Bird cages, fairy lights and Chinese lanterns hang from the rafters at Bogbain Farm, four miles from the Highland capital of Inverness. The tour arrives from Ullapool and sets up during the afternoon; sound checks, bunting, balloons, wish trees, t-shirts and newly published books.
The farm is empty of livestock and takes the role of homemade bar and music venue. Red brick floors the barn; hay bales make obstacles for playing children and seats for chattering parents. Between pianos and small, black wood-burning stoves stand barrels or upcycled tables crowned with the beady eyes of stuffed otters and foxes from a local farmyard taxidermist.
Open barn doors lead to a courtyard-come-beer-garden with a bouncy castle and where the Airstream trailer hosts our mobile independence exhibition with paintings and photography. Old machinery, rusting and out of use, casts an industrial shadow over a neighbouring field where a farmer rakes the weeds from his crop and a spaniel leaps about his feet.
Stage lights and booming showbiz sound systems mixed with the smell of the farmyard frame Bogbain in all its second-hand, makeshift grandeur. The loose assortment of barns and outbuildings is fitting to a peoples’ movement.
Here in the halls and yards of abandoned manual labour comes the making of something new. In this small light in the country, a singer takes to stage. Her name is Mary Ann Kennedy. “It is a wonderful thing to be here,” she says. “People are learning how to unite behind a common cause again – and they are doing so with a spirit of wit, passion and good humour. I hope these are the characteristics which define the new Scotland.”
A loose assortment of traditional folk music, spoken word and emerging Scottish hip-hop fills the space. An interlude follows and the crowds are led into an adjoining barn through a low entranceway where a trapeze artist descends on a knotted rope from the rafters. Swallows disturbed from their nests dart overhead as the artist, dancing mid-air, becomes one and the same – freedom and flight.
The sound of Martyn Bennett resonates from nearby speakers; shrill Gaelic accompanies like a war cry. Hands are clasped to the mouths of worried faces as she moves, and spins – then she lands, elegantly, to the sound of cheering and applause. It is the uncertainty, and the triumph; the whole feeling of a country’s process in a single act.
Then, three shapes like blue cocoons descend in sequence and the music changes to a sound like anticipation. From the folds appear toes, and fingers, then limbs emerge, and whole bodies, like rebirth.
Later, the music and the word resumes. Julia Taudevin, an actor who describes herself as “a child of the British Empire,” presents her personal, cross-continental journey to independence.
“I know that my ‘Yes’ will not by itself revert the climate crisis, it will not rescue us from capitalism, it will not rid Scotland of racism and bigotry, but it might, it just might be one step in a long and complicated journey towards a Scotland with an internationalist outlook, somewhere welcoming of multiculturalism and diversity, somewhere at peace, somewhere defined by hope, somewhere where my children can continue to build a fairer, more equal and sustainable world for their children. And their children. And their children. And their children. And theirs. And theirs. And theirs. And theirs.”
– Andrew Redmond Barr