Reinvigorating Traditional Arts in Scotland

Submitting Institution

University of Edinburgh

Unit of Assessment

Modern Languages and Linguistics

Summary Impact Type


Research Subject Area(s)

Language, Communication and Culture: Cultural Studies
History and Archaeology: Curatorial and Related Studies, Historical Studies

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Summary of the impact

Three research projects emerging from audio materials in the University of Edinburgh's Scottish Studies Archives (SSA) and from the Greig-Duncan folksong collection have forged a new understanding of the role of tradition in Scotland and internationally. These projects contribute to the reanimation of Scotland's rich traditional heritage by transferring into a contemporary context music and song preserved in these cultural artefacts. Through our websites (since 2010 ca. 9,000 hits per month from 98 different countries), public performances in Scotland, Ireland and North America, educational packages, CDs and radio broadcasts (ca. 50,000 weekly listeners 2008-13) we combine the old with the new, and have thus influenced the way the cultural and educational professions, performers and the general public engage with the traditional arts of Scotland.

Underpinning research

The projects described here involve scholarly research on archival collections of music or song in Scotland.

Tobar an Dualchais (TAD)

This project (total funding: £3.2m) commenced in 2006 with a remit to digitise and enable access to the major fieldwork recordings of SSA along with two smaller audio archive collections, the National Trust for Scotland's Campbell of Canna Archive and BBC Alba (ca. 12,000 hours of material). The project was run jointly with the University of the Highlands and Islands. Digitisation centres were set up in South Uist and in the SSA; a team of 30 cataloguers was employed to provide descriptive metadata. The research design and implementation has been overseen by a steering group including four staff members of Celtic & Scottish Studies (C&SS) at the University of Edinburgh: Dr Cathlin Macaulay (SSA Archivist), Dr Margaret Mackay (Senior Lecturer until 2010, thereafter Hon. Fellow), Dr John Shaw (Senior Lecturer until 2010, thereafter Hon. Fellow) and Dr Gary West (Lecturer 1994-2006, Senior Lecturer 2006-). Underpinning this project has been scholarship on how to analyse folkloristic and ethnomusicological genres, how to contextualise these genres by reference to a range of external source materials and how to design and deliver a major online research resource. This constitutes a decisive contribution to the intellectual infrastructure of the fields of Celtic Studies, Ethnology and Intangible Cultural Heritage (3.1, 3.2).

The Greig-Duncan Folk Song Collection

Originating in Aberdeenshire, this is the largest collection of Lowland Scots song ever published. The research underpinning vols 5-8 (published 1993-2003, see 3.3) involved systematic scholarly editing of a disparate collection of manuscript materials dating from the early twentieth century: folksongs, including associated correspondence, newspaper articles and other paratexts. Volumes 5-8 of the collection comprise over 1,000 separate folk songs, with notes on each song, including references to known analogues, and the collectors' own comments. Dr Emily Lyle (Senior Research Fellow) was PI. Dr Katherine Campbell (AHRB Research Fellow, 2000-02, Lecturer 2005-12, Senior Lecturer 2012-) was a co-author of volume 8, which contains analytical studies by Campbell of the music in the collection, and by Lyle of the collection's formation. Taken together, volumes 5-8 comprise over 2,500 pages of research materials. The publication of the collection and of an additional Selection for Performers (3.4) has radically altered perceptions of the scope and importance of regional song in North-East Scotland.

The Survivals and Revivals Project

West leads this research strand, which by analysing the interactions between survivals of older styles and revivals by contemporary musicians, draws together archival material in SSA and new field-based research. From 2008-13, a key element of this research has been West's recording, through participant observation techniques, of a modern revival in piping and singing in progress. This breaks new methodological ground. West's work as an internationally recognised performer and broadcaster integrates, as practice-based research, with this method. The main research findings to date concern lowland bellows-blown piping techniques, styles and repertoires, and the importance of key individuals to the revival process (3.1, 3.2).

References to the research

3.1 West, Gary J. (2012). Voicing Scotland: Folk, Culture, Nation. Edinburgh: Luath Press (submitted to REF 2).

3.2 West, Gary J. (2013). `Oral Testimony', in Scottish Life and Society: A Compendium of Scottish Ethnology, Volume One. Edinburgh: Birlinn (submitted to REF 2).

3.3 General Editor: Emily B. Lyle; Editor: Patrick Shuldham-Shaw.* The Greig-Duncan Folk Song Collection. Mercat Press for the University of Aberdeen in association with the School of Scottish Studies, University of Edinburgh (xxii, 656 pp.).

• Vol. 5 (1995). Eds. Shuldham-Shaw, Patrick, Emily B. Lyle and Adam McNaughtan (xxii, 656 pp.).

