Friday, 30 December 2016

Travelling to come together.

This is my review of the highlights of 2016 . Compiled for the Morning Star (who published it here) this is the original. The Star is excellent at shaping my sometimes unweildy prose into shorter pieces. occasionally however something goes awry. In this case the title of Martin Green's exceptional Flit has disappeared in the Star piece, so here is the full text.
 Celtic Connections kept its key ‘front of the year’ role. Lau and the Unthanks produced a powerful and at times overwhelming concert at Glasgow’s Royal Concert Hall that showed us where folk music can go when seized by imagination, talent and technical ability; electronic wizardry fused well with the pure sound of the human voice.
Songs of Separation musicians come together
Another concert demonstrated both cross-fertilisation and how life impacts on art. Inspired by the debates around the Scots independence referendum of 2014, it was the culmination of two years work by ten female Scottish and English musicians living together on Eigg. Organised by double bassist, Jenny Hill, it included Eliza Carthy, and Karine Polwart amongst others. Ironically, although entitled Songs of Separation, the dominant theme was a coming together of national and regional traditions, producing new material, particularly poignant when it dealt (as it often did) with the human tragedy of the migrations across the Mediterranean (Glasgow, Mitchell Theatre). 
Martin Green's Flit
Migration rang out too, in a magnificent highlight to the Edinburgh International Festival (EICC). Again this featured Martin Green (of Lau) and Becky Unthank, along with Dominic Aitchison, Adam Holmes, Aidan Moffat, Karine Polwart and Adrian Utley. Flit married all these talents with the wonders of whiterobot’s (Will Anderson and Ainslie Henderson) torn paper visuals and told us stories of forced and chosen travelling – searching for a place where we feel comfortable
 Elsewhere in Edinburgh we saw a glimpse of the former strength of Scottish drama – with a rehearsed reading of David Greig’s Europe at the Edinburgh International Book Festival – a prescient glimpse back (forward?) into European crisis and its relationship with moving peoples.
The 1916 Easter Rising gave us a number of shows, including Edinburgh TUC’s dramatic and musical look at James Connolly at The Hub as part of the EIF; labour leader, rebel general, family man, and songwriter (who knew?). The centenary provoked one Scottish event after another, including a great new historical walk around Glasgow, and a new play on the little-known Margaret Skinnider – schoolteacher, feminist and sniper – whose story was the successful centrepiece of 2016’s Glasgow MayDay Cabaret in Oran Mor.
Finally, the world of Cuban film cemented the second Havana Glasgow Film Festival in November. The key themes of music, history, community and real life featured in the celebration of Cuba’s Cine Pobre festival. And the look at the key role of the Soviet Union in sustaining the Cuban revolution – Los Bolos en Cuba – took us neatly forward to next year’s important centenary.

Wednesday, 16 November 2016

Havana Glasgow Film Festival - final four days have many jewels. HGFF preview 2

The Havana Glasgow Film Festival enters its final four days with the arrival of Cuban film and video
Arturo Santana
director, Arturo Santana. Flying in from Havana yesterday - thanks to sponsorship from Unite - to talk about his much-acclaimed first feature film Bailando con Margot (Dancing witb Margot) – Thursday 17, 20 15 in the GFT A ‘neo-noir’ mystery, Bailando con Margot follows the femme fatale, Margot de Zarate and her involvement (or not) in an art heist. Santana made his name (as most Cuban directors do) directing music videos.
A review of some of the highlights so far is on the Culture Matters blog and it also refers to the welcome support for the festival from the Cuban ambassador to the UK, Teresita Vicente Sotolongo, who came to see Amor Cronico – Cucu Diamantes love letter to Cuba.
Sheila, meet Aidan!
Other highlights still to come include Where you’re meant to be  - a great film following Arab Strap’s poet Aidan Moffat crossing swords with determined doyenne of travelling singers, Sheila Stewart as he tries to rewrite traditional Scottish folk tunes (Wednesday 16, 19,30 in the CCA – it will be followed by a Q&A with director Paul Fegan.  Cuba Libre – Thursday 17. 14.45 CCA - a historical drama on the Spanish American War in Cuba follows Chris Dolan’s fascinating story of anarchist Ethel MacDonald, who broadcast from Republican Spain during the Civil War. An Anarchist's Story is in the CCA Thursday 17, 12.50pm). 
Back to Cuba we then can see Los Bolos En Cuba – Friday 18. 19.45 CCA – a warm, nostalgic and irreverent film exploring the times of the 'eternal' friendship of Cuba and the Soviet Union
On Friday morning also, there is an important masterclass by Festival co-Director, and writer, Hugo Rivalta. He will be talking about cinema’s role in the Cuban revolution. - 11.00 Friday 18 in the Glasgow School of Art (Reid Building).
The final day focuses on Cuban animation (CCA 17.30 on Saturday 19), and the success of the festival will be celebrated in Glasgow’s Kelvingrove Museum, from 12.30pm where Gordon Cree will be playing Cuban salsa on the huge organ, and some recently discovered Cuban film archives, brought to Scotland for restoration, will be shown.
The programme is available on the Havana Glasgow Film Festival website - programme

