Having spent the last few weeks immersed in The Great Tapestry of Scotland, learning all there is to know about the project as we prepared for its arrival at the castle, I could regale you all day long with statistics. For example did you know that, at 143 metres, it is the world’s longest embroidered tapestry? Or that the 160 panels took around 500 hours each to stitch and involved over 1000 men, women and children from across the nation making it Scotland’s largest community arts project? However there was one thing I didn’t know and hadn’t planned for when I finally came face to face with the tapestry; how powerful it is in the flesh and the emotions it would evoke.
As I spent the morning interviewing colleagues from Historic Scotland and members of the Great Tapestry Project Team the same themes and phrases kept cropping up in conversation: the people’s history, the distinctive way it tells a story, the extraordinary detail involved, but overwhelmingly, its capacity to arouse a great range of emotions. A few people even welled up as they recounted their favourite panel and what it meant to them.
As I took the time to walk the room and view the panels I understood immediately what had been described to me. I expected to meet some familiar characters along the way who have impacted my work here at the castle from Wallace and Bruce to James V and Mary Queen of Scots. But as I looked at my surroundings, sunlight streaming through the stained glass windows of the majestic Great Hall, I realised that the stories depicted in the panels actually happened right here in the castle and I got goose bumps. That’s what makes the castle such a special and apt setting for the exhibition; visitors will get to see Scotland’s history in a place where so much of it took place.
I was also unprepared for the extent of modern history represented in the tapestry including production at Ravenscraig, Dolly the sheep and Archie Gemmill’s goal in the 1978 world cup campaign. As one of the Tapestry Team pointed out to me, there is something that everyone can relate to, something that is important to them and their own history. And that is what makes The Great Tapestry of Scotland such a unique experience; it recounts the true story of Scotland’s history created by the people for the people.
I cannot encourage you strongly enough to come along and see this amazing exhibition which so richly deserves its title.
The Great Tapestry of Scotland is open to the public from 31 January until 8 March and is included in castle admission price.
Marketing Executive, Stirling Castle