Showing posts with label Stories. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Stories. Show all posts

Sunday 31 December 2023

Stories of Scotia

James Clerk Maxwell

 What happened? What happened to the lost voices – of Father John Macdonald of the Hebrides (Barra), and of those forced on ships to Canada, many left, some came back. Those who travelled to the city lights of London; those who took to the seas of far away Eastern countries – to places of conflict.

Only in 1990s, thirty years ago, statues were erected to some great Scots – such as great physicist James Clerk Maxwell, Elsie Inglis, great economist Adam Smith, 


Its many travellers

The Scottish samurai, Thomas Clover

Elsie Inglis

George Buchanan

Robert Burns

Walter Scott

James Hogg

Rennie Mackintosh

Ossian poems James MacPherson

Adam Smith

Thomas Muir

James Clerk Maxwell


Before some signed an agreement to dissolve the Scottish parliament – but we kept our kirk and laws. For centuries Scots have looked and travelled far and wide, over its seas, taking scots song and stories with them. Some went to teach in French, German and American universities. 


I have been travelling the Scottish islands - First to Orkney, which was awesome, all the history. Orkney gently tells many stories, and its ancient sagas from its rich past. 

Second the outer Hebrides and the beauty of the shimmering soft blues of these landscapes is breath taking, the expanse of sands and surging seas..

Friday 31 July 2020

We’ve lost our Truths

Richard Halloway
The facts are no longer presented by the journalists – but rather on social media platforms. 
I heard an interesting journalist from the Philippines on Hard talk  BBC – Maria Ressa

She claims the role of technology and social media that many spend so much time on, produces a manufactured consensus and manipulation of the public on a massive scale and are buoyed by a propaganda machine. Democracy is dead and social media killed it. 
In his book Stories we tell ourselves – Richard Halloway, former Bishop of Edinburgh, writer, broadcaster and cleric, writes that we should use self examination of ourselves and our structures, and challenge ourselves. 
There should be power to artists: artist interpret rather than force ideas. 

For instance Tony Blair’s belief and decisions tell us about a person’s psychological state rather than the external world around us. We are very hypnotisable by false prophets, look at how cultured Germany was led astray. He advises that we be compassionate to others stories.
Maria Resso
Ressa claims that these media platforms are behaviour modification platforms. This eco system allows lies and hate to spread faster than facts. Then there isn’t integrity of facts or elections. We are seeing a return to fascism because liberal democracy hasn’t delivered. People were angry. The trickle down effect hasn’t worked and caused a perfect storm. 

It used to be the journalists were the gatekeepers and agreed on the facts. Now instead of the journalists as the gatekeepers, we have the tech companies.  

Ressa states there has now been the growth of a kind of fascism - its okay to kill and when we see our human rights being pushed back. She feels she must do the right thing for democracy and truth. Has democracy failed us and if so, what can we do about it? Ignore social media ads (!), ignore tabloids news, ignore the debt marketed at us. 

Rather we must listen to the artists!

I see the only answer as small indy nations who have any chance of fighting back to all this. Hope I’m not deluded! To protect us from global threats and global companies.

Wednesday 26 June 2019

We Need New Stories

Through understanding our past stories: and as singer songwriter Rab Noakes says, "a future with no past has no future". New stories can emerge through the exchange of ideas, new stories may emerge.

Professor Tom Devine writes, in his latest book, The Scottish Clearance: A History of the Dispossessed, that until the 1960s, there were few academic studies on Scotland’s history after the Union of 1707.((there were more on Yorkshire)

Is democracy failing today, with the rise of populism, and as people seem to have lost all trust and faith in the system? Military expert now say its all about counterintelligence – Russia and China are experts in this field. Its no longer about huge warships and its about who controls information flows. With the rise of cyber warfare and online propaganda, how can we protect our freedoms and democracies. How can we regain trust?

We in Europe we must remember we do have the rule of law, some accountability measures of free press, vibrant arts and quality universities. Knowledge is central – reading stories, creativity, collaborations and understanding our past.  

Most Scots have pride in their Scottish culture: from our highland glens, ballads and poetry, Edinburgh enlightenment, border hills, western isles, imposing historic castles and ever changing skies. We’ve had turbulent histories: William Wallace, John Knox, Mary Queen of Scots, Bannockburn, Reformation, Jacobites. We are known for our whisky, Clyde ships, fish, oil, tweed, tartan, golf, poetry and song.

