Saturday, 14 November 2015

Histories are the Stories we re-write

Stories are the oral traditions we tell each other and pass on. The songs and poems we sing. The crafts and the images we create and paint. Our memories and past inform who we are and where we see our future.  Like the monuments raised, our names, the names of places.

**Each January in Glasgow Celtic Connections celebrates musical connections and traditions between Scotland, Ireland, England, America, Canada and Brittany traditions. These are the traditions that have been passed down and also travelled continents. I am not sure how anyone can dispute these connections exist. There are many similarities between the country music of the Smokies and Irish and Scottish reels. This was never meant to be about one race of people, but rather about the grassroots traditions and stories, collaborations and beautifully hand made instruments.  


Written history however can confuse us - it depends on who won and who then wrote the story.  Renowned historian Stuart McHardy writes that is why the oral tradition and stories expressed in our arts and culture matter a great deal. They often tell us more than the printed historical texts. 

Scottish folklorists such as Hamish Henderson, Margaret Bennett and Dick Gaughan and also our national poet  Robert Burns two centuries ago, travelled and collected the old songs and poems, many that had never been written down before - songs such a Auld Lang Syne. Burns was a great reader of many diverse voices and languages - he knew Scots, English, French and Latin - even though he never attended university. He was taught by a young Mr Murdoch, his father and was also self taught. He was also a great listener and reader and he learnt of the rights of everyman and the impact of rhythm and song.  He went on to write some of our best loved songs and poems.  

In 2015 a new exhibition at the British museum - "Celts; Arts and Identity" surprisingly claims the Celts have never existed. Well they exist in people's art, song and imagination. The exhibit claims the Celts were not a pure race and rather an 'idea'.  Perhaps all those outside the 'empire' and outside big Business?

Writing in the Sunday Times magazine, arts critic Waldemar Januszczak, claims that only in the mind do the Celts exist. What on earth can he mean by this? Does he mean that those in the Hebrides and in Ireland don’t have a separate and unique identity? It is all propaganda.

The Romans only mention those 'people' outside their walls as Gauls - of course Roman history is written from a Roman perspective.  What does this all mean?  Were the Romans or Vikings pure races? Centuries ago these races travelled and mixed with other races. 
Loch Ardinning

Britain’s stories of empire building are of the past. Some UK writers today over use the term ‘British’ – Britain only came into existence after the Union of the Parliament in 1707.  Do these people when aboard call themselves ‘British? Really” Do they not tell foreigners that they are English. I always call myself Scottish. I have little, If any idea of the stories, art or music that Britain stands for. There is a union flag and the songs of Empire building like Rule Britannia. I believe Empire building like the Romans, have had their day and are of the past – or I hope so. Empire building means someone has to pay a price.

I believe in a progressive, healthier future and one of the grassroots. The voices of respect for all and valuing our local stories and traditions.  We are shaped by our landscapes and I believe Scotland has a special and unique story to tell with it’s rough often wild landscapes and ever changing seasons.

Scotland was never ruled by Rome or the Normans and kept her clans and she has a very different story to tell than Ireland or England. Scotland has never been a part of England and never will be a region. no matter how much some Lords might wish it. 
Kilmartin Glen
Scotland has always been outward looking and had it's bridge of boats. We travelled by sea and most of our towns lie on the coast. ( just as also the Viking and Romans looked outward)

Scotland has for centuries had unique stories  - the kilt, bagpipes, golf, whisky, Clans, Burns song, mountain and heathers, wild weather…..Of course there are pipes worldwide – that doesn’t mean that the Scottish pipes don’t have a totally distinctive and unique sound to them.

Solidarite with France

Sadly I know there are always nutcases and evil in the world and I know we need good security, I still don't believe bombs are an answer. I believe when women's voices are suppressed, as in Muslim countries and elsewhere, unhealthy societies result. Glad to read of Suu Kyi victory in Burma.Has the west not been bombing innocent children and women in the middle east too? No easy answers here.

I read that thousands of Scottish rugby fans are in Paris for a Glasgow Warriors Rugby game today. Bombs and killings are not a solution. There needs to be another way. My thoughts and prayers with those in Paris.

Friday, 6 November 2015

Scottish Women Artists Exhibition Edinburgh

Scottish Women Artists Exhibition Edinburgh - Painters and Sculptors 1885-1965 - 7th Nov 2015 − 26th June 2016; Modern Two (Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art)

Women artists in this exhibition will include - Bessie Mac Nicol, Phoebe Anna Traquair, Gertrude Alice Meredith Williams, Margaret Macdonald, Dorothy Johnstone and Hazel Amour, Phyllis Mary Bone, Joan Eardley and Bet Low.

