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Playing Scotsmen in mainland Europe

Twenty-first-century Scottish play-acting draws depth and energy from a European and Western tradition of dreaming Scottish dreams, and this tradition dates back to at least the late eighteenth century, to the beginnings of European Romanticism. This book explores how contemporary celebrations of Scotland build upon earlier Scottish fantasies. The Scottish dreamscape is one of several pre-modern counter-worlds which have been approached through imitation in the past. The book examines the 'Scotland' that is on the play-actors' minds. The Scottish dreamscape was formed in an eighteenth- and nineteenth-century process now best known as Highlandism. It was then that Scotland became associated with the aesthetics and supposed characteristics of its Highland periphery. The book also explores the Scottish dreamscape's spread via the channels of the British Empire and American popular culture. It identifies five key carriers which helped to disseminate the Scottish aesthetic across the world, namely epic poetry, the Highland regiments, music hall entertainment, Hollywood films, and romance novels. The book further focuses on fieldwork conducted in 2009 and 2010. It sheds some light on the different forms of Scottish play-acting, on musicians, athletes, commemorators, and historical re-enactors. The pipers and athletes do not imitate the past; they perform in what they hope are old but living Scottish traditions. Commemorators and historical re-enactors have a different aim. They seek to recreate the past in the present. Finally, the book identifies some of the main reasons for the Scottish dreamscape's special resonance in northern and western Europe.

ungrammatically, at the encampment’s gate. Two warriors stand guard, their belted plaids tartan chequered, their faces painted with blue woad. They carry battered shields and halberds, ready for battle and the impending children’s show. Terra Crom are a troupe of historical re-­enactors from Paris. They specialise in late medieval Scotland, the time between the twelfth and the fifteenth centuries – the ‘Braveheart period’, as they happily concede. Clearly, they are much inspired by Hollywood’s interpretation of their period. They set up their tents at Scottish and medieval

in Warrior dreams

6 Our Scottish past: commemorations The pipers and athletes examined in the previous two chapters do not imitate the past. While it is important to most of them that the musical, athletic, and sartorial traditions they engage with are ‘old’ and solidly rooted in history, they do not attempt to reproduce that history. They perform in what they hope is an ancient but living Scottish tradition. Commemorators and historical re-­enactors have a totally different objective. As the next two chapters demonstrate, they seek to recall or even recreate the past in the

in Warrior dreams

regiments, music hall entertainment, Hollywood films, and romance novels. Chapters 4 to 8 document the Scots of Europe. The chapters rely on fieldwork conducted in 2009 and 2010. They shed some light on the different forms of Scottish play-­acting, on musicians, athletes, commemorators, and historical reenactors. Chapter 4 approaches the world of piping and drumming. It presents the kilted pipe bands which were active on the European continent at the beginning of the twenty-­first century. It first examines how the bagpipe came to be internationally associated with

in Warrior dreams
Open Access (free)
Alternative pasts, sustainable futures

discussed in this book do not ‘play’ industrial workers; they are not historical re-enactors in so strict a sense. Neither are they surrogates: the industrial workers they have apparently re- or dis-placed are, as Stéphane Bonnard reminds us in the epigraph to this book, ‘still here.’ Nonetheless, in their occupation of industrial spaces – spaces that resonate once again with the buzz, whine, clank, and clamour of machinery – these artists embody the accumulation of labour, the simultaneous persistence and transformation of repertoires, the emergence of the ostensibly or

in Street theatre and the production of postindustrial space

since the Renaissance as a dimension of ‘medievalism’, the recreation or re-­imagination of the Middle Ages in the modern period.69 Since the 1960s, however, the imitation and reinvention of knights and princesses has evolved from elite leisure and stage performance to a mass hobby, 28 Warrior dreams an activity for tens of thousands of amateurs on both side of the Atlantic.70 Historical re-­enactors, fantasy role players, and even extreme sport jousting athletes put on heavy armour and flowing robes to imitate historical battles, fight each other at tournaments

in Warrior dreams

8 Homecomings: finding neverland The previous chapters have examined the four main forms of Scottish play-­acting on mainland Europe. The Scots of Europe are musicians in military-­inspired pipe and drum bands, athletes at Highland Games, commemorators at festivals of remembrance, and historical re-­enactors who reproduce their favourite historical periods and characters. In all this activity, the play-­actors cherish a Scotland of the past. They participate in what they claim to be ancient musical, athletic, and sartorial traditions, commemorate historical

in Warrior dreams

music acts such as Dougie MacLean, Capercaillie, and the Red Hot Chilli Pipers. Attractions included Highland Games (or ‘Schotse Volksspelen’ – Scottish folk games), Highland dancing presentations and workshops, whisky-­tasting events, a Scottish-­themed market, a story-­telling tent, and historical re-­enactors demonstrating their take on medieval and eighteenth-­century Highland history. There also was a variety of non-­Scottish fringe entertainment such as falconry shows, sheep herding, children’s animations, and, bizarrely, a flyball racing track for dogs. (Many

in Warrior dreams

evoke, investigate, seek or happen to come into contact with pasts of one kind or another, giving a kind of historical texture to their mundane awareness and everyday enthusiasms, which may well not easily be translated into the categories either of academic historical understanding or of official commemorative discourse.58 An awareness of the past has many potential points of focus, and individuals may be selective – or merely influenced by proximity – in which they find personally meaningful. (A historical re-enactor may be ardently committed to recapturing the

in History and memory