This article appears as part of the Herald Arts newsletter.

As we count down to the final of the Euro 24 football competition – winner unknown at the time of writing – it’s worth noting that the game is essentially made up of the best bits from theatre and dance, sound-tracked by mass choirs of fans in a ‘production’ which also features choreographed clapping, drumming, flag waving and even the odd pyrotechnic display.

With all that colour, noise and drama – basically the entire Edinburgh Festival crammed into 90 minutes – there’s not much space left for the arts. Or Arts, if you prefer your cultural offering served up with a capital letter.

There have been brave attempts in the past to fuse the two, such as Turner Prize-winning artist Douglas Gordon’s 2006 film Zidane: A 21st Century Portrait.

It uses 17 synchronized cameras to follow every movement made by French footballing legend Zinedine Zidane for the duration of a home game between his team, Real Madrid, and Villareal. Zizou, as he is affectionately known, manages to get himself sent off, though thankfully not until near the end of the game. It’s a fascinating film made even more appealing by a score from Glasgow band Mogwai. But it is artful. Too artful, perhaps. The football-loving pals I saw it with came out of the cinema grumbling that they’d been sold a pup, proof that Art and the Beautiful Game are like oil and water – difficult to mix. 

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Despite that, football has recently been having a moment as a subject for theatre thanks to productions such as Eilidh Loan’s Moorcroft, which toured last year; The Scaff, by Stephen Christopher and Graeme Smith; and Same Team, written by Robbie Gordon and Jack Nurse in collaboration with the Dundee Women’s Street Soccer Team.

Chloe-Ann Tylor, Kim Allan, Hiftu Quasem and Hannah Jarrett-Scott in Same Team (Image: Tommy Ga-Ken Wan)
Same Team follows five women as they attempt to live the Homeless World Cup and was a hit when it had its world premiere late last year. It returns this month with a short run at Glasgow’s Tron Theatre and a longer, month-long one in the Edinburgh Fringe as part of the Traverse Theatre’s TravFest 24 programme. Ahead of that, the Herald’s Brian Beacom caught up with Robbie Gordon for the low-down on the production. You can read the interview here.

And what of poetry and the Beautiful Game? Well it looks like it’s having a moment too, at least according to Paisley-based poet Julie McNeill.

Her new collection We Are Scottish Football is out now, published by Luath Press, and you can catch her at various events across Scotland this summer including a sort of season-opener appearance at the Edinburgh Fringe. “Football and poetry are a natural pairing to me, and poetry is a good medium to use when writing about football,” she tells The Herald. “It’s a bit like a camera: it can capture a moment in time.” You can read that interview here.

Girls aloud 

The Edinburgh International Film Festival (EIFF) has announced its closing film and it’s a doozie, at least if you’re a fan of Scottish music – and especially the sort made by the distaff side.

Since Yesterday: The Untold Story Of Scotland’s Girl Bands will have its world premiere at EIFF on August 21 and follows on the heels of previous festival favourites such as Grant McPhee’s 2015 love letter to the Edinburgh post-punk scene, Big Gold Dream. Co-directed by musician Carla J Easton and film-maker Blair Young, and presented in collaboration with podcast Girls On Film, it’s a fond and (according to the blurb) “enraging” survey of Scottish girl bands from the 1960s onwards.

Strawberry Switchblade, one of the bands featured in Since Yesterday (Image: Peter McArthur)
“Since the moment we saw this spiky, fun and eye-opening film we knew it had to be a major part of our festival,” says EIFF director Paul Ridd. “Here is a fantastically fresh and engaging documentary about Scottish artists, Scottish art and the challenges faced by Scottish women in a male-dominated industry and sexist world.” 

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Hailing a film which “celebrates sisterhood and collaboration while pushing for progress”, Girls On Film co-founder and host Anna Smith adds: “We believe that documenting women’s contributions to history can change the future.” 

But what of the past? Well, if you’re still grooving to Strawberry Switchblade’s shimmering synthpop cover of Jolene or still thrilling to Maid To Minx by Glasgow’s Riot Grrrl-inspired outfit Lung Leg, then this is definitely the film for you.

Lung Leg, one of the bands featured in Since Yesterday (Image: Graham Gavin)
For more on the first of those two bands, check out Billy Sloan’s 2021 interview with them, part of his Greatest Scottish Albums series for The Herald. For more on Carla J Easton and the context for her film, read Martin Williams’s article on Hen Hoose, the initiative of which Easton is a part and which aims to level up the music industry in terms of opportunities for women.

And finally… 

Herald theatre critic Neil Cooper has continued his deep dive into this summer’s Bard In The Botanics programme by taking in Jennifer Dick’s new adaptation of Charlotte Brontë’s much-loved 1847 novel Jane Eyre. It’s the one with (spoiler alert) a young second wife, a brooding older husband and a deranged first wife locked up in the attic. In this production Dick transports her characters from the north of England to Highland Scotland.

Neil has also run his eye over an adaptation of another 19th century literary classic – Pitlochry Theatre’s take on Jane Austen’s Sense And Sensibility – and a more recent work, Philip Ridley’s 2015 play Radiant Vermin, here having its Scottish premiere at the Tron Theatre in Glasgow.