TRACS officially appointed as UNESCO Advisor on Intangible Cultural Heritage

Photo above: Steve Byrne, Director of TRACS and David Francis, Director of the Traditional Music Forum at UNESCO HQ in Paris to witness the designation of TRACS as an NGO Advisor to UNESCO on ICH.

TRACS (Traditional Arts and Culture Scotland) collected their official accreditation as NGO Advisor to UNESCO on Intangible Cultural Heritage (ICH) this month in Paris, at the tenth session of the General Assembly of the States Parties to the Convention at UNESCO’s Headquarters on 11 and 12 June.

This appointment means that TRACS is now officially recognised internationally for the work they have been doing on ICH and, along with Museums and Galleries Scotland, are one of only two organisations in Scotland who are experts on intangible cultural heritage and advisors in this field. Both organisations along with Historic Environment Scotland and Creative Scotland are part of the ICH Scotland Partnership Group which was sent up to safeguard ICH in Scotland and help drive forward UK ratification of the 2003 UNESCO Convention for Safeguarding of Intangible Cultural Heritage. Ratification finally took place in April 2024, with the Convention coming into force in the UK on 7th June. The UK’s accession was warmly welcomed at the Paris meeting, along with San Marino and Libya, taking the number of states to 183 worldwide who are now party to the ICH Convention.

Intangible Cultural Heritage is a tradition, practice, or living expression of a group or community. This can include oral traditions, performing arts, social practices, rituals, festive events, and traditional crafts. Examples of ICH in Scotland are wide reaching and include practices such as Shetland’s Up Helly Aa Festival or the Edinburgh Mela, cultural traditions such as bothy ballads, bagpiping, and clootie wells, traditional games such as shinty, the making of food such as haggis, and traditional crafts such as thatching and Fair Isle knitting.

Director of TRACS Steve Byrne said:

“Our accreditation alongside the UK’s recent ratification of the Convention is a major step not just for TRACS but for our local traditions across these islands which have historically not had the same protection and respect as our built and natural environment in government policy and legislation. We are looking forward to taking part in the work of the international ICH NGO Forum, making connections with fellow NGOs from across the globe to share best practices on how to safeguard local traditions wherever they are, including those at real risk. TRACS will work with our own artform Forums for music, dance, storytelling – and soon, we hope – traditional crafts, to give voice to the living heritage of Scotland’s local communities, to celebrate these key parts of our individual and collective ways of life well into the future.”

Since it was set up in 2012, TRACS has been key to developing and showcasing Scotland’s rich cultural heritage, advocating for the traditional arts, and making music, storytelling and dance inclusive and accessible aspects of everyday life across Scotland. It has also been instrumental to the success of the annual Scottish International Storytelling Festival, and the People’s Parish Project which supports communities to discover and rediscover a ‘sense of place’ for present and future generations through stories, traditions, and heritage history led by local creative practitioners.