Wednesday, 14 March 2018

The Year of Young People 2018

There will be programs and festivals to celebrate young people's voices this year.
I attend Celtic Connections festival every January in Glasgow and enjoy the diverse mix of cultures and music. One of the most interesting aspects is the platform the festival offers young emerging talent –

*The young musicians who drew attentions this year –  Talisk, Siobhan Miller, Siobhan Wilson, Friel Sisters,  Rura, Alasdair Roberts, Kathryn Joseph, Misha Macpherson. Elephant sessions, Saltfishforty.I have also been reading of the backward looking Brexit nonsense – young people did not vote for these poorer futures – 16 and17 years olds were not allowed to vote in the 2016 referendum.

It’s a tough world for young people these days. Many have no prospects of ever owning their own home or ever having a pension. I worry many are distracted by online game playing too! MEANWHILE many pensioners spend their massive drop downs on holidays and renovating homes. The UK depends on this false London housing bubble that will surely burst.

With Brexit there are very serious issues over the Northern Ireland border and Scottish rights. I read of a British/Irish Convention which sat 10 years ago, which addressed questions such as the Irish language. There is talk of holding another convention over the question of a hard border. Westminster purposes an electronic border but is this really workable?

My first thought was - bring in the teenagers, students, twenty year olds to discuss what kind of future they want. There is far too much emphasis on what the old want, and it is not their futures.

This could most certainly is not be about out dated empire building or 300 year old European religious wars. Many young people are very angry and their futures are being neglected by selfish baby boomers and their large drop downs.   
Our links to Europe – There are the great European literary traditions from Greece to Rome, to the Renaissance through the Reformations. 

The latest Brexit is that May wants to leave the EU customs union and single market – in order to join a new EU customs non -frictionless trade arrangement where the UK can make their own rules on certain things and abide by the EU rules on others? First we’re in Europe with Opt Outs now out of Europe with Opt Ins! What’s really going on. Scotland never voted for this foolish Brexit, it makes me angry and sad. 

Apparently the significant Scottish Youth theatre is to loose its funding., in the Year of Young People. 

‘We need to remind ourselves that,  as Europe is a whole (and still, in it progressive mutilation an disfigurement, the organism out of which any world harmony must develop) so European literature is a whole, the several members of which cannot flourish, if the same blood-stream does not circulate throughout the whole body.

The blood-stream of European literature is Latin and Greek – not as the systems of circulation, but a one, for it is through Rome that our parentage in Greece must be traced.’   TS Eliot lecture to Virgil society 1944

Friday, 9 March 2018

BRIT Awards 2018

 Has England lost its identity in a London melting pot?
MMmmm, not sure what to say here. I’ve watched these types shows over many years .
The show stated with Justin Timberlake – isn’t he American?   In recent years the show has become more and more Americanized.

But is it more that the mega super cities are now a globalized culture unto themselves – this show might have been in New York, Monaco, or Tokyo? The music would sound more or less the same in any major world city – some retro Ed Sherran  (he reminds me of Tracey Chapman), some rap, some dancers in sexy outfits, one rock band and spattered with a few reality TV show winners.
Where is any unique indigenous culture then? Perhaps the major cities don’t have any anymore – with their AirB&Bs, over done Xmas lights, major chain stores.  

Those of us who don’t live in a huge world super cities lost touch with what these places are about? Do we really want to visit Rome to find it is the same as New York? Or that Paris is the same as London?  Don’t we want to have unique cultures, arts and heritage and yes music, that we care about?

These 'cultural shifts' are important also for our present day political confusions. Many of us are confused. The mainstream supposedly ‘free press’ feeds us gossip rather than any authentic investigative journalism. (while there are pockets of enlightened journalism). Meanwhile the old tabloid foreign owned press feeds the older generations lies.

I live north of Glasgow, which is also a major cosmopolitan city, and I have access to some of the most beautiufl countryside – Loch Lomond, Campsies, Trossachs.
Glasgow is rather unique – it has an abundance of small, mid and large venues for all kinds for musicians to meet and play. And there continues a healthy grassroots music scene. Each January Glasgow hosts the world's largest folk, roots and world music festival, which brings together American, traditional. Gaelic, Celtic  (Quebec, Basque, Brittany) Irish, Shetland and Orkney islands – with pipers, singers, guitarists, songwriters, composers. Celtic Connections mixes contemporary influences long with oral and musical traditions.

We want to collaborate with different places and offer unique work – but not at the expense of loosing individuality and difference, because that only leads to blandness and a homogenised world. To produce quality in the arts we must know our own stories.

