Scottish history and art lesson at Show Scotland 2010

Show Scotland 2010

From cannonball battles to war time rationing, Show Scotland makes Scottish history come alive. Kirstin Innes rounds up the best events

One of the most unfortunately underrated annual events in the country, Show Scotland is unfurling itself out across the May bank holdiay weekend again, and we advise you to sit up and pay attention. Not so much a festival as a nuanced celebration of Scottish history and art, Show Scotland, which has been running for five years now, takes place in museums and galleries up and down the country, from the Borders to Shetland, and this year they’ve got over 40 events packed into one busy little weekend.

The beauty of Show Scotland is that it allows museum and gallery curators up and down the country to really unleash their creativity, and usually leads to some very interesting events that engage with local history and bring museum exhibits to life through roleplay, drama, workshops and discussions. Here are some of The List’s top picks for a good day out.

Various venues in Dundee and St Andrews are joining forces to pay tribute to the hugely influential Scottish mathematician, biologist and classics scholar, D’Arcy Wentworth Thompson, the Professor Brian Cox of the early 20th Century, in celebration of the 150th anniversary of his birth. Look out for street theatre piece about Wentworth Thompson’s life The Parrot and the Polymath across both cities, live music and creative writing workshops inspired by his work, as well as a lecture from Nobel Prize winning biologist Professor Lewis Wolpert at Dundee University.

Over in Alloway, they’re reacting just as creatively to another famous son of that parish: Beauty and the Bard uses the whole village of Robert Burns’ birthplace, as the setting for a roaming play about the poet’s life, told by seven of his lovers.

Modern-day bard Margaret Elphinstone will be taking audiences even further back in history, too, with a series of events in various venues around the Kilmartin area. Elphinstone’s latest historical novel The Gathering Night is set in that area in the Mesolithic period, and she’ll be talking about historical research and the process of imagining an area way back in its past, amongst other things.

If all this is a little gently paced for your liking, Glasgow’s Clydebuilt Maritime Museum are rather ambitiously recreating the blockade running travails of the American Civil War at their Smash And Grab event, before restaging a Confederate/Unionist naval battle. Yes, totally interactive – all visitors will be handed cannonballs and told to pick a side. Yes, we’re a little baffled too.

Finally, a number of the Show Scotland events this year commemorate the 65 years since the end of World War Two. We like the look of We’ll Meet Again at Glasgow’s People’s Palace, a full-on VE Day party complete with 1940s makeup demonstrations, interactive rationbook shopping, and a full-on swing dance.

Show Scotland, various venues across Scotland, Fri 30 Apr–Mon 3 May. For full details, see

Flower Power

Find out just how groovy wild flowers can be! 'Part of Show Scotland'.

Second World War Tea Dance

Frog march back in time to experience life during WWII. It wasn't all grim - try out the dance moves of the era like the jitterbug, jive and swing. 'Part of Show Scotland'.

Show Scotland

Annual festival of creativity in Scotland that sees galleries and museums across the country open their doors for many exciting, and unexpected, events.

Show Scotland Weekend at Dumfries Museum

All weekend local crafter Rodney Holland will be working on a giant old tree trunk to produce a huge chainsaw sculpture - come and watch it take shape on Friday, Saturday and Monday between 10am and 12.30pm and 2pm and 4.30pm. On Friday at the same times Countryside Ranger Tom Henry will also be demonstrating the use of…

Making Lighthouses

Fun, interactive, lighthouse-based activities for the bank holiday weekend, including making your own lighthouse and writing your name in flags. 'Part of Show Scotland'.

The Strange Tale of a Murder Mystery in the Canongate

A story of mystery and intrigue concerning Edinburgh's history. Ages 6+. Booking essential. Part of Show Scotland.

Garden Cottage Diaries

1790s-style cookery lessons with Fiona Houston, who lived an authentic 18th-century life for a year and is clearly not a woman who does things by halves. Booking essential. Ages 6+. 'Part of Show Scotland'.

Show Scotland at the Burrell Collection

As part of the nationwide Show Scotland programme, the Burrell team is running a range of fun activities helping you to discover the fascinating objects within the museum and the park.

Show Scotland

It’s show time at Scotland’s museums and galleries BIG weekend!

Classic Glasgow: Ships and Trips

Trips down the Clyde on an original passenger ferry with a living history team on board. 'Part of Show Scotland'.

Pirate Mischief

A murder mystery set aboard a pirate ship - who will be forced to walk the plank? Booking essential. 'Part of Show Scotland'.

Aberdeen and the Plague at the Tolbooth Museum

Step back in time to 1640s Aberdeen and experience life during the plague with this living history re-enactment. 'Part of Show Scotland'.

Reviresco - A New Role for an Old Tree!

Chain saw artist Rodney Holland turns an old tree trunk into something new. 'Part of Show Scotland'.

Grow Your Own and Dig for Victory

Workshop in growing your own food. Bring a small soil sample. 'Part of Show Scotland'.

A Knight's Tale - Fantasy, Folklore and Craft of North Ayrshire

Living history with Sir Hugo, the bravest Knight in Scotland. 'Part of Show Scotland'.

Through a Glass Darkly

Flameworking demonstration by Carrie Fertig. 'Part of Show Scotland'.

Wartime Cookery Kitchen

Cookery workshop with Nichola Fletcher. 'Part of Show Scotland'.

Captivating Collections

An exclusive tour of the museum. 'Part of Show Scotland'.

Giving Voice to the Mesolithic

Margaret Elphinstone introduces her new novel, 'The Gathering Night'. 'Part of Show Scotland'.