Thursday, 10 November 2016

Guests and Supporters as Cuban Film Festival begins - HGFF preview 1

This week sees the start of this year’s Havana Glasgow Film Festival (HGFF), on 11 Nov, and guests have already started to arrive from Cuba and other parts of the globe. On Tuesday the Cuban screenwriter and HGFF co-director, Hugo Rivalta arrived from Havana. He will be introducing two films in the 9-day festival, and also running a master class at the GFT – Cuban Cinema’s place in the Revolution – on Friday 18 Nov.
Hugo said, “It's a privilege to be back for the second HGFF. I am very content, as I’ve just finished talking to a group of writing students about my work process. These Glasgow students make me feel very appreciated. I couldn't believe the programme Eirene and Barbara have prepared, it's so interesting and huge. 
Hugo Rivalta
“I am looking forward to talking more and meeting lots of people and am especially pleased to welcome Arturo Santana, one of the most prestigious directors of video clips in Cuba to talk about his highly anticipated first feature film Bailando Con Margot. He arrives next Tuesday and I’m sure he’ll be welcomed as I was.” 
Eirene Houston, the Festival Director, is especially pleased that we will be welcoming the Cuban ambassador – Her Excellency Teresita Vicente Sotolongo to the festival on Saturday (12). “ Her visit is a symbol of the support from the Cubans for this festival and I'm very happy that she is coming with her husband and another friend, to take part and enjoy our films.” Eirene says. “She’s coming in particular to see Amor Cronico the popular 2012 road movie by actor and director Jorge Perrugoria (star of Fresa y Chocolate, and new director of the Cine Pobre film festival).”
Other visitors include Anita Curbelo from Cine Pobre and from closer to home – Director of Where you’re meant to be – Paul Fegan. He will talk about his film featuring Aidan Moffat and folk legend Sheila Stewart. Alejandro Valera (from Cuba but currently living in Glasgow) will tell us stories about the making of Amor Cronico.
First Minister adds her support
And while she won’t be visiting officially, First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon MSP has welcomed the festival’s second year, She told the festival she was ‘sure it would bring even more energy, colour and passion to Glasgow and its people.”
The Festival runs from the 11th-19th November across a number of venues in the Glasgow School of Art, the Centre for Contemporary Art and the Glasgow Film Theatre, finishing at Kelvingrove Art Gallery.
In addition to the screenings above, other noteworthy events are – a lecture on the role of parody and satire in Cuban culture – from renowned Cuban specialist Dr Stephen Wilkinson. This will be Friday 11 at the GFT starting sharp at 11.00am. The first film of the festival will be La Rumba Me Llama that same evening at 7.30 in the GSA’s Vic café bar.

On Saturday an event on Local Cultures and Local Identities takes place in the GSA’s Reid Building. Short films from TV Serrana – a community-based broadcaster from the Cuban Sierra Maestre will be complemented with short films from Scotland and followed by a panel discussion. The day will also feature a screening of Amor Cronico, (Everlasting Love). A ‘road’ movie with a difference!

On Sunday too, the day is given over to a significant feature of Cuban film – Cine Pobre. Translating as ‘Low-Budget Film’ this is film shot with no or minimal resources, and has its own festival in Cuba. Eirene Houston was a juror this year, and has brought back the cream of the crop! Also part of the day is a documentary of the life of Humberto Solas, founder of Cine Pobre and a famous filmmaker. Also showing is El Tren de la Linea Norte (the Northern Line Train) Marcelo Martin’s journey from Moron to Punta Alegre through an area of ‘forgotten Cuba’. The day finishes with a screening of the American film that won the overall Cine Pobre festival, Tangerine.