These major labels reject indigenous, organic heritage and culture unique to different regions. 

The Irish and Scots took their music over to America’s Smokey mountains, new Orleans – where it missed with ragtime blues, sea shanties, French Cajun, slave work songs and cowboy songs.

“You hear all the finer points and you learn the details. “ Bob Dylan.
‘I had all the vernacular down. I knew the rhetoric. None of it went over my head – the devices, the techniques, the secrets, the mysteries – I knew all the deserted roads that I travelled in too. I could make it all connect and move with the current of the day.’

Understand the finer details
Dig deep, to understand the stories.

We must not ‘break into smaller pieces’ – it has to be about balance though between being international and looking outward, but in order to do this well we must first know and understand our own stories. We must be national in order to be also international. The most successful artists know this instinctively.

The switch from Ethnic Nationalism to Civic nationalism 
States in Europe are no longer about ‘ethnic bases’ controlled centrally – now they are more about citizens rights to speak their regional languages  This is a long switch from ethnic to civic nationalism, which has been happening in Scotland too. This is causing tensions. Europe hundreds of years ago had large empires  (such as the Habsburg empire, the holy Roman empire) – Europe is now a place of numerous nation states.  

Wednesday, 28 February 2018


Opening concert Siobhan Miller & Kris Drever
Celebration this year of 25 years of Celtic connections music festival
 ‘The Sights and Sounds of Celtic Connections’
from the many lights overhead of the Danny Kyle stage that illuminate the aspirations of many young musicians; to those playing accordion, Uilleann pipes pipes , fiddle or piano in the concert hall foyer; the photographers images of concerts they’ve enjoyed; the old oak warmth of the atmospheric Old Fruitmarket where folk musicians or ceilidh bands never cease to amaze; to the packed anticipation of the concert hall audiences for another year of Celtic cheer to lift the gloom of January chills – and  as the snow falls on the opening night I feel grateful to be there! To the last Transatlantic Sessions concert when the days are longer. 

*Highlights for me this year were – Vibrant line up at the Opening concert; Beth Orton;  Bothy Culture and Beyond; Tribute concert Old Fruitmarket for Dick Gaughan;  film composer Max Richter; Shawn Colvin; Session A9; Transatlantic Sessions;
*Tribute concerts –  ‘Arrest this Moment’ for Michael Marra;  Tribute concert for Dick Gaughan.
One of the more interesting aspects of the festival is spotting the new talents emerging.
*The young musicians who drew attentions this year –  Talisk, Siobhan Miller, Siobhan Wilson, Friel Sisters,  Rura,  Alasdair Roberts, Kathryn Joseph, Misha Macpherson, Elephant Sessions, Saltfishforty Rose Code Blue. 

*Danny Kyle Stage Winners 2018,
Dlu  band, Lynne Carson, The Canny band, Galloway, Savannah Donolnoe and Charlie, Joel Gardner, Sam Begbie and Joe Doyle,

*International artists and visitors included - Cuban singer Juan de Marcos and Americans Sara Watkins, Sarah Jarosz and Aoife O’Donovan.

Northern Celtic Routes -  Connections to our Gaelic Irish cousins and also our strong links to Northern Celtic Routes from Norway, Canada, Finland and Sweden. Swedish accordionist Leif Ottossen. Quebec quartet Le Vent du Nord. This year Celtic connections twinned with Ireland.
Beth Orton
Eddi Reader
Julie Fowlis
On top of this CC hosts film, art exhibitions, workshops, ceilidh nights, talks, late sessions,
The biggest audience for Gaelic scots music at Bothy Culture and Beyond. Plus a whisky festival at SWg1. The FILM, the Groove is not trivial path to joy - social change through the arts.

The 18 days of the festival - Over 300 events over 26 stages and ticket sales over 130,000. Over the last 25 years the festival has grown at an unprecedented rate, increasing from 66 events in 1 venue with 27,000 attendees in 1994 to 172 events across 11 stages. to now over 350 events across 28 stages and an attendance figure of over 130,000.

There is always such a wide variety , eclectic, accomplished line up – from established and emerging talents.
Celtic Connections offers subtle intonation, creative musicianship, artistic storytelling, friendly collaborations.

Bothy Culture & Beyond
My Top Celtic concerts
I have 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.