We’ve given the world the great songs of Robert Burns and other great writers. And innovations such as Penicillin, steam engines and more. The traditions are continued by powerful troubadours of folk music with popular live acoustic music and world scale festivals such as Celtic connections and Edinburgh festivals – the world’s biggest arts festival. 

I am encouraged that Scotland’s first minster is a keen reader. But equally dismayed to read that neither Trump or Corbyn are readers. In fact Trump has fake book covers lining his walls. Says it all really. 

Our national poet Robert Burns was a ferocious reader and read at the dinner table. He enjoyed his aunts stories, his mothers songs and his fathers reading and conversations. Famous fashion designer, Karl Lagerfield, valued his vast library of books above all else. Francoise Frenkel, fled the Nazis ( author of No Place to Rest my Head) - and it was her books and poems that kept her hope alive. When the Communist regime in Russia wanted to control arts and thought, they exiled any free thinkers, writers and artists on the Philosophy steamer. 

Thursday 29 November 2018

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.

Friday 11 August 2017

Myths and Lies of Unionism

James IV of Scotland and Margaret Tudor

It is not only that Scottish culture has been suppressed, it has also been distorted by those career unionists, those Anglized Scots who view themselves as English first, Scots second and see their careers as a seat in the House of Lords. 

I attended a Lecture by the respected Scottish historian Tom Devine.
Where he spoke of a mass deluded country, and of (Caledonia’ by Breton) – he said that there were moves to put out the delusion that Scotland is a ‘small, poor, inadequate country’.

When in fact, before union, Scotland was a flourishing and trading nation, with a population a third of the UKs! After the Jacobites '45 challenge – the Highland dress was forbidden (the punished was imprisonment or deportation). Then in 1822 George IV visited Edinburgh in a short kilt and pink stockings! – and the Scots were ‘allowed’ to wear kilts.

He spoke of ‘The Unionist Myth” that was put about –

that says “Scotland is a land of darkness, faction, poverty and religious rigidity.”
The writer Prebble, put forward our ‘victimhood’ – with stories of Glencoe, Clearances, Darien Project and more.

After the failed Darien project, early 17th century, there was distortion of the facts and Myths were put forward by Unionists. The Darien financial disaster was over stated – it was common at that time for ventures such as these not to succeed. England refused to do trade with the Scots.

Our history becomes myths – what we want to believe – and the stories we pass on.

One interesting fact here is that the city of Glasgow voted against the Treaty of Union - that is those who were allowed to vote then.
Bonnie Dundee 
Prince James Francis Edward
The Scottish enlightenment
It also comes to light that Bonnie Prince Charlie was a reformer, that he wanted to bring more parliamentary scrutiny and that he was no fool either. The Hanoverian regime was corrupt. The Jacobites were defeated though by George I’s son, Duke of Cumberland who had been fighting in France.

 In our recent times we had a mountain of unionist lies - we were told in 2014 that voting for the union would mean "Devolution Max" (not happened), "Staying in Europe" (Brexit vote means leaving), "Better pensions" (??), improved funding (??)

We must now excavate below the Myths and falsehoods

In June 1385, the Parliament of Scotland decreed that Scottish soldiers serving in France

would wear a white Saint Andrew's Cross, both in front and behind, for identification.

Tuesday 25 August 2015

EIF Music & Arts & Stories at Edinburgh International festival

Trading Stories: Walls Coming Down

Or are they? At Celtic Connections festival Glasgow certainly the orchestras mix with folk musicians. Good example Nicola Benedetti and Shetland fiddler Ali Bain, composer and accordionist Phil Cunningham along with the Gaelic singer Julie Fowlis  - composed together for Benedetti's Scottish album and the results were magnificent. Joni Mitchell cites Debussy as a big influence on her music. So we might say this is nothing new. Alex Ross (American music critic) writes that classical music for stuffed shirts is not how it should be. 

This year the new director of the EIF, Edinburgh International festival, Fergus Linehan, aims to be more inclusive and to expand the music program with more contemporary composers in the main festival.

*Wave Movements -  28th August, The Hub, Compositions from - Bryce Dessner of The National, and Richard Reed Perry of Arcade Fire. Along with the images of Hiroslu Sugimoto's 1980s seascape film. 

