Wednesday, 8 September 2021

Chrissie Hynde sings Bob Dylan and other songs Queens Hall




‘Hippy stuff much easier than rock!’

Hynde sang an effortless, heady mix of folk, jazz and rock – which draws the audience in with her great blues voice.

The Queens hall, Edinburgh, was the perfect size for a socially distance audience in the middle sitting at small round tables. Edinburgh was honoured to host one of the most popular female rock singers of our generation! 


These acoustic concerts showcased songs from Hynde’s recent album: 'Standing In The Doorway’, Chrissie Hynde Sings Bob Dylan’ which was recorded in lockdown by Chrissie and her Pretender’s band mate, guitarist James Walbourne, by text message. James recorded on his phone and sent it off to Chrissie to add her vocal, before the tracks were mixed by renowned producer Tchad Blake. 


Hynde was backed by her expert, high quality band enjoying themselves greatly! The Bob Dylan Quartet of James Walbourne guitarist of The Pogues and The Pretenders, Carwyn Ellis keyboards, Danny Williams double bass. 

 

She opened with the song ‘In the Summer Time, Sweetheart like You, Don’t Fall apart on me Tonight, Every Grain of Sand, Time is a Jet Plane, Desolation Row, Tomorrow is a Long Time’ - Hynde’s song choices from Dylan’s extensive catalogue were unusual. 

 

And included a brighter change of tempo with the songs - ‘You’re s Big Girl Now’ from Blood on the Tracks (1974); two songs from ‘Shot of Love’ (1981) from Dylan’s religious period, and three from the Infidels Sessions (1983); ‘Tomorrow is a Long Time’, a moving love song from the Freewheelin’ session(1963), and ‘Love Minus Zero/No Limit’ from Bringing It All Back Home (1965) .

 

A highlight was her insightful interpretation of Dylan’s ‘Blind Willie McTell’ backed by a wonderful interplay of instrumental lines. Her choice of a couple of Ray Davies of the Kinks, songs were also popular – ‘I go to Sleep’.

Later in the set she stood to perform which changed the vibe totally – and sang Stuck in the Middle, I get along without you, Crying in Public, For her encore Hydne performed the unexpected and expertly woven treasure the French song “Que reste-t-il de nos amours”, Chauliac-Trenet classic from her album Valve Bone Woe. 


Her voice gives goose bumps and is instantly memorable and magnetically expressive, with the distinctive depth and range of her husky tones that hug her lower register. My favourite Chrissie song is I’ll stand by you and I might have wished she would have performed a few more favourites for us all to sing along to. How wonderful to be back in a live gig though!


The Rails

**Hynde was well supported by the duo The Rails, Kami Thompson (daughter of Richard and Linda) and James Walbourne (guitarist with The Pretenders) previous winners of Best New Artist at the BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards and I enjoyed their song, ‘Breakneck Speed.’ 


A companion film called 'Tomorrow Is A Long Time', which details the recording of the album, is also available via Sky Arts.

Monday, 6 September 2021

Gavin Esler How Britain Ends & Samir Puri Legacies of Empire, Edinburgh book festival 2021

Gavin Esler

Gavin Esler discussed his new book, How Britain Ends, at the Edinburgh international book festival 2021. Esler tells us he is Ulster Protestant and European. What is the future for the United Kingdom as a political entity? And how has the end of the British Empire influenced its trajectory in recent years?  

‘It’s the endgame for Britishness… Brexit is drowning the Union,’ says Gavin Esler in his new book How Britain Ends. ‘While the United Kingdom can survive Irish, Scottish and Welsh nationalisms, it cannot survive English nationalism.’ For Esler, the answer lies in a federal system of national and regional government. (However many now question that Federalism is not realistic and will not be supported by England)

He discussed where does power lie? The Teutonic plates of the UK are moving in different directions and with different politics. There is confusion over identity and the great imperial hangover.

 

Samir Puri


Samir Puri, is a Senior Fellow at the International Institute for Strategic Studies in Singapore. He also discussed the lasting legacies of empire in his book ‘The Great Imperial Hangover’ in which he writes, “India is called a British colony, Scotland is not called an English colony.” 

