Are you 'flying the flag'?

By Simon Barrow
August 2, 2013

The term popular 'fly the flag' is all too often a cipher for "support us against them" or "toe the line". But from the beginning of August through to the beginning of September 2013, creative artist Peter Liversidge is helping us to recognise and practice another, positive meaning.

Liversidge is inviting anyone in the city of Edinburgh with a flagpole to fly a white flag which bears the text: HELLO.

The project stems from a desire to remind us that in its most basic sense, the flag is not a nationalistic or tribal banner, but a “a greeting, an indication of intent be that benevolent or with malice”.

In a city which doubles in size each August, as festival season begins, Liversidge’s initiative invites Edinburgh, visitors and residents alike, to join in a collective and universal HELLO.

According to its dictionary definition, HELLO is "used to express a greeting, answer a telephone, or attract attention an exclamation of surprise, wonder, elation, etc..."

That's what the artist and participants hope for over the next month. The message being sent out is certainly very different to the ones being promoted by the UK government at the moment, as a crackdown on unregistered migrants seeks to raise fears about who really belongs and who supposedly deserves to be kicked out.

Migration justice campaigners are saying that no human being should be designated 'illegal', and that the efforts of all just societies should be to seek to welcome people, wherever possible - not least if they are under pressure or threat.

'Flags for Edinburgh' is one of 10 new public art commissions for Edinburgh Art Festival 2013 and its is being promoted by, among others, Just Festival, among others.

St John's Church (corner of Princes Street and Lothian Road), main host of Just Festival, is one of the public spaces where the white HELLO flag will appear.

The Just Festival, also known simply as Just, runs from 2-26 August 2013. It combines artistic and performance style events with conversations, talks, films exhibits and other ways of exploring how to live together creatively in a mixed-belief society. It is supported by civic, educational, church and faith groups (including the thinktank Ekklesia), and also by the Scottish Government and European Parliament. Nearly 30,000 people are expected to take part over the month.

* For more information on Just Festival, visit http://www.justjust.org and http://justfestivalnews.blogspot.com

* Ekklesia is a sponsor of Just Festival. Our news, reporting and comment is aggregated at: www.ekklesia.co.uk/justfestival

* More on the Flags project: http://www.edinburghartfestival.com/commissions/peter_liversidge

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© Simon Barrow is co-director of Ekklesia and a media adviser for the 2013 Just Festival.

Although the views expressed in this article do not necessarily represent the views of Ekklesia, the article may reflect Ekklesia's values. If you use Ekklesia's news briefings please consider making a donation to sponsor Ekklesia's work here.