From politics to football – the Scottish Diaspora Tapestry comes home

The design and kit for the Crown Court Diaspora Tapestry panel. Image copyright Janet Dowswell

The Scottish Diaspora Tapestry, a unique international community artwork chronicling the impact of Scots throughout the world, is returning to the UK following a global tour which has seen its panels double in number to over 300.  It will be exhibited in its entirety for the first time in Westminster Hall at the Houses of Parliament, London from 20 March to 29 April 2017.

From the ten Scots who have held the office of Prime Minister at 10 Downing Street, to the Scots who blazed a trail in the world of football by introducing the sport to Argentina and Brazil, the many stories of the Scottish diaspora’s achievements have been brought to colourful life in 305 embroidered panels.

Combining art and history, the project was conceived in Prestonpans by Prestoungrange Arts Festival as part of the 2014 Year of Homecoming.  Designed to encourage Scots everywhere to celebrate Scottish influence in its myriad forms in a real and lasting way, the tapestry has gathered support and momentum by touring  Europe, the Americas and as far away as Australia and New Zealand. Each panel is the creation of the individual communities and organisations it has visited and the final tapestry is a stunning visualisation of the stories that ordinary people both at home and abroad have been inspired to share.

Every aspect of Scottish culture and heritage – food and drink to politics, exploration to innovation, military prowess to medicine, and more – is represented by tales embroidered in 34 countries by over 1,000 named volunteers.  The stitchers worked in collaboration with Scottish artist, Andrew Crummy, as well as Gillian Hart and Yvonne Murphy of Prestoungrange Arts Festival.

The free public exhibition at Westminster Hall is hosted by the oldest established Presbyterian Church in England, Crown Court Church of Scotland, which has stitched a panel on its own history as a ‘Home away from Home’ in London.  Visitors to Westminster Hall will see the complete work displayed for the first time, including the most recent and final addition of a panel which illustrates Scottish influence on Liverpool FC – from managers, Bill Shankly and Sir Matt Busby, to players, Kenny Dalglish and Graeme Souness.

Commenting on the Scottish Diaspora Tapestry’s return to the UK, Dr Gordon Prestoungrange of Prestoungrange Arts Festival said: “Support for this undertaking has been overwhelming.  It could never have been achieved without the enthusiasm and collaboration of the volunteers who have researched, documented and skilfully crafted their own fascinating stories.  The tapestry left these shores two years ago with the original 150 panels that we had promised to share back with the diaspora.  Across the globe its stitchers arranged their own exhibitions, freighting it from their venue to the next, and attracting over 100,000 visitors.  Now it returns here from Iceland with more than 300 panels; a truly astonishing display of Scottish diaspora pride made real.”

Reverend Philip Majcher, Minister of Crown Court Church of Scotland added: “We are thrilled to have been involved with this amazing project and to add our own story to all the others featured in the tapestry.  Our members rose to the challenge of stitching our panel within three months, and it is wonderful to know that, having been seen by people all over the world, it will now be on display in Westminster Hall, a stone’s throw from our situation in the heart of London’s West End, where the church has been since 1719.  We look forward to welcoming many visitors to the exhibition.”

Westminster Hall is the oldest part of the Houses of Parliament, completed in 1099 having been commissioned by William Rufus, the son of William the Conqueror.  Its hammer-beam roof, the largest in Northern Europe, was installed during the reign of Richard II.  The Hall survived the 1834 fire that destroyed the medieval Palace.

Visitors can view the Scottish Diaspora Tapestry between Monday 20 March and Saturday 29 April between 9am and 5.30pm (closed on Sundays and public holidays, 14 and 17 April 2017).  Entrance is via the Cromwell Green entrance where exhibition tickets will be issued.  Visitors are advised to avoid busy periods, notably between 3pm and 5.30pm on Tuesday and Wednesday afternoons.

The Houses of Parliament is one of the world’s busiest parliament buildings with more than one million visitors passing through its doors each year.  Visitors are also welcome to watch debates and committee hearings or take one of the audio or guided tours.

Further information is available at www.scottishdiasporatapestry.org  or via a free to download app, Scottish Diaspora Tapestry, available for both apple and android; and also at www.parliament.uk/visit.