ISSUE 2 SPRING 2015
on the streets
Ayrshire’s arts music & culture magazine
PL EA TA SE ONKE E
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INSIDE: IAN RANKIN’S 6 OF THE BEST / ECHO VALLEY / SEASIDE SONS / JOHN DUFFY
Duncan Lunan watches the skies
Freckfest: the man behind the inspiration
Nurturing Excellence in Arts and Culture Programme Supporting talented young people to realise their full potential in the field of arts and culture. Are you or do you know a young person in North Ayrshire who has a talent in: Creative writing Visual arts Music Dance New media art forms Drama Photography Film
The Nurturing Excellence in Arts & Culture programme provides support and grant funding to young people to access training professional development and employment opportunities. The programme is open to 11 - 25 year-olds in North Ayrshire who wish to improve their skills in their chosen art form.
Information on application forms available online at: www.north-ayrshire.gov.uk/nurturingexcellence or telephone: 01294 274059
Ian Rankin chooses six of his top tunes
word is a
John Duffy and his big fat gypsy music
P6-7: Rossi draws on her talents
Echo Valley and Seaside Sons live
Art is helping people to rebuild their lives
P8-9: Crash Club: the interview
Ann Burnett Sheila Grant Sarah Green Arpad Horvarth Catherine Lang Duncan Lunan Craig McAllister Ryan McDougall Scott Wanstall Greta Yorke
Literate women form LiterEight
Uuganaa Ramsay & Michael Malone
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Artists prepare to open their studios
Sun, Moon, Shadows: Stuart Greenâ€™s art
Design and Production: Raspberry Horse Limited 97 Crofthead Road, Ayr KA7 3NE 01292 268671
k o o b
Editor: Gerry Cassidy M: 0798 543 9752 E: gerry@ thewordonthe streets.co.uk
n AMERICAN-Scottish ska-punk masters The Hostiles are back on the road over the coming months with their adrenalin-fuelled live show. Their rock-punk- reggae-brass sound is something to behold. Catch them at X Fest in Sanquhar on Saturday May 30 and at Nice -n’ Sleazy in Glasgow on Saturday August 1.
FIELDS OF FIRE
Strumthing special SINGER-songwriter Chloe Marie has launched her recording career with an acrobatic vocal performance on her stunning debut single. Without You in the Frame is a powerful song of love, regret and determination which shows off her impressive vocal agility. Co-written with friend, mentor and fellow musician Scott Nicol, it’s the result of her first venture into the recording studios and is avaliable now for download from iTunes. Although this is her first recording, Chloe is already a familiar face to many music fans in the area, having performed at open mic nights and appeared in videos for Scott Nicol’s The Velodrome and The Silent Youth.
Chloe embarks on the single life She also enjoyed the honour of singing for the Olympic Torch procession as it passed through Ayr. Chloe is working on a video for Without You in the Frame with skilled photographer and video director Martin Bone. Watch out for it soon on YouTube. Meanwhile, she is already getting to work on the follow-up to the single. She is putting the fnishing touches to another self-penned track, Changing, and is looking at reworks of some of her earlier compositions such as the live favourite My Ship.
n SCOTLAND’S most scenic festival is gearing up for another cracker this year. Electric Fields, on the rolling lawns of Drumlanrig Castle, are finalising deals with their headliners – but already, their super-early bird tickets have sold out. Last year saw Fatherson join We Were Promised Jetpacks, Neon Waltz, Honeyblood, The LaFontaines, Vigo Thieves, Prides, Stanley Odd among others on the spectacular bill. Batch 2 tickets are now available on the website at www.electricfieldsfestival.com for £30 with camping an extar £10.
n GRAEME SKINNER was the force behind a classic 80s album that sold half a million copies around the world. Hipsway, his Lanarkshire band carved out a unique place for themselves in Scotland’s musical history with their only album – also called Hipsway – and their UK and US hit The Honey Theif, which, like the rest of the album, still sounds as fresh an vital today as it ever did. The true mark of a classic. After retiring from the music biz for a number of years, Skinner is back with a new group – The Skinner Group – and a new album, Back on the Horse. Check them out at HAC on May 8.
ho new s
WE HAVE MOVED!
Drop in and see us at 7 New Bridge St, Ayr
ECHOES OF THE FUTURE 4
LIVE MUSIC REVIEW
ECHO VALLEY with ORTHODOX, THE RANZAS By RYAN McDOUGALL
ECHO VALLEY launched the first Live Side of the Moon events with a blistering performance. Accompanied by The Ranzas and Orthodox, it was set to be an honest, gritty Rock ’n’ Roll themed night. I was greeted by Liam McCluskey, Echo Valley’s rhythm guitarist and the organizer of the event, who warmly welcomed me with a handshake, free entry and pizza. (Always a sign of a good promoter!) Orthodox set the tone for the evening, followed by The Ranzas, both of which provided some well executed Indie Rock vibes. Echo Valley came shortly afterwards, and their performance was top notch. The vocals were near enough flawless, the guitar-work was groundbreaking, the bass was so powerful you could feel it in your chest and the drum-work was outstanding. With a strong live performance, complemented by an equally good stage presence and crowd interaction, they delivered a set that was professional, entertaining and made being part of the crowd fun.
McCluskey, confident that the evening was a success, said: “I think the set went really well, everyone was really getting into our new material which was great to see! We were really surprised, as it was the first night, that the venue was reaching capacity. It was a great way to kick off the Live Side of the Moon events!” To say the least, it was a highly enjoyable evening, with a great atmosphere, decent people, reasonably priced drinks and most importantly, monumental music from Echo Valley and the others bands alike. I have a strong feeling that 2015 shall be a good year for these guys, and hopefully Live Side of the Moon Events shall take off as well!
Echo Valley return to King Tut’s, where they headlined twice last year to support Peace on March 17 and 18. They’re in Carlisle to support The Alleys at their CD launch on March 28 and at PJ Molloy’s in Dunfermline on April 2
Rising Sons CD LAUNCH
SEASIDE SONS: Out of Time
THE Seaside Sons returned to the venue that gave them their first break 18 months ago to treat fans to the first public airing of their new CD, Out of Time. They ripped through a pulsating, energetic set upstairs at Ayr’s Market Inn with every note and drumbeat falling on an eager audience. Strictly speaking, it’s the band’s second release since they formed in late 2013, first as a duo between vocalist and lyricist Jason and guitarist (now bass player) Craig. Jason says: “Everyone said to us that the songs we were writing really needed a band.” And so it came to pass. Enter Campbell on drums and Pav on guitar as the band fleshed out a meatier sound. The Sons issued a four-track EP to a really good reception and recently returned to the Wash House Studios in Crawfordjohn to record another
Seaside Sons say thanks to fans with free gig to launch debut CD eight tracks. They brought all 12 together for a rocking debut album driven by urgent guitar carving out pretty decent tunes carried along by insisten vocals. “We’re indy rock’n’roll, really,” adds Jason. “We take our influences from the 60s and the 90s, from the likes of The Who, The Kinks, the Rolling Stones, the Doors and The Small Faces. Especially The Small Faces. But we are also heavily influenced by the Britpop sound of the 90s such as Oasis, Ocean Colour Scene and so on.” Keyboards player Kev Kerr, who has another (paying!) job as a musician is the honorary fifth member of the band. “His keyboard playing just gives us that extra edge,” says Jason. “That is what gives us The Small Faces sound we really like.” Clearly, the fans really
like it too, judging by the reaction at the launch. Jason says the launch night was a thankyou to the fans who have been with them along the way. “Sometimes you feel that you are always asking your mates to buy tickets to come and see you at gigs, so we decided this one would be free. Our way of saying thanks for their support. Next big event on the calendar is a spot on This Feeling, when it comes to the Record Factory in Byres Road on Saturday April 4. And keep your eyes on festival line-ups around the country this summer. “This year we want to go for festivals in a big way,” adds Jason. “We haven’t done festivals yet but that is something that we would really like to do.”
Whit a panic’s Across the Atlantic, PICTURE the scene: downtown Manhattan in the University Club of New York, one of the poshest venues in town and the Scottish-American Society are celebrating their 20th annual Burns Supper. Glasses are raised to the Bard, his poetry and songs echo in the air above the guests who, on the finest china and with silver cutlery, are tucking into... chicken. Because of the US ban on haggis imports, an essential element of the Burns Supper has been usurped by the common fowl. Everything else, though, was done in the best possible taste, says Jamie McGeechan, aka Little Fire, who was an invited guest at the event as a top class performer of Burns songs. “It was an incredible experience,” he
CD REVIEWS LITTLE FIRE High Hopes THIS collection of finely crafted songs has startling moments of beauty threaded between rockier landmark songs which have been buffed to a high polish having travelled the road with a hard-working musician. Fans of Little Fire will be familiar with some of the tracks on this long-awaited debut album. Old favourites from his stage act sit happily side-by-side with the new songs which are given their first outing here. The vocals, sometimes rocky, sometimes rasping, are at their best on the only cover in the 11-song CD, Burns’ Bonnie Wee Thing. Elsewhere, they tell tales of love and relationships to a backdrop of predominantly acoustic guitar with more than a few gorgeous flourishes. To Fall in Love is one of the stand-out tracks with its cinematic orchestral treatment soaring above and beyond a stripped back guitar accompaniment. This is a huge song beautifully handled. Have You Seen the Moon, which closes the album is another song which reaches great heights yet has a subtle, low key vibe. It’s one well worth listening to over and over again. The next time you’re planning a chill, stick on High Hopes.
