Thursday 31 December 2015

Forgotten Scottish Voices

Many Scots artists, writers, scientists and explorers and more have been airbrushed out of history (as have many women!). 

I  James Clerk Maxwell;  I recommend BBC Scotland's TV program on one of the world's greatest physicists - James Clerk Maxwell
One of Edinburgh’s many great intellectual sons: James Clerk Maxwell (1831-79), the titanic Victorian scientist whose work was described by Albert Einstein as the “most profound and the most fruitful that physics has experienced since the time of Newton.” His genius touched pure mathematics, electromagnetics, optics (color theory), kinetic theory and thermodynamics, astronomy (the rings of Saturn), and many other disciplines. He was also a poet
He was the shoulders on which Einstein stood and he kept a photo of him on his wall. When the Berlin Wall came down engineers from East Germany came over to Ayrshire to visit Maxwell's grave. Yes in Germany scientific inventors and engineers are highly regarded! 

Yet in his home country of Scotland Maxwell is virtually unknown...... Scotland and the north of England were once the great centres of scientific, engineering excellence and manufacturing. In 2008 and statue to Maxwell was unveiled in George street, Edinburgh.  
James Clerk Maxwell
II  The Scottish suffragettes.  In the recent movie Suffragette, the role played by the Scottish suffragettes are totally ignored.

Flora Drummond, “The General”, who rode a white horse at the head of marches and Marion Wallace Dunlop (a descendant of William Wallace) who pioneered the hunger strike as a political protest. Dunlop was eulogised by George Bernard Shaw, who called for a statue of her to be placed in Trafalgar Sq. In Scotland the cause spread far and wide. King, the curator of the People’s Palace in Glasgow from 1974 to 1991, who was a driving force behind its acclaimed collection of women’s suffrage artefacts, says the movement was more radical in Scotland. Councils and churches put their shoulders to the wheel too. “What didn’t happen in England, but did in Scotland, was you would get a lot of the  authorities making statements in favour of women’s suffrage and support from a lot of the ministers.  The Church of Scotland was pro-suffrage and ministers spoke for votes for women.”  
Flora Drummond
There was also a Mary Barbour
- there has been a recent campaign in Glasgow for a statue in her honour. (1875 - 1958) was a Scottish political activist, councilor and magistrate. She was closely associated with the Red Clydeside movement in the early 20th century and especially for her role as the main organiser of the women of  Govan who took part in the rent strikes of 1915. 

Remembering the Scots at the heart of the suffragette movement by political editor Alison Rowat  -

Also Labour party founder Kier Hardie had a close relationship with Emmeline Pankhurst.  Scottish ministers even preached for the votes for women. In fact it appears that Scottish voices led the way in this crucial movement...

James Connolly
III  Scotland and The Easter Rising:        

Scot James Connolly, as were many other Scots, was a major player in Ireland's struggle for Ireland's independence. Next April will mark the 100 year anniversary of Ireland's Easter Rising. Connolly was a founder of both the Irish Socialist Part and of the Scottish Labour party, long before Keir Hardie. The present Labour Glasgow city council believe any mention of Irish independence is too controversial a topic though to mark the anniversary in any way!  Old prejudices die hard it seems. Connolly was also the brother of well respected Scottish journalist Ian Bell's grandfather (who sadly died recently).

IV   Broadcasting
Even our Scots language is not recognised as an official language. Linguists accept the status of Scots as a language. Recently Osborne announced the BBC will not support the Gaelic language channel BBC Alba.  Of the £335 m raised in tv licence fees in Scotland - only £35m is spent on Scottish tv production. 

 V   Secularism versus
For me questions of how we are governed are nothing to do with religion, which should be a private rather than state matter.  This war of ideology with Muslims is really over whether religion should be part of government?? Religion needs to be taken out of schools and other institutions. 

and Independence
The term 'Independence' seems too strong a word for many in England - who apparently feel they are being very nice by helping us folks in Scotland out!  This is quite simply about de-centralising and growing up here in Scotland and running our own affairs - while still maintaining very close ties with the rest of these islands. .. Well perhaps we need to be more radical and have our own currency that is not tied into the world banking system...??  

Statue of James Clerk Maxwell in Edinburgh, 2008

We urgently need informed debates on these topics for Scotland - AND not by political parties - but by business people, scientists, economists etc.      

Does all this matter? Should or does history represent as truthful a view of the past as possible? We might argue history is always limited or represents one viewpoint.

Well yes it does, especially in today's world of mass communication. There is no reason to hide the truths.

Wednesday 30 December 2015

Celtic Connections 2016!

This year Celtic will welcome again any international artists from – Inner Mongolia to Armagh, Senegal to Italy, and Brittany to the Outer Hebrides to Southern Manitoba will perform at the festival in 2016 Celtic Connections remains a hotbed of musical talent from cultures and countries from across the globe. 

One of the main focuses of Celtic Connections festival is bringing different voices together form across continents and oceans as well as exploring our roots and identity  Celtic also brings together the different generations through music - with older and contemporary sounds and how today's most innovative and experimental bands draw on traditional roots.  .

