An entire year of Scottish music and arts is coming to Australia for 2020

They might not be bringing the wild landscapes and unparalleled whiskies (although there will be some of that) with them, but the great country of Scotland will be sending some of their best musicians and creatives over to Australia for “The Year of Scotland”.

Charmingly abbreviated to (#)YOSA2020, the year-long 2020 program will build a thematic and theatrical bridge between the two countries. It will also focus on their shared heritage, fitting Scottish musicians into just about every pocket of Australia’s music and arts scene. This includes – wait for it – a local version (in Adelaide, of course) of the world-famous Edinburgh Fringe Festival.

With more than 119,000 Australian residents having been born in Scotland, and over two million claiming Scottish ancestry, it makes perfect sense to stage this wildly ambitious program – something neither country has ever seen before. It will mean the best of Scotland’s music and arts scenes filling every Australian state through the year, with multiple festival appearances and exclusive performances everywhere from the Sydney Opera House to WOMADelaide.

In what is the largest showcase of traditional Scottish music and heritage in Australia, Year of Scotland will stretch from New Year’s Eve 2019 through to New Year’s Eve 2020, with hundreds of performances highlighting Scotland’s finest traditional, Gaelic and Celtic musicians. To give you a better idea of the sheer scope, just the first three months of 2020 will see 150 performances at over 70 festivals and venues in more than 60 towns and cities throughout Australia.

With the program still building up its full calendar, artists confirmed for Australia include legendary folk band Capercaillie, Highlight indies Elephant Sessions, multi award-winning band Breabach, and a number of rising and established stars like The Jellymans Daughter, The Langanband, Rura, Fara, and Siobhan Miller.

This spans everything from rock and jazz to classical and pop, with many of these acts bringing in strong and distinctive inflections from their cultural heritage.

Essential events include The Glenturret Burns Night Supper on January 25th at the Sydney Opera House, where Scottish traditions will meet Australian Indigenous culture for a unique collaboration. There’s also a 27-date Scottish Towns and Grand Houses circuit (more on that below) which will tour across the country in conjunction with the National Trust. Don’t forget the very traditional Brigadoon Highland Games, and an Edinburgh style ‘Hogmanay’ (what Scots call New Year’s Eve) at our beloved Woodford Folk Festival.

Aforementioned Hogmanay will feature Elephant Sessions, Fiona Ross, Colin Lillie, Brighde Chaimbeul, Siobhan Miller and more performing on Woodford Folk Festival’s main stage to “bring in the bells” and officially launch the year-long program. This will be alongside a special Scottish feast curated by Australian celeb chef Matt Golinski to add some native flavours to the annual Festival Feast. Keep in mind that The Glenturret will be involved, as they will be for the entire Year of Scotland, so you can expect plenty of whisky tastings.

As for the Scottish Towns and Grand Houses circuit – that is being designed to pay homage to the fact that over 400 places in Australia are named after Scottish towns and cities. Woodfordia Inc is partnering with National Trust houses as well as private and council owned properties which are either in a “Scottish” town or have a heritage that connects with Scottish culture in Australia, to schedule a 27 date tour featuring some of Scotland’s top musicians, throughout April and May. This will include Capercaillie.

The Year also aims to highlight the ongoing work of Australian-based organisations who maintain Scottish tradition and culture through the presentation of their own Burns Nights, Games, Ceilidhs, Clan Gatherings and festivals, annually.

“Scotland’s folk and trad music is some of the best in the world, and we’re delighted to have an unprecedented opportunity to share it with our friends in Australia”, said Creative Scotland’s Head of Music, Alan Morrison. “This year-long celebration of Scottish heritage will resonate with Australian audiences whose family roots go deep into Scottish soil but also with anyone who simply enjoys good music played brilliantly by world-class artists”.

Some of the Australian festivals you can expect to see influenced by the Year of Scotland 2020 include the following:

Albany Arts Festival, Bello Winter Music Festival, Blue Mountains Music Festival, Cobargo Folk Festival, Cygnet Folk Festival, Darwin Festival, Dorrigo Folk and Bluegrass Festival, Fairbridge Folk Festival, Festival of Small Halls Australia, Folk by the Sea, FourWinds Festival, Groundwater, Horizon Festival, Majors Creek Festival, Maldon Folk Festival, Maleny Music Festival, Mullum Music Festival, Nannup Music Festival, National Celtic Festival, National Folk Festival, Newstead Folk Festival, Palm Creek Folk Festival, Peak Festival, Port Fairy Folk Festival, Queenscliff Music Festival, St Albans Folk Festival, The Planting Festival, WOMADelaide, Woodford Folk Festival.

To keep up to date with the fast expanding year long programme, more detailed information and ticket links, visit

Image supplied.

Chris Singh

Chris Singh is an Editor-At-Large at the AU review, loves writing about travel and hospitality, and is partial to a perfectly textured octopus. You can reach him on Instagram: @chrisdsingh.