Edinburgh International Culture Summit

Speech - Cabinet Secretary Fiona Hyslop

Fiona Hyslop MSP, Cabinet Secretary for Culture and External Affairs

Edinburgh International Culture Summit 2012: Opening Remarks
The Chamber, Scottish Parliament, Holyrood, Edinburgh EH99 1SP
Monday 13 August 2012


Presiding Officer, fellow Culture Ministers, delegates, ladies and gentlemen, may I extend the warmest of welcomes from the Government and people of Scotland to the Edinburgh International Culture Summit 2012.

This Parliament demonstrates the power of international cultural collaboration: whether through the magnificent modernist architecture of the late Enric Miralles from Barcelona; or the exhibition in the public entrance space of two letters associated with our Scottish hero Sir William Wallace, Braveheart: one written by him to the German City of Lubeck, in 1297, encouraging trade with Scotland; and the other a letter from king Philip the Fourth of France, in 1300, offering assistance in relations with the Pope.

Together they show how international co-operation, through trade and diplomacy, was vitally important seven centuries ago to Scotland, and is a key part of our cultural heritage.

My thanks, also, to Liz Lochhead for reading Robert Burns’s great poem, A Man’s a Man for a’ That.  I grew up in Robert Burns’s birthplace, Alloway, so his message of brotherly love “the world o’er” has long inspired me and matches the aims of this International Summit.

The Power of the Arts to Move and Motivate

Let me, though, quote another poet, William Shakespeare, now being celebrated through the Cultural Olympiad’s World Shakespeare Festival, including a powerful Polish production of Macbeth, an explosive study of brutality and fear, which I saw on Saturday.

In the Merchant of Venice, Shakespeare wrote:

‘The man that hath no music in himself,
Nor is not moved with concord of sweet sounds,
Is fit for treasons, stratagems, and spoils ;
The motions of his spirit are dull as night.
And his affections dark as Erebus :
Let no such man be trusted. Mark the music’.

Music, Culture, the arts helps us build trust.  Trust and understanding are the foundation for relationships between people and nations.

They have the power to move and motivate and that is what we invite you to discuss.

We saw the dramatic impact of the performing arts in Danny Boyle’s Opening Ceremony for this year’s Olympics and yesterday’s Closing Ceremony.  The Olympics, though are not just a one-off event, however dramatic, but also an enduring movement, creating international sporting connections.  I hope that this Summit can leave a similarly lasting legacy of increased cultural dialogue between nations.


The Presiding Officer reminded us that the Edinburgh International Festival started in 1947 and that the last London Olympics were in 1948, in a time of austerity just as we have now.  The lesson to draw, is that even in difficult times there is space for new ventures – like this Summit – and that the creative arts and industries are key to economic, and, indeed, social recovery, rather than a distraction from it.  It is one of the reasons in Scotland we are protecting our Culture budgets.

All the more so, because for many countries the times are promising rather than difficult.  The Beijing Olympics of 2008, and the forthcoming Winter Olympics in Sochi in 2014 and Summer Olympics in Rio in 2016, and the Commonwealth Games in Delhi in 2010, show how the world’s most populous nations are achieving an economic and social position that matches their already enormous cultural contributions, not just hundreds but thousands of years old.

Here, in Scotland, we look forward to the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow in 2014 and these Olympics have provided a great platform for that.

Culture Ministers

As I refrained from quoting Robert Burns earlier, let me do so now, his well-known lines from ‘To A Louse’:

O would some Power the giftie gie us
To see ourselves as others see us!
It would from many a blunder free us.

I do see this as an occasion when we can see ourselves as others see us and can learn from each other.

Your experience, your vision, our dialogue, our debate.

In sharing our common issues and challenges from our unique perspectives is a valuable opportunity.  Some of you will have experience of culture at times of conflict and resolution.  We need to learn what that means for artists and governments.


Where better to do that, than in Edinburgh, the Festival City?
That status comes from sharing culture across countries.

Today, the Edinburgh Festivals provide a platform for artists and performers from across the globe to present to a similarly wide audience, from:
the National Youth Orchestra of Iraq, brought to the Fringe Festival with the help of the Scottish Government and British Council; to the 3,000 artists from at least 47 different countries at the International Festival; to the new Edinburgh World Writers’ Conference, starting at the Book Festival on Friday and going on to 15 different countries over the course of next year.

All this shows how culture and the arts translate ideas into a common language that transcends societal differences and builds long-term relationships and trust between nations.

So take this opportunity to build relationships with each other, to challenge each other, and to engage in a dialogue about the future in this city of ideas and the Enlightenment; and take the opportunity, too, to experience Edinburgh, now, at the height of the Festival Season, and to enjoy our culture, our hospitality and our welcome.

About the summit

The Edinburgh International Culture Summit 2012 will bring together Culture Ministers with prominent artists, thinkers and others responsible for formulating cultural policy. 

They will discuss how the arts enrich the lives of people around the world and contribute to the wellbeing of nations.


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