The Strange Sickness team gathered with backers and supporters for an evening of live music and celebration at The Blue Lamp in Aberdeen on Friday 13th May 2022.
To mark the completion of the game William, Katharine, Alana and Jackson came together in person for the first time and met over thirty supporters who were able to be there. The event had generous support from the University of Aberdeen Development Trust.
There was a Q&A session with the game creators, followed by a cracking performance by Songs from Medieval Aberdeen, who provided the track for the game’s credits.
Later in the evening the organisers held a raffle draw for a special bottle of Chivas Regal 25 Year Old, kindly gifted by Chivas Brothers, and three game download keys.
‘Order’, ‘budget’ and ‘unity’ were among the themes explored in the first FLAG workshop on the topic of New perspectives on civic administration in fifteenth-century towns.
On 5 and 6 November FLAG hosted its first international workshop, a ‘hybrid’ in-person and online gathering in Aberdeen. This brought the project team together, alongside participants invited to share perspectives from their own work.
The FLAG team presented the project’s challenge to identify shared aspects of ‘urbanitas’ in towns as different as Augsburg and Aberdeen. The themes of ‘order’, ‘budget’ and ‘unity’, and the digital tools and methods deployed in FLAG, were explored in the first two papers given by the project researchers.
The invitees then presented work-in-progress papers on their own work, covering aspects of medieval urban record keeping, and the interlinked themes of ‘order’, ‘budget’ and ‘unity’. An important goal of FLAG is to bring Scottish and German historiography into closer dialogue, and this was evident in the rich discussions that followed each paper. We were also treated to a display of Aberdeen council register volume one, by Phil Astley (City Archivist). Our hybrid format was a success, with the kind assistance of PhD student Ebba Strutzenbladh as facilitator. All participants followed the current measures for covid-19 mitigation. The programme outline follows below.
The meeting also allowed for some excursions around the formal planned sessions, including to Dunottar Castle, and Huntly Castle.
On 5 November the programme included the following sessions:
Welcome and introduction – Jörg Rogge (Mainz) and Jackson Armstrong (Aberdeen)
Wim Peters (Mainz) and William Hepburn (Aberdeen), Digital hermeneutics: methodology and first results from the Aberdeen ARO corpus
Regina Schäfer (Mainz), Talking about Law and Order in Augsburg
Amy Blakeway (St Andrews), War and the burghs, 1528–1550
Julia Bruch (Köln), Accounting Practices in Monasteries, Towns and Courts. Methodological Reflections
Elizabeth Gemmill (Oxford), The language of things: descriptions of objects and consumables in the burgh court records of late medieval Aberdeen
Jessica Bruns (Halle), Knowledge between pages. Book usage as a new form of administrative practice in late medieval Soest
Eliza Hartrich (UEA, Norwich), For the Comene Wele? Languages of Unity and Division in English and Irish Municipal Records, c. 1450-1500
Phil Astley (Aberdeen City & Aberdeenshire Archives) – viewing of Aberdeen Council Register volume from City Archives
On 6 November the programme included the following sessions:
Jens Klingner (ISGV, Dresden), Texts and transmission. City books and account books from late medieval Dresden
Andrew Simpson (Edinburgh), Brieves in the Burgh Records of Aberdeen, ca.1400-1500: Some Preliminary Thoughts
Christian Speer (Halle), Are town books reliable witnesses of the past? Critical considerations on the categories “note“, “transcript” and “fair copy” based on the Libri civitatis and Libri obligationum of Görlitz in the 14th and 15th century
The workshop was held in the Craig Suite at the Sir Duncan C. Rice Library, University of Aberdeen. The crisp November weather offered a sunny treat to participants, some of whom who also took up the kind offer of a visit to see the Kirk of St Nicholas.
Following the end of the workshop the sun came out for a visit to King’s College Chapel, and St Machar’s Cathedral, while others went to see the Dons lose to the Steelmen, before carrying on to hear Public Service Broadcasting play at the Music Hall!
With members of the current FLAG project, it will present the digital humanities work which is currently underway, investigating the ARO alongside a comparable digital resource from medieval Augsburg.
And, with Dr Claire Hawes, it will showcase creative responses to the themes and language in the ARO, in the form of contemporary song-writing and musical performance.
Claire will discuss the process by which she and Aberdeen-based musicians collaborated to write a set of songs which were performed at the Scottish Parliament in early 2020. These songs have now been recorded for the first time and they will be included in the session!
Last evening ‘Songs of Medieval Aberdeen’ went to Holyrood, for a reception, presentations and performance of the new music written by Dr Claire Hawes and Aberdeen-based musicians Davy Cattanach and Paddy Buchanan. The three were joined by percussionist Craig Spink.
L-R: Senior Vice Principal Karl Leydecker, Cabinet Secretary Fiona Hyslop, Dr Claire Hawes, Lewis Macdonald MSP
The performance, held within the Scottish Parliament’s Garden Lobby, was hosted by Lewis Macdonald MSP and introduced by Cabinet Secretary Fiona Hyslop MSP. Senior Vice-Principal Professor Karl Leydecker spoke on behalf of the University of Aberdeen which is celebrating its 525th anniversary this year.
