Many hands make the Burns Banner

Give me an ‘n’, give me a ‘y’, give me another ‘n’…  Ok, this is going to take too long. Add up all the letters produced by community groups all round Scotland and it spells two verses of the Burns poem A Man’s a Man for A’ That which will be unfurled as a banner during Edinburgh International Festival at 11 am on 6 August.  And at least two of the letters were created by the Leith group Swietlica.


Ola Kasprzak at the Swietlica art workshop

We were delighted to get the chance to put artist Stephen Raw in touch with some of the community groups representing Leith’s wealth of cultural diversity.  Stephen contacted us a couple of months ago when he had just a few workshops left to  complete the art work for the banner. This is a project to produce a spectacular display in Market Place as part of the Homecoming to celebrate the 250th birthday of Robert Burns.

The banner is made of letters painted by Scots across the world. And quite a few back home. Stephen was particularly keen to illustrate Scotland’s increasing multiculturalism and he thought Leith seemed the ideal place to come. “I would love to do a drop-in workshop in Leith,” he emailed as he headed south a couple of months ago.

We tracked him down somewhere in Manchester on his mobile phone and he explained he just needed a small group – all ages, all abilities – and a place to meet.

“It’s very simple,” he said, “It only takes an hour and all you will be asked to do is paint a big letter.” We started emailing everyone we knew…


Swietlica and some members of the Africa Centre and Shakti women’s group took up the challenge. You can see some of the results of the workshops  on the Burns Banner pages of the Scottish Poetry Library Website. Click here. [Thanks to Stephen for letting us pinch some pictures taken at the Fort Community Centre off the website!] You can also hear Brian Cox reading the Burns poem by clicking here.

Best of all, you can see the banner being unfurled in Market Street aat 11 am on 6 August.


Sneak preview: a mock-up of what the banner might look like. But go and see the real thing for yourselves.

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