Glasgow University 5th October 2010
James Maxwell meets with celebrated author Fatima Bhutto
Michael Gray-Buchanan reviews Robin Williams' latest offering
University to ‘run out of cash’ in three years Features
UNIVERSITY OF GLASGOW Principal, Anton Muscatelli, has forecast that the university will face insolvency by 2013 unless ‘corrective action’ is taken. In one of the most severe crises to affect the university in its 550 year history, the Principal has stated that a full quarter of the money it is awarded from the Scottish government is likely to go, leaving the university reliant on cost-cutting and greater input from the private sector to survive. Writing in a letter to staff at the university, the principal blamed the poor health of public finances for the move, citing an ‘uncertain financial future unprecedented since the Second World War’.
Film Jani Helle
He went on to predict that the Scottish Funding Council will enact cuts of 20-25% to university funding over the coming years, resulting in an 8-10% reduction to Glasgow University’s overall budget. This would translate into an anticipated £35million operating shortfall, which would cause the university to run out of cash by 2013. The university’s Senior Management Group (SMG) hopes to increase its privately-generated revenue through recruiting more feepaying students, generating more commercial income and encouraging philanthropic giving. Despite these efforts, it believes that this will only generate an extra £15m of the £35m necessary to continue operating, leaving £20m (continued on page 3)
Murano Street stabbing leaves man in hospital A MAN WAS LEFT WITH SERIOUS INJURIES AFTER A violent knife attack outside Murano Street Student Village. The victim, who was not a student at the university, is said to have been walking along the road bordering the halls when he was attacked by three men with knives, at 5.25pm on September 21. Tuesday’s attack, which took place in broad daylight on the corner of Murano Street and Murano Place, was just metres from the entrance to university halls of residence. The suspects then proceeded along Murano Street, before
Nick Sikora escaping in a grey Transit van parked by Benview Street. The victim was taken to Glasgow Western Infirmary to be treated for stab wounds. His condition is currently listed by hospital staff as ‘serious but stable’. The attackers were described as being male, between 30 and 40, with short dark hair. All three were wearing tracksuits. Strathclyde Police, who are investigating the assault, are encouraging anyone with information to contact police.
Detective Sergeant Brian Gribbons said: “Officers have been speaking to local residents and carrying out door-to-door enquiries in a bid to glean more information. At this point in time, there would appear to be no clear motive for this violent and mindless attack. “I would appeal to anyone who was in the area of Murano Street and Benview Street around 17.25 hours this afternoon who may have witnessed the attack, or heard a disturbance, to contact police. (continued on page 4)
5th October 2010
University places fall short of demand
HUNDREDS OF MOURNERS ATTENDED the funeral of Scotland’s first National Poet, Edwin Morgan, who died of pneumonia earlier this month. The funeral of the former University of Glasgow graduate and Professor of English was held in the university’s Bute Hall on Thursday the August 26. Both political and literary figures attended, including Scotland’s First Minister Alex Salmond and, poet and writer Liz Lochead, who read from Morgan’s work. Tributes were paid to Morgan, with a rendition of Burns’ ‘Is there for Honest Poverty,’ and an improvisation of the poem ‘Wolf,’ played by Jazz saxophonist, Tommy Smith. Morgan was remembered with a eulogy delivered by George Reid, former presiding officer of the Scottish Parliament. He described Morgan as: “A great humanist
Scot who, despite all the pyrotechnics of poetry, always wanted to explore existence and what it means to be alive.” Professor Anton Muscatelli, Principal of Glasgow University, had also spoken of Morgan with esteem earlier that week. He commented: “His contribution to poetry and the arts in Scotland and beyond is huge and he will be fondly remembered by a great many people.” Muscatelli went on to describe him as: “One of the finest poets Scotland has ever produced.” Morgan graduated from Glasgow University in 1947 and taught as a lecturer until 1980, becoming Professor of English in 1975. Morgan, who passed away at the age of 90, was awarded an OBE in 1982, appointed as Scotland’s first National Poet in 2004 and penned over 60 poetry books in his lifetime.
THOUSANDS OF STUDENTS HAVE BEEN left without places at Scottish universities, despite the record number of acceptances, according to the University and College Union (UCU). This year saw an increase of 10% in acceptances to Scottish universities, bringing the total number of new students to 20, 651. This record demand meant that many students who passed their Highers have not found themselves with a place at university for this academic year. Concerns grew after the pass rate for Highers rose to 74.6% in August, meaning this year would be one of the toughest yet to find space on a university course.. A-Level results, released later in August, have risen to a pass rate of 97.6%, further affecting admissions into Scottish universities. Due to last year’s university over-recruitment crisis, this year universities are placing stricter controls on the numbers of students being admitted. Last year in the UK, the number of undergraduates rose by 6% from 2008, exceeding caps imposed by the Government. As a result universities were faced with millions of pounds worth of fines. This year, universities have not been allowed to increase the number of places, despite Conservative promises ‘to create more college and university places’. It was announced that many qualified students would not get places after clearing, due to the high demand and pressure on universities to avoid the penalties incurred by exceeding the caps.
His comments come at a critical time in the university funding debate. The Browne review of Higher Education Funding and Student Finance is expected to report its findings in October. It is predicted to call for a rise in tuition fees for England and Wales and is likely to influence the Scottish Government’s position on higher education funding. The Scottish Conservative Party has also unveiled a new policy with regards to university funding, which calls for graduates to pay for their tuition after they start earning a specified amount. Graduates from ’prestige’ degrees such as medicine will be expected to pay back more than those from less prestigious degrees. The move has support from a number of influential figures. Vincent Cable, Liberal Democrat Business Secretary and University of Glasgow Alumnus has already spoken in favor of forcing graduates to pay higher rates. Tommy Gore, President of the SRC explained the SRC’s stance on the issue.
He said: “Whilst the SRC welcomes the fact that Muscatelli has made a statement as to his opinions, rather than sitting on the fence like many of his colleagues, and whilst we think that a Graduate Tax is certainly preferable to the options that are likely to come out of the Browne Review (such as increasing tuition fees), we're still not fully signed up to the idea. “For us to be fully convinced, those who are proposing a Graduate Tax need to spell out far more clearly than they currently have done what the mechanisms of such a tax will be.” Gore went on to highlight the concerns the SRC have with a graduate tax. He explained: “For instance, how will it apply to EU students? Will it be administered by the Scottish Government with tax-levying powers as recommended by the Calman Commission, or by Westminster? If the former, how does this apply to English, Welsh and Northern Irish students? Will the tax be linked directly to the University that the student studied at, or into a nationwide pot?
National poet mourned Christine McIntosh
Mary Senior, Scottish official for UCU, criticised Government caps. She said: “The fact that thousands more students will miss out on the opportunity to better themselves is tragic. The situation exposes the folly of the decision to cap student places and to impose such heavy penalties for universities who over-recruit. “Other countries are increasing the number of graduates to compete in a high-skill knowledge economy while Scotland stands still. It is now imperative we find funding to ensure we close this skills gap.” Due to the recession, applicant numbers have increased over the past two years. The new Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition government aimed to help qualified students get places at university. This was outlined in the Conservative manifesto earlier this year. UCU General Secreteary, Sally Hunt, criticised the government. She said: “The government's refusal to fund sufficient places, but threaten institutions with fines for over-recruitment, means we will see thousands desperately fighting over the few places available through Clearing or facing an uncertain job market. With punitive cuts planned for both further and higher education we risk consigning a whole generation to the scrapheap of inactivity.” David Willetts, Universities Minister, called for students to lower their expectations and apply to less competative universities next year. It is estimated that up to 200, 000 students have missed out on a university place this year.
“Until these questions, and more, are answered, we at the SRC don't feel comfortable in supporting a graduate tax.” Scottish Government MSPs have already voted against students having to pay up-front tuition fees, but they failed to back the Scottish Conservatives in saying that there was a consensus for a graduate contribution. However, a Scottish Government spokesperson welcomed Muscatelli’s comments. He said: “To find a ‘uniquely Scottish’ solution the Cabinet Secretary has initiated a debate involving government, universities and students about how higher education will be paid for in future. “Professor Muscatelli’s comments are a welcome contribution to this ongoing debate. No decisions will be made until all those who have an interest have offered their views. “The Cabinet Secretary has made clear he wants to ensure all sensible ideas, no matter how radical, are given a chance to be aired. Only one measure has been ruled out – tuition fees.”
Anton Muscatelli calls for graduate tax
GLASGOW UNIVERSITY'S PRINCIPAL, Anton Muscatelli has called for a graduate tax to help fund universities. The tax, which is one of several options being considered to see greater financial returns from the higher education sector, would leave graduates paying higher rates of tax on their earnings than non-graduates. Muscatelli claimed that a graduate contribution would be the fairest way to fill gaps in higher education funding, in a speech at the Scottish Conservative Party Higher Education Conference. He also used the opportunity to call for tuition fees to be ruled out of the ongoing debate on university funding. He said: “A graduate contribution model, if properly designed, could be a very progressive model, in which those who earn more during their lifetime pay back more to society in order to fund higher education.”
University faces funding crisis 5th October 2010
•£35million shortfall anticipated by Principal
•Fears over job cuts and course cancellations
(continued from front page) to be saved through cuts to university services and research. Due to this, the SMG has also stated that it hopes to reduce university outgoings through various cost-saving initiatives, such as reducing money spent on estates and energy, encouraging efficiency savings within departments, and reducing employment costs. The news has sparked fears of a fresh wave of redundancies across the university, as well as the sale of land and property. Less popular courses, which are often a drain on administration and resources, could also face the axe. Tommy Gore, President of the Students’ Representative Council (SRC), stated that the university should seek to protect teaching services and attempt to cut costs elsewhere. He said: “It's hard to comment precisely on the nature of funding at Glasgow until we hear the announcement from the Scottish Funding Council as to the amount that Glasgow will be getting in the very near future. However, up until that point we think
the University needs to be careful, and to prioritise increasing revenue and decreasing costs not directly related to learning and teaching as a first measure to solve any financial problems that might be faced in the future. “As I’ve said all along, I fully support the restructure of the University, but it's now up to the University senior management to ensure that this restructure does what it was supposed to do - to bring in the extra money from interdisciplinary research which the restructuring was supposed to facilitate. “Our main concern at the SRC is the impact that this could have on staff morale, and the knock on effect then from this to the learning and teaching at Glasgow.” His sentiments were echoed by the University and College Union (UCU), who warned that cutbacks could have ramifications across Scottish society. Previous attempts at cutting costs were prevented by the UCU, who assisted in forcing a climb-down on compulsory redundancies in the faculties of Education, and Biological and Life Sciences, following a vote in favour of strike action over the summer.
A spokesman for the UCU said: “While the UCU will scrutinise closely the University's figures, it is clear that difficult decisions will have to be made in the near future. University of Glasgow staff have already shown their determination to resist the imposition of decisions that would damage teaching and research, and will do so again if required. “For the benefit of current and future students, and to ensure that Scotland retains its enviable position in world research and learning, the uncertainty surrounding the funding of higher education must be resolved by the Scottish Government. The debate on how best to utilise that funding and determining the future academic direction of our institutions must involve university staff and the communities they serve, not just a select number of highly paid managers. ” Despite the funding crisis the university faces, its Principal asserts that Glasgow is in a better position than many universities to weather it. Muscatelli said that the university had a sound financial position before cuts were proposed, unlike many universities facing
similar budgetary crises, and that an investment strategy already in place will help focus remaining funding into the most beneficial areas, with the recent university restructure aiding the process. A spokesperson for the university said: “All world-leading universities have to put in place robust financial plans for the future - to do otherwise would be irresponsible. Given the likely economic future facing UK higher education, the University's management team are in a planning phase which will help us to face up to what will be a very difficult period for all universities. “We are looking to generate more income to make up any shortfall and at the same time are considering ways in which we can cut expenditure. “The University of Glasgow is in a good financial position compared with others in the sector and we have built up a reputation over the past decade for strong and responsible financial management. This is what we are doing in the current climate.” The UK Government will outline cuts to the Scottish Government by October end.