 

Its important how history is taught, and to learn other nations views and to review history. The younger generations are more questioning, whereas the older generation are nostalgic for Britishness – unaware of the collapse of empire and the migration from Commonwealth. There are imperial legacies and the physical remnants of empire. The former British empire is now in disguise, hardened and cobbled together and so much is Victorian.

 

The Union is about Protestantism, empire and war; coloniser or colonized, and cultural imperialism. The Empire lasted from the Tudors 1590s to 1997 and the hand over of Hong Kong to China.

 

Esler commented that since Brexit, Global Britain has less influence in Europe and less influence worldwide – Brexit was about nostalgic pessimism, and that things were always better in the past. We should move forward rather than looking back. Cecil Rhodes wrote, “ Ask any man what they’d rather be, he’d rather be an Englishman.” Well maybe not a Scotsmen or an Irishmen!

 

Where is the strategic vision? What does nationalism mean in an inter-connected world? Option – reinvent Britain/ federalism/ or a more extreme form of independence. Indy 2014 was mild – same currency, same head of state, same defence. All empires come to grief, in the end.

 

The English question and the resentment of the dominance of Westminster or with more power of the local. Independence for Scotland will have a bigger impact on England -  with loss of 32% of land mass/ where to store nuclear weapons/ and questions over EU border/ 

 

We need people to people contacts and many never travel and there is so much stereotyping. After World War one, 12% of Germany was lost. The UK lost 22% of its land with Ireland, and 1921 was really brutal. To muddle through is not realistic. Global Britain should look more to Europe: plus our voting system is unfair. 

We have lost an Empire but not found a role, and what has been fixed by Brexit? We must have a relationship of trust with our nearest neighbours. Why is our country not more united? Does Esler speak to doubting No voters? 

 

 

**MY VIEW

The trouble is the Tories don’t believe in devolution, the contrary, they believe in more centralization by the Palace of Westminster. I’m not sure where this path will lead us all, but it doesn’t seem a healthy or productive direction, when the opposite is the direction of travel across the world, where smaller nations and more local control is the direction. So I’m not sure what the Tories are trying to prove, when their destructive Brexit, their mishandling of the Covid pandemic with the highest death toll of 150K and now their bungled withdrawal from Afghanistan – has all shown the world their lazy, ignorant and incompetent form of 'partial' democracy. 


Sunday, 5 September 2021

Jackie Kay Fearless Blues Woman Bessie Smith, at Edinburgh International book festival 2021


Jackie Kay 

Acclaimed jazz and blues vocalist Suzanne Bonnar sang some of Bessie Smith’s best-loved songs. She began with the song ‘Nobody Knows you When You’re Down and Out’.

 

Poet and former Scots maker, has written a quality and inspired biography of the legendary Blues singer - her book 'Bessie Smith' was first published in 1991 and the time is right now for its reissue. 

Bessie reflected her times. Her first album sold 750 copes and she was rich. Then in 1931 suddenly blues was out and jazz was in and she was poor again, in. In 1937 she had a car accident. She collided with racism of the times and the blues were considered too rough.

 

Kay said her father bought her Smith’s album when she was only twelve and she remembers the cover – the front had a smiling Bessie Smith and the back her sad face - which in a way told the story of her life.

 

She was a chronicler of her times, with the Blues oral history and counter culture. On the day of her last recording, Billie Holiday came in later for her first recording. 

This event was chaired by artist, feminist and co-founder of the Glasgow Women's Library Adele Patrick. 

 

Bessie Smith

‘Bessie Smith showed me the air and taught me how to fill it.’ And Janis Joplin was certainly not the only person who fell in love with the Tennessee blues singer’s unforgettable voice. As a young Black girl growing up in Glasgow, Jackie Kay found inBessie not only an inspiring singer but a complex, sensuous, extravagantly generous woman with whom she could identify. Now of course, Kay has gone on to become one of the best-respected British poets of her generation, herself an inspiration to others. 

 

She joins us to discuss her extraordinary book,Bessie Smith.

