Previously...a new festival of Scottish history comes to Edinburgh

By Jenni Davidson | 08 November 2011
A photograph of a woman and a man under a lantern in front of a medieval building.
Susan Morrison, Festival Director, and Ian Harrower, Festival Producer© Roslyn Gaunt
Edinburgh already seems to have more than its fair share of festivals, but the organisers of Previously… reckon there’s still room for one more before Hogmanay.

Appropriately for a nation that so loves its past, Previously… is a two week celebration of Scotland’s history in the run up to St Andrew’s Day.

Previously…Scotland's History Festival will host more than 200 events in castles, pubs, museums, libraries and the Scottish Parliament. The new festival will be opened by Cabinet Secretary for Education and Lifelong Learning, Fiona Hyslop, on November 17 and run until November 30.

"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," promises Susan Morrison, one of the directors of the festival.

"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."

From town planning to stripping and paper mills to the procurator fiscal, there are some surprising aspects of Scotland’s past being examined. Here are some of the events:

A Robert Louis Stevenson Evening, City Art Centre, Edinburgh, November 17
Author Ian Rankin and comedian Nigel Planer chat about their lifelong fascination with the writer Robert Louis Stevenson

The Lion Bites Back: the Role of the Procurator Fiscal of the Court of the Lord Lyon, Captain Taylor's Coffee House, Edinburgh, November 23
Scotland has one of the strongest traditions of heraldry in the world, but did you know this is because of the protection it has from the Lyon Court and the Procurator Fiscal under the Scottish legal system?

The Flyting, The Real Mary King's Close, Edinburgh, November 24
Comedians Stuart Murphy and Garry Dobson recreate the battle of words between the poets Dunbar and Kennedy at the court of James IV and add some insults of their own in an evening of poetry, comedy and rudeness.

Striptease in Scotland: Tits, Tassels and Ten Pound Notes, The Beehive Inn, Edinburgh, November 24
Dr Sarah Vernon worked as a striptease artist and burlesque dancer, but when she wanted to read up on the subject, she found there wasn't very much written about it, so she embarked on seven year sociological study of strip clubs in Scotland.

Big Shiny Debates, Scottish Parliament, Edinburgh, November 17, 22 and 24
Three panels of experts debate the meaty issues of freedom, justice, national identity and religion.

Descend and Discover, Blair Street Underground Vault, Edinburgh, November 18-26
This is a rare chance to wander through the 18th century vaults under Edinburgh's old town in your own time.

Jock Tamson's Bairns, Axolotl Gallery, Edinburgh, November 17-30
Ex-Heat magazine picture editor Clara Massie has put together an exhibition of photographs documenting the story of some of the immigrant groups that have come to call Scotland home.

Who Did You Think You Were, various Edinburgh libraries, November 17-24
This roadshow will visit the city's libraries to help those interested in tracing their own family history make the most of the National Records of Scotland’s genealogy website, ScotlandsPeople.

75 Years of the Saltire Society, Penicuik Town Hall, Penicuik, and various other locations, November 18-28
To celebrate the Saltire Society's anniversary there are talks on a range of historical subjects, including the composer Liszt's tour of Scotland, gold extractor John Stewart MacArthur and Scots engineers in Japan, as well as an exhibition at the Saltire Society's rooms in Edinburgh and singing in Dunfermline Abbey and Crichton Collegiate Church.

For a full list of events and more information about times and locations visit www.historyfest.co.uk
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