Concerns raised for student safety
(continued from front page) "We are keen to speak to anyone who recognises the suspects by their descriptions or anyone who saw the three men or the Transit van in the area prior to the incident happening, or making off afterwards. “They may hold vital information which could help move our enquiries forward.” The attack comes less than a week after an earlier knife attack in the region. The second attack, again not involving students, took place on September 17 in nearby North Park Street, opposite the canal that runs adjacent to the halls. The suspect, described as a white male in his late teens wearing glasses, attacked his victim’s face with a blade before fleeing without being caught. The victim, also male, was taken by ambulance to Glasgow Royal Infirmary, where he was treated for facial slash wounds. The police are appealing for witnesses. DC Bernadette Walls said: “We have no clear motive for the assault at this time; however officers have been carrying out door to door enquiries and checking local CCTV. “The area would have been particularly busy at this time as people were leaving a rugby match at Firhill Stadium. I would appeal to anyone who was in the area of North Park Street at this time and who saw anything or anyone acting suspiciously to contact us.” SRC President, Tommy Gore, encouraged students to be vigilant when travelling to and from the halls, and make use of SRC services where possible. He said: “We'd urge students to stick in groups of 3 or more where possible, as well as
5th October 2010
Jonathan Nicholson making use of the SRC's free campus to halls minibuses and only using routes which are well lit and well used. “Obviously we're concerned with attacks like this, particularly where they are in close proximity to students and halls, and we'll be looking to encourage the police to make sure they have a visible presence, particularly around Murano Street.” The university was keen to reassure students that it takes their safety seriously. A spokesperson said: "The personal safety of students is of paramount importance and
the University takes incidences of this kind though thankfully rare and not involving one of our students - very seriously. “The University and Strathclyde Police work closely together to ensure student safety and Residential Services regularly host presentations from site wardens and Community Police Officers covering safety issues. Students are encouraged to be vigilant and report any safety concerns to staff. “However, it should also be noted that there have been no significant incidents directly involving students during Fresher's Week."
Gore also stressed the importance of the university working with the police. He said: “I think the University should be concerned; if any student was to be the victim of an attack, it would obviously leave them with a grim impression of student life at Glasgow. “I'd therefore also urge the University to ensure that the security at Murano Street maintain a visible presence, and to liaise with the police to ensure that they can also be seen in the area.” People with information can contact Maryhill CID on 0141 532 3700,
Departmental restructure comes into effect
Adam Campbelll professional way in which our staff approached
University of Glasgow
THE UNIVERSITY HAS INTRODUCED A COMPLETE overhaul of its academic system. The restructure, overseen by Principal Muscatelli, pictured left, resulted in a shift from a faculty based system into a collegiate network of schools. It aimed to improve interdisciplinary research and distribution of funds. The university had previously consisted of nine faculties. These have since been grouped into four colleges; the College of Arts, the College of Medical, Veterinary and Life Sciences, the College of Science and Engineering and the College of Social Sciences. A university spokesperson explained why the university felt that the restructure, which brought Glasgow University into line with its Russell group counterparts, had to happen now. He said: “The restructure happened at this time as the Senior Management Group felt that to build on the university's significant achievements of recent years, a new structure was called for and to delay any longer would have a negative impact on the University." Speaking of the implementation of the new collegiate system, he continued: “In terms of challenges, clearly a reorganisation on the scale that was undertaken and in the timescale was in itself a major challenge. However, the
the task and engaged with the process minimised these challenges.” It is also hoped to help with the university’s Strategic Aim of being one of the top 50 universities in the world and in the top 10 for the UK. Despite worries about the impact the restructure would have on students, the changeover has so far been smooth. Tommy Gore, President of the SRC, encouraged students to speak up if they feel that they have been adversely affected by the new system. He said: “We think restructuring has generally been successful, it is likely that there are isolated issues in small pockets for the students. Whilst some of these have been brought to our attention, and we're currently working with the University to find solutions, there could well be some that we've missed - and that's where students come in. “If restructuring has affected you in anyway, it's important that you bring it up with your class reps, your College Convenor or with the Executive team here at the SRC.”
5th October 2010
Money raised for Pakistan floods IN BRIEF Amy Cochrane
GLASGOW UNIVERSITY HAS GAINED vital funds from the Scottish Government for university-led rebuilding projects in Pakistan. The initiatives, financed by the Scottish Government’s International Development Fund for South Asia and Humanitarian Assistance Programme for Pakistan, aim to provide emergency homes in the rural parts of the country for families whose own homes were destroyed in the catastrophe. The projects are to be conducted by the Heritage Foundation, a Pakistan-based Non Govermental Organisation (NGO), and the University of Glasgow. It is hoped that the money raised will contribute to disaster management and rehabilitation of women and children in the north of the country. In total, 21 million people are thought to have been left injured or homeless by the floods, which occured due to severe monsoon floods. The flooding began in July and have
been described as the worst floods to hit Pakistan for 80 years. The initiative has been divided into two projects, the first of which will be used to build emergency homes at a low cost, using sustainable local resources. The second of these projects will help to teach victims disaster management skills and try to ensure that the same results may be avoided in any further flooding. They aim to educate the locals in areas such as hazard preparations and post disaster actions. The main driving forces behind the project in Glasgow are Dr Peter and Dr Azra Meadows from the College of Medical, Vetinary and Life sciences. They are working with Yasmeen Lari, the CEO of the Heritage Foundation in Pakistan. Dr Peter Meadows said: “I am delighted with the Scottish Government's commitment to funding humanitarian aid to developing countries in South Asia, and in particular to Pakistan
following the catastrophic floods there. “This is extremely important in view of the huge scale of the flood disaster and the current geopolitical scene in the area.” Yasmeen Lari, the Pakistan-based partner in the operation, was also encouraged by the announcement. She said: “We are delighted to receive news of the two Scottish Government grants to the University of Glasgow and Heritage Foundation for projects in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Province. Both grants will provide assistance to post disaster communities that will enable them to restart their lives. “I am confident that the two newly funded projects will further strengthen the working partnership between the University of Glasgow and Heritage Foundation, and will allow us to rapidly expand our joint work on strategies for early recovery and sustainable development of post-disaster and post-conflict communities.”
Glasgow Uni rises in Rankings
THE UNIVERSITY OF GLASGOW HAS risen in the latest QS World University Rankings and the National Student Survey The university now ranks at 77th in the QS World University Rankings, which puts the university in the top 1% of institutions in the world and is one of three Scottish universities in the top 100. This is a rise by two places on last year’s position. Glasgow University now ranks as 13th in the UK and Second in Scotland. The university has also improved its performance in the National Student Survey, with more students completing the survey. 90% of final year students at the university are satisfied with their course, which puts the university 6th in the UK. This is a rise of four points, bringing Glasgow University’s score to 75%, behind the national average of 82%. Within this ten subject areas at Glasgow topped their discipline in the UK.
Madeline Albright visits University Claire Maxwell
AbdulMajeed Goraya / IRIN
Former US Secretary of State Madeline Albright visited the University of Glasgow to launch a new scholarship in Czech and Central European Studies. The Phd scholarship, worth €15,000, will run for four years and is being supported by the Czech Foreign Office. The Czech Government supported the scholarship in recognition of the reputation of Czech Studies at Glasgow. It did this under the recommendation of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the Parliament of the Czech Republic.
5th October 2010
SRC back clampdown on rogue landlords Allan McKinnon and Linda Weber A SUGGESTED CHANGE TO CURRENT law aims to put a stop to rogue landlords unlawfully retaining tenant’s deposits. The new law will introduce a Tenancy Deposit Scheme (TDS), which puts deposits in the hands of a third party in an effort to protect both landlords and tenants. The Students’ Representative Council (SRC) has joined other charities, such as Shelter, in lobbying the Scottish Government to introduce the TDS. A similar scheme has already in place in England and Wales since 2004. The Scottish Government is currently considering two seperate bills, which will reform housing legislation in Scotland, called the Housing Bill and Property Factors Bill. Though legal action may be taken against landlords who illegally retain deposits with no legal grounds to do so, it does not prevent them from offending again. The SRC has asked the government to consider ‘an escalating scale of sanctions’ imposed on landlords who do not adhere to the new laws, culminating in banning those who frequently offend against the new law. It is possible that many students at Glasgow University may have been cheated out of hundreds of pounds, and the government estimates that hundreds of thousands of pounds per year is being pocketed by landlords who have no right to do so. Andrew Lindsay, a forth year Film and TV student, described the situation as ‘very stressful,’ as he recounted his experience in trying to get his deposit back, and explained that now he couldn’t find a good flat as they were all taken. At present the SRC offers support to students in helping students with housing problems. Last year, the SRC claimed almost £100,000 back for students of Glasgow University, much of that from deposits through helping students contact
the right people and putting landlords through small claims court action in order to retrieve students’ money. Of the 258 accomodation-based cases the SRC dealt with last year through the advice centre, 45 were deposit based. Deposit based cases are time consuming and complex, taking up 14% of total casework, despite only constituting 4% of total cases the SRC process. Fraser Sutherland, SRC Vice-President of Student Support, emphasised the importance of the scheme. He said: “This is a key concern for our students and one which without proper legislation in place isn’t likely to go away, we hope the Scottish Government take this opportunity to wipe out this problem once and for all. “These new proposed laws give a fantastic opportunity for private accommodation deposits to be protected in a way unseen before in Scotland. We are keen to see this adopted as soon as possible.” Dundee University Students’ Association has backed the SRC in lobbying for the TDS. The SRC has also introduced the SRC SLAP (Student Letting Agency Prize) award, which is given to the landlord who receives the most complaints. The SRC are proud that their SLAP prize, awarded at the end of each academic year, has led to improvements by landlords and letting agencies, such as Cairn Properties, winners of the 2008 SLAP. The most recent winner of the SLAP was Mrs Raham, a Glasgow-based landlord who often deals with students. The SRC would like to see more done to protect students such as registration of private landlords. Although, the SRC emphasised that it is also up to students to report problems, as the more they use the SRC advice centre, the stronger and more vocal they came become in helping students.
Unions report succesful freshers week Josepha Reynolds live music venue, for the first time since its
NEW STUDENTS AT THE UNIVERSITY have been welcomed by a host of Freshers’ Week events. The week, running this year from September 13-17, included a number of features arranged by student services and organisations. Helpers from a number of student bodies, including the student unions, the Students’ Representative Council and the Glasgow University Sports Association spent the week moving new students into halls and stirring up support for their various events. The GUU began the week with Northern Ireland-based band ‘Two Door Cinema Club’ playing in their Debates Chamber, whilst the QMU launched their new club night, ‘Quids’, on Tuesday. The week also provided an opportunity for many students to visit Qudos, the QMU’s
summer renovation. GUSA took over the Stevenson Building for the week, allowing them to play host to the association’s annual Sports Fair, in which representatives of a number of sporting disciplines were available to advise students on joining societies for the coming year. The SRC continued providing their bus services from university halls to the university campus, allowing safe travel for new students unfamiliar with the university. The week was widely regarded as a success by both students and organisers, with Colin Woods, GUU president, stating that it was their “busiest week on record.” His comments were echoed by QMU President Iain Smith, who claimed that ‘Quids’ was an outstanding success. He said: “I’m thrilled that once again the
Queen Margaret Union has enjoyed a fantastically successful Freshers’ Week. Thousands of freshers enjoyed the events and activities arranged by the Board and staff and helped us to have one of the busiest Freshers' Week's in recent years. “Particular mention must go to the launch of our new club night, Quids, which saw over a thousand new students making the most of the new night in the refurbished Qudos.” Tommy Gore, President of the SRC, said that despite having sold fewer passes than in previous years, the event was a success. Particular praise has been awarded to the week’s freshers’ helpers, who gave their time to assist in organising the event. He said: “From speaking to a large number of helpers from across the student bodies, all I spoke to said the same thing - that this year had been the best Freshers’ Week they had ever
been part of, better even than their own, and were looking forward to getting involved next year.” Union presidents were also keen to stress the importance of help from the volunteers, with Iain Smith highlighting that the “QM’s Helper team this year were outstanding, their enthusiasm and commitment can only be commended, and much of the success of the week has to be attributed to their hard work and friendliness.” Colin Woods was “Really happy with our team this year, no complaints at all and no matters of discipline.” This contrasts to last year, when the freshers’ helpers party was ended early as a result of high-profile vandalism to the QMU and incidents of assult by GUU personelle, which lead to the resignation of the GUU assistant honours secretary.
