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Themed Year Proves to be a Real Success Story

An older adult with light skin, grey hair, and an accordion stands next to an older adult with light skin, grey hair, and a thick grey beard.

A newly released report has revealed the Year of Stories 2022 delivered significant benefits to Scotland and its communities.

Collated by VisitScotland, highlights from the evaluation report, which features independent research and partner feedback, include:

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A central strand of activity was the creation of a diverse events programme, with events staged in all 32 of Scotland’s local authorities. Hundreds of organisations worked in collaboration to ensure that the full diversity of our stories, in all their richness and forms reached the widest audiences.

The funded events programmes which invested a total of £1.33 million in the sector, shone a spotlight on well-loved and brand new stories alike with the widest range of organisations from national companies to community groups participating.

Local communities took to the spotlight with the support of the innovative Community Stories Programme. A partnership between VisitScotland and Museums Galleries Scotland with support from National Lottery Heritage Fund and Scottish Government. This programme supported 180 community facing organisations with £732K of grant funding plus additional ‘wrap around’ support providing opportunities for communities to come together, tell the stories that matter to them and develop skills, opportunities and partnerships.

Scotland’s indigenous languages came to the fore across both events programmes, with Scots and Gaelic showcased by 42% of funded events.

There was also great variety in the ways the stories were told – from apps and digital content to in-person events, walking trails and exhibitions. Accessibility was at the heart of the year, from BSL translation on videos and at live events, to free ticketing or ‘pay what you can’ at many events.

The events programme also helped to increase awareness of and appreciation for Scotland’s stories: 81% of community event attendees said that they were more aware of the wealth and diversity of Scotland’s stories. The theme was also a source of inspiration for future visits – 75% of community event attendees said they are more likely to visit places connected with Scotland’s stories.

As well as an extensive events programme, the Year of Stories 2022 offered opportunities for the wider tourism industry and related sectors to share their own stories, with multiple examples of businesses and organisations collaborating to create new content, campaigns and activities for communities and visitors.

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Malcolm Roughead, VisitScotland Chief Executive said: Themed Years provide an opportunity for collaboration and partnership across tourism, events and wider sectors, using Scotland’s strengths to attract domestic and international visitors and grow the visitor economy.

“The findings of this evaluation show that the Year of Stories really engaged communities and captured the imagination of people right across the country. While the year may have ended, the story is far from over. Our hope is that businesses and events continue sharing their stories and visitors continue to be inspired by the places, people and cultures associated with them.”

Culture Minister Christina McKelvie said: “I am delighted that Scotland’s Year of Stories 2022 has had such a positive and lasting impact in so many communities across Scotland.

As a result of partnership working, the fantastic range of events on offer inspired people to create and share their own incredible stories, traditions and journeys.

“The high level of engagement with this themed year will leave a lasting legacy as we continue to tell each other stories about who we are and where we live.”

Lucy Casot, CEO of Museums Galleries Scotland said: “The Year of Stories Community Stories Fund created a powerful opportunity to support a wide range of people to take part in the themed year and we are proud to have delivered this in partnership with VisitScotland, with support from National Lottery Heritage Fund and the Scottish Government. The fund supported creativity with new and old stories brought to life allowing locals and visitors to experience a wide diversity of voices. 

“The evaluation clearly demonstrates the positive impact participation had on the groups who held events and the communities across the country who came together to enjoy them. To know that this year’s programme increased awareness of and appreciation for Scotland’s stories and has inspired future visits is a remarkable achievement by all those involved.”

Caroline Clark, The National Lottery Heritage Fund Director for Scotland, said: “The impact of Year of Stories was writ large across Scotland last year. People throughout the country really got behind it, a fact confirmed by this report.

“The diversity of stories and how they were shared was a particular feature of the Year of Stories due to the Community Stories Programme, which was supported through funding from National Lottery players. It really engaged with the imagination of individuals, communities and groups, allowing them to share their stories, their way – stories of Scotland’s people, places and cultures.

Donald Smith, Director of the Scottish International Storytelling Festival and Traditional Arts and Culture Scotland said: “We were delighted to be involved in every aspect of Scotland’s Year of Stories. For us it demonstrated Team Scotland in action, with community led events across the country, major promotions, and collaboration between the tourism and culture sectors. And everyone wanted to be part of the story!”

The Themed Years model provides a shared platform for many organisations to come together and multiply their impact by working together, inspired by the same theme and utilising common branding and tools. Scoping for options and approaches for a possible 2025 Themed Year is now underway with more details to be released towards the end of 2023.

The Year of Stories Evaluation Report can be viewed here.