A day off on Monday, allows us to gird our loins for the rest of the festival, and Tuesday brings
Hector Medina in VIVA
Paddy Breathnac’s Viva, an Irish film made in Cuba about Havana’s underground drag scene. What, trans sex workers and drag queens in a Cuban Film Festival? Who knew?

That’s it for part one, tune back here at the beginning of next week for a summary of what’s to come at the end of the week, including the visit of Arturo Santana.

In addition to support from partner Glasgow School of Art, sponsorship from Unite, and other TUs, the Festival is supported by the Cuban Film Institute (ICAIC), and Glasgow City Council. The Usheru Cinema app is also providing ticket sales support.
The programme is available on the Havana Glasgow Film Festival website - programme

Monday, 17 October 2016

Second Cuban Film Festival launches in Glasgow

The Second Havana Glasgow Film Festival has launched its new programme online this weekend. The festival has built on last years’ initial success extending its run from seven to ten days in November and increasing the number of films.
This year it features a special day concentrating on Cuba’s low-budget film festival (Cine Pobre). There is an extended piece on Cine Pobre and connections between it and Glasgow's festival on the Culture Matters blog, here. Festival Director, Eirene Houston was asked to join the panel of judges earlier this year, and has brought back a selection of the winners to show – including the overall winner, an American film – Tangerine - shot entirely on a smartphone!
Eirene says, “We’re looking forward to an amazing ten days of Cuban and Scottish Film. In addition to a UK premiere of Cuban film, Bailando con Margot (Dancing with Margot) – a first feature-length film from award-winning director Arturo Santana, we have a fascinating documentary about Cuban director (and founder of Cine Pobre) Humberto Solas, and Oliver Hill’s La Rumba Me Llama (Rumba Calling).
Eirene Houston (pic Martin Shields)
“From Scotland, Paul Fegan’s gem of a film about Aidan Moffat and his encounter with folk icon, Sheila Stewart – Where you’re meant to be, and a session with short documentaries from the Sierra Maestra Community and from Scotland. The local cultures of our two countries will be seen, side-by-side!”
Other films include a couple of hits from last year’s festival (La Pared de las Palabras and La Pelicula de Anna) and a Cuba/Scotland History day where the Spanish Civil War story of Ethel MacDonald (An Anarchists Story) will be screened along with Cuba Libre (the story of two brothers in Cuba’s war of freedom from Spain).
Los Bolos en Cuba
Other films will include El Tren de la Linea Norte – a journey through forgotten Cuba, and Los Bolos en Cuba – Enrique Molina’s warm and sometimes irreverent documentary rescuing the memory of the relationship between the Soviet Union and Cuba.
Visiting film makers include, in addition to Arturo Santana from Cuba (brought over thanks to sponsorship from Unite the union), Festival co-director Hugo Rivalta from Cuba, Alejandro Valera from Cuba via Glasgow, and Paul Fegan from Glasgow.
The Festival runs from the 11th-19th November across a number of venues in the Glasgow School of Art, the Centre for Contemporary Art and the Glasgow Film Theatre, finishing at Kelvingrove Art Gallery.
In addition to sponsorship from Unite, and other TUs, the Festival is supported by the Cuban Film Institute (ICAIC), and Glasgow City Council. The Usheru Cinema app is also providing ticket sales support.
The programme is available on the Havana Glasgow Film Festival website -

Friday, 2 September 2016

People on the Move - Edinburgh Festivals 3

My third compilation of reviews from the Edinburgh Festivals has been published in yesterday's Morning Star. Covering a range of shows with a general theme of migration, it is a masterpiece of editing! Unfortunately a couple of mistakes have crept in, which I'll take the opportunity to correct here.

Sheila Stewart and Aidan Moffat (pic Neale Smith)
In my review of Where You Are Meant To Be, Aidan Moffat and Paul Fegan's film (****) the Star article says that Sheila Stewart's mother died before the film was released - unfortunately it was Sheila herself who succumbed.

In the review of the Book Festival discussion of the Palestinian struggle (*****), two phrases I used to describe the books of the two authors have been 'Capped up' as though they were the books' titles. For accuracy's sake the two books discussed were Ben Ehrenreich's The Way to the Spring: Life and Death in Palestine, and Yasir Suleiman's Being Palestinian

The other shows reviewed here are Flit! (*****), Martin Green's multi-musician piece on migration themes; Leftover (***) a piece on refugees by Acting Coach Scotland; Before the Hudson and the Liffey (****) a piece on James Connolly's life in Edinburgh and Leith; and Cafe Palestine, (****) excerpts from a piece by young people from the Palestinian refugee camp at Aida, near Bethlehem.

