About Traditional Arts

Traditional Arts

Music | Song | Dance | Storytelling

Trad Arts have enjoyed a long and meaningful history in Scotland. For centuries, these art forms served as the main outlet for our creative minds and energies, the vehicle for our emotions and the catalyst in bringing us together.

Some of these traditions have broad roots. Others have been more recently developed. But whatever their origins, they continue to have great significance and value for us today.

What is Tradition?

Tradition [noun] – 1 [mass noun] The transmission of customs or beliefs from generation to generation, or the fact of being passed on in this way.

Tradition may flow from the past, but it moves, changes and adapts as it does so.

• It does not belong in the past
• It does not hark back to a time now gone and lament its passing
• It does not shut out the realities of modern living

For Hamish Henderson, one of Scotland’s greatest thinkers and creators of modern times, tradition is a carrying stream, flowing through time and picking up new ideas on its way.

Tradition is not a stagnant, moribund memory. Instead it’s constantly being reshaped and renewed.

Traditional practitioners listen and respond to that which has gone before, yet enjoy the freedom to move it forward on their own terms. They know its roots, but roots are not tethers. They do not bind us to the past, but rather feed, nourish and allow new growth.

And the traditional arts of Scotland today have plenty of growth. Our artists and creators who are working within the traditional idiom – singers, instrumentalists, composers, storytellers, dancers, choreographers – have plenty to say about the big issues of modern life.

They speak of humanity and cruelty, war and peace, morality and love, work and place, family and environment, nation and community. They flow from firm local roots looking outwards and forwards, not inwards and backwards.

Traditional Music

Discover Scotland’s strong and distinct music heritage, alongside a rich song culture in Scots and Gaelic.

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Traditional Dance

Scotland is known world-wide for its dance traditions, but there’s a lot more under the surface than kilts and ceilidhs.

Read More

Traditional Storytelling

A unique human skill and one of our oldest artforms, storytelling brings words to life, stimulates the imagination and builds community.

Read More

Traditional Arts and Culture Scotland (TRACS) was set up in 2012 to represent Traditional Arts in Scotland with a new collaboration between three representative Forums: the Traditional Music Forum, the Scottish Storytelling Forum and the Traditional Dance Forum of Scotland.

The first aim of TRACS is CREATIVE: to encourage more collaboration across the artforms and languages. The Traditions we enjoy are holistic, inclusive and welcoming. So, let’s be inspired by these rooted values to innovate and develop across boundaries.

The second aim is ORGANISATIONAL: to share core resources in areas such as admin and publicity, so as to ensure effective communication and promotion for Trad Arts activities. We could project our collective assets of artists, festivals/fèisean and local traditions more strongly to our cultural and economic benefit.

The third aim is DEVELOPMENTAL: to lobby for more support for Trad Arts, to build partnerships with other arts organisations, with education and with areas of Scottish life which can benefit from Trad Arts resources and activities.

But what is ‘tradition’? Is it just something that belongs in the past? Is it about harking back to a time now gone, to lament its passing and to shut out the realities of modern living? The answer is a resounding ‘no’! Tradition may flow from the past, but it moves, changes and adapts as it is constantly being re-shaped and renewed by practitioners who listen and respond to that which has gone before, yet enjoy the freedom to move it forward; they know its roots, but roots are not tethers.

And the traditional arts of Scotland today have plenty of new growth. The artists and creators working within that traditional idiom – our singers, instrumentalists, composers, storytellers, dancers, choreographers – have plenty to say to us about the big issues of modern life. Often, they begin with the local, work out to the national, and aim from there for the global.

It is fair to say, however, that much of this has gone un-noticed or unappreciated by the wider public over the past few decades, and it was recognition of this that led the Scottish Government to commission a report into the state of play of the Traditional Arts in 2010. That report, which consulted widely within the sector, made several recommendations regarding the way forward, and it is in response to this that a new body, Traditional Arts and Culture Scotland, has been set up.

We are very positive about the future of the traditional arts, and we will work extremely hard to ensure that we can do everything we can to help them thrive.

Gary West, Chair of TRACS