I spent Friday night watching National Collective Presents… at the Scottish Storytelling Centre. On the way in, I noticed the adjacent shop on the High Street had two prominent posters – one being ‘Are You Yes Yet?’, the other with Karen Dunbar’s Chewin’ the Fat character sniffing a Better Together mailing, with her catchphrase ‘Ah smell s***e’ writ large. It set a nice tone before climbing the steps into the Fringe venue for the evening’s National Collective Presents…Peter Arnott (author of THAT famous ‘Dinner with the Nos’ blog post…) recited a letter from Sir Walter Scott, expressing his exasperation at Scotland rocking the boat, when he had done so much to invent it (within the Union) to make it as harmless as possible. It followed a remarkable short film called ‘Scotland Is?’ which played around with the geographical absurdity of the idea of ‘wee Scotland’ compared to other nations. After Peter, Gerry Campbell performed with guitar and video installation, before Janice Galloway’s last minute replacements took to the stage.
They were a dynamic performance poet duo of Rachel McCrum and someone whose name I did not catch. Rachel was from Donaghadee, and (always a sucker for a northern Irish accent) delivered delicate lilting work, that seemed to convey her optimism of encountering an environment where political change could happen without the violence that she had known while growing up. But it was the one whose name I did not catch (I scribbled her down as ‘Jenny maybe’ on some paper on the way home), that really took me by surprise. Her recitals of ‘Edinburgh’ and ‘Carrier Bags in the Trees’ complete with the characters that she expressed within them really struck a resonance in my ‘son of Edinburgh’ imagination (to the extent that I was surprised to find she was from North Ayrshire). But it was an observation that Jenny Lindsay (Ok, I confess, I had to look her name up afterwards online) made, talking briefly about her ‘journey to Yes’ that caught me. When originally invited to participate with National Collective, she felt that she had to make clear to the organizer that she was not a Yes, but an Undecided. The organiser said that was no problem – then asked her a quick couple of questions: ‘So are you voting No?’ ‘Well, of course not!!’. ‘And are you going to vote?’ ‘Well…yes.’ And that was how she realized that she was a ‘Yes’ after all.
I can’t help wondering how many that mental transition might be true of, Subliminal Yes: come the day, come the polling station, come the moment in their own private polling booth. I’ve heard it described – perhaps less poetically or powerfully than Jenny’s work – as the ‘Fuck it Factor’: that when people stare down at the paper on the day, a significant percentage of currently undecideds will go – ‘Why not?’
The poster outside the venue in the shop window had said ‘Are You Yes Yet?’ Perhaps another should say ‘Are You Yes – and you just don’t know it yet?’ In less than 40 days we’ll all know.
“I’m voting Yes, not because I think Scotland’s a great place – but because I want it to be.” (Jenny Lindsay, amazing slam poet)