Showing posts sorted by relevance for query ian bell. Sort by date Show all posts
Showing posts sorted by relevance for query ian bell. Sort by date Show all posts

Wednesday, 16 December 2015

Death of top Scottish journalist Ian Bell

Wonderful top writer. So sad to hear of the loss of top Scottish journalist Ian Bell. His writing was thought provoking, intelligent, deeply informed, insightful, challenging. I attended the talk on his book on Bob Dylan at Edinburgh book festival 2014. He wrote such quality writing during the Referendum debates in 2014 and he believed strongly that one day Scotland would be more socially equal and have its independence. He will be sadly missed. I took this photo at the photo shoot at Edinburgh.

I remember his article on sense of place. I would often read Bell’s articles first and in particular his writing during the referendum in 2014. As Bell said we had never known such times. His was the voice that guided a nation.  Some extracts of his work here -

In the Herald and other newspapers paid tribute to his outstanding journalism.

In the National his colleague and friend Alan Taylor wrote that Bell was our Scottish He was our Gore Vidal, our Orwell. “He could write about anything because he seemed to know everything. In this sound-bite, meretricious, low-flying age, his was the voice of that other Scotland, the one we hear and see less and less of, which sets the bar high and aims to clear it.”

Richard Walker, consultant editor for The National and former editor of the Sunday Herald, said: “Ian Bell was one of Scotland’s greatest journalists and was among those who forged the character of the Sunday Herald in its early days and protected it in difficult times.
“His work searched for truth and did not flinch from exposing the deceit and hypocrisy he too often found instead. His voice was steadfast for decades but was more vital than ever during the referendum campaign. He will not see the independent Scotland he dreamt of but he leaves his soul ingrained in its DNA.”

Friday, 20 May 2016

Top Writer Ian Bell

There are few writers that inspire. Bell wrote with a rare clarity.
Many Illuminate - they write articulately, cleverly, are well informed and insightful, but they often have a limited view or write mostly about their own agenda, be it business, political agendas and more.

Bell wrote with a rare clarity – and he viewed the broad sweep and the bigger view – while he also dug deep into the issues with an eye for the unheard details or clever lateral thinking.

And I miss his articles.

I imagine after the Hillsborough news recently in May and the Justice for the 96, that the dead and the football fans are now free of blame - that Bell would have written articulately, clearly and openly about the rottenness at the heart of many UK institutions. The Yorkshire police are an Old Boys network – for the past centuries the Irish have been seen as second class citizens.

Liverpool has strong Irish connections from its trade to Ireland and not long ago Irish nationals were locked up from no reason. It was dark days when Ireland had to fight so hard to run its own affairs. Why, when Home Rule was put forward before the war? His grandfather's brother James Connolly who was part of the Easter rising. 

Someone posted on Twitter – are any of us safe – if the truth can be hidden for 27 years!’
Many British commentators talk of the corruption and dictators across the world – as if they believe in the UK that we are a Beacon of democracy and openess! They truly delude themselves!

I wonder what he would make of the 2016 Scottish parliament Elections and the demise of Labour. What would he say? He was a strong supporter of Scottish independence and he viewed that, as I do, as the only way forward for Scotland. We’ll see. It is time for the SNP to take more charge of the Constitution arguments and ask – what do the Conservatives, Lib Dems or Labour stand for. Tories say they are for the Union – but what kind of union exactly?

People are spoon-fed media lies from the hard right  - and they often fool themselves and believe it.
Then there’s the Chilcot Report due for release July only 2,000 days after the inquiry finished – will this be another whitewash? 

Democracy is only achieved with a free press and most of the UK press is now foreign owned and lacks credibility - it is manipulated, sensational, misleading, empty rhetoric, with mainly meaningless innuendo or gossip. I would guess London journalists fear for their careers and have to toe the broadsheet lines.

Many years back I kept one of Bells articles on Sense of Place. I cut out articles tto keep that resonate and inspire for future reference. Bell was quite simply not only a great British writer, but one of the best worldwide. He is sadly missed in the world of words.

They say the pen is mightier than the sword and in his case this was utterly the truth .Yeats, Burns prove this.
There are very few voices of Truth – and Bell was one.

