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Arts / Islands could trial return of live events, suggests culture secretary

Events like the Shetland Folk Festival have been postponed to 2021.

SCOTLAND’s culture secretary has suggested that the country’s islands could play host to “trials” which would see the return of live concerts and events.

Fiona Hyslop, however, stressed that any involvement of the islands would need the full approval of the communities themselves.

Events like concerts have been off the agenda since the pandemic struck, and it is unclear when they may return.

The Scottish Government said in a route map published on Thursday that live events may be “permitted with restricted numbers and physical distancing restrictions” in the third phase of relaxing the lockdown.

Reduced numbers, however, brings into question the economic viability of hosting certain events.

Shetland MSP Beatrice Wishart raised the subject during a virtual meeting of the Scottish Parliament’s culture, tourism, Europe and external affairs committee on Thursday.

She asked what Hyslop’s views were on the loss of live events in rural and island areas, and how musicians can be supported as venues reopen.

The Linlithgow MSP said that work has been done to bring together different events companies to work through what the future might hold.

Hyslop recently held a roundtable session with a number of organisers, including those behind the Heb Celt festival in Stornoway.

She suggested that trialling the return of events could happen in the future – with Scotland’s islands a potential host.

“We’re going to put together an advisory group on events in particular, to see what can happen,” Hyslop said.

“Some of it might just be also about testing as well – how do we work collaboratively to see which events might we try and put on that can showcase a different way of working?

“There might be differences in what we can do on islands. You’ll know yourself Beatrice in terms of what your constituents would want or not want.”

She added: “How do we help [the sector]… to come up with solutions? Some of those solutions might be on islands, but only with the agreement of the communities on those islands themselves.”

Shetland’s cultural calendar for 2020 has all but been wiped out, with large events like the folk festival and accordion and fiddle festival being postponed.

Hyslop added that one challenge would be to build confidence in people to return to attending events following the lockdown phase.