• Vol. 6 (1995). Eds. Shuldham-Shaw, Patrick, Elaine Petrie (xxvii, 608 pp.).

• Vol. 7 (1997). Eds. Shuldham-Shaw, Patrick, Sheila Douglas (xxvii, 557 pp.).

• Vol. 8 (2002). Eds. Shuldham-Shaw, Patrick, Emily B. Lyle and Katherine Campbell (xxxix, 756 pp. Available from HEI on request).1

3.4 Katherine Campbell, ed. (2009). Songs from North-East Scotland: A Selection for Performers from "The Greig-Duncan Folk Song Collection". Edinburgh: John Donald (xxiv, 263 pp.), with accompanying CD and associated website, [*NB The name of Patrick Shuldham-Shaw, who died in 1977, appears posthumously on all the volumes in recognition of the foundational work he did towards the overall publication].

Evidence of quality:

1 Awarded The Saltire Society/National Library of Scotland, Research Book of the Year Prize, 2003; submitted to RAE 2008.

2 In 2003, Campbell was named researcher on a follow-on project, funded by the British Academy, with the University of Aberdeen: "The Performance Edition of the Greig-Duncan Folk Song Collection". Value: £13.7k.

Details of the impact

Our impact has been to reanimate the rich traditional heritage of Scotland by transferring into a contemporary idiom and context music and song from SSA and the Folk Song Collection.

TAD Website and related educational and performance activities: Launched in Dec. 2010, the site generates traffic of ca. 7,000 visits per month, including hits from 98 different countries (, for statistics see 5.2). We have set up a partnership with Education Scotland (5.1) to provide online teaching material for the Curriculum for Excellence (the new national schools' curriculum for Scotland). In conjunction with Creative Scotland, West has established a programme to encourage creative use of TAD; this collaboration has engaged the project with all five national performing arts companies, as well as the Federation of Scottish Theatres, The Scottish Traditional Music Forum and The Scottish Literature Forum. Creative Scotland awarded two Artist in Residency posts to TAD (from Summer 2012).

At its launch in 2010, the Scottish Cabinet Secretary for Culture and External Affairs praised how TAD "makes available an enormous amount of rich material in Gaelic and Scots which will help current and future generations learn where they come from"
( Since then, the success of TAD has directly influenced cultural policy within Scotland. In 2012 the Scottish Government commissioned TAD to work with the National Library of Scotland. The objective is to establish a National Sound Archive, an undertaking which has helped to create jobs in the cultural sector. Announcing the Government's financial pledge of £100k to this project, the First Minister Alex Salmond emphasised, on 23 July 2012, "the Scottish Government's strong commitment to growing the cultural economy, and supporting creative activity in every part of Scotland. Through its work to collect, preserve and provide access to more than 11,500 hours of Scotland's sound heritage, Tobar an Dualchais has potential to play a key role in our long-term ambitions to create a National Sound Archive for Scotland. Today's funding will extend this excellent work, supporting employment and skills development for the digitisers, cataloguers, data editors and copyright officers who are involved — many of whom are working from some of Scotland's most economically fragile areas" (

Broadcasting: During the REF period 2008-13, the Survivals and Revivals research strand has played a key role in informing the weekly BBC Radio Scotland programme, Pipeline, which West, author of, e.g. "Military Music" and Voicing Scotland, both 2012 (see REF2), researches, scripts and presents. This amounts to over 500 hours of broadcasting since 2003. Pipeline transmits directly to an average audience of 50,000 per week, and since 2006 has consistently had the highest download figures of the entire Radio Scotland output, averaging around 130,000 online listeners per quarter ( The programme was shortlisted in the media category at the 2009 Scots Traditional Music Awards and was nominated in the Best Music Programme Category at the 2010 UK Sony Radio Awards. During the REF period, Pipeline contributed significantly to the development, understanding and expansion of piping internationally: the 6-times World Pipe Band Champion has said: "Here in British Columbia we have a strong but slightly isolated piping community. We have relied on Pipeline for the latest piping music as well as the history of tunes and pipers. We not only enjoy the program but we learn from it and use what we learn to promote and develop piping in our part of the world" (5.3).

Performances, Events and Recordings: Greig-Duncan. The SSA archival research strands have enabled a wide variety of performers and audiences to interact creatively with Scotland's musical heritage. Bringing together the children of Oyne Primary School in Aberdeenshire and traditional singer Frieda Morrison (Artist in Residence at C&SS, 2012-13), we created a new drama for primary schools: "Johnny Sangster". The drama, produced by Morrison, is based on the traditional song from the Greig-Duncan Collection. "Johnny Sangster" now features both on a DVD and on GLOW (the Scottish schools intranet run by Education Scotland), and includes video diary material concerning the making of the drama (5.4). Oyne Primary School Head Teacher, Ruth Hassan, noted that "pupils have just completed an exciting project to promote Scots language and song on DVD, the aim of which is to support other teachers and their classes to explore Scots language, songs and culture in a motivating and enjoyable way" (5.5). Press coverage also drew attention to the pioneering, cross-curricular dimension of the project (5.6).

