Thursday, 30 November 2017

Irelands Road to Freedom



Act of Union between Ireland and England 1801.

Easter Rising 1916, Irish Free State.

Thirty Years of Troubles Northern Ireland with a great deal of violence  - 1960s – 1990s.

Northern Irish Peace Agreement - (1998) - The Good Friday Agreement Belfast April 1998. (Comhaontú Aoine an Chéasta) –  Northern Ireland system of devolved government is based on the agreement - created a number of institutions between Northern Ireland and Ireland - and between the Ireland and the UK.  
It was clear to me, having Irish parents, that during the Brexit debates that no attention was paid to the Irish dilemma over the EU customs and trading union. Just like Scotland, Ireland was a mere after thought. No one in Ireland wants a return to a hard border – there are always nutters on either side just looking for an excuse. Why should Ireland give up its peace and prosperity? Ireland is crucially split on ancient religious grounds
Scotland too has opposite needs to England – our farming is mostly hill rather than arable; our fishing rather than cars is a major concern; we want to welcome young immigrant workers to grow our economy and support an older population; Scotland wants to pursue progressive socialist policies to work for a more socially inclusive nation – where England wants to be a low regulated, low wage economy like a new Singapore. (which is unacceptable for the EU).
AND on a personal note. My parents were from Co Down and Belfast and I visited there every summer from Scotland. I understand the deep divisions and problems there (unlike many London politicians). These divisions will not be easily healed. And I feel extremely angry at the thought that some feel a hard border is an answer there – just because of this crazy Brexit. Brexit is about looking backward.  While my husband's father came form Kilkenny in southern Ireland.

A hundred years ago Ireland embraced its rich heritage and culture – and developed its own identity again. Many had to die so Ireland could achieve self government. I hope Scotland can achieve this dream too – peacefully and through informed debate for a healthier partnership with its larger partner England. Scotland is often an after thought
England has pursued a policy of over-centralised government for more than a century, particularly during the wars and then complains of too many immigrants! By contrast European parliament encourages healthy regionalization and encouraging regional language. Why is wanting more local government against the national interest? In fact the UK is the most lop-sided geographically unbalanced major country in the world!

The great poet WB Yeats, was persuaded to write on the old Irish  songs, heritage and ballads, at the same time he lived in London and was before this part of the Anglo-Irish group who dominated Irish politics.
After the hangings of the Irish rebels in the Easter rising Yeats wrote -
his poem 'Easter 1916' 
I write it out in a verse -
MacDonagh and MacBride
And Connolly and Pearse
Now and in time to be,
Wherever green is worn,
Are changed, changed utterly: (YB Yeats)

The Northern Ireland peace process is often considered to cover the events leading up to the 1994 Provisional Irish Republican Army ( IRA) ceasefire and the end of the violence Troubles, and the Good Friday Agreement 1998.
Issues relating to Sovereignty, civil and cultural rights, decommissioning of weapons, justice and policing. The agreement was approved by voters across the island of Ireland in two referendums held on 22 May 1998. The British-Irish Agreement came into force on 2 December 1999.  The DUP (Democratic Unionist Party) was the only major political group in Northern Ireland to oppose the Good Friday Agreement.

Ultimately between Scotland and England - a good partnership for trade, security, environment. and defence.. rather than control from Westminster

The European countries are committed firstly to Peace and Prosperity – any other consideration is secondary. Ireland exemplifies and tells us the real UK conflict. Also that harmful over centralization in the south east.
Why should Peace and Prosperity be sacrificed by Scotland, the EU or Ireland just to suit some backward looking Tory politicians we have not voted for?


Saturday, 25 November 2017

Van Morrison Concert hall 2017



The packed concert hall thrilled to be on his Glory train -
as he took us all on a slow and so rhythmic  jazz train over high ridge mountains, peaceful valleys, and fun soul highways….

He began with one of his signature tunes
'It’s a wonderful day for a ‘Moondance …..'
He sang his songs of optimism, and of blues notes with his power soul voice

Morrison at 71, is as busy as ever and he performed tracks from his two new 2017 albums ‘Roll with the Punches’ and 'Versatile'. Today Morrison sang songs of his favourite artists on his Versatile album - such as Cole Porter, Chet Baker, Frank Sinatra, Righteous Brothers, and Nat King Cole - as well as his own compositions and several of his favourite hit songs.