I’ll Play Johnny If You Play June IT’S 18 months since Luther Sean Hall put together this superb set of songs under the name of Luther the Bhear. Now, having shed The Bhear and written a batch of new songs, I’ll Play Johnny if You Play June is being reissued under his own name. Two good things about that: it’s a mighty fine album bursting with originality and it’s going to be given away free with the new album, Speaking of Monsters,, which is in the final production stages at the moment and should be available before summer. The seven songs here were, incredibly enough, recorded in one day at Duffy’s Next Window Studio. Plaintive guitar, hypnotic finger-picking and a sprinkling of harmonics form a delicate cradle for Luther’s vocals. There’s an absorbing dreaminess about the album which comes to an end all too soon. Don’t be surprised if you feel the urge to start back at the beginning as soon as the last track fades. If you can’t wait a few more months for Luther’s next instalment, you might be interested ti know that Black and White Boy, the band he plays in, are releasing an album on May 23 at Glad Cafe in Glasgow.
Got a CD to review? Let us know at email@example.com
in thy chicken breastie one Ayrshire songwriter raises a toast to another n Little Fire will be playing support to Justin Currie, right, in a sold-out show at the Scottish Maritime Museum in Irvine. He plays alongside James Grant in East Kilbride in May
said, looking back on his four-day trip to the Big Apple. “I was performing with two other Scots now living in America – Maureen McMullan, originally from Coatbridge, who is now a voice coach at the internationally renowned Berklee College of Music in
Boston; and Hannah Read. It has been an ambition of mine to play in New York and I can’t believe I’ve had the chance to do it. It was brilliant but the most mental thing I did was go to see a rodeo at Madison Square Gardens.” Back home in Ayrshire, Jamie has been
busy with his music tuition course at a community project in Larkhall and organising the sell-out show at the Maritime Museum in Irvine headlined by Justin Currie, erstwhile Del Amitri singer and songwriter. It has been a hectic few months since the launch of his debut album, High Hopes, at the end of last year, but Jamie is looking forward to getting back to playing gigs. Following his support slot to Justin Currie, he will be playing alongside former Love and Money frontman James Grant on May 22 at the Village Inn, East Kilbride, before hosting the Arran Folk Festival in June – then performing at and organising Third Degree Burns, the rootsy mini-fest which has played to a full house at the Burns Maritime Museum for the past few summers.
John’s big fat Gypsy music ANYONE who has dropped into any of the area’s many open mic nights or visited a local music festival or just enjoyed some pub music over the last few years will surely have encountered John Duffy. You might have seen him performing solo or as the front man in his own group, Duffy’s Gypsy Band. Then again, you may have seen him playing in Simon Atkinson and the Foundryman’s Apprentice (see below) or as part of Will and the Wild Horse. He also plays occasionally as part of a duo called The Fabulous Duffy Gibbons. As a joiner and carpenter to trade, Duffy built his own studio at the bottom the garden, just as he had done at his previous home in Kirkmichael. And what, with the joinery and all his gigging, you wonder how on earth he has the time to get to work in the studio – but it has been a busy little facility since he opened it 18 months ago. Three of the bands he is associated
with – Gypsy Band, Simon Atkinson and Will and the Wild Horse – have recorded albums there as have Scott Nicol, Luther Sean Hall and jazz artiste Jane Beacher. Next Window Studio, as it is known, is a compact affair without enough room to set up a foursome, let alone the seven-piece Simon Atkinson and the Foundryman’s Apprentice. “I do it by step-by-step recording,” Duffy explains as he shows me around the small room, packed with nick-nacks, quality speakers and deceptively little recording technology. “We usually get the bass and the drums down first and do a bit of layered recording.” My eyes fall upon a laptop as I quickly ask another question to hide my disappointment at the lack of massive mixing desks, glass screens and soundproof booths with headphones suspended from the ceiling. Born and raised on Weirside, Duffy left home at 16 and has moved around ever since spending time in Berlin and
Simon sets SIMON ATKINSON & The Foundryman’s Apprentice played to an international audience at Celtic Connections this year when they won a slot on the Danny Kyle Open Stage at the Royal Concert Hall in Glasgow. “It was fabulous,” said Simon, front man for the talented seven-piece outfit. “We are used to playing in bars and small venues, you don’t often get the chance to play in a proper hall with a really great sound system, great acoustics and an audience who sit and listen.” With their debut received with great acclaim 18 months ago, the band are now laying down tracks for their second,
London before settling in South Ayrshire. He came from a large, musical family and learned to play music at an early age. “My old man was a jazz pianist,” he says. There were always musical instruments lying about the house. I learned to play music as a toddler. All of my brothers and sisters play a musical instrument, too.” A spell in the Army was followed by a
two-year course at Leeds College of Music in 1986 where he studied musical instrument technology and began building guitars. And it was there that he developed an interest in the instrument for which he is now best known, the bouzouki. He decided to make one as a change from a guitar and ended up with an instrument unlike any other.
“I put the wrong gauge of strings on it by mistake,” he says. “But I just kept them on– and that is why my bouzouki is different from everyone else’s.” It’s perfect, though, for his chosen style of music, the Eastern European gypsy sound that has become his hallmark and has made him one of the most in-demand musicians in his adopted Ayrshire.
his sights on Glastonbury to be titled Three Shires Head. They have spent the last few months recording and re-recording in the luxury of the home studio run by the band’s bouzouki player and backing vocalist John Duffy. “When we recorded the last album there was a time constraint on us because we were paying for the hire of the studio. This time round we are really taking our time over it. “We have been layering tracks and perfecting our sound. It has also been great to have Hugh Clinton with us. Hugh has a wonderful voice and I have really enjoyed working on harmonies in a way that previously we just did not have time for.”
The title track to the album was uploaded to Facebook and Soundcloud in February as a foretaste of the band’s new richer, fuller sound. It’s a beautiful, melodic song with the band’s hallmark nostalgic tinge we have come to know and love. The finished album will feature nine Simon originals with one cover. Joining Simon, Duffy and Hugh in the line-up are drummer Richard Hamilton, bass player Keir Highet with Becky Chrichton on cello and Cat Atkinson on fiddle. Their distinctive sound has earned them a stack of fans on the local music scene and further afield. They have one yet-to-be-announced
date on one major Scottish festival bill so far and Simon is eyeing up the daddy of them all: Glastonbury. “It would be fantastic to play there,” he said. Not that it would be a completely new experience for him, having played there with his jazz band in 2008 and 2009. “I feel our music would go down really well in that environment.” Before the festival season arrives, though, the band are booked to play in the Windy Ha’ in Saltcoats on April 25 and are on the bill for a benefit gig on Glasgow Green on July 18 to raise money form the families of the Lorry crash victims.
Having seen them playing absolute belters of shows supporting The Klaxons in Glasgow & Roman Nose in Ayrshire, I wanted to know a wee bit more about the electro sensation that is Crash Club! I first met Neal while he was DJ’ing in Nice‘n’Sleazy’s for the Tenement Trail and the rest is history…
E SCOT T WAN S INTE TAL RVIE W L
d possibly about the about yourselves an Can you tell us a bit rting Crash Club? sta o What led you int ? nd ba the of y tor his out just after me n the band – started The idea – rather tha . Sammy (Todd) ed with our old band (Neal) and Aran finish ne, which led to us of a track we had do wanted to do a remix ng that was totally thi me d working on so an t tha of ht sig ing los a half later that the til about a year and different. It wasn’t un name actually came d giving ourselves a idea of playing live an about. times, do you yed in Glasgow many As a band that has pla ow scene? Did sg Gla ake waves” in the “m to sy ea is it nk thi it is now or did it rve its way to where Crash Club have to ca all come naturally?
We’ve only recently started to get people actually wanting to come and see us to be fair, “making waves” can sometimes only last one gig though, so to keep people interested it takes a lot of work. To follow on from the previous question, how important do you think the gig attendees are when it comes to scenes rising? Have you noticed any obv ious clique mentalities? Very important, without the atte ndees there can’t be a scene. Every city has different cliqu e. Glasgow of course is the same with the West End scen e etc. It’s not a bad thing though, it’s just people that love a certain style of music and share a similar interests getting together to enjoy whatever that music still is. It’s important to remember that not everyone is gonna get what you ’re trying to do. Do you have any interesting tale s to tell us while being in this band? Any rock ‘n’ roll anti cs we should know about? Ha ha! It’s usually pretty rock ‘n’ roll listening to Sammy’s stories from journeys away, but apart from that, the raves in Edinburgh have provided us with plenty of drunken antics and a few whiteys.
