2020+1 Programme / New Declarations

New Declarations

Launches 6 April 2021

Artist-led online collective writing project. What does freedom mean, now? Devised for Arbroath 2020+1 by artist and writer Rebecca Sharp.

Arbroath Festival project invites young writers in Scotland to devise and deliver a New Declaration for 2021.

What does freedom mean, now?

Young people based in Scotland are invited to come together to devise and write under the guidance of writer Rebecca Sharp and Scottish PEN to create a new letter for the future.

“Right now, we’re living in times of dramatic change – climate crisis, political and economic uncertainty… so now is the time to create your own Declaration.” Rebecca Sharp

Exploring ideas and issues around freedom of expression. Starting with a look at the Declaration of Arbroath (1320), its historical and cultural significance – before looking at how we communicate today; the role of technology, how it shapes the issues we face around free speech. You will be guided in writing your own ‘New Declarations’ – short statements of intention to shape the world you want to live in.

Sign up to take part in three live online writing workshops led by writer Rebecca Sharp. Supported by Hospitalfield and part of Arbroath 2020+1 Festival. Spaces are limited and people registering are expected to attend all 3 workshops. Register via eventbrite to join the New Declarations cohort of Young Writers.

Your submitted texts will be showcased as a spoken word production and as text-based art across digital platforms during the launch of Arbroath2020+1 Festival. Your written pieces will also be published in a collective pamphlet that will be launched autumn 2021. New Declarations is the first of a series of small publications as part of the New Scriptorium Project.

Who? Young aspiring writers

Age: 16-25 yrs


3 x Live virtual/ online Workshops:

Wednesday 5 May 6:00- 7:30pm

Wednesday 12 May 6:00- 7:30pm

Saturday 22 May 10am- 12 noon 

Sign up by: 4 May

You will be guided in writing statements that authentically reflect your opinions and feelings; that are impactful and persuasive in a way that is true to your own voice, while also creating space for others. Your statements might be practical, poetic, or a combination of both.

Many young people have found their learning environments disrupted over the past year, often trying to complete graded coursework and pass exams through virtual lessons which leave little room for networking or creating work outside of the class curriculum. The New Declarations workshops provide a space where you can connect with young writers from all over Scotland and contribute your voice to this exciting new project; working alongside others to create a piece of writing which will go on to be publicly showcased.

About Rebecca Sharp:

Rebecca Sharp is a Scottish playwright, poet, interdisciplinary artist and trustee of Scottish PEN. Her work encompasses text, performance, visual and collaborative projects. In 2020 she was awarded an RSL Literature Matters Award from the Royal Society of Literature to write Rough Currency, a new poetry collection exploring our personal and collective entanglements with fossil fuels and oil economy. For Arbroath2020+1 Rebecca has devised a series of workshops and is lead artist on The New Declarations Project.

“Within the last year alone, young people’s futures just became even more uncertain. With boundaries shifting and so much in flux, it’s even more important for them to be able to articulate what matters and why, individually and collectively – like focussing our inner compasses. The hope is that the New Declaration will reflect young people’s core values, urgent concerns and intentions for the future, at a time when so much seems precarious. It’s about empowerment and protecting freedom of expression, while actively creating space for voices that are unheard or spoken-over. ” Rebecca Sharp

Arbroath2020+1 is a wide reaching cultural programme focused on the Declaration of Arbroath. This historic occurrence in the small community of Arbroath is of national and international importance and worthy of showcasing, exploring and celebrating.

New Declarations is about connecting global themes around the importance of literacy, the circulation of information and knowledge. It looks back at history 1320 when the Declaration seeded ideas of democracy.

This contemporary project platforms young voices and seeks to celebrate the story of Arbroath through the hopes and aspirations of the next generation.

Introduction and Background info

The Declaration of Arbroath is one of the most famous documents ever produced in Scotland. It was a statement written to make the case for a nation’s claim to freedom. Dated 6 April 1320, it is 701 years old in April 2021.

The Declaration of Arbroath was written when the Scots wanted to stop King Edward II of England trying to rule over Scotland. It was sent as a letter from some of the most powerful people in Scotland to Pope John XXII. They wanted him to recognise Robert the Bruce as their king. As the Head of the Catholic Church, the Pope could help sort out disagreements between countries.

In 1320 most people could not read and write, but the monks who lived in the Abbeys could – as well as producing official documents they wrote, copied and illustrated books. Arbroath Abbey was more than just a building – it contained a large and active community, and many facilities including a library (or scriptorium) where monks transcribed, wrote and illustrated documents and books. Monasteries were great repositories of knowledge. The ability to read, write and convey information was as powerful then as it is today. In fact, it could be argued that access to education and written material, and the right to freedom of expression among all people is one of the most significant features of a healthy democratic society.

Scottish PEN is the Scottish Centre of PEN International, founded in 1927 as a not-for-profit organisation that champions freedom of speech and literature across borders. Scottish PEN campaigns on behalf of writers and readers both at home and abroad, ensuring writers can fully express themselves free from the threats of violence, censorship, intimidation and interference.


Part of...

New Declarations

NEW DECLARATIONS is an original collaborative poem – a statement of values, hopes and intentions for our shared world. Inspired by the form and content of the Declaration of Arbroath (1320), this new letter combines multiple voices, while also creating space for those who are absent or often excluded.

Learn More