Highland Park Corner at Belladrum
Last week I gave away a bottle of whisky to some complete strangers. I always do it during the first week-end of August. Love it. It’s my favourite week-end of the year.
Mind you they had to earn it. You see for the last few years I have run this street theatre stunt at Inverness’s Belladrum pop festival in which if you stand on a soap box for two minutes and make a speech that doesn’t bore me then I give you a glass of Highland Park whisky. The stunt’s called the Highland Park Corner and on a good day up to a hundred folk gather round and laugh, cheer, applaud and deride. Two minutes is a long time, so few make the grade. If you are under eighteen you only have to do it for a minute and get a glass of orange juice. We get more kids winning the prize than adults.
So why do I do it? Ego, I suppose, oh and it’s good to have a free ticket for an event that usually sells out long before the day. When I am not making an ass of myself it’s fun to see the shows and generally get the craic at what is now Scotland’s best festival and attracts over twenty thousand folk.
But there are other secondary reasons. Firstly I have great admiration for the Festival’s inventor and organiser, Joe Gibbs, who this year retires after sixteen years of trachle, though he’s being kept on as an adviser, and I like to think my nonsense contributes a tiny, if inconsequential, cog in his huge machine.
But here’s my point today. I also love having a sense of where Scotland is politically and the show often gives an indication of what makes people so passionate that they are prepared to cast aside self-doubt and get on that soap box and give it lalldy.
So what have I seen in those last few years of Scotland’s political ferment ? Well you can probably imagine easily enough. Most of the speeches are of course awful as the drunks and neerdowells rattle on for thirty seconds or so in the hope of free drink before I haul them off. Then there’s the football fanatics, I suppose their average survival rate is double that before they run out of steam. It’s those with a political message that intrigue me. Now let me make my own position clear. I am one of Bella’s few Unionists, but there’s no dog whistle messages here. I am just reporting what I see and hear and I’m afraid it’s mostly pro-indy. Damn it.
I have to admit that over the last few years I have yet to hear a single pro-Union speech even being attempted, and as you might imagine with my own convictions they would be well on their way to that dram if they even gave it a shot. For their shot.
I find it bizarre that even with a good proportion of Scots failing to be persuaded by even your brilliant campaigning that so few are prepared to put their message to the test of the baying mob. They may be out there, but they lack your passion. Damn it again.
Where will it all end? If I buy my token bottle to give away next year (and if you are reading this any staff from Highland Park I hope you are ashamed of refusing my many requests for sponsorship ) I am sure that by then you lot will have been given your date for Ref 2 and I will be elbowed off my soap box such will be the passion of your supporters. I may even have to buy a second bottle.
As I have said before I stand in admiration for all you do, even if the objective has yet to make any sense to me. But will the Unionists finally wake up to the distinct possibility of losing and start to demand to be heard? I have no idea. My crystal ball remains the size of a pea. But let me make another observation, and again let me assure you there is no dog whistle nonsense behind it. This years Highland Park Corner was my worst ever. Crowds of a hundred? That was the case three years ago. This year I was lucky to get a dozen. There seemed to be a general sense of ennui and exhaustion from the political classes. Many begged to be left alone when I tried to get them on my soap box. Interesting, if a little embarrassing. Maybe I’m losing it. Who knows.
It’s been fun though and I hope to return next year, indeed I’m almost tempted to set up my stall in the Royal Mile and give it a go at this years Edinburgh Festival. So if you are listening Highland Park people please send me some free drink. I’ve been giving away your stuff for years. Time you bought a round.