Thursday, 19 September 2019

Edinburgh book festival 2019

Rory Stewart
The people I meet.
The festival is about bringing people together to celebrate the spoken word. 

The challenges and the cycles of life: renewal and recharge.

After only a few days, I meet many interesting people. 
The people who attended are from so many different backgrounds, viewpoints and voices. We need more room and platforms for free debate.

Kenny MacAskill

There is supposed to be intermittent showers but its been mostly warm and sunny so far. Typical changeable August – perhaps more so than usual even. 

We need to new voices, but more than ever we need as many diverse voices as possible. So many of us feel betrayed, confused, let down, and not sure where the answers are anymore. We are in a great state of flux, things are shifting and great change is inevitable. At Biblos  restaurant- I wonder is the festival too big these days – with too much average and too little great? Another year gone. But I'm always inspired and often exhausted!

Rachel Long

Isabella Hammad

Heida Ásgeirsdóttir

 Inua Ellams

The theme this year was – We need new stories. 

One of the most original voices I’ve read in recent years over the present political madness of Brexit, is Irish Times writer Fintan OToole. His event at eibf sold out instantly when tickets went on sale- so I was surprised when I joined the long queue to see him that is was doing his talk in the small Spark tent on George street – rather than the main New York Times tent. 

Clare Balding
Nicola Sturgeon and Arundhati Roy
Fintan O’Toole
I am presently reading O’Toole’s recent book, Heroic Failure, on the Brexit carry on, and what an excellent story teller he is in his well researched tale. Things are badly off kilter and we certainly need well researched and original new voices. 
Question?  Is EIBF, or rather why does eibf not cater for the young adults, if not why not? 

Photography -  Some people have a presence or inner light that shines through in their photos. Perhaps its experience, character or simply knowing who you are. At eibf there is such a great variety of characters to shoot – from explorers, composers, journalists, illustrators, scientists, poets, comedians, politicians,.
Tania Nwachukwu
Amna Saleem 
Denis mina
Miriam Khan
**TALKS
Gender Debate: What is Gender in the 21stcentury.
Her Scotland, author Rosemary Gorling
Lowland Clearances, Tom Devine

**BOOKS
Fintan O’Toole – Heroic Failure
Tom Devine – The Scottish Clearances
David McCraw - Truth in Our Times 
Robert Crawford – The Book of Iona
Marina Warner – Forms of Enchantment : Writing on Arts and Artists

Wednesday, 18 September 2019

Edinburgh festival 2019


2019 was the festivals 72nd year 
For the month of August Edinburgh’s population doubles in size, and every possible room and hall becomes a venue. Edinburgh’s Royal Mile is the perfect historic backdrop for the players to exhibit their talents. The weather in August may be changeable, but it is also just right. 




The main event is the comedy: and the international main festival, theatre plays, music concerts, dance, cabaret – from world class, to school and university amateurs. It offers an expanding platform for new talent. There is something here for everyone. Edinburgh is also just the right size to walk around the dramatic castle, old town and new town. Its worth taking time to explore Scottish history off the main tourist paths and down the Canongate. 



Many great writers have lived here - Alan Ramsay, Adam Smith, David Hume, Dugald Stewart, Adam Ferguson, James Hutton, Henry MacKenzie, Robert Burns, Walter Scott, Robert Louis Stevenson, Arthur Conan Doyle, Alexander Macall Smith, Ian Rankin.




Saturday, 31 August 2019

Tom Devine’s Revelations on the Lowland Clearances


Silence of the dispossessed: Give them back their voice.
No peasant happily gives up his land…
Was there protest, what happened?
Lack of lasting folk tradition of removal, no trace of what went before….
An Elegy for those who’ve gone, reconstruct world no longer there…
The aching beauty, the autumn when the bracken is down,

Devine spoke of the dispossession and social changes of the early 19thcentury. The connections to the land was severed and the cottar, the tenant farmer vanished. He claims these Clearances were more thorough in the Scottish Lowlands. Devine has been pursuing research on the devastation of the Lowlands for many years with his team of researchers. They searched in the kirk sessions records for notice of removals. 

From the mid 18thcentury onwards, land improvement meant there was the transition to the - one industrialisation and, two urbanization revolution and three a corrosive transformation of the countryside. The old farm toons were swept aside for centres of farm settlements. Instead now there were landless farm servants, and wage labourers. The will of the landowners ruled and no newspapers reported these Lowland clearances.  In 1720 Galloway lairds set up large ranches parks for cattle and sheep. There was severe dislodgement. Scotland became a grossly unequal society.