Celtic Connections 25th festival!
World class musicians from all corners of the roots, folk, world, Americana, indie music world.
Martin Simpson & Tony McManus
Sharon Shannon
Far Far from Ypres

Tuesday, 27 February 2018

Scottish Suffragettes

This year is 100 years since women got the vote.
A 2016 film ‘Suffragettes’ made no mention of the roles played by Scottish Suffragettes.
There is usually no mention of the contribution of the Scottish Suffragettes contributions. "For a long time the suffrage movement, as far as history is concerned was located in London and the national leadership was located there too," Dr Norman Watson, a journalist and historian who has researched the suffragettes for 30 years.

From throwing an egg at Winston Churchill, to a huge suffrage march in Edinburgh led by Flora Drummond on a horse.  To the horrors of force-feeding, Scotland's suffragettes and the more gradualist suffragists, were an important part of the fight for women's votes.
Professor Sarah Pedersen, Robert Gordon University, points to the fact that Edinburgh had one of the earliest suffrage societies in the 1870s and by the period after 1905 Scotland was "punching above its weight" in the struggle for votes. There were plenty of opportunities to confront the establishment with then prime minister Herbert Asquith having his constituency in Fife and Winston Churchill as an MP for Dundee. When Churchill came to stand in Dundee in 1908 he was followed by 27 of the national leaders of women's suffrage movements. At one point he even hid in a shed and tried to hold a meeting there.

Flora Drummond
There was the burning down of buildings, the grandstands at Ayr and Perth racecourses, the pouring of acid in post boxes to destroy the mail or burning the slogan 'votes for women' into the greens of golf courses with acid.  Sylvia Pankhurst, daughter of Emmeline Pankhurst became a good friend of the Scottish Labour founder Keir Hardie -  he used to visit parents house.
"One of the things to note is that they were very careful not to actually harm or kill anyone with all these fires, the places they set fire to were empty. An important point for the movement in Scotland was a big rally in Edinburgh in 1909 led by the formidable Flora Drummond, riding on horseback. A key figure in the movement, she had grown up in Arran. Earlier in the year a group of women took part in a public art event, called "March of Women", from the Glasgow Women's Library to Glasgow Green. “   

There had been lots of campaigning for the vote towards the end of the 19th Century mainly using methods such at petitions, writing letters and badgering members of parliament by the suffergists. Eventually they felt all this talking was getting them nowhere.
World War One impacted on the struggles. Many who worked as teachers, or nurses saw the reality of the hardships and inequality many women endured. One wealthy women, a Violet Markam, who was involved with the ‘Women’s National Anti-Suffrage League’ – but when she saw first hand in the war the struggles of women’s lives she changed her mind.  (They believed that giving votes to women would bring disaster and fill the electorate with ignorant voters!!)

**Women and SportToday in 2018 I believe more needs to be done for young girls playing team sports. I have three grown up children – two boys and a daughter. The boys always played team sports. In American men and women play softball together and girls are keen on soccer. Team sports such as rugby or football build up character and skills for being a team player.  I believe this is very important. 

Thursday, 22 February 2018

Transatlantic Sessions Celtic Connections 2018

Golden highlights of another memorable festival Transatlantic Sessions, the jewel in the Celtic Connections crown, and led by musical maestros Shetland fiddler Aly Bain and US Dubro master Jerry Douglas. In 2017 the Transatlantic Sessions did both a UK and US tour. For singers it must be a treat to be backed by the quality of this TS band.  

We were treated to top tunes from - Phil Cunnigham, Russ Berenberg, John McCusker and Michael McGoldrick, backed up with the piano of Donald Shaw and the rhythm sections of John Doyle, Danny Thompson and James Mackintosh.

And alongside classy songs from tonight’s top line up of singers. From the States we had sublime harmonies from the Secret Sisters who sang bluegrass and swing; plus award winning songwriter Shawn Camp and multi-instrumentalist from Arkansas (who has worked with Garth Brooks).

US country queen singer Suzy Bogguss stood out with her commanding performance. She also commented on the quality of Doyle’s rhythm guitar, he certainly is the engine room of this band! Irish folk singer Daoiri Farrell treated us to his individual voice. From Scotland favourite songstress Julie Fowlis charmed with her Gaelic songs and also a folk song called Go Your Own Way, when she said, some songs we simply have to sing. The ever popular Phil Cunningham performed his tune Eternal Fling.

Fiddler Aly Bain commented, ‘Music is the real connections, for our special relationship to the States is in music. While Dubro master Jerry Douglas spoke of his long term work of 40 years with guitarist Russ Barenberg. 

Always the fitting finale!

Julie Fowlis
Shawn Camp
Secret Sisters