The end of independence?
5th October 2010
Alex Salmond has shelved plans for an independence referendum. Where now for the SNP, asks James Maxwell?
ast week, the Scottish National Party formally abandoned its proposal to hold a referendum on the question of Scotland’s independence from the United Kingdom within the life-span of this
parliament. Announcing the decision, First Minister Alex Salmond said he would rather withdraw the referendum bill from the legislative process altogether than watch it be defeated in a vote at Holyrood on the eve of the 2011 elections. The move was greeted with derision by opposition parties. Scottish Labour leader Iain Gray accused the SNP minority government of being in "complete disarray", while Conservative Deputy leader Murdo Fraser described it as having "totally run out of steam". Certainly, the charisma that Salmond has projected up until now and which supplied much of his party’s appeal has lost some of its gloss. When the SNP took office for the first time in May 2007, following an electoral campaign built around the theme of a newly assertive and confident national identity, it was heralded as pivotal moment in Scottish politics. Five decades of unshakeable Labour dominance were over and a fresh, bright dawn of dynamic policy-making, centred around the principal of radical constitutional reform, seemed to have broken. In its first six months, Salmond’s administration - without majority support in the chamber - introduced a raft of populist social democratic measures, including the freezing of the council tax, the scrapping of the graduate endowment and the phased abolition of prescription charges. Despite the relentless pressure applied by an almost uniformly hostile press, the British economy’s sudden lunge into recession at the end of 2008 and the controversy over the release of the Lockerbie Bomber, the SNP enjoyed an extended honeymoon with the voters. Opinion polls even had the Nationalists sitting comfortably ahead of Labour well into 2009. When I interviewed the First Minister in November of last year he told me the SNP’s popularity was a consequence of its decisiveness and its commitment to an over-arching project. “There is a general respect for the government’s ability to make decisions”, he said with characteristic self-assurance, “and even when people don’t agree with us, there is respect for an administration that gets on with things. Our sense of direction is the most important aspect (of our success).” “Also, having a principled objective is in short supply in politics. The principle of independence for Scotland, whatever
people think about it, designates the SNP as a principled party with a principled objective which in a sea of charlatans is an advantage we have”. Twelve months on and that principled objective remains, but the likelihood of it being achieved any time in the foreseeable future has massively decreased. The tide began to turn against Salmond when it started to look like the Conservatives could win the General Election. Reflexively, Scots, who have become progressively less susceptible to the appeal of Conservative leaders, sought refuge in the safest place they knew - the Labour Party. Remarkably, although Labour’s vote on May 5th all but collapsed in England and Wales it actually significantly increased north of the border. The Scottish electorate, repulsed and resentful at the prospect of further, un-mandated Tory rule, went into defensive mode. Meanwhile, the SNP, which had aimed somewhat optimistically to triple its numbers in the House of Commons to twenty returned just six MPs. Since then Labour’s supportRuby Wight with regards to voting intentions at the Holyrood
Alex Salmond has only one option: he must make a bold, uncompromising bid to occupy the left-of-centre ground in Scottish politics elections has been steadily climbing and now sits at around 40%, while the SNP’s has sunk to around 30%. I pause to note two ironies in this dramatic reversal of fortunes. The first is that Labour, campaigning against the SNP on an anti-cuts platform, is itself responsible for the circumstances which make those cuts necessary. Profligate spending and a failure to properly regulate an out-of-control financial sector while in government precipitated the economic slump. The second, that it is Scotland’s very loyalty to the Labour Party that keeps it shackled to the system which allows for illegitimate Tory rule. Labour’s unyielding commitment to the Union means Scots have to accept Westminster government, whatever form it takes. However, the SNP does not have time to pour over the ironies and injustices of the modern political world. There is every chance that in eight months it will be flung back onto the opposition benches and, as a result of the recent announcement,
it cannot rely on its traditional rallying call for an immediate plebiscite on independence as its dominant point of reference in public debate. The raison d’ etre of the nationalist movement is full, unqualified Scottish self-governance. The devolution settlement and all its possible variants (full-fiscal autonomy, partial tax raising powers etc) are viewed by SNP members as barely tolerable but necessary compromises on the road to independence. Where, then, does the party turn when that path has been blocked? How does it establish a definitive identity when it has nothing to distinguish itself in the ‘sea of charlatans’? s I see it, Alex Salmond has only one option: he must make a bold, uncompromising bid to occupy the left-of-centre ground in Scottish politics. Scottish political culture is defined by its opposition to the kind of Thatcherite economics embodied in the policies of the current Conservative administration. The party that can establish a monopoly on that opposition and develop a credible, positive social democratic alternative will be the party most in tune with the instincts of the Scottish people. It will also reap the electoral rewards in May. Of course, the SNP is already a recognisably social democratic organisation. But there has been ambiguity on key issues. Salmond was close to a number of high profile bankers prior to the crash and is on record as having criticized the Financial Services Authority for imposing ‘gold-plated’ regulations on the City of London. There is also a small but influential constituency in his party that is resolutely pro-business and share sympathies with the Blair and Mandelson school of ‘modernisation’. To some extent, Salmond has begun to resolve, or at least address, these ambiguities. Setting out his final legislative programme of this parliament at Holyrood last Wednesday, the First Minister announced plans to turn Scottish Water into a public enterprise. This constitutes a stark rejection of the growing consensus among other parties that it should be sold on to private capital. This is a good start, but in my view a further, more dramatic, gesture is needed. The SNP should commit itself to a maximum wage of no more than five times that of the average working wage and challenge Labour, in this ‘age of austerity’, to do the same. It would be fascinating to see how Labour under its new leader, Ed Milband, responds. The skies over Salmond’s head have darkened since he first took office three years ago; the electorate’s sense of selfconfidence and optimism, a key element in his rise to power, has dissipated. But it would be profoundly foolish to write-off a political operator as canny and daring as this Nationalist leader.
Six letters that haun 8 FEATURES
5th October 2010
Writer and activist Fatima Bhutto talks to James Maxwell about living in a dangero not expect it. Across South Asia people expect it, and they have to learn not to expect it because it is not democratic”. I ask if in distancing herself from dynasty she is also trying to escape the legacy of her second name, from the vast weight of expectation and the danger that it carries? She denies it: the name is nothing more than six letters that follow Fatima. But then she confesses, “When I meet somebody I always introduce myself as Fatima, I don’t throw in the second bit. If I’m going to put my name down for something I put Fatima then I put ‘B’. I suppose it is more significant to other people than to me…” hutto is in the UK to promote her new book, Songs of Blood and Sword, which charts the history of her family as it becomes increasingly interwoven with Pakistan’s wider social and political drama. It is a perceptive and touching, but also unflinching, account of the Bhutto story. She refuses, for instance, to overlook the complicity of her revered grandfather in Pakistan’s catastrophic military campaign against Bangladeshi separatism in the early 70s, a campaign which resulted in the deaths of at least one million people. She doesn’t shrink either from discussing the fraught relationship she had with her now estranged birth mother, nor the murkier episodes of Murtaza and Shanawaz’s period of armed opposition to the Zia regime. Sub-titled A Daughter’s Memoir, it also functions as an unofficial investigation into the still un-resolved circumstances surrounding her father’s assassination. Controversially, Bhutto is convinced that Benazir, Prime Minister at the time of his death, was directly involved. Citing the findings of an official inquiry she writes, “The tribunal made several important rulings. It concluded that Murtaza Bhutto’s death was a premeditated assassination… that the police used an excessive amount of force and left the injured man to die on the road…(and) that the order to assassinate Murtaza Bhutto must have come from the highest level of government”. Bhutto believes Benazir, with whom she was exceptionally close as child, developed a thirst for power after her first brief stint in office in the 1980s. As time progressed that thirst became insatiable until, latterly, she was willing to do anything - even commit fratricide - to satisfy it.
, 1985, 1996, 2007. Every decade for the last four decades, a member of Fatima Bhutto’s family has died violently. First, her grandfather, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, the former Prime Minister of Pakistan, was executed by General Zia ul-Haq following a military seizure of power. Then her uncle, Shanawaz, followed, poisoned in his flat in the south of France. Next, her own father, Murtaza, was assassinated in Karachi. Finally, her complex, ambitious aunt, Benazir, was shot in the neck as her convoy slowly rolled through a crowd at an election rally in Rawalpindi. The pattern, she says, wasn’t immediately apparent, and only really appeared some months after Benazir’s death. “But then I realised there is no pattern”, she adds, “except to say that it happened once every ten years. Now I have stopped trying to look for a more mathematically precise equation because just the bluntness of that realisation is enough”. I meet Bhutto in Edinburgh, on a hot Sunday in August, shortly before she takes to the stage for an event at the International Book Festival. As an author, activist and journalist, she enjoys a high profile in Pakistan, contributing to all the major debates, inflicting damage, where possible, on the vested interests she believes are crippling her county. At 28 she is as beautiful as her aunt once was. She is said to recoil at the comparison but it strikes you instantly: the same thick, glossy black hair, huge brown eyes and flawless skin. She speaks like Benazir too, calmly and forcefully, occasionally flashing a sly or ironic smile. But there the similarities, to her aunt and to a whole generation of Bhuttos, end. Fatima has rejected the politics of dynasty. This rejection, she tells me, “is a way to cut a cycle that has gone on in Pakistani politics for too long. It is a way of breaking loose, of saying that dynasty is not tolerable and that the people should
"I want to cut a cycle that has gone on in my country for too long. Dynasty is not tolerable and people should not expect it. Accross South Asia people expect it and they have to learn not to because it is not democratic" “Benazir entered politics for genuine reasons,” she explains, not without a hint of discomfort and regret. “I think she was sincere about her opposition to the coup that overthrew her father because she believed she had a voice and a role to play. But, unfortunately, the nature of power, the nature of the beast, is that it mutates very quickly, and with Benazir, it mutated” When Murtaza returned to Pakistan in 1993 after a lengthy exile he launched himself into parliamentary politics. He was immensely popular. He stood on a radical platform, agitating for the redistribution of feudal lands and the nationalisation of key industries. However, his presence created a tension. As the
first born male child, his claim to be the rightful heir of Zulfikar Ali’s legacy was stronger than his sister‘s. Benazir, it is alleged, took the necessary steps to secure her position. Murtaza Bhutto was gunned down by the Karachi police force outside his home in the south of the city on September 27th 1996. Fourteen year-old Fatima was inside, cowering in a corridor as the shots cracked by the window, her arms wrapped protectively around her little brother.
