Youth-themed events will take place around Scotland as part of a £2.5m national marketing campaign


It all kicked off with a single word. ‘Braw’, visible from the skies on a cold pre-Hogmanay night in Edinburgh, marked the beginning of the Year of Young People – Scotland’s latest themed year which will see its young people the focus of a national campaign celebrating the contribution and achievements of young people, giving them a ‘chance to shine’ through a year-long series of events backed by a £2.5m national marketing campaign.

The fact that the year has come into being at all is testament in no small part to the work of EventScotland, whose failed bid several years ago to lure the Youth Olympics to Scotland prompted some soulsearching and then a pledge to do something to make up for the disappointment for many young people who shared the media spotlight with legendary British Olympian Seb Coe and Scottish Ministers in a launch event at Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum in Glasgow in June 2012.

“It was credit to the government and credit to Ministers who listened and stood by it. From my knowledge, it’s the only place in the world where there’s been an Olympic bid and subsequently there’s been part of that bid that came live,” says Paul Bush OBE, VisitScotland’s Director of Events, who I catch up with during a break at the National Event Conference at the Technology Innovation Centre (TIC) in Glasgow.

Paul Bush OBE, VisitScotland’s Director of Events; Pictures: Chris Watt (c)

He adds: “That was the original green shoots of it and in essence the team has put together a programme with YoungScot and other partners in collaboration with young people; from the start, we wanted to put young people at the heart of the whole event programme, particularly the signature event programme, involving them with the philosophy of co-design and then development.”

THE RESULT is the Year of Young People (YOYP) – part of VisitScotland’s themed year programme – which has now settled into a biennial event with this year’s offering being pitched as something in between a ‘usual’ themed year and a Homecoming year in terms of scale and budget; whilst the budget for the Year of History, Heritage and Archaeology in 2017 was £570,000 (the events part being £300,000), the spend for YOYP has been upped considerably to £2.5m for tourism and events as a whole, and an allocation of £2m for the events programme – all of which will be ‘co-designed’ by young people . At the time of going to print around 70 per cent of the events scheduled for this year have received funding, with the remainder due to be announced in forthcoming months.

Among the most eye-catching, in spend terms at least, is Futureproof – a new festival of international performing arts created by young people. Organised by the National Theatre of Scotland – and backed by £200,000 in EventScotland funding – leading Scottish, British and international theatre practitioners will embed themselves in 10 Scottish communities up and down the country, from September 28 to October 28. There, they will work with young people to co-create, design, develop and stage a piece of performance – with 10 productions taking place in those in cities and locations across the country, each with their own unique twist.

Young people will also be at the forefront of the opening event for the new V&A Museum of Design Dundee when it opens in the city in September this year; £70,000 has been earmarked for the occasion, which will be organised by Design Dundee, and young people will come together to form a new V&A Dundee Young People’s Collective, a group of young people (aged 16-24) from diverse backgrounds across the city, who will help design and plan the opening celebration.

Smaller amounts were allocated to other events including £5,000 to a Taste of Grampian – the largest food and drink festival for the North East – which takes place on June 2 and £15,000 to the Tiree Music Festival (13-15 July), which will feature a brand-new innovation, the ELEVATE STAGE, programmed entirely by young people and showcasing new talent.

IN TOTAL 37 events received funding from the The Year of Young People 2018 Open Event Fund, which closed in June last year. A second round of funding – Create18 – was due to close on January 22 this year and will see the remainder of events taking place in the latter half of 2018 announced. Developed by EventScotland and Young Scot, the Create18 funding programme gives young people across Scotland the opportunity to create and host innovative events in their community, and to bring the Year of Young People 2018 to life.

The wider 2018 Year of Young People Partner programme was also launched last year; although non-funded, the Partner Programme allows events to benefit from potential inclusion in VisitScotland promotional activity as part of brand and collateral support.

For Bush, he hopes that this themed year – aside from providing destination profile – will lead to longer-lasting change. “Young people are inspiring – they’re our future. We need to put them at the heart of what we’re doing as a nation because all too often it’s white, male, middle class and actually young kids have got a really important voice,” he says. He adds: “You never know, we might finish longer term with young people as a strand within the events portfolio which places them at the heart of event curation and creation as well as development and delivery, similar to our winter festivals programme. It’s really tough for young kids to get opportunities so I think anything the industry can do collectively to help them can only be a good thing, right?”