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Scotland goes tapestry bonkers

August 10, 2012
31. Cockenzie Powerstation Mural by Andrew Crummy

Cockenzie Powerstation Mural by Andrew Crummy (Photo credit: andrewtcrummy)

Ah, the joys of writing about history on the web … you post something one day and suddenly the world explodes.

This is good because it means history is what it should be – challenging and fun.

What’s prompted this is that in the last few weeks Scotland has gone completely bonkers on tapestry.  It is now weaving its history literally as well as metaphorically.

It started for me with a post on the first technicolor film (recently unearthed by the British Council) showing Harris Tweed weavers. Away from home, Scottish weavers were also leading footie lights in establishing FC Barcelona – as Lee Roden outlines here.

Next came Dovecot Studios’ splendid Centenary exhibition under the enthusiastic direction of David “Wheels” Weir. They have also produced two tapestries of the William Wallace letters for the National Records of Scotland’s exhibition.   And then came news that the Fleming Collection in London plans to bring the Unicorn Tapestries over next year.

When’s this all going to end? Not for a while yet. Two major new tapestries are also under way.  The Great Tapestry of Scotland Project is the brainchild of Sandy McCall Smith, who wrote the libretto for Dovecot’s musical celebration.

He and historian Alistair Moffat also claim to have Jim Naughtie on board, which is clearly ridiculous. Naughtie wouldn’t touch a project that didn’t devote at least one of its panels to Aberdeen FC’s celebrated triumph at Gothenburg in 1983..

The second project is the Scottish Diaspora Tapestry designed to tell the stories of Scots communities around the world.

Both are hugely ambitious and based on the success of the Prestonpans Tapestry – now going on display in Bayeux and North America.  What’s brilliant about them all is that they involve ordinary people working with designer Andrew Crummy and stitching their interpretations.  Hand made history with needle and thread.

There is fun in it too – one of the Redcoats in the Prestonpans battle scene appears to have a mobile phone.  And on the web, there are a myriad of weavers and knitters – I like the highlandknitwits on ravelry.com.  Even folk in twitter sending out twapestries or tweeds.

All of this is hugely exciting.  It comes alongside other promising developments in digital history which offer Dundee a new monicker as the City of Jute, Jam, Journalism and Java Script. As well providing the inspiration for Millwall FC.

On another front, Tobar an Dualchais is now going to pilot a national audio archive with the National Library of Scotland. They can draw on wider collections like the wonderful Rare Tunes set up by  Derek Hoy and  Stuart Eydmann.

So time to tune in, turn on and let it all hang…. up on the wall.

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