The exhibition will focus on painters and sculptors and the period from 1885 to 1965. ,
(when Fra Newbery became Director of Glasgow School of Art, and until 1965, the year of Anne Redpath’s death).

The eighty years which lay between these events saw an unprecedented number of Scottish women train and practice as artists.  More than 90 works will be shown, from the National Galleries of Scotland’s holdings and other public collections from throughout the UK, as well as from private collections.

Early last century women were forbidden from attending life drawing classes. They also had to give up any art careers if they married. 

The conditions that the artists negotiated as students and practitioners due to their gender will be explored, shedding new light on this vital chapter of Scottish modern art history, whilst uncovering and celebrating women’s contribution to it.
The exhibition will include familiar masterpieces alongside important works by significant artists which are rarely seen and who are not widely known.
The galleries believe there is scope for more shows of female artists and the display is a precursor to a major re-think and re-hang of the gallery.

MY BLOG ON Women Artists -

Modern Scottish Women will be accompanied by a book based on new research, as well as a free permanent collection display of prints by Wilhelmina Barns-Graham, selected from a recent gift of her work by The Wilhelmina Barns-Graham Charitable Trust.
Exhibition supported by The Wilhelmina Barns-Graham Charitable Trust and a sorority of women across Scotland
 Image: Dorothy Johnstone, Anne Finlay, 1920, Aberdeen Art Gallery & Museums Collections © Courtesy of Dr DA Sutherland and Lady JE Sutherland 

Montrose Enlightenment

Trip to Montrose and Stonehaven - 'I'll hae nae halfway-hoose, but aya be whaur/ Extremes meet.'

I visited Melrose museum which has some Celtic and Pictish relics – and the lady gave me a pamphlet on Montrose’s most famous son – the poet Hugh MacDiarmid who began a Scottish Enlightenment.
He is one of Scotland’s leading contemporary poets and a founding member of Scotland’s national party. MacDiarmid grew up over a library. There were other writers in Montrose then such as the poet Edwin Morgan

Melrose’s golf course is one of the oldest. 
Dunnottar castle
I also visited Stonehaven and took the walk along to the historic Dunnottar castle which sits on a rocky outcrop in the sea. The weather was beautiful blue skies. The castle was remote and practically impossible to penetrate and Cromwell, William Wallace and others stayed here. The castle was used to films such as Hamlet.
Stonehaven is a small picturesque fishing town. Here I visited a Celtic music shop where I bought a book on Burn’s songs. The harbour has several top rated hotels and restaurants. 

The Cheviot and the Stag and the Black, Black Oil is being performed by the Dundee Rep.

'I'll hae nae halfway-hoose, but aya be whaur/ Extremes meet.'
Christopher Grieve, the young reporter who arrived in Montrose in 1920, wanted to start a modern revolution in Scottish literature.
Hugh MacDiarmid
His fascination with language inspired experimentation with Scots and Hugh MacDiarmid was born. Hugh MacDiarmid is remembered for his fiery and contradictory personality - his modernists and nationalist views and his long poems. He was the father of the Scottish Renaissance.

In the 1920s an important cultural Renaissance happened in Melrose. An Authentic cultural Scottish identity - creatively distinct.  MacDiarmid wished to create a Scottish cultural renaissance with a distinct Scottish art and cultural identity.
One that looked to the new rather than to the past traditions and to place Scottish culture in an international perspective.  Later during the 1930s the Scottish Renaissance was centred in St Andrews. The Scottish independence movement rejected fascist nationalist movements in Europe.

What began in Montrose in the 1920s Inspired a confidence for artists and writers to be Scots – a confidence which has helped to give Scotland a unique voice in the world.
Christopher Murray Grieve (11 August 1892 – 9 September 1978), known by his pen name Hugh MacDiarmid, was a Scottish poet, journalist, essayist and political figure. He is best known for his works written in 'synthetic Scots', a literary version of the Scots language hat MacDiarmid himself developed. After the war he continued to work as a journalist, living in Montrose where he became editor and reporter of the Montrose Review as well as a Justice of the Peace and a member of the county council. In 1923 his first book, Annals of the Five Senses,followed by 'Sangschaw' in 1925 and 'Penny Wheep' and 'A Drunk Man Looks at the Thistle' in 1926.