Media Release: Previously… Scotland’s festival of history

AT a time when the big festivals are feeling the recession, freezing their budgets and slashing the cash, with typical Scottish timing (and budget) we’re launching one, and in a city that needs a new festival like it needs a tram system.

Says a spokesperson: “History, darling, is the new black – just look at the programmes on the telly, the books flying off the shelves about family trees and historians themselves becoming even a wee bit attractive…

“Here’s a flavour of just some of the 200 events running between the 17th and 30th November 2011 in Edinburgh:

“Did you know that the first time the word f*ck appears in print is in Scotland in 1504? We recreate this auspicious event between two verbally duelling poets, Dunbar and Kennedy.

“And who exactly did you think you were? It’s not just celebrities who have skeletons in the cupboard come and find your own ancestors. There might be something rattling in your own closet that needs a bit more examination…

“And while we’re on the subject, Who did you think we were? The Scottish Nation is not just as peely wally as you may first have thought. Come and meet the new Scots who’ve made Scotland their home and who help make Scotland what it is.

“Sitting in judgement – Prof. Tom Devine in the Devine judgement. Some of Scotland’s finest academics go for the full smackdown. Right, you, stop shoutin at the telly – this is your chance to join the debate – in our Scottish Parliament. The Big Shiny Debate series – and you are invited.

“Your average historian may eat, sleep and breathe history; we’re breaking you in gently with the eating part and a lovely bit of history. History on a plate, if you will. Come and have a cuppa with Elsie Inglis or dine with Shackleton (penguins will not be served either on the menu or as your plus one). Be wary of wearing a dinner suit (just in case).

“Too worthy? Descend and discover the wild side. An eye-popping, jaw dropping, skirt twitching tassle twirling tales of Edinburgh’s more torrid past… Sin in the city and the history of Striptease in Scotland could be two events that are right up your alley. Don’t forget, history is just gossip that’s fermented longer…

“Speaking of fermentation, grab a glass of heritage ale or down a dram after all what would Scotland be without its ale and its whisky (apart from slightly more slender and slightly more sober – but that’s a different debate).

“It’s worth remembering that the historical figures we learn about once walked about the streets, drank, sang, laughed and lived. To that end, we have events across the city of Edinburgh from its deepest, darkest depths to its most politically important at the Scottish Parliament with a wee twirl around the Stand Comedy Club.”

Find out more about all the events at Join us. You know you want to.

For press interviews and comments please call Ian Harrower 07971 858581

For Press tickets to events email


Editors Notes

Ps – we don’t know how to spell peely wally – do you?

Previously… Scotland’s History Festival will take place from 17 November until St Andrews night on November 30.

Plugging the gap between the end of Edinburgh’s summer events and the start of the winter festivities, history fans from across the globe are invited to Edinburgh for an impressive choice of over 200 events and a celebration of Scotland’s colourful history.

Organised by a community business and led by festival director, Susan Morrison and festival producer, Ian Harrower, the team have brought together an impressive coalition of Scotland’s heritage, tourism, academic and local history communities.

There are Big Shiny Debates on ‘nationality and belongingness’ being held in the Scottish Parliament

Bestselling authors, including Ian Rankin, and actor, Nigel Planer, teaming up for an evening celebrating Robert Louis Stevenson.

An Edinburgh University debate exploring seven centuries of Diaspora featuring Professor Tom Devine and a chance to research your family history in the ‘Who Did you Think You Were’ roadshows. The immigrants who have made their home and contributed hugely to Scotland’s story are also celebrated in a powerful contemporary photography exhibition called Jock Tamson’s Bairns.

Despite a lack of public sector funding in its first year, the festival has prevailed because of the generous support of The Law Society of Scotland and the Carnegie Challenge and also the huge amount of time given generously by a small team of dedicated believers.

