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Issue 15 - Icons comes of age in downtown New York

Scotland Magazine Issue 15
July 2004

 

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Icons comes of age in downtown New York

Celebrities and politicians attended a glittering awards night in the heart of New York as a highlight of Tartan Week. Dominic Roskrow reports

Crazy place, New York. Crazier still when it’s packed from one end to the other with Scotsmen.

So it was for Tartan Week, which imposed itself on the Big Apple in some style. Pride of place in a week of activities was Scotland Magazine’s own Icons of Scotland Awards, in association with VisitScotland, which took place on the official Tartan Day itself and attracted the First Minister of Scotland, Jack McConnell, an assortment of senior politicians, a gaggle of celebrities including a Hollywood star, and three generations of the Forbes family, themselves the embodiment of the unique relationship America enjoys with Scotland.

From the outset the week’s proceedings had taken on a surreal note. The night before the Icons of Scotland dinner Sean Connery and Jack McConnell had stood side by side at the Dressed To Kilt event, supping whisky and acting as if they were best pals, despite a week of public and political wrangling in the press.

And by the day of the icons event itself everything had started to go truly weird.

Ever tried to buy kumquats in New York? And not just a few, but enough to make no less than 150 cocktails with?

Myself and the magazine’s advertising manager Gordan Dundas felt like we were on some reality television challenge programme as we set out to do just that.

We found them in a Dominican Republic fruit and veg shop in a market in Chelsea, and left the staff in tears of laughter as we struggled out with every kumquat we could muster – which was not nearly enough.

Apparently it was the fault of the Chinese who had devoured the country’s entire supplies for their New Year celebrations a few days before.

Well that’s what we were told.

Not strange enough? Then how about being in a bar packed with Scotsmen in kilts after the event and discovering that the only man in trousers was Britain’s best known transvestite, the acclaimed comedian Eddie Izzard? Not only that, but he was having a drink with Dylan Moran, star of cult television comedy Black Books and one of Britain’s fastest rising stars. Both had just finished a performance round the corner on roadway, apparently, I can report. Nonchalantly.

The Icons of Scotland itself was, from the outset, an electrifying experience. Guests were met at the entrance to the theatre by the Gutty Slippers, an irreverent band of Scottish musos with a bizarre dress sense and a good line in rousing tunes. Being New York and at rush hour, passers by not only joined in with the impromptu dancing, but did so while never actually slowing down on the sidewalk.

Guests were welcomed at the reception, sponsored by VisitBritain, with a cocktail – and yes, some of the ones featuring The Macallan did contain our much sought after kumquats – then led in to the impressive Hudson Theatre itself.

The dinner was prepared by Jeff Bland, Michelin starred chef at The Balmoral in Edinburgh and the recipient of the food and drink award. His food was accompanied by cask strength Macallan and followed by Drambuie on ice, both provided by sponsors of our awards.

The awards themselves – voted for by readers of Scotland Magazine and presented by Contributing Editor Roddy Martine – showed exactly why Scotland is such an amazing country, representing a wide range of talents and interests – from the amazing Falkirk Wheel to Skara Brae.

The event reached its climax with the special Wallace Award, presented by Alan Bain of the American Scottish Foundation, to three generations of the Forbes family, whose publishing achievements continue to provide the benchmark by which great magazines in America are measured.

Quite a night, in what was quite a week, in quite a city. And truly, truly crazy.

Heart of Scotland
To be awarded to any event or attraction that best encapsulates the very essence of Scotland

Winner: The Edinburgh International Festival
Launched in 1947 as the Edinburgh Festival of Music and Drama, this annual event has grown into the largest cultural and artistic celebration of its kind in the world. During the month of August, and over the first week in September, no less than seven festivals – Official, Fringe, Jazz, Book, Film, Comedy and Television – and in addition, the Edinburgh Military Tattoo, take place. An enormous boost for the local economy, Scotland's Capital is transformed into the UK's greatest visitor attraction with the added bonus of ubiquitous street theatre and late night entertainment.

