THE 500th anniversary of the Battle of Flodden is only two years away - September 9, 2013 - providing an ideal opportunity for the region to make the most of the attention that it will attract.
Which is why Newcastle University and Ford and Etal Estates (on whose land the Battle of Flodden was fought) joined forces to employ a rural studies graduate whose role over the summer has been to maximise the potential the anniversary offers for both communities and businesses.
Graduating from Newcastle University with First Class Honours, 31-year-old Kendra Turnbull, was a perfect fit for the job. Although not originally from this area she and her husband moved to Berwick while he undertakes a farrier apprenticeship with Michael Cross at Lowick, and Kendra’s summer job last year was a secondment to Glendale Community Forum, at Wooler, to help draw up the Glendale Community Plan. But her ties to Flodden are even closer as her aunt and uncle lived at Branxton for a number of years - her uncle Robin Gill was the vicar at Branxton and Etal and her aunt Jenny was a GP at Coldstream Health Centre - so as a child she visited the area regularly.
Over the past seven weeks Kendra has been drawing together the many threads that connect communities across the region and beyond to the events on that fateful September 9 date and, and as her summer placement draws to a close, she reflects on how the many projects are progressing and how many organisations and businesses are now on board.
“There are between 30 and 40 projects on the go now. Some, such as ‘Remember Flodden’ organised by Clive Hallam-Baker, have 15 dated events. Others are more one-off events such as the Scottish National Orchestra who have commissioned a piece for the anniversary, a Border ballad has been commissioned and a play is being written for the Glendale Festival.”
The most high profile project to date is the eco museum, described as a museum without walls, which is being officially launched this month. Leaflets, signs, intepretation walls, walks and a website showing the link between 12 physical sites with strong associations with Flodden. There is no limit to the number of links that can be made and phase one sites include: Flodden Field; Norham Castle; Etal Castle; Heatherslaw Corn Mill; Barmoor Castle; Twizell Bridge; Ladykirk Church; Branxton Church; Coldstream Museum; Coldstream Priory; Weetwood Bridge; and The Fletcher Monument, Selkirk.
“This is our heritage, our sense of place, and probably the most likely people going to visit the eco museum sites are those visiting relatives in the area,” said Kendra.
“It’s important that everyone feels part of it.
“There are so many community projects and they are all growing together.”
And what she has found as she explores the many connections to the battle is that it is a job with no end as each thread leads to more and more being unearthed.
One such thread is the Mauchline style wooden trinket boxes produced by A and R Robb of Coldstream in the 19th century, using wood from Flodden field. A and R Robb are said to have presented a book with a wooden cover depicting a scene from Walter Scott’s novel ‘Marmion’ (based on the Battle of Flodden) to Queen Victoria, and it is hoped to have the book on display in Coldstream Museum nearer the time of the 500th anniversary of the battle.
“Every single person you talk to comes up with another idea and while we aren’t running projects we have to help them and encourage them to take things on. There are now 200 people on the stakeholder list and the momentum is going forward.”
Kendra has contacted tourism associations in order to get the message to B&B owners and tourist businesses that there are opportunities out there for them in connection with Flodden 500 and it is starting to pay dividends - the North Northumberland Tourist Association newsletter which featured the anniversary details has only just been circulated and businesses have already been in touch wanting to get on board.
“Support for tourism in the area will be the 2013 legacy, and our aim is to raise awareness for the future, not just up to 2013.” said Kendra.
“I have talked to many people over the last seven weeks and each one has been inspired.”
Another aspect of 1513 that Kendra has been working on is the educational side and Kendra has arranged with Tyne and Wear archives and museums for a Flodden Box of Delights to be put together containing information that can be used by schools both north and south of the border. The organisation already have about 50 boxes on local historical events and this will bring the Battle of Flodden into the consciousness of both pupils and teachers throughout the region. The Flodden box will probably be kept at a local school such as Ford.
As Kendra’s ten week placement comes to an end she is to make presentation to a wide range of stakeholders in Lady Waterford Gallery, Ford, outlining how the different threads of Flodden 500 events and projects are coming together.
Lord Joicey, who joinly funded Kendra’s post said: “Kendra’s obvious enthusiasm for this task shines through. She is doing some hugely important work and I sense she is making many friends along the way. The steering group appreciate her contribution so much.”