Songs of Blood and Sword charts the history of her family as it becomes increasingly interwoven with Pakistan's wider social and political drama Writing and researching Songs of Blood and Sword took the best part of six years, during which Bhutto was forced to mentally re-live the event over and over again. The experience was traumatic: she broke-down frequently and suffered countless sleepless nights. But a resolute desire to hold to account those she considers responsible drove her on. “Because of the way he was killed there was no distance between me and his murder. It was outside the house. I watched him die. There was no space for me to take from what happened on that night. But in a country where you don’t have access to justice, you don’t have access to law and order, it is very difficult to trust in the system and that lack of trust means that you take it upon yourself to know as much as you can”. “And I wanted to know. I needed to know”, she continues, her voice hardening. “The fact that so much had been withheld from us from the beginning was infuriating. Milan Kundera said, ‘The struggle of people against power is the struggle of memory against forgetting’. For me what was so important about this book was memory, and if I didn’t have the courage to face up to those very difficult things, how could I expect reporters to? Or the media? Or memory". Not that forgetting was ever an option for Bhutto. Her family legacy is too consuming to be simply disowned - four close relatives murdered and a nation torn apart. Astonishingly, though, she displays no trace of bitterness toward her father for having embraced what he perceived as his dynastic obligation. Instead, she says she understands why he felt compelled enter the perilous world of Pakistani politics, despite the fact it ultimately cost him his life. "My father had lived and campaigned for many years outside Pakistan and when he realised his efforts weren't producing the results he wanted, he decided to enter politics. I do regret that dynasty coloured so much after he returned "But more than anything I regret that until this day in Pakistan you still can't judge someone on their ideas, you judge them according to their name and according their bloodline. Today, you do not even have to come from a so-called productive or good dynasty. I mean you just have to come from a powerful family, that's all that matters. The only qualification is genetics". f Kundera’s maxim is correct, and a healthy collective memory is the mark of an open, stable democracy, few countries are in as advanced a state of senility as Pakistan. Since its inception in 1947, it has spent a total of 33 years in the grip of military rule. Journalists, activists, lawyers and politicians are arrested or killed on an almost daily basis. The judiciary is at best partially independent. Many mainstream media
nt a nation 5th October 2010
ous country with a dangerous name outlets answer directly to government ministers. Elections, on those irregular occasions they actually occur, are usually heavily rigged. Underlying all this is the crushing poverty of more than a third of the country’s 180 million people. 60 million survive on less than two dollars a day. 70 per cent are illiterate. Then there are the floods, the Islamist insurgents and the American drone attacks. Above all, though, there is the corruption, which exists on an industrial scale. Bhutto is a leading dissident and critic of the state. She blames the military and the two major political parties - the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) and the Muslim League - for the lion’s share of the corruption and, as she puts it, “chronic political malfeasance”. “On paper, Pakistan ought to be rich”, she says. “It is oil producing, it is gas producing, it has coal, it has the agricultural land to grow the food, it has an educated middle class. It has everything that ought to feed the people. But somehow that doesn’t translate to the Pakistan you see”. “Take the success of the Taliban. Why is it they are so popular just now - because they are popular. They are popular because they fill a vacuum that the state has left over the last thirty years, because there are no schools. There is a system of ghost schools where the government takes money from the IMF to build fifty schools in a village and the shell of a building is constructed, a ribbon is cut and that’s it. There are no teachers hired, no pupils enrolled”. In one of those dark twists of fate that characterise so much of Pakistani history, the man who currently occupies the office of President - who sits right at the heart of all the corruption
Since its inception, Pakistan has spent a total of 33 years in the grip of military rule. Journalists, lawyers, activists and politicians are arrested on a daily basis. Elections, on those irregular occasions they occur, are usually heavily rigged and malfeasance - is Asif Ali Zardari, Benazir’s widower and Bhutto’s former uncle-in-law. Zardari assumed leadership of the PPP in the wake of Benazir’s death. Riding a wave of popular outrage and grief, he led the party to a landslide victory in the 2008 general election. o far, his tenure has been disastrous. One of his first acts was to sanction an escalation of American military activity in the North-West frontier province which borders Afghanistan’s eastern rim. The decision resulted in the deaths of hundreds of civilians and further eroded Pakistani sovereignty. More recently, in July and August of this year, as floods swept across his country, submerging nearly a third of its land mass, Zardari chose to make his debut on the international stage by embarking on an extended tour of Europe. As Pakistan drowned, Zardari lunched with David Cameron at Chequers and dined with President Sarkozy and Carla Bruni in the opulence of the Elysee Palace. Ordinary Pakistanis were furious. When government officials visited flood survivors they were physically attacked. Even the habitually supine press began to protest, broadcasting images which contrasted the glamour of the President’s trip with the destitution wrought by the deluge.
For Bhutto, Zardari’s incompetence, his profound disinterest in the plight of his people, are grimly predictable, the measure of man who sees politics as a means to profit, not public service: “His corruption is legendary, not just in Pakistan but in South Asia. During his wife’s two governments the first couple were accused by The New York Times of having taken $2 to 3 billion from the state. That is not to say he is the only corrupt leader. The Sharifs of the Muslim League are also corrupt, and the army has its share of corruption. But Zardari is a particularly venal figure when it comes to the issue of corruption”. Zardari has never enjoyed the same level of support as his deceased wife. Growing up in a wealthy feudal family, he had a reputation as a vain and spoilt playboy. His marriage to Benazir was one of convenience, hastily arranged to provide her with the
Bhutto herself has been the target of state censorship and intimidation. After Zardari took office the weekly column she wrote for a national newspaper was stopped without explanation cover of marital respectability, a necessary quality for a female politician in a still deeply conservative society. He was considered a safe, neutral, apolitical choice. But nobody anticipated the depth of his ambition. Following Benazir, he appears to be developing an intense desire for power, and that desire is beginning to manifest itself in an increasingly authoritarian style. “Last year Zardari passed a piece of legislation called the ‘Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act’, which makes it a crime to satirise, spoof, or ‘character-assassinate’ the person of the president”, Bhutto explains. “It makes it illegal to have an e-mail address not registered in your full name - that’s a jail sentence of six months. (His government) is aiming to control all forms of communication, even short-wave radio and text messaging. The list is quite ridiculous. The law is purposefully vague, but the purpose is fear”. “And when he was in the UK as the floods raged, he addressed a rally in Birmingham, a rally of his own party members, and a pair of shoes were thrown at him. This is considered a huge insult in Pakistan. The Daily Telegraph wrote about it, Al Jazeera wrote about it. But in Pakistan, Geo, which is the largest 24 hour news channel, was shut down and cable operators were threatened. The day after the incident, Jang,
"Since my book has come out - and under this government - it has been dangerous for me to be in there. But the thought of leaving is not one I am comfortable with at all. Pakistan deserves my fidelity" which is the largest newspaper in the country, had its morning edition delayed”. Bhutto has herself been the target of state censorship and intimidation. After Zardari took office, the weekly column she wrote for Jang was stopped without explanation and this year, with the publication of Songs of Blood and Sword in Pakistan, she has been subject to aggressive verbal attacks from journalists and critics allied to the government. But, she says, the hostility
ebbs and flows. “Because I have this name it sometimes makes it inconvenient for what I write to be read and sometimes it makes it convenient. When I was writing my column during the last two years of (former military dictator) General Musharraf’s regime I was very critical, but at the time being a Bhutto didn’t really mean anything, it didn’t hold much sway. Now, there is a government that is using my family name to remain in power. So that determines the response whenever you talk about anything remotely political”. That name. It follows her everywhere she goes, it hangs like a curse over everything she does. Bhutto grew up in Syria and Afghanistan with her father when he was in exile. Out there, her name didn’t mean anything. People even struggled to pronounce it properly. “It was only when I returned to Pakistan that all of a sudden these six letters were larger than I was and they determined what people thought you were capable of or not”, she tells me. Dynasty certainly casts a long shadow. I wonder if she is ever tempted to leave Pakistan, to abandon the land the Bhuttos built, with its endless crises, its blood-shed, its relentless violence? “No”, she responds, without hesitation. “Because of all those problems, if we leave, if people leave, who are we leaving the country to? "Since my book has come out - and under this government - it has become dangerous for me to be there, but even then, the notion of leaving is not one I am comfortable with at all. I mean why do people stay in their homes even when there are crises? It is because they have a responsibility to stay, to record, to archive, to protest. And Pakistan, more than anywhere else right now, deserves that fidelity.” Songs of Blood and Sword is out now in hardback, published by Jonathan Cape. RRP: £20
5th October 2010
Can Socialism be the future for Labour in modern Britain, asks Katie Lugton?
he Labour Party formed in the UK to champion a particular cause: Socialism. They sought political, economic and social justice for working classes. Consequently major, important advances were made including the creation of the NHS, the Welfare State and more recently, increased maternity and paternity leave to name a few. However, the party seemingly fell apart in the late 1970s after failing to control inflation. Labour repeatedly encountered battles with an increasingly vocal Trade Union movement, culminating in 1978’s Winter of Discontent. In 1997, Tony Blair led the party again to election victory. Coupled with re-branding New Labour was pop act D-ream’s soundtrack 'Things can only get better’. Though Labour was back in Government, was it still reasonable to call them the defenders of Socialism? Blair’s social triumphs include the National Minimum Wage and the Civil Partnership Act 2004. Though these were well received, he was frequently accused of being far more right wing than any Labour leader of the past. Further, in light of the New Labour reforms it became clear that Blair had dragged the party towards the centre of the political spectrum. Blair was accused in 2006 by Shadow counsel David
Cameron of preserving Thatcherite policy, including “the open market economy and the end of the ‘us vs. them’ mentality”. It was famously - or infamously - under Blair that the reform of Clause IV of the Labour Party constitution was made. This significant change further altered the party’s links with socialism as the goal of “the common ownership of the means of production, distribution and exchange”. The original idea documented by Marx, was removed, though for the first time the revised edition referred to the party as democratic socialist. Undeniably unfortunate throughout his premiership, Gordon Brown also had very little of the charisma and charm of his predecessor, but some argue more substance. It is feasible that had Brown not had to deal with the blows of the economic collapse, the MPs’ expenses scandal and the crises within his own cabinet, we might have seen a real return to some Old Labour policies. His support for the proposal to raise income tax to 50p in the pound for those earning over £150,000 a year in the 2009 Budget was seen as a sign of this. Also representative of traditional Labourite thinking was the introduction of the Equality Act 2010, which was intended to tackle social injustice by clarifying and strengthening previous discrimi-
nation legislation. Could Brown’s efforts as Prime Minister be the gateway for the rebirth of Socialism in the UK? Elected recently in one of the tensest political battles between siblings, Ed Miliband assumed his role as new leader of the Labour Party. Dubbed by some as ‘Red Ed’, a nickname he himself is keen to shake, it remains to be seen in which direction he will take the party. It is clear, nonetheless, that whatever his own political preferences may be, he must have the party united behind him. Plagued as Gordon Brown was by resigning cabinet members and the threat of leadership challenges, Miliband must present a strong, inspiring front. His brother David has already left frontline politics for a post as a backbench MP, expressing the wish ‘It's best for Ed and for the party if he has an open field.’ There is hope among Labour party supporters that the new leader will bring the party back to its former glory. Indeed, as soon as the result of the leadership election had been announced the odds of Labour winning the next General Election improved. To the surprise of many who felt Ed Miliband might not be the best man for the job, in the YouGov poll immediately after his leadership win, Labour had a one point lead over the Conservatives for the first time since 2007. In his maiden speech as Labour leader Miliband promised change, in fact “Different attitudes, different ideas, different ways of doing politics”. Making the break from ‘New Labour’, Blair and Brown, seems to be a chief aspiration of the new leader. With this in mind, there will be great interest and speculation as to which direction Miliband will take the party in: could 'change' mean a return to Socialist Labour? Having already stated that he will lead a reasonable Opposition to the cabinet, it is clear that Miliband is aware that some of the steps being taken by the Cameron-Clegg coalition are worth supporting or indeed necessary. It seems likely that in areas such as the review of Stop and Search, as conducted by Theresa May, and the campaign by the Liberal Democrats for stronger civil liberties Labour may side with the Coalition. This would be in part a bid to secure and restore themselves an image as a party of rights. Miliband has agreed that cutting the deficit is a necessity but argued for more gradual cuts so as not to harm the recovery or risk a ‘double dip’. It would thus seem that he will be forced to support the coalition in a range of cuts, possibly even in their plans to reform welfare. t the party conference in Manchester, Ed Miliband claimed Labour was right to have “changed Clause IV… emphasised being tough on crime” and “challenged the impression that we taxed for its own sake”. A serious concern must be that as the support for his election came so largely from the trade unions, whether he will now be the Prisoner of the Unions. In order to win votes from disillusioned Lib Dems and Tory voters,
as well as so called floating voters, Miliband may find he has to be careful to curtail his Leftist image. The new leader warned that while he recognized that “trade unions are part of a civilised society”, he expected “responsibility” from them and “won’t support” irresponsible strikes. Having noted that what he “must avoid at all costs is alienating [the public]” as well as stating that his purpose as leader is to restore Labour to government, Miliband is certainly giving the impression of one who will be a more Centrist leader. With the announcement that ex-Foreign Secretary and brother of Ed, David Miliband is to leave frontline politics, it appears that the new Labour leader has lost a valuable ally. Though David Miliband almost instantly called for the support of his brother after the leadership had been announced he has claimed that his position in a Shadow Cabinet would be distracting. However Conservative Baroness Warsi has suggested that “The fact that [David] doesn't want a place in Ed Miliband's shadow cabinet speaks volumes about the direction in which the new leader is taking Labour”. Moreover, Shadow-Justice Secretary Jack Straw warned Miliband in his speech at the Conference that whichever direction he takes the party in, it is crucial not to ignore the “squeezed middle classes”, as being relatable to the majority of the population is vital to gaining and upholding the confidence of the public. In spite of his brother’s resignation, what with backers during his leadership campaign including Hilary Benn and Sadiq Khan, and rival for the leadership ex-Schools Minister Ed Balls having come out in support of him. Ed Miliband seems to have a good network of support within the party. Whether he will allow himself, though still more inexperienced and green than red to become something of a puppet for the bigger Labour players or whether he will provide the strong, decisive leadership he has promised remains, of course, to be seen. So if Red Ed insists he is not so red, where does this leave British Socialism? Indeed it seems likely that many more radical socialists would have preferred Ed to take a leaf out of his father, revolutionary socialist Ralph Miliband’s book. Perhaps by the time the next General Election comes around the mood of the public will have swung more to the Left in any case. Anger about the financial and banking crisis could well lead to demands for greater regulation in the city, as Miliband pointed out Labour failed to do last time round, but promised difference now. It is feasible that if not well managed the severity of cuts Cameron and Osborne are planning could be enough to push voters towards Labour. But in the light of what we have seen from Ed Miliband so far, even if the public would give it a mandate, would he really choose to lead a Socialist government? Only time will tell the direction the Labour Party will now take, but it seems unlikely that 2010 will be the year of rebirth for British Socialism.
