John Muir Festival 2014
Celebrating the life and legacy of the pioneering conservationistas a new national pathway has been named in his honour.
The inaugural John Muir Festival - a signature Homecoming Scotland event ran from 17-26 April 2014 and marked the opening of the John Muir Way as well as celebrating Muir’s life and legacy. Funded by Scottish Natural Heritage, Homecoming Scotland, Creative Scotland and East Lothian Council - the Festival included community participation, artist-led events and large-scale public performances.
Full details of the Festival curtain raiser 'HOME', from 17 - 20 April can be found here.
First Minister officially opened the new John Muir Way in Dunbar on 21 April, amid an exciting array of street performance and installations. Set off from Dunbar by groups of flag bearing walkers, runners and cyclists, the group of travelling of performance and installation artists then began the 130 mile odyssey along the Way. Ramblers, runners and cyclists carried Muir-themed flags commissioned from artists 'Old Hag', created with the help of local community groups. Smaller flags designed by local school children will mark points of interest along the trail. A gang of bearded John Muir lookalikes provided fun photo opportunities as well as thought-provoking quotes from Muir’s writings. A mobile camera obscura provided a new perspective on the surrounding landscape. There was also seed bombing with Scottish wild flowers. A stylised tree, designed by Alex Rigg, was raised, with much ceremony, at selected hotspots, in tribute to Muir’s enduring love of giant sequoias. And in a quieter, more reflective artistic tribute, an American and a Scots poet walked the length of the John Muir Way at their own unhurried pace, planting seeds and reciting poetry along the way.
The route itself ends in Helensburgh on the same Clyde coast 11 year old Muir and his family sailed en route to a new life in America. And appropriately – for a founding father of the US National Parks – a firework and music Festival finale took place at Scotland’s national park at Loch Lomond on 26 April.
Why an arts Festival for an environmentalist and conservationist?
Well, John Muir was many things - explorer, geologist, botanist, inventor and farmer – but he could not have had such a lasting impact, had he not been such an eloquent, persuasive and lyrical writer. It didn’t come easily to him but without doubt, Muir – an avid reader of Burns and Wordsworth - was a prose writer with a poet’s heart.
‘This grand show is eternal,’ he wrote, ‘It is always sunrise somewhere; the dew is never all dried at once; a shower is forever falling; vapour ever rising. Eternal sunrise, eternal sunset, eternal dawn and gloaming, on seas and continents and islands, each in its turn, as the round earth rolls.’
Every school pupil in Scotland knows Helensburgh’s most famous son, John Logie Baird, the inventor of television, now – at the opposite end of the John Muir Way - Dunbar’s most celebrated export will soon enjoy similarly cherished national status.