Tuesday, 18 July 2017

Canadian Scots; 150 years of Independence!

In 2009 I took photos at a Clan Gathering Homecoming in Edinburgh – where many of the Scots diaspora celebrated their roots. There are about 11 million of Scots descent living abroad. As many Scots live in Canada as in Scotland. Waves of Scots were forced to flee their homeland during the highland clearances in two waves – first after the Jacobite wars in 1750s (lets be clear these were European religious feuds /wars and included solders from Ireland, France, Germany – they were not the English fighting the Scots!)

atholl highlandes
The second wave was early 19th century - and also again after the first world war, people of the beautiful Hebrides and Orkney islands were spun yarns of the great life they could have over the seas. It was a direct de-population and suppression of Highland peoples and their culture and stories. It was a way of spreading the British empire worldwide.

Each year Canada hosts the Glengarry games.
Of course we don’t learn anything of the clearances, Jacobites, Scottish inventions, Scottish writers or artists or even of Robert Burns, if we study Scottish history at Scottish secondary schools. Instead history teachers in Scotland have had to teach of the glories of the British empire, Shakespeare or Tudors. It’s a shocking state that there is such historical ignorance here. Hopefully things have improved today?!
At least that’s what I had to study. Now I am older (and hopefully wiser) I am teaching myself Scottish history. It makes me both very sad and angry that when I walked the ancient streets of Edina I knew nothing. I did visit the castle and art galleries and I taught myself something of the Stuarts and of Mary Queen of Scots, at those places. There were the poets who wrote to keep Scots culture alive after the union of 1707. Lets also be clear – this was never a union of equal partners – it was about a few ambitious Scots careers and for greed.

According to Janice Charette, Canadian High Commissioner UK, the ties are robust to Scotland: On the calendars across Canada there are Caledonian events, from Highland Games to Burns nights. “Canada prides itself on being a diverse, multi-cultural population - one of strengths.
Also in Vancouver they have combined Burns night and the Chinese New Year into a major event. It is called the Gung Haggis Fat Choy Festival so Scottish and Chinese Canadians and other Canadians of all origins come together for it. They eat haggis and dim sum, drink single malt whisky while watching a traditional Chinese dragon dance to the accompaniment of bagpipes.”  “It was only since I came to live in Scotland that I began to understand my own country’s story. The heritage of the diaspora – the poetry, the songs, the literature - allows you to see through Scottish eyes and appreciate just how much this small country gave to Canada.”

But the real Scots history is not here in royal portraits – but with the ordinary Scots.
Fortunately the Scottish songs and music and stories live on in Canada!
The young President Justin Trudeau, who has a Scottish grandfather, visited Edinburgh in July to mark the Canadian celebrations.

**The Canada STORY
This Saturday marks150th anniversary of the founding of Canada - The British North America Act of 1867 marks the provinces of Upper and lower Canada, Nova Scotia, and New Brunswick “shall form and be One Dominion, under the name of Canada.” Gaelic Scotland were part of the founding of present day Canada. The first Scots arrived in Nova Scotia1620s. Men from Orkney arrived a century later, recruited by the fur traders from Hudson’s Bay Co.

The first Canadian Prime Minister John Macdonald was from Glasgow, his father was from Sutherland and his mother a Shaw from Badenoch. Of Canada’s 23 prime ministers14 have had Scottish roots including Justin Trudeau, whose grandfather hailed from Banffshire. It was Macdonald, along with Scots George Stephen and Donald Smith, who were responsible for the building of the Canadian Pacific Railway coast.

Friday, 14 July 2017

Casting Robert the Bruce! Our Branch Economy

Today they are casting in Glasgow for a big Netflix movie on Robert the Bruce. An English casting director is coming up here to Glasgow, who will get 20%, and who has never worked in Scotland.

Scottish casting agents have been told they cannot participate – a new software was introduced and they were not informed of it – these are agents who have done the casting for big productions such as Trainspotting and Outlander.

The Scottish agents have worked with the Scottish actors for many years and know their strengths and weaknesses. When Brat Pitt filmed here in Glasgow for his movie World War Z a few years ago, it is not always successful to bring in outsiders who don’t know the place, culture, stories or the people.

In both Ireland and Wales they have separate Tv and film agencies and they protect using local crew for TV and film productions – but not here in Scotland. 

The problem in Scotland is that Creative Scotland is too big an umbrella organizing that covers all the creative arts – art, books, music and film and tv. When TV and film are money-making industries that bring in a lot of money and they are not poetry! 

Scotland is treated as a branch economy – where decisions that are often best made in Scotland are being made in London. Being London-centred is not always in everyone’s best interests. Also a branch economy, is always the first to suffer in any downturn.

After the Lyceum theatre lost its photographer a few years back – they thought they needed to go to London to get a good photographer. Award-winning photographer Douglas McBride contacted them and said – ‘I am here in Scotland and can do good images for you! ‘

These casting Scottish agents claim this is the first time in 30 years they have not even been allowed to compete. Scottish government money may be involved in the funding for this Netflix production – growth funding.
Yet Scotland will loose out financially. Changes need to be urgently made here for a separate Scottish TV and film agency. There will be a new film studio built south of Edinburgh. 