One of the Morning Star's greatest contributions to the life of Britain is it's cultural coverage (says he as a regular contributor!). I would advise buying it regularly, for that alone - although there are many other good reasons!!

Thursday, 25 August 2016

Songwriting Talents Old and New(ish). Edinburgh Festivals 2

My first compilation piece from Edinburgh is in the Morning Star today. It includes the Angel review in last Thursday's blog, and also a review of Road - Jim Cartwright's slice of Lancashire life under Thatcher (to be posted later) - and two reviews of singer songwriters. Rab Noakes has been around for a little while now. and made a triumphant return after a break fighting cancer. While Roy Harper's son Nick, is not a callow youth (he first recorded in 1994 for f***'s sake!) his live set now has the kind of range and depth that deserve bigger audiences than Edinburgh's Jazz Bar can provide. The full reviews of both artists are below.

Rab Noakes – Acoustic Music Centre - August 14 – (*****) 
Noakes returned to the fringe after a year out – fighting tonsillar cancer – and delivered a superbly
Rab Noakes. pic by Alan McMillan
polished and sparkling solo set.
Although he understandably concentrated on his newest album – I’m Walking Here – for the largest number of the tracks, he also went back into the history for Branch (his best-known single) and Jackson Greyhound – a reflection on the civil rights fight in the Southern States.
As must be an occupational hazard with songwriters, Noakes has used his fight against cancer to inspire new songs – in particular the defiant, That won’t Stop me! And the more reflective Water is my Friend.
Add in some treatments of other songwriters’ material – like Michael Marra’s The Guernsey Kitchen Porter – and you have a full picture of a singer-songwriter back on top of his game. It’s good to see him back! He's got a show in Cupar in October.
Nick Harper. pic by Mark Hunt
Nick Harper – The Jazz Bar – until August 27 (then on tour) (****)
Harper’s unique guitar playing ensured his talents as musician and writer are displayed to the full.
Son of singer-songwriter Roy, Harper uses a finger-picking style all of his own. As his song Simple proclaims, he has ‘everything he needs, no drums, no bass’ to produce intelligent, articulate songs.
A short set nevertheless marked both the passing of Prince (Purple Rain) and Evo – his tribute to Bolivian President Evo Morales.
His undoubted talent deserves a bigger venue than this.

Thursday, 18 August 2016

An angelic sniper brings war home to us. - Edinburgh Festivals 1

Angel, by Henry Naylor, Gilded Balloon Teviot – until 29 August (*****)

Filipa Bragança is the Angel
Of all the definitions of ‘angel’, the least common would be ‘sniper’ – but that’s just what Angel, a new play from the pen of comedy writer Henry Naylor wants us to take on board.
The play, the last of his Arabian Nightmares trilogy, delivers a powerful and emotionally draining story about the ‘Angel of Kobanî’ – a legendary female fighter who defended the (mainly Kurdish) town from the hordes of ISIS fighters, shooting ‘over 100’ if truth is (unusually) not a victim on this occasion.
Filipa Bragança, a recent graduate of Drama Studio, London plays Rehanna, a young woman determined to leave her father’s farm and make her way as a lawyer. With little effort she also delivers, the ‘parts’ of her mother and father, herself at 12, her nemesis Waheed, and a number of other smaller characters.
It is no exaggeration to say that her performance is spellbinding, and is quite the crowning part of the play. She takes the packed audience through her life, and death on her own and with only a barrel for props. She never loses our rapt attention.
Tight writing ensures the retention of our concentration, and while there are moments of lighter humour, the grim reality of the war is never undercut. The second part of Naylor’s trilogy – Echoes -  also features Bragança and is still touring. Hopefully this too, will go on the road shortly. It is produced by Pipeline Productions.
It may be heavily booked, but if you can, you should try and see this play.