Concert *SONGS – ‘I Can Tell’, ‘Here Comes the Night’, ‘Higher Ground’, ‘Days Like This’, ‘Magic Time’, ‘Sometimes We Cry’, ‘Ease My Troubles That’s What you do’, ‘Carrying the Torch’, ‘Don’t Know What it is’, ‘Wild Night is Calling’, ‘Real Love to You’,

He sang ‘One More for the Road’ - with piano cascades, and his smooth voice and lurching on loves highways and along with the golden notes of trumpet and sax. He travelled on to a softer gospel voice and to more contemporary tunes and back again, with upbeat riffs and beats and rhythms and with spiritual hopes.

Relieved from flip flop flying, zoom, flip flop fly, Don’t get behind,
In the midnight hour, and with our musical Holy Guardian angel,
Mood music, with you my love, when he surprised us all, after walking off the stage, with a rendition of his biggest ever hit, ‘Brown Eyed Girl’ for a very welcome encore!

Morrison is the pivotal star with his occasional hand signals to the band.
He sings of distant vibes, and of hurried tones. Fill my heart.
Morrison is one of our top songwriters.

*Van was relaxed and in good voice and form!
Shimmy dancing from the King of Celtic soul.  
Top marks also to his quality band!  


“Recording songs like these - especially the standards - gave me the chance to stretch out vocally and get back to the music that originally inspired me to sing - jazz!”  Van Morrison on Versatile

On his 2017 album Roll With the Punches, he has recorded R & B classics that informed his music (his father had a large collection of these records when he grew up in Belfast city) – Bo Diddley, Mose Allison, Sister Rosetta Tharpe, Lightnin Hopkins, which he performs with his highly individual, raw and personal interpretations.
 “From a very early age, I connected with the blues. The thing about the blues is you don't dissect it – you just do it. I've never over-analysed what I do; I just do it. Music has to be about just doing it and that's the way the blues works – it's an attitude. I was lucky to have met people who were the real thing – people like John Lee Hooker, Jimmy Witherspoon, Bo Diddley, Little Walter & Mose Allison. I got to hang out with them and absorb what they did. They were people with no ego whatsoever and they helped me learn a lot.”  Van Morrison, Roll With The Punches
Van continues: “The songs on Roll With The Punches - whether I’ve written them or not - they’re performance oriented. Each song is like a story and I’m performing that story. That’s been forgotten over years because people over-analyse things. I was a performer before I started writing songs and I’ve always felt like that’s what I do.

Roll With The Punches was produced by Van Morrison and recorded with an incredible team of studio collaborators including Chris Farlowe, Georgie Fame, Jeff Beck, Paul Jones and Jason Rebello.

His Astral Weeks album  is one of the classic albums of all time, all tracks written by Van Morrison – Beside you/ Sweet Thing/ Cyprus Avenue/ The Way Young lovers do / Madame George/ Ballerina / Slim Slow Slider /

CUTS in ARTS FUNDING, 15th November


We had good news of minimum pricing for alcohol which the Scottish government has been pushing for 5 years now. Scotland is now the first country in the world to do so, after the UK supreme court ruled in its favour.
The idea is to push up the price of cheap booze, such as cider at £3 a bottle to £11.52 a bottle. Ten years ago we didn’t have this amount of cheap alcohol, cheaper than water!

Alcohol costs the NHS a great deal. Some wonder why the retailers should benefit financially from this 50p a unit.

Today I also heard the director of the Traverse theatre Edinburgh, speak of severe cuts in the Scottish Arts. Since the UK government deregulated Lottery tickets and the price has gone up, the funds being raised are down over 15%, with a reduction of 300m in 2016. There have been several press articles on this issues which is a huge concern for Scotland's major festivals such as Celtic Connections and Edinburgh Fringe. Lottery income makes up 40 per cent of Creative Scotland’s and SportScotland’s total income.