5th October 2010
No time as an island
Can history help define British identity today, or is that part of the problem, asks Yasmin Ali.
istory has a part to play in identity establishment, but it should to be confused with social psyche, though both are inconstant and often swayed by political tides. Identity itself may be a marker of social attitudes in the way it is perceived and asserted. A dialectical appraisal of the historical grounding – or flotation – of British identity should acknowledge the subjective nature of history. Changing parameters alter identity as a social and cultural marker. British identity is couched in post-war and post-colonial political and social histories. Those qualities of nationality and ethnicity inherent to the concept of identity confine its application and etymology. There are sensitivities of a varied political paradigm to weigh in, and how these further complicates the notion of British identity or identities. Britishness, it is laden with anglocentric glory: proclamations borne on the bombast of war. It was unabashedly promoted as such during two such key periods in history of Great Britain; her colonial reign as head of the British Empire; and the interwar years. The pomp and circumstance of the British Empire gave rise to an indisputable lenience on national pride. Patriotism remains discernable as a strand of national identity, at times verging on jingoism. Historian Alex Law’s ‘island nation’ allegory lends itself to an image of a lone, discrete power, whose reign extends beyond the seemingly immeasurable seas along its entire perimeter, as observed in the colonial anthem Rule Britannia. The pervasive island mentality forges grounding for British identity, pointing to reign over a territory and the expanse of its seas. This outlived colonial times with the advent of multinational territorialisation of areas of sea, for fishing rights or exploration. Island is such a powerful image as it depicts a discrete, cohesive, unified body within the international community. Britain’s profile forms an instantly recognisable footprint on a global map, perhaps best matched in distinctiveness by Italy. Identity is reliant on the premise of the presence of otherness. Britain’s lack of a land-locked foreign neighbour forces a different self-perception and projection than found across land-ties. Spatially and psychologically, borders act to emphasise, limit and bring into relief juxtaposed identities. This is a quandary: with no consolidating borders to neighbouring countries, Britain is forced to assert itself by default with a more emphatic mentality. This has irreconcilable difficulties: national and regional units tend to be more sharply expressed which jars potential unity of national identity. Physical borders have imagined or metaphysical qualities. The line between Scotland and England – or perhaps more correctly, Scotland and the rest of Britain – is invisibly traced over the contours of a map. More significantly, it is etched on the social psyche. Perceiving Britain as a unit is thus compromised by the requisite to Aristotle’s definition that a whole equals the sum of its parts. Constituent nations as spatially and culturally recognisable bodies make Britain seem piecemeal. ‘Britishness’ as left to England is a dissected throwback, befitting anglocentric attributes of the British Empire but denying the intent for pluralism. The Union Jack counts for little in terms of pluralistic expression. Scotland’s past in colonial British history must not be discounted by claims of a devolved identity. Scottish and English Parliaments united in the eighteenth century Act of Union (1707). Scotland, along with Wales, held a dissonant voice in British politics, particularly vocal since the 1970’s, leading to its devolution in 1999. The underlying reasons concerning ownership and economy are as much as a question
of patriotism and personal identity. Discord is significant as it marks a key fissure in the unity of the United Kingdom and the fragility of composite nation. Scotland has a very definitive, distinguishable identity from the vagueness of Britishness. Scots have been keen to assert an independent Scottish identity with origins rooted in its independent antiquity of Caledonia. Despite this, Scotland’s influence was easily overlooked in the writing of British colonial history and reshaping national identity. Scottish cultural studies, in particular its works of the Enlightenment era, are seen to illuminate British colonialism. It is this editing of history that is subservient to political agenda which shape cultural attitudes. British colonialism’s benchmark for cultural standards was laid in Scotland’s capital, whose residents did not even perceive themselves as British. Edinburgh and Glasgow nurtured a good standard of English language in its universities. This permeated English literature and the training for British civility in the colonies, most notably, in India. Edinburgh also fostered a hunger for knowledge, satiated in part by its first publication in 1768 of the world-famous Encyclopaedia Britannica. It fast became a national symbol of pride and glory, with its trademark thistle insignia. Even Gandhi noted its potential to “diffuse a glory over this country unattainable by conquest or domination”. The superimposition of Scottish iconography attaches subnational ownership to a British document. Traces of the colonial thinking remain in Britain’s national and subnational identities. Though colonialism substituted parts for wholes, it allowed those parts to be recognised and separated as wholes. The default to a paramount British identity was never so pronounced as in times of domination or defence. It took a unique leader to rouse emotions back to the old ideal of island mentality. During the World Wars, identity took a revanchist turn towards Britishness, largely due to Churchill’s propaganda. Consolidated wartime identity was advantageous, as Britain retained a period of relative political stability in an era in which European politics was swerving left, right and centre-left. Of the First World War nations, Britain was a keeper of continuity of nationality and unforced unity, attributes held useful beyond wartime. It even achieved an informal Labour-Conservative coalition during the war effort and set in place the foundations for the Welfare State, establishing a system admired by Americans. Britain as a ministerial democracy relayed the baton between the two main parties for the best part of last century. Throughout modern history, the compass of mainstream politics remained fairly centred, though it notably swung to the left to formalise Social services and further right during the Thatcherite age of no society. Britain enjoyed relative political stability compared to the rapidly and radically changing political landscapes of Europe and former Soviet Bloc. However, in retaining its sovereignty, Britain missed some of the economic gains in federal democracies such as United Germany or the United States. In name, the country remains The United Kingdom, but the throne is holds less power than a parliamentary seat. Britain has a confusing set of ruling identities of Crown and State. It is at once a democracy, monarchy, meritocracy and technocracy. All are at odds with Britain’s imperialist colonial and oligarchic histories. This multiplicity in political model is reflected in confusion in notions of citizenship. Citizenry within Britain operates in modern times under pride. This came into sharp relief following the controversial report ‘Future of Multi-Ethnic
Britain’ (Runnymede, 2000). The report identified Britishness as a continuum of Englishness, and pointed to the consequent interchange and limitations of the terms as signifiers, as well as unbroken imperialist associations. It highlighted the incomprehensiveness of ‘British’ as a descriptor, used with qualifiers, such as is the case of black British, Indian British or Asian British. This separation serves to cover thinly suggested present or past exclusion. Heavily emphasised is the reliance on a racially connoted idea of Britishness, allied to historical legacies and its irreconcilable ties to colonial domination. It appeals to the myth and legend of British antiquity and harks back to the ‘island race’ mentality, one that is particularly inaccessible to foreigners. British foreign policy has become increasingly closed to non-white communities, especially following tighter and more specific Parliamentary Bills on immigration. In 1981, Members of the New Commonwealth were prevented from claiming patriot status, effectively distinguishing between citizens on the basis of colour. Institutional racism in highprofile cases like London Metropolitan Police and the NHS show there is still some way to go before Britishness is fully parcipative. Sensitive topics such as racism and racial discrimination are subject to political correctness. Given the negative connotations surrounding immigration, the term is avoided in speech, circumventing a key issue. Though many minority ethnic communities have been resident in Britain for generations, current émigré’s, immigrants and asylum seekers cause most controversy. Compulsory citizenship ceremonies ask new settlers to pledge allegiance to British values. Those meritocratic mechanisms in place, along with the increasingly consumerist slant placed on citizenship since the early nineties, together with carefully placed policies for integration may help ensure an equal footing. What is Britishness? It could be described as the collective identity of the United Kingdom, with a founding in sovereignty, and a present in democracy and an egalitarian outlook on State politics. An important question, it is sometimes left trivialised to clichéd cultural and social stereotypes, as if fish and chips are the meat and potatoes of our daily life.
