Radical Independence Dundee hosted a ‘Radical Burns Night’ on Saturday 23 January 2021, with guest speakers from Dundee, London, New York City and Dunedin. You can find a full recording on our YouTube channel.
The original event description was:
This year, by necessity, Burns Night celebrations around the world are taking place online. While most of us would rather be ceilidh dancing, toasting, and sharing a haggis in person, there is an advantage to a virtual event – greater cooperation across borders and distances.
Our statue of Robert Burns in Dundee, sculpted by John Steell and erected in 1880 with funding from the Dundee Burns Club, is one of four near-identical statues across the world. The Dundee statue came only two weeks after the one in New York’s Central Park, followed by one in London’s Victoria Embankment Gardens and finally one in Dunedin, New Zealand in 1887. The Dunedin statue is of especial local importance but also tied to Scottish legacies of imperialism, given that a nephew of Burns was one of the city’s founding fathers. John Steell also sculpted the statue of George Kinloch in Dundee, situated around the corner from Burns in Albert Square – a monument that appeared in the local news last year for appearing on a crowdsourced list of statues connected to slavery by Topple the Racists.
These four statues of Burns are significant in the history of public sculpture and their subtle differences chart the progression of Steell’s abilities. According to Murdo Macdonald, Steell’s development over the course of his life places him in a category with Titian, Claude and Hokusai.
Our unconventional, internationalist Burns Night won’t follow the traditional structure of the evening, but it will feature some of his poems alongside discussion of the activities of the left in these four cities and some of the shared issues that unite us. We will welcome guests from each to share their perspectives on internationalism, public monuments, critical heritage and the radical Burns.