Showing posts with label edinburgh. Show all posts
Showing posts with label edinburgh. Show all posts

Friday, 30 December 2022

BURNS memorial window St Giles


Burns Memorial window St Giles

I have wondered that there is no memorial to Burns in central Edinburgh. I discovered after visiting there is a new memorial window to Burns in St Giles – commissioned in the 1980s. However it is not highly noticeable without reading all the blurb. Edinburgh had a big effect on Burns when he stayed there several times between 1786 and 1788, in order to publish his second edition of poems. He spent time at William Creech’s publishing house near the Mercat Cross. He went to gentlemen’s clubs and was feted at the ploughman poet at the parties of the Edinburgh literati. 

One of Breidfjörd’s largest commissions, this window celebrates major themes in Robert Burns’ poetry. Burns was a Scottish poet who lived during the 1700s. He is celebrated throughout England and Scotland as a great peasant-poet. Most of his poem was written in Scots and portrayed traditional Scottish culture.  

In the window, the lowest section is filled with vivid green in order to represent the natural world. The middle sections represents human unity through the many different human figures portrayed. This is supposed to be regardless of race, colour or creed. 

The top portion portrays a sun with a heart being a sunburst of love which blossoms like a rose. The window panes that surround this portion appear to be shaped like a heart

Friday, 30 September 2022

Edinburgh festivals 2022

Its good to see tradition and history given due regard – with the new to challenge and move things forward. We need both. Freedom to move, to express. Its important to notice the ancient history we pass, under the gawdy and tacky. So many tourists walk past so fast – but it’s the auld stories, historic buildings, that give us the authentic character. and sense of our past stories.

 And no better place to do so than historic, cobbled Edinburgh, with its steep closes and wynds, atmospheric high street, around its Mercat Cross, Signet Library, Scottish Parliament, St Giles – publishing, Reformation, enlightenment, Stewarts, and Georgian new town. 


Sunday at Biblos after my high street walk. Good to see that the buzz has returned this year. Talk Fintan OToole at EIBF, who spoke of the known and the unknown, the Ireland he’s known since 1958. Later I entered the atmospheric musical realm of Sandy Bells. I used to be here in my twenties and enjoyed fun folk nights here. 

St Giles

High street trails were once again packed with several shows and tourists. 
**St Giles  There was a lovely choral choir singing which lent an ethereal and spiritual air. 

The Writers corner – Margaret Oliphant, Robert Fergusson, Robert Louis Stephenson,

Robert Lorimer, Elsie Inglis,

St Giles cathedral was cleaned up in the 1980s and is considered the home of the Scots Presbyterian religion, and its famous minister John Knox. They were against having the Bishops hierarchy and believed everyone had their right to access the Bible and God for themselves, which all led to the War of the Three Kingdoms and education for all.

Burns memorial window

Did our genius Scots bard
 Robert Burns talk to all of Scotland and also to the world, rather than his humble beginnings in Ayrshire. In Edinburgh, where his second edition was published and very much shaped him where he seems forgotten – the Fencibles club, his memorial to the poet Robert Fergusson, attending William Creech Publishing house. 

I later discover there is now a Burns Memorial window in St Giles. In 1985 it was felt there was no central memorial to our great national bard – the window illustrates the natural world Burns loved, the middle section human unity and with a vibrant red sun of love at the top. Its easy though to walk past the window, as I did without realising. With the service for the Queen taking place here September.

Sandy Bells

This year there were several challenging shows and talks.


*Bloody Difficult Woman – about Theresa May and her clash with Gina Miller over her lack of consulting parliament over her hasty Brexit. Tim Walker’s debut drama which received good reviews and sold out performances in Edinburgh – but lacked attention in England as the extreme right seeks to suppress any Brexit negatives. Debut drama

Tim Walker - writes that in England people are starting to give up on national political discourse -  and even the idea of democracy itself. He feels regarded as an enemy of the people. He write show grateful he is for the positive recognition  of his play in Scotland. “ My gratitude to the people of Scotland is heartfelt. You still have something  very valuable – please don’t loose it.”

