Scotland Takes New York As Tartan Week Arrives By Iona Crawford

Bagpipe players in the Parade (image courtesy of Mark Beaumont and Cutty McGill for the American-Scottish Foundation).

Bagpipe players in the Parade (image courtesy of Mark Beaumont and Cutty McGill for the American-Scottish Foundation).

“It’s been Tartan Fortnight in New York, from music to fashion, film, energy and business forums – but let’s not forget pipers, kilts and tartan!

Tartan Day Celebrations take place all over the States, and indeed the world, on April 6th. New York is an epicenter for Scotland Tartan Week celebrations and the corner stone is the annual New York Tartan Day Parade, where over 2000 pipers, societies, clans, and a large pack of Scotties and Westies take Sixth Avenue.

This year was the 15th Anniversary of the Parade, and The Luxury Channel invited the The American-Scottish Foundation, one of the Parade’s founding organizers, to give us their overview. In turn, they invited leading Scottish fashion designer Iona Crawford to take on reporting duties – kicked off by an exclusive meeting with Parade Grand Marshall Kevin McKidd – and to share with us a few of the highlights from throughout her busy visit to New York.” – Camilla G. Hellman, The Luxury Channel’s Director of Marketing USA.

Iona Crawford and Kevin McKidd pose for a picture (image courtesy of Mark Beaumont and Cutty McGill for the American-Scottish Foundation).

Iona Crawford and Kevin McKidd pose for a picture (image courtesy of Mark Beaumont and Cutty McGill for the American-Scottish Foundation).

A crisp spring morning in Manhattan, with blue cloudless skies shining down on a fabulous patchwork of multicolored tartan. I arrived as the line up for the Parade was beginning to take, and the streets around Sixth Avenue were filled with highland warriors young and old, Shetland ponies in knitwear, Westies in tammie hats and kilts, with pipers getting ready for their day of pride and celebration….again, Scotland Day was upon us and there was a parade to be marched!

Grand Marshal Kevin McKidd waves to the crowds (image courtesy of Mark Beaumont and Cutty McGill for the American-Scottish Foundation).

Grand Marshal Kevin McKidd waves to the crowds (image courtesy of Mark Beaumont and Cutty McGill for the American-Scottish Foundation).

This, the annual Tartan Day Parade, first established by the Canadians as their Tartan Day in the mid 1980s, has grown in stature and popularity as Scots from around the world meet to march in unison.

For me, whilst I was in Southampton New York around the same time last year, this was my first experience of New York Tartan Day Parade, and what an experience it was!

Vikings from Shetland (image courtesy of Mark Beaumont and Cutty McGill for the American-Scottish Foundation).

Vikings from Shetland (image courtesy of Mark Beaumont and Cutty McGill for the American-Scottish Foundation).

Meeting at the Algonquin Hotel around noon where organizers, Scottish politicans, winning bands and all manner of people were meeting – including a large group of Vikings from Shetland, I had the good fortune of speaking with Kevin McKidd, Grand Marshall for this year’s parade. Having only ever viewed Kevin in his roles as Owen in Gray’s Anatomy and Tommy in Trainspotting, it was utterly lovely sharing a conversation with the man himself, dressed in softly toned Howie Nicholsby 21st Century Kilts attire. I discovered that his daughter and I share the same name and that his parents had travelled from his hometown in Elgin to share his Scotland Day honour.

A Scottie wearing tartan (image courtesy of Mark Beaumont and Cutty McGill for the American-Scottish Foundation).

A Scottie wearing tartan (image courtesy of Mark Beaumont and Cutty McGill for the American-Scottish Foundation).

But I couldn’t stay with him too long as I too had an important role to play as co-judge in selecting the prize-winning Westies and Scotties, alongside Camilla Hellman from the American Scottish Foundation. I then had to rush back up through hundreds of kilted warriors to try and locate my group – loosing Camilla in the melee of men, women, children, dogs and horses.

Westie twins wearing tartan (image courtesy of Mark Beaumont and Cutty McGill for the American-Scottish Foundation).

Westie twins wearing tartan (image courtesy of Mark Beaumont and Cutty McGill for the American-Scottish Foundation).

