Monday, 31 July 2017

Scottish Summer music festivals 2017

*East Neuk – East Fife, Pittenweem, 27th June – 1st July
The heart of the Festival is classical chamber music, but we also present world, jazz, folk and electronica. In addition to our musical celebrations, we’ve commissioned films, exhibitions, art installations and literature events as well as guided walks.

 *Tartan Heart festival, Belladrum – Inverness – 3rd – 5th August.
Franz Ferdinand, Pretenders, Twin Atlantic, more.

*TRNSMT – Glasgow Green,   7th July. Radiohead, Biffy Clyro, Kaiser Chiefs,  man more! Replacing T in the Park.

*Mugstock – Mugdock country park -  28th – 30th
Boutique and family run event

*Doune Rabbit hole –  Cardross estate – 18th – 20th August
Peatbog Fairies, Aiden Moffat

*Merchant city festival, Glasgow – 31st July – 13th August

*Fringe By the Sea – North Berwick. 7th – 13th August.
Eric Bibb band, KT Tunstall,


Thursday, 27 July 2017

Gaelic as a Weapon?

At Celtic Connections festival each year I hear the beautiful and very moving Irish and Scottish Gaelic singers.

I was shocked recently to hear former Northern Ireland politician David Trimble, Ulster Unionist Party, (UUP) claim that the DUP feel the Republicans wish to use the Irish Gaelic language as a weapon!

Part of the discussion over the power sharing at Stormont in Northern Ireland, is over the legal use of the Irish language.By comparison Scots Gaelic and Welsh Gaelic both have equal status for use in schools and on signs etc.

Why not Irish Gaelic?
I assume the cracks run deeper – this is about the struggle between British imperialism and the suppression of indigenous cultures. I’ve often wondered – why can’t the two nations run side by side.


Part of the problem is English entitlement and superiority and empire building attitudes. After the union of England and Scotland in 1707 many Scots poets - Allan Ramsay, Robert Fergusson, Robert Burns and others - while encouraged to write in English, they decided it was only in their native tongue of Scots that they could really express themselves.

Then I read the Wee Ginger Dug’s, Paul Kavanagh (wonderful Scots writer who expresses so well the conflicts for Scotland today) his article on Orange Hate. He had looked into the history behind it all. It appears the first Scots settlers to Northern Ireland were early 17th century, after the union of the crowns and they spoke Gaelic, oddly!  

The Scots Presbyterians who settled in Northern Ireland during the Plantations in the 17th century came predominantly from Galloway and Ayrshire. At that time those parts of Scotland were mostly Gaelic speaking, and they spoke a dialect of Scottish Gaelic which had more in common with Irish than most of the surviving dialects of the language do. One of the first Presbyterian ministers ordained in Ireland, a certain Jeremiah O'Quin from Bushmills in the north of county Antrim, was a native Irish speaker who was ordained as a Presbyterian minister in 1647. Presbyterian services were conducted in the medium of Irish throughout the next two centuries. One of the first books for people who wished to teach themselves Irish was written and published by a Presbyterian minister. The Rev. William Neilson of Kilmore in County Down published An Introduction to the Irish Language in 1808. It was based on the speech of his own parishoners. In the 19th century there were Presbyterian schools in the Glens of Antrim and Tyrone and all across Northern Ireland which taught Irish speaking Presbyterians to read and write with the aid of the Irish language bible.
The Pope was also an ally of William of Orange – in a battle against France! When William defeated James at the Battle of the Boyne, the Pope ordered the bells of the Vatican to ring in celebration! Ah there’s a thing then – what “side” exactly are Orange men on?!  The establsihments?
This appears to be a battle between British imperialism and one culture dominating another – or Co-existence and acceptance of differences and other cultures, and otherness.
What I don’t understand is why different nations can’t live separately in todays inter connected world and also live side by side…

Tuesday, 25 July 2017

Siobhan Wilson's 'There are No Saints'


Rolling Stone review – ‘One of the most stunning collections of songs to be released in a long time.’

