Glasgow has turned the National Year of Reading into an arts festival, while more remote areas of the country are being visited by the Book Bus. Raymond Ross reports
Glasgow's Mayfest may be no more and Edinburgh's Festival may have seen fewer ticket sales, but a new type of schools' festival in Glasgow has practically sold out before opening.
Inspiration from Word, which runs from October 26 to November 7, is being organised by the city's leisure and cultural services department to celebrate Read Me - the National Year of Reading.
High-profile events will link the written word to other art forms. Glasgow thus becomes the first Scottish authority to develop an arts initiative in association with Read Me, providing 14 different shows, 13 workshops and other events amounting to 200 chances for pupils to participate.
There are performances by TAG theatre company, the Scottish Chamber Orchestra, Edinburgh Puppet Company and Oily Cart Children's Theatre, with readings and workshops from writers Brian McCabe and Janet Paisley, as well as poets Roger McGough and Edwin Morgan, who has also written a song for Glasgow schools which has been set to music by Tommy Smith.
But this is not a festival for passive audiences, as there are performances involving school orchestras and bands, youth theatres and dance classes as well as interactive exhibitions like Wonderwall at the Gallery of Modern Art.
There, the artists will guide pupils round, discuss exhibits, suggest extension work and show pupils the "fourth wall" where they will be able to add their own responses - in images and writing. The interactive nature of Inspiration from Word is a major element in its success - more than 3,000 advance tickets sold and only a couple of hundred left - as is a price of pound;1 a pupil per event, plus one workshop free.
Eona Craig, the city's arts development officer for education, says: "It has appealed to schools because it hits the curriculum in terms of reading and writing skills, in terms of 5-14 expressive arts and because it is extremely good value for money, as well as being great fun."
With a budget of only pound;75,000 (including support from the Scottish Arts Council and the Hugh Fraser Foundation) and a great deal of help from many council departments, Inspiration from Word has been tailored to suit school needs.
"The key to success is to base it on what schools actually want. We have great pulling-power in the quality of the artists and the venues and it gives the schools themselves a high profile because they know that things are being curated specifically for them.
"It's all about celebrating what teachers and pupils can do in a cultural jigsaw which combines professional and pupil power," she adds.
Among the highlights will be the world premiere of a work for ensemble and pupils commissioned by the Scottish Chamber Orchestra from Alasdair Nicolson based on George Mackay Brown's story, Keepers of the House.
Pupils of all ages are invited to enter the strange world of Sharmanka (Russian for "barrel-organ"), through the mechanical sculptures at the Gallery of Modern Art and the Sharmanka Gallery in King Street created by Eduard Bersudsky.
A full day residency in schools, led by artist Geraldine Sinkie, will allow pupils to create their own book from scratch while the Scotland Street Museum will be home to an exhibition Tam O'Shanter - a Sculpture in Cloth featuring the interpretation by schools and community groups of Burns's mock-epic tale.
So good are the advance bookings that Glasgow is already thinking in terms of an annual schools' event.
Eona Craig, tel: 0141 287 5853