It isas much a quest for emotional truth as for biographical fact, mixing poetry and prose, historical record and fiction. At times Kay enjoys imagining what the singer might havethought, orspeculates about the contents of the trunk in which she kept her most beloved possessions. It all adds up to a towering monument to one of the 20thcentury’s most influential singers. 



Monday, 30 August 2021

Ali Smith’s film 'Art in a Time of Lies' at Edinburgh International book festival 2021

 

Seeing Things - short film with wonderful images by film maker Wood Edinburgh International book festival 2021

 

The highly-respected Scottish novelist has teamed up with artist Sarah Wood to create a new short film made uniquely for Edinburgh. Seeing Things: Art in a Time of Lies, directed and edited by Wood; written and narrated by Smith (one time showing and will not be on-demand). , At the start with wonderful old black and white clips of gangsters.

 

THIS CULTURE OF LIES is like seeping rain, an aesthetic.. 

“I RANT AT THE TELEVISION AM I RESPONSIBLE FOR IT? CORRUPT GOVERNMENT. I FEEL SHAME.

INTO OURSELVES AND BEYOND OURSELVES, INSIDE OURSELVES. DARK AND LIGHT. IMAGINATIONS WAKENED – WITH A CHINK OF LIGHT IN THE DARK.

THEY ARE CUTTING THE ARTS BY 50%.”

 

These cycles come round and round – destroying. World changing too – left EU, end Trump, 

 

“Art is a lie that reveals the truth. What a slippery fish truth is. Little lies become a story. 

A lie distracts from the truth and take us down a garden path,  politics make lies sound respectable, (do they believe we believe them? Its always about power, lies are sanctioned. We become a slngle self, and persuaded to be tribal. A surface world shunts fast info, and we discard so much of it. “

 

Questions? Is art simply a displacement activity, a diversion from the ‘real things’ happening in the world? Or could it be that Ali Smith’s achievement is to reveal – with her trademark nimbleness – just how important art can be in helping make sense of a stupid, shameful, schismatic world? 

After the screening, Smith talked about her writing and some of the artists who have inspired her with Festival director Nick Barley

 

Questions: Is fake news new? “Shakespeare’s fake news is ancient: fake news today is faster – radio or t and now in our pockets.“  Split, diverted politics enrage, people under pressure, exclusion lines – becomes fascism. When we must work together.

Stories give us space, of our history, politics, and our dreams. 

 

Pull something light out of the mess,  Looking and seeing.

Art is difficult and shocking.

EDINBURGH INTERNATIONAL BOOK FESTIVAL 2021, Ali Smith - https://www.edbookfest.co.uk/the-festival/whats-on/ali-smith-art-in-a-time-of-lies

 

In each novel of Ali Smith’s Seasonal quartet, the narrative closely follows real world events. Brexit, the internment of migrants and the Coronavirus pandemic: each is woven into the fabric of Autumn, Winter, Spring and Summer, lending them a keen sense of relevance. But look again at this group of genuinely novel novels, and there are countless references – from other times and other places – to artists and thinkers. 

Visual artists Barbara Hepworth and Tacita Dean; filmmaker Lorenza Mazzetti; writers Charles Dickens and William Shakespeare – why do they have such a profound influence on Smith’s characters? 

 

Tom Devine and Ciaran Martin: 'Our Nation’s Future', at Edinburgh International book festival 2021

With Clare English. Where next for the UK’s future? English said, “Since union 1707, 300 years ago, there has been a largely stable relationship?” (Mmm really? Apart from riots, rebellion, hangings, clearances, deportations, battles, 

“In 2014, Scots rejected indy by 55.3%. what now is the settle will? Scots have little affinity with Johnson’s government.” Questions: between votes and the law; what is the UK? Move away from union; control over indy vote; Constitutional chess.

 

Ciaran Martin: Civil servant, Oxford Professor, constitutional director for the Referendum 2014 and from Northern Ireland. We need trusted and impartial government. progressive unionism.  

Tom Devine – Eminent Scottish historian asked, How has the nation changed; concede nationalists? Is threat of nationalism receding. We need cool heads and rational thinking.

