In 2020, I started an incredible project working with The Great Tapestry of Scotland. Here is an epic story told without words: 160 stitched panels, designed by artist Andrew Crummy and historian Alistair Moffat, and crafted by more than 1000 stitchers from across Scotland, telling a story which lasts 420 million years. Each panel represents a chapter in the story of Scotland’s epic history and behind every image lie yet more stories: personal tales, tributes and private jokes which are woven into every panel. Images of the tapestry can be found here.
This spectacular work of art will be housed in a new Visitor Centre, with a unique story of its own, due to open later this year in Galashiels in the Scottish Borders. Until then, The Great Tapestry of Scotland: The Making of a Masterpiece by Alistair Moffat, Susan Mansfield, Alexander Smith, Alexander McCall Smith, Andrew Crummy is highly recommended.
Telling a story through pictures is hardly a new idea. A couple of weeks ago I visited the tiny church of St Francis in Byrness, Northumberland. Inside, this beautiful window remembers the villagers who died during the construction of Catcleugh Reservoir. It was paid for by their fellow workers in 1903 and remains hugely valued by the community today. This hidden gem, in the remotest part of England, tells a poignant story of a community at the turn of the last century. History remembered in one image.
A little while ago I learnt about the incredible Llancarfan Medieval Wall Paintings in St Cadoc’s Church, Glamorgan. The story of how these ancient paintings have been rediscovered is just as interesting as the tales told in the pictures themselves. Expert conservators have painstakingly cleaned away layers of limewash to reveal the most spectacular 15th century paintings. These tell a different story of a life we can barely imagine today: the seven deadly sins, a royal family, death and St George and his dragon.
These days our stories are shared through pictures on social media: photographs, videos, memes. We think this is a new way of communicating but stories have been told through pictures for generations. There really is something quite marvellous about a picture that can speak a thousand words.