Beltane Bonfire and Sunset Parade

A lantern parade with drummers and musicians ending at the Beltane Bonfire. 'Part of Show Scotland'.

Captive Family Day

Storytelling, facepainting, art sessions and workshops as well as activities for kids. 'Part of Show Scotland'.

Auchindrain in Story and Song

See this amazing preserved example of a pre-clearance farming township, which comes alive with special event over the weekend. 'Part of Show Scotland'.

Flintknapping Demonstrations

Living history with John and Val Lord. 'Part of Show Scotland'.

Finding Voices in the Silence - Writer's Workshop

Margaret Elphinstone leads a workshop researching and writing pre-historical fiction. 'Part of Show Scotland'.

Literary Dinner

A dinner using locally sourced Scottish produce with Margaret Elphinstone, author of 'The Gathering Night', on hand for literary conversation. 'Part of Show Scotland'.

Beauty and the Bard

Learn about Robert Burns' women in this promenade theatre piece. 'Part of Show Scotland'.

Strange Tale of Medieval Murder Mystery

See inside both the Museum of Edinburgh and The People's Story Museum and meet some mysterious characters. Ages 6+. Booking essential. 'Part of Show Scotland'.

The Art of Production

Find out about bricks, coal and salt and take part in some arty and musical activities. 'Part of Show Scotland'.

Time Travel for Beginners at the Burrell Collection

Take a trip through time and meet some characters from the past.'Part of Show Scotland'.

Dance Around the World

Workshops in Bollywood and street dance as well as drop in boogying opportunities. 'Part of Show Scotland'.

Mind, Body & Soul

Drop in events for all the family related to health and faith. 'Part of Show Scotland'.

Out Take

LOWSALT leads a workshop for ages 12-16 inspired by the current exhibition followed by a public performance at 4pm. 'Part of Show Scotland'.

Smash and Grab

Choose sides (the Union or the Confederates) and get ready for a battle with facepainting and other activities. 'Part of Show Scotland'.

80s Family Disco

Two discos with all the fun of the 80s. Booking required. 'Part of Show Scotland'.

Smoke and Mirrors

Two-day workshop with Alison Weightman in ancient firing methods from the East and West. 'Part of Show Scotland'.

The Burr's Van Treasure Trail

Launch of 'The Burrs of Tongue Exhibition'. 'Part of Show Scotland'.

A Plethora of Postcards

Postcards relating to Devil's Porridge. 'Part of Show Scotland'.

An Afternoon of Music and Talks for D'Arcy Thompson's Birthday Weekend

Music by the University Chamber Choir and talks by Cathy Caudwell, Matthew Jarron, Mike Taylor and Patrick Randolph-Quinney as part of the celebrations to mark the 150th anniversary of the birth of D'Arcy Wentworth Thompson. 'Part of Show Scotland'.

D'Arcy Thompson Commemorative Lecture: The Development of Pattern and Form

Nobel prize-winner Prof Lewis Wolpert gives a public lecture. Booking essential.'Part of Show Scotland'.

The Parrot and the Polymath - D'Arcy Thompson live!

Professor Sir D'Arcy Wentworth Thompson is brought back to life by the Walking Theatre Company for performances around Dundee. 'Part of Show Scotland'.

Notes From the Museum

Annual event, featuring poetry and prose inspired by D’Arcy and his collections, written and performed by students on the Creative Writing MLitt course at the University of Dundee. Chaired by tutor Edward Small.

Jute and Jitterbugging

Go back to the 1940s and take part in Dundee's war effort and R&R efforts. 'Part of Show Scotland'.

Blackout Tea Dance

Dance the night away 1940s style. 'Part of Show Scotland'.

Wartime Memories Reminiscence Session

The Living Memory Association leads an afternoon of reminiscences. Booking required. 'Part of Show Scotland'.

A Night of Wine & Roses

See Jack Vettriano's new paintings accompanied by music, cocktails and live theatre. Ticket price includes entry into a prize draw and a Vettriano-inspired cocktail. 'Part of Show Scotland'.

Mysteries of the Caves of Learnie Uncovered

Guided Walks to coastal caves near Rosemarkie to mark the start of the museum's new exhibition, which features the findings of local 19th century amateur archaeologist, Dr William McLean. 'Part of Show Scotland'.

Smashing Glass

Two days of events about the history of glass as well as a workshop to create stained glass. 'Part of Show Scotland'.

The Kirtle and the Highland Plaid

Storyteller and singer Lilian Ross leads activities to launch the museum's Scottish Marriage Customs exhibition. Ages 3+. 'Part of Show Scotland'.

Gale Warning (Mayday! Mayday!)

The launch of a series of events on the themes of weather, climate and environment. 'Part of Show Scotland'.

A Knight's Tale

Motherwell goes medieval with demonstrations and activities. 'Part of Show Scotland'.

Wee Engineers

Activities relating to engines of all sizes. 'Part of Show Scotland'.

30 Years of Corrigall: Keeping the Traditions Alive

For the 30th anniversary of the museum watch traditional craft demonstrations then, in the evening, learn some traditional Orkney dances. 'Part of Show Scotland'.

Black Watch Tales

Stories and songs about the well-known regiment. Under 12s must be accompanied. 'Part of Show Scotland'.

Art, Rhythm and Dance

Activities to celebrate the modern dance pioneer and artist Margaret Morris. 'Part of Show Scotland'.

New From Old (Grand Opening Weekend)

The Shetland Textile working Museum moves into a temporary home at the Böd of Gremista amid a flurry of events. 'Part of Show Scotland'.

Oscar and the Highland Castle

Scottish folk tale told using a combination of ultraviolet effects, shadow puppetry and music. Ages 4+.

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