s nloads and social media site Do you feel that while dow the are s gig t tha ry ust ind sic currently dominate the mu sic Do you think that with mu last safe haven for bands? ad nlo dow and g ial networkin taking a back seat over soc be? to ce pla ent dec a is still packages that the industry k a better place to be, just thin it’s d ban nd rou erg und For an d ban ed ign pace existed… an uns about the days before Mys allow music in any way that would ir the sell would be able to have n’t did y the t tha ure to ens them to make enough money ’t don n personal funds. If you to keep dipping into their ow do can you n d on the planet the want to be the biggest ban marketing all the way to the the from lf, everything yourse tly r the place, and are curren release! DIY labels are all ove major a h wit sign to d nee ger lon working very well… You no label to put out a single! sh Club actually come from? …Where does the name Cra Club and CLASH club. Well, it was between CRASH n a quality name since it’s Clash Club would have bee
Pictures © Arpad Horvath www.arpadhorvath.com ng punk personal for me and Aran; we started off by learni see it in can You bass. and guitar g playin d when we starte personally I well. the style of playing that we actually play as Little Stiff and s Pistol love The Ramones, The Clash, Sex driven by Fingers, so the style of bass I play is pretty much , but I name cool a been have would It rock. straight punk just can I don’t think we would get away with it, ha ha! ning imagine an angry Mick Jones walking about Kilwin … latter the with went we if looking to “have a word” band? Do you How important would you say image is to the profile, or ing?) (evolv single a tain main to make an effort do you just go with the flow? I’ve turned up Naw man, we’ve never gave a fuck about that! s been Aran’ time same the at while in a Soviet hat before, threeng weari been y’s Samm and t jacke r wearing a leathe , music the quarter-length shorts! Crash Club is all about that show live best the on making great tunes and putting
What are your plans for the future? Do you have anything exciting lined up? We’ve got loads lined up actually! It’s been ment al just trying to get it all together in time! We’re off up to Edinburgh, Dunfermline, Inverness & Glasgow to do gigs in order to promote the next single. We’ve also actually booke d some festivals recently, but we can’t go into that till the line ups are officially announced! Ok Neal, Cheers for the Interview! Best of luck in the future, the last words are yours! People want easy money in the industry today, so the guitar scene has kind of vanished compared to what it was like ten years ago. BUT! It’ not all bad… just look at some of the bands out there right now, creating fuckin bangi ng tunes and putting it out themselves, making some cash and using it to put out more great music! And it’s all accessible to the little man thanks to the internet!
Ian Rankin: Six IAN RANKIN barely needs any introduction at all. An East Coaster schooled in Cowdenbeath and at the University of Edinburgh, he’s most famously the internationally renowned creator of the Inspector Rebus novels. Like the best literary heroes, Rebus is a bender of rules, a doer of wrong in the pursuit of right, and his malt whiskysoaked character flaws and imperfections have captured the imagination of many a reader. Translated into numerous languages, each Rebus novel will casually shift in excess of half a million copies in its first three or four months of publication. Many of the stories have successfully made the transition from printed word to celluloid.
People, many thousands of people, have discovered the work of Ian Rankin not only from the library but also from the television. With an OBE for services to literature, countless honorary doctorates and more Crime Writers Association Daggers than an end of the pier act on Britain’s Got Talent, Ian Rankin is, in short, a dead famous author. Ian is also a well-known music fan. Follow him on Twitter and you’ll discover just how regularly he visits his favourite record shops, goes to gigs and enthuses about new music. With a nod and a wink and an eyebrow permanently arched, his writing is liberally peppered with music references and trainspotters like myself enjoy looking for them all, silently
When Desert Island Discs asked me several years back for my top 8 songs, I started with a Shortlist of 40. So I’ve decided here to go with six tracks that may not be all-time favourites but mean something to me and should be listened to more often SILVER MACHINE by Hawkwind I probably want this played at my funeral. It was one of the first records I bought, and I still own and play that original 45. To me it means rock, and sci-fi, danger and otherworldliness. Smashing.
THEME FROM SHAFT by Isaac Hayes When I was a kid I loved this tune, especially the wah-wah guitar. I was too young to see the film, so I bought the book. I was amazed that a kid was allowed to read anything and everything. Books became exciting to me. And I got a taste for crime fiction. My whole career starts with John Shaft.
YOU CAN’T ALWAYS GET WHAT YOU WANT by The Rolling Stones
I remember hearing this when I was 10 or 11 and not being impressed. By the age of 30 Let It Bleed was my favourite album and it’s still up there. A beautiful piece of music with a lyric that captures a moment in social history. Mourners may leave my funeral service with Hawkwind ringing in their ears, but as they walk into the chapel this is what they might hear.
THE HANGING GARDEN by The Cure So good I named one of my novels after it. Then used quotes from Cure songs throughout the text. Robert Smith was gracious enough to grant permission. The fee? A signed book. Always loved The Cure, and Joy Division, and Bauhaus, and… All those dark, atmospheric post-punk preGoth groups. I sang in one myself. They were called The Dancing Pigs and weren’t good enough. So I put them in one of my novels, too.
of the best hoping that it’s only us and the author who are in on the secret but knowing full well that half the population gets it too. Off the top of my head, his various novels have been titled Let It Bleed, Black And Blue, Beggars Banquet (all Rolling Stones LPs), The Hanging Garden (A Cure track, more of which later), Exit Music (A Radiohead track) and Dead Souls (Joy Division). There’s also the Heartache Cafe in The Black Book that sells Blue Suede Choux for dessert. Read the novels and you’ll find many more. Ahead of his appearance at this year’s Boswell Book Festival at Dumfries House, Cumnock, in May, Ian Rankin talks to The Word On The Streets about six of his favourite records.
EXIT WOUND by Jackie Leven.
By Craig McAllister Read Craig’s blog at: www.plainorpan.com
Jackie was a fan of my books. I didn’t know that. But I was a fan of his music – so was Inspector Rebus. Eventually we became friends, made an album, toured together. And then Jackie was gone, dead too soon. I saw him do this song many times. It’s moving, powerful, classic Jackie.
Ankle Shackles by King Creosote. There wasn’t much of a music scene in Fife when I was growing up. Nazareth in the early 70s, The Skids a bit later. But then came KC and his Fence Collective colleagues. Love his stuff. Wrote the sleeve notes for one album. This track is quite new, and only appeared on CD this year. I saw him do it live in the Queen’s Hall last year. It is a pulsing, driving, bitter tale, enlivened by cello and a terrific vocal. Dude’s a dude, bless him.
In the name of the wee man Freckfest, called after Irvine’s Mr Big in entertainment, is working to revive the local live music scene. Now it has been nominated for a cultural award, writes CRAIG McALLISTER GIG goers in Ayrshire might have seen the Freckfest logo attached to a few things over the past year or so. The Irvine-based music promotion was set up by a small group of like-minded music fans, keen to re-develop a flagging local music scene. Freckfest is named in honour of Willie Freckleton, Irvine’s ‘Mr Entertainment’. Willie was the man who for years brought all the big acts to Irvine. The gigs Willie put on in the Magnum are the stuff of legend and read like a roll-call of all that was great in music - Chuck Berry, The Clash, Thin Lizzy, Big Country, The Jam, The Smiths and Madness all ensured Irvine was a ‘must-play’ in their touring schedules. For years Willie was responsible for bringing the Radio 1 Roadshow to Irvine’s Beach Park. A free show regularly attended by upwards of 10,000 Ayrshirites, it was an eagerly anticipated local event. More outdoor events followed with Rock On The Watter, a festival always headlined by a well-known act with a supporting bill made up of local groups. Willie’s ethos was always to allow the local bands the chance to play on the big stage. Many of the Freckfest committee first encountered Willie at these events, playing in those very bands on the under-bill. It was Willie too who in 1995 brought Oasis to the Beach Park to play a doubleheader of earth-shattering live shows, between the release of their first two albums and just as the band were about
to go stratospheric in popularity. The success of this event led to the following year’s On The Beach festival, attracting the likes of Bjork, Underworld and Supergrass. Irvine gig goers (including this writer) might’ve taken all this for granted. You could even say we were a wee bit spoilt – outwith the big cities, how many other provincial towns had the same pulling power? In 2008, all this came to an end with Willie’s retirement from his post as North Ayrshire Council’s Entertainments Officer. And once Willie had retired, the council retired his position, no-one was put in place to do Willie’s job, and since then...nothing. The music scene in Irvine has been starved of the big names ever since. Willie died almost four years ago and a chance conversation a couple of years later between two of his old acquaintances started a ball rolling. Plans were hatched. Schemes and dreams were formulated and a committee comprising of eight enthusiasts, all with a link one way or other to Willie was formed. In the summer of 2013, a large three-day music festival was organised in the Magnum, spiritual home of all things Freckleton. Headlined by the Magic Numbers, it was a huge success and helped spread the Freckfest message. Throughout 2014, once a month Freckfest Fridays took place in Irvine’s Harbour Arts Centre. A small, intimate
venue, it became a favourite with audiences and artists alike and a number of high profile shows ensured Irvine audiences were once again treated to the best touring acts on the circuit. Sell-out shows last year included JJ Gilmour, Medals (with Biffy’s Simon Neil in attendance), Glenn Tilbrook and two brilliant nights with Nik Kershaw. In keeping with Willie’s ethos, wherever possible local acts were given their chance to play. Culann, Sean Kennedy, Common Ground and Soldier On have all taken huge steps forward, with Freckfest playing a small part along the way. 2015 finds Freckfest in a terrific position – the organisation is a registered charity, the Freckfest Fridays will continue again this year, and steps are being taken to reach further into Ayrshire. Recently, they promoted a very successful ska night at Troon Concert Hall and a number of bigger events are due to take place in the Magnum Theatre. Plans are also being made to host a large-scale event sometime in 2016. As we go to press, Freckfest has been nominated for a Cultural Award by North Ayrshire Council. This is recognition of the great work the organisation is doing in Irvine and further afield. Look out for the gig listings – somewhere on there will be a Freckfest event. With an eclectic billing and a committee made up of music fans with differing tastes, there’s guaranteed to be something for everyone.