Cutting to the chase 12 DEBATE
5th October 2010
>> Philip Neal and Lucky Dhillon
With the government preparing to announce where the axe will fall in “The people most hit by the coalition’s proposals October, is the coalition’s plan to slash spending a step toward recovery? however are the people who work hard and retire not on millions, but on less than a hundred pounds a week”
>> Nick Sikora “Economic growth can only be delivered by a government willing to bring public expenditure into line, with commitment born through steady confidence in its actions”
When the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats agreed to form a coalition government, both knew that solving the issue of a billowing deficit would not be a popular task. Some pundits speculated that, politically, this election would be a good one to lose – the country was emerging from the one of the worst recessions since the Depression of the 1930s, and public finances reflected it. In the years leading up to the coalition’s inauguration, GDP had fallen 6.7%, unemployment had grown by 8% and, as a result of a decade’s worth of deficit spending during the boom years, followed by emergency measures to ameliorate the worst effects of the recession, national debt had reached a staggering 65% of GDP, the most inflated the figure had been since World War II. Meanwhile, across the continent, European economies were mired in crippling sovereign-debt crises, all stemming from disastrously uncontrolled government spending. Just days before the coalition formed, unhappy Eurozone leaders had tied themselves into funding an eye-watering $100billion bail-out plan for Greece, a nation that refused to keep its public finances in check. It is perhaps not so surprising, then, that against this background of crumbling nations the coalition pledged to reduce the deficit from its high of 11%, to 2.1% by the end of 2015. Economically, they have little choice. The necessity of erasing a deficit the size of Britain’s is clear – a government cannot spend money that it does not have. Attempting to do so incurs penalties, which in this case take the form of obscene interest repayments. The total amount of money the UK currently wastes on interest is in the region of £42billion per year, enough to fund NHS Scotland four times over. If cuts were not made by the coalition, it would climb to a staggering £70billion annually within the space of 5 years,
thereby accounting for 10p in every pound of tax paid. To put this in perspective, the defence budget for the whole of the UK comes in at just under £37billion. Perpetual deficit spending is simply not an option. Interest repayments, meanwhile, offer absolutely no value for money. They are a fiscal black hole. When faced with such inordinately high amounts being wasted, for the coalition to have stalled on deficit reduction merely to avoid public backlash would be nothing short of reckless. Critics of the government claim that a better approach reducing the deficit would have been to maintain current or similar levels of public expenditure, and simply impose higher levels of taxation to compensate, but this would have been short-sighted. Whilst raising tax rates may have avoided scale-backs on public sector jobs and services in the immediate short term, such a move would quickly prove catastrophic to a still-fragile economy. The private sector, ultimately the engine for growth, must continue to retain investor confidence if the economy is to rise once again from the ashes. If the government were to announce dire tax increases, as they would need to if they were to cover the amount drawn up by the deficit, investor confidence would plummet. What sane business would invest in the British economy if it were guaranteed that any gains they made here would be immediately sucked up by the state? Companies do not have to invest in the economy, and investment carries risk. If doing so offers little incentive, companies with the capacity to focus on overseas operations will do so, and those that do not will simply not invest. The outcome of such a move would be catastrophic. Higher taxation would be a short-sighted solution to a longer-term problem. Ultimately, with such a pressing need to resolve the deficit, and with cuts the only realistic way to do so, economic growth can only be delivered by a government willing to bring public expenditure into line, with commitment born through steady confidence in its actions. The Con-Lib coalition are right to be doing just that.
We are being told that it is of absolute and urgent priority to cut the budget deficit. The deficit currently stands at £155 billion. Osborne and Cameron’s spending cuts will see the estimated loss of 700,000 public and private sector jobs leading to devastating reductions in services. However after the end of World War 2 the budget deficit was 254%, twice that of the current deficit. And then instead of cuts we saw massive investment in the public sector, including the creation of the NHS and massive spending on affordable social housing. The deficit is not the problem; the UK finished paying its WWII debt off in 2006 a fact completely ignored by mainstream neoliberal economists. Apparently the public sector is bloated and unsustainable; workers are over-paid and living like kings and queens with ‘gold-plated pensions’ when they retire. We are being told that we’ve been living the high-life on the state benefit system through the boom and now we’ve got to tighten our belts during the bust. This simply isn’t true. Firstly, the real problem with pay is that average civil service wages are £2000 less than the private sector. Civil servants are being forced to accept a two year pay freeze yet the government proceeds with a rise in VAT and inflation coupled with destruction of the welfare state, how exactly are they meant to live? The actual culprits of bloated pay are the executives who walk home with £250,000 pay cheques and real gold plated pensions worth millions. The impression that executive pay is indicative of the whole sector shows the lies spread to demonise public workers. Secondly, benefit receivers are not as Cameron states, “benefit scroungers.” And yet, benefit cheating counts for only 1% of benefit expenditure; the government supported by the media are demonising those who are on benefits for good reason. Being on benefits is no easy ride, most people want to work but there are simply not enough jobs. If corporation tax levels were raised to pre 1997 levels we could raise £18 billion, raising the tax brackets could raise an extra £27.5 billion. Instead corporation tax has been decreased by 4%. It is argued that if cooperation tax is increased big companies will flee the country, taking with them vital investment, but this ‘flight of capital’ is a myth. It is more expensive for companies to up-root and harder to find a skilled labour force. Can you really image the financial district in London suddenly moving abroad? Aside from the deficit actually not mattering it’s important to realise the economy is in genuine problems due to casino banking and daylight robbery of the public coffers by the banks. Therefore investment is key to rescuing jobs and the livelihoods of many. The green economy is one of Britain’s best assets for the future and investment in it could easily create one million jobs, as well as taking steps to solving the climate chaos that engulfs our planet as, utilising all those graduates in engineering that don’t want to create the next generation of war machinery. We can also invest in education, not cut it. A society with more students breeds more ideas, something that capitalism is failing to provide. So whilst alternatives exist that make practical sense one is left wondering why they are not being implemented. It is quite clear that the proposals above indeed create a fairer society but at a cost to the wealthy, including those bankers responsible for the crisis. The people most hit by the coalition’s proposals however are the people who work hard and retire not on millions, but on less than a hundred pounds a week. It is the people who have followed the rulebook and find themselves without a job and facing homelessness, without the million dollar severance package.
5th October 2010
EDITORIAL 13 John McIntyre Building University Avenue Glasgow G12 8QQ 0141 341 6215 email@example.com www.glasgowguardian.co.uk
A funding crisis dilemma Letter from the Editor The news that the university is facing a cutback on funding is not surprising. In fact, many would expect it. As anyone who has had the opportunity to read the news recently would know, services reliant on taxpayer money will be facing a squeeze, as governments continue to tighten the reins on their outgoings. Few, however, expected the financial predictions that the university offered to its staff to be as grim as they were in the event. £35million is a staggering amount to lose. Even if it is possible to claw back £15million through the administration’s fundraising initiatives (and such predictions are often optimistic), it is hard to imagine that cutting £20million from the university’s budget will be possible without adversely affecting the teaching of its students. Yet, despite the need to increase funding at higher education institutions such as Glasgow, many students act with hostility to the suggestion of greater self-funding. The SRC were cautiously critical of the university Principal’s
suggestion of a graduate tax. Up-front tuition fees, such as students across the rest of the country must pay, are met with outright protests from placard-waving young adults who refuse to accept that they should be financially accountable for their own higher education. It is clear, however, that the ideals of both free tuition and highly-funded, worldclass institutions are, in the present economic climate, irreconcilable. The government cannot continue to pay substantial amounts to universities to keep them competitive - taxes can’t afford it. Something has to give. At present, it is funding. As the university braces itself for a tightening on 10% of its funds, students across Scotland have a decision to make. Do they want free education, afforded by reductions to their universities’ budgets, or do they want top-tier education, afforded at a premium which they themselves must pay? If they do not decide soon, the decision will be made for them.
This is the start of a new year for Guardian. It is also a new academic year for all students here at the university; some starting for the first time, others continuing along the trail towards degree territory. I doubt you need reminding, but this paper is for all of you and we hope that there is something in here for everyone. The coverage of news in these pages has your best interests in mind. The deficit in funding is most definitely a factor that will affect us should the issue not be resolved. More pertinently, the recent stabbings that took place in and around Murano Street will no doubt cause worry to those that live there. For those that aren’t in halls, deceitful landlords are also a problem. There will be numerous issues that affect students over the coming year and these pages are here to alert you and update you. But the paper is not here to supply you with a litany of distressing stories. Much as that might seem the case sometimes with regard to the news that is currently circulating the student
community here in Glasgow. In this issue there is what I believe to be, an outstanding Insight section. It has themes from all different faculties. As a reader, please spend time exploring sections that you wouldn’t usually find yourself drawn to. Everything within these pages has been carefully thought about. For those of you who are new to the University, you may not realise the lack of any other student papers in other universities and colleges around Glasgow. We know how important it is to have a paper. Especially one that you can hold in your hands. It is possible for anyone with a sufficient level of enthusiasm to set up a blog and begin to inflict their views upon you. The production of a paper with a conscientious and dedicated team behind it is something that takes a lot more time and planning. I hope that our enthusiasm for putting this together will be matched by your enjoyment in reading it. It is the beginning of a new academic year and there is much to be getting on with.
5th October 2010
To the Editors… firstname.lastname@example.org
QMU drops boycott on Nestle products (April 26, 2010)
I simply cannot express how much more satisfying my inter-lecture breaks happen to be now that I can add Nestle’s delectable range of sugar-based foodstuffs to my now-complete lunchtime menu. The simple pleasure of splitting a Kit-Kat is a delight that the medium of words cannot hope to convey, and, although I prefer the concise crunch of a Twix when snacking at full volume in the QMU Cafe, the smooth, tender melt of an Aero is the perfect accompaniment to an hour spent silently busying through the Irn Bru drink and Monster Munch packet required to make it through an uninspiring lecture’s morning. Although I can absolutely understand the reasoning behind the Union’s boycott, and agree that babies dying thanks to drinking Nestle milk is terrible, one absolutely has to draw the line between valid political action and using heavy-handed brutality to make a point. Preventing fellow students from such unEarthly treats was simply one step over that line. Emma Farsley
SRC slams honorary Archbishop (February 22, 2010)
In 1995 I graduated with a degree from the University of Glasgow. After fifteen years working as a journalist and human rights campaigner, I am now back at the university undertaking research into the position of transgender people in Scottish society. During my earlier studies I experienced a lot of homophobia within the university. I am glad to say that this has changed substantially. The university’s decision to make this award to Archbishop Conti, however, makes me feel that I chose the wrong institution. I am ashamed to have funded and associated myself with a place that condones this man’s nefarious treatment of his fellow human beings. As a journalist, I strongly support freedom of speech. This does not mean that I do not recognise the damage that ignorant, malicious speech can do. As a society, we have a responsibility to challenge homophobia and the spreading of homophobic myths, so that all of our citizens can enjoy equal respect and opportunity. The university’s award to Archbishop Conti implies academic support for views directly contradicted by the academic evidence. This not only damages the position of LGBT people in society and makes us feel unwelcome at the university; it makes a joke of the university’s esteemed academic reputation. As Lord Justice Laws said in his recent ruling, religion cannot be used as an excuse for prejudice that would not be considered justifiable on any other basis. To grant it special privileges in that way is a move toward theo-
Glasgow University 26th April 2010
Joined at the hip
James Maxwell speaks to Times columnist and conspiracy debunker David Aaronovitch
Amanda Palmer proves impervious to volcano disaster
Staff protest at job cuts Adam Campbell
GLASGOW UNIVERSITY STAFF AND STUDENTS turned out in force on April 14 to lobby the University Court against potential job losses across campus. The protest was sparked by 25 redundancies in the Education Faculty, which came after a £2m reduction in funding, as a result of the Scottish Government’s decision to reduce teacher training opportunities across Scotland. However, unions fear a further sixty jobs will be cut in the Faculties of Veterinary Medicine, Biological Life Sciences and Arts. The protest was organised by the University and College Union (UCU) in conjunction with other staff unions, Unite and UNISON, and was supported by senior members of UCU including Alastair Hunter, UCU President, and local Labour candidate, Ann McKechin. Many feel that the potential job losses could result from the restructuring of the University, which unions were assured was not a cost-cutting exercise. A University spokesperson explained that the purpose of the restructure is to improve overall standards at Glasgow. He said: “We are developing a new strategic plan which will highlight the key areas of world-class excellence which Glasgow intends to invest in. (continued on page 6)
GUU bans ex-president Boyle after assault DOMINIC BOYLE HAS BEEN BANNED FOR TWELVE months after a Glasgow University Union (GUU) disciplinary panel found him guilty of physical assault. The incident took place on January 23 in the union, during Boyle’s term as GUU President, and resulted in a ban from socialising in or entering the building outside of office hours, until a disciplinary hearing was able to take place on March 22. This meant that, for five weeks, the GUU was operating under a president who had been stripped of his board member privileges and was not allowed in his own union’s building except during working hours.