 

*Ciaran Martin – ‘Remaking the British State,’  He said there is now a lull but there will be soon be constitutional chess games. Holyrood will request a Section 30 request which will be refused and end up in court. Scottish government will loose. There will be stalemate and a clash of mandate and law, an existential crisis. Something has to give.

 

He asked, what is the union? There is a lack of consensus and understanding, and a lack of any constitution. He recommended Michael Keatings book, State and Nation in the UK. There is two competing sovereignties, and a contested Scottish narrative – one the source of authority; the other multi-national with Scottish nationalism considered self-indulgent.

 

With union, Martin claims Scotland retained a strong sense as a nation, and never became a region. After Ireland left, Britain has allowed itself to break up. Northern Ireland agreement 1998 allowed to vote to leave. Most “countries” will not allow any break up. (BUT is Britain a country, surely it is a state?) Serious ministers will block any meaningful path to break up and the union will be based on force of law. Still unclear, struggle between mandate and law. The stakes will then be tested in the court of pubic opinion. Union an imagined construct: a political construct first. 

 

Poll supporting Scottish indy show 48% support is a serious threat. Over the decade 2011-2021 shows an increase of 10-15% in indy support.  Long way to go, but there will be an existential reckoning. Votes not laws. He discussed the health of the nation and how to expand support for the union. George Osborne and his Project Fear treated  Scotland as a possession and worried about loosing face on the world stage, is not an enduring policy. 

 

1. Muscular unionism – British nationalism, cultural pageantry, views devolution as a disaster. The internal market bill and taking back devolved powers and the Scottish hubs, means a marginalization of Scottish voices. But don’t forget who is paying for the UK.

 

2. Federalism -  Is not achievable with the dominance of England. After Brexit there is no desire to spate into smaller pieces.

 

3. Progressive unionism - The English want to preserve status quo. Best of both worlds slogan 2014 – is devolution settlement still viable - BBC, NHS - ways of dealing with tensions. Does Westminster support devolution? Even Wales feels London is hostile to devolution settlement.  A British state remade?

 

*Tom Devine

May Elections 2021 – “The union is in greater peril than at any time in my life time,” Gordon Brown. Devine says, “ The union is in greater peril since Prince Charles Edward Stuart and his Jacobite army invaded England to remove Hanoverians and to break the union!”

 

August 2021. London press and media’s conventional wisdom is that Scottish nationalism is on the ebb. That the Scottish government is parochial and incompetent, on ferries to drugs, so how can they run a sovereign nation? There has been a slight decline in the Pro indy polls (vaccine bounce?)

 

There is a state of Armistice at present with no battle going on, a truce – no judgement. What is the long term for the constituent parts. I'm not sure this is entirely true, as the Unionist are plotting heavily how to undermine Scotland Devolution settlement of 1997. Scotland has always retained control of its education, health, laws and kirk.

 The UK, under the spotlight. Historians look at the long term view, the demographic one, shows 2020, those under 40, 70% regard the union as over. 


The Grim reaper is on the side of Scottish national party. Two major issues, one is the Brexit vote – the first time Scottish opinion on major issues was denied. The other is a demographic one 2020 – because of the under 40s, 70% regard the union as over.


Sadly Devine’s time was cut short, while he did cover other issues in the Q & A session and he was keen to allow time for that. Martin asked, what other country allows itself to be broken up? What does this statement mean? Ireland considers itself a nation with a long history and distinct culture – as does Scotland and England. But Britain is a state much like Scandinavia and not a nation! 


Tom Devine and Ciaran Martin: Our Nation’s Future EDINBURGH INTERNATIONAL BOOK FESTIVAL 2021 - https://www.edbookfest.co.uk/the-festival/whats-on/ciaran-martin-with-tom-devine-where-next-for-the-united-kingdom


Sathnam Sanghera 'Empireland', at Edinburgh International book festival 2021

 

How Imperialism Shapes Modern Britain – “Silence is Violence”

Sathnam Sanghera discussed his book Empireland at the Edinburgh International book festival

He writes for the Economist newspaper. 15K copies of his new book have been bought for England’s schools. He said that even those students with history degrees have no knowledge of Empire. Sanghera spoke of the malicious forgetting and how the patterns keep repeating. At the extremes there is the nostalgic views  or the critical view of Empire. 

