THROUGHOUT 2020, the town of Arbroath will be inviting people from far and near to join in with a six-month programme of very special events celebrating the 700th anniversary of the Declaration of Arbroath.

On April 6, 1320, a letter from the barons of Scotland set sail from Arbroath to Pope John in Avignon. Widely acknowledged as one of Scotland’s most important documents, the Declaration of Arbroath, as it became known, asked the Pope to recognise Scotland’s independence and acknowledge Robert the Bruce as the country’s rightful king, while also stressing that the king had to follow the will of the people, sowing the seeds of modern democracy.

Wherever Scottish families have settled, the Declaration of Arbroath and its rousing words and patriotic sentiments are known and valued, providing a 700-year-old link between today’s Scots, and the Scottish diaspora, and their medieval ancestors.

That’s why a programme of very special events has been announced to mark the anniversary.

On the evening of Saturday, April 4, Arbroath Abbey will become an outdoor concert hall for the world premiere of a specially commissioned choral work. Written by Paul Mealor, voted the nation’s favourite composer, and internationally renowned poet Grahame Davies, Of Light Breaking will be performed by 300 singers, drawn from Angus choirs, within the ruined walls of Arbroath Abbey.

One of the highlights of Arbroath 2020 will be the horse-led procession of over 500 people from Arbroath Abbey to Arbroath Harbour on Sunday, April 5. The Arbroath 2020 Procession is inspired by the Arbroath Declaration Pageants of the 1950s and 1960s, when hordes of cheering onlookers would line the streets of the town as hundreds of medieval nobles, soldiers and monks made their way to the abbey for the re-enactment of the 1320 signing of the Declaration of Arbroath.

Seven hundred years ago, Robert the Bruce led the way on his mighty warhorse, followed by nobles on horseback, with their wives, soldiers, children and even dogs flowing behind. The 2020 version will reflect Arbroath’s historic past but it will also celebrate the town’s present and its future. The Arbroath 2020 Procession will be about much more than simply re-enacting a medieval royal visit – it will be a pageant for the 21st century.

The Arbroath 2020 Procession will end at Arbroath Harbour, where a flotilla of historic boats and yachts will be festooned with brightly coloured flags. Following a reading of the Declaration of Arbroath by people of all generations, a replica of this priceless document will be handed into the safekeeping of a local skipper so it can sail over the sea to France, as happened 700 years ago.

Then it will be time for The Big Eco Lunch, a celebration of the food and drink of Angus. Taking place at Beacon Green, hundreds of diners will tuck into a mouthwatering menu of local delicacies and specialities including, of course, Arbroath’s famous Smokies. And that’s only the opening weekend of Arbroath 2020 – the following six months will be packed full of equally high-profile events and projects.

These events and projects will include an anthology of poetry and prose inspired by the declaration, a half marathon and fun run, a boxing championship and a skate and BMX day. Further events are to be announced but, in the meantime, I can reveal that there are very electrifying plans for a spectacular Arbroath 2020 finale in a breath-taking local location in September 2020.

Arbroath 2020 will bring together the people of the town, shine the light on Arbroath’s place in Scotland’s history and boost the local economy by attracting visitors from all four corners of the globe. I encourage you to take a moment to visit to find out more and help us encourage people across the nation to make a commitment to visit Arbroath and join in with the celebrations.