Declaration of Arbroath : Celebration plans for 700th anniversary revealed

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The 700th anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Arbroath is to be marked with a horse-led procession, the unveiling of a new choral work and a mass picnic in the historic Angus town where the document was signed.

A re-enactment of the Declaration’s journey to France, following a ceremonial reading of the document by local people “of all generations” is expect to be one of the highlights of the Abroath 2020 festival.

The Declaration of Arbroath. Natational Museums of Scotland.

The Declaration of Arbroath. Natational Museums of Scotland.

The programme of anniversary celebrations unveiled today also features the unveiling of a new tapestry commissioned for the occasion and the launch of a collection of poetry and prose inspired by the Declaration.

Organisers of April’s festivities, which will also include a half marathon, fun run and boxing championship, have pledged that the line-up of anniversary events “will be remembered for generations”.

Arbroath 2020 chairman Harry Simpson said: “The highly significant part Arbroath played in history is worthy of a series of celebrations that will be remembered for generations.

“The events taking place will shine the light on our historic town, bringing people together, attracting visitors from near and far.”

The Declaration, widely regarded as one of the most important documents in Scottish history, was a letter written to Pope John XXII on 6 April, 1320 by the barons and freeholders of Scotland to ask him to recognise Scotland’s independence and acknowledge Robert the Bruce as the country’s lawful king.

Sent to the papal court in Avignon on 6 April, 1320, it asked the Pontiff to persuade King Edward II of England to end hostilities against the Scots.

Community leaders and politicians have spent years planning for the anniversary celebrations, which will see the town bedecked in ceremonial flags and banners from January and the unveiling of a new bronze relief charting the story of Arbroath and its people.

The Angus area’s food and drink will be showcased in The Big Eco Lunch, a new choral work created by composer Paul Mealor and poet Grahame Davies will be performed by around 300 singers in the abbey, and around 500 people are expected to march from there to the harbour for the re-enactment of the Declaration’s journey.

Creative producer Pippa Martin, creative producer of the Angus Place Partnership, said: “Although the procession will reflect the history and heritage of the Declaration, it will be a pageant for our time.

“We want it to bring people and communities together, to excite and involve everyone in Arbroath.

“The procession will end at the harbour, where there will be a ceremonial reading of the Declaration by voices from all generations before a replica of this priceless document is handed into the safekeeping of a local skipper and sailed out to sea, as happened 700 years ago.”

Angus Council leader David Fairweather said: “This important occasion will attract attention from far and near, shining a very bright light on Arbroath and the Angus area. We look forward to many visitors joining our local communities.”