He spoke of the resistance of the Levellers revolt who knocked down stone dykes. In 1724, huge numbers of armed gangs, of men, women & children roamed the Galloway countryside levelling dykes built around the expanding number of cattle fields. These cattle fields were introduced by landlords as far back as a century earlier in a bid to make the land more profitable to them, but it was only in the 1720s that the revolt, later named the ‘Leveller’s Revolt’, became widespread and worrisome enough that armed guards were called in to protect the fields and quell dissent. The revolt gained national attention from the church, state and even the King. In this extract, taken from The Scottish Clearances, author Tom Devine looks at the factors that contributed to this very specific armed resistance. 

The clan chiefs lived in fine houses in Edinburgh. Later the sheep ranchers moved into the Highlands. The lawyer Thomas Muir attempted constitution reform, when only 0.12% had the vote (1832 Reform Act) and he was tried and deported for these views.

*The Scottish Tourist board markets Scotland for its solitude and tranquillity. He spoke of the false “victimhood in a kilt” put forward by the Prebble books: of the decline of Scotland over the past centuries and the scale of emigration. All the film, drama, literature is on the highlands as the soul of Scottish identity. Many Scots moved out to try to run the world. There were those many Scots on the make!

There were several interesting questions – one about how the Scots immigrants to Australia badly treated the aborigines there. Devine’s answer was that the Scots immigrants were middle rank Highland society. At that time there were several centres of excellence which supported racism and Darwin’s theory of the fittest. 

Devine spoke passionately about how important it is to understand the truths about our past stories. “A mature, democratic nation recognises its real history with critical and uncomfortable questions.” 
“We must face the past, and not politicise or mythologize it. Social memory makes us who we are and to understand modern nations if we know where it came from. There are real scholars out there, with clear thinking and good research.” Devine is clearly one of them!

Devine was interviewed by journalist Alan Little. 
Sir Tom Devine is Scotland’s leading historian and he came out in support of Scottish Independence in 2014. Devine lectures and publishes books to address the widespread ignorance of most Scots of their recent histories, heritage and past stories. 


BOOKS - 
The Scottish Nation: A Modern History 1707 - present

The Scottish Clearances: A History of the Dispossessed, 1600-1900

The Lowland Clearances were one of the results of the Scottish Agricultural Revolution which changed the traditional system of agriculture which had existed in Lowland Scotland, in the seventeenth century. Thousands of cottars and tenant farmers from the southern counties (Lowlands) of Scotland migrated from farms and small holdings they had occupied to the new industrial centres of Glasgow, Edinburgh and northern England or abroad, or remaining upon land though adapting to the Scottish Agricultural Revolution.

Extract taken from The Scottish Clearances: A History of the Dispossessed, 1600-1900By Tom Devine
Published by Allen Lane
Part of the answer might be found in the economic sphere. By the early eighteenth century the big cattle farms were beginning to encroach on, and enclose, open or common grazing grounds, the ‘commonties’ referred to earlier in the chapter. That process would have proven a serious threat to peasant communities which were not subject to direct eviction. They would have experienced profound problems from strategies which menaced the tight margins of their household economies.
The slender balance between subsistence and shortage might have been squeezed by the annexation of common lands. Again, there is evidence that not only landowners but tenant farmers had tried to exploit the new post-Union market opportunities in the cattle trade. Some had invested in more stock because of those possibilities. Now, however, as ‘parking’ intensified, they stood to lose the vitally important access to the common grazings for the livestock they had purchased at great risk. For them and their families, descent into penury and beggary might follow.
There was also the economic context of the Galloway clearances to be considered. As argued in Chapter 4, in parts of the central and eastern Borders, the dispossession of small tenants and cottars to make way for larger sheep runs was paralleled by the growth of cottage industry and employment opportunities for the displaced in the towns of Kelso, Hawick, Selkirk and Jedburgh. 
But these alternatives were not available to anything like the same extent in Galloway, where woollen working and other manufactures were much less developed. It is likely, therefore, that the poorer rural communities in the western Borders were faced with a much narrower set of options: acceptance of ‘parking’ and eventual likely eviction, or violent resistance in an attempt to reverse the transformation of the old agrarian society. . .
In addition, however, we also need to probe the complex world of west Border political and religious history in order to provide a comprehensive explanation for the Levellers’ Revolt. Arguably it is there that the distinctive origins of the disturbances can be found. Several aspects of the recent Galloway past are relevant to the analysis. 
The long Covenanting tradition of south-west Scotland was important. The restoration of King Charles II in 1660 led once again to the rule of bishops in the Presbyterian church. This action was thought heretical and oppressive by many pious communities and their ministers, and in open conflict with the sacred Covenants between Christ and his church established during the civil wars of the 1640s. As a result, many clergymen left their parishes and held alternative open-air services or conventicles. These were soon outlawed by the state as treason and the army then enforced the will of the King, often in a particularly brutal fashion. This period, known as the ‘Killing Times’, is still marked in the countryside around Wigtown, Kirkcudbright and Dumfries by the many memorials to the martyrs who defied the civil authorities and faithfully clung to their ideals despite savage state oppression. Galloway remained a hotbed of Covenanting activity despite the draconian policies of the monarchy.
Not surprisingly, the majority of the population were therefore enthusiastic about the removal of the Stuart king, James VII and II, in the ‘Glorious Revolution’ of 1688–9. But then the Jacobite Rising of 1715 rekindled the old fears of a Stuart counter-revolution. Bitter memories were revived, not simply of the Killing Times, but also of the many years of Presbyterian struggle between the signing of the National Covenant in 1638 and the Revolution of 1688.