Editors: Dominic MaxwellLewis & Nick Sikora News Editor: Adam Campbell Features Editor: Yasmin Ali Sports Editor: Joe Mclean Music Editors: Nick Biggs & Jean-Xavier Boucherat Arts Editor: Jeni Allison Film Editor: Michael GrayBuchanan
Newly elected GUU President Colin Woods, who was elected to the post on March 4, explained that Boyle was not asked to resign his post, as time was needed to clarify events which took place before permanent measures could be fully decided upon. “[Boyle] was not asked to stand down at the time as it was thought that until the details of the incident could be determined, and a discipline panel be put together, it was not the right course of action.”
Lifestyle Editor: Jo Shaw Photography: Alexander Martin, Jani Helle, Jonathan Nicholson, Jamie Dunn Reporters: Amy Cochrane, Laura Horsley, Allan McKinnon, Josepha Reynolds, Linda Weber, Louise Wilson Contributors: Lucky Dhillon, Phillip Neal, Max Horberry,
Boyle was unavailable for comment but did not oppose the year-long ban, according to Woods. “Dom received a 12-month ban from the Glasgow University Union for an incident which took place in the new year and was found guilty on the charge of assault. Dom pleaded guilty to the charges and has accepted the punishment gracefully. “The issue has now been dealt with and myself and the new Board of Management are looking forward to a successful year in office.” Although Boyle admitted his actions to the disciplinary panel, no criminal charges have been filed against him.
Ruby Wight, Kathy Beckett, Laura Stockwell, Matthew Nicol, Anna Danielewicz, Lauren Martin, Elsbeth Riley, Peter Brearly, James Maxwell, Katie Lugton.
The Glasgow University Guardian is editorially independent of the SRC and University. All complaints should be adressed to the editors, who can be reached via the contact details above.
This newspaper is funded through and supported by the Glasgow University Students’ Representitive Council.
cratic, autocratic principles of which a liberal academic institution ought to be ashamed. I hope the archbishop understands that, whatever the senate may think of him, he is as unwelcome among many of its students, researchers and staff as he has made others feel in wider society. Jennie Kermode
Dear Sir/Madam, Moral standards in New Labour have slipped considerably if they are able to elect as
leader a man who has unrepentedly sired a son out of wedlock with another child on the way. Ed Milliband claims that he and the mother of his children “have not got round to marrying yet”. At a time when even the homosexuals are clamouring to be allowed access to the institution of marriage, the electorate will never accept him as Prime Minister if he treats it in such an offhand way (not to mention inflicting the mark of the bastard on his unfortunate offspring). John Eoin Douglas
The flyers were printed in the Southside on the fourth of March 2010. By the sixth, most of the five thousand were scattered across pavements and crumpled in bins, though a select few lay at their intended destinationsbeside computers. A week earlier I’d been frantically planning, designing and sending to print the materials I hoped would convince enough people to get online and vote for me to be elected as an executive council member of the SRC. The SRC (Students’ Representative Council) act to make sure the University understands and takes notice of the opinions of the student body and the issues affecting them. Every student automatically becomes a member of the SRC when they join the Uni and every student can stand for positions and vote in the elections for SRC council. Council members meet monthly to discuss issues that have been raised with them by students and decide what should be done. In terms of making a real difference to the experience of the rest of the students around you, getting involved with SRC council is a brilliant thing to do. Just like back in March, this month sees elections to decide who gets to sit on council and make sure the university is aware of its students problems and opinions. Nominations for positions close on October 8th, and voting takes place under two weeks later on the 20th. You can vote online from any computer using your usual library login details- it’s very quick, and very easy. That Wednesday you’ll see people dressed in coloured tshirts handing out flyers and sweets that matter much more than the cheap club promotions that get thrust at people every day walking to and from classes. Give the manifestos a look online, decide who you think sounds a suitable candidate and vote. The more people get involved in standing for, and voting in, elections, the stronger the council can be, and the better students will be represented to the University. On 20th October, go online and vote. The SRC also run a raft of services to help make the lives of students easier. Our second hand bookshop sits upstairs in the John MacIntyre building. By students, for students, it sells textbooks for much cheaper than the other bookshops on campus and can also make you a bit of cash by helping you sell your old books.
Riding ahead 5th October 2010
Joe Mclean talks to Glasgow University Riding Club about preparations for the year to come
Glasgow University's nationally-competitive equestrian society, the Glasgow University Riding Club (GURC), are currently celebrating one of their busiest freshers' weeks in the club's history, as club captain Victoria Mader-Dunn reports that over 150 people signed up at their Freshers' Fair stall. With tight competition from other societies vying for prospective members, this impressive performance shows just how popular the sport can be with incoming students. On the back of this success, the club held their annual taster session on Friday 17th September at Tannoch stables in Cumbernauld. Victoria, who presided over the event, ensured that the taster session allowed for everyone to try the sport free of charge, meet other members and get a feel for how the club operates. Speaking of the event, she said: “Over 50 people came along to try out horse riding, many of whom had never ridden before. The response and turnout was fantastic and we felt it was an overwhelming success, with many who came along to the taster session signing up for the team trials”. The trials, which are held every year to decide coveted competition entrant spots, give everyone a chance to try out for a place in the club's teams. New hopefuls had to ride a mixture of both flatwork and jumping under the watchful gazes of both their club and team captains, as well as the owner of the stables, in an attempt to try and prove their mettle whilst in a competitive arena.
Of roughly 30 people who tried out, 16 were chosen to represent the club and the University, comprising a mixture of old and new members across the A – D teams. This blend of experienced figures will aim to carry on from last year’s successes, where the GURC held their own against some stiff competition from across Scotland. This year, the team is anticipated to compete against fellow riders from universities across Scotland and the rest of the UK. St. Andrews, Dundee, Heriot Watt, Stirling, Edinburgh, Strathclyde and Glasgow Caledonian Universities regularly field strong teams, and will prove a challenge for the new set of recruits to ride against. Riders who didn't make this year's team selection will have ample opportunity to ride as part of the recreational arm within the club, as Victoria, club president, made known. She said: “All of our rec riders sign up for weekly lessons and with expert tuition they progress quickly throughout the year. As has proved this year, some who never made the teams last year went away and improved their skills enough that they made it this year”. For those not interested in competing, a whole raft of activities is on offer ranging from socials and weekly hacks in the Scottish countryside, to days out at equine events.
Scottish Cup Fixture Drawn Joe Mclean
The draw for the second round of the Scottish Cup took place on Wednesday 29th September at the Scottish Football Museum, Hampden Park. Scottish FA vice-president Campbell Ogilvie, former Rangers player Charlie Miller and former Dundee manager Jim Duffy drew the 16 second round ties. Glasgow have been handed a tough away draw against junior side Beith FC - the West Super League Premier Division champions secured their place in the next round with a 2-0 win over last seasons Scottish Junior Cup winners Linlithgow Rose in front of a home crowd of around 1,200. The 'Mighty' will prove a tough opponent for Glasgow, who beat Burntisland Shipyards 1-0 at Garscube on Saturday to progress to the
For more information about the club, contact them on email@example.com or visit their facebook group, 'GURC'.
2nd round for the first time in 35 years. They currently sit second and are still undefeated this season after 5 games in the West Super League, with a record of 3 wins and 2 draws. Their opponents have only conceded 1 goal so far this season, meaning that Glasgow will have to be at the top of their game if they are to progress further in this competition against such stiff competition. The match is a mouth-watering prospect for Glasgow, with team captain and fourth-year dental student Calum Tevendale telling the SFA that “Not many people get the chance to play in the Scottish Cup; it will probably be the pinnacle of my career. This is a chance for us to really do something – even being involved in the build-up is fantastic, there’s a real buzz around the club.”
Last minute Ruddy flare singes Burntisland
(continued from back) had another hero in the form of Goal Keeper Andrew Livingstone, whose superb save, high to his right hand post kept Glasgow in the game. This stop proved just as vital as Ruddy’s strike at the other end of the pitch and Glasgow took inspiration from it and stepped up a gear. Again they dominated play, with the midfield spraying some magnificent passes around and again they went close with several efforts on goal. Midway through the second half Glasgow began to open up Burntisland’s defence as huge gaps started to appear in the team from the shipyards, threatening to sink them. It was all hands to the pump at the back as they tried to stem the flow of Glasgow’s attack. And this pressure eventually paid off for the home side, which battled to the final whistle to eradicate the pain of last year’s home defeat at this stage of the competition to Girvan.
Another fine performance on the day came from Captain Calum Tevendale, who had a towering display at Centre-back, where he organised his disciplined defence and kept a cool head throughout the match, as tempers flared in the Burntisland team. They started to get a little hot headed at some decisions from the referee and were over zealous with some of their challenges. The victory would have been even sweeter for Calum, as he celebrated his as he celebrated his 22nd birthday on Saturday, unlike his 21st birthday celebrations, which were ruined last year by defeat to Girvan. So one year on it would have been a fantastic birthday present knowing Glasgow was going into the draw for the 2nd round. But the day belonged to the modest hero Ruddy and a goal he will remember for time to come. There can’t be many University students who can say they scored the winner in a Scottish Cup game, even if he just says it was a hit and hope effort!
Inside: Guardian reveals the results of the 2nd round Scottish Cup draw Also: Joe Mclean starts the new sporting year at a canter by meeting the GU Riding Club
5th October 2010
Glasgow steam to victory against scuttled Burntisland Shipyard
The romance of the Scottish Cup blossomed at a sun kissed Garscube last weekend, as Glasgow progressed to the second round of this historical competition for the first time in 35 years, winning 1-0 in their match against the Burntisland Shipyard AFC side. Paul Ruddy’s sensational injury time winner secured a sweet victory for Glasgow, to the delight of a good size home crowd. The fans who had turned up to cheer on their fellow students were treated to a fine footballing display from Glasgow, with the sublime volley from goal hero Ruddy a fitting end to a great day for the University in this nationally prestigious competition. The form of the goal, coming in the 93rd minute of the game, was good enough to grace the Cup Final itself, but the modest left back Ruddy said: “I was too tired to do anything else, so I just swung my boot at it and thankfully it slammed right in the back of the net.” When it did, it sent the home team and their fans delirious.
