Speech from the opening ceremony of the 2016 Edinburgh International Culture Summit

Read my speech from the opening ceremony of the 2016 Edinburgh International Culture Summit

Presiding Officer, Ken Macintosh MSP welcomes delegates and guests to the Scottish Parliament during the Opening Ceremony of the Edinburgh International Culture Summit 2016. 24 August 2016. Pic - Andrew Cowan/Scottish Parliament

Good afternoon, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen.  My name is Ken Macintosh MSP and, as Presiding Officer, I am delighted to welcome you to The Scottish Parliament and to the 2016 Edinburgh International Culture Summit.

You could say that The Scottish Parliament is a cultural icon and a work of art in its own right.  Designed by Spanish architect Enric Miralles, he drew inspiration from the surrounding landscape, the flower paintings by Charles Rennie Mackintosh and the upturned boats on the seashore.

As he developed the design he said that it was a “building growing out of the land.”

For the opening of this building, the Scots Makar at the time, Edwin Morgan wrote the poem “Open the doors” which took that theme and extended it by linking it more to the people of the land and how our doors must be open to those people.

Morgan specifically said that his poem was a “public” poem one which would speak directly to his audience.

I therefore, hope you agree that it is a fitting venue for Ministers and guests from around the world to gather, to explore the unique role that arts and culture play as a form of exchange to build trust between people, cultures and nations.

Thomas Carlyle, a Scottish philosopher from the Enlightenment said, “Culture is the process by which a person becomes all that they were created capable of being.”

Culture has the potential to be a force for positive change and to make a huge economic impact.  All you have to do is walk down this city’s Royal Mile right now to witness the positive impact of Edinburgh’s festivals.

Culture is what defines us as nations and as individuals within those nations.  It is at the very core of who we are and what we do.

Mahatma Ghandi famously said, “A nation’s culture resides in the hearts and in the soul of its people.”

The Scottish Parliament does its best to play an important role in promoting and supporting culture, both through the parliamentary process and through engagement with events, exhibitions and outreach services.

At the moment we have a fantastic exhibition by Scotland’s own Harry Benson CBE.  The exhibition includes photographs of every US President since Eisenhower to Obama.  And includes a picture of the next US President whether it be Hilary Clinton or Donald Trump.  It also includes extensive images of the civil rights movement in America, 1960s and 1970s public protests – for women’s rights and both against and for the war in Vietnam, portraits of musicians including The Beatles, James Brown, Dolly Parton, Mick Jagger and the USA for Africa song artists.   I highly recommend it, if you have not had the chance to see it yet.

Also on display to welcome all of you here are the Kelpies Maquettes.  These are steel structures of the famous horses heads (Duke and Baron) hand crafted by renowned Scottish sculptor Andy Scott.  They were made as models for the world’s largest equine sculptures, The Kelpies, a 300 tonne public artwork located in the Helix Park in the Falkirk area of Central Scotland.  They are monuments to the significance of the Clydesdale horse to that area and to the lost industries that once thrived in there.

As well as having a lot of wonderful things to see and great activities to attend and get involved in. This summit provides a unique opportunity for you all, to come together to discuss how arts and culture are best sustained, promoted and protected.  It can also provide new opportunities for cultural exchanges, collaborations and friendships.

The overarching theme of this year’s summit is “Culture – Building Resilient Communities.”   Reflecting the Summit’s belief in the capacity of the arts and culture to foster mutual understanding between nations, states and cities.

To achieve this, over the next few days we will focus on three inter-linked policy strands—

  • Culture and Heritage;
  • Culture and Economics; and
  • Culture and Participation.

Well, it’s fair to say we have plenty to be getting on with!  So I will not keep you any further.

Once again, welcome to the Scottish Parliament.  I do hope you all have a very productive but, more importantly, a very enjoyable time here.


Image © Scottish Parliamentary Corporate Body – 2016. Licensed under the Scottish Parliament Copyright Licence