Post imperial, Little Britain, big Lens.

There is so much ignorance. For instance many in Home office had no idea of the Windrush generation and their British citizenship. This is truly shocking.

 

The British Empire lasted over 500 years so hard to study – from Henry VIII to the hand over to Hong Kong 1997- compared to the world wars, which lasted a mere 4 years. The empire was haphazard, complicated and motives changed. 

The British created the Sikhs. Highlanders and Sikhs fought together and went over the lines first!  Some Regiments of Indians who died in the wars were not even named.

 

The cycles keep repeating and the prejudice against the ‘other’ – say Irish, with their strange religion, not integrating,… From Jew to Irish to Muslim. 

 

We can be both proud British and questioning of our history. The UK may soon be 40% ethnic. How do we break the pattern? Proud and ashamed.

Routes into reconciliation. Brown vs White. In America there is at least a level of conversation and the Scottish curriculum is more enlightened. While Echo chambers take us nowhere.

 

Positives of Empire? Multiculturalism and British people travel like no other. Brexit? – from colonizer to rule-takers. A great free trading nation, tied up with empire. Indian princes were sent to British schools. 

 

We need truth. There is a culture war and fake history. Empire is still pushing colonialism – the City of London sits outside the real needs of the nation to finance the Empire of business and insurance.

Tell your truth. There is an emotional side to the slave trade – try to understand it and look at facts. The Commonwealth approves everything Britain did and it is no longer relevant.


Sathnam Sanghera Empireland Edinburgh International book festival 2021 -


https://www.edbookfest.co.uk/the-festival/whats-on/sathnam-sanghera-how-imperialism-shapes-modern-britain



Tom Devine 'Rewriting Scottish History', at Edinburgh International book festival 2021

 

In conversation with Alan Little:  “A deeper sense of Scottishness” - Tom Devine Rewriting Scottish History at Edinburgh International book festival 2021

 

Devine commented that Scottish history was hardly studied and shockingly the history of Scotland is less developed than Yorkshire’s. At the ancient universities, any department on Scots history was small, peculiar, introverted, inward looking. A Cinderella project. Wheras British history was considered outward-looking. Alan Little commented that at Primary school it was all Wallace and Bruce - and with no teaching of the evolution of the nation. 

 

Devine said, that today there has been a sea change, with a resurgence in Scottish scholarship, the first time since 18th century. Scotland has now developed a Constitutive history. A deeper sense of Scottishness. Which came first though? – does the explosion in scholarship predates political development, until 1970s?

He mentioned Canadian historian Rodger Smith, who wrote – “Political constitutive story is crucial – where do people come from, a sense our past, or our mooring threatened with loss. “

 

Devine also discussed the emerging crisis of Britishness with loss of Empire, and that once the union was never challenged. 

 

*The British Empire - “England ruled the empire and the Scots ran it” - came at a time of crisis and cultural revolution, industrialisation, agricultural revolution. Scotland became a place of heavy industry.

 

Scotland was 10% of the UK population but it was around a third of the Empire. Scotland was the world’s second richest country – with immigration from Ireland, Lithuania, Italy, Poland and also the paradox of a great deal of emigration. 

 “no nation has been more connected to the wider world than Scotland’

 

Book What is a nation? Ernest Waldon – Sorbonne, wrote that Nations are based on language, ethnic solidarity, product of imagination, relationship to the past. Scotland’s ties with overseas is very unusual. 

 

*Walter Scott 

Scott reconnected Scotland to its past and what makes Scotland Scotland? Scott began writing poetry to preserve the Border ballads.His writing has Influenced drama, fiction, poetry. At the time the Scots nation was in crisis – identity, sense of self, linkage to the past. Scotland was thought of as parochial, of no value and did not appeal to academics. Scott mixed fact with fiction. At the time 30% of the books being read in France were by Scott. 

“To be literate and civilized you have to read Scott.” 

 

These were crisis times. The enormity of the 5 revolutions in Scotland and the assimilation into England. A hybrid identity of Scottish and British and there was a catatonic shift from peasant life to industrialization. 

