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Conference October 2014

AHRC sponsored two-day conference, 20 - 21st October 2014, Research Beehive, Newcastle University.

Understanding Scotland Musically

With a keynote address from

Dr Gary West

'Understanding Scotland Musically: Do we? Can we?’

Thanks to all who participated. Watch Dr Gary West's keynote presentation in full here:


Conference Programme now available here.


UPDATE 22/08/14: The registration for the conference will open in September formally through the University's website--all delegates and presenters will be required to register to ascertain catering numbers etc. I will send out an email when the registration process is open. The conference is free to attend either as a presenter or delegate.

UPDATE 22/07/14: There will now be no delegate fee for those attending but not presenting, so free lunch, teas and coffees and a rather nice conference shoulder bag, not to mention lots of stimulating papers! If you would like to attend as a non-presenting delegate then do simply email me at simon.mckerrell@newcastle.ac.uk and I will add you to the circulation list.

Monday 20th October 2014, The Research Beehive, Old Library Building, Newcastle University.



Paper Title

Chair: Marie Saunders


Pat Ballantyne

(University of Aberdeen)

‘When did Highland dancing and bagpipe playing cease to be Scottish?’


Phil Alexander (School of Oriental and African Studies)

‘Salsa Celtica's Great Scottish Latin Adventure: an insider's view’



Fiona MacKenzie


“Where the Gaelic Arts and Non-Traditional Theatre Meet…A Song Discussion”

BREAK      11:30-11:50am


Meghan McAvoy

(University of Stirling)

‘Slaying the Tartan Monster: Identity, Revivalism, and Radicalism in Recent Scottish Music’


Seán R. McLaughlin (University of the Highlands and Islands)

‘Scottishness in Professionalised Scottish Folk Music’


Arnar Eggert Thoroddsen (University of Edinburgh)

‘“Throw The ‘R’ Away”: On “Scottishness” in modern Scottish music’

LUNCH     1:20pm – 2pm


Chair: Morag Grant


Gordon Ramsey

(Queens University Belfast)

‘The Ulster-Scots musical revival:

The transformation of tradition ‘O’er The Water’


Marie Saunders

(City University London)

‘Understanding Scotland differently: intergenerational musical reception amongst the London-Scottish diaspora.’


Daniel Milosavljevic

(University of Otago)

The Mist Covered Mountains: Diasporic and Disparate Interpretations of Highland Piping.



Kirsty Kay (University of Glasgow)

‘Folk Dance Revivals and Transitional National Identity in Scotland and Hungary: An East/West European Comparison.’

BREAK       4pm – 4:20pm


Stephe Harrop


‘“It Happens in Ballads”: Ballad, Identity and Community in The Strange Undoing of Prudencia Hart’


Paula Sledzinska

(University of Aberdeen)

‘National Theatre of Scotland and the Negotiation of Contemporary ‘Scottish’ Identities: Textual and Musical Discourse in The Strange Undoing of Prudencia Hart’


Sarah Watts (Keele University)

‘Screapadal’ (performance practice presentation)


Tuesday 21st October 2014, The Research Beehive, Old Library Building, Newcastle University.



Paper Title


Celia Pendlebury

(University of Sheffield)

‘Defining Scottish Traditional Dance Tunes: It’s Not Just Simply a line across the Borders’


Stuart Eydmann (University of Edinburgh)

‘Nibbling round the edges’


Morag Grant


‘“Should auld acquaintance be forgot?” Scottish and global renderings of Auld Lang Syne in the late 20th and early 21st centuries’


David McGuinness (University of Glasgow)

‘The problem with “traditional”’

BREAK      11:30am - 11:50am


Gary West (University of Edinburgh)

Keynote Presentation

 ‘Understanding Scotland Musically: Do we? Can we?’

LUNCH 12:50-1:50


Chair: Josh Dickson (RCS)


Simon McKerrell

(Newcastle University)

‘Who understands Scotland musically?’


Jo Miller

(University of Sheffield)

‘Traditional music, community organisations and public funding: the case of Glasgow Fiddle Workshop’


David Francis


‘Distillation or Dilution?: a Scottish cross-genre dialogue’

BREAK      3:20pm    3:40pm


Chair: Karen McAulay


Karen McAulay

(Royal Conservatoire of Scotland)

‘Wynds, Vennels and Dual Carriageways: the Changing Nature of Scottish Music’


Ronnie Gibson

(University of Aberdeen)

‘Performing Scottish Fiddle Music; or, The Historicity of Tradition’


Danni Glover

(University of Ulster)

'This Machine Kills the Union: theorising the absence of music in Bishop Percy's ballads'


Drinks party for all



Performance Practice Installation

Rachael Hales

(Newcastle University)

‘Listening to the border: a sonic exploration of the construction and performance of identity in the Scottish borders.’

(Performance practice installation)




Keynote presentation by Dr Gary West, (University of Edinburgh)


11:50am, Tuesday 21st October, 2014.


Title: ‘Understanding Scotland Musically: Do we? Can we?’


Dr Gary West is a Senior Lecturer in Scottish Ethnology at the University of Edinburgh, with teaching and research interests in the process of tradition, revivalism, oral history and heritage. He is also a very active musician, having played in bands such as Ceolbeg and Clan Alba, as well as the innovative Vale of Atholl Pipe Band. He has toured in many parts of the world, has performed on around 30 CDs, and since 2002 has presented the weekly show, Pipeline, on BBC Radio Scotland. He is Chair of Traditional Arts and Culture Scotland (TRACS), and serves on the board of the national arts agency, Creative Scotland.




    Conference summary                   

Scottish traditional music has been through a successful revival and has now entered a professionalized and public space. Devolution in the UK, and the rapid expansion of the New Europe have led to a rise of importance of regional and national identities within the context of globalization of musical communities. What was once considered kitsch tartanry has been re-mythologized and now hybrid sounds from Scottish musicians portray a newer, emergent sense of national identity. Increasingly, musicians are performing deterritorialized and commodified music which is shifting attention away from musical provenance and authentic ideology towards more transient sonic identities and blurring established musical genres. This conference seeks to explore how contemporary traditional music performs Scottishness at this crucial moment in the public life of an increasingly (dis)United Kingdom. We are interested in papers that deal with the relationship(s) between Scottish traditional music (or Scottish folk music) and: the musical politics of identity; public policy for the arts, tourism and their policy makers; education; the Scottish and UK media; alternative public conceptions of Scottishness; the wider Scottish traditional arts; the independence referendum; other creative practices and their audiences. We hope to take forward a selection of papers from this conference for publication as a book edited by Dr Simon McKerrell (Newcastle University) and Dr Gary West. (Edinburgh University).


Conference host: Dr Simon McKerrell

Papers will be 20 minutes plus 10 minutes for discussion. 

If you are presenting and feel like you'd like to volunteer for chairing a panel please let me know.

For maps and more travel information please see the University webpages at:

The conference is supported by the AHRC and is free for presenters. 

If you are interested in attending, please register as a non-presenting delegate, by contacting Simon McKerrell: simon.mckerrell@ncl.ac.uk


This conference is sponsored by The Arts and Humanities Research Council and Newcastle University.