The Greig-Duncan collection also inspires artistic performances and recordings, e.g. Shona Donaldson's CD Short Nichts & Lang Kisses (2011). The booklet, which includes an introduction by Campbell, highlights how Donaldson's close engagement with the collection "has created modern tunes to those songs without melody [...], and integrated modern lines into the fragmented songs, juxtaposing old source material with new music and text" (

In the folksong competitions at the annual "Folk at the Salmon Bothy" festival in Portsoy, Aberdeenshire, all songs are drawn from Greig-Duncan. Campbell served as a competition judge in 2011, 2012 and 2013. A newspaper report highlighted the competition and its links to the collection, noting: "The Greig-Duncan collection is an amazing collection of our North-East singing tradition, and the organisers of the competition can be well satisfied that they demonstrated that it is part of a truly living tradition" (5.7).

In June 2013, the Greig-Duncan Online Songs Project went live: 35 songs from the collection, sung by 16 well-known folksingers, were uploaded to the C&SS website and to YouTube (5.8). Press coverage included an STV interview with Campbell and Lyle, and a broadcast involving Morrison and Lyle on Janice Forsyth's Culture Café programme on BBC Radio Scotland, and newspaper articles. By 31 July 2013, the Greig-Duncan website had received 2,205 views — 1,618 from the UK, with the top 5 international countries being the USA, New Zealand, Germany, Canada and Spain (5.9).

The website has been innovative by showing how songs from the collection are performed within the tradition at the modern-day. In recognition of this, a newspaper article in The Scotsman (20 July 2013) reported: "Thanks to the website [...] people all over the world can now access these YouTube videos of peerless renditions by 16 of Scotland's leading interpreters of traditional song" (

Survivals and Revivals. Between 2008-13 West performed a full concert repertoire, based on the research findings of the Project, at key international festivals and venues. These include William Kennedy Piping Festival, Northern Ireland 2008; Simon Fraser University, Vancouver, Canada 2009; Piping Live, Glasgow 2010; Edinburgh International Book Festival 2010 (with Campbell) and 2012; Pipers' Gathering Festival, Vermont, USA August 2011; Celtic Arts Concert, and Mastery of Scottish Arts residential course, Seattle 2011, 2012 and 2013. Highlighting West's impact on North American performers, the CEO of the Celtic Arts Foundation, Seattle, has said: "Dr West brings a depth of knowledge with him from his research which gives an entirely new perspective to the music of the bagpipe, and this is helping to fuel a whole new revival over here" (5.10).

Sources to corroborate the impact

The following sources can be supplied by the HEI on request. All listed weblinks are to an original page, but should they be unavailable a PDF can be found at:

5.1 Corroborates partnership between TAD and Education Scotland.

5.2 TAD_Usage 12-13. Corroborates website traffic statistics from August 2012 to July 2013.

5.3 Email, 26.09.2013 (PDF file). Corroborates the World Champion's statement on the importance of West's radio programme, Pipeline, for piping in British Columbia.

5.4 GLOW url (password-protected, but can be accessed on request). Corroborates the "Johnny Sangster" DVD recording of the Oyne Primary School performance based on the Greig-Duncan collection.

5.5 Corroborates Oyne Primary School Head Teacher's praise for how the school performance of "Johnny Sangster" helped pupils explore Scots language and song.

5.6 `Oyne's Answer to the Oscars', Times Education Supplement Scotland, 12 April 2013, p. 20 (PDF file). Corroborates the view that the Oyne experience can serve as a role model for cross-curricular learning based on the Greig-Duncan collection of songs.

5.7 `Festival Contest Helps Keep Songs Alive', The Banffshire Journal, 7 June 2011, p. 20 (PDF file). Corroborates that the Greig-Duncan collection is part of a truly living tradition in Scotland today.

5.8 Corroborates the online accessibility of 35 songs from the Greig-Duncan Collection, sung by 16 well-known folksingers.

5.9 Youtube_Google_Analytics_31.07.13 (PDF file). Corroborates the national and international traffic on the Greig-Duncan website.

5.10 Letter from CEO, Celtic Arts Foundation, Seattle, USA (PDF file). Corroborates West's international leadership in the revival of bagpipe music in Seattle.