A close shave for Bannockburn

19 Dec 2012

To become the “Welsh Archer” character as part of the new Battle of Bannockburn experience in 3D, Brian Wilkinson, 38 from South Wales agreed to remove his trademark beard of over a decade, and raised funds for Practical Action in the process.

The National Trust for Scotland and Historic Scotland’s Bannockburn character search was a huge success with international response. Six volunteers from across the UK have now been chosen to become the faces of a range of 3D characters in the brand new Bannockburn visitor centre opening in time for the 700th anniversary of the battle in 2014.

The project’s interpretation designers, Bright White Ltd, are working closely with an Academic Advisory Panel featuring some of the UK’s top historians to develop profiles of important characters from the battle. Realism and authenticity are key to the concept, hence the call to the public was made to find people from the regions that made up the different units which formed the armies.

The six people chosen will represent a mixture of historical characters and fictional people connected with the battle of Bannockburn at the new centre’s "Character Stations" in 3D, in real-life sized dimensions. Gesture recognition technology will enable these characters to react to movements and interact with visitors to explain the weaponry, tactics and techniques involved in the battle, as well as the people taking part, their skills, motivations, allegiances and personal stories. 

The Centre for Digital Documentation and Visualisation (CDDV), the partnership between Glasgow School of Art's Digital Design Studio (DDS) and Historic Scotland, will laser scan the faces of each of the successful volunteers to be developed in to their 3D character. For this process to be effective, applicants were informed that all facial hair, make up and piercings would have to be removed. 

To become the Welsh Archer character, Wilkinson, who has worked in Scottish heritage for over a decade, volunteered to remove his 12-year-old beard for the process and capitalised on the big decision by raising funds for Practical Action - the charity which uses technology to challenge poverty.

In just two weeks, the man whose children have never seen him without facial hair, managed to raise £280 for his chosen charity.
Straight from an appointment at Glasgow barbers Men International, Brian attended the DDS along with four other successful applicants for the facial scanning process: 

• Brian Wilkinson, 38 from South Wales but now living in Linlithgow, was transformed into the “Welsh Archer” a professional soldier, with almost a mercenary attitude. The English lords ruling in Wales had a duty to provide archers, however the Welsh felt bitter towards Edward I who had conquered their country in 1282-3. 
• Philip Wilson, 34 from Edinburgh, was transformed into “James Douglas” - the Scottish Knight famous for his personal vendetta against Edward I for killing his father, and one of Robert the Bruce’s trusted lieutenants. 
• Annemarie Hamilton, 37 from Stirling, was transformed into the “Local Woman”, a character connected to Robert the Bruce’s camp who supplied ale to the armies on both sides. 
• John Logan, 14 from Glasgow, was transformed into the “Page” from Berwick Castle Garrison who has no real experience of the horrors of medieval war and hopes in due course to become a knight himself. 
• Ranald Shepherd, 48 from Aberdeen, was transformed into the “Scottish Spearman” drawn from the better-off peasantry, with a general obligation to serve and determination to protect his land. Morale was high amongst this group who felt confident in their battle tactics; the use of schiltroms or circular formations of spearmen at Bannockburn is famous.
The remaining character, the “English Spy”, will attend the DDS in January.

Brian Wilkinson, Education Officer at RCAHMS (Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland) and now, ‘Welsh Archer’, said: 

“Being a proud Welshman and keen historian, I have always been aware of the fearsome reputation of the Welsh archers since Norman times. I find stories of the Welsh mercenaries at Bannockburn very interesting, and was excited by the opportunity to ‘become’ this character, immortalised at the new Bannockburn visitor experience.

"I have a particular interest in bringing the past alive through heritage interpretation and education and the state-of-the-art processes being used to bring the battle of Bannockburn to life as part of this project are fascinating. To become a part of this innovative project, and raise money for Practical Action in the process has been a pleasure. I hope my story will be useful in promoting Bannockburn in Scotland, Wales and more widely.”

David McAllister, Project Director, National Trust for Scotland said:
“It is a testament to the power of the story of the battle of Bannockburn that hundreds of people from across the world wanted to get involved in this truly ground-breaking project and to become one of the characters in this unique interpretation, which brings medieval battle to life for 21st century audiences. We now have people from all over the UK playing a part in the battle of Bannockburn, just as they did in 1314. 

“Many people know the myths about the battle, but through this project and the story we tell at the new centre, we want to challenge those perceptions and make sure people leave with the facts. Using this amazing new technology, we’ll be able to give visitors an unrivalled opportunity to interact with and understand the variety of people who found themselves swept up in those historic events of 1314.”

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