Willie, main pic, in his heyday, brought major acts to Irvine, including Oasis, The Jam, Bjork and The Clash to name but a few. Freckfest in recent times have brought major acts and up-andcoming names including, from left: Model Aeroplanes, The Magic Numbers, Soldier On, Medals and Nik Kershaw
Eclipse will be the
ÂŠ Ilexx | Dreamstime.com - The Earth From Space Photo
THIS year's spring equinox on March 20 will be dramatic, with an eclipse of the Sun which will be total in the Faroe Islands at 8.39am, covering 80 per cent of the Sun or more throughout the British Isles, 98 per cent in Shetland â€“ our most spectacular eclipse since 1999. That evening, Venus will be brilliant in the evening sky until 10pm, and Jupiter will be nearly as bright, visible all night long. The Moon is New on March 20, April 18, May 18 and June 16. It will be Full on April 4, May 4 and June 2. Unless we have been very lucky with the weather meantime, efforts will be continuing to photograph its northerly and southerly rising and setting each month at the stone circle which I built in Sighthill Park in Glasgow, the first astronomical one in the UK for over 3000 years. The 'minor standstill' turning point in its 18.61 year cycle occurs in September-October, and the four monthly events are the only marked
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finest since 1999 Author, astronomer and science writer Duncan Lunan says Spring equinox will be spectacular events which I've never seen since I designed and built it in 1978-79. A year either side would be accurate enough for photographic purposes, but around September the circle is scheduled to be removed for the area to be redeveloped. Glasgow City Council has promised that efforts will be made to remove the stones intact and reposition them at another site, but we hope to observe and photograph the minor standstill moonrises and moonsets before that happens. The planet Mercury returns to the evening sky in April, passing Mars on the 22nd and the Pleiades on April 30 and May 1. Mercury will be at greatest elongation from the Sun on May 7, but then quickly disappears from view in the UK, crossing to the morning sky in the southern hemisphere. Venus passes the Pleiades on April 1, setting after midnight (BST) by the end of the month, when it will be bright enough to cast a shadow. It passes through Taurus and Gemini in May, and Cancer and Leo in June, at greatest elongation from the Sun on the 6th and passing Jupiter on the 30th, setting together at 11 pm. The Moon is near Venus on April 21, May 21 and June 20. Mars has been low in the evening sky
for months, but after passing Mercury on April 22 it finally disappears behind the Sun, after which it will not be visible till the Autumn. Jupiter in Cancer remains visible throughout, moving into Leo in June before its conjunction with Venus on the 30th, when they will be just 20 arcseconds apart (two-thirds the diameter of the Full Moon) before
Star club dates
n Astronomers of the Future Club lectures will continue on the last Thursdays of the month at the RASA Club off Portland Street in Troon, and the speakers for April, May and June will be Robert Law of the Mills Observatory, Dundee, on 'Mars', Prof. Colin Mcinnes of Strathclyde University on 'Solar Sails', and Lembit Opik, former MP and grandson of the astronomer Ernst Opik, on 'Avoiding Armageddon', protecting the Earth from impacts. Check out the AOTF website at: www.actascio.org/aotfclub.asp
setting together at 11 pm. The Moon is near Jupiter on April 26, May 23 and as a very thin crescent on June 18 just after sunset. Saturn in Scorpius rises about 11.30 pm in April, and is at opposition, closest to us and due south at midnight (GMT) on May 23. In June, Saturn sets about 3.30 am (BST). The Moon appears near Saturn on April 8 and 9, May 5 and June 1. Uranus in Pisces is not visible till June, when it reappears in the morning sky about 2am. Neptune in Aquarius is also behind the Sun during April, reappearing at 3am in May and two hours earlier in June. There will be a total eclipse of the Moon on April 4, visible from the Pacific, Australasia and the western USA. The Lyrid meteors will peak on April 22/23 and be seen best after midnight when the Moon is down. Moonlight will spoil the eta Aquarid shower from Halley's Comet on May 5 to 7. In March the Dawn space probe is due to approach Ceres, the largest of the asteroids, and we hope for spectacular views as it goes into orbit. Meanwhile the New Horizons probe will be homing in for the first ever encounter with Pluto on July 14.
Sun, Moon, Shadows: Stuart Green’s art
Artists prepare to open their studios
Uuganaa Ramsay & Michael Malone
word is a
Literate women form LiterEight
P8-9: Crash Club: the interview
Art is helping people to rebuild their lives
Echo Valley and Seaside Sons live
P6-7: Rossi draws on her talents
Ann Burnett Sheila Grant Sarah Green Arpad Horvarth Catherine Lang Duncan Lunan Craig McAllister Ryan McDougall Scott Wanstall Greta Yorke
John Duffy and his big fat gypsy music
Ian Rankin chooses six of his top tunes
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Freckfest: the man behind the inspiration
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Duncan Lunan watches the skies
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Hosts and Champions Scotland in the Commonwealth Games Trinity Church Bridgegate, Irvine 9 March – 17 April Open Mondays, Fridays and Saturdays 10am – 4pm This exhibition celebrates over 80 years of participation and achievement by Scotland in the Commonwealth Games from its origin as the British Empire Games in Hamilton, Canada, in 1930, through to Glasgow 2014. Drawn from the Commonwealth Games Scotland Archive held by the University of Stirling, the exhibition displays a selection of photographs, designs, clothing, papers and artefacts which evoke a rich story of Scotland’s involvement in the Games, including as hosts in 1970, 1986 and 2014.
www.north-ayrshire.gov.uk Call the Heritage Centre on 01294 464174 for further details
Tapestry shows 420m years of Scottish history THE Great Scottish Tapestry, a recordbreaking piece of community art, is on display at Ayr Town Hall during April and May. The brainchild of acclaimed author, Alexander McCall Smith, the tapestry traces the history of Scotland from the formation of our landscape millions of years ago, across every peak of Scotland's history, into the 21st century and is the world’s longest embroidered tapestry. Naturally three of Ayrshire's greatest heroes, William Wallace, Robert the Bruce and Robert Burns, have their own dedicated panels of the tapestry. James Knox, Chairman of Ayr Renaissance, who was responsible for bringing the tapestry to Ayr said: "This is a great moment in the regeneration of the heart of the town. It is a real coup to get the tapestry to the town hall, where it will attract hordes of visitors keen to see one of the most amazing artworks ever created in Scotland by Scots of Scots for Scots." Reflecting 420 million years of Scottish history, the tapestry took 1,000 stitchers, 50,000 sewing hours, 300 miles of yarn and 160 panels to complete. The Great Scottish Tapestry is on public display in Ayr Town Hall from April 4 to May 31.
TWO former primary school teachers have pooled their expertise and talents to produce an educational book for children. Witch Hitch is a fun picture book by Prestwick writer Greta Yorke and illustrated by fellow writer Maggie Bolton from Kilmaurs. Their award winning story includes number, colour, repetition, rhyme and prediction, a valuable interactive teaching resource for parents and teachers. Greta and Maggie are members of LiterEight and intend to have Witch Hitch on sale in March.
Rankin and O’Hagan heading for Boswell Two of Scotland’s most popular authors, Ian Rankin and Andrew O’Hagan, will be among the big names at this year’s Boswell Book Festival. Rankin, pictured, has gained international recognition for his work, not least the gritty detective series Rebus, which is set in Edinburgh. O’Hagan, who grew up in Kilwinning, has won the Los Angeles Times Book Award and the E. M. Forster Award from the American Academy of Arts & Letters. They will be joined by, among others in a guest list still to be revealed as we went to press, neurosurgeon and prize-winning author Henry Marsh. This year, the Boswell will be held in the classic splendour of Dumfries House, near Cumnock when leading authors from the
UK and further afield will be flocking to Ayrshire again for this annual feast of gossip, literature and debate. The event is the world’s only festival of biography and memoir and is named after our infamous Ayrshireman, James Boswell, who was the inventor of modern biography as we know it. The Festival is run by The Boswell Trust, a Scottish registered charity whose Trustees include the senior direct descendant Margaret Boswell Elliot. This year’s festival, the fifth, takes place over three days from May 8 to 10.
Gaiety Theatre, Ayr
l Lesley Glaister meets readers and writers at the Dick Institute Author Day
Author Lesley has a few tales to tell LIKE a fine wine, Lesley Glaister’s latest novel, Little Egypt, lay maturing for 22 years before being uncorked. She told the tale to an enthralled audience at the latest of the Dick Institute’s Author Days. In 1990 her first novel Honour Thy Father won both the Somerset Maugham award and the Betty Trask award. The Somerset Maugham award involves travel and Lesley was delighted to fulfil a long held desire to visit Egypt. While there she visited a lesser known tomb in the Valley of the Kings. She was not feeling too good that day and was a tad feverish. At night she had a strange dream with an image that stayed in her mind. A couple of years ago while travelling by train she glimpsed a ruined house and another image flashed into her mind. Immediately the two images connected and that was the seed that 22 years from her Egyptian visit began this, her latest book. It was just one of many fascinating stories the busy author – a
Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature and currently the Writer in Residence at the University of Edinburgh while also working as a lecturer in Creative Writing at University of St. Andrews – had to tell. She told how two successive characters had “taken over” her latest book and were taking it down a path she did not want to go. They had to be “sacked”. When asked if that was the end of them she told us that one had already formed the core of a short story. Her books are gripping stories, tense and often involving murder and mystery with a psychological twist, peppered with a touch of dark humour.They are never predictable. Little Egypt is Lesley’s 13th novel and her reputation as a writer has grown with each one. Many of her short stories have been included in anthologies and/or broadcast on Radio 4. She is one of our most successful writers and it was a privilege to meet her.