History as tragedy, based on the highlands – Scots were perceived as noble, brave and doomed, and  preordained to fail. Like the lament, or the durg…

The poet Edwin Muir 1930 claimed “Scott and other writers were false bards of a false nation.”

 

*Questions.

Devine was asked a few question by the live audience. He was asked if it was a mistake to come out in favour of Scotland’s independence in 2014. His answer was cautious – which included a number of factors and his views would be clear soon. He hoped there would be close connections to the rest of the UK and an amiable relationship with the UK government back in 2014. He said that every historian is biased but that he has kept his impartiality. 


EDINBURGH INTERNATIONAL BOOK FESTIVAL 2021, Tom Devine with Allan Little: Rewriting Scotland’s History -

https://www.edbookfest.co.uk/the-festival/whats-on/tom-devine-with-allan-little-rewriting-scotland-s-history


During the 20th century, Scotland commonly depicted its own history through the lens of a kind of colourful, tragicomic victimhood. This amounted to a tartan-clad story set against a Highland backdrop and a sense of national self-doubt that has sometimes been described as ‘the Scottish cringe’. Since the 1980s, however, that characterisation has changed, and Scotland has developed a more confident, modernised sense of its history and roots. 

Tom Devine can take considerable credit for this change: the most influential historian of our times, he has been instrumental in helping reframe the nation’s sense of itself. The Edinburgh University Professor of History and Paleogeography speaks to BBC journalist Allan Little about the changing nature of Scottish history. Using some of the most significant moments in Scotland’s story, from the ill-fated Darien Project of the late 17th century to the arrival of the Scottish Parliament two decades ago, Devine and Little discuss the ways in which Scottish history can be revisited to help us find a new sense of self.

 

BOOKS:

TOM DEVINE The Scottish Nation, from Union to Modern day; The Lowland Clearances,

Saturday, 31 July 2021

Europe for Scotland

 


 Compared to 2014, Scotland now has a great deal of support both world wide and in Europe, for its desire for independence. Wheras in 2014 many did not understand, now they do. 

For centuries Scotland has been  a trading nation – over to Flanders, France.

 

https://europeforscotland.com

 

LETTER 

We are Europeans from across the continent and around the world.

We want the people of Scotland to know that Europeans everywhere would welcome them back in the European Union if this is still their democratic wish.

 

Dear Heads of State and Government of the EU, President of the European Council, President and Members of the European Parliament, President and Members of the Commission,

We are Europeans from across the continent and around the world. Naturally, we disagree about many things. But we all agree on this: We want the people of Scotland to know that Europeans everywhere would welcome them back in the European Union if this is still their democratic wish.

 

In the 2016 Brexit Referendum, not a single Scottish district voted to leave, and Scotland as a whole voted by a 62% majority to remain in the EU. In subsequent years, the Scottish Parliament rejected the withdrawal process at every stage. Yet in 2020, Scotland was taken out of the European Union alongside the rest of the UK.

 

When Scots voted to remain in the EU, they did so as part of the United Kingdom. Separating themselves from the UK to become a member state of the EU is a different matter. One that demands its own referendum, which the Scottish Parliament and government have formally requested. At present the UK government refuses to permit this. 

We should not stand idle while this impasse lasts. It is an unprecedented development and demands fresh thinking from the EU. 

 

Therefore, we call on you to ensure that the EU clearly signals a path for Scotland to become a member in advance of any independence referendum. The usual process is for the EU to respond to a membership request only when it comes from an independent country.

 

Scotland deserves a different process. While it is legally part of the UK the Scottish government cannot negotiate with the EU. But the EU can declare that, because Scotland has already long been part of the EU, should it become legally and democratically independent it need not apply as a ‘new’ accession candidate.

 

Instead, the EU and its member states should make a unilateral and open offer of membership: an exceptional proposal to match Scotland’s exceptional circumstances.

The EU has demonstrated already that it can recognise the unique circumstance created by Brexit. The European Council unilaterally confirmed at its Summit of 29 April 2017 that Northern Ireland would become part of the EU immediately should it ever vote in the future to join the Republic of Ireland.

