Play freedom: celebrations of diversity

22nd June 2007 at 01:00
IT WAS a chance remark overhead on the steps of St Mary's Cathedral at the east end of Edinburgh's Princes Street that started it. "What a lovely service," said one of the worshippers, "but weren't there a lot of Poles in the congregation." The speaker's companion nodded and they wandered off together.

"It wasn't that the remark was particularly bad," says Martin Hutchison, senior community education worker with Edinburgh City Council, "but it was the inference: the separation of us and them - it really disturbed me."

Mr Hutchison has witnessed what racism and tribalism can lead to. Last year he was seconded to the Rwandan government to help organise the 10-year anniversary commemorations of the genocide there. Initially, government officials had been thinking of a Live Aid-style concert. Within days, Mr Hutchison had convinced them to go for a concert performed by children. A thousand of them sang of a future of peace and equality, while the world looked on.

Back in Edinburgh, Mr Hutchison has been continuing this theme of showing unity through children and young people. Driven by remarks such as that at St Mary's, he has been organising Making Connections: Celebrating Diversity, events that will celebrate the multiracial and multi-faith character of Scotland.

It launched earlier this month with a performance at the Lyceum in Edinburgh, called Our Scotland. Children, teachers, professional musicians and actors together demonstrated the historical diversity of Scotland, beginning with the early settlers, moving through emigration of Scots abroad and concluding with the diversity that now exists.

The event was scripted by TESS contributor Raymond Ross and directed by Toni Cownie. Musician Iain Johnstone wrote the music and performed on stage.

Many of the acts were drawn from high-quality school productions.

Craigroyston Community High sent its Samba band and Drummond High put forward its exchange students from Muthambi School in Kenya. Disabled students, who had worked together at the Sound and Movement session of Go4It at Easter, and Drummond High students performed seal chants from the Western Isles. The Edinburgh Youth Gaitherin played Irish jigs and reels, while the youngest performers came from Tollcross Primary's Gaelic choir.

One pupil from James Gillespie's in Edinburgh did a Thai dance, others played fusion music, while their teacher, Marcia Rose, sang The Slaves'

Lament, written by Robert Burns. Only the final piece, performed by Broughton High and Telford College dance students, was choreographed especially for the show.

Other events are already being organised. The Anne Frank and You exhibition has been brought to Edinburgh, Holocaust survivor Eva Clarke is touring schools to talk about her experiences, a week of art sessions is being held in the summer to develop work about freedom that will be displayed on Princes Street, a youth theatre programme is also being held to work towards a further performance in August, and Mr Hutchison is plotting activities for St Andrew's Day.

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