Icons and pioneers to star in new Iconic Scotland exhibit

The latest addition to Scotland’s cultural and heritage scene, The Great Tapestry of Scotland has revealed its Iconic Scotland opening exhibit will tell the people’s story of Scotland through the reflections and photographs of over 40 national icons, pioneers and inspiring individuals.

The exhibit will be the first in a series of visiting exhibits to be housed alongside Tapestry in a new purpose built visitor centre in Galashiels, where Scotland’s story will begin for many visitors when it opens in 2021.

Designed to inspire and uplift people after its opening, those contributing stories for the new Iconic Scotland exhibit include Outlander star Sam Heughan, brewing science pioneer and human rights activist Sir Geoff Palmer, actress Joanna Lumley, Shetland author Ann Cleeves, athlete Liz McColgan, rugby heroes Doddie Weir and Chris Paterson, WWE Champion Drew McIntyre, charity Tiny Changes (with words from the late Frightened Rabbit singer Scott Hutchison), NHS Borders Clinical Director Dr Jonathan Aldridge and sports broadcaster Jill Douglas.

Through a series of quotes and portrait images, Iconic Scotland will continue the Tapestry’s own story, as told by 1,000 stitchers from across Scotland, and will showcase some of the country’s greatest achievements.

Revealing details of the new exhibit, Great Tapestry of Scotland Centre Director Sandy Maxwell-Forbes said: “The Great Tapestry of Scotland is an artwork truly born from the love of the places, people and stories that feature within it. I’m delighted to reveal that this great love and world-renowned story telling continues into our opening Iconic Scotland exhibit. We have already received wonderful contributions from some of the most inspiring and iconic people.

“People are such a big part of Scotland’s story. It is the people of Scotland, their achievements and their warmth of welcome that really put our much loved small country on the map. It is their accounts throughout history and their continued passion and pride that give us our identity. Indeed this is why the Great Tapestry of Scotland has received global acclaim.”

Speaking of her involvement actress Joanna Lumley said: “I am delighted to feature in the Iconic Scotland exhibit to help inspire and uplift people following such a tough year.”

Jill Douglas, national sports broadcaster and CEO of the My Name’5 Doddie Foundation added: “It’s fantastic to see the latest addition to Scotland’s cultural scene celebrate some of our sporting greats through the Tapestry itself and the Iconic Scotland exhibit. It’s a privilege to feature alongside them and share the drama and excitement of one of my most memorable moments, being trackside when Sir Chris Hoy won his first Olympic gold medal… I’m particularly thrilled to see that the new exhibit features Doddie Weir. A remarkable individual, Doddie deserves to be included among Scotland’s greats.”

A number of those appearing in the exhibit originate from the Scottish Borders, where The Great Tapestry of Scotland visitor centre will be based, including multi award winning theatre actor, best known for his role as Rupert Mackenzie in Outlander, Grant O’Rourke. Speaking about the significance of the new visitor centre to the area he said: “It makes me immensely proud that the people’s story of Scotland is being told in my hometown in this way. The spirit of the Borders and our whole nation is forged in our stories. Having a national cultural resource like this in Galashiels is a great way of connecting the people of the Borders to Scottish culture and hopefully connecting the people of Scotland (and further) to the Borders.”

Other well-known names revealed among the list of those featuring in the exhibit include renowned percussionist Dame Evelyn Glennie, footballer John Collins, TV chef Tony Singh, ultrasound pioneer Tom Brown, RSE President Professor Dame Anne Glover, trailblazer for equal opportunities Sarjoj Lal, author Damian Barr, Arbroath Smokie producer Iain Spink, former Scotland international rugby star Chris Paterson and the Duke of Argyll. It also features the words of NHS Borders Clinical Director Dr Jonathan Aldridge reflecting on what it has been like for him and his team to work at the frontline of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The Great Tapestry of Scotland is one of the world’s largest tapestries and community arts projects hand stitched by a team of 1,000 stitchers led by Dorie Wilkie. It tells the visual story of Scotland’s history, heritage and culture from its formation to present day. It was the vision of one of the world’s best loved writers Alexander McCall-Smith, designed by artist Andrew Crummy from a narrative written by the award-winning writer and historian Alistair Moffat. It is made up of 160 panels and 300 miles of wool (enough to lay the entire length of Scotland from the Border with England to the tip of the Shetland in the North Atlantic).

Its purpose built gallery and exhibition space has received over £6.7 million funding from the Scottish Government Regeneration Capital Grant Fund, the Borders Railway Blueprint programme and Scottish Borders Council.  The cultural venture is operated by the charity Live Borders.