Phil Connor: Did you hear about the big Common Weal Rammy last summer?


Common Weal special projects coordinator Phil Connor marks a year since Common Weal staged an ambitious project at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe

COMMON WEAL'S cultural project last summer was a Rammy. This time a year ago we had just performed the last of our Butterfly Rammy 'political cabaret' shows at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, so now seems an appropriate time to refresh and reflect on the undertaking. 

The campaign for a Yes vote stimulated a wide, diverse grassroots campaign that involved many creative voices in a discussion of what Scotland is and could be. To mark that campaign Common Weal invited guests to consider what happened and why. 

Butterfly Rammy followed the arc of events through 18 Scots words which captured that spirit, and each day's show at the Fringe was themed around a different one. Over the course of the run, we spoke about a huge range of issues and recollections, but some things kept being spoken about more frequently than others. 

We chose the name Butterfly Rammy as a metaphor for the independence campaign; anarchic, colourful, peaceful yet forceful.

Examples of these included the importance of reaching outside of our own 'opinion bubbles', how to keep people engaged in politics, the reasons behind Corbynmania, whether Scotland really was a divided nation, the role of identity within the campaign and just how much everyone had loved being involved in the referendum. 

We chose the name Butterfly Rammy as a metaphor for the independence campaign; anarchic, colourful, peaceful yet forceful, and we're delighted to have spent a whole month at the Fringe bringing people together to reflect on lessons learned and looking to the future. 

Our run of 21 Fringe shows saw us welcome more than 50 guests, 25 performers and 700 attendees. So far the Butterfly Rammy project has produced a book, two hour-long films, and an assortment of podcasts, articles, t-shirts and more. 

One regular attendee got so caught up in the show she even began selling bespoke Butterfly Rammy jewellery made in her own workshop.

One regular attendee got so caught up in the show she even began selling bespoke Butterfly Rammy jewellery made in her own workshop.

Each day was hosted by our two regulars, activist actors Pauline Goldsmith and Tam Dean Burn. They would be joined by a panel of guests and in between lively gabbin about the day's topic there were performances of music, poetry and a reading of the piece of writing that had been commissioned for that chapter of the book, often by the author. 

The shows were recorded and you can listen to podcasts of all the performances on our SoundCloud channel.

Each Thursday saw us do something slightly different – a condensed show, where we performed all 18 of the Butterfly Rammy themes in one hour. This scripted theatrical adaptation of the book saw our hosts joined by musician Declan Welsh, whose specially written songs composed from the Scots words were a huge hit with audiences. You can watch one below, and the script from the condensed show is available for local groups to put on their own production – all you need is two actors and at least one musician. Email for more information.

The cultural platform Kiltr also curated our 'Coorie' show for us, inviting Kiltr CEO Brian Hughes, political performance artist Chunky Mark aka Artist Taxi Driver, Scottish rapper and blogger Loki and Victoria Heaney from the Radical Independence Campaign to discuss the multitude of relationships that formed and reformed throughout the independence campaign. It was livestreamed on the day by Independence Live and is still available to watch on Kiltr.

The Butterfly Rammy publication was also hugely well received. Each show saw us perform a reading from the relevant chapter of the book, but it also features photography, specially commissioned artwork and extracts from referendum literature. Get yours on our shop website.

The sheer range of people who lent help or came along – often repeatedly – to the show demonstrated a real drouth for inclusive, diverse and serious political discussion in Scotland, even long after the indyref. 

We'd like to take this opportunity to thank the sizeable number of people who contributed so generously to the Rammy and hope that they had as much fun as we did. It seems appropriate to finish this round up in the way that we finished each of the Rammy shows – with our international anthem, 'The Freedom Come-All-Ye'.

Roch the wind in the clear day’s dawin
  Blaws the cloods heelster-gowdie ow’r the bay,
But there’s mair nor a roch wind blawin
  Through the great glen o’ the warld the day.
It’s a thocht that will gar oor rottans
  – A’ they rogues that gang gallus, fresh and gay –
Tak the road, and seek ither loanins
  For their ill ploys, tae sport and play

Nae mair will the bonnie callants
  Mairch tae war when oor braggarts crousely craw,
Nor wee weans frae pit-heid and clachan
  Mourn the ships sailin’ doon the Broomielaw.
Broken faimlies in lands we’ve herriet,
  Will curse Scotland the Brave nae mair, nae mair;
Black and white, ane til ither mairriet,
   Mak the vile barracks o’ their maisters bare.

So come all ye at hame wi’ Freedom,
  Never heed whit the hoodies croak for doom.
In your hoose a’ the bairns o’ Adam
  Can find breid, barley-bree and painted room.
When MacLean meets wi’s freens in Springburn
  A’ the roses and geans will turn tae bloom,
And a black boy frae yont Nyanga
  Dings the fell gallows o’ the burghers doon.

– Hamish Henderson

Picture courtesy of Suzy Lickley

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