Saturday, 23 September 2017

Edinburgh Book festival (EIBF) 2017 and Building Bridges

Richard Ford
EIBF 2017 Building Bridges and Tearing them Down:
Divisions and Collaborations and Borders

The sun is shining the first days at EIBF and Chris Patten, the former Governor of Hong Kong, is being interviewed by stv on the lawn. The Scotsman is being sold along with freebies at the entrance (although the Scotsman is now the Scottish Daily Mail and not the paper it was back in the 70s) and we are ready to hear, meet and greet the famous and new emerging writing talent.

Another year to celebrate the written and spoken word in the perfect setting of Charlotte square Edinburgh. EIBF is a celebration of books, written words ideas, spaces to collaborate and exchange views, inspiring stories. retrieving and renewing. There were debates this year on how to build on the nature of “civic” nationalism, with collaboration and with looking outward to common interests, shared values, an informed country, and renew Scottish arts.
Chris Patten
Caroline Brothers

Simon Callow
Laura Albert
**EIBF 2017! I want to praise the many open-minded cultured, lateral thinking, travelling journey men and women – the writers in Scotland today – who value the journey; try to comprehend the new; the young as well as the past; the historic streets as well as the complex internet. They are looking for ‘open spaces’ to discuss new worlds, adaptability, progress, to build bridges and for accountability.

There are many great Scottish thinkers, writers, doers, of the past to follow on from -  George Buchanan, Thomas Muir, David Hume, Allan Ramsay, Robert Burns, James Clark Maxwell, Carnegie, Walter Scott. As well as the Edinburgh enlightenment figures of David Hume, Frances Hutcheson, Adam Smith and Adam Fergusson. For centuries Scotland had kept close and political links to Europe part of the community of European scholars – Diderot, Goethe, Montesquieu and Voltaire. In Scotland the most literate nation in Europe in 1750 - in the 18th century Edinburgh was a leading light in the Enlightenment. Change can be good or bad, but always necessary. 
Writers of 'Nasty Women'

We live in such strange times”
The first article I read was Andrew O’Hagan on his journey to Yes. Wonderful piece.
O’Hagan gave an inspired talk “on his journey from no to yes, of his being at the count and driving home after to Ayrshire and his feeling that the future Scotland had changed that day.
He then went to sit in on the court rulings over May’s attempt to use the Royal prerogative to railroad in the Article 50 for the UK to leave Europe - without any consultation with Westminster. He said he was horrified at the slamming of Scotland’s interests
Paul Muldoon

Irish Day!  Thursday was Irish day and how polite they were too! I dashed up after too to see the performers on the high street and attended a few shows
I always enjoy a couple of nights at the free Unbound shows – and this proved a quality, fun night. 
**Unbound “Paul Muldoon’s Picnic.” Irish Evening. ‘A Gathering of poetry, prose and music’ – that included Mercury nominated Lisa Hannigans, who writes songs of love, loss and longing.

Sandy Moffat, Alan Riach, John Purser
(1)  *Framing the Arts’ - statesmen of Scottish Arts - Professor of Scottish literature Alan Riach, painter Sandy Moffat, and musician and composer, John Purser
How we might build a more positive future for Scotland and of the general ignorance of Scots of their arts and heritage. They discussed Arts at the heart of life in Scotland and the cultural history of literature, painting, and music. Raich had a 2 page spread in the National newspaper, that day on the artist Margaret Hunter that day. They spoke of the cultural divisions and battlegrounds and they spoke of knowing what was in their own house, as well as looking outwards. Book, ‘Arts and the Nation,
 (2) *Gerry Hassan and Michael Keating (professor of Politics Aberdeen) Hassan mentioned that London’s’ shadow was only similar to Moscow in Russia and the dysfunctionality of the UK. Books ‘Scotland the Bold, A Nation Changed?