Burns still inspires artists of today
SHEILA A GRANT
CHRIS TAYLOR excelled as the menacing but vulnerable Stauner as The Ringer, an adaptation of Ayrshire writer Tony Black’s dark novel, made its stage debut at the Gaiety Theatre in Ayr. The audience alternately cringed, sympathised and despised Stauner as he and the French girlfriend he took for granted (Evelyn Adams) became mired in a doublecrossing deal revolving around drugs and big money. Colin Ferguson was chilling as the vicious drugs lord with a respectable facade while Brian Larkin gave a stark performance as his brutal rottweiler, Tambo. Stuart Falconer, never seen without a can of beer in his hand offered a few shafts of light in this darkest of plots with his portrayal as Ally, the alkie who turns out to be the most sober judge of all. It was a major role handled with expertise by Ayr actor and stage performer Taylor who is well known locally for his work in panto and with Hipshot Theatre, the company he launched. Next up is an understudy role in Des Dillon’s superb I’m No a Billy, He’s a Tim. The Chris Taylor wagon is rolling.
Orchestral concert series dates set AYR Arts Guild have pencilled in dates for the 2025/16 Ayr Concert Series which will run from the end of October to March 2016. The BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra open the series on Friday October 30 with conductor Martyn Brabbin and violinists Laura Samuel and Kanako Ito.
The 150th annversary of the birth of Finnish composer Sibelius will be celebrated when the SCO visit on November 11 with conductor John Swensen and flautist Alison Mitchell. This year’s Christmas Classics will be presented by the BBC SSO on December 17 while New Year 2016 will be marked
with a visit from the SCO with Joseph Swensen returning as conductor and violinist. Later in January the RSNO visit on the 29th, with the BBC SSO closing the series on March 18 with Laura Samuel as director. All concerts take place in Ayr Town Hall.
Follow signs to Jimâ€™s art PAINTER, poet, pilot and ex-Glasgow School of Art tutor Jim Hardie is the focus of Signposts, a multi-site exhibition from April 10 until June 1. Displays in local libraries, the Heritage Centre in Saltcoats and other venues will act as signposts to Jimâ€™s larger exhibition at the Harbour Arts Centre in Irvine. It was the rebuilding and flying of a vintage aeroplane, Nord 1101, that helped Jim take a stance and develop his voice in painting, films and poetry.
Through a glass artfully IF you fancy trying your hand at working with stained glass, heer is your chance. Sue Wilkinson is leading a handmade crafts session in the Harbour Arts Centre on Sunday March 22 from 10.30am until 3.30pm. Participants will work from a choice of templates and a selection of coloured stained glass as they make copper foil stained glass window decorations for the home. The class is suitable for beginners.
IF youâ€™re old, like me and fancy a trip down memory lane, or a young whippersnapper that is fascinated by all things hipster and retro, then get yourself to the When We Are Young exhibition. This bijoux collection of toys and board games from times past elicited a response in me that left me all warm and fuzzy. None of your technoelectrical nonsense of today, the display boasted board games like Escape from Colditz, the expected spinning top, cowboys and Indians and a well-loved golly. There were toys I had forgotten all about and others, like the legendary kaleidoscope, that made me wonder how I was so easily entertained for hours by these childhood geegaws. Looking at the bright yellow Tonka tipper truck, the backs of my heels once more relived the stinging pain of having one of these driven into them by my brother. The Fischer Price Movie Viewer and the
Young at heart SARAH GREEN goes all nostalgic at an exhibition at the Baird Institute, Cumnock Viewmaster, so cutting edge at the time, allowed you to watch a stilted version of Mary Poppins, or view awesome slides, with not a single battery in sight. There is a co-curated display cabinet that is currently filled by donated items from the Cumnock History group, which will be taken over by Barshare Primary School for March. The Girl Guide belt, badges and commemorative Silver Jubilee brooch also
jogged my memory. It is amazing what we forget, and also how easily the sight of some of the objects takes us back. Many of the toys can be picked up and played with, and a projector plays photographs of children from across the decades. This small but perfectly formed exhibition runs Thursdays to Saturdays 11am- 5pm until May 16 at the Baird Institute, 3 Lugar Street, Cumnock KA18 1 AD.
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How art is helping vulnerable people to pick up the pieces
A DESIGN FOR LIFE
IT’S amazing what can be achieved with a handful of paintbrushes, a few pots of paint and a bit of patience. We’re not talking masterpieces, but the results can be just as impressive. Art as therapy is bringing vulnerable people back from the brink and giving them a new sense of purpose as they pick up the pieces of a broken life. And this work is not taking place in mental health clinics, but in a church hall in Ayr where vulnerable homeless people or others with dependency problems can drop in and forget about their cares as they immerse themselves in a few hours of creativity. The art desk at the Care and Share project in the Riverside Church, John Street, is guided by artist Gillian Beech, who has seen for herself how art can transform people’s lives. She said of one visitor, who asked not to be named: “At first he wouldn’t even pick up a pencil but now he is a regular
TOP left: Samples of the artists’ work. Above left: Tutor Gillian with artist John. Above: Christine and Daniel. at the art table and very much involved. This is now very much a fixed part of his life.” And he added himself: “I hadn’t drawn since school, but this changes you. It gives you confidence.” Beside him, John, himself an accomplished artist who used to restore antique furniture before things started to go wrong in his life, is a regular at the art table. “It’s nice to have an involvement and I like to see what other people are
doing,” he said. Now emerging from a very dark period of his life, he is hoping to go to college. Bubbly Christine, says Gillian, is now almost unrecognisable from the shy, uncommunicative person she was when she arrived at Care and Share. Her confidence grew by degrees to such an extent that she appeared on stage last year as a fairy godmother in a panto and now wants to become more involved in drama. “I couldn’t draw when I came here at first,” she said. “Now I have got a lot more confidence and it has even helped me to bring the family together again. I am seeing my two grandchildren again.” As she guided the artists through their latest project – drawing colourful panels for a screen board – tutor Gillian added: “My task here is not to produce great art. My aim is to help them to develop confidence. Then the great art might come later.”
SETTLE down for a simple tale of boy meets girl as they set out to tackle the evils of the world. Ok, wolf-boy meets albino deer girl; it’s not so simple after all. Welcome to Rossi Gifford’s world of fantasy as depicted in her first graphic novel, Spirit Leaves. Her beautifully drawn comic has been flying off the shelves in specialist bookshops and comic fairs earning legions of fans for the adventures of demon-hunting Freya and her wolfish sidekick Skoll. It was Rossi’s first solo foray into the world of comic book publishing and now, as Issue Two of Spirit Leaves nears completion, the fastworking artist is busy sketching out a career for herself among some of the world’s leading animators in Toronto, Canada. She spent four months on work experience in North America’s animation hub last year, honing her craft and making valuable contracts in the industry as she
rubbed shoulders with artists working for Marvel and DC Comics. Now she has upped sticks from her Ayrshire home as she prepares to make a name for herself in cartoon animation. Rossi collected a degree in illustration from Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art in Dundee last summer and already her work is attracting the attention of some of the biggest names in animation. Internationally renowned Glasgow artist Frank Quitely, whose award-winning talents have been put to use drawing Superman and the X-Men, describes Rossi’s work as “very impressive”. He said Spirit Leaves is “meticulously planned and beautifully executed, full of playful tricks and rich in texture and detail.” Another giant of comic book art, Dave Gibbons, who has worked on Dan Dare and Green Lantern during a lifetime of notable achievements, said: “Rossi’s work is excellent, dynamic and involving a
interested in drawing cartoons.” Her talents were quickly spotted and Rossi thanks two teachers in particular for their support and encouragement as she developed her art: the wonderfully-titled Head of Comics Chris Murray and Animation and Visualisation course director Philip Vaughan, with whom she has begun an online collaboration called Bantah6. During her previous visits to Canada, Rossi has worked with animation houses Nelvana, Yowza, The Raid and Solis, some of the biggest names in the business. Like her own cartoon characters Freya and Skoll, you get the impression that Rossi’s story is just beginning, with many great adventures to come.
