Thursday, 29 November 2018

Welcoming Different Cultures

It makes me unspeakably angry. The two big events I attend, take photos at and greatly enjoy each year – Celtic Connections and Edinburgh international book festival - are solidly based on diversity, inclusion, openness and collaboration from different cultures.

Since the Brexit vote it has become impossible for some international artists to travel to these festivals. This year several major African artists have decided it is far too difficult to try to attend Scottish festivals. 


The visa application process for artists, musicians and writers has been made so difficult by the UK Home Office, that many are now deciding its not worth the hassle. Donald Shaw (director of Celtic Connections) and Nick Barley (director of EIBF), both report that Britain is now a closed gate, particularly for African visas, and that festivals here will now have to be less international. Celtic Connections has been running for 26 years and EIBF, the oldest UK book festival since 1982; as well as hitting the main Edinburgh International festival.  

What will it mean for international festivals if our doors appear closed? Breixt sends out totally the wrong message. As Pat Kane puts it so well (National November 2018) – "Scottish nationalism is a cosmopolitan nationalism, as some German academics recently described their own country’s mainstream identity."  


British Nationals misunderstand Scottish Nationalism – which is not about isolationism but about democracy: its about all voices having a say, inclusiveness, more local government, equality and not isolation at all!?

Many artists, musicians and writers depend and thrive on cultural exchanges. Creatives value the ‘Four Freedoms’ – free movement of goods, services, capital and people. The academics, entrepreneurs and financial sectors also do. 


African acts were also unable to attended Peter Gabriel’s Womad festival, ‘ Do we really want  a white breaded Brexit flatland? A country that is losing the will to welcome the world?”

The withdrawal of the acts, from Mali and Senegal, has emerged months after Mr 
Shaw warned the festival may have to become less international in future over concerns Brexit would create a financial and logistical “nightmare.” 

Shaw has previously had to scale back his programme due to the plunging value of sterling since the EU vote. Celtic Connections has been hit months after the Edinburgh International Book Festival revealed up to a dozen authors had faced prolonged problems. 
Director Nick Barley warned the “humiliating” process – including demands to provide bank statements and birth certificates, and undergo biometric tests – would deter artists from visiting the UK in future. 

Mr Shaw said: “We had two quite large world music acts who I had pencilled in to perform that both pulled out about six weeks ago due to the hassle and stress of the visa application process. 

They just felt it wasn’t worth the grief. The application process was made so difficult for them they decided not to persevere. “These are top-class musicians who have been travelling around the world for 20 years. Britain now has a very solidly-locked gate, certainly in terms of African visas. 
“The whole thing undermines us as a Scottish festival with an international outlook. We always looked to embrace an internationalist programme. Anything that restricts that is disappointing. I don’t see any good reason for it.” 


Globalization versus identity


There is a significant struggle going on between remote, soulless, faceless, one size fits globalization – and our need for a sense of belonging and our roots, stories and identity. 

Many misunderstand what they term ‘Identity Politics’, as something harmful and isolationist. 
This is not the experience here in Scotland. Here it has nothing to do with race, and it is inclusive and about all who want to make a home here. Its about appreciating place, heritage and difference as positive things. The stories that make us who we are – our values, culture, 

Its also crucially important for Scotland to be international in out look and our major festivals are centred around welcoming the world to our doorstep.  

There are good aspects about globalization: ease of communication, progress, travel etc.
But there are many negatives too: giant exploitive corporations, reduced workers rights, pollution, its being characterless.  Our world has become so fast speed and automated and many of us spend so much time online interacting with a machine. 

I see young people returning now to valuing the real, authentic, local and the independent – hardback books, vinyl, traditional music, vintage clothes – something tangible and real to hold on to.

Also those posh socialists simply want to replace one elite with another. This is no answer. I want to se progressive, co-operative answer is to reform from within – by offering decent childcare, co-operative education, fair opportunities, improved healthcare. 

I want Scottish independence, because I believe in progressive and fair democracy.


Wednesday, 28 November 2018

Outlaw King


New Netflix film ‘Outlaw King’, on the life of Robert the Bruce premiered in Edinburgh – the first major movie shot exclusively in Scotland. 
The movie was shot in several Scottish locations, Edinburgh, Lothian, Aviemore, Glencoe, Linlithgow palace, Dumbarton castle and Mugdock country park’s Kyper Pass, where they enacted the battle of Loudoun Hill. 
The film brings an estimated to have been worth £17.5m to the economy.