(3) Visions for a Future Scotland’ - with singer songwriter Karine Polwart, Thomas McEachan, from the Youth Parliament), Chris Van Der Kuyh of the Dundee Games industry. They discussed Voltaire’s quote “We look to Scotland” –and whether Scotland still has this clout today? They all spoke of what we value most about people – respect, compassion, warmth. Also that Adam Smith did not only write of economics, he also wrote, Theory of Moral Statements of Human Empathy’. Smith also fought against slavery. 

Hera Lindsay Bird
John Niven
Katie Manhood
***Maybe there is no right or wrong, yes or no, and as the song claims ‘About building Bridges' or 'Fifty Tones of Grey', (my son’s successful a Capella group!). How do we build those bridges? 
A little shot of stardust perhaps – My first thought is it’s not the politicians who have the answers and their positions are too entrenched. We need bridges, conversations and more diverse voices, more than ever. A theme running though the EIBF this year was the need to bring different voices together, and for physical platforms through the Arts. 

Its been 250 years since Burns wrote his epic ‘A Mans a Man’. He wrote of equality – which he learnt from ministers and great philosophical writers - in the Declaration of Arbroath Scotland and its charter for democratic principles, taken on by American and French struggles late 18th century. The great thinkers saw the hoped for ‘that all men and women are equal’ – perhaps it’s the journey that is harder to understand. How do we get there?

I worry, even hundreds of years after these great thinkers (and all the great thinkers today) – nothing much has changed. Scotland may believe in equality, freedom, education and fairness for all citizens, but we are still a land of great divisions.
Evelyn Glennie
Nicholas Hytner 
Colm Toibín
Marcus Sedgwick
Paul Astor
*At EIBF there were questions over the concept of "Nationalism". Scottish nationalism is not about race, or religion, its about all who live here. At EIBF politician Chris Patten and Turkish writer Elif Shafak, questioned that N can ever be a force for good – the opposite is that globalization is not always the right answer either. Edinburgh is very much an international and European city. In the Arts it is crucial to understand your own heritage and also to look outwards. Scotland’s self-rule is firstly about democracy and secondly the importance of being both national and international – and modelled on small countries in a bigger trading block, such as Norway. They misunderstand, SN is the opposite - and not a narrow or nasty 'blood and soil' nationalism - SN has always been inclusive, open, diverse, outward looking and welcoming and about how do we build bridges.

(All photos are copyright of the author, for any Licence for use online or in print media, please contact on my Facebook, thanks)

AC Grayling – ‘Democracy and its Crisis’
Alan Riach – ‘The Winter book’, poetry
‘Outriders’ – a special project of both Scottish and American writers travelling across America to express the state of play in this highly diverse country today.
Alan Riach, John Purseer, Sandy Moffat – ‘Arts and the Nation’
Gerry Hassan – ‘Scotland the Bold’, ‘A Nation Changed’
Michael Keating - ‘A Wealthier, Fairer Scotland’


Edinburgh festival (EIF) 2017 and Hidden Edinburgh

Hidden Edinburgh – and the footsteps I dare to walk upon. Remembered and forgotten too. I wandered there. Edinburgh exists on many levels and its easy to wander down closes or hidden alleyways or behind the castle, and under bridges and walkways.  
Festival. Meetings of people who couldn’t possibly have meet another way – people from all walks of life, nationalities, artistic disciplines and establishment and anti-establishment, and those not ‘official.’

There is the obvious tourist Edina, the castle tours, tartan taff, bagpipes, the military tattoo,  - yet look further underneath – the cobbled narrow lanes, and there’s an Edina, of the once bustling Mercat cross, of Scotland’s enlightenment, where once great thinkers exchanged ideas – of drinking dens, coffee houses and taverns. 

Once places like the Mercat Cross in the 18th century and the Abbotsford bar, were places for great conversations – with great poets such a Hugh MacDiarmid, Iain Crichton Smith and others.

Conversations charlotte sq rooftops
Edinburgh Fringe festival 2017! - had a Record year with over 3,500 shows
The festival Includes – The Edinburgh Tattoo, Edinburgh Art Festival, Edinburgh International festival, Edinburgh international book festival and the Fringe. With 2 million 700 thousand ticket sales this year and up 9% on last year. Reduced Shakespeare, Vive La Fringe…..More than only Edinburgh, a multi-cultural festival. 