Many of the events are free and there are opportunities to visit many of the nations wonderful treasures and take part in events at the National Museum of Scotland, The National Library of Scotland, The Georgian Town House, St Giles Cathedral, Trinity House, St Tiduana’s Chapel, Lauriston and Craigmiller Castles and the War Poets Museum at Craiglochart part of Napier University.

There are also opportunities to explore old Edinburgh above and below ground with tours and discounts for trips into the vaults and on Edinburgh buses.

The festival also helps celebrate Disability History Month in November and there are events being held to honour many of the great Scots who helped design much of the modern world.

The great philosopher and thinker, David Hume, is celebrated at a supper taking place in the Channing’s Hotel.

Turns out that this colossus of the Scottish Enlightenment was a very enthusiastic home cook and the chefs at Channing’s have recreated a period supper from recipes that appear in the first cookery book written by Elisabeth Cleland and printed in Edinburgh (1755).

Channing’s Hotel was also the home address of Sir Ernest Shackleton, the Antarctic explorer, while he was secretary of the Royal Scottish Geographical Society between 1904 and 1910.

Stephen Venables, mountaineer, writer and broadcaster will lead the tributes on the evening.

Stephen was the first Briton to climb Everest without supplementary oxygen. The seasoned explorer was delighted to be asked to talk about his great hero and be part of Scotland’s first ever history festival.

What better way to celebrate some of Edinburgh’s most awesome women with Afternoon Tea at the delightful Howard Hotel in Edinburgh’s New Town.

There are events and speakers honouring the likes of Elsie Inglis who battled the male domination to pursue her ambition to become a doctor.

Mary Burton was a trailblazing educational and social reformer.

She was the first woman Governor of Heriot-Watt College, but she ensured that women were permitted to study beside men.

Millicent Bruce Peterkin, was the granddaughter of Thomas Usher, the family responsible for building the Usher Hall, and a School of Public Health at the University of Edinburgh.

Millicent spent nearly five years on the Western Front, serving as an army nursing sister. In her daily diary, she highlighted the hardships and lighter side of working with the sick, injured, gassed, disabled and dying service men.

The Flyting, a riotous, roistering face-off between two of Scotland’s poets Dunbar and Kennedy in 1504 is brought back to life for the first time in 500 years in the vaults of The Real Mary Kings Close and the Dome at New Register House, designed by Robert Matheson  and one of the most elegant rooms in Scotland makes a wonderful backdrop for the ‘Authors at the Dome’ series arranged with ScotlandsPeople Centre and featuring the likes of Stuart McHardy, David Torrance, Dorothy Crawford and Tara Womersley, Sara Sheridan and Syd House.

Local historians also get a chance to share their passion at the Open Howf events where Scottish opera is explored alongside the history of burlesque, Rosslyn Chapel and a brief history of Scottish heraldry.

Susan Morrison is ecstatic about the programme of events that the team have pulled together. She said: “To paraphrase Oscar Wilde, Scotland has produced more history that it can domestically consume, and to quote Max Bialystock, if you’ve got it, baby, flaunt it.

“And we’ve got it. We have treasure waiting to be rediscovered, from the joyous ribaldry of a 16th-century poetic slanging match to an exploration of the food and drink we’ve consumed over the centuries.

“We have a huge historical canvas to clean and evaluate with the help of our brilliant historians, who can help us take a long, cool look at our past as we stand on the threshold of a turbulent, dramatic future.

“Scotland’s history festival was created to bring our history out into the streets. We aim to bring the history made by Scotland’s people closer to Scotland’s people.”

There are events in parliaments, castles, cathedrals, chapels, museums, libraries, pubs and clubs and there are children’s events, beer and whisky tastings, choirs, re-enactments, films, cartoons, games, walks and striptease. This is Scotland’s History Festival branded under previously…It’s the story so far.

Picture by kind permission of Roslyn Gaunt features Festival Director Susan Morrison and Festival Producer Ian Harrower

For press interviews and comments please call Ian Harrower 07971 858581

For Press tickets to events email

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