CovidComms Awards

The Clan Farquharson 2020 Virtual Gathering

Winner: Editor's Award
CovidComms Awards 2020

Clan Farquharson may have the oldest chief in 101-year old Alwyne Farquharson of Invercauld, but the not-for-profit organisation retains a youthful spirit as it demonstrated when the global pandemic put paid to its traditional Gathering, which is usually centred on the Ballater Highlands Games.

While other Clans cancelled their annual gatherings, Clan Farquharson UK, which is run entirely by volunteers keen to promote Scottish Clan heritage, traditions and cultures, recreated its event online.

With just two months to prepare, and limited resources, Clan Farquharson UK sought to create an event that engaged with its local Deeside community but also connected with affiliated Clan Farquharson Societies operating overseas, including those in New Zealand, Jamaica, Canada and Argentina, and a diaspora of more than five million people with a personal connection to the Clan.

The Clan Farquharson 2020 Virtual Gathering, which ran from 9 to 15 August, kicked off with an online networking event, open to all. There was a day of activities focused on Braemar Castle, built in 1628 as a Highland hunting lodge, which for the past 200 years has served as the ‘home’ of the Chief of Clan Farquharson. These included a virtual tour, interviews with Braemar Castle staff and re-enactments of Jacobite skirmishes, performed by living history groups, as well as the opportunity for young Clan members to recreate the castle in Minecraft.

Other Minecraft challenges involved the recreation of a Farquharson tartan, an archery competition and a hill run. Members could also participate in an Open-mic Ceilidh, a virtual whisky tasting, with samples sent in advance, and a virtual pub quiz. There were also virtual tours and nature walks along the River Dee, and an online concert featuring Aberdeenshire musicians.

Members were also invited to submit full length photographs of themselves in Highland dress, alongside a donation pledge, for the chance to join the Colour Party, the eight-person retinue plus bannerman that accompanies the Clan Chief as he enters the Ballater Highland Games. The nine highest bidders were photoshopped as the 2020 Virtual Colour Party, with the top donor awarded the honour of carrying the Chief’s colours.

The event, which was hailed as a great success by Clan Farquharson’s international counterparts, raised its Clan Society profile and is now seen as a platform for revolutionising one of Scotland’s oldest assets for the digital age.