Compared to other international cities, Edina is just the right size for a major cultural celebration of all the arts. Edinburgh’s biggest festival is comedy – but there is also many other highlights of major dance, music, literature and arts events well worth exploring.

Aberdeen Aberpella
Story-telling was the way people learned about the past. EIF takes chances, is constantly moving – and a smorgasbord of difference on the global stage;
St Kilda opera, The James Plays, Grit, by Martyn Bennet, St Giles St Magnus.
‘Conflict is truth speaking to power.’  The Arts thrive on difference. In these strange times of odd ‘isms’. Reflect, produce, project.

**EIF celebrates differences on a global stage. The UK punches above it weight internationally because of Edinburgh festival and I don’t think people realise. One important theme emerges – the importance of meeting places to collaborate and discuss important issues.

*The Mercat Cross
William Creech, who was also a councillor and Baillie, was one of Edinburgh’s leading booksellers and publishers. His shop was at the Mercat Cross at the Luckenbooths, where there was seven timber -fronted tenements perched on the north side of St Giles High Kirk that included the offices of Robert Burn’s publisher, Creech and Allan Ramsay’s bookshop, which in 1728 was one of Scotland’s earliest lending libraries. From Creech’s shop door one could looks down the canyon of the high st towers the forth and the fields of east Lothian beyond…..

 A walk across Edina’s historic cobbled streets will take you past the locations for some of Scotland’s greatest writers, both past and present -  Ian Rankin, Alexander McColl Smith, Kenneth Graeme, J M Barrie, Norman MacCaig, Sorley MacLean, Robert Louis Stevenson, Arthur Conan Doyle, Irvine Welsh, and of course Walter Scott and Robert Burns (who stayed in Lady Stairs Close on his time in Edina in 1787.

Robert McCrum Edinburgh book festival
 II   Cambridge Footlights, Opera stars, Ian McKellan and Richard Burton in S. Beyond the Fringe. The Oxbridge talent of Dudley Moore, Peter Cooke, the Oxford Revue made fun of our institutions. John Cleese, Michael Palin all learned their comedy at the Fringe. Edinburgh is like a lead character. Maria Callus, Margaret Fonteyn. Edinburgh was opening things up. It began with high art and then the fringe included low art for everyone. Now the Fringe festival is by far the main event in town and the Peoples art took over the main discourse of the nation.

**Edinburgh Enlightenment

For centuries Scotland had kept close and political links to Europe and continued.  
Frances Hutcheson, David Hume and Adam Fergusson were part of the community of European scholars – connected to Diderot, Goethe, Montesquieu and Voltaire. In Scotland the most literate nation in Europe in 1750.

Voltaire said, “We look to Scotland” – does Scotland still have this clout? 
Voices against slavery. Scotland owned a third of Jamaica in the 18th century.

The Advocates Library – production of genius and learning, enabled her sons to make distinguished figures.

Adam Smith supported the fight for independence in American colonies and saw slavery as uneconomic and immoral. He questioned the meaning of freedom in society.

David Hume saw slavery as ‘cruel and oppressive.’ The dominant statue on the Royal mile is of David Hume (1711 – 1766) Philosopher and historian; Scot and European. Man of the Enlightenment. He rented his home James Court to James Boswell, critic, writer and biographer of Samuel Johnson.

Hugh Blair (St Giles 1758 – 1777) supported Burns and the Ossian poems. Burns’s The Slaves Lament.
William Robertson preached against and sent his sermons to William Wilberforce 1788.
William Creech – Bookseller, Publisher, councillor and secretary of chamber of commerce.
He petitioned Parliament to ban slavery.

 (The Skating minister – Scottish National galleries)
Henry Raeburn’s painting of his friend the Reverend Robert Walker skating on a hard winter’s day more than two centuries ago is one of a select number of paintings, like Leonardo’s Mona Lisa or Munch’s The Scream, which is immediately recognisable.