Julie Calderwood Fitzsimmons is a teacher and playwright from Glasgow.
She has written a number of plays for festival audiences, ranging from ‘Party Suzie’ for the Glasgow Comedy Festival in 2014, to an adaptation of ‘The Secret Agent’ by Joseph Conrad. Over Christmas 2017, Julie felt compelled to write a play ‘Our Generation’ (previously Once in a Generation, with ironic intent, but she admits that she’d be happy never to hear that phrase ever again) set on the day of the 2014 referendum:
“As an avid independence supporter in 2014, I was frustrated that I wasn’t as active as I now know I should have been. As a lone parent, completing a PGDE in teaching in 2014, focused all of my energies on debating online. There were many friends and family that were vocally against, but those aside, I had no idea of how much of an echo chamber I was in.
I felt that most who had settled on voting No, did so quietly and, as a result, didn’t engage with the national debate. ‘Our Generation’ centres on a couple; one very actively engaged with the Yes campaign and the other, very much part of what came to be seen as the silent majority. With everything that has happened since 2014, I tried to stay very much in that moment in time and understand why so many decided to vote No. Many who, with hindsight, would make a very different decision now.
‘Our Generation’ was well received as a piece of Fringe Theatre in Edinburgh in 2018 and has had several runs since. I was delighted to be invited to write something for YesSouthside’s virtual ceilidh this year and I decided to use the No voting character from ‘Our Generation’ as inspiration for ‘Voices’. How would he feel about Brexit and Boris? I think he would have firmly changed his mind by now and those voices deserve to be heard and embraced.“
Voices by Julie Calderwood Fitzsimmons
I must admit I felt quite sheepish when Cameron come oot and started spoutin’es pish aboot English Votes for English Laws. He barely mentioned Scotland at aw. I struggled tae look her in the eye, as she picked up her work gear and croaked ‘Goodbye.’ Panicked, I hailed ‘It won’t be long afore we dae it again!’ Broken and tear stained, she turned and asked ‘When?’ Later that night I watched the riots; felt my gut wrench, after being so quiet. By the time I’d dragged myself aff tae bed, a voice was rising in ma head, but a couldnae tell ye what it said. Life went on, but no’ as normal. Ma wife and I were barely cordial. I tried to sweep it under the rug; tried to climb oot the hole A’d dug, but a couldnae find a way tae confide that…maybe A’d goat it wrang? Pride. It brings oot the worst in ye. Ye swallow it doon tae the point eh agony. Side-lined and ignored fur Conservative debauchery. Can it be cawed anything else but cross-party treachery? By the time I’d realised where we’d been led, a voice was screaming in ma head, But still, I wouldnae hear what it said! 2016. Whit a year in history! Nae words tae describe it. Nae Google. Nae dictionary. The hale thing wiz like staring doon the barrel eh a gun. We lost our Heroes, one by one. That in itself wiz hard tae take. Who wiz tae know our hale world would quake ‘till it was nothing but rubble, unrecognisable tae the eye. I couldnae fur the life eh me understand why we hud voted for ignorance and hate? Why did this anger feel impotent and late? She took my hand and said gently ‘Not We. These decisions aren’t ours. Well, at least they shouldn’t be. Wouldn’t be. If we were free To make our own choices; if we were allowed to truly raise our voices. A door creaked open and on it, it read: ‘Listen to the voice that echoes in your head. Pay close attention and you’ll feel what it said.’ Well, where dae ye begin wae 2020? Just when we thought that we’d aw hud plenty, wae Trump and Boris and racism fuelled Brexit. Just when we’re scrambling tae find an exit, something so small, that ye cannae see it, shuts doon the world fae Brisbane tae Egypt. Every country looked tae their leader. Confused, vulnerable and paralysed in fear. Never before have our votes thrown us into national boats, that allow us tae see, wae infinite clarity, that who we choose creates unity or disparity. Some boats are simple, but beautifully crafted. Others are shining but make ye feel shafted, as the water starts pourin in Captain Boris mumbles ‘We will win Against this terrible enemy! What we must do is…’ The rest is hazy but naebody’s listenin’. The lifeboat is on the water glistenin’. I can see all the others, jumping ship. The rusty bar is on my hip as I look over at my friends, not foes, who are beckoning for me to go! I follow the path that they have tread. The voice now clear inside my head. Out loud, I proudly said: ‘Our generation will not be cowed. Our time is here. Our time is Now. No more Vows or placation. We stand together. An independent Nation.’