Revolution in the Magic Square. Ian Saville, Theatre Arts Exchange – Until 21 August (****)
Unprecedented! A socialist has been elected Leader of the Magic Square! As the only socialist
Who does this look like, again? Oh Yes.
magician, can Ian Saville fend off  the plots and coups of the people in the Square who hate, don’t like or are even lukewarm to him?
Can Karl help him? Or is he going to stick to telling him to ‘ask Gramsci.’? I know – why not ask an ordinary person? Can he overcome his natural reluctance? After all, he is a socialist – they don’t do that.
A new show – thinly based on events in another organisation which is definitely NOT the Labour party – oh no. Ian starts off slow, but when he warms up to a cracking pace the sparks fly. Try and see this show before it goes at the end of this week.
If not, well we’ll have to see what we can do to bring him back some time. Oh Jez we can!

Wednesday, 13 July 2016

Cuban Heroes visit Scotland

With all the sound and fury surrounding the PLP 'rebellion' against Jeremy Corbyn, it might be a salutory reflection to think what people elsewhere suffer for their beliefs. Rene Gonzalez and Gerardo Hernandez worked for Cuban Intelligence, as spies infiltrating the network of anti-Castroterrorist grouops based in the ex-pat Cuban community in Florida - especially the ones associated with Luis Posada Carriles - the former CIA agent widely considered to be guilty of the bombing of Cubana flight 455.

After the FBI used information provided by the Cuban government for the purpose of convicting Carriles to identify the agents, they were arrested and sentenced to terms ranging from 15 years to life.

After many years of campaigning against such hypocritical sentences for agents working to stop
terrorism, the 'Miami 5' - including Antonio Guerrero, Ramón Labañino, Fernando González as well as Gonzalez and Hernandez - have now all been released.

Rene and Gerardo have now (finally) managed to get visas from the Home office (it took a High Court order btw) to visit Britain, and say thank you to UK campaigners for their release.

The only Scottish date is tonight at the STUC, where the Scottish Cuba Solidarity Campaign hosts them in a meeting and social occasion - free, but ticketed (here) - at 7.00pm. As the event will also feature latin-american band Voces del Sur, their lead singer Valentina Montoya Martinez, and rising Gaelic singer, Maeve Mackinnon it looks set to be a major occasion!

Other Cuban news hints at a welcome repeat of the Havana/Glasgow Film Festival being planned for November this year. Its inaugural run last year, was very successful, and provided an unusual outing for some excellent Cuban films, that rarely (if ever) get a showing ion the UK. A formal announcement on the programme for this year is awaited next month. Keep an eye on the website here.

Saturday, 23 April 2016

Rebel Herstory of the Easter Rising

Cat Hepburn
This weekend’s Morning Star carries a Connolly Association supplement, marking the centenary of the Easter Rising. It is worthy of purchase for that alone, of course, but to ensure the Arts pages are ‘on message’, they have also published a nice interview with Cat Hepburn – the writer of Margaret Skinnider:Rebel Heart – the play whose rehearsed reading forms part of the Great MayDay Rising in Oran Mor on 2 May. Read it here, and get your tickets online (+bf) here or from the bar in Oran Mor.
The other feature of this evening that will make it irresistible is the musical presence of Arthur Johnstone, and alongside Arthur - those folk-punks, The Wakes. A package that is worth £12 of anyone's hard-earned cash!
Other events around MayDay are listed in the Glasgow Friends of MayDay programme, available on their website. . I’ll highlight some of them here as we get closer to the day.
And last, but by no means least, A little bird has whispered that an important political figure has agreed to join the Glasgow MayDay March on Sunday May 1! Assemble 11.00 George Square Glasgow.

Friday, 22 April 2016

Bellowhead - a pome

And now for something completely different.. a short poem what i wrote after seeing Bellowhead's Farewell Tour at the O2 ABC.

In Memoriam

So farewell then...
There was a lot of you
And it must have been difficult
Getting all 11 of you together for a tour.
Like herding cats.
But your music was unique.
Not so much folk-rock,
As funk-folk,
You even introduced one set as, disco-seashanties.
It was a very English night,
But I think you got through to a Glasgow audience.
I didn't hear anyone say "Oh shite, there's eleven of them!"
So you beat Mike and Bernie Winters, and...
I've never seen a Glasgow crowd doing Morris dancing complete with handkerchiefs, before.
While you'll have musical careers as individuals
I can't help feeling - we won't see the likes of your music again.

