Surely this is where footworking came from?
Something in my heart makes me refuse to wear a red poppy at this time of year. It could be a number of things and I hope to bring them to the surface through this blogpost. I should make it clear firstly that I am eternally grateful, as many others are for the sacrifices made by those in the armed forces who were brave enough and were prepared to give their lives to protect their country. This post is not a opportunity for me to “have a go at people who serve their country” it is a possibility to look at the options we have to honour and remember them in a different way.
From the BBC website, we can see the history of the wearing of the poppy and why it has become the way we honour the the sacrifices made in past wars. These scarlet corn poppies (popaver rhoeas) grow naturally in conditions of disturbed earth throughout Western Europe. The destruction brought by the Napoleonic wars of the early 19th Century transformed bare land into fields of blood red poppies, growing around the bodies of the fallen soldiers. Canadian surgeon John McCrae first mentioned the poppy in his poem In Flanders Fields in 1915 to and it since became a lasting memorial symbol to the fallen.
Its understood from the British Legion website that the money raised from the poppy appeal provides ways for commemorating those who are no longer with us and can provide for the families left behind when those who serve in the front line do not return. Very sad.
The main issues I have fall into the following:
- I do not believe war is a solution to a problem. What do we wear in memory of the innocent victims of war who have not chosen to join the armed forces?
- I do not think dressing war veterans up in their old clothes / badges / medals is the way to move forward to a peaceful world. In my opinion this glorifies war and if you keep looking into the past, your future will simply begin to look the same. We should learn and move on to a future that does not require ‘celebrating war’.
- I do not think we should label people in the armed forces as “Heroes”, they are no more heroic than doctors, nurses or fire fighters that risk their lives and the lives of others every single day.
- I do not think people in the media should be ‘forced’ to show respect by wearing a poppy, that simply devalues it to the level as a fashion accessory. Also another interesting article.
I think it was in The Wire Magazine where I first noticed the Archive Trails project. It seemed to interest me from the first moment I saw it, perhaps because I knew of the work of Tracer Trails, Alasdair Roberts or simply due to my own interest in Scottish history and especially its music and folk traditions. Whatever it was that interested me, I wanted to do something with this project which was based in the Edinburgh School of Scottish Studies whether it was to have the group present the work in an informal setting to raise awareness of it or even just attend one of the concerts as part of the tour.
It seemed difficult to manage a date for the presentation due to holidays, tour dates and simply people being very busy (however i hope this event can still happen). I managed to get along to the Glasgow in the CCA (Centre for Contemporary Arts) date of the tour after a friend of our family had been to the show in Aviemore.
Conversations around a song
The spectacle began with Aileen Campbell bravely attempting to learn an old Scottish folk song in a similar way as these songs were learned in the past (except not from an iphone 4 with white earbuds) using oral practice and repetition. She chose a song at random from her listening device and spent the next thirty or so minutes uncomfortably learning the song (containing parts of an extinct language) in front of our very eyes. For me I found this to be slightly awkward and difficult to watch, I can’t really explain fully why, it was just quite odd. Aileen managed to sing through all twelve or thirteen verses and where she struggled, the audience helped out shouting the odd word that would give her enough to carry on.
Our next performer / researcher was Drew Wright aka Wounded Knee. He brought some humour and a emotive and completely compelling voice and singing style accompanied only by drones from his shruti box. Asking the audience “Who wants a rummage in ma baw bag, who wants a scrimmage in ma sack” in his broad scottish burr it was laughter from the very beginning. He had numbered table-tennis balls and would sing songs (some from the archive and some of his own) in his unique and interesting style. His version of “The Green Fields of France” had the audience choking back their tears and you could almost reach out and touch the emotion in the room as he spoke about the dead soilders.
In closing the show, we had the very strange and wonderful tale / folk play of Galoshins: A story of the horse-whispering verging on freemasonry. It was very odd indeed. Using puppets, guitars, masked horses and timpani, the story unfolded as Galoshins was killed and brought back to life by an alcoholic doctor. . the whole thing was quite compelling as Alasdair Roberts narrated and performed the soundtrack using acoustic guitar and vocals whilst Shane Connolly (Sokobauno) acted out the entire tale using puppetry. In end all was well and the story made sense, a mixture of humour and sublime surreal storytelling but it all seemed to work.
For me, as I was leaving with my father (singing along with the odd soundtrack combining the songs from Alasdair Roberts and tune about the “rummaging in the baw bag) I had mistakenly thought the entire night would be musical performances with introductions and findings – I did not expect a puppet show, extinct language in song and so many laughs. It was clear from the project that the School of Scottish Studies covers more than just music. It truly was a snapshot of Scottish life from many many years ago.