All art © of Rossi Gifford, reproduced by permission
gorgeous colour palette. She should go far.” Clearly a very gifted artist, Rossi is effusive in her thanks for her tutors and lecturers at the Dundee art school where she studied... though her original plan didn’t work out quite the way she had hoped it might. Born in Ayr and a former pupil of Belmont Academy, Rossi’s dream had been to study at Glasgow School of Art and she was devastated when she wasn’t accepted. “I was heartbroken,” she says. “But then I was offered a place on a visual communications course at Dundee and it has been the best thing that has happened to me. “I did a lot of painting and my teachers there said this was the path I should take, but I was only
n Pictured above and right are examples of Rossi’s art. Insert: a page from her notepad. Far left: Rossi at work in Costa, Ayr, a few weeks before she left for Canada
Writers went from workshop to
Relax with a cup of coffee.. and a good coffee book FOR the last few months, members of Ayr Writers’ Club have been slurping coffees, sampling scones, savouring cheesecakes and soaking up the atmosphere at their favourite tearooms and cafés across Ayrshire & Arran. A really tough assignment, all in the interests of research, you understand, as the Club is presently working on a new project - producing a book on their members ‘Favourite Coffee Shops’. From Girvan to Irvine…. from Machrie to Mauchline…. over 50 establishments will be featured in the book - all club members having had the opportunity to contribute their piece with a photograph. Each review will reflect the author’s personal experience of their Favourite Coffee Shop and the book will be a boon for latte and espresso addicts whether they be locals or visitors to Ayrshire. With a dedicated team focused on editing, formatting, layout etc. the book is well on its way to being printed and will be the first book published by Peever Publishing, Ayr Writers’ Club’s own recently created publishing venture. So whether your tipple’s a cappuccino, an americano or even a mug of strong tea look out for the AWC’s Favourite Coffee Shops book which will be on sale at various Ayrshire outlets.
LiterEight in MANY people have a passion for writing, a penchant for creating images in words. This is certainly true of a group of Ayrshire-based authors, LiterEight. Each of the group’s members have been working away for years, honing their writing skills in many different genres, while dealing with life challenges, families and careers. Helena Sheridan instigated their first meeting, inviting a group of like-minded women, all members of Ayr Writers’ Club, to learn about Kindle publishing from her friend and established author, Catherine Czerkawska. Helena explained, “We are all enthusiastic writers and have had works published or performed over the years. Our little workshop was initially planned as purely a learning exercise. However, during our discussions we realised that, between us, we had the skills required to put a book together.” So the eight writers – Fiona Atchison, Helena Sheridan , Janice Johnston, Lesley Deschner, Maggie Bolton , Catherine Lang , Fiona McFadzean and Greta Yorke – decided to pool their resources to create a collection of short stories and poems. Helena
continued, “Maggie, an experienced artist, offered to design the cover; Catherine, who started her career in publishing, acted as the editor; Fiona Atchison’s husband created our website; Janice offered to take on the role of treasurer and everyone chipped in with proof-reading and the ever-essential marketing and public readings such as a recent event at Kilmarnock’s Dick Institute. Building a collection that would offer something to enjoy anywhere, anytime, took longer than anticipated. The whole process, eliciting laughter and frustration in equal measure, brought the group closer. This first collection, entitled A Literary Confection, contains 26 separate pieces – 17 short and mini stories and nine poems on a variety of themes. It was published in time for Christmas 2012. Deciding to create one collection each year, Hallowe’en 2013 was chosen for the launch of the appropriately named Dark Twists, each of its 16 short stories having a twist in the tale. The 2014 anthology, New Horizons, with a total of 31 stories and poems, was published last
a success story
print September. All the LiterEighters lead busy lives. Janice squeezes in writing between helping out on her husband’s farm and working for a local authority. Fiona Atchison and Helena work parttime, Fiona managing a community care team and Helena in an advice centre, while Lesley combines her role in cashmere manufacturing with studying for a qualification in counselling. Being retired doesn’t give the others a quieter time. Maggie and Greta, both former teachers, have just created Witch Hitch, their first illustrated children’s book, Fiona McFadzean is writing a romantic novel and Catherine combines her writing with providing editorial support to Glasgow-based charity, Children in Distress. With everyone’s commitments, the internet is a godsend, enabling the group to plan, review submissions and proofread using email, while occasional gettogethers help cement the camaraderie that continues to underpin LiterEight’s love of creative writing! To learn more, visit www.litereight.co.uk.
Here be dragons THE Ayr Writers’ Club offers a wide variety of writing activities. Between now and May there will be workshops on writing true crime, poetry, children's plays and short stories. Speakers include Douglas Skelton, Rab Wilson and Malcolm McGonigle. The AWC has an active membership with a number of talented young writers. At a recent meeting eight brave souls faced up to dragons in an event called ‘Dragon’s Pen’. In front of the club members the eloquent eight made a pitch for their books, trying to convince the dragons that their book was destined to be the next bestseller. The writers had three minutes to ‘sell’ their idea. The audience enjoyed pitches for tales of fairies to crime and romance. The dragons eventually chose Dorothy Gallagher’s novel One Million Chances as the winner. Kirsty Wyllie was commended for the confident style in which she pitched her book The Winter Fairy, which is now available on Kindle. AWC members have had significant successes in 2014 including LiterEight member Greta Yorke, who had a monologue broadcast on BBC radio Scotland. Members of the AWC were awarded first prizes in the poetry and prose competitions at The Imprint Awards. Ayr Writers’ Club meets every Wednesday from September to May – 7.15pm to 9.30pm at The Carlton Hotel, Prestwick. A packed programme of interesting speakers and fun workshops cover a spectrum of subjects – novel writing, short story writing, poetry, script writing and more. New members are always warmly welcomed and encouraged. If you would like the AWC to present a talk to your organisation, do not hesitate to contact the Vice President Nigel Ward through the website at www.ayrwritersclub.co.uk where you will find full details about the programme or follow Ayr Writers’ Club on Facebook.
POETRY By GRETA YORKE
Spring Darkness contained within your warmth sharpness softens, as pendulous prophets herald your arrival in virgin silence. Deep forces explode from their papery tunics splotching crisp hues on nature’s palette while twitterings, punctuated by guttural guiros, confirm each migrant’s return.
Blue Bells Ethereal mist of violet blue carpets the wood, heralds summer. Arrayed at my feet pale kernels cling to succulent stems, fragrant. Tubular petals burst as pendulous blooms, anther clappers wait to perform, a campanologist’s delight as the gentlest breeze stirs each dome. The clarion begins. What tune today? Tinkling melody or cathedral clamour? Who to hear the enchanting peals? Indulged nymphs who dwell where the music pervades, where hues spread and hug the ground creating pile more precious than finest Wilton.
Read an Ayrshire author
From grief, Mum Uuganaa speaks out
Mongol, Uuganaa Ramsay’s first book describes the joy and tragedy of the short life of her baby son, Billy. Now she is helping to raise awareness of Down’s Syndrome and rehabilitate the word Mongol from its thoughtless use as a term of abuse.
DEALING with personal tragedy led Uuganaa Ramsay to writing her first book. She and husband Richard were devastated when their beautiful, ginger-haired baby son was diagnosed with Down’s Syndrome at birth – and months later brain damage and a heart condition which would take him from them. Their short, precious months together are movingly detailed in Mongol in which Mongolia-born Uuganaa recounts her childhood and early adulthood in one of the most remote areas of the planet and her arrival in the UK and later setting up home in Troon with her Scottish partner, Richard Ramsay. Uuganaa chose the title to reflect her involvement in the campaign to raise awareness of Down’s Syndrome and challenge the use of the word by some thoughtless people as a term of abuse. Now, five years after losing Billy, Uuganaa is more involved than ever in using her book to reach out to thoughtless people. Chatting over a coffee, Uuganaa recalled one of her earliest encounters with the global ignorance around the word when she came to the UK to train as a teacher and was told by some of her French and Chinese fellow students about their surprise at meeting her since that they
Now it’s Kenny’s turn MICHAEL MALONE’S third Ray McBain novel is not a Ray McBain novel. The lovable DI takes a back seat in Beyond the Rage while his old buddy Kenny O’Neill moves centre stage in a no-lessengrossing tale of sex, violence, subterfuge, sex, prostitutes and sex. With a very large dollop of sweary words on top. This savagely hilarious book is not for the faint-hearted, so if you don’t like swear words or to smell the sweat of passionate carnal entanglement, close one eye while you read this one. You might choose to hide behind the couch while you read, but whichever way you slide into this story, you’ll be
rewarded with a gripping, fast-moving plot that twists this way and that at a furious pace. So, earthy, yes. Kenny O’Neill is a very believable blunderer with his heart in the right place. He becomes the hunter and the hunted as he grapples with the tragedy of his own early life whilst becoming embroiled in a seamy underworld where the depth of the badness and duplicity seems unfathomable. And yet as the story rolls from one vicious episode to the next there’s an unistakable ring of truth to it. It’s a very Scottish novel which, said Michael Malone at its launch in Carnegie
Library, Ayr, is not always a plus in the eyes of some publishers. He ran up against a wall of resistance while two of his earlier novels, Blood Tears and A Taste for Malice, were doing the rounds of publishers. “There were three publishers who turned me down because they said they had enough Scottish crime writers, as though there was a quota.” Fortunately, there were other, more enightened publishers willing to put his writing to the test. This one is on Contraband, an imprint of Saraband, who also published the author’s magnificent The Guillotine Choice which is set in an environment
a worldwide campaign five years after the death of her Down’s Syndrome baby didn’t realise Mongol people could be ‘normal’. She added: “When I was working as a teacher in Scotland I would hear teenagers calling each other ‘mongol’ which made me very uncomfortable. “The problem is that they don’t know what it means and say it with the deliberate intention of offending.” The World Health Organisation abandoned the term in the 1960s in favour of Down’s Syndrome because they accepted how offensive it is to the Mongolian race as well as to people with Down’s Syndrome. But now, 50 years later, it is still used as an abusive term even by high-profile public figures such as Ricky Gervaise, whose tweets about “mongs” created an internet storm, which led to the comedian making a statement that he had been naive to use the word in that way. Uuganaa’s response to Gervais’s comments became part of the debate when her comments were included in Jeremy Vine’s Radio 2 show as guests discussed the issue. Since then, Uuganaa has made a number of appearances on Radio Scotland and Radio Four and in February made her first radio appearance in North America when she was interviewed for a popular daily podcast. Her Radio 4 show The Meaning of
Mongol is available on BBC iPlayer and will be broadcast on the BBC World service in April. Response to her book and to her online blog at www.mongolmemoir.com keeps Uuganaa busy, with people getting touch from all around the world. “People read it in Australia, Macedonia, America, Canada, Singapore,” she adds. “Then there are people on Facebook and Twitter who want to get in touch.” Sometimes, she says, she finds herself talking to other parents of DS children on the phone and counselling them. “But I don’t mind that at all,” she says. “I needed that type of help myself.” And, of course, Uuganaa has to devote plenty of time to looking after the rest of the family; the big sister and big brother who briefly got to know Billy and the wee sister who was born three years ago. Uuganaa says: “Billy is still a big part of our lives. The children include Billy in things. For instance, if we are making cakes they put one aside for Billy. “Our youngest has just started nursery and when someone asked her who was in her family she included Billy even though she never met him.” Amidst it all, Uuganaa was voted Asian Woman of the Year, Achievement Against All Odds and was humbled to be presented
with her award by First Minister Nicola Sturgeon. “It was very emotional. I wanted to say a lot, but I couldn’t because I was so emotional. I admire Nicola Sturgeon, she is such an inspiration, and she told me she had read my book.” Uuganaa’s experience and words have touched people all over the world, including in her native land, where her work has been noticed by the UN Delegate for Mongolia and the Mongolian Prime Minister. She has become a well-known figure in Mongolia having appeared in magazines and newspapers speaking about the book. As for where she goes from here, Uuganaa is hoping her book will go on reaching more people. “I would like to see it on the screen,” she says, “and I would like to see it translated into more languages so that it can reach more people in a positive way. My writing has helped me and if it can help other people too then I am happy with that.”
