Dates for the rescheduled Arbroath 2020 celebrations have been announced for this summer, making the event Scotland’s first socially distanced festival.
Renamed Arbroath 2020+1, the event which runs from July 2 to September 12 is still the community-led event that was planned to celebrate last year’s 700th anniversary of the Declaration of Arbroath.
Following Scottish Government guidelines, the organisers have made changes to the programme of 30 events, installations and performances.
However, some planned for last year will need to wait. There has been a decision to postpone some until they can be performed as planned, such as ‘Of Light Breaking’ a mass choir performance of a composition by Paul Mealor with words by Grahame Davies from the Declaration of Arbroath, which will be staged in the grounds of Arbroath Abbey.
Last year’s planned climax of the festival Over Lunan will once again take place in September.
Among the other events is a takeover of Arbroath High Street during July by ‘Festival Flags’, where the community and schools worked with Dundee Print Collective to design a series of colourful flags that will flood the street in medieval colour with modern design.
At the Abbey, The Arbroath Tapestry has been created by Angus embroidery and textile artists to commemorate the 700th anniversary of the Declaration of Arbroath and the town’s heritage.
The Pageant for Gallivants is a personal procession to explore multi-location public artworks throughout the town safely, with outdoor installations, pop-up micro events and geo-located audio.
The New Scriptorium is a green oak frame building created by Angus-based carpenters. It will sit on the Abbey site for a year, exploring the site’s impact on Scottish history, but from September will also act as a writers’ studio hosting writers in residence.
Whale Song will be performed at Arbroath Harbour in the Fish Market, with poet Lesley Harrison collaborating with viola player Katherine Wren and clarinettist Alex South, on the theme of the voyage of the 19th century whalers to the polar seas, and the cultural aftermath of the whaling industry.
One event that organisers initially thought would need to be online is The Making of a Pageant 1947-2021 but this will now open in early July at Arbroath Art Gallery.
A community heritage exhibition, it showcases what goes into the making of the historical pageant and the community effort involved.
Creative Director of Arbroath 2020+1 Pippa Martin says this cautious approach to restaging the celebrations means it’s unlikely that anything will need to be cancelled.
“Of course we don’t know what’s around the corner, but it’s the right approach to take and believe me with every twist and turn of lockdown throughout the year, the events have changed.
“Even though people might be able to travel from further afield by July, this event has always been about working with people in Arbroath.
“When we had to announce the cancellation last year, we went into practical mode and tried to put together a digital series of programmes that linked to loads of other offerings that went live on April 6, 2020. With the reaction that to those, it dawned on me how important it was for the whole of Scotland.”
Pippa says that her thoughts were mainly with the local committee who had been working on the event for five years.
“I came into post in 2019 but so much work had gone into 2020,” she said.
“This was going to be their big year – bringing people together from around the country and Canada for mass processions.
“Also, the idea of 2020 for the Angus Place Partnership was that this would be a springboard to making greater connections for Arbroath through the festival. I’m happy to say that we’ve still been able to make great connections and that extra year has added brilliant new projects from the community.”
The festival will close with On Lunan, a sound and visual performance at the Lunan Bay dunes, running from September 2 to 12.
Angus Farquhar, Creative Director of Aproxima Arts was approached by Arbroath 2020 to put together a project to mark the Declaration and had initially thought it would be based around the Abbey.
“When I visited and Pippa Martin showed me the coastline, I couldn’t quite believe it.
“In 25 years I’ve worked all over Scotland and the Angus coastline is so overlooked – it was a complete discovery for me. Lunan had among the most beautiful dunes I’ve ever seen.”
“The sound and light performance will take place in the evenings to make the most of the light that hangs over the bay at that time of day.
“It will be a powerful experience to come on to the beach at night, and have those safe communal experiences.
“One year ago today eight of us were sitting under a supermoon on the top of the dunes, looking over the beach with this speaker systems listening to unearthly music. Then three days later we went into lockdown. I can’t wait to be back there.”
For more information, visit the festival website.