City Archivist Phil Astley transported council register volumes seven and eight from Aberdeen to Parliament, so that they could be displayed for guests. The volumes were open to the pages containing the 1505 ‘aquavite’ entry, and the 1499 entry mentioning ‘brokin folkis’. The latter inspired the musicians to write a song with that title.
Dr Claire Hawes addressing guests
Fiona Hyslop MSP addressing guests
The performance involved a set of five songs, each introduced by Dr Hawes who explained the creative process behind their composition.
It was an exciting evening, demonstrating on a national stage the rich creative work that has been derived from the Aberdeen burgh records!
On the evening of 14 June a special event was held in the Town House to mark the completion of the Law in the Aberdeen Council Registers project.
L-R: Vice-Principal Professor Marion Campbell, Dr Andrew Simpson, Dr Edda Frankot, Dr William Hepburn, Lord Provost Barney Crockett, Dr Jackson Armstrong, Dr Claire Hawes, City Archivist Mr Phil Astley. Photo Credit: Norman Adams / Copyright Aberdeen City Council.
The eight earliest-surviving council register volumes were on display, and music and talks highlighted vignettes from the new resource created by this project, Aberdeen Registers Online: 1398–1511. Lord Provost Barney Crockett spoke on behalf of the City of Aberdeen, and Vice-Principal Professor Marion Campbell on behalf of the University of Aberdeen.
The event opened with a performance on recorder by Ruaraidh Wishart, Ed Friday, Kate Friday, and Marie McLean of a special composition entitled Fantasia for a Doric Fishman. The piece drew inspiration from the so-called ‘Fishman’, one of the most well-known decorations in the registers (see ARO-2-0102-01). Until recently moving to Abertay University, Ruaraidh Wishart was a senior archivist with the Aberdeen City and Aberdeenshire Archives.
Short talks and highlights were given by LACR members, including Jackson Armstrong, Phil Astley, Edda Frankot, Andrew Simpson, and Claire Hawes. The evening also showcased some creative follow-on projects in response to the registers.
William Hepburn introduced Playing in the Archives, his Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) Creative Economies Engagement Fellowship, which investigates how Aberdeen’s registers could provide the inspiration for video game development. William explained how he is assessing the effectiveness of video games as a scholarly medium for examining the burgh records and the historical subjects they inform.
Claire Hawes and musicians Davy Cattanach and Paddy Buchanan performed four Songs from Medieval Aberdeen. Claire’s introduction to their music explained that their composition project was made possible with a 2018 Creative Funding Award from Aberdeen City Council. The trio set out to explore how songwriters can use historical material in their work. These original songs were the result, inspired by stories and themes from the records, and the Scots language of the registers.
There was also a special cake, decorated by Aberdeen cake makers O’Caykx, which displayed some of the information about the words and languages of the registers in icing.
ARO Infographic Cake: Showing proportions of Latin and vernacular words in each register through the scrumptious medium of icing. Photo credit: Jackson Armstrong.
The cake icing depicted the proportion of words in each register in Latin (dark icing) and Scots (light icing). The small amount of orange marked in registers five and six reflects the appearance of a small amount of Dutch (or Middle Low German) in those volumes. The later registers have a greater proportion of content in Scots, and a greater number of words overall. It was a delicious way to mark the completion of the project!
Dr Claire Hawes has collaborated with musicians Davy Cattanach and Paddy Buchanan to explore how songwriters can use historical material in their work. As part of the University of Aberdeen’s May Festival the trio performed today a set of original songs composed in response to the contents of the Aberdeen council registers.
The performance included an introduction by Claire into the nature of the collaboration, its steps and dialogues, and the question of how historians can contribute to the creative process. Claire, Davy and Paddy set out to answer the question by writing songs based on Aberdeen’s medieval town records. The introduction explained how the group encountered some expected differences between historical research and song writing, but also found some similarities.
The Songs from Medieval Aberdeen experiment was a success – resulting in composition of four songs, entitled Balingar, Kervel, Candilmas Time, The Brokin Folkis, and The Fisher Folk of Futy. Each song tells its own story from the Aberdeen registers, and was performed on guitar and bodhran with vocals in Scots. Claire’s introduction examined how the lyrics were crafted neither in Middle Scots nor Modern Scots (nor Doric), but still drew from the language of the registers.
A full audience in the Linklater Rooms at King’s College was given a special treat to hear these songs performed as a set for the first time. The trio said they were keen to record the songs when time allows!
The project was made possible with a Creative Funding Award from Aberdeen City Council.
In 2017 I designed an event called ‘Who Killed David Dun?’ at the first Granite Noir festival. At the event I presented a fictional murder mystery narrative based on historical evidence from the Aberdeen Council Registers. The twist was that the narrative was a piece of fiction where audience choices, decided by majority vote, guided the story, a bit like the recent ‘Bandersnatch’ episode of Black Mirror on Netflix and sharing one of its sources of inspiration – the interactive adventure books of the 1980s and 1990s such as the Fighting Fantasy series.
