The artistic director of a Skye-based performing arts promotions charity is in the running for a special accolade at the first ever National Rural Touring Forum Awards.
Duncan MacInnes of Skye Events for All (SEALL) is one of three nominees in the new awards which saw over 700 individuals nominate productions, venues, promoters, schemes and staff for the award. SEALL is also the only nominee from Scotland.
The shortlist will now go before an independent judging panel comprising Guardian journalist Lyn Gardner, writer and researcher Francois Matarasso, Ed Collier of independent producing studio China Plate and Beccy Speight, Chief Executive of The Woodland Trust. Judges will be looking for brilliant stories, examples of good, enthusiastic and dedicated practice and forward-looking work.
The NRTF Special Award was open to all nominations with the judges looking for an amazing story from the world of rural touring – and the nominees reflect long-term engagement with specific local communities which have been valued over many years.
Based at Sabhal Mòr Ostaig, the Gaelic College, on Sleat, SEALL runs a year-round programme of almost 80 events as well as the Fèis an Eilein – the two-month-long Skye Festival in July and August – and the Skye Swing Jazz Festival in October which is co-produced with FOTS Records. Although performances take place mainly at the college, SEALL also uses venues around the south of Skye, including the tiny Tarskavaig Hall and the new community hub, An Crùbh, in Duisdale.
Duncan has been at the helm of SEALL for over 26 years – 25 of those working on a purely voluntary basis – bringing high quality performing arts events in music, theatre, comedy, dance, film and literature to a population of 800 people in the south of Skye as well as to visitors and audiences from the rest of the Island and the Highlands.
He was nominated for the special award by SEALL board chair, Eileen Armstrong.
She said: "After 26 years SEALL is now one of the liveliest rural promoting group in the UK hosting in excess of 70 events each year. In May 2014 we celebrated our 1,000th event and have welcomed over 5,000 artists to the area and sold over 12,000 tickets.
"SEALL was established in 1991 with an ambition at the outset to put Skye firmly on the map as an arts and cultural destination and to celebrate the wealth of home grown talent in the area. Artists such as Brighde Chaimbeul (Radio 2 Young Folk Award Winner 2016) and her sister Mairi (harpist and composer), Angus Nicolson (piper) and many others all had their first performances with SEALL.
"SEALL has come a long way since 1991 and none of it would have been possible without Duncan MacInnes. In fact, our local community and many a performing artist will confirm to anyone that 'Duncan is SEALL'.
"He has provided the opportunity to bring the local community, tourism visitors and performing artists together and, as his 'new' role of Artistic Director unfolds, it seems a fitting time to recognise Duncan's passion, dedication and community spirit he has so willingly given to SEALL these past 26 years."
NRTF Director and board member Elizabeth Freestone said, "It is thanks to the efforts of dedicated volunteer promoters, of hard-working performers, of committed touring schemes and of loyal audiences that rural touring is vibrant and thriving. The RTAs will allow us to publicly show gratitude to those individuals who have made a real difference to a community over the past year."
On hearing of his nomination, Duncan said: "I am of course totally delighted with this nomination and, given the quality of all those named, it is an honour just to have been short-listed.
"People often ask me if I am a musician or performer and I say, no, I just help other people to do that. That means I can then sit back and enjoy the fact that a good audience and good performers have been brought together in a small rural space."
The presentation of awards will take place on 28 June at Nottingham University at the NRTF annual conference.