for the wringer (and language) a world away from the gritty Beyond the Rage. Commenting on his decision not to centre this latest thriller on the trusty, tried and tested DI McBain, Malone said: “I wrote a story about a boy whose mother had committed suicide and I realised later it was Kenny, so I thought I would write Kenny’s story.” Great decision. And fans of DI McBain need not worry. Kenny O’Neill’s rise does not indicate the detective’s demise. With the merciless foresight that only an author can offer, Malone says: “DI McBain has been put through the wringer. And he will be put through it again.”
Beyond the Rage, Contraband, £8.99. Approach with caution if you worry that the maiden aunt in you might be offended. Otherwise, wade right in.
ake a leaf out of my book,” he says, spittle frothing at the side of his frog mouth, his eyes popping out like marbles. “Work hard like me and you’ll be rich too.” I can work as hard as I can but I will never be rich, not with what he pays me. Enough for my phone and quick calls home to my mother and a little left over each week. No, I will never be rich working for him. He has a shop, a cheap, sells everything shop, and a stall in the market. He lives in this large house with more rooms than he can use, drives a Mercedes and a Porsche and has a Chanel-scented wife who spends more in one shopping trip than I earn in a year. I tidy her clothes and shoes in the huge walk-in wardrobe and sometimes I try on her Jimmy Choos to see how they feel. But shoes and clothes don’t make her happy. The couple argue. They have no children and he blames her. He suggests she see an exorcist, a shaman, she should go back to her home village and sacrifice a goat; she says he should be tested in the fertility clinic. He does not like this. He shouts and throws his glass against the wall, red wine spattering on to the carpet. So she goes out and buys more clothes, more shoes, more comfort, while I clear up the debris and scrub at the red stains. He has ‘friends’, ‘business associates’ as he calls them, over for dinner and as I serve spiced chicken and dried fish, plantain chips and peanut stew, he tells them that those who use banks are fools. “Lets the taxman see how rich they
Take a leaf SHORT STORY By ANN BURNETT
are. Lets the taxman take his cut. No, I keep my money elsewhere.” He taps the side of his nose while chewing noisily on his food. He takes in money every day at his shop and market stall, hands a wad to his wife and stuffs the rest in his pockets. They bulge with money. I smell his rank sweat as I fill his plate with more rice and stew. He eats too much, too fast. Elegant, he is not. Mannerly, he is not. A good employer? I think not. “Take a leaf out of my book,” he says as I dust the shelves in the room he calls his library. “I am from a small village like you. I came here with nothing. Now I am a very rich man. You too, can be like me.” I have no intention of being like him. On days when I have some time to myself, I walk out of the house and along the street to the shops. The sun never seems to shine here and the sky is low with clouds. I miss the clear blue skies of my home, the hot sun on my back, the heavy scent of the cattle. This country always feels cold to me and I try not to shiver in my thin African clothes. I pass a girl begging at the foot of steps up to a church. She looks as cold as me, sitting there on the concrete, her hand holding out a polystyrene
out of my book coffee cup in the hope of some change. I like it when I reach the shops. I go into the big department store and stand for a moment in the doorway letting the blast of warm air flow down over me. I spend as long as I can in the store, moving from department to department, up and down the escalators. There is one part I love to visit, the ladies’ coats department. I have seen the coat I crave, the coat I would buy if I were as rich as him. It is a soft dove-grey, padded like a quilt and with a hood trimmed in matching fur. I try it on one day, shrugging off my thin jacket and slipping my arms through the silk-lined sleeves. I wrap myself in it, pulling the hood over my head and feel for the first time, warm and... what is the word? Snug. Yes, snug. The sales assistant admires me in it but I glance at the price tag and regretfully hand back the coat to her. But I dream of that coat all the way back home. No, not home. Back to the house where I live – and work. On Fridays, his wife insists he comes to prayers with her. Afterwards, he shuts himself in his library and must not be disturbed. I don’t know what he does there. He doesn’t read the books. He must have bought them in bulk to fill his shelves. Some have reduced stickers on them. They are all unread, hardbacks neatly arranged by size and colour on the shelves. Homer’s Iliad is next to Martina Cole is next to Jane Eyre is next to ... whatever title matches it in height apparently. There is a complete set of Encyclopaedia Britannica along one shelf, dark red leather bindings etched with gold lettering. AU-BE, ST-TA, LI-MO. Even they are out of sequence. I slide the feather duster along the tops of the books and yearn to read them. He does not realise the wealth that many of them contain. Imagination, escapism, learning, knowledge. None of these is he interested in. He only wants money for what it can buy him. But he would notice if I took a book down to read. There would be a gap and even if I only read on Fridays, I would bend the spines, ruffle the pages, meddle with their perfection. I
shouldn’t complain about him. Many maids are worse off than me. He doesn’t beat me, he doesn’t molest me – his wife is too quick and knowing for that – and I do get paid a little. I should be grateful. He brought me here under false pretences. A promise of a home, an education, in return for some domestic duties. A chance for me to better myself, to earn enough to support my family. “I am giving you an education,” he yells at me when I ask if I can go to school to study for exams. “I am teaching you. Follow my example and you will learn everything you need to know. Take a leaf out of my book.”
decide to do as he says. I will take a leaf out of his book. Every one of his books. I will cut out one page from each of them and throw it away. He will never notice as he does not read them but I will know. I find a letter opener, sharp, shaped like a dagger. It will slice down a page very smoothly. It seems like sacrilege to me, to damage a book in this way but I am only doing what he has told me. On Friday I wait till they leave for prayers. Then I slip into the library. I start with the first book on the top left-hand shelf. It is Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe, our most famous writer. I wonder if he has even heard of him. Tentatively I lift it down and open it at a random page. There is a £20 note tucked into the fold. I turn to another page. £10 this time. Notes hide between the pages. I take the paper knife and draw it down the inside of a page. It falls out leaving almost no sign of the cut. I take some of the notes too. Next I lift down Charles Dickens” Great Expectations. It lives up to its title; notes fall from the pages as I open it. I cut out a page and stuff the notes in my pocket. I do the same to each book along the shelf, carefully replacing them in the same random order and making sure he cannot tell that they have been disturbed. The pages I tear into tiny pieces and toss them into a waste bin on my way to a nearby bank. I show my passport, open an account and pay in the money. I do
this every week and he does not notice. I am not stealing, I am only doing as he instructed. Today, though, it is different. I take my passport and go to the bank. Then I visit the travel agent next door where I buy my plane ticket. I leave for home tonight. I have one more thing to do. I have money left over from buying my ticket so I walk to the department store past the girl begging on the church steps. It is beginning to rain again, a cold, drenching rain that seeps through my clothing and chills me to the bone. The girl pulls a thin, grey blanket around herself; her hands are blue, her fingernails rimmed with dirt. She looks ill, ill and uncared for. She hangs her head; she does not look at me as I pass by, merely holds out her cup in desperate hope. In the store, I rush up the escalators to the ladies’ coats. What if it has been sold? What if there are none left in my size? But it is still hanging there, the lustrous grey coat with the silvery fur around the hood. I slip off my wet jacket and try it on once again. It is everything I want it to be, snug and warm, sheltering me from this bitter cold. I look at the price tag and this time, when the assistant approaches, I say, “I’ll take it.” I fly out of the store clutching the bag with the coat inside. As I near the church, I see the girl stand up and empty the cup of the few coins she has collected. She stuffs them in the pocket of her jeans and gathers up the wad of newspaper she has been sitting on. She is about to leave. “Wait!” I call, rushing up. “Here, this is for you. Take it. It will keep you warm and dry.” I tug the coat out of the bag and hand it to her. I help her slip her arms through the sleeves and wrap the coat around her skinny frame. She sighs as she pulls the hood over her head and smiles. Her eyes crinkle up with pleasure. “For me?” I nod and walk on quickly without looking back. I am going to the airport. I am going home. Really home. I have taken a leaf out of his book. I have done what he told me. I have learned much. But I will never be like him.