The story was built using the interactive fiction tool Twine. However, the game was made in a bespoke fashion for a live setting and consisted of a framework of choices on Twine shown on a projector, a script of the all the narrative branches read by me as the audience progressed through the story and paper handouts for the audience containing extracts from the medieval Aberdeen Council Registers. I have now integrated these elements so that the story can be played on a computer or (hopefully!) mobile device. The only element of the original event not carried over is a series of transcription challenges the audience had to pass to progress the narrative.
This month LACR alumna Dr Claire Hawes delivered a pair of joint lectures for the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland and the Scottish History Society.
The subject was ‘The Common Books of Aberdeen’ and the presentation gave a fascinating overview of the historical richness of the council register volumes which have been at the core of the LACR project. Claire delivered her talk to substantial audiences in Edinburgh on 14 January at the National Museum Scotland, and on 15 January in Aberdeen for the Aberdeen & North East Section of the Antiquaries. The lecture illuminated some of the aspects of medieval life that are apparent in the volumes: the role of crafts, the presence of animals, the regulation of behaviour, and the place of the burgh in the political affairs of the Scottish kingdom, to name just a few. The Scots language was also prominent in the colourful examples explored by Claire as she set out some of the ways in which the registers will serve as a bountiful resource for future research. Well done, Claire!
This month and last the language used to describe certain types of violent, but non-lethal, offences in the cases before the burgh courts of Aberdeen was the topic of two presentations by Jackson Armstrong. In Providence, Rhode Island on Friday 26 October, at the North American Conference on British Studies, Jackson spoke on ‘Malice’ and Motivation for Hostility in the Burgh Courts of Late Medieval Aberdeen. This was part of a panel of papers concerning England and Scotland, on late medieval and Tudor towns. At the Aberdeen Maritime Museum on 14 November Jackson spoke on a similar topic as a lunchtime talk.
Both events generated excellent interest and questions.
Members of the LACR team and LACR alumni presented a number of talks and papers over the summer, engaging the public and disseminating research.
In June Edda Frankot held a talk at the Maritime Museum in Aberdeen entitled ‘The Nicholas and other ships from medieval Aberdeen. Evidence from the Council Registers’. This offered some brand new insights into the contents of the corpus utilising the now complete transcriptions and the search tool which has been developed by third-year students from the university and which will form the basis of the tool that should ultimately become available to the public. The talk concerned the ships from Aberdeen that were active in long-distance shipping in the fifteenth century, their shipmasters and owners, and their cargo. It also asked why the skippers, shipowners and merchants ended up in court, as the council registers are, of course, mainly legal records. A separate blog post on some of the aspects of this talk will be published separately soon.
In July LACR was represented at the International Medieval Congress in Leeds with a paper entitled ‘Legal Business outside the Courts: Private and Public Houses as Spaces of Law in the fifteenth century’ presented by Edda Frankot. This paper was part of a session entitled ‘Fiat Iustitia: The Practice of Law inside and outside the Courts’. This session also included papers by Bridgette Slavin from Medaille College in New York on ‘Youthful Offenders in the Courts of 13th- and 14th-Century Ireland’ and by Joseph Figliulo-Rosswurm from the University of California in Santa Barbara on ‘Between the Tactics of the Weak and the Technology of Power: Memory in a Florentine Criminal Court, c. 1343-1363’, though the latter unfortunately had to cancel.
In August, LACR alumna Anna Havinga (Bristol University) presented two papers at conferences in Scotland: ‘Dutch elements in the Aberdeen Council Registers (1398-1511)’, at the 12th Forum for Research on Languages of Scotland and Ulster Triennial Conference in Glasgow, and ‘The emergence of the vernacular in 15th-century Scottish legal texts’, at the 20th International Conference on English Historical Linguistics in Edinburgh.
For the EAUH conference (European Association for Urban History) at the end of August in Rome, Andrew Simpson co-organised a session with Justyna Wubs-Mrozewicz from the University of Amsterdam on ‘Cultures of Law in the Late Medieval and Early Modern Town’. This included a paper co-written by Jackson Armstrong and Edda Frankot on ‘Cultures of Law in Urban Northern Europe’, as well as papers by Frans Camphuijsen from the University of Amsterdam (‘Law courts and contested legal culture in the towns of late medieval Europe’), Griet Vermeesch and Ans Vervaeke from the Free University of Brussels (‘The gatekeepers of urban justice. The pivotal role of lower legal professionals in legal culture in the eighteenth-century Habsburg Low Countries’), and Miriam Tveit from Nord University in Bodø (Urban law in market towns. Legal cultural encounters in 14th and 15th century Scandinavia).
Finally, the September edition of ARC Magazine (the monthly magazine of the Archives and Records Association), which this month is devoted to the topic of Archives and Technology, contains a short illustrated article by City Archivist and LACR project partner Phil Astley entitled ‘Transcription and Technology: Law in the Aberdeen Council Registers, 1398-1511’.