 

Edinburgh International book festival 2021


August 14-30 2021

After the challenging times, Edinburgh international book festival launches its 2021 program – "Onwards and Upwards" consisting of both online and live events.  With more than 250 events , including the extensive children’s program. 


TICKETS - 

 https://www.edbookfest.co.uk

 

EIBF Online events 

offer the opportunity to chat with fellow book lovers and connect with authors by asking questions in our live Q&As. You can also catch up on events at a time that suits, and online programme, so you needn't worry about missing out. 

Scottish authors include Tom Devine, Ali Smith, Alexander McCall Smith,  Ian Rankin, Douglas Stuart,

Including events with Nobel Prize winners Amartya Senand Kazuo IshiguroNgũgĩ wa Thiong’o, Booker Prize winners Salman RushdieBernardine EvaristoRichard Flanagan and Scotland's own Douglas Stuart (with First Minister Nicola Sturgeon) and many more.

The EIBF is the world’s premier book festival begun in 1982.

Edinburgh in a Unesco city of literature and each August EIBF welcomes a wide variety of authors  from Scotland and internationally. I’ve met many famous faces here, which at first is a strange experience.  


Words and stories are our passports to a better, fairer world. Imagination is free! Whether the words are carried in song, in poetry, in political debate, in images, or in stories, in fairy-tales, history, theories, journalism or truth. 


Edinburgh festivals and Portrait photography





It's marvellous that the Edinburgh festivals are returning for 2021, with 3 main pavilions. Tickets - https://www.eif.co.uk


Each August Edina’s ancient, cobbled streets down from the castle and into the more formal Georgian new town become vibrantly alive with international visitors. Festivals offer a special and unique bringing together of diverse creatives – to collaborate and inspire each other.  

 

I travelled through Princes street Edinburgh to my secondary school at Granton beside the Firth of Forth, once a great port and centre of fishing. I remember the city’s excitement, fun and energy at the theatre, concert, comedy (with the footlights reviews) and art each August for the festivals. Growing up though I never realised the scale or world class significance of the festival to celebrate Europe and its international breath of cultural  impacts – from mime to ballet; folk to opera; poetry to pop; drums to pipes; harmony singing to orchestral depth; Hamlet or absurd comedies and hysterical satire!

 

The Edinburgh festivals and its large Fringe offers so much. The Mound art galleries of the old masters, the history of Enlightenment innovators to modern challengers. 

 

Scottish Festivals ... Seek to engage, challenge, entertain and to ensure quality of standard, musicianship, writing, diversity, colour and more.




 

**In 2008, I began seriously pursuing photography and started shooting at the Edinburgh festival. The high street was always a high point to take photos, while also very challenging with all its many distractions. I love its energy. I studied art at school, play piano and have a long standing interest in music, poetry, drama and art. 

 

After the throbbing high street, I always enjoy the walk down the mound and along George street to the calmer reflections of the Edinburgh International Book festival. I began taking photos here too, in the perfect, shaded environs of the posh Charlotte square. This was always a challenging and inspiring experience. Edinburgh has ever changing light, in August with all the seasons often in one day!


MY Photography website - https://pkimage.co.uk

 

The EIBF is the world’s premier book festival begun in 1982. TICKETS - https://www.edbookfest.co.uk

Edinburgh in a Unesco city of literature and each August EIBF welcomes a wide variety of authors  from Scotland and internationally. I’ve met many famous faces here, which at first is a strange experience.  

 

I’d like to thank all those who’ve encouraged and inspired my work. 

 

Edinburgh Tattoo

street performer


The role of art is to challenge and provoke, to resist stagnation and to question complacency. All art , poetry, prose or painting, represents and interprets the world. Its purpose is to bring new perspectives. 



The Oldest UK Universities



Edinburgh university founded 1583

My younger son was working down near Cambridge as an engineer, when a colleague asked him what kind of degree did he have from a mickey mouse university like Aberdeen anyway? (The cheek and ignorance!)  My English brother-in-law also used to talk of how England subsidized Scotland and that Scots were merely scroungers. I am tired of the English talking Scotland down! Why are we in such negative competition, rather than co-operating? Once Scots were leaders. 

