2007 - 2021

20 On 20

It would appear that Hogmanay is happening, so we have asked twenty of our favourite artists, and some of the artists that we feel made an impact on this year, to bless us with a wee reflection. 

John NivenNovelist and Screenwriter

“2020 – Being in Central Park with my daughter when I got a phone call telling me Andy Weatherall had died. 2021 – The hope that no one I care for dies and that I can once again go to New York and walk in Central Park.”

DJ Dolphin Boy – DJ 

“I’ve mostly felt pretty lucky this year. Being an obscure, peripheral DJ/Producer, I’m used to not having enough work, not having much of a routine and spending hours at home, staring at a computer. So, lockdown has not been a big change for me. It seems that I can amuse myself indefinitely, using equipment I barely understand to make music of little or no value. I’ve had to make sacrifices, of course. The plans for my super-yacht are on hold, and I’ve furloughed all of my staff except my stylist, but, as we know, suffering is good for Art.”

Roseanne Watt – Poet and Filmmaker

“One of my fondest memories this year is of a late-summer bonfire – one of the happier by-products from the restrictions on indoor-meeting is that I have attended more bonfires this year than I ever had in previous ones. Like a proper witch, or something. This particular bonfire was just after the first lockdown, when rules are social gathering had eased a little, and I got to spend a few hours with a few friends who I hadn’t seen (outside of a zoom call) in nearly half a year. It turned into a remarkably elemental night; the fire took the teeth out of a bitter north wind, and the setting sun gave way to a moon that was edging towards fullness. We decided to go for a walk along the shore, revelling in the hard-won company of each other. We’d been walking for a short while when someone noticed there was mareel in the waves. It was the first time I’d ever seen it, and the only way I can adequately describe it is that it looked as though the sea had stolen the stars from the sky.”

Nova Scotia the Truth – Rapper and Producer

“2020. What a year. Deep lows and silver linings. Reflection and momentary stagnation. In March we didn’t even know what to do. ‘New normal’ – what a phrase. So many memes. the most poignant of right now is ‘Remember. you’ve literally survived a pandemic this year. be kind to yourself.'”

Arusa QureshiWriter and Editor 

“I know I’m not alone in seeing 2020 as some kind of bad dream that just won’t end. I lost a job that I loved thanks to COVID and a friend that I loved even more to cancer. But thinking on the positives, I’m thankful to have (virtually) met and been given the chance to work with some wonderful new people and also thankful to have had the opportunity to interview a few musicians I really admire including Dan Snaith and Hope Tala. My greatest achievement this year, though, has probably been getting a five-star rating for my island on Animal Crossing. Here’s to a kinder and more productive 2021!”

Peter Arnott – Playwright and Theatre Director

“What do I think about 2020? It really depends what side of bed I get out of on any given day… Not that I really NEED to get out of bed, you understand. After all, I am living on a form of universal basic income in the shape of my self-employed allowance that the government brought in as a response to lockdown. I’m probably professionally freer now as a writer than I’ve ever been… and I’ve been pretty productive this year, though it’s all been rewrites and an alternately uneasy and elated sense that things are fundamentally changing in my hermetic bubble of “art.” While at the same time, my reason for being a writer, which is my using my art for the bringing together of people in rooms to keep me company are all shut. Likewise, I look at the world and see resourcefulness and kindness and invention everywhere in response to emergency and new circumstances, and I also see all the wrong people consolidating their grip on everything from Hong Kong to theatres. In my nice, middle class hiding place lined with art and books and music brought to me by working class people who can’t afford to hide, I’m doing fine, thanks for asking, as long as I don’t think about it too much. And since I’m writing this, or writing anything at all, I suppose I must be feeling pretty good today.  Maybe everyone is feeling more than they are thinking at the moment.”

Zara Gladman – Comedy Writer

“In 2020 I found a new appreciation for Scotland and had an amazing summer, got a wetsuit, went to beaches, actually adapted to the climate instead of fighting it. Who knew that this crazy technology existed that lets you swim without wanting to die!”

Dave Hook – Rapper, Poet and Producer

“My abiding memory is getting to spend way more time with my family than is normally the case. Walking the kids to school, being there at breakfast and dinner time, climbing trees in the park… Obviously, so much of lockdown and the restrictions have had major negative impact but because the world stopped, we got a glimpse of what a much more healthy and fulfilling work/ life balance might look like.”

Gerda Stevenson – Writer, Actor, Director and Singer-Songwriter

“Lockdown, 4.30am, driving myself home from hospital (no ambulances, and discharged to avoid Covid) in a sunrise so intense the sky and Pentland Hills appeared to be dipped in molten gold, feeling strangely, fiercely alive, having been told by the doctors I didn’t have appendicitis (I did). Discovering Khorasan flour, the joy of its fine, silky texture, kneading it into dough and delivering a loaf – still warm – to my mother each week; long walks in the woods and hills with my daughter and our dog, tracking the seasons.”

Damian Barr – Author, Journalist and Television Host

“My favourite moment of 2020 was the slow-motion victory of Biden and Harris. I was mesmerised by CNN and exhausted, yet unable to go to bed for what felt like days. Every KEY RACE UPDATE set my heart racing. Would this be it? Would this be the moment we could stop thinking about ‘that man’? Of course, that man is both cause and effect and the rot is deeper, but the final announcement of the Biden-Harris victory has to be cause for hope. My Hope for 2021? That I get to give my mum a cuddle.”