Fintan O'Toole Heroic Failure, Edinburgh book festival 2019


The theme this year was – We need new stories. 
One of the most original voices I’ve read in recent years over the present political madness of Brexit, is Irish Times writer Fintan OToole. 

His event at eibf sold out instantly when tickets went on sale - so I was surprised when I joined the long queue to see him, that he was doing his talk in the small Spark tent on George street – rather than the main New York Times tent. 

I am presently reading Fintan O’Toole’s book, Heroic Failure, on the Brexit carry on, and what an excellent story teller he is in his well researched tale. 

He feels Brexit is not essentially about the EU at all, but a British existential crisis. 

Things are badly off kilter and we certainly need well researched and original new voices.


Naomi Wolfes Beauty Myth 2019, Edinburgh book festival 2019


The Beauty Myth/ Gender Debate: what is gender in the 21stcentury. 

Panel; Amelia Abraham, Palko Karasz, Elizabeth Pata, Naomi Wolfe (New York Times debate series) 

Naomi Wolfe, wrote her defining feminist book in Edinburgh in 1990. She said that Scotland is a place that dreams of a better world, re-inventing itself into a better future. 

The feminist Mystic. That images of beauty are used against women in a second wave. Unattainable beauty.  What did she have to say for todays women?  She saw the positives of social media – we are more critical and knowledgeable .  Recently the Times Up and #Metoo movements. 

They also discussed the Digital age: change and positives.
The Arab Spring, when young women at keyboards  liberated women to have a voice and without the internet harder to organise. Find your community.
The Negatives were – the online harassment of female journalist and politicians. Threats to free speech and the means of controlling the population to whip up divisiveness.

Wolfe spoke of her latest book, OutRages. She said there used to be a wider version of masculinity, now men are all in black suits. 

Unfortunately, although the debate had a 90 minute time slot – Elizabeth was confused over what 90 minutes meant, and the one and a half hour should have easily left 30 minutes for a fine debate and interesting feedback from the audience. I felt much of the panels chat was highly idealistic and theoretical. Elizabeth spoke of the language of gender

**My Views
-Fashion and gender neutrality, so both boys and girls have broader choices.
Gender neutral toys – art, sport, play-do, Lego etc. rather than sparkly pink fluff and aggressive war toys. Sadly I was shocked to discover that it is much worse today than it was when my children were young in the 80s. I now shop for my grandson and I am horrified to find the toys and clothes are even more extreme!

-Encourage team sport for young girls much more.

-Paternity leave? My son took paternity leave last year and was surprised to find he was one of the very few men on paternity leave. Many women feel odd about it still, very strangely.  

Why did the journalist Shona Craven raise a complex legal issue over gender, when she might have made a more important point over how she was personally affected by Wolfe’s Beauty Myth as a teenager, but now felt disillusioned over how things have progressed since then. 



The Pen is Really Mightier than the Sword



ITom Paine’s pamphlets made the American Revolution. Without his words there would have been no victory – His ideas reflected Enlightenment ideals of transnational human rights.Common Sense was so influential that John Adams said: "Without the pen of the author of Common Sense, the sword of Washington would have been raised in vain". (Rights of Man 1791/ Common Sense 1776) 

WB Yeats – 
Yeats gave the Irish ‘who they were’ before the endless fighting. He elevated the old heroes and gave the political expression of the people.
Nations are not about lines. Every people need their myths. There is “no fine nation without literature and no fine literature without nationality.” 