This year's opening concerts celebrates the TSMA's 50th anniversary which encourages Scottish traditional song with musical director Siobhan Miller - and with a star line up that includes - Arthur Johnstone, Sheena Wellington, Jimmy Hutchison, Barbara Dickson, Shepheard, Spiers & Watson, Kris Drever, Adam McNaughton, Mischa Macpherson and Malinky.   
TSMA mission was to support authenticity in Scotland's song smiths, musianship and tradition  - in opposition to the twee commercialism of a simplistic tartan shortbread music hall sound. To celebrate the ancient muckle songs to the 21st century originals.

The Chieftains, along with other Irish musicians will celebrate the100 year anniversary of Irelands Easter Rising which included (as in Scotland) a cultural re-wakening by poets, writers composers and artists - an artistic renaissance in song, literature, theatre and journalism. 15th Jan Concert hall.  
Dick Gaughan and Karine Polwart

Topics of Migration - is a concert of Joni Mitchell songs - the Pilgrimer - which will re-imagines Joni's classic 1976 album Hegira with singers Dick Gaughan, Karine Polwart, Julie Fowlis and more. The album tells of migration while Joni drove solo from Miami to LA - expressing both the freedom and loneliness of the road.  Pilgrimer by author James Robertson adapts the album to a Scottish setting.  16th Jan Concert hall.
Ballads of Child Migration concert with Barbara Dickson, Eddi Reader, Kris Drever, Boo Hewerdine. Between 1850 and 1970 more than 1000,000 children were shipped under government schemes to colonies and were exploited. 19th Jan Concert hall
Highlights this year include - the Chieftians, Lau, John Grant, Lucinda Williams, Robert Plant, Karine Polwart, Rickie Lee Jones, Boys of the Lough. 

I have been taking photos at Celtic Connections since 2008. When I look at my Celtic Connections photos - one thing stands out – the fun and joy of music and the collaborations of those taking part during the 18 day festival.

Opening concert for Martyn Bennett

The main venue is the Glasgow Concert hall - other venues include, the Old Fruitmarket, 02 ABC, Oran Mor, Tron, City Hall, St Andrews, Piping centre,
From Thursday 14 to Sunday 31 January, 2,500 musicians from around the world will gather in Glasgow for 18 days of concerts, ceilidhs, talks, art exhibitions, workshops, free events, late night sessions and a host of special one-off musical collaborations. 
Stars of world, folk and roots music, who will perform on 26 stages at venues across the city,

Wednesday 16 December 2015

Death of top Scottish journalist Ian Bell

Wonderful top writer. So sad to hear of the loss of top Scottish journalist Ian Bell. His writing was thought provoking, intelligent, deeply informed, insightful, challenging. I attended the talk on his book on Bob Dylan at Edinburgh book festival 2014. He wrote such quality writing during the Referendum debates in 2014 and he believed strongly that one day Scotland would be more socially equal and have its independence. He will be sadly missed. I took this photo at the photo shoot at Edinburgh.

I remember his article on sense of place. I would often read Bell’s articles first and in particular his writing during the referendum in 2014. As Bell said we had never known such times. His was the voice that guided a nation.  Some extracts of his work here -

In the Herald and other newspapers paid tribute to his outstanding journalism.

In the National his colleague and friend Alan Taylor wrote that Bell was our Scottish He was our Gore Vidal, our Orwell. “He could write about anything because he seemed to know everything. In this sound-bite, meretricious, low-flying age, his was the voice of that other Scotland, the one we hear and see less and less of, which sets the bar high and aims to clear it.”

Richard Walker, consultant editor for The National and former editor of the Sunday Herald, said: “Ian Bell was one of Scotland’s greatest journalists and was among those who forged the character of the Sunday Herald in its early days and protected it in difficult times.
“His work searched for truth and did not flinch from exposing the deceit and hypocrisy he too often found instead. His voice was steadfast for decades but was more vital than ever during the referendum campaign. He will not see the independent Scotland he dreamt of but he leaves his soul ingrained in its DNA.”

Father of Scottish tartan noir William McIlvanney

I am sad to hear of the death of the highly respected Scottish father of "tartan noir" William McIlvanney. I had a ticket for his event at the Edinburgh book festival this year which was cancelled. I took this image at his Edinburgh book festival photo shoot in 2013, when he had a conversation with Alex Salmond MP.  He is fondly and well remembered and loved.

Monday 30 November 2015

The Ties That Bind exhibition

A new Photography exhibition The Ties That Bind by four of Scotland’s most acclaimed photographers is now at the Scottish Portrait galleries – Colin McPherson, Jeremy Sutton-Hibbert, Sophie Gerrard and Stephen McLaren. They pointed their lenses over those defining, energised days of the Scottish Independence Referendum. When for the first time Scotland questioned and had rich grassroots debates on notions around identity, culture and what democracy and the union means today.

