There are plenty of great reasons for living in the Borders – one of them is our profound and highly-distinctive sense of identity, perhaps best displayed in summer festivals and common ridings.
The final event of this year’s calendar has just taken place at Coldstream, and it was every bit as enjoyable and moving as all the others. As MP, I’ve been lucky enough to be invited along to most of them. It’s one of the aspects of being elected which I’ve enjoyed the most, and on each and every occasion it’s put me at the heart of things and allowed me a privileged insight into a town’s special day.
Each festival and common riding has reminded me of the astonishing colour, spectacle and community spirit of these unique and fantastic occasions. They really do bring people together. Young and old, local and visitor, families and civic leaders all mix in an emotional celebration of local pride and history.
Another great thing about these events is that they combine a tremendous sense of localism with a strong linkage to our region-wide culture and heritage. Every one is different – I was particularly moved by the riding out to Flodden during Coldstream Civic Week, for instance – but there’s a strong common thread running through them too.
At each festival, you meet not just people from that community, but also from other towns – everyone supports each other. There may be a great friendly – and sometimes not so friendly! – rivalry between Borders towns and villages, but these gatherings bring shared passion, unbreakable bonds and real togetherness.
I particularly like the way official representatives from different communities go to neighbouring events, as well as the principals, their supporting teams and partners. That builds strong, resilient friendships that last a lifetime. It forges us as Borderers and really helps to define who we are.
I also have huge respect for the fortitude and constitution of those who take part. They really do give it their all and many of the festivals start very early and go on until late in the evening. People really do know how to party!
It’s nice to see, though, that at the same time they’re never frivolous. Everyone involved puts every bit of themselves into making the event a success, doing things properly and with great dignity.
The motto of the Coldstream Guards, who play a part in their town’s Civic Week, is “Nulli Secundus”. That sums up our festivals and common ridings – in English, “Second to None”.