London welcomes "amazing" Scottish Diaspora Tapestry

If you are in London during the next month, it will be worth your while to visit the Palace of Westminster, where Crown Court Church of Scotland is hosting the stunning Scottish Diaspora Tapestry until 29 April.

Crown Court Church members at the Palace of Westminster
Crown Court Church is hosting the tapestry at the Palace of Westminster: (pictured from left) Elizabeth Steel, Derek Steel, Christine Ward, Janet Dowswell, Linda Majcher, Rev Philip Majcher.

The tapestry, created by Prestoungrange Arts Festival in 2012, has just completed a two-year round the world trip and has returned more than twice the size it was when it left Scotland.

Travelling to countries across Asia, Australia, New Zealand, the Americas and Western Europe, the tapestry attracted more than 100,000 visitors and gathered panels about people of Scottish ancestry wherever it went on display.

Originally made up of 150 panels, the tapestry has now grown to a 305-panel international community artwork stitched by more than 1000 people in 35 countries.

The stitchers worked in collaboration with Scottish artist, Andrew Crummy, as well as the festival’s Gillian Hart and Yvonne Murphy.

Visitors to Westminster Hall will see the complete work displayed for the first time, including the most recent and final addition of a panel which illustrates Scottish influence on Liverpool FC -- from managers, Bill Shankly and Sir Matt Busby to players Kenny Dalglish and Graeme Souness.

Six panels from the tapestry
Six panels from the tapestry.

Scots have made huge impact across the world

Rev Philip Majcher, minister at Crown Court Church in London, said the tapestry shows the enormous contribution Scots have made across the globe.

“It’s quite fascinating to see what Scots have done all over the world,” he said. “We have done a huge amount in bringing Western values, prosperity, culture, technology and trade to so many places.

“We are thrilled to have been involved with this amazing project and to add our own story to all the others featured in the tapestry.

“Our members rose to the challenge of stitching our panel within three months, and it is wonderful to know that, having been seen by people all over the world, it will now be on display in Westminster Hall, a stone's throw from our situation in the heart of London's West End, where the church has been since 1719. We look forward to welcoming many visitors to the exhibition.

“One panel is dedicated to the 10 UK prime ministers of Scottish origin,” he added. “Another tells the story of Alexander Hutton, who introduced football to Argentina. It is quite an eye opener to think that a Scot was the father of Argentinian football.

“Scotland may not have won the World Cup, but her sons definitely have won it.”

Panels on display
Panels on display

50 million people of Scots descent

Each panel tells a story about the lives and contributions of some of the 50 million people across the world who claim Scottish ancestry. A smartphone app that explains each panel and lists the names of the people who stitched it is available for download at the tapestry’s website.

From celebrating John Knox Witherspoon, who became the first president of Princeton University, to mourning the loss of life on the Cherokee Trail of Tears, the panels detail the colourful history of the people, industries, traditions and ideas that originated from Scotland.

The Crown Court panel
The Crown Court panel

Crown Court Church has its own panel stitched by church members Eliizabeth Chestnut, Alison Dartnell, Janet Dowswell, Sheila Haddon, Jennifer Laird, Linda Majcher, Elizabeth Steel and Christine Ward.

The original congregation of Scots in London was made up of courtiers to James the VI of Scotland and 1st of England who worshipped at a chapel attached to the Scottish Embassy at Whitehall Palace which became known as Scotland Yard.

Then in 1719 Crown Court church was established in Covent Garden. The door of the original church is depicted on the panel along with the thistle of Scotland, the Crown, Lady Victoria Campbell and Lady Frances Balfour.

Impressed with the majestic sweep of the tapestry, Mr Majcher spoke to Crown Court Church member Lord Chris Smith of Finsbury to raise the idea of displaying it at Westminster.

The minister then wrote to all the Scottish Members of Parliament and Lords, encouraging them to support the plan for a London exhibition. Meanwhile Lord Smith spoke to House of Lords officials.

“Eventually enough people were saying, ‘We must have the tapestry,’ Mr Majcher said. “And the decision was made to put it on display in Westminster Hall.”

You can visit up until 29 April

Volunteers from the church hung the panels in Westminster Hall and will staff the exhibition while it is in London.

panel for 10 scottish Prime ministers
The panel commemorating the 10 Scottish Prime Ministers

After the UK Parliament’s Easter Recess, all MPs and Peers will be invited to view the tapestry.

The tapestry will return to Scotland when the Westminster display closes. Plans are underway to create a permanent home for the artwork in Prestonpans, East Lothian, alongside the original Battle of Prestonpans 1745 Tapestry.

Dr Gordon Prestoungrange of Prestoungrange Arts Festival said:

“Support for this undertaking has been overwhelming. It could never have been achieved without the enthusiasm and collaboration of the volunteers who have researched, documented and skilfully crafted their own fascinating stories.

“The tapestry left these shores two years ago with the original 150 panels that we had promised to share back with the diaspora. Across the globe its stitchers arranged their own exhibitions, freighting it from their venue to the next, and attracting over 100,000 visitors.

“Now it returns here from Iceland with more than 300 panels; a truly astonishing display of Scottish diaspora pride made real.”

Visitors can view the Scottish Diaspora Tapestry at Westminster Hall from now until Saturday 29 April between 9am and 5.30pm (closed on Sundays and public holidays, 14 and 17 April 2017). Entrance is via the Cromwell Green entrance where exhibition tickets will be issued.

You can find and download the Scottish Diaspora Tapestry App at the tapestry’s website.

Find out more about the Westminster Palace exhibit.