Huge open mic session to celebrate Scottish legacy

BILLED as the biggest ever open mic session, a celebration of Scotland’s legacy to the world will be performed live the day before the nation goes to the polls.

A number of the participants including Tam Dean Burn, Jonathan Watson and Lorraine McIntosh. Picture: Contributed

The 12-hour event will relive everything from iconic song lyrics and romantic poems, to inspirational speeches, legendary sports commentaries and classic comedy routines.

The texts will be brought to life by actors, writers, comedians, singers, broadcasters and ordinary members of the public in one of Edinburgh’s most historic buildings.

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Participants are being urged to choose their own favourite “party piece” to perform at the Assembly Hall on The Mound.

Blabbermouth, will involve a mixture of spoken word and live music created by a “house band” who will perform along with a string of guest singers. The event is being masterminded by the National Theatre of Scotland (NTS) and is the final show to be launched in a season exploring issues around Scotland’s national identity in the run-up to the referendum.

The running time for the four Blabbermouth shows will surpass the seven-and-half hours clocked up by the Edinburgh International Festival drama marathon, The James Plays, the acclaimed trilogy staged earlier this month.

A “pop-up” food and drink festival will be staged throughout the day, under the watchful gaze of John Knox’s statue, in the courtyard of the 19th-century building, which housed the Scottish Parliament for five years in the aftermath of devolution in 1999.

NTS said the event would provide “an opportunity for people to come together to celebrate Scotland’s historic contribution to the world at a pivotal moment in the country’s future”.

Although the final line-up of what will be performed on the day is unlikely to be finalised until the 11th hour, Scotland on Sunday has seen a preview of the material which has been drawn together so far.

Blabbermouth is the brainchild of Graham McLaren, associate director of NTS, who has spent months pulling together the material which will be turned into more than 100 five-minute performances. He said the event was not aimed at trying to influence opinions ahead of the referendum and would aim to replicate the atmosphere of a raucous house party.

McLaren said: “By the point the event comes around hopefully all the arguments will have been made and people will be pretty clear on what they are going to do the following day.

“It’s really a moment for everyone to let their hair down, celebrate everything that Scotland has given the world and that there is lot to be proud of, no matter what happens the following day. I want the vibe to be a bit like my old granny’s house parties, which people just drop into and which would go on all night. I really want people to have a bit of a night, but I hope what comes of it after 12 hours is a fragmented narrative of Scotland’s contribution to the planet.”

Poems by Robert Burns and Edwin Morgan, excerpts of novels by Muriel Spark and Lewis Grassic Gibbon, and songs by Lulu are likely to be performed, along with extracts from both the original novel and film adaption of Irvine Welsh’s Trainspotting.

Rants by Gregor Fisher’s Rab C Nesbitt character and Peter Capaldi’s fearsome creation, Malcolm Tucker, some of the most popular routines by Billy Connolly and Kevin Bridges, and sketches made famous by the likes of Rikki Fulton and Ronnie Corbett are also likely to feature.

Possible sporting highlights include Alex Ferguson’s farewell speech as he departed Manchester United, gold medal winning performances by cyclists Graeme Obree and Chris Hoy, writer Hugh McIlvanney’s tribute to Jock Stein after his death during a World Cup qualifying match in Cardiff, and rugby commentator Bill McLaren describing Scotland’s Grand Slam winning victory over France in 1984.

Memorable speeches likely to be featured include George Galloway’s “mother of all smokescreens” evidence to the US Senate, Jimmy Reid’s rectorial address at Glasgow University in 1972, and the words spoken by then First Minister Donald Dewar when the Scottish Parliament was reconvened in 1999.

The 60-strong cast is expected to include actors Gary Lewis and Gerda Stevenson, comedian and Only An Excuse star Jonathan Watson, Deacon Blue singers Lorraine McIntosh and Ricky Ross, historian Sir Tom Devine and Sir Harry Burns, Scotland’s former chief medical officer.

The event will be divided into four sessions, each two and a half hours long and costing £10 a head, with the option of buying a £30 ticket for the full 12-hour experience, which will end at midnight on 17 September.

McLaren added: “We’re going to make sure that all four shows will be completely different and that none of the performances are repeated. We will have 60 guests and more than 100 performances – some people are already saying they want to do more than one piece. I have absolutely no idea if people will want to come to all four shows, but I’d love it if they did.”