Enacting the Past: Stories from the Colony to the Tatras

Lead Research Organisation: University of Aberdeen
Department Name: School of Education

Abstract

This project follows on from the work of the Heritage Legacies Project, the Bennachie Landscapes Project and work with All Our Stories community heritage projects across Scotland. It aims to widen the range of people engaged in learning about and contributing to the local heritage in north east Scotland, particularly those who have previously been excluded such as young Scottish Travellers and members of the Polish community. Returning to the site of the Colony settlement on the slopes of Bennachie, this project moves beyond a focus on material histories to include the performance and creation of stories, song and drama as ways of engaging with lived heritage.

Planned Impact

All of the activities in this proposal support impact and public engagement. Both community participants and members of the University team will be beneficiaries of the proposed activities. One of the key outcomes of the activities in this proposal will be the embodied knowledge and understanding of the tangible and intangible heritage around Bennachie through field visits, drama, story and song by members if the project team and partner community groups. Distinctively, this knowledge will reflect a wider cultural and linguistic diversity than previous related projects. It is sustainable knowledge that will be carried with participants into their everyday practices of heritage whether as a volunteer, educator or professional in the heritage field. This will be ensured by the workshop series that will draw together other local people with an interest in cultural and material heritage to participate and learn from each other. The activities will also lead to the production of material outputs for both locals and visitors to the region, including the situated drama and Polish materials for the Bailies of Bennachie app. The Polish-Scottish Song and Story Group will develop new work for recording and performance which will become a lasting part of their repertoire. Likewise the Young Travellers' work will also be performed, recorded and then curated by the Elphinstone Institute as part of their archive of living tradition bearers. Through the process of collaborative working members of the University team will develop a richer understanding of the effects of articulating the activities of community groups with very different approaches to and expertise in the cultural heritage of Aberdeenshire. The process of participation and outcomes of activities will inform future planned research in community heritage across disciplines and directly inform the development of course materials for University Programmes.

The University of Aberdeen has a serious commitment to ensuring research impact by embedding support for academics to develop public engagement with research activities. This is in line with the Concordat and Manifesto for Engaging the Public with Research, and is enabled by the University's Public Engagement and Researcher Development Units, which were awarded two national prizes by ARMA in 2015, (www.abdn.ac.uk/engage/about/index.php). The University hosts a number of public festivals including the May Festival, Being Human festival and the Festival of Social Science and the Elphinstone Institute also hosts a wide range of public events, such as traveller run events, the Ballad Bus and radio broadcasts for the local community radio station SHMU through which the work of the project can be shared with wider audiences.

Publications

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Title Elsewhere to Be 
Description Editor John Bolland ( participant in workshop) Preface: Liz Curtis (Project PI) Polish and Scottish creative writing by participants in workshops led by Kasia Maicher (Polish) during the Main project and Co-I Helen Lynch (English). The stories in this book are inspired by the lives and experiences of landless families displaced by the effects of agricultural expansion in the early to mid-nineteenth century. Together they reflect on experiences of displacement, loss and recovery, of living on the margins and striving for better things, using the personal experience and imagination of present-day writers to explore the lives of those who made Bennachie their home during this period. From around 1800, a number of families, unable to afford the rents which landlords imposed, built their homes, crofts and gardens on rent-free common land known as the Commonty on the lower slopes of Bennachie, a key landmark in Garioch and surrounding areas of Aberdeenshire. Their settlement was known in the surrounding area as The Colony and is remembered in the North-East ballad 'The Back o' Bennachie.' In 1859, however, local landowners divided the Commonty between the surrounding estates, imposed rents and served evictions on those who could not pay. Since 2013, the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) has funded a series of projects to carry out archaeological and archival investigations of the remains of the Colony Settlement and the lives of the families who lived there. These projects brought together the Bailies of Bennachie, a local community group, with academics from the University of Aberdeen. In 2018 , AHRC funded Enacting the Past: Stories from the Colony to the Tatras Project. A year-long programme of creative writing, song making and drama workshops. Drawing on the rich history of the Colony, this project brought new perspectives to the history and archaeology of Bennachie whilst enabling the Bailies to introduce the hill and their work to new audiences. Creative writer Helen Lynch, co-director of the Aberdeen University's Word Centre and Polish writer Kasia Maziarka led writing workshops at Bennachie in which the participants explored the ruins of the Colonists houses and crofts and the experiences of the Colonists. Participants were drawn from the University's Word Centre Elsewhere to be project and the Elphinstone Institute's Polish -Scottish Song and Story group. The diverse range of writing collected here meditates on the things and folk we lose or leave behind, the places we venture to and discover, our sense of home. Each story is published in parallel-translation in Scots or English and Polish. 
Type Of Art Creative Writing 
Year Produced 2021 
Impact This publication is currently in press. I will update this entry once it is fully published and launched. 
 
