Thursday, 19 April 2018

Karine Polwart wins Folk Award

One of our top singer songwriters Karine Polwart has won one of the top prizes at the BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards. Karine was named Folk Singer of the Year at the ceremony in Belfast,

Also winners were Scots singers Siobhan Miller and Mohsen Amini.

I’ve seen Karine at several top concerts – at the Tall Ship, Oran Mor, Celtic Connections concerts and more.  

Last year Karine put on an award winning theatre show call Wind Resistance. Also highly recommend her Traces album. She has a powerful voice and also meaningful stories to tell.

Karine Polwart & Julie Fowlis
Dick Gaughan & Karine Polwart

Friday, 30 March 2018

The Lies History Tells Us: the Wars of the Three Kingdoms

Divided Europe in 1648

**History is written by the victors who often tell lies and there are many mistruths or lies told in our British histories. The English civil wars – were really the 10 years “Wars of the Three Kingdoms!” So what is the real story of the Union of the Crowns and Union of the Parliament?  I’ve been reading of the histories we are not taught – the important Westminster Confessions (1646), the War of the Three Kingdoms (1638 – 1651) and the Thirty Years War (1618 – 1648) and of Elizabeth Stuart. Our history has been deliberately skewed to ignore Scotland’s part. 

What’s the strange and turbulent story of these islands of Britain  - a story of turbulence, interconneedness, drama, misunderstandings, aggression, suppression, co-operation – hope. And royal inter marriage. I was surprised to read of the importance of Elizabeth Stuart, I'd never heard of her.  Henry Tudor had his daughter  Margaret Tudor married to James IV.  His granddaughter Mary Queen of Scots son James VI became James I of England, Ireland and Scotland. Followed by Charles I, Cromwell (who suppressed Ireland), Charles II,  William of Orange and Mary I, Mary II, Ann.
 Importantly at the time of the Westminster Confessions, Scotland and England were equal partners. During Charles I reign a terrible religious strife tore Europe apart – the Thirty Years war. James I and VI had his popular charismatic daughter Elizabeth married to Frederick of Palatine, an important Calvinist. She is well known as the Winter Queen, who held court in the Hague and Prague. Her grandson was George of Hanover. Ah now I understand the connections. 

We’ve been fed disinformation and not told the truth. Does this matter? Well in our perception of the union today it matters greatly. In 1603 Scotland’s population was 1m and England’s was 5m.

The Westminster Confessions was massively significant. It took 3 years to draw up, 1643 – 1646, with standards of doctrine, confessions and catechisms which were adopted by both the Church of Scotland and Church of England. This was a joint declaration – drawn up to secure the help of the Scots against the King Charles I.
Elizabeth Stuart

Charles had attempted to impose the Anglican bible on the Scots years earlier in 1636 and the Scots would have none of it and war broke out in 1638. This was the start of the Wars of the Three Kingdoms – and NOT the English Civil wars as we have been told – not at all! The English parliament raised armies in alliance with the Scottish Covenanters.

At this time the Thirty Years War was raging over Europe. James VI had Elizabeth Stuart (his popular, charismatic daughter) married Frederick of Palatine in 1613 – an important Calvinist in the wars. And her grandson was George of Hanover. Charles I was executed in 1649 after the war fo the Three Kingdoms. 

In 1652 Charles II came back from France, he fought and lost – down near Worcester, where he hid in an oak tree. I visited the pub he was at last year! And was forced to flee again. After 10 years of Cromwell’s rule (he also invaded Ireland, which led to great disruption there) after he died his son was deposed and Charles II was brought back.

Henry Stuart
James I and VI (1567 - 1625)
II   When the union of Parliaments happened in 1707 – Scotland was to keep its ‘sovereignty’ of the people - to keep its Kirk, legal system and education. Scotland’s Protestant kirk was about people interpreting the bible for themselves which meant that every parish was to have a school to teach reading. The great teacher George Buchanan wrote about democracy for the people. 

This meant that sovereignty lay with the people – and not with any Westminster parliament and quite different to the English Anglican church. In 1696 the Scottish parliament act for setting of schools locally funded, church supervised schools for every parish. Discussion of interpretations and understanding of the bible became a way of life. 
George Buchanan
**A HUNDRED YEARS LATER - So what were the Jacobite challenges really about? When both Scotland and Ireland supported Charles II, because they did not want the imposition of Cromwell’s English parliament to have sovereignty over their nations. The Anglican Orange Lodge was set up to sow division against the United Irishmen in 1797 - there was also a Scottish Rebellion in 1797, the year Burns died. Charles II had no successors.There were primarily religious wars.

James VI and I -  Elizabeth of England has no successors, in 1603 James VI became James I of England, Ireland and Scotland. After his death Charles I ruled less successfully.  His older brother Henry died and his older sister Elisabeth Stuart became the Queen of Bohemia – the Winter Queen. She held court over in Prague and in the Hague Europe.

We must all Play Our Part

We live in very challenging times and its not okay to sit on the fence anymore. 
In her book Left Bank, Agnes Poiries writes of the citizens in Paris who stood by and did nothing during the war. The war taught people that indifference bred only chaos, and that everyone must take sides and engage with the world.
History tell us trade wars, higher prices and unemployment has led before – to armed conflicts. The EU may have flaws but it has meant peace for over 70 years.

