2020 marks the 700th anniversary of the Declaration of Arbroath, widely regarded as Scotland’s most iconic document; probably the first declaration in medieval Europe to promote the idea that people are above Kings, that a nation is its people and that any nation has the right to self determination.
Written in 1320, its evocative sentiments about freedom and independence have given it special distinction, not just in Scotland, but around the world.
But the coronavirus has effectively cancelled all live celebrations of the event in Arbroath and across Scotland, and sadly no UK broadcasters have scheduled any significant TV coverage, though Billy Kay has produced a three-part series for Radio Scotland.
At the last minute, filmmaker Charlie Stuart and Lesley Riddoch decided to make a 30-minute video for web release, so the anniversary does not go completely unmarked.
DECLARATION, the letter of liberty includes interviews with historians Fiona Watson, Tom Turpie and Billy Kay who discuss the significance of the document and the meaning of the text. There’s atmospheric filming around Arbroath, in Edinburgh and in Bannockburn House with glimpses of the surviving medieval document in the National Library and a convincing replica, produced at speed, for this film.
The public contributed lines from the Declaration recorded on phones and sent to a Facebook page – the most famous contributor is award-winning actor Brian Cox, whose lines and sent from his phone in deepest New York State.
The project was made possible by funding from lottery millionaire, Chris Weir. Scots-born, Oscar nominated film composer Patrick Doyle (below) has produced a fabulous original score, after hearing about the film in the Lesley Riddoch podcast.
The film is not associated or endorsed by any political party. According to Charlie Stuart, “We’re making this as Scots who treasure our heritage, history and character and will not let this important moment go unrecognised.”
Lesley Riddoch said; ” We’ve had the most extraordinary luck with historians and authors who dropped everything two weeks ago to get filming finished before the coronavirus lockdown. We’re also grateful to Historic Environment Scotland and staff at Arboath Abbey itself for access as they were closing the venue. Since then Charlie and I have worked together remotely, along with composer Patrick Doyle. We were absolutely astonished and so grateful for his unexpected offer to produce an original score for the film. Now we need everyone’s help to distribute Declaration, when it’s launched on Saturday morning – the day that should have been marked by an official parade and march through Arbroath. We have no broadcaster behind us, so we urge Scots to share widely and make sure the Declaration has a virtual 700th anniversary to remember.”