The public and experts vote for new poem to represent the Battle of Bannockburn
10 December 2012
A new poem commemorating the site of the Battle of Bannockburn by Scottish poet, essayist and travel writer Kathleen Jamie, has today (10 December 2012) been announced as the work which will be inscribed on the timber ring beam which crowns the iconic 1960s Rotunda monument at the heritage site.
The National Trust for Scotland and Historic Scotland, working in partnership with Creative Scotland and the Scottish Poetry Library, commissioned ten acclaimed Scottish poets to write new works about the site and the surrounding landscape, exploring the significance of the Bannockburn battlefield to people today.
The commission is part of the Battle of Bannockburn project to transform the heritage site which has long been a place of commemoration. The exciting new facilities will include a visitor centre with state-of-the-art interpretation of the battle and a programme of conservation, restoration and enhancement of the commemorative park and its flagpole, Bruce statue and Rotunda monuments.
The new works were published for the first time on www.battleofbannockburn.com where the public could vote for their favourite. Almost 1000 people voted, and Jamie’s poem won by a clear majority. The judges, including the Scots Makar Liz Lochhead, and experts on Bannockburn and the Rotunda monument, spent several hours deliberating on the poems, and ultimately came to the same conclusion as the public in choosing Jamie’s poem.
The project team were so impressed by the high quality and diversity of poems commissioned that they hope to publish them all together in time for the 700th anniversary in 2014. The other poets were: John Burnside, Robert Crawford, Douglas Dunn, Alec Finlay, Valerie Gillies, William Letford, Aonghas MacNeacail, Tom Pow and Robin Robertson.
Kathleen Jamie is one of a remarkable clutch of Scottish writers picked out in 1994 as the ‘new generation poets’. Also an essayist and travel writer, Jamie is well known for her ability to evoke a landscape in prose, as in her recent collection of essays, Sightlines. She became Professor of Creative Writing at the University of Stirling in 2011.
Kathleen Jamie said:
“From the start I wanted this piece of work to make a nod to the Scottish literary tradition. More than a nod – a profound bow. Because Barbour, Burns and Scott had all written about Bannockburn, and had all done so with a 4 beat line, I decided my piece would be in tetrameter too, as a homage.”
Through her form and language, Jamie pays homage to the work of Burns and other famous Scottish poets. She draws on their words to describe aspects of the Scottish landscape, and to evoke the deep love of a country that makes one community out of many peoples. The land itself speaks: ‘You win me, who take me most to heart.’
Liz Lochhead, the Scots Makar said:
“One of the great difficulties in composing poetry on a national theme is to avoid what sounds like a slogan – slogans are the enemy of poetry. The poets who tackled the subject of the Bannockburn site used an impressive variety of strategies to make real poems, and do justice to the subject. Kathleen Jamie’s poem impressed me with its clarity and condensed language – the right language for an inscription and for reflection.”
Robyn Marsack, Director of the Scottish Poetry Library and chair of the judging panel, said:
“Poetry is one of Scotland’s oldest and strongest art forms. Given the long tradition of famous poems about Bannockburn, the development of contemporary work providing reflections on the site and its history has been very exciting indeed. Kathleen Jamie’s poem is a moving meditation on the relationship between people and their land, taking it beyond nationalism to what is enduring.”
Fiona Hyslop, Cabinet Secretary for Culture and External Affairs, said:
“The response to this competition has been incredibly heartening. Each of the ten poems, from some of our best known and respected poets, had their champions and the level of interest was very impressive. I think it was also wonderful that each gave an explanation of their approach and inspiration that can still be seen on the project website.
“I am delighted for Kathleen Jamie and look forward to seeing her verse on the Rotunda.”
David McAllister, Project Director at The National Trust for Scotland said:
“The Rotunda monument is the central place for commemoration of the battle of Bannockburn. Our intention is to continue that tradition of memorial and contemplation by adding the new, thought-provoking element of contemporary Scottish poetry by Kathleen Jamie.
We are delighted that Kathleen’s poem encapsulates the essence of the Battle of Bannockburn project – introducing a contemporary take on the battle and the landscape, while paying respect to the memory of this important moment in Scottish history. Work is already underway to restore the Rotunda monument so it looks at its best for the 700th anniversary of the battle in 2014.”
Tom Ingrey-Counter, Interpretation Project Manager for the National Trust for Scotland said:
“Kathleen Jamie’s poem provides an important element of continuity to the interpretive scheme developed for the Bannockburn site. The avenue leading to the Rotunda will feature a timeline illustrating the impact of the two days of battle over the course of centuries, while the poem-inscription at the monument will provoke you to reflect on what the battle means for the land, the country and its people, and has a timeless, universal quality.”
At the moment, the wooden ring beam has been removed for conservation. The entire concrete structure of the Rotunda will be carefully cleaned and repaired and the space within will also be resurfaced. The famous flagpole at the centre of the Rotunda is also being carefully restored. Once completed, this work will enable a Saltire to fly proudly over Bannockburn once again.
These works will be taking place until approximately mid-2013 and access to the area will be limited until then. For more information on the project and its progress, visit: www.battleofbannockburn.com/projectprogress
The Battle of Bannockburn project is funded by generous support from the Scottish Government and a £4.1 million grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund.
Notes for editors
Kathleen Jamie’s poem:
Here lies our land: every airt
Beneath swift clouds, glad glints of sun,
Belonging to none but itself.
We are mere transients, who sing
Its westlin’ winds and fernie braes,
Northern lights and siller tides,
Small folk playing our part.
‘Come all ye’, the country says
You win me, who take me most to heart.
The judging panel consisted of:
Chair – Robyn Marsack, Director of the Scottish Poetry Library
Liz Lochhead, the Scots Makar
Kenneth Calman, Chairman of The National Trust for Scotland
Scott McMaster, Bannockburn Property Manager
Colin MacConnachie, Interpretation Specialist
Andrew Wright, Heritage Consultant and expert on the History of the Rotunda monument
Gavin Wallace, Portfolio Manager for Literature, Creative Scotland
For more info and/or images please contact Heather Macpherson from the National Trust for Scotland on firstname.lastname@example.org
or 075445 39283.
1. The Battle of Bannockburn Project is a joint venture by the National Trust for Scotland and Historic Scotland, on behalf of the Scottish Government, to provide a new visitor centre and experience for one of the most significant battles in Scotland’s history for the 700th anniversary in the 2014.
2. The new Battle of Bannockburn Visitor Centre will use state of the art installations to interpret and explain the circumstances that led up to this pivotal event in our history and its consequences. The Scottish Government has committed £5 million, through Historic Scotland, and £4.1 million has been awarded by the Heritage Lottery Fund.
3. The design team include:
• Architectural Team – Reiach and Hall with Sinclair Knight Merz (Engineer), Turner and Townsend (QS) and KJ Tait (M&E Engineers)
• Interpretation: Concept and Design – Bright White Ltd
• Landscape Architects – Ian White Associates
• 3D Media Research, Development and Realisation - Centre for Digital Documentation and Visualisation (CDDV)
• Contractors – Mansell Construction Services Ltd
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