The film, from Scottish director David Mackenzie, stars Chris Pine and Aaron Taylor-Johnson in an all-action tale about the 14th century rebel and his fight to win back control of his homeland and with Florence Pugh, who plays Elizabeth de Burgh.

Film and TV location tourism in Scotland is benefiting from increased spending on productions. Last month Creative Scotland revealed that film and TV production had been worth £95m to the Scottish economy in 2017 compared to just £45m in 2014, and £23m in 2007.
Scotland looks amazing in this film, along with strong performances form Pine and Pugh. 


‘‘Dumbarton castle is also in the area so there is a lot for visitors coming here. For us as a wee village more interest in Robert the Bruce could mean a lot of visitors.

**Also the Outlander series, has been a major worldwide success and  has built a big studio in Kilmarnock. It has brought in an increased tourism also. There are hopefully plans for a Scottish studio - its way past time for this! 
 Stuart Oldham of Variety.com said the film was “Netflix’s best big budget movie to date. Epic, brutal, surprisingly hilarious and tender..."   Netflix worldwide on November 9. https://www.netflix.com/title/outlawking

Story of Jacobites



Great series of very readable articles, entitled ‘Back in the Day’ of the Jacobites by Hamish MacPherson in the National newspaper. He asked, what if Prince Charlie had stayed in Edinburgh? 
 - https://www.thenational.scot/news/17187286.what-if-prince-charles-had-stayed-in-edinburgh-in-1745/ 
Interestingly if the Jacobites had won a very different Europe and America would have resulted. 

Hamish might have also focused more on the terrific religious wars of the time raging across Europe – The Thirty Years War. Also James VI’s daughter, Elizabeth Stuart, created a very important dynasty. 
It all became very messy, with the bloody suppression of Highland culture. That’s why Robert Burns could never wear a kilt!  


This was not Scots against English, as French, Irish, German soldiers took part.  

The belief in feudalism and elites still effects us today – with illegal landownership. 

Wednesday, 31 October 2018

Ry Cooder Concert hall

Surprised us all – he had intimacy with the quality of musicianship and his song choices. 
An uplifting experience. He took us on his spiritual journey. 

He performed roots songs by Willie Johnson, Woody Guthrie, and Blind Willie MacTell. 
With reverberating bass sax, gospel singers, strong guitar lines, and his own assured voice – with space and echoes, rumble growls, whispers, wallows, warbles, moans, blues guitar songs. 

Cooder sat surrounded by his 7 guitars. And he was ably backed by The Hamiltones and his son Joachim Cooder. 
He spoke of those today with "weak minds"‘, who know the cost of everything, but not the value of everything. ‘ He spoke of the waffle grid of streets of Santa Monica, where he grew up and his dreams of West Virginia. 

There was warm affection in the room from the packed concert hall for his keen fans, as Ry Cooder held our attention throughout. Surely dedicated to his craft. 

Keeping the Blues alive. A bit of a legend. 
Cooder has a new album 2018. 

Ry Cooder is an American musician, songwriter, film score composer, and record producer. He is a multi-instrumentalist but is best known for hisslide guitarwork, his interest inroots musicthe United States, and his collaborations with traditional musicians from many countries. Films such as Paris Texas.
His solo work draws upon many genres. He has played with - 
Eric Clapton, Rolling Stones, Van Morrison, Randy Newman, Doobie Brothers, The Chieftains and more.
Cooder was ranked eighth on Rolling Stone magazine's 2003 list of "The 100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time" A 2010 ranking by  Gibson placed him at number 32.

Robert Burns Ellisland


This summer I was so pleased to visit the last from our great poet Robert Burns lived in. Ellisland is just north of Dumfries and incredibly is pretty intact as when Burns lived here and contains books and other material he had there.  
 **In 1788, Rob and Jean settled at Ellisland farm, a few miles north of the town of Dumfries. It was so romantic and he was so pleased to have the river Nith running beside the new farm. A new farm house had to be built. The land was neglected – old ‘run-rigs’ strips, little drainage, no hedges to keep animals off the crops and no farm house.  They had a servant and farm workers at Ellisland farm so he was then able to write many songs and poems while we stayed here. 

