Scottish Culture Month: Heroes and Villains

October 2014 saw the inauguration of our new annual series hosted by the Centre for Scottish Centre in relation with local and national partners: Scottish Culture Month. During the month we teamed up with staff and students from across the School of Humanities, the Scottish Centre for Comics Studies, Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art and Design, and other departments across the University of Dundee. We were delighted to host special performances by the JOOT Theatre Company, support the launch of the 2014 Dundee Comics Prize and a special issue of the UniVerse Anthology of original artworks, and run the Bookclub Lecture at the annual Dundee Literary Festival, among a whole host of different activities.

The month began with a Heroes & Villains edition of the 10th Annual University of Dundee Culture Day, which was chaired by Matthew Jarron and Caroline Brown from University Archives. Speakers from across the University delighted the packed Baxter Suite with talks on a wide range of topics, from Shakespeare to code-breakers. Next in the roster came Scottish Heroes and Villains: The First Symposium, which featured sixteen speakers from across Europe, a JOOT performance of poetry from the Great War, a plenary lecture by the Centre for Scottish Culture’s director, Professor Graeme Morton, and a book launch and wine reception in honour of the publication of Professor Morton’s William Wallace: A National Tale (Edinburgh, 2014). Topics addressed at the conference covered numerous fields and subjects, from medieval witch trials to contemporary crime fiction. At the outset of the day we even invited our delegates to vote on their favourite (however defined) Scottish hero and villain from a pre-set list using TurningPoint. Who was the winner of each category, you ask? Interestingly, Mary Queen of Scots won both categories by a substantial margin in each case. Blair Smith, Lindsay Jones, and Stephen O’Donnell, all recent or current PhD candidates in the School, are busily editing an essay collection based on the one-day conference as we speak.

shvm-symposiumIn the middle of the month we hosted two student-led workshops, The Imaginarium of Dr George: A Student Theatre Workshop, led by Dr Jodi-Anne George with the assistance of students Hollie Whitfield, Stephen Jones, and Liz Rogers, and Heroes & Villains: A Creative Writing Workshop, with Eddie Small and Ollie Langmead. The theatre workshop took on Macbeth, a play well-suited to our larger theme and highly accessible to students, many of whom joined us from other Schools at the University. Props and costumes were provided, prizes awarded, and fun had by all. The University’s Rector, Brian Cox CBE, even kindly donated signed certificates for all of our participants. As the month drew to the close, we joined the Dundee Literary Festival, during which Drs Daniel Cook and Chris Murray delivered a two-part public lecture on Frankenstein, this year’s highly appropriate choice for the festival bookclub. Daniel outlined the impact of Dundee on the novel’s author, Mary Shelley, while Chris offered a whistle-stop tour of comics and graphic-novel adaptations of the novel from across the world, including some recent local examples. Eddie and Ollie teamed up again during the festival to run a much in-demand literary walk around Dundee, taking in The Howff and all manner of local sites of heroic and villainous deeds real and imagined.

We also hosted a commissioned Comics Exhibition and highly popular Q&A session with John Ferguson, creator of Saltire, Scotland’s first superhero, and his team, including Norrie Millar, a student on the MLitt in Comics Studies. Norrie, incidentally, kindly designed the Scottish Heroes and Villains logo, a vibrant steampunk take on the most iconic of Scottish heroes and villains, Jekyll and Hyde. In addition to everyone listed above, we wish to thank all of the participants, staff, students, societies, and institutions, as well as Peggy Hughes, Phil Vaughan, Murdo Macdonald, Annie Tindley, Pam Lawrence, Laura Stokes, and everyone else who helped to make the first Scottish Culture Month so compelling. We hope to welcome you, and lots of new faces, back next year for Scottish Culture Month: The Scientific Imagination (November 2015).