I had an IDEA!!
Can we use the extra money raised with minimum pricing for alcohol to help fund our ARTS! – for music concerts, art exhibitions, theatre shows, top festivals such as Celtic Connections and Edinburgh festivals.
For me the arts are a life saver – they offer people hopes and dreams, that can often make the biggest difference. I'd also like to see accessible arts - with funding for local and community arts, music, dance or drama.  To encourage the free Fringe access and for youth music, art and drama.  All the arts need healthy grassroots funding also. Festivals like Celtic connections do offer Education programs, free open mic sessions and much more! 

Arts cuts are coming warns Creative Scotland in letter to cultural companies.
ARTS companies across Scotland could lose their funding as cash for culture falls in the coming years, the nation's main cultural funder has warned.

A reduction in National Lottery money, has led to Iain Munro, deputy chief executive of Creative Scotland, to warn arts, theatre, dance, literature and music companies that some will lose out in looming spending round.
He admitted it is "unrealistic" to expect funding of companies to be the same from 2018 to 2021 as it is now, given the expected cut in lottery and, potentially, government funds.
Westminster ignoring Holyrood ministers over warnings of an arts crisis.

Monday, 30 October 2017

Dougie MacLean at Milngavie folk club


‘Dougie captured the mood with his embracing warm and spiritual voice’

He has become something of a legend for many in Scotland and his songs have deep connections to the land. Dougie grew up in Perthshire where he now runs the MacLean Perthshire Amber festival – his grandfather was a shepherd and his father a gardener. Both his parents taught him the love of music – his mother played melodeon and his father fiddle. His family came from Mull, where they were crofters. Dougie now runs the old school both he and is father attended, as his studio.

For his first set he sang songs from his new album, 'New Tomorrow’ along with older favourites -   
‘Shadow of the Mountain’, ‘Talking with my Father’ when he spoke of his father walking over the moors to school. He spoke of his travels to gig at many far flung places. He sang of the ‘Singing Land’ (Shine on Your Singing Tree), 'Holding On', 'Feel So Near', and 'Holding Back'.

And a moving song too to his grandson ‘New Tomorrow’ with the words – If time will be our friend / I’ll help you to defend/ Your new tomorrows. If fear should enter in /You’ll find me hiding in the wings / Ever near you.

He sang ‘Broken Wings’ at the start of his second set and ‘Child of this Place.'  We all sang along to - Will you Catch me if I’m Falling ‘On This Wild and Windy Night’, Dougie enthusiastically encourages his audience to sing his choruses.His songs are often poignant and tender. And we sang his well loved 'Caledonia’, and ‘She Loves me when I’m Gone’. 

His Encore song was ‘This Love will Carry me.' 


His ’Caledonia’ has become part of Scottish culture – and is sung at weddings, major events and played at the Edinburgh Tattoo. He wrote this song while on a French beach and thinking of his Scottish homeland. He is also a passionate supporter of freedom for Scotland. One fan spoke of the emotions at Stirling castle Hogmanay event a few years ago when Dougie played Caledonia at the new year and hoped that Westminster might hear the singing!

Dougie knows the beauty of keeping things simple – with catchy choruses and also hidden depths.

the Friel Sisters
 *He was ably supported by the award-winning and talented Friel Sisters – whose roots are in Ireland’s Donegal. They included a quality guitarist from Japan.

Sunday, 29 October 2017

Celtic Connections 25th festival 2018!

Karen Matheson & Julie Fowlis

Celtic Connections festival celebrates its 25th anniversary 2018 - with an ambitious and eclectic line-up of world class musicians from all corners of the roots, folk, world, Americana, and indie music world.

I’ve enjoyed some of my best ever concerts at Celtic Connections – The opening concert with the GRIT orchestra, Cara Dillon, Rura the Old Fruitmarket, Jerry Douglas and his band, the legendary Rab Noakes and Dick Gaughan. Mary Chapman Carpenter, Richard Thompson, The Chieftains, Punch Brothers, concert for Gerry Rafferty; concert for Michael Marra.
the awesome Transatlantic Sessions, beautiful Gaelic singers – Julie Fowlis, Karen Matheson, Rhiannon Gibbons,

Some at the bigger venues, some at intimate smaller venues and the many medium sized. In fact Glasgow is ideal, providing colour, history and upbeat vibes. Celtic takes over most of Glasgow’s renowned venues from the warm hub at the concert hall, the atmospheric Fruitmarket, the world famous Barrowlands, intimacy Oran Mor, the historic St Andrews in the Square.