Robert Burns
No one wrote poetry like Burns. After reading Tom Paine’s 'Rights of Man', he wrote the best loved poem that speaks of equality for all - "A  Mans A Man For A That." Burns was a radical who wrote about equal rights for all men regardless of rank.  He also wrote , the Liberty Tree, The Slaves Lament, Parcel of Rogues to the Nation. 

Poet Hugh MacDiarmid wanted to write of a Scottish voice – his best known poem is ‘The Drunk man talked to the Scottish Thistle.
George Buchannan, tutor to James VI, wrote thatall political power resides in the people, and it must reside in the people: and that it is lawful and necessary to resist kings (or queens, or we might say all rulers) if (or when) they become tyrants.

A short distance from my home there is a monument in the small town of KiIlearn to one of the most important writers on democracy, reformer George Buchanan. He was one of the most significant literary and political figures of the 16th century -  poet, playwright, historian, humanist scholar, and teacher to the great French essayist Michel de Montagne, Mary Queen of Scots and later to her son James VI of Scotland and I of England (United Kingdom.)Buchanan was a native Gaelic speaker from lower loch Lomond. He was deeply impressed that the Gael had held on to their language and culture for more than two thousand years. He was a Catholic, who was committed himself to the Reformation and he joined the Reformed Protestant church in 1560s and published several books.

Are we in danger of loosing cultural confidence. In todays world of turmoil we are  loosing sight of what really matters. We have false and shallow leaders who blow with whatever wind is blowing – they have no backbone, morals or compassion.

Pen Not Guns,  We need new stories. 


Wednesday, 31 July 2019

Scottish Music 2019

Scottish Music 2019 

Lewis Capaldi – Someone You Love
C Duncan - Like you Do (Garden)
Young Fathers
Pronto Mama
Arabesque         

CD Duncan – blissful digital dive into soft, anxious romance. 
Young Fathers – “shroud their soulfulness in a murk of machine chunks, wall of noise and serial loops. Their social tension.”

Rip it Up Vic Galloway – Exhibition and book on the story of Scottish Pop music.

Pat Kane writes in the National June 2018
“Here’s a history – a tradition even - of creative dissatisfaction, of endlessly fizzing fireworks in the suburbs, small towns and city centres of Scottish life.
A good flourishing society needs security but it also needs risk. When Scottish pop is exploding loudly its an indication that we’re holding that balance in a sweet spot. “

I am very encouraged to hear it is still about great melodies and anthems, those packed crowds can sing along to.

*Trnsmt – Showcase too for new artists - Catherine McGrath, Tom Grannan - https://trnsmtfest.com/


**Festivals
Doune the Rabbithole/ - https://dounetherabbithole.co.uk
Rewind,
Solas,

Comment to new Scottish channel
More music, culture and art please.
Not only aimed at twenty year olds. 

“We’re all looking for a lyric, or a melody or a groove ot bind the crowd together. 
And audiences want to embed in themselves a collective memory.” Pat Kane

The Best Concerts take place at Small Venues

The best concerts take place in small venues!

Many are spending ridiculous amounts of money to see the big stars of the 70s, 60s or 80s at the big venues such as the Hydro Glasgow, O2 London and others. 

This is Big Business Music! 
The issue is though that many of the best gigs are often at those intimate smaller venues. 
~Who wouldn’t want to see Arcade Fire at Glasgow’s Barrowlands or Radiohead at a small London venue? 

~Now with the master lyrical bard Bob Dylan – I have seen him play the huge dark and characterless Glasgow SECC and at a smaller Braehead arena. He was so much better at the smaller venue, there si no doubt of it.

~Also Paul Simon at the Clyde Auditorium, and he was wonderful at this smaller venue. 

A few of my best smaller venue gigs – 
~ Scots storytellers Michael Marra at the Mugdock theatre, Dick Gaughan at Milngavie folk club, 
~ The Caledonia soul of Blue Rose Code impressed also at my folk club; Rab Noaeks at a house party, Radiohead at the Edinburgh festival. 

This is not to say that I have enjoyed some incredible music experiences on the bigger venues or open air stages and tents. Its just that we don’t necessarily have to pay mega bucks to see an artist we admire. The other trick is to see emerging talent before they hit the big time and simply enjoy them in a more intimate setting. 