Siobhan releases her second album 2017, 'There are No Saints' to top reviews.

I’ve heard Siobhan Wilson at two vastly different – but equally perfect and apt settings – the first at the Speigel tent at EIBF (Edinburgh book festival) and the second under colourful and hippy-like décor at Mugstock festival.

She appears a child of nature with a captivating and engrossing magical voice. Her songs on this album area address issues such as loss, morality and faith. While producer McGory gives space and lightness to the overall sound. Highly recommended. 



Siobhan Wilson is from Moray, spent five years busking at open mics in Paris and is now studying composition at the RSC. 

Tuesday, 18 July 2017

Canadian Scots; 150 years of Independence!



In 2009 I took photos at a Clan Gathering Homecoming in Edinburgh – where many of the Scots diaspora celebrated their roots. There are about 11 million of Scots descent living abroad. As many Scots live in Canada as in Scotland. Waves of Scots were forced to flee their homeland during the highland clearances in two waves – first after the Jacobite wars in 1750s (lets be clear these were European religious feuds /wars and included solders from Ireland, France, Germany – they were not the English fighting the Scots!)

atholl highlandes
The second wave was early 19th century - and also again after the first world war, people of the beautiful Hebrides and Orkney islands were spun yarns of the great life they could have over the seas. It was a direct de-population and suppression of Highland peoples and their culture and stories. It was a way of spreading the British empire worldwide.


Each year Canada hosts the Glengarry games.
Of course we don’t learn anything of the clearances, Jacobites, Scottish inventions, Scottish writers or artists or even of Robert Burns, if we study Scottish history at Scottish secondary schools. Instead history teachers in Scotland have had to teach of the glories of the British empire, Shakespeare or Tudors. It’s a shocking state that there is such historical ignorance here. Hopefully things have improved today?!
At least that’s what I had to study. Now I am older (and hopefully wiser) I am teaching myself Scottish history. It makes me both very sad and angry that when I walked the ancient streets of Edina in m youth I knew nothing. I did visit the castle and art galleries and I taught myself something of the Stuarts and of Mary Queen of Scots, at those places. There were the poets who wrote to keep Scots culture alive after the union of 1707. Lets also be clear – this was never a union of equal partners – it was about a few ambitious Scots careers and for greed.


According to Janice Charette, Canadian High Commissioner UK, the ties are robust to Scotland: On the calendars across Canada there are Caledonian events, from Highland Games to Burns nights. “Canada prides itself on being a diverse, multi-cultural population - one of strengths.
Also in Vancouver they have combined Burns night and the Chinese New Year into a major event. It is called the Gung Haggis Fat Choy Festival so Scottish and Chinese Canadians and other Canadians of all origins come together for it. They eat haggis and dim sum, drink single malt whisky while watching a traditional Chinese dragon dance to the accompaniment of bagpipes.”  “It was only since I came to live in Scotland that I began to understand my own country’s story. The heritage of the diaspora – the poetry, the songs, the literature - allows you to see through Scottish eyes and appreciate just how much this small country gave to Canada.”

But the real Scots history is not here in royal portraits – but with the ordinary Scots.
Fortunately the Scottish songs and music and stories live on in Canada!
The young President Justin Trudeau, who has a Scottish grandfather, visited Edinburgh in July to mark the Canadian celebrations.

**The Canada STORY
This Saturday marks150th anniversary of the founding of Canada - The British North America Act of 1867 marks the provinces of Upper and lower Canada, Nova Scotia, and New Brunswick “shall form and be One Dominion, under the name of Canada.” Gaelic Scotland were part of the founding of present day Canada. The first Scots arrived in Nova Scotia1620s. Men from Orkney arrived a century later, recruited by the fur traders from Hudson’s Bay Co.

