Sorry is the Hardest Word
Mon 23 May, 8pm (45mins + Q&A) £4, Age 16+
Jess Smith – author, storyteller and Traveller – performs a moving and challenging monologue, Sorry is the Hardest Word, about the treatment of the Gypsy Travelling Community in Scotland. The event is held prior to the Church & Society Council Report to the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland on Tuesday 24 May. The Assembly will be presented with a report, compiled by an ecumenical task group on behalf of the Scottish Churches’ Racial Justice Group, on the Churches’ attitude to the Travelling Community in Scotland.
During 2008’s Scottish International Storytelling Festival, Jess caught the attention of a Reverend who, after hearing of both historic and present injustices experienced by Travellers resolved to bring the issue to the attention of the Churches. Jess explains why this event is important to her:
“I am putting on this event to honour all the Travellers whose spirits were broken when authority clipped their wings, halted their seasonal paths and institutionalised their children. For far too long historians have omitted their existence from this proud land as a true society. This report is groundbreaking and will hopefully lead to the Scottish Government legally recognising Scotland’s Travelling people as a single thread within a grand quilt of many cultures. The Churches are building bridges and breaking down centuries of discrimination; and should be highly praised for what they have achieved so far.”
Jess has a wealth of supporters, eager to ensure the rights of Scottish Travellers are finally addressed through Government actions, and Christine Bowker Wilson, who appeared at The Gathering in Edinburgh, is travelling back from New Zealand to lend support and perform the ‘Karanga’ – a spiritual Māori call – at the event.
Christine, from Aotearoa, also has ties to the Travelling Communities heritage and shares her reasons for making the trip:
“I’m travelling from New Zealand with my son and grandson to support Jess and the Scottish Travellers. My husband John Mahiti Wilson, who passed away in 2008, will be with me in Spirit. John was a man of two tribes, Clan Gunn through his Scottish father and Ngati Awa through his Māori mother and in his later years served as a Chief Negotiator for his tribe with the British Crown, bringing about a formal apology and compensation settlement for past grievances inflicted on his tribe during the colonisation process. We believe that ancestrally we are all one people and should be working together and celebrating our diversity. It is very important that we support the Scottish Travellers at this time.”
The monologue – Sorry is the Hardest Word, written by playwright Richard O’Neill – centres on a young woman who makes a deathbed promise to her father to expose past wrongs committed towards Scottish Travellers and receive an apology. It poses quite a dilemma however because she has no idea where to begin, who to approach or what to say. One day a window of opportunity presents itself through a brand new Scottish political scene, creating a platform to take a vocal stand; however, it’s not as straightforward as she thinks as she soon discovers politics can present its own agendas; and hers are not included.
“It’s in the eye of the beholder and the conscience of the human spirit where the heart of this piece lives,” explains Jess. The performance is followed by a discussion with an invited panel.
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