*BURN with Allan Cumming – on the darker more controversial side of our national bard with an emotional interpretation of the man behind the shortbread tin myths.

*Comedy- Frankie Boyle, Kevin Bridges

*Music - Edinburgh hosted several world class orchestras.

Scottish Sessions, Surgeons hall; Queens halls concerts, Princes street gardens gigs. 


*Edinburgh Art festival

A Taste of Impressionism at the National Galleries, explores the rich collections by Scots collectors

Michele Roberts Three women and the artist Matisse

Barbara Hepworth Exhibition

Edinburgh film festival

Children  festival – Sold out Peppa Pig orchestra, and much more.

Ocean Vuong

Omar Musa

Art college

**EIBF talks - Diana Gabaldon, Fintan Otoole, Brian Cox, Oliver Bullough, Lea Yi, Good Grief, Noam Chomsky, 

Music. PJ Harvey, Martha Wainwright, Stuart Cosgrove, 

Bigger names – Brian Cox, Alan Cumming, Maggie O’Farrell

EIBF encourages us to debate, question, and look for truths, via a wide range of writers from to academics, novelists, historians, journalists, politicians, artists, poets and more. 

Some might claim Edinburgh festivals are not radical enough,


There are questions over whether Edinburgh festivals have become too big. Edinburgh festivals started in 1947 with 8 companies – by 1980 at 380, 1985 to 1,091 companies and  3,841 companies in 2019. Ticket sales down and it will be four or five year journey back

Edinburgh festivals have also suffered from overkill and overload of tourists, Sometimes quantity rather than quality. Perhaps the pandemic will mean a reset, and rethink. To streamline and reset. 

Sunshine at the Edinburgh art galleries
Edinburgh festival Shows

1973 – 184

1976 – 426

1985 – 1,091

2015 – 3,314

2019 – 3,841


Ticket sales

\1973 – 128,900

1985 – 523,000

2014 – 2,183,591

2019 – 3,012,490

Sunday, 11 September 2022

Good Grief! At Edinburgh international book festival 2022


OmarMusa OceanVuong MichaelPedersen ReubenKaye GemmaCairney

Good Grief! At Edinburgh international book festival 2022


At Edinburgh international book festival 2022English broadcaster Gemma Cairney and Scots poet Michael Pedersen hosted a literary salon, a performance showcase celebrating grief in all its forms along with Vietnamese American poet Ocean Vuong, Australian comedian Reuben Kaye and Malaysian-Australian author and poet Omar Musa. 

Wednesday, 31 August 2022

Diana Gabaldon at Edinburgh book festival 2022


Diana Gabaldon in Edinburgh

     NEW BOOK – Go Tell the Bees That I Am Gone

(we must tell the bees if something important is happening.) 

 About rebuilding the house on the ridge – with a third floor as a refuge.  She said this book is like a snake – she only knows where it is going a third of the way through. To  preserve what they love, and loop through the woods and time, always back to the Ridge. About “Loyalty”


She spoke of  keeping the Gaelic culture alive. 

For her first two books she was getting Gaelic from a dictionary. Ian Taylor got in touch with her and did translations. They were afraid Gaelic would be a dead language in ten years – “It would not be because we didn’t try.” She said, and Gabaldon was quite emotional over this. 


She has been in recent times one of the most significant people for Scotland’s soft power on the world stage.  She hopes there has been a Gaelic culture revival.

 (She would certainly enjoy Niteworks, who perform with beautiful Gaelic singers, I highly recommend.)


She is now writing book ten, and perhaps the last in this long running saga. While the first books were set in Scotland , the more recent seasons have been set in America, on the Mackenzie Ridge. In this way she has melded her own unusual roots – Mexican and English - with the important contributions  the Scots made in the early years of  European settlements in America before the wars of Independence. .


Her books are on the Number One best sellers list.

 As a child she read Disney comics and later thought, I could write better stories – so she wrote to the magazine editor. – Her first comic book was Scrooge McDuck.

