Way back early in 2012 COSCA joined with most of the rest of the Scottish diaspora in welcoming the news from Stirling Council and the Homecoming 2014 planning team that the ultra successful 2009 Gathering would be repeated in 2014 as part of the 2nd Year of Homecoming. Initially we understood that the 2014 event would build on the successful experience of the 2009 Gathering and be of a similar character and scope.
Unless you have been under a rock for last six months you now know that there appears to be no central Gathering at Stirling in 2014. While we appreciate the Scottish Government Homecoming 2014 team's efforts to save the day through the Bannockburn Anniversary events, logistically, the Bannockburn field carries very difficult limitations for hosting an international clan gathering as does the Bannockburn event itself. So, while Bannockburn looks to include a spectacular high tech next generation visitors' center, a stellar reenactment and a medieval village possibly with clan elements, it's no Gathering.
Alright, we're over it. And what is the teaching moment? In future, we will design and plan our own gatherings. We will work collaboratively with the Scottish government and Scottish commercial enterprise to nail it. Indeed, there are many very keen minds thinking about that right now. The concept of a gathering is rooted in history, culture and tradition. It is the work of the chiefs to summon a gathering for clearly articulated reasons. Unless the diaspora regains control of the concept and reality of an international gathering of Scottish clans and families, our traditions will remain in danger of being boiled down into a commercialized festival event just like any other instead of the special and authentic cultural and heritage celebration that they should be.
So, as it is currently all the buzz, you may want to check out the Scottish Parliament's politically tinged inquiry into whatever happened to the Gathering 2014. Click here to read the written testimony and evidence submitted to the Economy, Energy and Tourism Committee of the Scottish Parliament on the subject.
I highly recommend beginning with the Standing Council of Scottish Chiefs' written submission as those comments are driven neither by politics or profits and instead they, alone among the group, contain a clear history and discussion of what happened and why. You can read the SCSC testimony here.
And yes, do look at the National Trust for Scotland's written testimony, where the NTS suggests that a final decision on what is in and what is out as far as Bannockburn Anniversary events will not be made until May 2013. Yes, according to NTS, even the Bannockburn reenactments may be scrapped if the stars are not correctly aligned.
In spite of the fact that the clan gathering element of Homecoming 2014 didn't come off, the truth is, Scotland has put together a truly incredible lineup of events for their 2nd Year of Homecoming. While I am certain that the Commonwealth Games and the Ryder Cup will be compelling athletics, in the minds of the active ancestral diaspora, the Bannockburn Anniversary events, including the new visitor's center and reenactments, are among the most intriguing offerings.
It is notable that Bannockburn represents the only currently supported ancestral element in the entire Year of Homecoming and that makes for a missed opportunity to optimize the unique advantage of the remarkable Scottish diaspora. We encourage NTS to stay the course and produce all of the successful events to commemorate the 700th Anniversary of Bannockburn that can be produced.
Additional and further to the big splashy events, are the smaller and thus far independent regional gems that have caught the 2014 buzz. We understand that Glamis Castle, already a veteran at hosting large complex events, continues to consider holding a 'dry run' games and clan gathering in 2013 to see what a larger event might look like in 2014. The folks in West Lochaber in association with the Arisaig Games are working feverishly to give ancestral visitors to their region an outstanding experience in 2014 and beyond. And of course, Struileag plans to live-stream it's culminating diaspora heritage and cultural production in October 2014, in association with the National Mod at Inverness.
So that is nothing to shake a stick at. The energy is there; it needs to be harnessed. Still, the diaspora will have to undertake to produce our own gatherings in the future. We must all note however that there is not absolute unanimity about the details of a gathering. Where, when, why, who, what? Those are our questions and it is our obligation to begin to explore and answer those questions before heading down the gathering road once again.
Susan L. McIntosh, President
Council of Scottish Clans & Associations