Author will deliver keynote speech at Outlander conference in Glasgow

Outlander author Diana Gabaldon will be in Scotland next year for the launch of a unique university conference in Glasgow.

By The Newsroom
Sunday, 8th December 2019, 2:58 pm
Updated Sunday, 8th December 2019, 4:14 pm
Outlander mania - academic style - comes to Glasgow next year.

The four day Outlander event will study a wide range of subjects, including the legacy the books and series have left in areas ranging from Blackness and Polmont to Doune and Berwick.

Ms Gabaldon’s fantasy-history yarn (for which she received a special tourism award from VisitScotland) misrepresents the historic Jacobite Rising of 1745 as an “England versus Scotland” war, but has been warmly welcomed by tourism and heritage groups for stimulating interest in the real history of the period.

The Glasgow University conference will look at the history, customs, politics, culture, clothes and music featured in the Outlander TV series.

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It comes amid sky-high interest at home and abroad in (real) Scottish history, with plans underway to open a 1746 Battle of Falkirk heritage centre on Falkirk Muir and another (separate venture) in preparation at Prestonpans.

Fears persist about the potential for damage said to be risked by an influx of tourists to key battlefield site Culloden Moor, but heritage groups - including the 1745 Association - are more worried about the threat posed by plans to build new homes in the area.

In Glasgow next year it’s likely the Outlander theme will be the inspiration for a much broader look at Scottish culture, tourism, historical mythology - and how Scotland should really be “selling” its authentic story to a worldwide audience.

A university spokesperson said: “It promises to be an exciting, vibrant and highly popular conference, which will see Glasgow being taken over by Outlander fever.”

Professor Willy Maley, Professor of Renaissance Studies (English Literature) at the University of Glasgow, said: “The globally successful Outlander series has triggered more interest in Scotland and its history than any other cultural artefact in recent years. Interest continues to grow as Outlander moves into its fifth season.

“While hundreds of fan-based gatherings and interest groups around the world promote and encourage Outlander fandom, and thousands of media articles ponder its reach and appeal, there has not yet been an event which takes an academic approach to the series and brings together the multiple areas of expertise involved in its creation.

“The University of Glasgow plans to do just this - hosting a major international Outlander conference in 2020 will offer the chance to debate, discuss and dissect the elements that make up this remarkable phenomenon.”

The Outlander TV series features English nurse Claire Randall (played by Caitriona Balfe) who falls two hundred years through time to the eve of Culloden, where she meets Highland heart-throb Jamie Fraser.

Several academics at the University have been directly involved in the production, and have played key roles as researchers, advisors and even cast members.

This has included Celtic and Gaelic Lecturer Gillebride MacMillan who played Gwyllyn the Bard in Season 1.

Mr MacMillan, who will take part in the conference, said: “It has been an amazing journey since I was first cast as Gwyllyn the Bard in Outlander.

“It has opened huge opportunities for me, and I just love that through Outlander I have been able to bring new songs and the Gaelic language to a whole new and worldwide audience.

“I am looking forward to the conference next year which will bring all the many disciplines at the University of Glasgow together to look at Outlander from an educational and academic perspective.

“I am also looking forward to welcoming the author of the Outlander book series Diana Gabaldon to the University.”

Also taking part in the event will be charity the Clanranald Trust for Scotland, an educational organisation established in 1995, whose members were also heavily involved as actors and advisers to the Outlander series.