I have visited Aberdeen campus several times and was highly impressed with the historic buildings, it was obvious Aberdeen was one of the worlds oldest universities, established 1495. So I thought I’d look at the UK’s oldest universities. 

What happened to those brave Scots who were leaders in the Empire 1700s, traders, explorers, inventers, innovators, educators, ship builders – when once we were partners? But no more. That all stopped over a century ago. When the British empire was established in the 1700s, they depended on the educated Scots as their bookkeepers, explorers, surveyors, scientists, philosophers, scholars, poets, engineers,. At this time Scotland boasted four leading universities and its population was 1m compared to England at 4m.  



Aberdeen University Kings college founded 1495

My belief is we must look at our Scots history – which has been rigorously suppressed. Look up the oldest universities UK – (Oxford and Cambridge were initially centres of clerical teachings late 1090s); in the 1400s it was Scottish universities which were 4 leading centres of learning – St Andrews 1410, Glasgow 1451, Aberdeen 1495, Edinburgh 1583. 

It wasn’t until 400 years later, in the 1800s that England set up universities. Manchester 1824, London 1826, Durham 1832.


Surgeons Hall Edinburgh founded 1726
Edinburgh also has one of the world’s leading medical schools. In 2011 I was honoured to attend Edinburgh’s Surgeons hall where my son graduated, and was amazed to discover, not only its long history, but that the Edinburgh medical school is one of the oldest in the world (and the UK) and was established in 1726 during the Scottish enlightenment. Graduates of the medical school have founded medical schools and universities all over the world including 5 out of the 7 Ivy League medical schools Pennsylvania, Yale, Columbia and Harvard. The Scottish Enlightenment was part of a wider European movement, reaching its height in this country between 1750-1800 

Over the past decade I have been researching Scotia’s past and realised ‘Auld Scotia’ led the world with education, reform, philosophy and enlightened though. The great French philosopher and historian Voltaire (1694-1778) said 'We look to Scotland for all our ideas of civilisation'. At this time European thinkers challenged old ideas about almost every aspect of life. They argued that the way forward was to use “reason” when seeking answers to questions. 

Scots founded Americas top universities. I heard Tom Devine discuss the profound influence of Scots on Americans universities. Scots scholars went over to America and founded several centres of learning. Scots Americans were crucially involved in setting up centres of learning and universities there and were some of American’s Founding Fathers. They were profoundly important to the American constitution – such as the Scottish Enlightenment figures and the influence of Scottish Moral Philosophy. Notably Scot John Witherspoon founded Princeton and educated future president James Madison, 28 senators, 49 congressmen and 39 judges.


*Meanwhile in Scotland, (1) St Andrews was the first university founded 1410, Ever to excel.  
 (2) University of Glasgow, founded 1451 as an addition to the city’s cathedral. It boasts numerous notable alumni - economist Adam Smith, inventor, engineer James Watt, actor Gerard Butler, author John Niven, and Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon.  

 (3) University of Aberdeen (1495) reaches back more than 500 years: Originally founded in 1495 as King’s College, and thus the 5th-oldest university in the UK, it merged in 1860 with Marischal College. Today, the University of Aberdeen regularly ranks among the top 200 universities in the world. Notable alumni include actor Iain Glen (Game of Thrones) and author Ali Smith.  

 (4) University of Edinburgh founded in 1583 – famous scientists studied here: theory of evolution Charles Darwin, statistician Thomas Bayes, famous physicist James Clerk Maxwell.

It wasn’t until 400 years later in the 1800s that England developed their universities (5) University of Manchester founded 1824:   (6) University College London founded 1826 a collegiate federal university that now includes almost 20 colleges. Alumni roster Francis Crick (co-discoverer of the DNA), Ricky Gervais (actor), Coldplay, and Mahatma Gandhi.  (7) Durham University founded(1832)

***The Universities of Oxford and Cambridge had both been founded 1096 as a centres of Theology and training for clerics. University of Oxford 1096 and the University of Cambridge was founded in 1209. This changed with new colleges around the 1400s.

"Americans built their world around the principles of Adam Smith and Thomas Reid of individual interest governed by common sense and a limited need for government.'   Historian Arthur L Herman


Glasgow University founded 1451