The third Open Studios Ayrshire art trail promises to be the biggest and best so far. Boasting more than 70 artists and makers, the weekend of April 24-27 looks like it is going to be impressive. SARAH GREEN previews the event. FOR those who have not yet come across Open Studios Ayrshire (OSA), it is a non-profit artistled organisation, which aims to promote artists/makers in Ayrshire whilst supporting one other throughout the year. The hard work culminates in multiple exhibitions over a long weekend in April when artists throw open their studio doors to the public. Exhibitions will take place in various venues across Ayrshire, including the Maclaurin Galleries, Dumfries House and Boswell House, the McKechnie Institute and the Carrick Centre alongside artists’ own studios. Venues stretch from Stewarton to Girvan, from Auchinleck to Troon. This year there are also several art clubs and art groups showcasing their material. Following on from last year’s successes a varied programme of free workshops will be available to the general public, with new workshops for children being delivered by the staff from the Little Art School of Ayr in Girvan, Troon and Ayr. The beautifully produced booklets and information available on the OSA website make it is possible to plan a route over the weekend to create an art trail that takes in an exhilarating landscape of painting, ceramics,
As part of the Open Studios Ayrshire Art Trail this year, four artists will be exhibiting at the Robert Burns Birthplace Museum in Ayr. Debbie Cassels, Stuart Green, George Lockhart, and Linda Todd will be showing their painting and photography on April 25 and 26 as part of a weekend that is showcasing the talents of artists and makers from around Ayrshire. Debbie Cassels is an established amateur artist, regularly exhibiting and selling her work throughout the West of Scotland. Her work, in acrylic, features a bright, warm palette and Debbie uses palette knives and mixed media to create some unique, textured and vibrant contemporary artwork. Open Studios Ayrshire will see pieces from Debbie’s ‘Jiggered’ collection and some ‘Millies’. Millie the cow is a fun piece and a firm favourite for raising money for local charities. The cheeky wee Highland cow peeps out of the canvas adorned with a lovely textured
Open Studios Ayrshire
Birthplace museum is weekend gallery By SARAH GREEN fringe. Millie is a popular image and can be customised to suit any colour or size of room. Some of Debbie’s latest pieces consist of collage, textured materials, text, and have simple ‘jiggered’ shapes. As an added feature each piece contains a clock and a window incorporated into the images. During the weekend Debbie will be working at her easel and will demonstrate how Millie starts off in life, alongside some of the other techniques she uses in her artwork. This will be a wonderful opportunity to see an artist at work and to chat about the process and techniques behind Debbie’s artwork.
For a sneak peek of her work go to: http://www.debbiecassels.co.uk/. Linda Todd is a local artist and an Art Lecturer at Ayrshire College, where she has been teaching for the past 16 years. As a professional artist Linda has drawn on her years of teaching experience and the exotic places in which she lived as a child, to inform her vibrant and quirky work. Last year, the Greenheart Art Gallery encouraged and supported Linda’s solo exhibition and this became a springboard for the reawakening of her keen interest in painting. If you would like a look at some of Linda’s work before the OSA art trail weekend, then get along to the Stagedoor Cafe at The Gaiety In
WORDS:SARAH GREEN glassware, jewellery, mixed media, textiles and photography. Amongst the artists are the well established alongside the up-and-coming and the range of styles on offer means that there will be something to suit everyone’s tastes. The colours, textures and shapes will not disappoint, as the plethora of talent that has emerged from Ayrshire over the last few years will be very much in evidence over the weekend. When an artist throws open his or her studio doors, the general public is privy to a wonderful opportunity and privilege. The story behind a piece of art work is part of the journey to the finished piece, and being able to chat with the creator gives a wonderful insight into the process. Owning a piece of art becomes some much more personal when the artist has explained how the art work came to be. The creative process for each artist or maker is often very different. Listening to the story behind the creativity places the piece of work in context and often helps to further understanding and appreciation. To add to this, some of the artists and makers will be working in their studios and will provide further insight into their creative process. OSA Chairperson Irene Walker says, “These are exciting times for OSA. Come and join us on the art trail where you will have an interesting, informative experience viewing the best of Ayrshire’s art and visit some wonderful studios and venues.” l The OSA run Ayrshire Art Trail takes place over the weekend of 24-27 April at various venues throughout Ayrshire. Visit the website at: http://www.openstudiosayrshire.com/osa2014/ Check out the OenStudiosAyrshire Facebook page or follow them on Twitter at OSAyrshire.
March, where Linda is putting on a solo show consisting of eight paintings in acrylics and this exhibition which will be on show for six weeks. Linda’s paintings are modern, bright and detailed and the use of dots, which bring the images together in her paintings, reflects her background in textiles and is almost aboriginal in style. She too will be hard at work over the weekend demonstrating her skills, techniques and creativity. She is a popular artist with a hugely successful Facebook page and some of her images are now available as striking cushion covers. Check out her work at Linda Todd Art on Facebook. In contrast, George Lockhart is a
painter whose style is influenced by 19th century landscape painters and 20th century portraiture. He uses acrylics to produce vibrant colour. George started to paint six years ago and influences from Monet, Van Gogh, Pisarro, Sisley and the Scottish Colourists are very much in evidence. His subjects are views of the countryside and village life and he also paints portraits in a style that demonstrates an admiration for the work of Lucien Freud. George works mainly in acrylic and occasionally in oils. His landscape pieces burst with colour and movement. George has exhibited regularly over the last few years at the Dunure Artists’ Exhibition in July and exhibits his work
regularly throughout Ayrshire. His artistic practice has benefitted from working under Tom Rennie at Dunure. His work can be seen on his website at: http://georgelockhart.portfoliobox.me/ Stuart Green is a photographer who will be exhibiting images in colour and monochrome of the local landscape, alongside these three other artists. You can learn more about him and his work in a separate article in the centre pages of this issue. l Debbie Cassels, Linda Todd, George Lockhart and Stuart Green will be exhibiting their work in the Robertson Room at the Robert Burns Museum Murdoch’s Lone, Alloway, Ayr KA7 4PQ on April 25 and 26.
through my lens S T U A R T
G R E E N
STUNNING land, sea and skyscapes are the hallmark of photographer Stuart Green’s work, but of all the images he has posted over the years, it is a quirky black-and-white study which has attracted most attention. He calls it Shadow Men and, he says, the idea came to him in a flash of inspiration. “My main interest is in monochrome, and one day I was working with the two boys, Dean Cargill and Daniel Hughes, when I decided to ask them to stand together and just rotate. “I took about 80 shots and selected 12 of them. I just knew it would work.” Many others clearly agree. Among the many responses he has received so far was one from an art lover in a gallery in Italy. But photographers in Ayrshire don’t have to look far for inspiration, adds Stuart. “We are really spoiled here. There’s Croy beach, Ailsa, Culzean and Arran all on our doorstep.” Two of the selections here represent Stuart’s fascination with the relationship between the sun going down and moon rising, particularly when they appear in the sky together, as is the case with Sun and Moon, bottom right. “That is perhaps one of my favourite shots,” says Stuart. “You can’t really arrange shots like these. It’s more about standing in one particular place and waiting for things like this to happen.” The Arran shot, Island Moon, is another example of being in the right place at the right time. “I have been at that location so many times, looking out to the islands and sometimes you just get to know that something special is going to happen. “I really love how the atmospherics can change that scene so much. Sometimes Arran looks quite distant but at other times is looks so close that you could almost reach out and touch it.” As with most of Stuart’s photography, the beautiful tones in Island Moon are as they appeared on the day. “I don’t use filters and tend to do the absolute minimum in Photoshop,” he says.“It’s all down to how lucky we are to have this amazing scenery on out doorstep.”
Of all the images Stuart has posted, Shadow Men (above) has attracted most interest online. Island Moon, left, Sun and Moon, below, and Towards Ailsa, below left, capture the natural beauty of the Ayrshire coast as a photographic location.
l You can see more of Stuartâ€™s work during Open Studios Ayrshire when he will be sharing space with three other artists at the Burns Birthplace Museum in Alloway over the weekend of April 25 and 26.
on the streets
Ayrshire’s arts music & culture magazine
Issue 2 Spring/Summer 2015
Once upon a time, a girl dreamed of becoming a comic artist... then she got the chance to work with some of the biggest names in the Meet business. Rossi
Image: Copyright Rossi Gifford
Gifford on Page 6
E E S RA
F PLEAKEE T N O
inside: IAN RANKIN AT BOSWELL • OPEN STUDIOS • PHOTOGRAPHY
Music, arts and culture in Ayrshire, Scotland