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Battle Trust in Review: November 2009

- as tabled at the Annual General Meeting of the Campaign: November 24th 2009

Our five year Campaign to increase awareness across the nation of the significance of Prince Charles Edward’s Victory at Prestonpans continued vigorously throughout 2009, as did the visioning of the permanent Living History Centre. The Heritage Lottery Fund Grant of £50,000 in 2008 was invested as envisaged and additional grants were received from the Scottish Arts Council, Awards for All and Homecoming – East Lothian. Private donations also continued as pledged.

Scottish Government Support

The SNP Government’s Minister of Culture at Holyrood, Michael Russell, met with the Trustees in the Spring to learn of our Campaign’s progress and was sufficiently impressed to pledge the Government’s support for it as we began to explore how to raise the requisite capex. Trustee Gareth Bryn-Jones led an exploratory engineering and design evaluation of the ‘ideal’ location for the Living History Centre atop Frank Tyndall’s Meadowmill Legacy Bing [Plan A].

This evaluation gave rise to estimated total project capex of £15 million. On the Minister’s behalf, Historic Scotland commissioned a review which not surprisingly concluded that it would be very difficult to raise such capex in the economic conditions now prevailing across Europe and the USA. It also re-emphasised the engineering challenges involved at Meadowmill both for the Bing itself and for visitor access. However it went further to question whether such a Living History Centre could attract the visitor numbers originally estimated by RGA. On this point, quite to the contrary, the Trust presented the hard evidence of visitor and community engagement arising from the action lines pursued since the Campaign’s launch in 2006, not least during 2009, vis:

• The community support and involvement in the battlefield archaeological studies led by Dr Tony Pollard of Glasgow University;
• The escalating re-enactor involvement each September with more than 100 travelling considerable distances and 500+ onlookers including the redcoat’s six cannons;
• The attendances at the Prince’s Clans Exhibition in The Pans as a component of The Homecoming Celebrations in July;
• The reception accorded to Andrew Dallmeyer’s second themed play – Colonel Gardiner: Vice & Virtue;
• The excellent reception for the School Visits Programme by our Scottish Arts Council Story Teller, Greg Dawson-Allen, BattleGame designer Gordon Veitch, and Re-enactor Adam Watters – utilising the BattleBus;
• The overwhelming success of the recruitment of volunteer embroidery stitchers right across the nation, for the Prestonpans Tapestry.

Continuing the Bias for Action

As we move forward into 2010, with some 24 months of the Campaign to go, the Trust remains firmly committed to its ‘bias for action’ approach, always seeking to raise the profile of the Battle across the nation. [i] The 80 metre PrestonpansTapestry’s scope and design have now been determined by lead artist Andrew Crummy advised by Martin Margulies, author of The Battle of Prestonpans 1745, and reinforced with field visits across the Highlands most especially to Borrodale House. Artworks, linens and wools will be with the volunteer embroiderers by Christmas. It is to be the focal point for the re-enactments of 2010 as it is paraded along the routes taken by The Prince and Sir John Cope from July/ September 1745. An accompanying book and dvd will be published to coincide with the Parade.

[ii] The Schools Visits Programme will be continued with up to 35 sessions budgeted leading in due course to a national Schools BattleGame Competition. [iii] The Alan Breck Regiment will continue its recruitment locally. [iv] Working with the Prestoungrange Arts Festival initiatives will be taken to seek to interpret and restore parts of the Waggonway. [v] The Trust is also pledged to convene its Second Scottish Battlefields Symposium.

Creating the Living History Centre

In parallel of course, and with great determination, the plans for the creation of our Living History Centre will be advanced as may be possible. [vi] The Trust will consolidate its relationships with East Lothian Council, Scottish Power and Scottish Coal as it has done with the Scottish Government. Inter alia the putative re-engineering of Cockenzie Power Station from coal to gas will open up substantial opportunities to improve the battlefield’s interpretation.

[vii] A ‘Business Plan’ for the Centre’s activities will be developed as a priority. [viii] The ‘ideal’ venue will be further evaluated as will other perhaps less ‘ideal’ but possibly more achievable venues. [ix] And the Trust’s Plan Z will be carefully articulated i.e. the Campaign’s ‘legacy’ outcome where present economic circumstances preclude the building of the Centre by 2011.

[x] In particular to ensure the Campaign’s momentum is not lost the services of professional fund raisers will be sought, with the Trust’s ‘Proposal to Nation from Prestonpans’ firmly and visually presented.

Clearly the Trustees have a not inconsiderable Agenda for 2010 with the magnificent Prestonpans Tapestry as our major platform enhancing public awareness and support further. We are scarcely daunted anymore than The Prince was as he landed on Eriskay with but seven men by his side.

Published Date: November 25th 2009

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