Spirit of Scotland
Awarded to any living person or group of people that best represents the true spirit of Scotland

Winner: Ewan McGregor
Ewan’s appearance in Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones confirmed him as a truly top Hollywood actor, and the blockbuster made an impressive addition to a body of work that has won the young Scot respect throughout the acting fraternity. His latest film is the Tim Burton epic Big Fish. The award was collected at Ewan's request by Ziggy Payton, a former pupil at Morrison's Academy, where Ewan was at school, and who is currently at acting college in Manhattan.

Scottish Experience
CIE Tours International has provided over a million travellers with the highest quality vacations to Britain and Ireland during the past 72 years. They have built up an enviable reputation for security and reliability with our satisfied clients and the travel industry throughout North America.

Winner: CIE Tours
This award was presented to the company chosen by the 2,000 SCOTS agents (Specialist Counsellors on Travel to Scotland) eligible to vote for any American or Scottish-based tour operator who offered their clients the best Scottish experience.

Scottish food and drink

Winner: The Balmoral
Situated just above Waverley Railway station in Edinburgh’s famous Princes Street, The Balmoral is a fine example of a top class hotel, and its food and drink offering reflects its stature. Chef Jeff Bland runs his Michelin-starred restaurant, Number One here, but the work of he and his team can be experienced in the more casual Hadrian’s Brasserie, too.

Scottish history and heritage

Winner: Skara Brae
Skara Brae is one of the most impressive archaeological sites in Europe. It is a Neolithic village that predates the Pyramids and it is so well preserved that you can imagine families in the living quarters. Visitors can wander among the village’s small dwellings, viewing the fireplaces and bed areas, and even the shelving where inhabitants kept thei prized possessions. With Orkney’s other stunning attractions, from the stone rings to the Italian chapel, these northerly islands have become an essential place to visit for any tourist. Mainland Orkney has something extra to celebrate this year – the reopening of its second whisky distillery, Scapa.

Scottish Writer

Winner: Val McDermid
Even by Kirkcaldy-born crime writer Val McDermid’s remarkable achievements, recent months have stood out. Not only have her books continued to win awards and attract new readers, but her disturbing and truly thrilling book a Wire In the Blood has inspired one of the most talked-about television series in the United Kingdom in years. Val started writing at 21 but hit her stride in the 90s with stunning crime novels such as A Place of Execution, which won a Macavity award for best crime novel.

Scottish Inspiration
Awarded to any commercial enterprise that reflects the finest in Scottish creativity

Winner: Pringle of Scotland
Once upon a time you weren’t anyone in sporting circles unless your casual sportswear included a Pringle jumper or two. But familiarity breeds contempt and as mainstream High Street stores copied the company’s patterns and denigrated them in the process, the company had to reinvent itself. It has done so brilliantly, now offering a diverse range of clothing that is practical and stylish, and which still rises to the demands of fashion. The award was collected by actor Dougray Scott, star of Mission Impossible II, and a proud exponent of Pringle clothing.

Innovations
Awarded to any business or person showing innovation in Scotland

Winner: The Falkirk Wheel
Surprisingly the award winner with the highest votes, this masterpiece of technology is that rarity – an engineering feat that fascinates everyone, even those not in the least bit interested in technology. A short film shown at the awards ceremony showed how the wheel lifts tonnes of metal and raises canal barges from one canal to another higher one. Seeing really is believing.

The Wallace Award

Awarded to: The Forbes family
The name ‘Forbes’ has been synonymous with great magazine publishing in the United States for decades now, and the family’s achievements in establishing themselves in their adopted country and then becoming standard bearers for the world of publishing is worthy of honour. This award, presented by the American Scottish Foundation, recognises the family’s outstanding contribution to American business life. Forbes Magazine remains one of the most important business publications in the States.