Friday 30 June 2017

Edinburgh book festival 2017: Brave new words

Journalist Ian Bell

“Brave New Words’
In times of turmoil words are a safety net, help us to shared understandings.

Edinburgh International Book festival 2017, 12th - 28th August -
The festival, begun in 1983 and is one of the world's biggest, will have 1000 authors from 50 countries and will host Illustrators, musicians, scientists, politicians, scientists, children authors and more.

Some famous authors this year will include - Zadie Smith, Judy Murray, Chris Hoy Jeremy Paxman, Patrick Ness, Chinnamanda Ngozi Adiccline.

**MUSIC – this year - Fiddler Aidan O’Rourke; Scott Hutchison, The Frightened Rabbit frontman; composer Sally Beamish. Music previously has included Alfred Brendel, Nile Rogers and more.
Lesley Riddoch

Liz Lochend

Iain MacWhirter
Words and stories are our passports to a better fairer world. Imagination is Free! Whether the words are carried in song, in poetry, in political ideas, in images, fairy tales, history, theories, journalism, truth or in stories.

Recently, In Grenfell Tower block Kensington, we all witnessed the most horrific fire, where probably hundreds must have died! (yet the first reports claimed only 6 – was this all a cover up?)
Ben Okria
Writer Ben Okria visited the site and wrote his poem – Grenfell Tower
How this tall burnt out blackened shell is a metaphor for our failings – our failings to recognise the CLADDING on our very discourse. He says - We need to tear down this cladding and open our eyes to what is around us. 

There are signs of hope – more people are reaching for investigative journalism where they can find it!
The young especially are now disregarding traditional news media and searching for answers elsewhere. Macron started a new political party only one year ago – and won the vote. Things are changing fast in our fast interconnected world. 
Enlightened discourse is always about diversity! And the book festival encourages open questioning and debate. Robert Burns ran his own Debating clubs at Tarbolton.

We must question opposite viewpoints. We live in complex times but there are gate keepers out here. We must question opposite viewpoints. Its worrying Theresa May actively dislikes 'division!' It is our very diversity that makes us stronger.

Words and ideas. TICKETS NOW ON SALE -

**Bohemians and Renaissance
In Edinburgh old town, the grand, the ordinary, the eccentric – all rubbed shoulders. It was this inconvenient bumping against each other that helped to make the Scottish Enlightenment happen.
Another factor that brought in fresh air, was after the union of the crowns, the royal court left for London! Which meant a breath of fresh air – as all he hangers on left too.

Poet Robert Burns experienced the flourishing Edinburgh in its last days (1786 – 1787)

They built the Georgian Edinburgh new town in the 1780s – finishing with the elegant Charlottes Square. The largest and most impressive Georgian development in the world. In Glasgow the marble staircased Town hall is vastly impressive – built over this period, when the tobacco and slave trade brought great benefit. There was also great expectations. 
The well to do no longer mixed …. and the Enlightenment withered.

Thursday 29 June 2017

Our European past

‘If you prick us, we’ll bleed Europe, the world.”

Excellent article by Scottish writer AL Kennedy who writes in the Bella Caledonia magazine June 2017.
 ‘after Brexit we will rely on Europe for moral and intellectual support. And be eager for the new, travel and different voices.

With Holywood movies it may appear in recent times that there is a big American influence here, but when we dig deeper we find our connections and heritage to Europe – Scotland has a long centuries old history of trade, travel and connections to Europe – France, Italy, Netherlands, Spain, Poland Germany and more.

She writes, “First we are human, Brexit will leave us trapped on a apparently increasingly racist island with faltering press freedom and crumbling press reliability, adrift in a shrinking culture enthusiastically rejecting real-world knowledge of all kinds.”
She claims that "Europe is already viewing us as a failing state and as somewhere whose writers need support. They are supporting dissident voices in the UK. It is so important to protect our acceptance of diversity."

‘The post-war efforts to unify Europe were aimed at reversing any drive towards violent ignorance, silence and fear. We have evidence from all of nowhere that this drive always begins in the suppression of diverse voices, words, creativity, books, vitality. We must protect our diversity.”

She quotes, Homers Odyssey – “Muse sing the man of long experience tried
Who, fertile in resources, wandered wide.” 
The Odyssey is a book of polices, war, bloodshed, foolishness, wisdom, mercy, love – and at long last  - home.