C J Trab (aged 171/2)

Monday, 11 April 2016

The Red and the Green will be worn, side by side

Glasgow Friends of MayDay (GFoMD) have today announced changes for this year’s celebration of the International Workers' Festival in Glasgow. While the annual event at Oran Mor will take place again on the Monday holiday (May 2), its focus will change from a cabaret evening, to a night of drama and song.
To mark the centenary of Dublin’s Easter Rising, the title changes to the Great Mayday Rising and the first half of the evening will be the premiere of a new play produced by FairPley, about Margaret Skinnider – a Coatbridge woman who was wounded in 1916 fighting in Dublin for James Connolly’s Irish Citizen Army. The play – Margaret Skinnider:Rebel Heart - will be followed by sets by folk-punk band The Wakes, and the political doyen of folk, Arthur Johnstone.
We discussed the event and agreed that it seemed appropriate to mark the centenary by raising the profile of a lesser-known link between Ireland and Scotland during the rising. Plus to ensure that our traditional musical celebration gets a good airing, both the Wakes and Arthur will ensure that ‘the red and the green will be worn side by side’ as Hamish Henderson put it!
Arthur Johnstone
The play is written by Cat Hepburn, from research by Maggie Chetty, who also chairs the Committee set up to highlight the links between Scotland and the Easter Rising. It stars Clare Gray, Julie Hale and Erin McCardie. Maggie Chetty said “Margaret Skinnider was a remarkable woman. A schoolteacher, a markswoman, a revolutionary, a true rebel heart, but like so many women her story is obscure. I felt this was an appropriate time to celebrate her courage and her lifelong commitment to progress.”
This year’s Mayday marches will take place on different days around Scotland, with the largest on Sunday May 1 in Glasgow - this year it will rally in the Old Fruitmarket. Others will be on Sat April 30 (Aberdeen, Dundee and Fife) and Sat May 7 (Edinburgh and Irvine).
Other events during the two weeks either side of the MayDay weekend also reflect the centenary – with a walk entitled Glasgow and the Irish revolution looking at historical sites in Glasgow connected with struggle in Ireland - this one is already full, and Brian and Martin McCardie’s one–person play, Connolly, premiering on May 6/7 in the Tron as part of its Mayfesto season.
In addition this year sees the second Radical Film Network (Un)Conference in Glasgow over the weekend of MayDay, and its associated Film Festival includes a number of union and work-related films, mostly at the STUC Centre. In particular an event Blacklisting – demonstrating the use of film by those campaigning against their blacklisting due to TU activities.
The programme, and details of Margaret Skinnider:Rebel Heart are both available via the GFoMD website.

Tuesday, 16 February 2016

Statue sculptor to be announced at Mary Barbour Concert

The five shortlisted statues
The name of the successful sculptor chosen to create the statue of Mary Barbour will be announced from the stage of the Gala Concert scheduled for this Sunday, 21 February in Glasgow’s Old Fruitmarket, the Remember Mary Barbour Association (RMBA) said today.
Maria Fyfe, Chair of the Remember Mary Barbour Association said. “This concert is a part of raising the funds to commission the statue, so it seemed only right to announce the successful candidate here. At long last there will be a new statue of a woman of achievement - achievement not for herself but for the people of Glasgow. This concert will be both a celebration of the statues and of Mary’s life and work.”
In addition to the stars already announced, prominent Scottish actress Libby McArthur has joined the guest list to add drama to the variety of the concert. She will be delivering a speech from Julia Taudevin’s play, Mrs Barbour’s Daughters.

Compering the show is comedian and presenter, Susan Morrison, and the performers will include folk legends, Sheena Wellington, and Arthur Johnstone, rising singer and musician Siobhan Miller, Scottish legends The Whistlebinkies, Gaelic singing star, Maeve Mackinnon, harmonica supremo, Fraser Speirs, and folk-rock recording artists, The Wakes. A local Govan-based community choir – the Govan Allsorts, will bring Mary’s community centre stage!
Susan Morrison
Compere, Susan Morrison said “Too often we look at history and see the word hero linked only to men who did things in wars of dubious morality The women who stood with Mary fought for something greater. They fought for fairness, for justice and for their communities. They were kitchen table heroes and that is worth celebrating, to inspire a new generation of women to continue the fight.”
In addition to the maquettes of the statues, a new portrait has been painted of Mary Barbour, by Govan artist Daniel Fitzpatrick. He has donated the powerful and striking portrait to the RMBA. The portrait depicts her steely determination but also captures her warmth and compassion, and a series of limited edition signed prints are being created for sale - hopefully in time for the concert!! 
Mary Barbour by Daniel Fitzpatrick
Mary Barbour led the successful rent strike of 1915 and went on to play a leading role in the labour movement as a Glasgow Councillor and energetic social reformer. Following an extensive campaign to have her contribution recognised, five sculptors were shortlisted to create a statue of her to be placed in her community of Govan. So far each has created a maquette of a proposed statue . These were unveiled in November and have been toured across Glasgow for people to express their opinion. See them on the Facebook page here.
Details of the Gala Concert are as follows
Remember Mary Barbour Gala Concert , Sunday 21 February, Old Fruitmarket, Glasgow, 7.30pm, Tickets: £25, from the Glasgow Concert Halls box office.  0141 353 8000. For further information  - www. and on Facebook

