Meet the Artist: Alasdair Nicolson

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by SMIF Young Reporter Kristopher Leask
One of our series from Young Reporters for the Year of Young People 2018 #yoyp18

Alasdair Nicolson

As the Festival director for several years now, have you seen a change in the role of young people within the festival?

The Festival has a long tradition of involving young people but this is probably more regularly on stage as performers, in fact our current Festival Manager was in many performances as a school pupil in Kirkwall. Obviously, involving younger people has the potential to refresh your audience, volunteer cohort and perhaps even professional team in the future. 

What would you say to young Orcadians to encourage more to engage with and help out at the festival and the arts more broadly?

Make sure that you let us know if you have an interest in any aspect of the work that we do, we occasionally encourage involvement but also rely on folk coming forward. I'd say to any younger person interested in the Arts to get involved, it's a viable career should that be your interest. 

Do you think your upbringing on the Isle of Skye influences your work? 

Certainly my upbringing and original experiences probably contributed to the work I do myself as a composer and the music I write. I can also remember the original tour production of The Cheviot, the Stage and Black, Black Oil making a huge impression and thinking the performing and arts world was for me. I hope that the Festival has alerted some young folk in Orkney to their interest in the Arts. An island upbringing has certainly meant that I understand many aspects of culture, life, society and all the things that are different. The Western Isles are of course very different from the Northern Isles, not least the landscape. Weather, sea and the difficult of coming and going of course are shared facets. 

Through your role in the project Sound Inventors, a project which aims to engage more young people with composition, what has your experience been like? 

Thankfully , composition has become part of the exam system in music which both encourages young people's creativity and also gives an insight into music being made right now. Bringing professionals in to work with school chilrden on composition - like we bring professionals in during the Festival - makes the whole process much more exciting and the buzz of having music played instantly by experts makes it easy to enthuse people.

Having lead the Northland's, Platform and Bath International Music Festival's, how does Orkney compare as a setting? 

All festivals whether urban or rural share many of the same joys and hassles. They are long lead-ins to a very busy delivery period and you only get one chance a year. Orkney has some obvious added issues with travel, having to create many venues from scratch with equipment, lights and accommodation capacity. It's also not so easy to fix something quickly if you need specialist equipment or the like from outside the islands.

We have great teams of volunteers who work for the Festival and we rely on them hugely - perhaps too much sometimes. It is a very small team all year round and in the last year that has been one and a half people!


There is no other event, certainly in Scotland, that blurs the boundaries between community arts and the professional world as relentlessly as Orkney's St Magnus Festival.
Keith Bruce - The Herald

St Magnus International Festival, 13 Albert Street, Kirkwall, KW15 1HP

T: +44 (0)1856 871445


St Magnus Festival is a charity registered in Scotland. Scottish Charity No SC011666. Company Number SC073825.

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