“And that speaking of these things allows us to stay morally, imaginatively and literally alive."
The opposite of a free, open society is what once threatened Europe’s peace.
We’ve had a rise of populism – that one voice might speak for all -

“In the end, only one voice is permitted and that voice will only speak of entitlement, threat and hate.’

And so we really have to welcome divergence and diversity.

For anyone following RR Martin’s Game of Thrones – it’s a story of betrayals, ignorance, loyalty, faith, diversity, travel, dictatorship, magic, hope, violence, war, hatred, love, companionship, intellect, strength, morality, weakness – and the game of politics. Who wins?
It’s certainly not the one who is unable to learn….

There are often no right or wrongs, only shades of grey.

Thomas Annan: Photographer of Glasgow

What Happened to the Glasgow Saltmarket slums?

“It is a revolting State of Filth and Squalor”
Photographer Thomas Annan photographed the filthy Glasgow slums in the Saltmarket. 
He also shot images of the Glasgow cathedral and the building of the Loch Katrine reservoir.

And today near the Saltmarket Glasgow is the upmarket area of the yuppie Merchant City. How times have changed!

In the mid 18th century (1750) – the Saltmarket had the Glasgow college and it was the place to be, the Dear Green Place was like Bond street or Saint-Germain.
The Saltmarket was originally home to the fullers – scourers of woollen cloth.

After the Union of 1707, from 1750 – 1850, the Saltmarket changed utterly - and the population rose from 30,000 to 400,000.
Displaced people from the Highlands and Ireland flooded here and the Salmarket turned into overcrowded, filthy slums. Their closes were dark and damp  Disease was rife. The only time there as running water was when it rained, and mortality rates were the highest in Scotland.

Alan Taylor writes of these disturbing photos in the Herald. “People with nothing to do and nowhere to go’” Overwhelming impression was one of hopelessness and decay. “There is none of the colour of a Neapolitan back street or the chaos of a Mumbai Shanty town. There is no movement or energy."
 A Police superintendent wrote at the time –
In 1842, a government report spelled out the scale of the problem as ever more people flooded in from the Highlands and Ireland:
“In the very centre of the city there is an accumulated mass of squalid wretchedness, which is probably unequalled in any other town in the British dominions. In the interior part of the square, bounded on the east side by the Saltmarket, on the west by Stockwell-street, on the north by Trongate, and on the south by the river, and also in certain parts of the east side of High-street ... there is concentrated everything that is wretched, dissolute, loathsome, and pestilential. These places are filled by a population of many thousands of miserable creatures. The houses in which they live are unfit even for sties, and every apartment is filled with a promiscuous crowd of men, women and children, all in the most revolting state of filth and squalor.”

The Highland Clearances and De-population of the Highlands took place twice, in the 18th and 19th centuries. The Landowners forced the existing people from the land they had farmed for generations, to make way for sheep grazing. The smoke from burning roofs filled the skies, to prevent reoccupation. All the homes would burn for 6 days….We drive still through areas with burnt out shells of cottages. People fled to the coast and to Glasgow or emigrated.

Annan was commissioned to produce a series of photos from 1868 – 1871 of the centre of Glasgow. He made 31 images that show how appalling the conditions were for many poor Glaswegians.

The Glasgow college was demolished and moved to the Glasgow Westend.

As an example of ... "clearing" ... the Duchess of Sutherland will suffice here. This person, well instructed in economy, resolved ... to turn the whole country ... into a sheep-walk. From 1814 to 1820 ... 15,000 inhabitants, [or] about 3,000 families, were systematically ... rooted out. All their villages were destroyed and burnt, all their fields turned into pasturage. British soldiers enforced this eviction, and came to blows with the inhabitants. One old woman was burnt to death in the flames of the hut which she refused to leave. Thus [the Duchess of Sutherland] appropriated 794,000 acres [321,320 hectares] of land that had ... belonged to the clan. She assigned to the expelled inhabitants about 6,000 acres [2,428 ha] on the sea-shore – two acres per family. The 6,000 acres had until this time lain waste, and brought in no income to their owners. The Duchess ... actually went so far as to let these at an average rent of 2s. 6d. per acre... The whole of the stolen clanland she divided into 29 great sheep farms, each inhabited by a single family, [and] for the most part imported English farm servants. [By] ... 1835, the 15,000 Gaels were already replaced by 131,000 sheep. The remnant ... flung on the sea-shore tried to live by catching fish. They ... lived ... half on land and half on water, and withal only half on both.
–Karl Marx, 1867, Capital, Volume 1.