Saturday, 30 January 2016

Two acts at the peak of their powers - Celtic Connections 5

Unthanks and Lau - ***** - GRCH
If anyone thinks that folk music is some immutable, traditional monolith, they need to see one of these two bands. Come to think of it, they need to see these two bands anyway.
Rachel (l) and Becky Unthank. photo Sarah Mason
Both the Unthanks and Lau take folk as a basis, and then add layers of invention.
The Unthanks pare songs back to basics - many of them, like Thursday night’s Testament of Patience Kershaw, or Died for Love, traditional songs – but they then add value, with a string quartet, trumpet or their own clog dancing rhythms! Incidentally, isn’t it interesting how many folk tunes work so well with brass accompaniment?
They are also wont to take material from other genres – on Thursday the honour of their pure delivery went to the King Crimson track – Starless. A peerless performance was topped off by the title track of the current album – Mount the Air.
Lau, on the other hand, while they also base their music on folk roots, use them as a jumping off
Lau (l-r Aidan O'Rourke, Kris Drever and Martin Green)
point for their compositions that build multiple layers of sound with electronic and traditional instruments, upon that base. They also used a string quartet, and in a nice touch the backing vocals to the first two tracks were provided by Rachel and Becky Unthank!
While Torsa harked back to earlier albums, most tracks came from their soon-to-be-released album The Bell that Never Rang. First Homecoming, and Ghosts showed what consummate musicians Lau are, while the title track formed the final hurrah to a hugely impressive concert. And the lighting was a joy in itself!

Tuesday, 26 January 2016

Pulling down the walls – or how to arrange an ensemble concert – Celtic Connections 4

Songs of Separation - ***** - Mitchell Theatre
In a festival that has made a feature of ensemble concerts, where a number of artists come together around a theme or event, ten women from Scotland and England showed last night how it should be done!
Jenny Hill
Brought together on the Isle of Eigg by bassist, Jenny Hill, this impressive array of talent showed the importance of both ensuring the variety of distinct contributions were given their own space, but working together to deliver a concert greater than the sum of its parts.
From Karine Polwart’s opener Echo mocks the Corncrake, we were treated to a wide-ranging
Karine Polwart
discourse on Separation – from each other, from the land, from family, from life itself. Sparked by the consideration of 2014’s referendum, the project didn’t come together until after that event, and this produced much more wide-ranging consideration, covering Gaelic, Norn, Bulgarian and music hall songs, as well as newly written work.
As Eliza Carthy pointed out – as they met, the unfolding tragedy of refugees gave a very different and human story of separation. That is reflected in the ensemble piece Over  the Border which powerfully combines, the Scots post-Flodden song,  ‘Floo’ers of the Forest’, the English First World War song ‘Flowers of Knaresboro’ Forest’  and the Scots  pipe tune, ‘Blue Bonnets O’er the Border’ in a call to get ‘the gates, and their borders all wede away’.
Rowan Rheingans
The concert constantly referred to how the project had reinforced connections between the musicians – both directly like Rowan Rheingans and Hannah Read’s arrangement of Robert Frost’s poem Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening.  - and indirectly, such as watching all the women singing Gaelic choruses.
Indeed the musicians – who included Hannah James, Hazel Askew, Jenn Butterworth, Kate Young, and Mary McMaster as well as those above – molded together so well in support of each other, that it’s impossible to believe they haven’t been playing together all their lives! Pull down those walls again, please!
The concert was part of a tour to showcase the album created from the women’s time on Eigg. It is released on the 29 January – check the NavigatorRecords website for more info.