Monday 30 September 2019

Black & White PHOTOs Edinburgh Book festival 2019

Inua Ellams
Edinburgh International Book festival, celebrates diversity and many different voices and backgrounds from across the globe. It is always good to see young, new voices given a platform to be heard.. 

Elizabeth Acevedo
Heida Ásgeirsdóttir
Isabella Hammad
Denise Mina
Rachel Long
Tania Nwachukwu
Hibaq Osman

Woman writers at Edinburgh book festival 2019

Octavia is a poetry collective for women of colour founded by Rachel Long in response to the lack of representation in literature and academia. Since 2015, Octavia have read beyond the canon and written themselves on their own terms, coming together every month at the Southbank Centre. 

This event showcases the talents of Rachel Long, Tania Nwachukwu and Hibaq Osman in an hour of poetry.

Mariam Khan, British writer and activist, discussed her book It’s Not About The Burqa, along with poets Nadine Aisha Jassat, and Amna.

Mariam Khan

Mariam Khan, British writer and activist, discussed her book It’s Not About The Burqa, along with poets Nadine Aisha Jassat, and Amna.
Jokha Alharthi

Jokha Alharthi, Omani novelist, first Arabic language writer to win the Man Booker

Sunday 29 September 2019

Is Scotland Ready?

Irish Times writer Fintan O’Toole is an excellent, creative thinker and I enjoyed his essays, in the Sunday National. He writes that we must not idealize what independence will mean. Unlike Brexit, we have given Scottish Independence careful consideration, both by past artists and also in recent times.  

In the years leading to the historic 2014 vote on Scotland’s indy, one of the most significant changes that occurred was the rise up of renewed, energised and enthusiastic debates on all aspects of our views on how to build a healthier democracy, and with all walks of life here being more engaged. These debates led to creative imaginings of the type of country we might build here. This progress has been totally missed by the London based press. (And as Angus Robertson well points out, little attention is paid by the UK press to the UK regions, nations or to the European press) 
The twenty years of the Scottish Parliament has brought renewed confidence in our ability to govern ourselves, even while history tells us Scotland has always had some form of self government. Another big change was with young people. For the first time 16 and 17 year olds were given the vote, which meant political debate was considered in schools. Young people also take their news from diverse sources online. There has also been a reworking and recreating of Scotland’s arts, heritage and history. According to leading historian Tom Devine, until the 1960s Scottish history, particularly from Union to the present day, had been seriously neglected by academic study. 

My impression is all these discussions greatly moved Scotland on, with new creative ideas on how to make our own nation. Its been clear for decades now (as the polls point out) that Scotland has been moving in its own and different trajectory to those in England. 

Re Brexit – I’m getting worried now for the state of things here UK. Gerry Hassan, who has a new book, Scotland the Brave, thinks we’ve come to the limits of devolution and where do we go now?  The new guy Adam Price leading Plaid Cymru in Wales is very interesting too. He’s lived over in the States and believes we might all be stronger here with 4 diverse nations working together, as comparable to the Benelux countries of Netherlands, Luxemburg and Belgium which thrive independently but also co-operatively. Perhaps we need to define better what indy means and that the four British Isles nations would work closely together to build security, trade etc.  In todays internet world its such a different business to the days of ship travel! Worryingly UK politics appears in melt down, and with the hoping Brexit is some impossible quick fix.

On our social challenges. My view is we need to close private schools. The trouble is a big shift in culture like that can't really happen over night. After centuries of empire building and a Them versus Us culture, real social change will take some time I believe. We should seriously look at the Finnish education system - which believes in a "co-operative culture" rather than a "survival of the fittest" of creaming off an elite you nourish while the rest are disregarded. Because Scots history tells us we thrive when we are all given a chance, re libraries and education here.

There was an interesting write up in the Sunday Times June 21 (I like to read the right wing press also!) on Dr Geetha Marcus, professor of education Glasgow who advises the Scottish government. She advocates abolishing private schools in favour of a high-quality comprehensives model, and in line with the approach by Finland after the second world war, as required to reduce our nations attainment gap.Marcus argues segregated education is holding Scotland back. She also advises masters degrees for all teachers. Finland with a similar population, is recognised as an education success story since it replaced private and selective schools with ‘common’ schools on the basis that a society divided by class and poverty would weaken the country.There are 30K pupils in 74 independent schools in Scotland, around 4%, which encourages a privileged few.

It is vital we close the attainment gap. This can only be achieved, through a radical shift in attitudes. All children deserve a fair chance in life. We must also have mixed ability groups in primary schools and a Montessori type of education with mentoring. 

Worryingly the establishment and media continue to be run by private school elites. They want to protect the status quo and are rigidly against change, but this flies in the face of progress and of a real future of younger generations. So the question is, what do they really stand for? Those in London need to listen to more diverse voices, and not only to an isolated Tory party or a dysfunctional Labour. Huge changes are coming and I certainly don’t see the Brexit party or Lib Dems as an answer.

