The above is the audio-video commissioned from myself by Emma Rushton and Derek Tyman as part of their Flaghall installation in the Where Do I End and You Begin exhibition in the City Arts Centre, Edinburgh 1 August-19 October 2014 as part of the Edinburgh Arts Festival. (Click on ‘Vimeo’ and watch full screen for best effect).The exhibition features work by artists from across the Commonwealth exploring and interrogating the ideas, ideals and myths that underpin notions of community, common-wealth and the commons. This audio-video lecture explores these themes in the context of Scotland and the British Empire and invites the viewer to consider how we can reverse centuries of colonialism and ideas of exclusive possession and move toward a world in which our common-wealth is reconstituted and governed for the wellbeing of all.

There are three events on this Saturday 30 August discussing the UK work in the exhibition including a talk by myself at 2pm. Below is the extract from the exhibition catalogue.


The Commonweal is an old Scots term meaning “wealth shared in common for the wellbeing of all”

In 1884 the Earl of Rosebery visits Australia and asks, “Does the fact of your being a nation… imply separation from the Empire? God forbid! There is no need for any new nation, however great, leaving the Empire, because the Empire is a Commonwealth of Nations“.

On the 22nd of August 1770, at Possession Island off the north coast of Australia, Captain Cook writes in his journal, “I now once more hoisted English colours and in the Name of His Majesty King George the Third, took possession of the whole Eastern Coast  .. together with all the bays, harbours, rivers and islands.”

In 1949, the people of Alyth in Perthshire, Scotland march to the top of the Hill of Alyth to destroy the fences that have been built to enclose their common land.

In 1955, the UK government decides to annex Rockall – a small rock in the North Atlantic around 187 miles west of St Kilda. Captain Connell of HMS Vidal is given the following order by the Queen. “On arrival at Rockall you will effect a landing and hoist the Union flag on whatever spot appears most suitable or practicable and you will then take possession of the island on our behalf.”

In May 1982, Eddie Mabo, on behalf of the Meriam people from the Mer Island in the Torres Strait off the north coast of Australia launches a legal action challenging the claim of the Crown to ownership of his land.

On the 3 June 1992, by a majority of six to one, the High Court upholds the claim of the Meriam people and overturns the legal fiction that the land of Australia was ‘terra nullius’ before colonisation.

Image reproduced with kind permission of Jill Calder. From Robert the Bruce: an illustrated history by James Robertson & Jill Calder published by Birlinn, 2014.

Guest Blog Poem by Martin Stepek



ah remember 1314
it was nothin like they bastart
propagandists say
just blood and screams of agony
for minute after minute

a cowered in the river
ma leg half severt
by some massive english sword
least ah thought it wiz english
could have been wan ae oor side
it was such chaos an carnage

an that turncoat bastart Bruce
aye he milked wan side efter the ither
sookin up tae the english when it suited him fine
then when he saw an opportunity tae stick it tae his enemies
up here he puts his patriotic crown on
pretends that aw his past didny exist

and cried himsel the father of scots
the saviour ae the nation
aw spin
an the mugs bought it

no me
ah wiz jist caught up in the bastarts grabbin evry local guy
they could find
ah tried tae hide in the hay
but they pitchforked it so much
ah’d huv endit up wi a hundred holes in me

and so there ah wiz
in the battle tae end battles
in the war o so-called independence
the war tae end aw wars
cried Bruce

aye right Roberto
you watched as hunners ae yer peasant pawns
were slashed tae bits or cut doon by arras
that fell fae the sky
like a swarm a locusts

aw you played yer cameo role well
the knackered knight ridin tae escape
barely able tae keep oan his horse
poor guy
though he was probably just another bastart
greedy for land an power
but what a saw was a shattert soul
an you
fresh fae daein nuthin whilst we bled
caught up wi him
and ye took oot yer big shinin weapon
a couldny see whether it wiz a sword or an axe
an you took him fae behind
an clattert the massive metal brute
doon on his unknowin head
and near split the manny in two

this wisny battle
it wisny a duel
it was cold heartit
cold blooded

an me
ah jist wantit hame
tae ma bairns
ma wife
and my wee bit land

wan ae the lucky wans me
wan leggit willy they ca’ me noo
still a git by wi ma crutch an ma daughter’s soft help

but ye kin stuff yer scotland up her hairy arse Bruce
this wiz niver fur us
this wiz only fur yer own chests full a money
your parcel a lands
there’s a parcel a rogues in this nation
cryin themsels heroes
aw the time jist riflin through our coffers
bleedin the poor
conspirin against each other

you and yer damned bishops
your great victories
your deal wi the Pope
and the gentler Edward in England

father of the nation
butcher of bannockburn mair like
butcher of yer people, yer rivals, anywan that stood in yer way

hist’ry’ll paint some rosy glow nae doubt
it always does to those who win the game
but as ah watched ma blood trail doon the Bannock burn
an thought ah’d never see my wee sad eyed daughter again
ah raged and raged inside
at the evil men who took us tae this madness
men like you Bruce
aye an Edward tae
an Wallace and Comyn afore

nae sense a good or bad
just greedy maniacs

an when ye die
as even kings must
ah hope tae god there’s a hell in which you’ll rust