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The Family Tree - June/July 2003
Scotland Featured at the 2003 Smithsonian Folklife Festival


This summer, the Smithsonian Institution brings the traditional culture of Scotland to the Smithsonian Folklife Festival. The 37th annual Folklife Festival runs from June 25-29 and July 2-6. Admission is free.

From the Highlands and Islands in the north to Ayrshire in the south, from Glasgow Green to Edinburghís Royal Mile, and from the textile mills of the Borders to the oil fields of Aberdeen, Scotlandís heritage, regional cultures and occupations will be highlighted. Through dynamic performances, demonstrations and educational programs, "Scotland at the Smithsonian" will feature more than 100 of Scotlandís finest musicians, storytellers, cooks, craftspeople, dancers and scholars who will explain and celebrate the living traditions that make and sustain Scotlandís distinctive culture.

"This program provides the Folklife Festival with an unique opportunity to showcase and highlight the complexity of Scottish culture," says Nancy Groce, the curator of the Festivalís Scotland program. "It will enable people to look beyond the stereotypes and see the regional diversity and vitality present in the traditional culture of contemporary Scotland."

Visitors will attend performances by many of Scotlandís leading traditional artists. Featured performers include the Battlefield Band, Phil and Johnny Cunningham, Brian McNeill, the Wrigley Sisters from Orkney, Fiddlersí Bid from Shetland, the Edinburgh-based "ceilidh" band The Occasionals, and the famed childrenís ensemble the Singing Kettle. The Festival will also present a series of pantomime workshops and discussions. This distinctive form of folk theater, known as "panto," is performed during the Christmas season and based on popular fairy tales. It features songs, slapstick and silliness and lots of audience participation.

Master craftsmen from Heritage Golf at St. Andrews will demonstrate how historic and contemporary golf clubs and hand-sewn/hand-molded golf balls are made. A nearby putting green will allow visitors to try out this handmade equipment. Also on hand will be curling stone makers from Kay of Scotland. These master crafters will explain how they obtain granite from Ailsa Craig, an island off the southwestern coast of Scotland, and then transform it with skill and care into the finished product. Ian Best, from Fair Isle, the most remote inhabited island in Great Britain, will demonstrate how Ness Yoals are constructed. These traditional 24-foot wooden boats are made in clinker fashion, with overlapping planks, and can be either rowed, sailed or motored. At one time, yoals played a prominent role in the Shetland Islandsí fishing industry.

Craft lovers will enjoy watching as a master weaver from the Outer Hebrides, a group of islands off the western coast of Scotland, demonstrates the production of Harris Tweed. By law, Harris Tweed must be made of pure virgin wool and handwoven in the islandersí homes. Tartan weavers from Lochcarron of Scotland, a mill in Galashiels in the Borders region, will be featured at the Festival. The weavers will demonstrate tartan designing, manufacturing and finishing, and will discuss the history and traditions associated with these distinctive plaid cloths. A Smithsonian tartan, created exclusively for the Folklife Festival by Lochcarron of Scotland, will be introduced. Kiltmakers from the Keith Kilt School will be on hand to demonstrate how tartan is transformed into a kilt. This traditional Scottish menís garment is crafted from one 8-yard piece of cloth. It takes almost 70 hours to create a single kilt.

Other program highlights include an interactive heritage area where visitors can trace their Scottish ancestry and learn more about performing genealogical research with the help of staff from www.ancestralscotland.com, the National Archives of Scotland and the General Register Office for Scotland. Also featured will be the Court of the Lord Lyon, King of Arms, which grants coats of arms in Scotland and makes certain that they are used lawfully. Members of the Lyon Courtís staff will explain its history, current work, relationship to the Scottish Justice system and its ceremonial responsibilities.

Representatives from some of Scotlandís newer occupational cultures will also be at the Festival. Of particular interest will be workers from the offshore oil industries that have transformed Northeast Scotland and the port city of Aberdeen over the past three decades. Coming from all over the world, and drawing heavily on Scotlandís historic leadership in technological innovations, oil-workers have met the challenge of the harsh North Sea to establish one of the largest and most lucrative oil fields in the world. In addition to their huge impact on international oil-field technology and the Scottish economy, they have established a unique culture of their own in Northeast Scotland.

Scottish culture also will be represented through its food. In the demonstration kitchen, Scottish cooks will show visitors how to make such delicacies as shortbreads, salmon, soups and "stovies" (meat and potato pies). There will be a display of the malt whisky manufacturing and distilling process by William Grant and Sons. This presentation will include a 10-foot-high copper still, a malting floor, a whisky safe and barrel-making demonstrations. Distillery workers from Glennfiddich and Balvenie will be on hand to talk about and demonstrate their skills as well as explain the history and importance of whisky making in Scotland.

"Scotland at the Smithsonian" is produced in partnership with the Scottish Executive, with the collaboration of and a donation from the Scottish Arts Council, a donation from VisitScotland, contributions from William Grant and Sons, and Highlands and Islands Enterprise, and support from Shetland Island Council, Shetland Island Enterprise and the Shetland Arts Trust. Additional cooperative efforts come from Edinburgh Crystal Inc., University of Aberdeen, Lochcarron Mills, the Gaelic Arts Agency, the General Register Office for Scotland and the National Archives of Scotland. Major in-kind support is provided by William Grant and Sons and Lochcarron Mills.

Since 1967, the Smithsonian Folklife Festival has celebrated traditional cultures from across the United States and around the world. In addition to Scotland, the 2003 Festival will also feature "Mali: From Timbuktu to Washington" and "Appalachia: Harmony and Heritage." The Festival is produced by the Smithsonian Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage and co-sponsored by the National Park Service. To learn more about the Smithsonian Folklife Festival, visit www.folklife.si.edu.


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