About the Banner

Burns artwork for Edinburgh

marketstreet-angleIn partnership with artist Stephen Raw, the Scottish Poetry Library is inviting the Scottish Diaspora and those closer to home, to paint a letter which will go into a ‘BurnsBanner’. Showing two verses of ‘A Man’s a Man for A’ That’, this huge artwork, situated in the centre of Edinburgh, will become a spectacular creation celebrating Robert Burns 250th anniversary. The BurnsBanner is due to be unfurled during the Edinburgh Festival in August 2009 and forms one of the events for ‘Homecoming Scotland’. This project is funded by the Scottish Arts Council.

Here are a couple of computer mock-ups of some possible sites in Edinburgh for the BurnsBanner and how it might look. These are currently under discussion with various local authority departments.

HOW YOU CAN MAKE YOUR CONTRIBUTION. Download this pdf for instructions and guidance:   instructions.pdf

Scottish Poetry Library:    http://www.spl.org.uk/

Hear Brian Cox reading the poem at   http://www.bbc.co.uk/robertburns/works/a_mans_a_man_for_a_that/

Homecoming Scotland:    http://www.homecomingscotland.com/




The ‘BurnsBanner’ will be made from painted letters chosen from hundreds of participants, many of whom will be from the Scottish Diaspora. When assembled it will celebrate, in a spectacular fashion, two stanzas of ‘A Man’s a Man for A’ That’ in the centre of Edinburgh.

It is hoped that a short DVD, which tells the story of who, where and how the letters were painted, will be available through The Scottish Poetry Library website when the work is complete.

The BurnsBanner will be

· a focal point for all forthcoming and then, ongoing, Burns celebrations

· a stunning back-drop to events happening in heart of Edinburgh

· become the ‘must-see’ Festival creation, lit for after-dark viewing.

How it will be made:

The individual letters will be painted in any medium and then photographed. From those submitted the letters will be chosen for their suitability and digitised and placed into position. When all the letters are in position the large artwork will be printed and displayed on a site yet to be finalised.

Who will paint the letters?

· Edinburgh community groups – e.g. pensioners, mental health groups, young offenders and a hospice will be invited to participate

· School children, invited from local schools and from schools in other Scottish locations such as Alloway, Iona and The Shetlands

· Invited participants from the Scottish Diaspora. They will be sent instructions, returning the painted letters by a given date. All continents to be represented including Antarctica. Burns Societies around the globe are being approached.

· Invited poets, authors, celebrities and ‘the great and good’ of Edinburgh.

· The public — who have seen the advance publicity and specially wish to participate .

Some of the letters not selected for the ‘BurnsBanner’ will make up the other verses from Burns’s poem and will hopefully be reproduced digitally on the website. All contributors will sign a consent form releasing copyright and ownership of their letter to the SPL.

This project delivers a very public and accessible artistic and cultural legacy of ‘Homecoming Scotland’ in a unique way that engages the Scottish Diaspora from the start of 2009. We hope it will highlight and celebrate Burns’s contribution to world literature and so promote pride amongst Scots abroad and at home.

The ‘BurnsBanner’ Project Manager for the SPL is Jonathan Meuli who can be emailed on:



 Scottish Poetry Library


STEPHEN RAW (born London 1952) has lived in Manchester for the last thirty years. He has been a self-employed artist and designer since he returned to Britain from two years teaching at the National Arts School in Papua New Guinea, during which time he worked closely with Archie Brennan.

Stephen’s work is varied, from paintings in exhibitions through to cover designs for Carcanet Press and his commercial lettering for a variety of clients, including leading publishers, architects and design groups throughout Europe. ‘Fundamental to all my artwork’ Stephen says, ‘is a love of language and how that language is given a visual dimension through signs we simply call letters: never-failing sources of inspiration. Letters are images in themselves and, for me, that’s more than enough to be getting on with.’ Recent commissions have been for a design for a stone commemorating the founders of the Royal Ballet and working on another collaboration with the poet Carol Ann Duffy.


Stephen is often to be found working on ‘community projects’ such as the one reproduced on the left in collaboration with Matt Raw under the umbrella of ‘pARTicipate’. This banner was painted by many community groups in Manchester on the theme of ‘Peace’ being the fruit of Justice.

Stephen has exhibited his own work widely: Germany, Ireland the United States and Italy. One of his paintings, words by Nelson Mandela, is in the collection of the Stiftung Archiv der Akademie der Künste, Berlin. All his book jacket/cover artwork, part of the Carcanet Press archive, is now kept by the John Rylands Research Institute, University of Manchester.

Currently he sits on The Royal Mint Design Advisory Committee, chaired by Sir Christopher Frayling.

‘Sweet Sister Death Has Gone Debauched Today’ (see ‘Catalogue elsewhere on the website) was exhibited at Parson’s School of Design, New York, in 2001 as part of a Glasgow School of Art travelling exhibition. Stephen was a visiting lecturer in Glasgow for 15 years and, until recently, was a part-time tutor on the MA Design Course, Manchester Metropolitan University. He occasionally lectures there still.

He is a frequent visitor to the Isles of Mull and Iona where  the people and landscape have inspired many pieces including ‘Kilvickeon’ and ‘Isle of Mull Diary’. Perhaps this in part due to the fact that a branch of his family came from an unspecified part on the west coast of Scotland.


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