The Braveheart Experience

It is 25 years since the film Braveheart had its UK premier in Stirling. To mark the event and to discuss the impact of the film on Scotland and the wider Scottish diaspora, the National Wallace Monument hosted an online public discussion.

If we are looking for positives from the Covid19 pandemic then the proliferation of online talks and events is one of the most important. Enabling a diverse range of people, wherever they are located so long as they are digitally connected, to access views and information.

Introduced by David Black the 3 speakers presented different aspects of what has come to be known as The Braveheart Experience.

New Light on William Wallace

Dauvit Broun, Professor of Scottish History at the University of Glasgow, presented us with new information which has come to light about Scotland’s national hero, William Wallace. The new discoveries also remind us about how much we do not know about Wallace.

How this new evidence provides us with details we didn’t know before about Wallace was expertly discussed by Dauvit Broun.

He explained that in many of the campaigns Wallace was a co-leader but that when anyone wanted to do anything of major significance in actions taken by Edward I of England in Scotland , that they turned to William Wallace. This was even though they were Wallace’s social superiors.

Highlighted was when Wallace was Guardian of Scotland during the time of King John Balliol. Wallace could do everything a King of Scots could do as he was governing in Balliol’s name.

Dauvit Broun described Wallace as the leader of a band of hardened soldiers, committed to the cause of Scottish Independence. Quite harrowing in its coldness were fiscal accounts of the cost of his execution and the dispersal of parts of his body.

Those accounts also provide the evidence of England’s fear of Wallace and the threat he posed to Edward I’s plans for Scotland.

Braveheart and Screen Tourism in Scotland

Taking us forward into the 21st C, David Martin-Jones, Professor of Film Studies at the University of Glasgow discussed the impact of Braveheart on tourism.

He examined the link between Braveheart, the movie, and the National Wallace Monument which saw an increase of 50% in visitor numbers in 1995 with 49% of those having seen Braveheart.

Screen tourism, past , present and future, is very important to Scotland. Film and TV such as Whisky Galore, Local Hero, The Wickerman all had an impact on people choosing to explore the locations covered in the films. More recently Outlander , the animation Brave, the Da Vinci Code and even Trainspotting – have brought Scottish locations and themes to the world.

David Martin-Jones argued that film and TV are now as integral to Scotland The Brand as any of the other elements – tartan, shortbread, whisky etc.

He spoke of the films and TV portraying a fictionalised version of a national past, constructed to appeal to audiences who may feel a strong connection to Scotland, even if they haven’t lived there.

For the Scottish diaspora it is Scotland remembered in a certain way – sharing a sense of pride and belonging to the land of origin.

The ideas and themes are also of universal appeal – stories of oppression and resistance.

Telling the Story of William Wallace

The third and final speaker was Julie Tinson, Professor of Marketing at the University of Stirling.

Julie Tinson had conducted research with both visitors and staff at The National Wallace Monument. It examined the stories of the people – the connections to Wallace as a symbol, through family and as the Braveheart image.

Family was seen as more fluid, being more a sense of community, connecting to the hero Wallace and to the Monument itself. The significance of symbols was conveyed through Wallace’s sword – of overcoming adversity and challenging oppression. It is a symbol of war but the size of it also represents the physicality of Wallace.

Perceptions of Braveheart the movie have changed over time. It has had a tremendous global influence and empowers a Scottish national identity. On a more intimate level it has had an emotional impact on the individual.

This talk was a fascinating insight into The Braveheart Experience and no matter what your views are of the movie, its impact on Scotland, coming when it did in 1995, was significant.

Since the making of Braveheart we have also had 2 recent films about Robert the Bruce, King of Scots – Outlaw King (2018) from Netflix and Robert The Bruce (2019). Two films which portray different aspects of The Bruce in the Scottish Wars of Independence but which tell stories, in their own way, of that crucial period in Scotland the nation.

Reporter: Fiona Grahame

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