Robert Burns had enjoyed a second winter in Edina in 1788, when stayed in St Andrews square. 
He left Edina that March, little knowing I would never return there. He wanted to return to find his muse and to the land and raise my young family. 

Burns married his Jean in March 1788 and they lived for a time in a small room in Mauchline. 
He was offered the choice of three farms and decided on Ellisland. The farm houses and byre had taken some time to build. Jean stayed with his mother to learn about cheese making for those months.



Burns found time to write near the woods of Craigie burn near Moffat.  He visited the Birks O Aberfeldy on his highland tour. He wrote and sang in the open air to study nature and human nature both. He studied the life of nature around him, from the wild flower, the river banks, the woodlands, the bird song, the small animals underneath, the fields of corn.

His most famous song, Auld Lang Syne was written in 1788, after he heard an old man singing this songs, and Burns added new verses. Burns collected all these old songs on his Scotia travels which inspired him to write his own songs too
He wrote Tam O Shanter – his most famous narrative poem was written on a free day as he walked along the shady path by the banks of the river Nith. He lived at Ellisland for four years. 
He also began training to be an Exciseman, which meant long rides away from home. 
Burns was only thirty and he had been the toast of Edina - he was the new father, the struggling farmer and the ambitious bard. 

Perhaps he had been doing too much - a young father, Exciseman, farmer and collecting songs and writing poetry.  
It became all too much. He sold off the stock to leave the farm life for town life in Dumfries.  
And in 1981 he and his young family left Ellisland for a town house in Dumfries town

Thursday, 25 October 2018

CELTIC CONNECTIONS 2019 launched!

Rab Noakes Old Fruitmarket

Celtic Connections 2019 announced today for its 18 days major winter music festival, 
From 17thJanuary to 3rdFebruary
The UKs premier celebration of celtic music. Over 20 venues in Glasgow, 300 events and 2,100 artists 
The festival will feature alongside one of special event concerts – film screenings workshops, talks, theatre, ceilidhs, exhibitions, free events and late night sessions.

Celtic Connections includes innovative collaborations while respecting past traditions and encourages new talent with late sessions, open mic and more.

Cara Dillon and Scottish National orchestra City Halls
Karen Matheson & Julie Fowlis
In this year of young people, the Opening Concert2019 will celebrate new talent and the passing of traditions between the generations and 15 years since Harvest 2004.

Appearing in 2019 – Rhiannon Giddens, Loudon Wainwright III, Graham Nash, Judy Collins, Kathy Mattea, Eddi Reader, Blazin Fiddles, Cherish the Ladies, Karen Matheson, John Grant, Elephant Sessions, Aiden Moffat and RM Hubbert. 

Special one off concerts include - 
Gaelic singer Kathleen MacInneswill perform with Amilinafrom Iceland, and string section for Sigur Ros. Rachel Sermanni and Jariath Hendersonwith the Scottish Chamber Orchestra: Karine Polwart and Kris Dreverwith the SCO. 

A celebration of folk-blues singer-guitarist John Martyn’s Grace and Danger album with a special line up – Paul Weller, Lucy Rose, Eddi Reader, Ross Wilson, Rory, Butler, Eric Bibb, John Smith, Katie Spencer.

Punch Brothers concert hall
Richard Thompson
*Visual Performances – showcase of Brave in Concert 
And The Bards Tale – a virtual journey through an 18th century Scotland with music, gameplay and acting and some of Scotland’s  finest singers.
Along with Showcase Scotland, World music, Celtic cousins (Ireland, wales Basque country) 

Full details & TICKETS Celtic Connections website - https://www.celticconnections.com/



**Celtic Connections Journeys and Photos since 2008.

I’ve been looking over some of my favourite images from Celtic festival. I’ve been honoured to shoot at the festival since 2008. Its hard to pick my best memories because there are so many!

From the top ceilidh bands, the famous, well kent faces, the emerging young talent, the skilled musicians, indie rock bands, the exciting collaborations and beautiful singers, the pipes and Gaelic song, world music and Irish dance – Celtic has them all and more.
Mogwai
Danny Thompson