The really-very-fantastic Perth Festival of the Arts opened its box office just a couple of weeks ago and already shows as diverse as Puccini’s Tosca, The View and Marcus Brigstocke are selling faster than the proverbial hot cake. Now in its 46th year, the festival has always heralded the start of summer, bringing with it light nights, Jools Holland and an art exhibition you can browse until 7.30pm.
The entire thing makes you feel alive with the anticipation of chilled rose wine, a bit of dancing in the aisles, hammering a new painting onto your wall and staying out late on week nights eating, drinking and chatting – inevitably - about your favourite concert of all time. (Hipsway, Perth City Hall, 1988. My first ever concert.)
As we prepare for the City of Culture bid, long-standing programmes such as this ‘The Festival’ is being held up as shining examples of what might do more of if we won the much sought after title in 2021. It is everything you could hope for in a cultural fiesta; a bit of local youngsters, a bit of comedy, the aforementioned Jools, free art exhibitions, accessible opera, the cinema showing ballet and oh so much more spread across 12 glorious culture-filled days. In fact, it has been part of the fabric of May for so long, it could even be said that we’ve come to expect it – a bit like getting a fiver from your granny when you visit, you’re so used to it you almost forget how bloody marvellous it is.
One local business though, is very mindful of the Festival; The Parklands Hotel has sponsored their press launch for the past 5 years, as well as providing rooms to artists (that they’re not allowed to tell us about!) and generally buying the odd ticket to attend a gig or two. Scott Edwards is, undoubtedly, a huge fan of the arts, but he is a businessman first and foremost and it is this combined passion that fuels his believe that Perth Festival of the Arts is a bonus for us all on many, many levels.
“The idea of supporting a big local event probably stemmed from our commitment to buying local on all other levels. We’ve been here 14 years now and we’ve always supported and promoted Perthshire as part of our business model. We use local produce on our menu wherever we can, local tradesmen to do our work in the hotel and gardens... In fact everything right down to the curtains and cushions from Acorn Fabrics has been bought from a fellow Indie.
Penny and I love a bit of live music and to have venues like the Concert Hall right on our doorstep is something we’ve always taken advantage of since we arrived in Perth fourteen years ago. As one of the main cultural offers, the Festival is a huge part of that and we quite often have people come to stay for a few different shows and a browse around ArTay!
The question we asked ourselves was, how can we get involved on a business level? I’m a great believer in joining in; it goes without saying that you need to actively support and talk up what your city has to offer if you want it to grow. But if you can take it that one step forward and use your own offering to support something we can all benefit from, then you should. The more we all get behind things, the better.
Lots of events in the city drive footfall and attract people in but for us, Perth Festival of the Arts seemed the best fit. We ‘re fans after all and we could see ourselves partnered with this great event and giving something back through such a key part of the cultural offer in Perth.
I think what the festival brings – and what it has done very successfully this year – is diversity. You can buy tickets for The View or you can take the kids to Classical Concert all wrapped up in Scottish Storytelling. You can wander an art gallery for free or get out and see the talented youngsters from Perth Youth Orchestra.
You can see how they are looking to broaden their scope and here at Parklands we’re trying to do the same. People have this preconception that we’re the smart/posh hotel on the hill and actually we really want you to come in and have a coffee on the terrace – from the Bean Shop of course – or enjoy a pint of Ossian in the bar.
It’s why we’re committed to this partnership for the foreseeable future; we think it’s a really valuable relationship and enjoy being part of something so vibrant and exciting. The programme comes round every year and we’re all waiting to see what we’ll be lining up to get tickets – Nigel Kennedy is top of our list this year. And of course Jools!
Five years ago when we joined as a sponsor we were aligning ourselves with just that but now, with the current bid for City of Culture 2021 in progress and the reopening of the Theatre at the end of 2017, it matters more than ever.
We’re avid supporters of Perth’s bid for the City of Culture; I hope we win, obviously, but even if we don’t, the bidding process has awakened an interest in the city which will help us all to look at it differently – and I mean that as both a business and individual. I think the focus on the bid itself will helps us develop and grow, creating more visitors and in turn jobs. People can be very pessimistic, talking down even the idea that we might win. I really do think they’re wrong.
A great arts and cultural offering will bring people to visit and that will boost the evening trade in pubs, bars and restaurants – and in turn, hotels. We are a small city, we need visitors to keep the economy buoyant and to increase demand on our services when local people are in watching tv or walking the dog. This is something we need and here at Parklands we say, bring it to Perth!”
Of course, Scott tells me all of this over a very nice flat white on the terrace and as we get into the nitty gritty of culture and what it means I remember I have one final question.
What has been your favourite Festival of the Arts concert of all time?
"I want to say Jools Holland, always a great show and seen him a few times at the festival now. But to be honest it would be the Alison Moyet concert, it was a great night, and her support act a guy called Alex Cornish has become my favourite solo artist, for me he was brilliant, His Album No shore is outstanding."
The Parklands Hotel is open seven days a week for lunch and dinner and welcomes local and visitors alike to book in for some award-winning food and drink. You are also very welcome to enjoy the lounge or terrace for coffee or drinks and to prop up the bar whilst partaking in a drink or two!
Visitors to the city will enjoy their beautiful four star boutique hotel with two rosette dining.