Title The Day the World Changed : A Promenade Drama, Sunday 11 May Bennachie 
Description The Day the World Changed' a promenade drama produced and directed by Tony Goode, Artistic Director of 'Out of the Blue' and Co-I Will Barlow, University of Aberdeen, which highlighted the lives of people who lived and worked the land on Bennachie in the nineteenth century.. The drama was based on recent research by members of the Bailies of Bennachie, and performed in the old colony settlement houses by local people bringing to life the Colony settlement through stories, music and dance on a day in 1860. 
Type Of Art Performance (Music, Dance, Drama, etc) 
Year Produced 2017 
Impact The Day the World Changed' a promenade drama produced and directed by Tony Goode, Artistic Director of 'Out of the Blue' and Co-I Will Barlow, University of Aberdeen, which highlighted the lives of people who lived and worked the land on Bennachie in the nineteenth century. The drama was developed on the basis recent research by members of the Bailies of Bennachie, relating to stories of the lives of six families who once lived in the Colony houses on the hill and performed local people bringing to life the Colony settlement through stories, music and dance on a day in 1860. The drama was developed as a site specific performance and was the culmination of a series of participatory drama workshops led by Tony Goode and Will Barlow between June and the final performance in September 2017. Participants in the workshops were encouraged to develop their knowledge and understanding of life in the Colony through the development of their characters and the scenes in which they were cast. 
 
Description Please note this award was for Public Engagement activities not Research, so all of the activities have had immediate impact for workshop participants and for the audience who came to see Promenade drama, The Day the World Changed in September 2017. As part of this project, recordings from the drama performance and of the musicians who accompanied them along with songs by the Polish- Scottish song and story workshops are in the process of becoming publicly available through the development of the Baillies of Bennachie's phone app and website for visitors to the Colony Site. It is currently too early to comment on any longer term impacts as the project has been granted a three month extension until the end of April 2017. Since the last paragraph was written, the project worked with the University's Elphinstone Institute and Aberdeen City Council's Traveller Project to work with young travellers through story and song, led by Community Co-I Grace Banks. The Young People performed their work at ther University's May Festival in May 2018. Co-I Will Barlow forthcoming paper: Bennachie and me: A site-specific, promenade, interactive community drama project devised and performed in the north-east of Scotland.
First Year Of Impact 2017
Impact Types Cultural

 
Description Bennachie Creative Writing Workshops in English and Polish 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact As part of the process of widening participation on Benanchie and in particular engagement with the history of the Colony Settlement, the project organised four creative writing workshops two in English and two in Polish to reflect the impact of Polish migration to the North East of Scotland and their interest in Scottish history and heritage. The first workshop of both groups was on Bennachie during which the participants took part in a guided walk from which they reflected on experiences of migration, displacement, belonging and identity. The second workshop was held in Aberdeen and the Polish group met with the English medium writers to share their reflections. The workshop were led by Co - I Helen Lynch and Polish writer Katarzyna Maicher and the finished pieces of work will form a short illustrated publication in the form of a nineteenth century Chapbook. A final creative writing workshop led by Helen Lynch is in March 2018.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
 