(Bell was an award-winning columnist for the Scotsman and The Herald)

Time out of Mind at EIBF 2014 BLOG -

Tuesday, 23 September 2014

Ian Bell; Time Out of Mind at EIBF 2014

I have read Ian Bell on the Scottish Independence questions in the only press for YES, The Sunday Herald, and he writes well on why Scottish Independence is the most sensible way forward.   

Bell gave an informed and entertaining chat on the most famous songwriter for more than a generation, of our times and also timeless, with fellow Scottish journalist Alan Taylor at Edinburgh International Book festival 2014. He said Dylan was enigmatic, elusive and perhaps unexplainable and hard to unravel. When the character that he created became successful was Dylan content with what he had created? Dylan's time as the folk singer of protest songs was only brief and he shied away from any leadership role. He was an artist, not a leader. He thought art tends to flee when politics arrive and that is propaganda and not art. 

Dylan always had a need to reinvent himself. Bell said he was a brilliant editor of verses. He was both defiant and fearless, and he doesn't care what others may be doing.  He was also terrifically ambitious. 

Bell said Dylan's 1974 Blood on The Tracks was an extraordinary return to an even higher artistic form.

He said although Dylan's Chronicles was embedded with many quotations he wasn't allowed to quote directly from his autobiography. Dylan wrote about how he steals. The fact is all artist steal it just depends how we do it and what we do with it and with the worldwide web its just all become a much hotter thing to deal with. 

He spoke of Dylan's Bootleg series and that some are terrible recordings but we need them to understand Dylan. He said that Dylan was royally ripped of by his first manager Albert Grossman. 
Bell thought today's generation has it too easy with access to millions of artists. Back then you followed the artists, curating material. In a sea of music, authenticity becomes important to a minority.

Dylan was influenced by poetry, American history, Joan Baez, Robert Burns and the Scottish border ballads. He took bits and pieces from My Hearts in The Highlands. He then stepped away from any political commentary in his songs such as the Vietnam war.

Ian offered some favourite song lines. We all have them, any of us long time Dylan listeners - although he said he didn't particularly like to have favourite ones.  
 'Ain't it just like the night when your tryin' to be so quiet/  Once upon a time you dressed so fine,
 'I'm not There' was a favourite song he said, about those connections between what you understand and why you understand it.

He said that Dylan had a 'Burned cathedral of a voice which worked, especially for Dylan the live performer.' We know Dylan through his songs.

He felt there was something to be gained by knowing Dylan's life, times and art - and how the three work together.
Bob Dylan Glasgow 2011

Monday, 24 October 2016

Mr Bob Dylan’s Nobel Literature prize

Political choice too - in todays rather scary world of extreme, fearful and narrow governments, who are giving into the voices of fear.
 Bob wrote of our common humanity, of tolerance, of inclusion and diversity, harmony.  Play a song for me Bob, play it questioning, sometimes angry sometimes full of wonder. Play it loud and deep.. The answers may yet be blowing in the wind.

Bob wrote of Masters of War, of a hard rain a going to fall, of love conquering all, of important freedoms,
He tied himself to the nearest tree, with the deepest roots.
Play it loud now Bob for all the disenfranchised, for those who cannot be heard, for the weak, for the blind….
Forever Young photos by Douglas Gilbert
 Journey to Becoming:  the Travelling Journeyman 
 FOLK SONGS spoke to him most directly… Dylan looked for songs that make you question what you’d always accepted, that break hearts, have power of spirit.
We are in a constant state of becoming.
He always believed in the constant state of becoming, that you must always travel and never arrive, that the road does not lead to the truth - the road is the truth.
The times writer Bryan Appleyard wrote,  ‘Not only does Dylan make great art, he inspires it I others.’
‘When you got nothing you got nothing to lose,
You’re invisible now, you go no secrets to conceal.’ 
His voice was full of honesty about life - yes life is tough at times - but also his voice and words are full of hopes.  I missed Dylan the first time around.  I was too young for his first albums while I remember his songs, Blowin In The Winds, Mr Tambourine Man and Like A Rolling Stone - although these songs were often sung by others on the radio. In 2009 I watched Scorceses' informed, clever and inspired documentary on Dylan and what an 'ear' opener that was and from then everything changed for me - thank you Scorcese! 
Times they are A-Changing
You never arrive.
Words change their meaning.
Time changes everything
Can’t be wise and in love at the same time.