We need to look for the bigger pictures. Too many are only concerned for the personal and party issues. Why are the unionists running away from discussing Scotland’s pressing issues in a Peoples Assembly/? What are they scared of? Those on all sides of Scottish politics agree we need control of our immigration, drugs policies, and are against any Westminster power grab. We must find consensus – we can have an ever stronger British isles, just not one where all is controlled at Westminster. 

I am presently reading Fintan O’Toole’s recent book, Heroic Failure, on the Brexit carry on, and what an excellent story teller he is in this well researched tale of this highly confusing break down. He states that Brexit is really not about the EU, but an existential crisis. 

Scotland sits on the edge of Europe and for centuries has been an outward-looking nation. We must embrace this now – and become the welcoming, non-hostile nation, most who live in Scotland wish to be part of. 

Did Revolution happen here too soon?

Did Revolution happen here too soon?
Did revolution in the UK happen a hundred years too early? 

In 1649, Charles Stuart I (who wanted to impose bishops and the Anglican bible on a Presbyterian and Protestant Scotland) had his head chopped off. At this time the Thirty Years religious wars raged across Europe. 

Then in 1651, his son Charles II was crowned at Scone Scotland with the understanding he would adopt the Scottish Presbyterian religion. (however he went back on his word. 
Then with the Scots help to reclaim his throne, Charles II was defeated at the battle of Worcester in 1651 – where he hid in an oak tree and went into exile in France. 

The UK became a Republic from 1653 to 1658, Cromwell ruled with an iron will and with his aggressive model army. Thomas Cromwell set himself up in as mini dictatorship and so people wanted the monarchy back after he died, as a civilizing force?

As Charles Stuart II had no heirs, after him we had James Stuart VII, William and Mary, Ann, George of Hanover. (the grandson of Elizabeth Stuart)
All this was over 100 years before the more authentic People Reform movements of the late 18thcentury, 1790s, who advocated votes for all men – when only 0.12% of land owning men had a vote. The 18thcentury saw the age of the great Enlightenment writers – yes the Pen is really mightier than the sword!  
There were the great Revolutionary wars of America (1775 – 1783) and France. The British authorities were terrified these movements would develop here too – they did, but they were crushed forcibly by deportation. Robert Burns wrote the Tree of Liberty.  Britain did not give universal suffrage until 1928, long after America and France. The British establishment learned about crushing others after Culloden and destroying the Highland culture. 

The British belief in elites endures to this day - in Scotland less so, although some buy into the lies. It strongly appears that England is on a difficult trajectory now to Scotland and has been for some time now and the strains and cracks are self–evident for all to see. No matter how often BoJo calls us the ‘Awesome Foursome’, his flattery words are meaningless.

Since the printing press, Scotland has been bombarded with unionist propaganda. The question must not be – how can I join the elite, but how can we stop the elite! I’ve wondered why Norway, when they voted for their indy were over 80% in favour? Nearly all of Norway saw no advantage to being run from Stockholm. Yet in Scotland we were only at 20%, now nearly 50% in favour of not having London politicians make our decisions for us. In part it’s a result of decades of Daily Mail and BBC propaganda; and the Jon Prebble books of Scottish victimhood. Plus Scottish history and heritage has been side-lined and ignored. 

This week the UKs Supreme court made a historic decision, that PM Johnson's Prorogation of parliament was illegal. They based their decision on the Scottish Claim of Rights 1689 (an later the English Bill of Rights) to limit the power of the monarch. - based on the teaching of Philosopher George Buchanan.
How can we really expect and Eton educated Londoner to get Scotland, or to really understand or care for Scottish issues? He can appoint some posh secretary of state as his lackey here, but its all unsustainable. But its also a long waiting game and we need patience. 

Thank goodness the Supreme court has defended the sovereignty of Parliament. (the BBC ignored Joanna Cherry and the Scottish case) focusing instead on Gina Miller’s case. Some Brexiteers claim that BoJo speaks for democracy and the people, and that he needs to By pass parliament... This is scary dictators talk! 

In America there are 3 seats of power – the senate, congress, and the presidency – the rule of law and a free press. The UK has an early out-dated form off democracy and only granted universal suffrage in 1928. The UK requires and elected second chamber, an elected head of state. It also requires the law to defend a more balanced and locally owned press, and a balanced state broadcaster that is impartial.

Centenary Hamish Henderson at Edinburgh book festival 2019

Hamish Henderson
Like Burns before him, he looked to the traditions of the Gaelic and Scots ballads, and he gave expression to a nations heart. 

Spring quickens. 
In the Shee Water I'm fishing. 
High on Whaup's mountain time heaps stone on stone. 
The speech and silence of Christ's world is Gaelic, 
And youth on age, the tree climbs from the bone. 

