Saturday 3rd December, 2pm (for 3pm kick-off). Ibrox Football Ground, Glasgow. Rangers vs Dunfermline. Sleet. Braveheart speech: The Scottish Army – Rangers football fans, Mel Gibson/Braveheart – Rachael Clerke, Filmed by John Rooney.
Performing at Ibrox was perhaps the most important thing I have done during this project. It was also bloody scary, bloody cold and probably a bad idea.
The original premise was to take the Braveheart speech to a place – a football ground in this case – where groups of men congregate, who could be William Wallace’s army. The speech was chosen due to it representing a total stereotype of the Scottish people, and being our ‘export product’ ie. How much of the world thinks of Scotland. The Braveheart speech was not chosen because of its links with the current debate about independence. Which to me, now, seems crazy. What a ripe example of the length of this battle! What a strong political view!
(Basically, I feel like a bit of a plonker for realising this as a secondary thing, rather than it being the whole reason all along.)
Anyway, all well and good. Here are big groups of Scottish men. Here I am, on my bike, with my facepaint.
However, Rangers may not have been the best team to pick, had I wanted a nice apolitical rendition of the speech, in a modern setting, with enthusiastic fans keen on supporting a young artist etc etc ad finitum. Celtic, maybe. Hibs, definitely. Rangers… well. I did my thing. And:
“God Save the Queen”
To understand this really, if you don’t know Glasgow, it’s good to do a bit of reading around sectarian violence and rivalry between Celtic and Rangers FC. Brief as can be, whilst Celtic is traditionally a team for Irish or Irish descendent Catholics, Rangers is a Protestant team. And they hate each other, in a big scary way. Rangers supporters are (and I’m generalising here) Unionists/Anti-independence. Monarchists.
There is a strong sense of us and them. Over the years its become very tied up in the Northern Irish conflict, as one of the only places in the UK (the only?) with strong evidence of a modern day sectarian divide out with Ireland.
Because I was shouting about Nationalism and Independence, I
was therefore in their eyes, the enemy. I was a Celtic supporter, I was
anti-monarchist, I was a Fenian, Irish and a catholic. Whilst William Wallace
was certainly Catholic, because everyone was at that time, and was
anti-monarchy in that he wished for Scotland to be free of British Royal rule,
he was not Irish, and certainly not a ‘Fenian’ – a phrase that only came about
in the late 19th Century. The point is, it doesn’t matter. He, and I
in that case, was ‘other’, was ‘them’. Wikipedia has this to say about the use
of the word:
The term Fenian is used similarly in Scotland. During Scottish football matches it is often aimed in a sectarian manner at supporters of the Celtic F.C.. Celtic has its roots in Glasgow's immigrant Catholic Irish population and the club has thus been associated with Irish nationalism. Other Scottish clubs that have Irish roots, such as Hibernian and Dundee United, do not have the term applied to them, however. The term is now firmly rooted within the Old Firm rivalry between Celtic and Rangers, as a rivalry between "orange and green" has been replaced by one between "blue and green".
after cycling home.
I have never before been spat at.
I certainly didn’t expect people to be so angry. I can’t imagine anyone giving the film Braveheart enough credence to be angry about it. For one, it is incredibly historically inaccurate.
However, nastiness aside, people did join in – I got my army, and they cheered, if not in quite the same bloodcurdling way as the extras in Mel Gibson’s movie. A man asked to get his photo taken with me. Children watched on with curiosity.
They knew what I was doing, and whilst perhaps they didn’t all agree, many could see the funny side of what I was doing. Everyone knows the film, knows the speech. And really, it’s questionable whether or not I am promoting independence and Scottish nationalism by making this speech, as there is such a ridiculous element to the whole performance (I’m a girl, I’m on a bike, it’s stupid) that I could just as well be doing the opposite.
This is exactly the fine line between satire and controversy, stupidity and political shit-stirring that I wanted to create with this whole project. It’s the only time I have succeeded. It wasn’t a good performance, more of a rehearsal, and the film is ropey with bad sound. I cut the speech short because I was too scared to drag it out.
It’s the thing that tells me this project has only just started. But I’ve got to find a way to end it, that is less clumsy than simply removing myself from the context…
p.s. William Wallace wasn't a Jacobite, he was about 400 years too early for that. But it is a brilliant insult.