I read these notes he wrote for Broadside 1962. And this is it for me too - those who see wrong but walk on by.   "Too many people are telling me where the answer is, but oh, I don't believe that. I still say its in the wind and just like a restless piece of paper , its got to come down some time, But the only trouble is that no one picks up the answer when it comes down so not many people get to see and know it.. and then it flies away again, I still say that some of the biggest criminals are those who turn their heads away when they see wrong and know its wrong.............."
It is all about spin when there is no vision or passions, that's what worries me the most...about centralizing power and in so doing restricting our basic human rights and freedoms, its very very scary. We have a system in place with no checks and balances to the power of the 'Crown' or Royal perrogative that resides with our prime minister. I read the Tory's in Westminster want to restrict our Human Rights and ban Extremism.

We have to value our independent, informed and free thinkers – they are few and far in-between.

Dylan, "People seldom do what they believe in. They do what is convenient and then repent... "
Is it the large media companies and their accountants who only want artists to play safe and who sing of the MOR and everything's OK with nothing too controversial? What would they make of a young Dylan singing Masters of War today? Would he even get a label deal?  I guess only in the folk circuits – how did Dylan get heard!

Where are any young singer songwriter with a voice of grit who might challenge assumptions. After all what is art is it doesn’t challenge?

One of the greatest Biographers of Bob Dylan was the award-winning Scottish journalist Ian Bell (who sadly died in 2015). I went to his talk on his book Time Out of Mind at Edinburgh book festival in 2015.  My BLOG on Ian Bell

Thursday, 11 September 2014

The Resurgence in the Scottish Arts

I am listening to Scottish singer songwriter Dougie MacLean who lives near Perth and is best known for his wonderful song 'Caledonia' which he sang at the Commonwealth Games Closing Ceremony to great effect in July.  He wrote the song on a France beach when he was thinking of his homeland of Scotland. 

Since the 70s it has been truly wonderful the resurgence in the Scottish arts. Back then Scottish music was viewed as twee or backward looking but not anymore!  In fact a lot of the music coming out of Scotland is admired worldwide.  I used to travel across Edinburgh on the top deck of the bus via Princes street to my  secondary Grammar school (these don't exist anymore) in Leith and I wondered who these young people with their fancy blazers and posh English accents were.. shockingly a quarter of Edinburgh's children attend private schools!  We were made to feel second class then in Scotland. This is not the case in Ireland - my parents come from Ireland and we visited there each summer and it seemed to me that the Irish had more pride in who they are. 

Informed journalists are for YES.
Most Scottish musicians, authors and artists are for yes. Our respected historian Tom Devine is for yes. 
Scottish authors are also having a golden age with many respected writers - Iain Banks, Ian Rankin, Alexander McCall Smith, Irvine Welsh, Christopher Brookmyre, Liz Lochhead, Alan Bissett, Iain Macwhirter, Ian Bell, Ian McEwan, Alasdair Gray, William McIIvanney.
Admiral Fallow
My most respected musicians (who now feel proud to sing in their Scottish accents)  - Dick Gaughan, Dougie MacLean, Phil Cunningham, Karine Polwart, Donald Shaw, Aly Bain, Emeli Sande, Biffy Clyro, Rab Noakes, The Proclaimers, Gerry Rafferty, Julie Fowlis, Eddi Reader, Michael Marra,  Chrvches, Frightened Rabbit,  Lau, RM Hubbert, Admiral Fallow, 

I have been fortunate to photograph many outstanding Scottish artists, my Scottish portrait gallery here -
Emeli Sande

Karine Polwart
Does this matter, of course it does! 
It used to be we were told we were too wee, too incapable and too poor. At the same time we had this hidden history of a past Scottish golden age that we were not taught at school - great Scottish inventions, The Enlightenment, trade with Europe, The Declaration of Arbroath and influence on America's founding fathers and more. I did History higher in Edinburgh when I learned of the Tudors and 17th century European history!.  