G spoke of her writing process - ‘who is this character and what do they want.” The people are real for me she said. She enjoys the research process too and walking on battlefields, which are very spiritual. The research plus what appeals to me. 


After the fact storylines and shaping. She references her earlier books with delicate engineering, picking up the threads and little bits of the pattern.


130K book sales of her first edition. – and she has managed to stay ahead of the TV show. 

She is now writing on a prequel, of Brianna and Allan, Jamie’s parents and the Jacobites. 


She worked in research Arizona state university. 

Gabaldon studied Zoology, marine biology, and a PHD in behavioral ecology. Later she wrote

software reviews and technical articles for computer publications, as well as popular-science articles and Disney comics. She was a professor with an expertise in scientific computation at ASU for 12 years before leaving to write full-time.


And yes the Kilt inspiration!  

Season 6 Outlander

Sandy Bells folk nights 2022


Fun #folk nights at #SandyBells, Forrest road #Edinburgh still buzzing, after decades of some of the best folk #musicians and the likes of folklorist and #poet Hamish Henderson.

Celtic harp, clàrsach, guitar, fiddle, mandolin, 


The Celtic harp is a triangular frame harp traditional to the Celtic nations of northwest Europe. It is known as cláirseach in Irishclàrsach in Scottish Gaelictelenn in Breton and telyn in Welsh


In Ireland and Scotland, it was a wire-strung instrument requiring great skill and long practice to play, and was associated with the Gaelic ruling class. It appears on Irish and British coins, the coat of arms of the Republic of IrelandMontserrat, the United Kingdom and Canada as well as the flag of Montserrat.

Fintan OToole The known Unknowns, Edinburgh book festival 2022


Fintan OToole discussed his new book at the Edinburgh International Book festival – #edbookfest

We Don’t Know Ourselves, on Ireland from 1958, on Irish emigration at this time 50s and 60s when 3 in 5 would leave;


The need for change and the need to stay the same. He talked of the Seeds of change.


“In order for things to stay the same things must change.”

The knowing and not knowing…

O’Toole is one of the most creative and challenging commentators on current affairs today and he writes for the Irish Times. I highly recommend his book on Brexit Heroic Failure.


He discussed Ireland’s hundred years of independence since 1920 – and the Partition of Ireland into the more developed north and underdeveloped south. East Germany and Ireland lost most populations with young people leaving for better lives.

Sometimes we must gamble for transformation and economic change. 

He said that avoidance can be creative as we avoid reality. A surreal story.


Fintan spoke of the deeply rooted power structure of the church and state in Ireland. Catholicism and Nationalism, both were martyrs for Ireland, Ireland has now moved on. Back in the fifties the Troubles all seemed unreal and the IRA a joke. The peace story and dirty violence.


He spoke of the Drug crisis in Ireland, and the story of the Dunn brothers and the industrial schools. Fintan was the first in his family to go to university, and he spoke of class and access. The vicious repression and of how the state ignores reality. The Heroin epidemic, no one knew what it was.


The Church power melted away so fast. He joked that so many women in Ireland had menstrual problems – and used the Pill to help their menstrual cycle! The safety value was emigration. He spoke of the Irish absurdity, and hypocrisy. 


In the late 90s there emerged the Celtic Tiger, with its highly educated workforce. There was the foreign direct investment, the American base n Europe, Pharma, the European massive headquarters and different narratives, Nobody knows what the Irish GDP is  - the mystery of money! 

People came back, and they wanted change, Great writers came back. 

Questions – a United Ireland?

He said that Brexit day changed everything! They had had two generations of boredom – but Brexit raised all these existential questions. 


A survey found many would vote for a reunited Ireland.

But when asked, “Would you change anything? No.” - Irish double-ness in all its diversity!

UK breaks up at pace, and people aren’t really ready for it.  And different voices and diversity, 


“Not two becomes one, become stronger, and Unite in friendship and unity.” 

The genius of the Good Friday agreement is that “I can be both Irish and British, and you can choose.”  that people can be Irish and British, British or British and Irish. 


