Scotland’s creative industries festival gets down to business

XpoNorth’s director Amanda Millen

From giving birth to a book, to building a business on Instagram, from surfing in a gaming and technology playground, to conversation with an Oscar-nominated film director – and finding out what links Harris Tweed Authority and retail design giant Alessi; it’s all in a day’s work for delegates at XpoNorth, Scotland’s leading creative industries conference and showcase.

XpoNorth takes place this year at Eden Court Theatre and venues throughout Inverness on Wednesday 7 and Thursday 8 June. At this inspiring event, which sees international industry insiders meet, mix and mingle with aspiring musicians, filmmakers, designers, makers, game developers, writers and publishers, creative connections are made at every turn.

Free to attend, XpoNorth is funded by Highlands and Islands Enterprise, the European Regional Development Fund and Creative Scotland. This year the festival, which began as a small fringe music industry event 17 years ago with around 100 attendees, is expected to attract more than 2,000 delegates as it showcases Scotland’s creative industries to the world.

XpoNorth featured in The Times today: Michael Radford on making The Music of Silence; Amanda Millen, XpoNorth’s director interviewed; Jan Patience previews two special screenings; BBC commissioning editors and breakthrough programming; Moira Forsyth on the foresight of ‘a few remarkable people’; Matteo Alessi and his love of the Falkirk Wheel; Harris Tweed and digital innovation; a Q&A with M&C Saatchi Sponsorship’s Victor Cobos; ‘Dream Plan Do’ with Patricia van den Akker; From Iceland, Doppelganger;  Josh Rabinowitz and busking on Sauchiehall Street; Tamzene in LA; XpoNorth Live!; and The Vic Galloway Show.

Showcasing and training creative talent from the Highlands and Islands and beyond lies at the heart of XpoNorth. The festival’s live television station, XpoNorth Live! will be training up the next generation of television production professionals under the expert eye of seasoned director Alan de Pellette, who was behind the creation of BBC Radio Scotland’s Off the Ball and hit BBC comedy Still Game. XpoNorth Live! presenter, Siobhan Synnot will interview speakers and delegates while bands play live sets in Eden Court’s Stalls Foyer and Newsbar area. XpoNorth Live! will also be hosting a live recording of The Vic Galloway Show with BBC Introducing.

Delegates can get up close and personal with industry insiders at special one-to-one meetings and hear from Instagram ‘superstar’ Zoe Timmers, who has 84.2k followers on the social media site posting as @zobolondon, at her workshop on how to build an individual or brand’s Instagram feed, engaging new followers and growing business.

This year, XpoNorth’s renowned Music Showcase will see more than 80 emerging acts play for delegates at venues throughout the city. Among them will be rising star Tamzene, a 20-year-old student from Cromarty on the Black Isle, who has only recently returned from Los Angeles, where she played in front of some of the world’s top music industry leaders in A&R and management.

Some of the top names who work behind-the-scenes in the music industry on a global scale will also be present. New York-based Josh Rabinowitz, a producer whose Grey Music Seminar at the Cannes Lions International Festival has featured the likes of Tony Bennett, E Street Band, Lou Reed, Iggy Pop and Courtney Love, will join M&C Saatchi Sponsorship’s co-founder and chief executive, Victor Cobos, for a special session on The Growing Importance of Brands in Today’s Creative Industries.

Unsigned bands will also be pinning their hopes on XpoNorth’s new A&R Listening Room which will put “Your Songs in the Spotlight” in front of international industry insiders such as Steve Celi from FOX Broadcasting and Sat Bisla, who runs the influential LA-based music industry conference, MUSEXPO. Also new for 2017, are two special late-night Stand up Comedy sessions hosted by Bruce Devlin.

XpoNorth’s prestigious curated Film Showcase will be back at Eden Court, featuring work by filmmakers from the Highlands and Islands and beyond. Organisers received 3000 entries from 112 countries across the world and have programmed 47 films to screen in Eden Court’s Playhouse cinema on both days, while 26 short films will be screened at the start of every session of the conference.  There will also be a curated programme from the Screen Academy Scotland the BFI Highland Film Academy with Q&A with local young talent.

Two documentary filmmakers from the Highlands, David Graham Scott, from Caithness, and Tristan Aitchison, who lives on the Black Isle, will see special screenings of their films, The End of the Game and Sidney & Friends. Film lovers will be drawn to a special in-conversation with Michael Radford, the Oscar-nominated writer/director (Nineteen Eighty-Four, Il Postino, The Merchant of Venice), ahead of the launch of his latest film, The Music of Silence, a ‘biopic’ of tenor Andrea Bocelli.

XpoNorth’s craft, fashion and textiles network, which has a proven track record supporting designers operating in often remote communities, will showcase SHIFT, an international collaboration with Iceland, bringing together a diverse group of Highlands and Islands and Icelandic designers and makers to talk, explore collaborate and inspire one another.  The showcase is curated by ilka North, a group of designers, visual artists, curators, writers and creative thinkers all based in the Highlands.

Aspiring writers will be pitching their fiction and non-fiction book ideas in trepidation to a panel of leading publishers and agents. Last year, one of the pitchers, Iain Hector Ross, had his forthcoming publication The Whisky Dictionary, was picked up by Dingwall-based Sandstone Press so there’s a lot at stake.

The Power of Provenance is put under the spotlight at a special in-conversation session featuring Matteo Alessi of Italian design house, Alessi, and Lorna Macaulay, Chief Executive of the Harris Tweed Authority.  This special event will be chaired by Don McIntyre, Design Director at the Glasgow School of Art’s Institute of Design Innovation.

Donna Chisholm, Regional Head of Sectors, Innovation and Programmes with Highlands and Islands Enterprise said: “XpoNorth is now firmly established at Scotland’s leading creative industries conference and showcase, and we are delighted to be supporting the event as an international platform for creative talent.

“The two days provide an excellent opportunity for business people in the Highlands and Islands to meet other creative people as well as hear from a range of globally renowned experts in each creative field. Many people who showcase go on to become successful after attending the event. It’s fantastic to have speakers and delegates from all over the world of such high calibre here to share their expertise.  The conference is flourishing and reflects the success of the creative industries in Scotland.”

XpoNorth director, Amanda Millen, said: “In the ten years I have been involved, XpoNorth has grown from a small niche music industry festival into a wide-reaching conference and showcase which brings together a host of elements under one creative umbrella. There are a lot of key creative industries influencers who attend and creative connections are forged every minute of the day during the course of the two days. There really isn’t anything else like it in Scotland.”