Description Bennachie Discovery Day: . 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact To introduce the Bailies of Benanchie to local ameutuer musicans, dancers and storytellers with an interest in heritage and to recruit participants for the planned Promenade Drama about the lives of the people who lived in the Colony Settlement on Bennachie. Participants included people from local drama groups, local traditional musicians and dancers (Scottish Culture and traditions and Melting Pot Groups) and members of the Baillies of Bennachie. The event included guided walks around the Colony Settlement site, archaeological test pitting, nineteenth century crafts, music and dance.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
 
Description Bennachie Polish Scottish Song and Story group 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Led by Grace Banks, Community Co-I. Thispart of the priject brought together singers from the Aberdeen Polish-Scottish Song and Story group with Aberdeenshire singers at the Tullynesstle Village Hall in a series of workshops over the summer and autumn of 2017. Led by Grace Banks the singers learned traditional songs related to the oral heritage of the area around Benanchie and they also composed their own songs to reflect the lives of the people living in the Colony Settlement on Benanchie. Some of the songs were recorded by the Bailies of Bennchie for use on their new web site Site which they are in the process of building to support a phone app which has been in development in 2017/18.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
 
Description Creative Approaches to History in the classroom: CPD sessions for primary and secondary teachers 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Schools
Results and Impact Two linked CPD sessions for teachers in schools in the catchment area around Bennachie. Organised and led by PI Elizabeth Curtis and Community Co-I Grace Banks with the support of Ruaraidh Wishart and David Catto from Aberdeen City and Aberdeenshire Archives. The two sessions focused on creative approaches to learning about the past using objects, storytelling and archival trails using primary sources for the local area.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
 
Description The Day the World Changed 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact The Day the World Changed' a promenade drama produced and directed by Tony Goode, Artistic Director of 'Out of the Blue' and Co-I Will Barlow, University of Aberdeen, which highlighted the lives of people who lived and worked the land on Bennachie in the nineteenth century. The drama was developed on the basis recent research by members of the Bailies of Bennachie, relating to stories of the lives of six families who once lived in the Colony houses on the hill and performed local people bringing to life the Colony settlement through stories, music and dance on a day in 1860. The drama was developed as a site specific performance and was the culmination of a series of participatory drama workshops led by Tony Goode and Will Barlow between June and the final performance in September 2017. Participants in the workshops were encouraged to develop their knowledge and understanding of life in the Colony through the development of their characters and the scenes in which they were cast.
On the day of the performance 104 people came to see the 40 strong cast including dancers and musicians.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
 
Description What's Gaun on? Workshop for community history and arts groups 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact As part of the project's aim to widen engagement between community heritage groups and arts based groups this event brought together members of community heritage groups form Bennachie, Garioch, Tarves, Portsoy, Alford and Rhynie as well as members of the Polish Association, Aberdeen, the music cooperative the Melting Pot, Grampian Storytellers and the Traditional Music and Song Association also attended the event.
In addition to the community groups, Dawn Brown from Garioch Community Partnership explained how the Partnership groups across the North East can offer practical support to community heritage groups. Community Co-I Colin Shepherd, Co-I Jeff Oliver and Neil Curtis, Aberdeen University Museums introduced the work of the Baillies of Benanchie, their recent work on developing an app for visitors and the impact of working in partnership with the University of Aberdeen.
The event supported all of the participants to share the work of their individual groups with one another and through structured and facilitated discussion in the afternoon session the groups discussed the use of digital technologies to share their work with a wider public, the scope of possibilities for synergies between arts and heritage organisations in widening access and participation in learning about the past, the role of community enterprise sustain heritage groups and how community based heritage research has an international reach.
The day was organised by Community Co-I Grace Banks and PI Elizabeth Curtis and Co-I Jo Vergunst facilitated the
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
 
Description Young Scottish Traveller Song and Story Group 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Other audiences
Results and Impact A series of song and story workshops led by Community Co-I Grace Banks with young Scottish Travellers at their home site at Clinterty, Aberdeen. The workshops culmintated in a performance of the young people's work at the University's May Festival in 2018.

The University's Elphinstone Institute and Aberden City Council Traveller Unit are looking to developing further workshops with young travellers to build on the work developed as part of the funded project.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018