*Sufjan Stevens -  30th August, The Playhouse (also an oboe player)
*Franz Ferdinand & Sparks (FFS) - 24th August, Festival Theatre
*Idlewild - 17th August, Assembly Rooms
*Magner's Summer Nights - Ross bandstand Princes Street gardens - headlined with the Flaming Lips, Waterboys, James

*Musicians at EIBF, Edinburgh International Book festival 2015, will include talks by -
 Edwyn Collins, Tracy Thorn, Stuart David, Viv Albertine.  

PLUS - Writing Across Boundaries, 5.30 28th August , Edinburgh International book festival 2015.
Traverse - A Girl is a Half-formed Thing
Shakespeare in the Gardens

*Free Fringe - large scale busking!

One of the top aspects of EF is the way it embraces all the arts - enjoys challenging expectations and confronting unknown boundaries. 
Many musicians write; many painters compose; many songwriters paint (Dylan, Joni are supreme examples).  And the many ways that the different artistic expressions can compliment each other.

Perhaps festivals and Edinburgh Fringe are about the vocies of grassroots artists, where we all can have an artists voice.  

Edinburgh Festival is one of the oldest and the worlds largest gathering of all the arts. 

Friday 26 June 2015

The Forgotten Stories of Women

Maya Angelou
I wondered recently - Why are the lead characters of most fairy stories female and when were these stories written and who by?  
Is this because many of the traditional stories belong mostly to women and that women through the centuries passed down the oral traditions in ballads, songs and stories?  

Many characters in the old fairy tales though are now out-dated role models for today's young girls. They are not proactive or action women, but rather submissive ones, who have to respond to what life may throw at them. Meanwhile the action women are too often portrayed as either a deranged witch or a wicked step mother. 

Do these stories of pretty princesses in shiny pink frocks wishing for prince charming to kiss them one day have the best effect on young girls? They give the impression that success in life is about relying solely on good looks rather than what they can achieve in the world.  Looks fade while character and actions remain. Many of the real stories of women appear to be lost.    

I read of Agnes Broun, the mother of the famous Scottish poet Robert Burns, who introduced to him his love of songs. 
This meant Burns learned the joy of music and words and he later would become not only Scotland's greatest bard but one of the greatest poet of love, nature, and democratic political views. She passed on the old stories, rhythms and rhymes. Agnes gets little mention.

I began to realise that it was often through the women that stories and stories in song were passed down the generations.
I also read similar of Scottish poet James Hogg, who also learnt poetry and language from his mother's vast oral knowledge of the ballads and traditional tales. 

The week before this I had heard of folklorist Margaret Bennett who was key to influencing her talented musician son Martyn Bennett. I was at the wonderful opening concert at Celtic Connections 2014 which was the first orchestration of Martyn's incredible Grit album - one of the best concerts I have been at when I wondered where he got all these references for his music from, as if he'd pluck them out of the air - now I know it was from his mother. 

Her background is Scots/ Irish and on her mothers side from Skye and the Stewarts. Her father was a piper. Her talented son Martyn Bennett went with her everywhere and heard as a child all these traditional singers and pipers. Martyn sadly died at the young age of 32 and he was influential in the evolution of Celtic fusion music
Margaret Bennett

I read too of Mrs Bach, or rather Anna Magdelena, who was revealed as the author of the wonderful cello suites by forensic musicologist Professor Martin Jarvis of Charles Darwin university in Australia, in a recent film documentary by Glasgow films.
In the Age of Enlightenment (8TH Century’) most women would never write under their own name and so they have been forgotten by history.  Many women writers used pseudonyms.

Why have so many women's voices been lost or ignored?  One problem has been the lack of women reviewers. There is an unconscious bias with regard to literature - a male writer's book will be described as 'an epic sweep', while a women author has written 'a domestic drama'.

I remember my daughter asked if they might study a women author in her English class, to which the boys loudly protested!  Apparently 90% of books studied at school are by male authors! I feel sure it would be much better for girls to study English (and science subjects) separately to the boys. Studies have found that girls perform better in all girls classes, especially in the sciences.  Women read books by either men or women - wheras men mostly read male readers.

Agnes Broun kept a portrait of her poet son, Robert Burns, on her wall all her life. He died before her at the age of 37.    

These are only a tiny few examples of the many incredible lost voices of the many women who have inspired future generations.  There are a great many unsung women heroines of modern art, music and poetry. I began to realise that it was through the women that stories were being passed on. I attend Edinburgh book festival each August and I have been amazed and awed by the talented women authors who attend.