In the 90s English Scottish Arts director Timothy Clifford, planned to close the Scottish Portrait galleries! There were protests and the galleries had a 17m refurbishment in 2011. Thankfully. I visited the galleries then and I thought it needed more of a contemporary Scottish artists feel to it.  How wonderful then to see now in 2015 an exhibit by four of Scotland's top photographers. I have met both Jeremy and Colin at Edinburgh book festival photo shoots - and I send them my warmest congratulations!. 

Document Scotland, formed in 2012, is a collective of four internationally acclaimed photographers dedicated to chronicling the social, cultural and economic life in Scotland. These images create a compelling dialogue about Scotland, its people, diversity and culture, and reveal the nuances that shape a nation’s identity. 
 Legacy — Scotland’s role in the slave trade and sugar plantations of Jamaica in the 18th century;
Tradition — the centuries-old celebration of Border towns in the Common Ridings festivals;
Engagement — the devotion and commitment from football supporters in small towns and communities across the country;
The Land — focusing on contemporary farming through the experiences of six women.
* Since the vote the establishment and others wish us all to move on now and accept British values - whatever they are exactly?  Has Scotland a unique voice and if so how best can we be governed?

*Journalist and editor Kevin McKenna writes glowingly the exhibition  -  "Since the birth of democracy in these isles, Scotland has never been granted the opportunity to take stock of itself as a nation: what she stands for; where she came from; in which direction she is choosing to travel......"  "They describe communities and convey flavours of a Scotland that many of us either do not know, have forgotten about or would rather ignore. Here, alongside the unravelling of Scotland’s enthusiastic participation in the Jamaican slave economy, we also find images of the Borders Common Ridings and the unchanged ways of a community not very far from most of us but a planet away from our experience.  There are stark and beautiful portrayals of three women who live among the ancient grass and stones of Scotland’s wild places and fashion a subsistence in them. Closest to my heart are the pictures of a fondly remembered and greatly admired former colleague, Colin McPherson, who has conveyed the relentless faithfulness and love of working people for their community football clubs at a time when corporatism, greed and unearned riches mock such seemingly empty and redundant values. To understand these values, these people and the communities in which they yet prosper is to come to a fuller understanding of Scotland. "
"The campaign for independence gave us a chance to pause and reflect on what Scotland means. Few of us took that opportunity but these four artists did. What they captured was more timeless and authentic than perhaps even independence itself."  

'When Saturday Comes' by Colin McPherson. The title is from the magazine which has commissioned him over the last 10 years to cover all aspects of football culture both in Scotland and further afield. Colin has explored the game at all levels from international fixtures and the Champions League to non-League and grassroots football. His photos concentrate on lower-league football and look at the rituals, sense of belonging and the commitment shown by supporters, players and those charged with running the clubs from Berwick Rangers to Fraserburgh.

'Unsullied and Untarnished' by Jeremy Sutton-Hibbert focused on the Scottish Borders area and its traditional summer festivals, known as the Common Ridings.  He visited various sites, including Hawick, Selkirk and Jedburgh  made portraits of the riders and other attendees in traditional outfits. The history and sense of community is kept alive, and explored traditions and their legacy to modern society.

'A Sweet Forgetting', Stephen McLaren’s project, revolves around the involvement of Scots in the sugar economy of Jamaica in the 18th and 19th centuries.  McLaren spent a month in Jamaica looking for the sites of plantations owned by seven Scotsmen, before coming back to Scotland.
McLaren’s photographs largely concentrate on the mansions and estates purchased with money from the slave trade. Stephen has been a freelance photographer, writer, and curator since 2005. Before then he was a television producer and director working on documentaries for several UK channels. He is Scottish but now lives in San Francisco.

'Drawn to the Land' by Sophie Gerrard.  Her exploration of the contemporary Scottish landscape. Gerrard’s photographs offer a glimpse into the lives of six women farmers in Argyll, Perthshire, the Scottish Borders and the Isle of Mull, and how they shape, and are shaped by, their landscapes.  Women farming increasing by almost 25% in the last 10 years. Through each of these women’s compelling stories, “Drawn to the Land” presents an emotional response to its rugged mountains and remote lochs and islands and a wider story of Scotland’s national identity.

Kevin McKenna: Scotland has found its voice ... the No camp can't put this genie back in the bottle
Another quality article by one of Scotland's top writers Kevin McKenna on a new Photography exhibition The Ties That Bind. QUOTE - " Healey it was who, in an interview with Mandy Rhodes, editor of Holyrood Magazine, laughed at how the British Labour Party had acquiesced with Margaret Thatcher and her Tories in concealing from Scots the true extent of the oil and gas revenues that had been taken from the North Sea.
“I think we did underplay the value of the oil to the country because of the threat of nationalism but that was mainly down to Thatcher,” he said. “We didn’t actually see the rewards from oil in my period in office because we were investing in the infrastructure rather than getting the returns and really, Thatcher wouldn’t have been able to carry out any of her policies  that additional five per cent on GDP from oil. Incredible good luck she had from that.”