I attend Edinburgh book festival, as well as Celtic Connections, each year and it seems that there is a flowering of Scottish talent and pride and identity does matter a great deal. 

Wednesday, 31 December 2014

The Referendum and the Open Revolution #indref

I met many interesting women and men activists for Scottish independence in 2014. I believe like the Greens, that independence is the only way forward for Scotland to achieve devolved and de-centralised governance - this does not mean rule from London moving to rule to Edinburgh. This means more voices for the Highlands and Islands and for Perthshire - with more local radio and improved local infrastructure. 

The Better Together side knocked on old ladies doors during the referendum campaign and told them that they would loose their pensions and their pound.  The unionists also had nice catchy phrases for those who can't be bothered to read up on the issues. 
1) Pooling and Sharing Recourses - which meant pulling resources into London and giving us pocket money in return.
2) Best of Both Worlds - supposedly meant a prosperous Scotland within a strong UK but actually means a dependent weaker Scotland in a more fragile union.   
3) Solidarity cross borders means solidarity with Osborne's Austerity, the big Banks and Big Business.

A democratic conversation has developed in Scotland in 2014. As the divide between rich and poor has widened greatly the past few decades, it is imperative we have this conversation for democratic change. 
There is much work to do towards land reform, de-centralize government, improve access to quality education (especially in the early years) and to reducing housing rents. 

A younger generation woke up to political engagement and activism and on social media they are not easily fooled by fear campaigns or lies and they are not afraid. They now express their voice on online websites such as The Common Weal, National Collective and Radical Independence Convention.

Unionist may try to claim the referendum was all simply a blip from normality, but they simply miss (or ignore) what the energised movement in 2014 has been and is all about. They claim the debate was bitter and divisive (being 
against change) - while if you are for democracy and a fairer more equal society, then informed energised debate is a huge positive.  Meanwhile those doing quite well thank you, mostly voted against change - no surprise there then.  

Ian Bell (The National 31.12.14) writes, the fear fell away and we saw through the false facades  of unionist claptrap.  Like Bell, and as one who also voted for a Scottish Assembly in 79, I was astonished by the weakness and shameful tactics of the Unionist side. Their slogan of  'No Means No' as the best they could come up with. The case for Britain and the union was meekly shown as a black and white ad for nostalgia for the past war and past glories.
The new generation don't care about that and it does not effect their futures. Bell feels we should say more why Scots would not want to be British. Monuments and looking backwards do not take us forward to a hopeful future. 

The Smith Commission, while set up to establish ‘extensive new powers’ has only offered devolved Income Tax, which cannot easily be varied and therefore effectively meaningless. EVEL (English Votes for English Laws) further weakens the Union, and with the Conservatives hope for SNP successes to weaken Labour in Scotland.

Writing in the Times (28.12.14) Jenny Hjul wonders why Unionists haven't been celebrating their hollow victory - there's a clear reason for this and that is that a campaign waged on fear and lies does not lead to harmonious or happy outcomes. It makes not only a mockery of voters but is also illegal.   

The Yes side campaigned positively for an inclusive, more equal society, both ethically and culturally. it took the moral high ground campaigning against food banks, child poverty and the out dated ‘them and us’ culture.
The nationalists have hijacked the conversation with the yes sides’ positive campaign. Meanwhile Scottish Labour is now a Monument rather than a Movement.

Iain MacWhirter compares 2014 to the Summer of Love in 1967 - when social and political landscapes were changed forever, ' The old order of deference, conformity, convention was swept away by a colourful tide of positivity and sometimes wacky togetherness.'

Scottish Independence is a journey we have taken massive leaps towards. As it becomes clearer and clearer how unworkable devolution is - and with the SNP, Greens and others now holding the narrative, it is only a matter of time on the road to Independence.  
Ten years ago I wondered was devolution enough but not today. Scotland's voice has woken up from centuries of silence and apathy and of believing our voices made no difference - and will not now be easily silenced. Many now realise they can have a voice and can shape their future.