Or to hear the really talented songwriters and musicians who prefer to play the smaller circuits. 


Alan Raich 
“All the arts involve writing and reading, in the widest sense, writing as in composition, creation, production , publication and reading as in attentive analysis, interpretation, conversation, comparisons and contacts.”

Monday, 29 July 2019

Scotia's Bard Dick Gaughan - NEW album Harvard Tapes

I am proud to have taken photos at Gaughan’s concerts and met him a few times. He spoke of singing with Emmy Lou Harris and was totally unassuming. I was sad to hear he had a stroke in 2017, and I attended a wonderful tribute concert for him at the Old Fruitmarket, during Celtic Connections 2019. 

Since the 70s, Gaughan has been one of Scotia’s most powerful, authentic and honest Bards. He does this through an open chord tuning on his Stratocaster, and an unerring, defiant and hard-hitting voice. Like Burns before him, he believes we all deserve an equal chance in life. Like Burns he draws on the old traditions and adds his own verses and tunes.

He digs deep into our social heritage of the voices of ordinary folks, unrecognised folk and of those who labour for a better world. He also includes the voices from further afield – America, England, Ireland, France, more . He was a central figure in 1970s Celtic folk revival with Boys of the Lough and his early classic album, Handful of Earth. He also worked with Billy Bragg, Andy Irvine, Five Hand Reel and Clan Alba. Gaughan is half Irish and Half Scots. 



**I first heard Gaughan back at a folk club in Edinburgh in the 80s, when he stood out as so different to the often romanticized view of soft, Scottish folk pop. I’d never heard folk music that challenged in this way. Since then I have heard Gaughan perform at the Celtic Connections concert hall his powerful version of Burns Parcel of Rogues to the Nation. I heard him take it intimate and emotional with Burns Westlin Windsat my local folk club, when he said, it was the best song ever written and says all there is to say really. He challenged with Outlaws and Dreamersand life on the edge. He told stories of old soldiers and miners, such as the powerful Why Old Mew Cry. Gaughan often starts his set with the honesty of the song, What You do With What You’ve Got.

He speaks of the English Diggers - "I tend to side with people like the Diggers, those English revolutionaries who fought without weapons for a fair share of the land that rightfully was the property of everyone to begin with," says Gaughan, summing up his philosophy, and smiling.
Between songs and while tuning his guitar, he tells his stories, often with dark humour and pathos. He talks of the real Scotland, the one he knows in Leith. “We used to elect our king in Scotland, you know. The last one we elected was Macbeth.”

**I heard an interview with Dick on radio Scotland when he spoke of his guitar playing being influenced by Davy Graham,

“When I heard of the murder of Chilean folk singer Victor Jara, by the fascist Pinochet. I knew, I couldn’t just play the old tunes, you had to speak out, and really that is what the tradition is all about. “
"I knew then I couldn't just play old tunes. You had to speak out. And, really, that is what the tradition is about. Traditional music--which to me has always meant just the songs that people sing and listen to, be that rock 'n' roll or old ballads--it has always had to do with politics. People's music, folk music if you will, is very dangerous stuff! It is subversive to acknowledge that ordinary people actually have a culture with artistic merit. This gives the lie to those who would like us to think that the poor are poor because they are stupid! There is a lot of wisdom in some of those old songs, and no reason I can see why songs about the politics of today are not part of The Tradition! I sing 'em, anyway, and that's the tradition I know."
Traditional music - It has always had to do with politics.”

Dick Gaughan at Milngavie folk club

Check out Dick Gaughan’s website -  NEW LIVE ALBUM The Harvard Tapes - https://www.greentrax.com/music/product/dick-gaughan-the-harvard-tapesI
Concerts at Celtic Connections and Milngavie folk club - all Photos copyright Pauline Keightley.

**Dick Gaughan Interview with Phil Cunningham Radio Scotland March 2012
Dick chose five songs that have influenced him –
(1) Big Bill Broonzy – Glory of Love
(2) The Shadows – Apache
(3) The Beatles – Love Me Do
(4)  Bob Dylan – Subterranean Homesick Blues
(5)  Davy Graham – 67


Be Charlotte


I first saw Be Charlotte at the first ever TRSMT music festival Glasgow Green 2017. The major festival T in the Park had to be cancelled due to problem with the site at Balerno and then moved to Glasgow. She was one of the stand out and memorable performers. 

Since then she has received very positive attention and Charlotte was excited to support The Proclaimers on tour. She released her single, Do not Disturb 2019 and continues to tour.