A piper played in Henderson’s well kent and loved song Freedom Come All Ye,and we all sang along, The event was part of Edinburgh International book festival 2019,
Tonight was a tribute concert for Scotland’s great poet and song collector Hamish Henderson. 
On the centenary of his birth, poets have come together to celebrate his rebellious spirit and influence with a unique poem anthology. – THE DARG

Poet, translator, Highland folklorist, Henderson was part of the Scottish folk revival and a co-founder of the Edinburgh university’s Scottish studies. He was a campaigner for the Scottish parliament and guiding light behind the Edinburgh fringe festival.

I first saw photos of Hamish at the Old Fruitmarket venue Glasgow. I heard of his song, Freedom Come all Ye. That he had been a frequent visitor at Sandy Bells bar, Forrest road; a collector of Scots song and a co-founder of Scottish studies at Edinburgh university. I was also a frequent visitor at Sandy Bells back in the 80s, before I moved abroad.  

He became a folklorist and collector of Scots Bothy ballads and Gaelic song, to keep Scots voices alive. He spent years tracking down storytellers and folk singers with the American folklorist Alan Lomax. Together they recorded hours of traditional ballads, Gaelic work songs, children’s songs and contemporary folk songs from all over Scotland. His ambition was to record a people’s history before it has disappeared. To preserve the tales told around the campfires, tinker storytellers and songs of the singer Jeanie Robertson. .
Tribute concert for cemetery for Hamish Henderson

Our Oral Histories. Author, critic and broadcaster Stuart Cosgrove, (writing in the Sunday National 15.09.19 ) wondered, who will record the significant oral history of our vital Scots independence movement today?Who is there to collat our energetic indy movement – of all those who gave up so much of their time and energy to work tirelessly. All those how “gave up their jobs, rode Yes bikes, stuffed envelopes, designed flyers and pounded the streets.” 

He writes of the importance of such histories - “Oral histories require many volunteers, researchers and recorders willing to travel extensively… “Oral history is a collection of historical information using interviews with ordinary people who have unique perspectives on important events, first hand evidence of the past which captures people’s experiences and opinions often in ways that contrast with or contradict official history.”  It is “history from the bottom up, told by onlookers, joiners, unemployed – not through the eyes of the powerful. “

**Scotland present desire for our self-determination and independence has deep, creative and authentic roots because of visionaries such as Hamish Henderson. 

**Hamish Scott Henderson (1919 – 2002)grew up in a cottage in the Spittal of Glenshee. And like Burns his mother was s singer of Gaelic songs. He was also a soldier in the Second world war: He studied Modern Languages at Cambridge. In the years leading up to the war, as a visiting student in Germany, he ran messages for a Quaker organization aiding the Germans resistance and helping to rescue Jews. Later he moved to Edinburgh and frequented the folk bar Sandy bells.

**Biographer Timothy Neat  wrote in the Guardian March 2002, “Like Burns, Henderson was, first and last, a poet, and poetry was for them both language rising into song, responsible to moment, people, place and joy.” 
“The tryst of Hamish Henderson, who has died aged 82, was with Scotland. It was a meeting of high consequence - across the 20th century, in darkness and in sun, Scotland informed all that Henderson was as a man and a poet. “
“Not for Henderson Auden's conceit that poetry never made anything happen; he believed that "poetry becomes people" and changes nations, that poetry elevates and gives expression to the deepest and best being of mankind, that poetry is a measure that extends far beyond the written word, that poetry is pleasure and a call to arms.” Timothy Neat

As he states in his prologue to the Elegies: 
Let my words knit what now we lack 
The demon and the heritage 
And fancy strapped to logic's rock. 
A chastened wantonness, a bit 
That sets on song a discipline, 
A sensuous austerity. 

Freedom Come All Ye
Roch the wind in the clear day’s dawin
Blaws the cloods heelster-gowdie ow’r the bay,
But there’s mair nor a roch wind blawin
Through the great glen o’ the warld the day.
It’s a thocht that will gar oor rottans
– A’ they rogues that gang gallus, fresh and gay –
Tak the road, and seek ither loanins
For their ill ploys, tae sport and play
Nae mair will the bonnie callants
Mairch tae war when oor braggarts crousely craw,
Nor wee weans frae pit-heid and clachan
Mourn the ships sailin’ doon the Broomielaw.
Broken faimlies in lands we’ve herriet,
Will curse Scotland the Brave nae mair, nae mair;
Black and white, ane til ither mairriet,
Mak the vile barracks o’ their maisters bare.
So come all ye at hame wi’ Freedom,
Never heed whit the hoodies croak for doom.
In your hoose a’ the bairns o’ Adam
Can find breid, barley-bree and painted room.
When MacLean meets wi’s freens in Springburn
A’ the roses and geans will turn tae bloom,
And a black boy frae yont Nyanga
Dings the fell gallows o’ the burghers doon.

Thursday 19 September 2019

New Voices 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
Gender Debate: What is Gender in the 21stcentury.
Her Scotland, author Rosemary Gorling
Lowland Clearances, Tom Devine

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.