On the strike of two o’clock, with gusto the Parade began. Pipe-bands, each with their own signature composition, marched in time, batons twirling, highland dancers leaping and faces beaming with pride for their shared heritage, roots and fellow clansmen.

Bagpipe players in the Parade (image courtesy of Mark Beaumont and Cutty McGill for the American-Scottish Foundation).

Bagpipe players in the Parade (image courtesy of Mark Beaumont and Cutty McGill for the American-Scottish Foundation).

Following the Parade, I went on to a reception, meeting up with leading Scottish sculptor Andy Scott, who was in New York scouting for a location to move the wonderful 20ft Kelpies from Chicago to New York – he was returning to Scotland to work further on the installation of the 100ft Kelpies, part of the Helix project on the Firth of Forth.

Photographer Ken Paterson then spoke with me about his exhibit at Federal Hall on Wall Street, In The Footsteps of John Muir, a month-long exhibition honoring John Muir. So much to see and do!

Tartan Week is an opportunity for people to meet, discuss and plan, and this week has been a whirl of that. Former Grand Marshall of the Parade Alan Cummings was opening on Broadway in MacBeth, a National Theatre of Scotland production, although sadly I didn’t manage to get to see the production.

Everyone wears tartan (image courtesy of Mark Beaumont and Cutty McGill for the American-Scottish Foundation).

Everyone wears tartan (image courtesy of Mark Beaumont and Cutty McGill for the American-Scottish Foundation).

I was keen to embrace as much music, arts, culture and heritage as possible. Musical concerts included performances by Stanley Odd, Rachel Sermanni, The Proclaimers, and The View. Roseanne Cash also performed a benefit concert for Sandy Relief in support of a campaign to repair of one of the Schooners damaged during Hurricane Sandy. It’s clear that New York is still reeling from the devastation caused by Hurricane Sandy. Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty are shut to visitors, and Battery Park is a wasteland, having been hard-hit by a 14ft surge of water. As apparent as the devastation is, residents are confident that this won’t last for long – this is New York. I was sorry to miss Roseanne’s concert which took place on Monday night, the same night as From Scotland With Love hit the runway at Stage Forty8 in Midtown Manhattan. An annual Scotland Week show, the theme for this year – The Asian Dragon Meets The Scottish Lion – brought together a fusion of Asian and Scottish fashion design upon a glamorous runway.

For me, a definite jewel in the Scotland Week crown was the launch of Highland Heart, an exhibition of masterful photography by Scottish, New York-based David Eustace. Taking place within his very own studio on West 26th Street, Friday’s exhibition was more than heart-wrenching and reminded me why, as much as I adore New York, Scotland will always be home.

An Iona Crawford creation

An Iona Crawford creation

My magnificently fast-paced week of meetings, shows, shoots, events and glorious sunshine in New York reached a magnificent crescendo, as I was exclusively invited to showcase my current collections within the spectacularly ornate surrounds of Manhattan’s famous Metropolitan Club during The National Trust for Scotland Gala Dinner. There could have been no more magical a way to conclude my week and better still, I know that time will be short before my next business trip to New York.

Iona Crawford models a white sheath dress

Iona Crawford models a white sheath dress

To learn more about all that has taken place, please visit www.americanscottishfoundation.org.

For more information on Iona Crawford, please visit www.ionacrawford.com or contact her on
+44 (0) 7816504926 / iona@ionacrawford.com

FOOTNOTES:
Tartan Day is celebrated each year on April 6th, and began in Canada when on December 19th 1991, in response to action initiated by the Clans & Scottish Societies of Canada, the Ontario Legislature passed a resolution proclaiming April 6th as Tartan Day.

The Scottish Coalition USA then led the efforts for the USA, and on March 20th 1998, Senate Resolution 155 Senate Resolution 155 (S. Res.155), was proposed by US Senate Republican majority leader Trent Lott. For a full history, visit www.tartanday.org/history.

The National New York Tartan Day Committee are the organizers of the New York Tartan Day Parade and comprise of Founding Members – The St. Andrew’s Society of the State of New York, New York Caledonian Society, The American-Scottish Foundation and most recent member Clan Campbell. To learn more, visit www.nyctartanweek.org.