerous international professional organisations championing all aspects of performance, education and community enhancement.

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The Scottish National Theatre, Scottish Opera, Scottish Ballet and Scottish Chamber Orchestra – for example – are all leaders in their fields. These are flagship organisations that proudly wave the Scottish flag, and enhance lives. Furthermore, many of our leading arts organisations have world-class education programmes that enhance lives through school and community platforms and challenge social hierarchy with their approach to inclusiveness. We can and should boast about these organisations, and the invaluable good they do through their professional and outreach work.

The world of amateur arts groups is often overlooked and sometimes even dismissed, but in reality amateur performers attract large audience numbers whilst affecting individuals from diverse backgrounds.

Amateur arts is something we do incredibly well in Scotland, and it is something we can point to as a real success story; an example of what can be achieved to high benefit. From Dumfries to Aberdeen, we have an enormous number of amateur choirs; theatre groups; folk, traditional, comedy and dance groups involving hundreds of thousands of volunteers creatives.

HeraldScotland: Flagship organisations like Scottish Ballet are all leaders in their field – remarkable for Scotland's size of 5.5 million peopleFlagship organisations like Scottish Ballet are all leaders in their field – remarkable for Scotland's size of 5.5 million people (Image: Newsquest)

Every single participant has their own reason for being part of this community and understand the benefits of being part of the artistic society. Each individual strives to contribute and create an artefact to the best possible standard that can be achieved with the resources available. Along the way, participants are being educated and developed; in many cases by paid professionals. It’s an industry unlike any other, where the experts work with amateurs, respecting each other's importance in a circle of artistic talent.

Included in the amateur ranks is also our highly successful artistic educational system. We have countless HNC, HND and degree programmes ranging through theatre, dance, acting and music that prepare the next generation not just in performance, but crucial interdisciplinary employability skills.

Again, like their contemporaries they produce high-level performances where friends and families sit proud at our youngsters' achievements. Our National Youth Theatre, National Youth Orchestra and National Youth Choir internationally represent Scottish talent not just as a promotion of what we can achieve as a nation, but equally as a crucial training ground in life skills for those involved.

Our international artistic identity is supported by these highly talented performers; and each group also plays a huge role in attracting sponsorship and foreign investment. This is not only crucial to the economy, but crucial to Scotland, helping define the country as an international influencer and contributor.

Every single one of us have access to and can utilise the talents of the home-grown talents of Scotland. We can all watch the television, visit the theatre, go to the cinema, go to music gigs, or simply put on the radio.

Most of us do not pass a second thought of how that incredible performance came about, why our emotions were stirred or simply what happened to those three minutes when you were completely engrossed in the art form in question.

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I recently witnessed, probably the worst rendition of a music performance I have ever seen (and I have seen many), but it drew me to tears and not because of the standards of performance. Tears of joy at witnessing their elation in participation, the educational aspects for all involved and the determination of the professional facilitators for their group to achieve their goal. What other industry can boast that being bad can actually be good?

While 2023 is a year in which the arts can thrive, it is also a year in which the sector could crumble; through the cost-of-living crisis.

It’s difficult to consider this as we all struggle with personal circumstances, but I would urge you to show your support for this vital sector in any way you can, so that Scotland can continue to punch above its weight in global influence.

Attend both professional and amateur performances; support community efforts to put on a show. Try something new – whether it’s live comedy, the theatre or a dance production – step outside the familiar to enjoy a new experience.

Supporting the industry does not necessarily even mean spending money. Leaving reviews for performances you have enjoyed is more helpful than you realise, and even just recommending something to a friend can have positive outcomes. There’s a reason the phrase “word of mouth success” exists.

If we support our arts from nursery upwards and understand the cultural, educational and social importance the industry has to offer, Scotland can lead in creating a secure financial future for this incredible industry.

It is important to remember that without our performance artists, the £5 billion contribution to the economy would not exist. Don’t underestimate their contribution. They say you don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone – but I urge you, recognise what we have in this country now, and provide support in any way you can during this difficult time.

Dr Stephen Langston is senior lecturer and programme leader for performance at the University of the West of Scotland