The primary country music establishment in Scotland has recently decided to prohibit the display of the Confederate flag, citing its harmful connections to slavery and white supremacy.
The Grand Ole Opry members in Glasgow voted 50 to 48 to uphold a ban that was implemented by the venue’s managing committee last month. The emergency meeting on Monday evening marked the end of a contentious internal conflict that led to the president of the committee resigning two weeks prior.
The focal point of the discussion was the incorporation of the red and blue cross during a flag-folding ceremony, referred to as the American Trilogy and accompanied by Elvis Presley’s song of the same name, as the finale of each club evening.
On Tuesday, vice-president Karen McCulloch announced that the Confederate flag will not be displayed in any way at Glasgow’s Grand Ole Opry.
She expressed disappointment that some members were unwilling to recognize the need for our club, along with others, to modernize and discontinue the use of a flag that has become associated with negative ideologies in the United States and beyond.
We took a strong stance against racism and it is a great relief that most of our members agreed with our decision.
The Guardian understands that in recent years, and in particular since the Black Lives Matter movement grew to global prominence in 2020, there has been increasing discomfort about the flag’s associations among Opry members and visitors, and some bookings cancelled because of its prominence.
The National Theatre of Scotland had previously considered using the Opry as a venue for a show, but has since withdrawn its interest. They informed the management that the flag is now recognized as having racist associations.
The ongoing dispute is still unfolding on the social media profiles of Opry members. Some are expressing worries about alienating black and Asian visitors, while others are calling for solidarity for the benefit of the club. One member even accused those who allegedly tore up their membership cards at the meeting of acting like entitled children.
The establishment, established in 1974 and quickly gaining popularity in Glasgow, draws dedicated followers who don cowboy clothing and dance to live music.
The venue has a maximum seating of 450 people on three levels with two separate dance floors. It has previously featured performances by popular bands such as Teenage Fanclub and Franz Ferdinand.
Artists and event organizers at the Opry refer to it as more of a gathering place than just a place for music, highlighting its welcoming atmosphere, particularly for individuals with disabilities.
A promoter mentioned to the Guardian that they are in favor of the decision and are hopeful that it will help resolve the situation in this wonderful and hospitable venue.
Scottish screenwriter Nicole Taylor, who won a Bafta, utilized the Opry as a setting for her film Wild Rose, which follows the story of Jessie Buckley as a single mother and aspiring country singer. Taylor expressed her admiration for the Opry, describing it as a welcoming and inclusive place where people of all ages mingle, including both hen nights and older individuals.
As a teenager, Taylor frequently attended the Opry on Saturday nights. She found herself drawn to the genre of music that conveyed emotions, especially since she grew up in a city where discussing one’s feelings was not the norm. She believes that there is a country song for every type of emotion.
Paul Kerr, a writer for Americana UK who focuses on the Scottish music scene, proposes that the Opry embodies a traditional form of country and western music, reminiscent of the cowboy era with its use of prop guns and fast-draw competitions.
“In addition, there is a group of older individuals who may not be as informed about the evolving perception of the Confederate flag, especially since Trump’s election.”
“I believe that the reason nearly half of the members voted to keep the flag is because they value the traditional country music style, which is heavily influenced by Nashville and the southern culture. This support for tradition may have outweighed any possible racist connotations associated with the flag.”
The Opry is named after the venue in Nashville, Tennessee, where the Country Music Awards banned the confederate flag in 2022. Emerging stars such as Luke Combs distance themselves from that imagery and established artists including the Chicks and Lady A have changed their band names, amid growing understanding that people of colour and the LGBTQ+ community have felt routinely excluded from the country music scene.
According to Kerr, there is a growing movement in country music questioning the lack of diversity among black artists and people of color in the audience.