Ainslie Henderson – Writer, Director and Animator

“My 18 month old son Wren is sitting in my lap on a crisp, bright, still April morning. It is absurdly early. Around us a lush, new, green forest hums with life. His fat, buttery cheeks run with the juice from a pear that we pass back and forth between us. I point to a tiny spider, crawling over the child-carrying-rucksack-thing that I am about to carry him home in, and he, not really in to talking yet, as a way of reply, points at the spider too. Before we leave, I drink water from the bottle, and pour him some tiny shots into the lid, which he knocks back, holding it in both hands.”

Hannah Lavery – Poet, Playwright and Performer

“Those first few months of lockdown with my family, long walks on the beach and dreaming up stories. Then the intensity of rehearsing Lament for Sheku Bayoh and the solidarity found in that. I hope for kindness and a better ‘normal’ in 2021.”

Peter Mackie BurnsFilm Director 

“This year has enabled me to spend time in other people’s heads and conversely in my own body and occasionally both at the same time. This has been the year of podcasts and running. Running is enormously beneficial no matter what age, size or shape you are. If you can jog your mental physical sense of well-being will soar. Start gently and sensibly and you might very well become hooked.”

Susie McCabe – Comedian

“Despite the obvious negatives, we can look back on 2020 as a year when people came together as communities to support one another, and also a year when women, from scientists to political leaders, walked through glass ceilings as if they didn’t exist. Oh, and Celtic won 9-in-a-row.”

Mark McGhee – Rapper, Podcaster and Musician

“The last year appeared to be full of fake news and deep fakes and every film I seen on my computer screen seemed to be remakes. I gained weight by being chained to a computer game named You Call That Radio entertainment. At one point they locked down Greggs so I had to replace eating my bodyweight in steak beaks by heating up a packet of microchips every time I read the name Bill Gates or saw his face.”

Colin BramwellPoet, Performer and Translator 

“2020 has been a trying year. Even when good things happen, it feels callous to mention them. Artistically speaking, I felt the absence of a community of performers and the distance of an audience. It’s a truism that most writer-performers are more comfortable with the latter than the former. Writing is a lonely business in normal conditions: writers rely on the everyday in order to ground their work, and the best work is a form of conversation. My first book of poems, Jigsaw, was the runner-up for this year’s Edwin Morgan Prize. It meant a great deal to me to be nominated alongside some truly outstanding poets, and I was happy that my poems might be able to exist independently from me in some fashion.”

Sekai Machache – Artist

“Its been a transformative year. So much has happened and so much has stood still. I’ve been given a chance to reconnect to what my practice is about and what it is for, what I’m trying to achieve with it. It’s helped me to focus inwards and the slower pace of working has given me space to think through things more. Not having to be on the go all the time and trying to be everything to everyone, I was able to really see clearly what it is that motivates me to make my work. It has been a weird year but for me it wasn’t as bad as I know it has been for many.”

Mystika GlamoorDrag Performer

“After losing all of the shows that I hosted and general performance opportunities, I eventually ended up opening a cafe and art space for Edinburgh’s queer community called Greenwood, which has been open every day since September. Having a space for the community to reconnect after this disconnected year has been incredibly powerful to witness, and reminds me of the importance of collective care. I hope that in 2021 we recognise the failings of what was once ‘normal’, and work towards a better version of reality for all.”

Tam Dean BurnActor 

“Most abiding memory of 2020? Well, it’s all been about abiding, hasn’t it? Above all, abiding by rules laid down more strictly than any of us have ever faced since early childhood. Rule number one has of course been- abide at home an awful lot. ‘Abiding’ comes from the Old English word abidan, a combination of the intensifier prefix a and bidan –  remain, so intensely remain in your prefixed abode pretty much sums it up.  Yes we all got overly familiar with our abodes in  2020 except of course those with no fixed abodes…  and for a brief moment it looked as if the Tories were being transformed by the unprecedented times when they partnered with hotels to get homeless people off the streets and into pre-fixed abodes. Remember that time, when it seemed as if all the simple important things in life were being recognised along with the real jobs of worth? I remember when I thought revolution might just be possible.”

Eddi Reader – Singer-Songwriter

“My youngest boy moving out – sad about it and happy about it in equal measure. But a reminder that to stay stuck is unhealthy and we are here to experience life’s rich pageant. Individuals learn to grow up and look after themselves, so should countries, like Scotland!”


Image credit: Shona Hardie’s mural of Andrew Weatherall at Meadowbank, Edinburgh. Photograph by Tia Moore.

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  1. Dav says:

    Passing through Madrid airport in the morning of 31st January on way from Uruguay to Edinburgh. All the staff at Madrid airport were wearing masks so we received a very strong early hint of what was coming. We got home for a couple of hours and shook off the jet lag and lack of sleep to attend the Brexit wake outside the Holyrood Parliament. We sang song of joy to mark the, hopefully temporary, departure from the EU and I wondered why a small country like Uruguay, located between the two giants of Brazil and Argentina, can be so successfully independent while my own Scotland has to put up with the never ending abuse and democratic deficit from being in the UK. Can we right this wrong in 2021?

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