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.