The first Canadian Prime Minister John Macdonald was from Glasgow, his father was from Sutherland and his mother a Shaw from Badenoch. Of Canada’s 23 prime ministers14 have had Scottish roots including Justin Trudeau, whose grandfather hailed from Banffshire. It was Macdonald, along with Scots George Stephen and Donald Smith, who were responsible for the building of the Canadian Pacific Railway coast.

Friday, 14 July 2017

Casting Robert the Bruce! Our Branch Economy


Today they are casting in Glasgow for a big Netflix movie on Robert the Bruce. An English casting director is coming up here to Glasgow, who will get 20%, and who has never worked in Scotland.

Scottish casting agents have been told they cannot participate – a new software was introduced and they were not informed of it – these are agents who have done the casting for big productions such as Trainspotting and Outlander.

The Scottish agents have worked with the Scottish actors for many years and know their strengths and weaknesses. When Brat Pitt filmed here in Glasgow for his movie World War Z a few years ago, it is not always successful to bring in outsiders who don’t know the place, culture, stories or the people.


In both Ireland and Wales they have separate Tv and film agencies and they protect using local crew for TV and film productions – but not here in Scotland. 

The problem in Scotland is that Creative Scotland is too big an umbrella organizing that covers all the creative arts – art, books, music and film and tv. When TV and film are money-making industries that bring in a lot of money and they are not poetry! 


Scotland is treated as a branch economy – where decisions that are often best made in Scotland are being made in London. Being London-centred is not always in everyone’s best interests. Also a branch economy, is always the first to suffer in any downturn.

After the Lyceum theatre lost its photographer a few years back – they thought they needed to go to London to get a good photographer. Award-winning photographer Douglas McBride contacted them and said – ‘I am here in Scotland and can do good images for you! ‘

These casting Scottish agents claim this is the first time in 30 years they have not even been allowed to compete. Scottish government money may be involved in the funding for this Netflix production – growth funding.
Yet Scotland will loose out financially. Changes need to be urgently made here for a separate Scottish TV and film agency. There will be a new film studio built south of Edinburgh. 


We in Scotland now have to choose – do we want to continue being a branch economy or run our own businesses?

(PS Casting for men with beards!)

First TRNSMT festival


Great times at TRNSMT festival Glasgow this weekend! Great crowds, weather was kind, (apart from rain Sunday which did little to dampen the crowds enthusiasm!) and the setting top class. As well as the main stage, there was the King Tuts, and the Jock Rock stages.

Highlights – the unforgettable Radiohead headline Friday night, Belle & Sebastian, Blossom, The Strypes, The 1975, Rag n’ Bone Man (I’m only Human), Twin Atlantic, Charlotte and more.
The headline band final night were the Awesome Biffy Clyro.

Radiohead pleased with a mix of crowd pleasers to sing to along with and their more experimental music, wonderful escapist, and mind blowing stuff. Their music makes me escape to new horizons.... Karma Police, Fake Plastic Trees, 

Stop for a while – ‘No Surprises’ – set you free, escapes, …..



The Stages were set up to be lit up with the magic of energetic bass and drums and those wonderful melodies the crowds love to sing.  This year was the first for TRNSMT festival, replacing T in the Park which had problems with its site last year.



Has tribalism in music disappeared? With our ease of access to thousands of sounds online – many artists now mix the genres and rarely are about one. A young scots singer songwriter (Rose Code Blue for example) may be bluesy folk or a singer 'rocky soul’. In fact crossing boundaries often gives an artist that edge and something unique to say.

I happened to read of the first major Scottish festival at Loch Lomond back in 1979 – when the bands included the Jam,  Boomtown Rats and Annie Lennox. The strange thing was the audience was mixed into tribes – the mods, rockers, skinheads and punks! Each tribe had their own bands and while the bands played some tribes would stand on the mounds and throw things at the other tribes! How weird! Thank goodness there are no tribes today – that I could see! This gig was for all ages and all walks of life...Some things improve clearly.

Bringing hope to the moment. Music lifts spirits often, and certainly makes more sense than todays stupid politics!!