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INSIDE TRACK: Relax with a cuppa and confront our darker history

While the sun shines and the Commonwealth Games get off to a blistering start, both in the stadiums and the parks and streets of Glasgow, one of the most-intriguing events of the cultural festival that accompanies Glasgow 2014 is looking into more painful, more shadowy subjects.

But it seems very necessary that somewhere amid the celebrations of the games and the Commonwealth, that the dark heart of Empire, the colonisation and exploitation - of land, of resources, and people - is being addressed and acknowledged in public. Even if, as is the case with Jude Barber and author Louise Welsh's Empire Cafe, you can do it with a nice cup of tea and some delicious food.

So kudos to Welsh and Barber for pulling it all together, and for establishing what they hope is a relaxed and unintimidating venue for artists, writers, young people and the general public to confront some of the most unwelcome histories of this island, and in particular, Scotland.

Not that "the Scots were guilty too" is the overwhelming (or only) message of the Empire Cafe. But the links between Scotland and historical colonialism and slavery are real, and -perhaps even more so after this week of events at the Empire Cafe - vivid.

After all, three minutes from the Briggait sits the resplendent Merchant City, whose merchants built financial empires from sugar, from cotton, from tobacco. And these businesses owned and traded and worked slaves. As Louise Welsh writes in the introduction to the cafe's collection of 18 poems, Yonder Awa: "There is blood in the mortar."

She adds that it is not just history that is being encountered in this place, but the present. There are, after all, hundreds of Scottish surnames in the Jamaican telephone directory. "All those Lamonts, Stuarts, Campbells, McLeods and others in the Caribbean, - we have turned our backs on them for too long," she writes.

I sat down with Welsh and Barber as the Empire Cafe, in the Briggait building, was still being put together.

They both said the idea - of somehow addressing Scotland's involvement with slavery - had grown much bigger and the site has become a mini-festival. So as well as the cafe itself, with its bespoke furniture, and poem-inscribed crockery, there is a large stage for performances and discussions; a pavilion housing a 3D documentary on the mapping of Kenya, commissioned by the Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland; the 14-18 Now Pavilion, where you can write a letter to an Unknown Soldier; a new exhibition by the artist Graham Fagen, who looks at the fate of Jamaican soldiers in the First World War; and a series of daily events.

These include, on Wednesday, The Legal Geography of Colonialism, a presentation by the land reformer Andy Wightman, and, on the final day of the cafe, an event titled Scotland: Colonisers or Colonised? which I would imagine will be a lively debate.

But the tone of the Empire Cafe, Welsh hopes, is not that of a lecture. "This is not only our history, it is other people's history, too. And if we don't address our own history, it makes us look shifty."

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