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... for a'that, an'that, an'that, an'that ... "You've got a Celebrity on your hands!"

Cabinet Secretary for Culture Comes to The Pans

Not for the first time, Scotland's Minister of Culture has visited The Pans to catch up on what's going along in 'all' the arts hereabouts. In fact we've made a point of asking them along, all four of them since 2006 when the Battle Trust was launched. First it was Labour's Patricia Ferguson, then Linda Fabiani, then Mike Russell and now, we are delighted to report, Cabinet Secretary for Culture Fiona Hyslop has called. [Creative Scotland, and Historic Scotland's National Battlefield Inventory which includes us in 1745, Pinkie with Somerset in 1547 and Dunbar with Cromwell in 1650, are both covered by her portfolio.]

With so many political faces coming past it's clearly up to the Arts Festival to make sure we stay on the Scottish Government's radar if we want support! And we've been doing our best .... we fought [in vain] to save the Auld Fowler's HQ, we petitioned Parliament in support of the Battle Trust's plans for a Living History Centre, and in 2012 our community was successfully short listed as one of the nation's Creative Places. Just lately, with the upcoming 'second' Pans tapestry on the Scottish Diaspora we've been asking for major government funding.

It was a private discussion and meant to be

The meeting, which was postponed before the recent Council elections, had been a longtime coming. It was first mooted in December 2010 when the Battle Trust's Petition to Parliament was lodged. But the Trust has been waiting for the agreement of East Lothian Council since January 2010 to the location of its Living History Centre and Tapestry Pavilion at the Prestongrange Heritage Museum site. Whilst that decision has still not yet been made, the Trustees are now much more optimistic than they were when they started searching for alternative locations earlier this year.

It's no secret that the new Council Leader, Willie Innes, was pleased to join the later stages of the private discussions, and he was able to reassure the Minister that he personally remains as in favour of the Trust's bold plans as he was when he first heard them in January 2010. As the Press Release captured below in the East Lothian Courier records, the Minister was impressed with the community drive for the boldest of programmes and it's no secret that she urged us all to 'work togther'!

Indeed, an appropriate meeting has been promised with the Council very soon. Watch this space.

So, what's that headline about celebrity then? Well she doesn't want to be quoted, so we wont, but the Cabinet Secretary suggested that we might have a Celebrity on our hands [in the Tapestry!] as we advanced our overall campaign for the conservation and interpretation of the battlefield. And we just thought the tail was wagging the dog!

Ed. Invited to summarise on one page what the Trust wished to share in private with the Minister, the following was tabled:

• The Battle Trust is a member of the Prestoungrange Arts Festival family of community activities originating in 1997. The overarching goal of all is to raise community and individual self esteem through a heightened sense of place as a driver to socioeconomic regeneration. Prestonpans, The Pans, is still a relatively depressed post-industrial community.
• Earliest activities were historical murals leading to arts classes, totem poles, music and song aplenty, story telling, real ale, Gothenburg history and restoration, 3Harbours Festival, pottery, Witch Remembrances, Cuthill Park reopening, BoatieBlest,theatre and lately embroidery and coal miners’ memorial.
The Battle Trust specifically aims to conserve and interpret the town’s battlefield, the scene of Bonnie Prince Charlie’s Victory here in 1745. Already made legendary in Scott’s Waverley and Skirving’s Hey Johnnie Cope we resolved to create a permanent Living History Centre in the town that would become a major driver for tourism as well as a focus for education and community activities generally.
• It had to be designed to be sustainable so our initial project was an Economic Feasibility Study by RGA. It said, Yes it can be if: [i] authentic; [ii] world class; and [iii] community driven and centred i.e. not top down.
• Next step was formal archaeological study by Tony Pollard of Glasgow University, which located the precise battlefield site.
• We gave ourselves 5 years to find a great location for our Living History Centre and to accumulate elements en route that would eventually be housed and deployed at the Centre. So we established our own Alan Breck Regiment for re-enactments and Schools Visits; a BattleGame board for youngsters to re-fight the battle; painted; penned new factual books and novels; made DVDs and CDs; and most spectacularly stitched the Battle of Prestonpans Tapestry in 2009/ 2010 which has now taken the interpretation of our battlefield across the nation, to England and France, reaching more than 120,000 people already and raising £100,000+ in small donations towards its discrete pavilion in our Living History Centre.
• We know we wont have that Living History Centre quite yet, but we know we must maintain momentum. We are seeking £500,000+ funding to do just that in a way that continues our cumulative approach to asset building most particularly surrounding the Tapestry exhibitions and education.
• We are also launching our own Appeal to private donors to take the £100,000 we have already to £2 million.
Finally, we aspire to remind and convince Scotland’s Government that in due course the measure of additional support they gladly accorded to Culloden and Bannockburn should be available next here in The Pans for our unique community driven conservation and interpretation programme.

Published Date: June 24th 2012

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