Traquair festival sets up international links

The man behind Traquair’s Books, Borders and Bikes festival is meeting ex-President Bill Clinton and 30 former heads of state in America this week, to discuss matters from Scottish independence to the empowerment of women.

Mark Muller Stuart QC is visiting America as the executive director of Beyond Borders, an organization which “seeks to harness Scotland’s unique heritage to faciliate dialogue and cultural exchange between small nations, in an effort to promote understanding and help reduce conflict,” its website states.

Since founding Beyond Borders, the human rights lawyer has organised three Books, Borders and Bikes festivals at Traquair, the ancestral home of his wife the Lady of Traquair, Catherine Maxwell Stuart. The two-day festival every August features artists, broadcasters, writers and cultural leaders of small nations from around the world.

Now Beyond Borders has begun a collaboration with the Club de Madrid, the world´s largest forum of former heads of state and government, which acts under the banner “democracy that delivers”. The club’s annual conference this year, hosted by its honorary chair President Clinton at the Clinton Public Library at Little Rock, Arkansas, focuses on further empowering women in the 21st century.

Mr Muller Stuart has been asked to open the conference as master of ceremonies in the inaugural co-curated session on the theme of women in the arts and media, with Jennifer Mary Shipley, vice-president of the Club de Madrid and prime minister of New Zealand from 1997 to 1999, Maya Harris, vice-president at the Ford Foundation, actress Geena Davis and Manal Al Dowayan.

“Al Dowayan is at the centre of the Club de Madrid-Beyond Borders collaboration,” writes a spokesperson at Beyond Borders’ Edinburgh HQ. “An artist from Saudi Arabia’s Eastern Province, her work draws its main inspiration from the Saudi women’s experience, questioning their place and role in modern Saudi society.

“At the upcoming Little Rock conference, she will exhibit her photography installation ‘I AM’ and participate in debates on the empowerment of women in the arts.”

Manal and her poignant art will then travel to South Africa, and conclude in Scotland at the Beyond Borders literary and thought festival at Traquair.

“Beyond Borders collaboration with Club de Madrid is not limited to Manal Al Dowayan’s art,” the spokesperson continues. “Some members of the club, those previously representing equally iconic small nations, will be brought to Scotland to take part in a Beyond Borders curated panel at the Edinburgh Festival of Politics in the Scottish Parliament in August 2013, where the power of small nations will be debated.”

Mr Muller Stuart added: “The Presidential Library in Little Rock, like Traquair House in the Scottish Borders, may be a little bit off the beaten track, but when you combine stimulating debate in a great and welcoming setting, its not too difficult to understand why many statesmen and women are willing to come from all over the globe to participate.

“I hope that some of the club can join us to debate the power of small nations at next year at Traquair House and at Festival of Politics.”