Roman history runs deep throughout the Falkirk area and an ever growing festival is on the march again to celebrate and educate.
The annual Big Roman Week gets under way on Saturday, September 17, and promises the biggest and best programme of activities and events since the event began back in 2009.
There will be walks, talks, family events and even film shows to help people find out more about the world famous Roman Antonine Wall, which ran from Bo’ness right across Falkirk district to Old Kilpatrick near Glasgow.
Councillor Adrian Mahoney, Falkirk Council tourism spokesman and one of the festival organisers, said: “Big Roman Week offers lots of great events, many free of charge, right across Falkirk district.
“With the help of great partners and speakers, we’ve organised a packed programme for 2016 and we hope everyone enjoys it.”
Councillor Mahoney has been one of the driving forces behind the event, seeing it as a way to promote the area’s ancient Roman links and promote the Antonine Wall, which was awarded World Heritage status in 2008, as a major tourist attraction.
Last year Falkirk Council made efforts to put the Falkirk area on the map using its Roman heritage to draw visitors.
A report to the council’s executive committee detailed ways of developing the economic and social potential of the Antonine Wall and how to improve ways of working in partnership with organisations involved in managing the site.
Part of this promotion included an interactive app visitors can download to their smartphone and use to navigate the site, highlighting important landmarks and points of interest.
Big Roman Week was identified as one way to promote the wall.
At the time local historian Ian Scott welcomed the plan and the launch of the new app.
He said: “The Antonine Wall is Scotland’s most important Roman monument and since 2008 a designated World Heritage site. With nearly half of it lying in the Falkirk Council area it is obviously a precious asset.
“We we must do everything in our power to protect and present it to our own people and to the thousands who come each year to Falkirk district. Thanks in part to the annual Big Roman Week and the work of the Friends of Kinneil, there is more local interest than ever in Scotland’s Roman heritage and the new initiatives can only make things better.”
The initial idea to for Big Roman Week came from The Friends of Kinneil charity in Bo’ness.
Maria Ford from the group said: “The festival has become a regular fixture in the local calendar and hopefully it continues to be popular with local people and visitors for many years to come.
“We’re really grateful to Falkirk Community Trust, which has organised many of the events for the week, as well as Falkirk Council for supporting the festival.”
Highlights of this year’s festival include Big Roman Day at Kinneil House, Bo’ness, on September 17 – a family fun day featuring the Antonine Guard re-enactment group and a number of events for children at Meadowbank, Bonnybridge, Falkirk, Grangemouth, Larbert and Bo’ness libraries.
A free conference on the Antonine Wall will take place in Bo’ness Hippodrome and a community archaeology session will be held in Camelon.
For food lovers, Italian Night will showcase some top nosh and there will also be some displays of Roman cooking.
Councillor Mahoney said: “For the first time ever, we’re running a mini conference on the Antonine Wall. Guest speakers will include Doctor David Breeze, the man who led the bid to turn the Roman wall into a World Heritage Site, and Doctor Fraser Hunter of National Museums of Scotland.
“There will also be information on the new interpretation work to bring the wall to life.”
Organisers regularly embrace “all things Roman” when planning events and this year is no exception with screenings of the Gergory Peck and Audrey Hepburn classic Roman Holiday in the Bo’ness Hippodrome.
Courtesy of history lover and Bonnybridge councillor Baillie Billy Buchanan, a giant model of a Roman soldier is also being installed in Falkirk Library to allow visitors to take their very own “centurion selfies”.
The week will come to an end with a trek from Falkirk district into North Lanarkshire to trace the Antonine Wall from the ruins of Castlecary Roman Fort, by Allandale.
Leading all the walks will be Geoff Bailey of Falkirk Community Trust.
Councillor Mahoney said: “Geoff has been a terrific supporter of the festival since it began. Like Geoff, people are fascinated by the Romans and hopefully lots of local people will attend events during Big Roman Week.”
Visit www.bigroman week.org.uk for full listings or big up a brochure from your local library.