There is always such as unique vibe – from the behind the scenes meetings, the quality musicians who come worldwide, the exciting new talents at the Danny Kyle Stage, the fun Fruitmarket ceilidhs, the famous names, late sessions and so much more.  
Celtic Connections offers subtle intonation, creative musicianship, artistic storytelling, friendly collaborations

Thursday 18 January - Sunday 4 February 2018. The 18 days of the festival will brighten up the winter nights with one-off musical collaborations, talks, workshops, film screenings, ceilidhs, art exhibitions, free events and late night sessions. Celtic Connections festival now has over 300 events across 26 stages and an attendance figure of over 100,000. Begun 25 years ago, some wondered how successful a time January might be, but it has proved that fine music certainly warms the soul in mid-winter nights!
Aly Bain

Highlights of the 25th Festival
Following its stand out opening concert at the Celtic Connections 2015, the GRIT Orchestra of folk, jazz and classical musicians, will world premier Martyn Bennett’s Bothy Culture at the Hydro, arranged by Greg Lawson. They will be joined by stunt cyclist Danny MacAskill (55m views YouTube). The GRIT Orchestra is a unique ensemble of Scotland’s diverse contemporary music scene, a scene that Bennett himself helped pave the way for.

Blazin Fiddles


Gaelic singers with the Scottish National orchestra – Julie Fowlis, Karen Matheosn.
There will be a tribute concert for Dundee bard, the late great Michael Marra with friends and fans, at the Glasgow Pavilion.

OTHER HIGHLIGHTS include - American singer-songwriter Shawn Colvin, Shetland’s Fiddler’s Bid, Finnish seven-piece Frigg, award-winning Kate Rusby, punk folk band the Levellers, Irelands Sharon Shannon, Skerryvore, The Mavericks, Shelby Lynne and Allison Moorer, Julie Fowlis, Dougie MacLean.  

Highlanders Blazin’ Fiddles, have their 20th anniversary show, with Jenna Reid, Rua MacMillan, Kristan Harvey, Anna Massie and Angus Lyon – PLUS Duncan Chisholm, Aidan O’Rourke, Catriona Macdonald, Iain MacFarlane, Allan Henderson, Marc Clement and Andy Thorburn.

The ever popular Celtic finale, Transatlantic Sessions concert will have special guests, the US country queen Suzy Bogguss, duo The Secret Sisters, Southern gospel, bluegrass and swing; Arkansas instrumentalist Shawn Camp; blue grass players Douglas in the Flatt & Earls of Leicester, Dubliner Daoirí Farrell, and North Uist Gaelic singer Julie Fowlis.

This year the festival will partner with Ireland with many well known and emerging Irish talent appearing at the festival.


Tickets on sale from Wednesday 25 October 2017.  The festival will run from Thursday 18 January - Sunday 4 February 2018.
Follow the conversation @ccfest
For the programme line-up and tickets : www.celticconnections.com


**Celtic Connections 2018 will embrace music from the past to music of the present and will look ahead to the future of an increasingly experimental and exciting music scene. With this year’s line-up and collaborations the festival will show how much Scotland’s music scene has changed over the last 25 years, with more musical styles and cross genre fusions of jazz, classical, folk, world and electronica.

Donald Shaw, Artistic Director of Celtic Connections, said: “Since the inception of Celtic Connections in 1994 the Scottish music scene has developed and diversified hugely. When the festival began there was still significant compartmentalisation of genres, which although has its place at times, has become less prevalent over the years. The influence and inspiration that the traditional music scene has had across the whole musical landscape in Scotland and worldwide has helped to make the journey of Celtic Connections all the more adventurous and exciting. As an internationally renowned festival we continually strive for better and the 25th edition is no exception. Audiences will be treated to performances from some of the best artists from across the world and an array of unique collaborations and an eclectic mix of world music.”