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 www.showscotland.com
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…
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'.
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'.
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.
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'.
Answering a call for help, Oscar the mouse leaves his attic home and heads for Loch Ness where he finds Incy Wincy Spider among the ruins of an old castle. Mysteriously swept back in time, Oscar joins Incy’s campaign to free the castle from English rule and restore Scotland’s independence!
Here, one of Scotland's most…