Wednesday, 16 March 2022

Nicola Benedetti First Scots Director of Edinburgh Festival!


Nicola Benedetti Celtic Connections 2012

Classical violinist Nicola Benedetti has been appointed as the new director of the Edinburgh festival – the first Scot and the first woman, since its start after the second world war in 1947!


The festival prepares to celebrate its 75th anniversary next year 2023 and event director Linehan (previous director) wants the event to be a “huge civic event from celebration to requiem.” Russian Conductor Velery Gergieu, (as a result of incursion and war on Ukraine by Russia) has been asked to resign as honorary president by the festival  - Edinburgh is twinned with Kyiv, Ukraine’s capital


I first saw Benedetti perform at the opening concert of Celtic Connections in 2012. She had been collaborating for an album with Shetland fiddler Ali Bain and composer Phil Cunningham Her playing was magical and elevating. 

Benedetti began violin at age four. At 10 she began studying ta the Yehudi school, Surrey. She sat Grade 8 at age nine. Benedetti has performed with the RSNO, Scottish opera, LSO, Scottish chamber orchestra, London Sinfonia. 

Awards, Young BBC Musician 2004, member Royal Society Edinburgh 2017. (MBE 2013, OBE 2019.


Grammy 2020 for Marsalis violin concerto, fiddle dance suite. 

Benedetti was given a 1717 Sradavinsky by LSO board member Jonathan Moulds. 


Nicola Benedetti is an arts educator and ambassador for classical music. She improves the lives of deprived children through Sistema Scotland and the Big Noise orchestra. She enjoys exploring new music and challenging new ideas.

Wednesday, 26 January 2022

FOLK music & Sandy Bells

The extended gatherings of those who celebrate live traditional music – that warm special folk magic –with its

musical intimacy, the surprise of unexpected collaborations, the joy of a larger collective all appreciating musical traditions  and heritage, the bringing together of all ages, all walks of life, and from all corners of the globe, the appreciation of the common language and connections and the intense joy live music brings us. 


Music is our first and last memory and is in inherently, deeply instinctive.

Abiding memories. The release and hopes. Live folk music makes me see warm wood and golden glows. With the range and quality of the artists.


I first came across live folk music, in my early twenties, in the folk clubs of Edinburgh and at Sandy Bells bar. I’ll never forget that experience and the impact of live traditional instruments and the poignant, expression of  a live ballad singer. Up to then I had enjoyed playing piano and listening to recorded cassettes – the Beatles, the Stones, Joni Mitchell to Bob Dylan and Mozart!. But the live traditional music was on a different level altogether with the impact of its vibrant immediacy, its heart and soul.

And for anyone who thinks folk music is our-dated or dull - there are many top names in music today who began with the folk song - Gerry Rafferty, Bob Dylan, Joni Mitchell, Proclaimers, Laura Marling, Neil Young, Eagles and many many more.

The melody and song is the heart.


I sincerely hope the live traditions will live on for many reasons. The folk song has so many deeper meanings an depth, tell stories across the divides. 

Julie Fowlis

Edinburgh is now full of international students. In fact I read that both St Andrews and Edinburgh universities are only 30% are now scots. And with Air B&Bs and globalization and tourism, it is crucial Scotland’s rich musical heritage can survive.


This is a reason people today are fighting for their sense of identity. A fight between individuality, independence, diversity, uniqueness, - and the mono-culture of blandness of global culture? Who wants a MacDonald’s on every street corner? I want to visit Italy for its art, it special and unique stories. 

Sandy Bells Bar Edinburgh
**Sandy Bells bar on Forrest road. Back in the 60s folklorists Hamish Henderson and Margaret Bennet used to attend the bar. Many musicians have been inspired by playing at Sandy Bells. 

**MY PHOTOS include fiddle player Alasdair White at Sandy Bells. 

Celtic Connection folk and roots festival hosts live Sessions at the Festival club and at the Late night sessions (although not in 2022 due to the Covid restrictions)