We in Scotland now have to choose – do we want to continue being a branch economy or run our own businesses?

(PS Casting for men with beards!)

First TRNSMT festival

Great times at TRNSMT festival Glasgow this weekend! Great crowds, weather was kind, (apart from rain Sunday which did little to dampen the crowds enthusiasm!) and the setting top class. As well as the main stage, there was the King Tuts, and the Jock Rock stages.

Highlights – the unforgettable Radiohead headline Friday night, Belle & Sebastian, Blossom, The Strypes, The 1975, Rag n’ Bone Man (I’m only Human), Twin Atlantic, Charlotte and more.
The headline band final night were the Awesome Biffy Clyro.

Radiohead pleased with a mix of crowd pleasers to sing to along with and their more experimental music, wonderful escapist, and mind blowing stuff. Their music makes me escape to new horizons.... Karma Police, Fake Plastic Trees, 

Stop for a while – ‘No Surprises’ – set you free, escapes, …..

The Stages were set up to be lit up with the magic of energetic bass and drums and those wonderful melodies the crowds love to sing.  This year was the first for TRNSMT festival, replacing T in the Park which had problems with its site last year.

Has tribalism in music disappeared? With our ease of access to thousands of sounds online – many artists now mix the genres and rarely are about one. A young scots singer songwriter (Rose Code Blue for example) may be bluesy folk or a singer 'rocky soul’. In fact crossing boundaries often gives an artist that edge and something unique to say.

I happened to read of the first major Scottish festival at Loch Lomond back in 1979 – when the bands included the Jam,  Boomtown Rats and Annie Lennox. The strange thing was the audience was mixed into tribes – the mods, rockers, skinheads and punks! Each tribe had their own bands and while the bands played some tribes would stand on the mounds and throw things at the other tribes! How weird! Thank goodness there are no tribes today – that I could see! This gig was for all ages and all walks of life...Some things improve clearly.

Bringing hope to the moment. Music lifts spirits often, and certainly makes more sense than todays stupid politics!!

Friday, 30 June 2017

Edinburgh book festival 2017: Brave new words

Journalist Ian Bell

“Brave New Words’
In times of turmoil words are a safety net, help us to shared understandings.

Edinburgh International Book festival 2017, begun in 1983 and one of the world's biggest, will have 1000 authors from 50 countries. The festival will host Illustrators, musicians, scientists, politicians, scientists, children authors and more.

Some famous authors this year will include - Zadie Smith, Judy Murray, Chris Hoy Jeremy Paxman, Patrick Ness, Chinnamanda Ngozi Adiccline.

**MUSIC – this year - Fiddler Aidan O’Rourke; Scott Hutchison, The Frightened Rabbit frontman; composer Sally Beamish. Music previously has included Alfred Brendel, Nile Rogers and more.
Lesley Riddoch

Liz Lochend

Iain MacWhirter
Words and stories are our passports to a better fairer world. Imagination is Free! Whether the words are carried in song, in poetry, in political ideas, in images, fairy tales, history, theories, journalism, truth or in stories.

Recently, In Grenfell Tower block Kensington, we all witnessed the most horrific fire, where probably hundreds must have died! (yet the first reports claimed only 6 – was this all a cover up?)
Ben Okria
Writer Ben Okria visited the site and wrote his poem – Grenfell Tower
How this tall burnt out blackened shell is a metaphor for our failings – our failings to recognise the CLADDING on our very discourse. He says - We need to tear down this cladding and open our eyes to what is around us. 

There are signs of hope – more people are reaching for investigative journalism where they can find it!
The young especially are now disregarding traditional news media and searching for answers elsewhere. Macron started a new political party only one year ago – and won the vote. Things are changing fast in our fast interconnected world. 
Enlightened discourse is always about diversity! And the book festival encourages open questioning and debate. Robert Burns ran his own Debating clubs at Tarbolton.

We must question opposite viewpoints. We live in complex times but there are gate keepers out here. We must question opposite viewpoints. Its worrying Theresa May actively dislikes 'division!' It is our very diversity that makes us stronger.

Words and ideas. TICKETS NOW ON SALE - https://www.edbookfest.co.uk

**Bohemians and Renaissance
In Edinburgh old town, the grand, the ordinary, the eccentric – all rubbed shoulders. It was this inconvenient bumping against each other that helped to make the Scottish Enlightenment happen.
Another factor that brought in fresh air, was after the union of the crowns, the royal court left for London! Which meant a breath of fresh air – as all he hangers on left too.

Poet Robert Burns experienced the flourishing Edinburgh in its last days (1786 – 1787)

They built the Georgian Edinburgh new town in the 1780s – finishing with the elegant Charlottes Square. The largest and most impressive Georgian development in the world. In Glasgow the marble staircased Town hall is vastly impressive – built over this period, when the tobacco and slave trade brought great benefit. There was also great expectations. 
The well to do no longer mixed …. and the Enlightenment withered.