The preview was a wonderful, warm event and I was honoured to be a part of it. The excellent Billy Kay acted as compère for the evening, kicking off the evening and calling for creativity and hope with a quote from RB Cunninghame Graham, one of the founders of the Scottish Labour Party, who boldly declared that "The enemies of Scottish Nationalism are not the English... for they were ever a great and generous folk, quick to respond when justice calls. Our real enemies are among us, born without imagination." We had music and song from Dolina Maclennan and Richard Ingham, and were truly honoured with a reading of Robert Crawford's new poem, 'The Scottish Constitution'. Coming so soon after the publication of the formal draft constitution, with so much potential encased in dry official terms, Robert's stirring poem made the hairs on the back of my neck stand up. "It must contain silver sands..."
The exhibition the next day was likewise full of music and song, as well as art, rounded off by a wonderful singalong of A Man's a Man led by Sheena Wellington. During the day we had workshops (including a brilliant book-folding workshop with Isabell Buenz, creator of yet another Scottish Constitution), challenging conversations, children playing delightedly with our New Chapter installation and, of course, time for visitors to soak in the scale and variety of Scottish talent on display from our marvellous artists. With book stalls manned by Scottish authors, no area of local creativity was left unrepresented, and our copy George Lockhart's Memoirs was successfully auctioned, adding a contribution to campaign funds of a size almost unseemly to mention here. We want to take this opportunity to thank absolutely everyone who was involved in performing, working, and assisting at the exhibition.
So, it was a weekend of music and art, of people and song, of knitting and collaboration. I remember standing still for a few moments, and feeling as if I could just breathe in all of the positivity and creative energy in that room. An art exhibition, poetry, and a knitted map in support of constitutional change? It almost seems foolish. But I am reminded of a story that Billy Kay told on the night of the preview, of a Scottish woman who married a Russian timber merchant and moved with him to Archangel. One day, their home was invaded by Bolshevik soldiers, who were well known to murder people of their social class even without provocation. They began to rifle through the contents of the family home, and they came across a banner bearing the Lion Rampant - the symbol of Scotland. This Scottish wife of a Russian merchant stepped forward, and told the Bolsheviks that they would not take the flag of Scotland. Shocked into laughter, they did not, and left the family to their life and their flag. Years later, this woman's daughter would reflect on her mother's seemingly-foolish actions. "Foolish, perhaps - but how magnificent."