I am dismayed, deeply saddened and also angry with the ignorance and stupidity of May and her team of Brexiters. Every expert says Brexit will mean a weaker economy. You couldn’t make it up! The UK is being badly mismanaged. May is an ‘all things to everyone person’ – she is also a say one thing do another person….
None of the Brexit makes any sense. Its like wading through treacle.

**A Constitutional Crisis is looming here. The Withdrawal Bill was to repatriate 111 devolved powers back to Westminster. Westminster has now agreed to devolve 86 – sticking points are around the key issues of farming, fishing and environmental protection. In “real’ federal nations the devolved states have to give their ‘consent ‘ – Westminster say only that they will ‘consult’ .  Its clear that the Devo Max promised us actually means Devo mini.

Any trade agreement with the US will allow the imports of chlorinated chickens - chicken that have limited light and ventilation, increases the risk of disease. In US 1 in 7 contract a food related illness every year – compared to only 1 in 70 in the UK. Should we give these powers away to Westminster?

There is no mention of Scotland or Wales in all this – ‘take back control’ appears to mean take back control of Scotland and our resources, such a fishing will be sold down the river yet again to protect London’s financial interest .  We will loose the Scotland brand and Scottish products are already being sold under Union Jackery. Scottish business and farmers will be hardest hit by Brexit. Farmers have always relied on seasonal workers – and are already hit by the loss of EU workers. The EU send an uplift for crofters and hill farmers (LFASS) – and the UK government then unfairly spreads this money around ALL the UK farmers.

Musician and writer Pat Kane writes of the “innovative spirit “ of small nations such as Iceland, Finland, Estonia – and how we must all be more aware and alert. He writes there is ‘no shortage of inventions and reforms are pursuable under indy … but it all has to be rooted  in a fully mindful population. ‘  Many of us felt as citizens , fully awake in 2014.’   National March 2018.
In a free trading block of  independent or federal nations, everyone pulls together and sovereignty is with the people. 
The robber barons are getting richer, we lack leadership and something has to give. A return to old devisions and borders is no answer. The answers are in the ordinary people and in the sovereignty of the people and the people need to be heard and listened to

**Beware of British nationalists media control – BBC, Daily Mail, Daily Express etc.
If we don’t all engage with the world and these seismic changes (all the don’t knows) then we end with poor or even disastrous decisions such as Trump, Cambridge Analytics and Brexit.  Only 4% of broadcasting jobs are in Scotland, while 62% of broadcasting jobs are in London. The British establishment is very clever at media manipulation and control through covert and financial mean, its had centuries of practice!
We’ve had great thinkers in Scotland  - or the Declaration of Arbroath to philosopher and poet George Buchanan. His memorial is just north of me at the bonny village of Killearn.

Wednesday, 14 March 2018

The Year of Young People 2018

There will be programs and festivals to celebrate young people's voices this year.
I attend Celtic Connections festival every January in Glasgow and enjoy the diverse mix of cultures and music. One of the most interesting aspects is the platform the festival offers young emerging talent –

*The young musicians who drew attentions this year –  Talisk, Siobhan Miller, Siobhan Wilson, Friel Sisters,  Rura, Alasdair Roberts, Kathryn Joseph, Misha Macpherson. Elephant sessions, Saltfishforty.I have also been reading of the backward looking Brexit nonsense – young people did not vote for these poorer futures – 16 and17 years olds were not allowed to vote in the 2016 referendum.

It’s a tough world for young people these days. Many have no prospects of ever owning their own home or ever having a pension. I worry many are distracted by online game playing too! MEANWHILE many pensioners spend their massive drop downs on holidays and renovating homes. The UK depends on this false London housing bubble that will surely burst.

With Brexit there are very serious issues over the Northern Ireland border and Scottish rights. I read of a British/Irish Convention which sat 10 years ago, which addressed questions such as the Irish language. There is talk of holding another convention over the question of a hard border. Westminster purposes an electronic border but is this really workable?

My first thought was - bring in the teenagers, students, twenty year olds to discuss what kind of future they want. There is far too much emphasis on what the old want, and it is not their futures.

This could most certainly is not be about out dated empire building or 300 year old European religious wars. Many young people are very angry and their futures are being neglected by selfish baby boomers and their large drop downs.   
Our links to Europe – There are the great European literary traditions from Greece to Rome, to the Renaissance through the Reformations. 

The latest Brexit is that May wants to leave the EU customs union and single market – in order to join a new EU customs non -frictionless trade arrangement where the UK can make their own rules on certain things and abide by the EU rules on others? First we’re in Europe with Opt Outs now out of Europe with Opt Ins! What’s really going on. Scotland never voted for this foolish Brexit, it makes me angry and sad. 

Apparently the significant Scottish Youth theatre is to loose its funding., in the Year of Young People. 

‘We need to remind ourselves that,  as Europe is a whole (and still, in it progressive mutilation an disfigurement, the organism out of which any world harmony must develop) so European literature is a whole, the several members of which cannot flourish, if the same blood-stream does not circulate throughout the whole body.

The blood-stream of European literature is Latin and Greek – not as the systems of circulation, but a one, for it is through Rome that our parentage in Greece must be traced.’   TS Eliot lecture to Virgil society 1944