Glasgow 1 - 0 Burntisland Joe Mclean
The victory was well deserved for Glasgow, as they dominated this match from the off and were unlucky to go in at halftime with the score line at 0-0. The team played some terrific football on a fantastic playing surface that lent itself well to Glasgow’s slick style of passing and attacking, much of which filtered through Glasgow’s Andrew Knight out on the right wing, where he linked the play up well between midfield and attack. His clever play proved pivotal in some early chances against the Fife men. Glasgow forced several corners in the first 45mins and they created numerous chances to score, but they seemed to lack the killer finish that was needed to see off the away team. One such scoring opportunity landed at the feet of Alistair Greenhill, who was unlucky not to get on the score sheet with his effort. He found himself in space at the edge of the Burntisland box, after
some neat passing, he collected the ball, rolled his marker and unleashed a stinging low drive, that went just wide of the keepers right hand post. Glasgow continued to threaten Burntisland, but they could not capitalise on all their possession. Jamie Kerr also had a few chances in this first half, but as with all of Glasgow’s attempts on goal, they seemed to come from the edge of the box and never really troubled the goal keeper. The home fans were urging their team to drive at the goal and as the game opened up Burntisland found their defence breached more and more, yet their keeper was never really tested. As it stood, Glasgow would have felt hard done by going into the break with the scores level. This failure to capitalise in the first 45mins almost came back to haunt Glasgow. Within 5 mins of the restart Burntisland’s Gordon Grieve was fouled in the box and referee Joseph Lawson showed no hesitation in pointing to the spot. Glasgow had no complaints and thankfully they (continued on page 15)
the barras | deerhunter | giving up clothes | joanna newsom
Thread Bare Jo Shaw makes a bold sartorial decision
Visual Art/Exhibitions Until 16th October Giles Round @ SWG3 Until 23rd October Richard Wright @ the Modern Institute Until 29th October Babette Mangolte @ Sorcha Dallas Until 30th October Nick Evans @ Mary Mary Theatre Until 9th October Girl in the Yellow Dress @ Citizens Theatre Black Watch @ SECC 13th October - 6th Nov A Clockwork Orange @ Citizens Theatre 14th -17th October Doctor Who Live @ SECC Comedy 16th October Mark Watson @ SECC 29th October Jimeoin @ Tron Theatre 1st November Jim Jeffries @ Kings Dance 6th-7th October Tony Mills @ Arches 15th October Kevin Cytter/D.I.E Now @ Tramway Multi-Disciplinary 5th - 10th October Yvonne Rainer @ Tramway 27th October Pecha Kucha @ Tramway
The Art of the Exam Max Horberry discovers what makes an art teacher tick.
s the new academic year gets into full swing at schools and universities across the country I decided to look at how subjects are taught, namely Art. Mr Peters was the head of the Art department at a school in south England that shall remain anonymous. “Art is a very complex subject, it isn’t just about ‘are you good at Art?’” he says. The very idea of teaching art is a bizarre one. Art is a talent how can one be expected to teach talent? Surely Art is precisely the sort of thing that contradicts examination? When asked why he got into teaching, Peters says that in all honesty he thought he could paint during the holidays. He considers himself “an artist who teaches” rather than a teacher who teaches. It also gave him access to “all sorts of facilities and lots of young people with lots of ideas and a great creative, buzzing atmosphere”. But how does this apply to his day job that he has spent years dedicating himself to? The painting in the holidays, he says, stopped when he had children (“as do many things”) so instead of having a job that he felt was a way to use his creative talent while he worked at his art, he is left with something that has become the sole focus of his mind. As an Art teacher, “you’re not being an artist, you’re using your creative mind, but you channel it into something different”. Teaching Art is a very separate thing to being an artist and requires many talents that are unique. Teaching Art is such “a creative outpouring, you’ve got to get inside what the student is trying to create, their idea, without hi-jacking the whole thing. It’s all about sowing little seeds.” But how does one deal with the mass of students? It seems to get into one single students head is hard enough but how does a system work for a classroom full of people? “I think I would have been better at teaching Geography or History or English perhaps just to be able to re-present information, some set of facts, in different ways. I think I could have kept that going longer” but with Art “there’s a moment of panic, you don’t know what’s going to happen and they expect you to know the answers. I don’t see how teachers can teach well into their sixties and still keep it fresh and alive”. Even after that feeling of panic has blown over it can often feel that you’re teaching the art of passing an exam rather than teaching art. “I once made the mistake of saying to a parent ‘we’re not interested in
exams’ and a hostile look came over their face and I said ‘I don’t mean exams aren’t important, but we look beyond that, we’re here to do Art.’ I’m not interested in exams and they still don’t like me saying that. Students on the other hand can also get completely distracted by the exam. “You get people who are hopeless at Art who are great at exams and people who are hopeless at exams but great at Art. I’m constantly being asked questions like ‘Do we have to do this?’ and ‘Do we get marked on this?’ and I say ‘No’ and they say ‘Well, why are we doing it?’ and I say ‘Because it’s education, we’re here to educate you, expand your knowledge and understanding of the world.' It seems the exam gets in the way of the education. When it comes to students and their level of interest Peters comes up with the analogy “casting pearls before swine”, this is not said with any bitterness. It is merely a good way of describing his feeling, his frustration. “I think I have a lot of interesting things to say for people who listen, but you can’t put old heads on young shoulders. You have to try to ‘spill gems’ and you just have to watch them cascade and some soak it up. You expect people to be interested and people aren’t, generally speaking, and more and more as time’s gone on, young people have become less and less interested. They’ve lost curiosity.” When asked what he thinks is responsible he merely points at the computer and says “this thing”. “There’s just no problem,” he says, “about ﬁnding any facts anywhere in the world, google, and the virtual nature of it seems to destroy the love of the real thing. I remember when I was young I had to stop and look at something, and I don’t think that it’s an old romantic notion, I think that young people have lost the ability to really relate to their own environment and everyday life. It’s gotten harder to get people excited about things.” So how does the system, the ‘educational’ system, ﬁt into all this? “Art is for art’s sake not for exam’s sake. You can’t examine art, you can appreciate art but you can’t examine it. Fancy examining a Van Gogh or a Picasso, how many marks would that get? It’s ridiculous, the whole thought of it. “Some people say that those who can’t do, teach but it’s jolly hard work, there’s nothing easy about teaching at all. The success is in the students that you’ve help create into people. You’re always working with innocence and adolescence, which is exciting, it’s lovely watching young
people make Art, but just as they’re getting ‘That’s what it’s about!’ they leave. If you’re going to be an Art teacher,” he says with some ﬁnality, “ you've got to enjoy the things that others do with the support structure that you’ve given them, you enjoy their success and their pleasure.”
"It can often feel like your teaching the art of passing an exam rather than teaching art."
So it seems that Mr Peters is left with very little for himself. “I wouldn't teach again,” he says, “teaching has changed so much in the last twenty years, for better, maybe, but more profoundly for the worse. I would have much rather have done something for myself because teaching takes everything from you and you’re left with very little.” Mr Peters in fact retired from teaching a year after this interview. I’m not sure whether my conversation with him had anything to do with a train of thought that might have lead to the decision. Art is a tough subject to teach. It has very little within it that is black and white. Things are never concrete or decided. Art is a subject that can only really be taught to those who want to learn and are listening and even then they may not ﬁt into how the examinations decide art should be evaluated so naturally students, parents and teachers alike can very easily become distracted by the art of passing the exam. When asked to describe teaching Art at school level in a couple of sentences Mr Peters replied: “Bloody hard work, multi-faceted, all-absorbing, all-demanding. You come in, in the morning, and you plug your brain, your heart and your lymphatic system to a big machine that just 'draaaaaws' it off you and you go home, eat a sandwich, watch a bit of telly, fall asleep and go in the next day and have another session with the big leech.”
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A Lesson in Observation Jeni Allison learns to look at art
ot only having just won the Turner Prize in 2009, but also securing a permanent commission from the Scottish National Gallery, it's understandable that there is a lot of hype surrounding Richard Wright. The Glasgow-based artist works directly onto the gallery walls, often painting painstakingly intricate patterns which are inspired, and work with the original space. These are not violent impositions, like grafﬁti, but rather a way to try to collaborate with the architecture. Somewhat audaciously, after the exhibition has run its course the work is painted over, and left to memory alone; . A lot has been made of the fact that this means his work therefore “sits outside the art market,” however I think that there is a far subtler point; Wright's work acts almost like performance, with a limited period for viewing, and is therefore much more an experience than a physical thing. Wright's latest exhibition at the Modern Institute follows this leitmotif. As you enter the bright, whitewashed room your eye is immediately drawn to the far wall which is adorned with a blue pattern. The elements which make up the pattern vary slightly
warping the solidity of the wall, and making it appear to recede. Without the synthesis of the gabled roof with this pattern, this illusion would not work, highlighting just how site-speciﬁc Wright's paintings are. At the other end of the room, nestled underneath a roof spar is an almost cellular small red motif. My immediate reaction was that it resembled a sea urchin. I think some of the beauty of Wright's work lies in the fact that the imagination will make connections between an amalgamation of shapes and an image, much like when you lie down and watch clouds blow overhead. The trick is to look, and ﬁnd the ghosts of images within. Unfortunately this is what many people didn't seem to be doing. I'd say on average people spent about two looking round the exhibition whilst I was there. I had a cheeky look at the gallery plan and realised I'd missed one of the pieces. I found this quite unbelievable as the whole exhibition was contained in one room, but I went to where the piece was pinpointed and spent a good minute examining the ﬂoor. Finally I looked up to see, painted on a metal support for the roof a Missoni-
Image courtesy The Artist and the Modern Institute Glasgow
like diagonal stripe. Serves me right for being so self-righteous about people who “weren't taking the time to look properly.” This exhibition is inevitably going to raise those hackneyed questions about “what art is?” And perhaps you do have to wonder if this is not all a bit of a gimmick; the constant creation of work which will
not outlast a couple of months. Nonetheless I can't help thinking that really there is nothing wrong with simply enjoying a visual art experience. Richard Wright is at the Modern Insttute Until October 23rd.
Destination Unknown Jo Shaw looks to Glasgow's Theatres for direction
n many ways, working in the arts at the moment pretty much sucks. Funding cuts are looming and despite David Shrigley’s best efforts, seem pretty inevitable. Theatres across Britain have shut in scarily large numbers over the last ten years. Realistically, there is actually plenty to feel pretty despondent about at the moment. It is often said that the best art is reactionary; that hard times can do wonders for creativity; sometimes I think that this might be true, that the arts could continue to ﬂourish despite entering what is undoubtedly going to be a long, long winter. I think that this is what people have to believe so that they can get out of bed in the morning. However, it seems to be a pretty good time to be young, determined and making theatre in Glasgow. As I saw most recently at the Arches Live festival where the work presented was varied, accomplished and challenging. Deﬁned as their “festival of brave new work from local artists”. Moreover, much of the work presented was intimate and honest. There seemed to be so much in which moments, sentences and movements were genuinely shared between
audience and performer, as was seen in Chris Hall’s The Note and Ian Smith’s beautiful My Hands are Dancing but My Heart is Cold. Truly mutual theatre is hard to come by, but when it does happen, it is often those moments that stay with you, that prove the most inspirational. The eye contact, the interaction and that elusive moment when the audience-performer relationship is transcended and it becomes more about two people, two human beings sharing something which they both value. Many of the performances featured recent graduates from both Glasgow University and the RSAMD, proving that it is worth sticking around north of the border after you graduate. Highlights included Nic Greene’s piece Fatherland in which she explores our relationship to identity and nationality. The Theatre Studies department at Glasgow University is also lucky to welcome Nic Greene as a tutor in for its directing module this year which will hopefully strengthen links between the University and the wider theatre community. Recent RSAMD graduate Nick Anderson’s piece Who Man 2 explored traditional notions
of masculinity and patriarchy in a visceral and engaging performance. Although I am horribly biased having worked on the show myself, Glasgow University graduate Harry Wilson’s Helium was a touching and vital lament for this near-extinct element. Featuring two very committed and engaging performances from Laurie Brown and Sarah Bradley, Helium was a true joy both to work on and to watch. However, my personal highlight came in the shape of Rachel Amey’s Where have I come from? Where are we going? Part poetry, part physical theatre and brutally honest and challenging, Amey’s piece explored how the notion of womanhood is learnt and received by the wider world. It is what so many of us are thinking, and we were lucky to have Amey’s piece to as conﬁrmation. So, really, where are we going? Well, Arches heads straight into another festival– Glasgay! I have no doubt that brave performers asking challenging questions about the world we live in will not be in short supply here. Rachel Amey and Wendy Miller present a new play called The Bridge about crossing the bridge between teenage and adulthood and the tragedies along the
way. Glasgow-based performance poet Drew Taylor presents a new show called Chromotherapy which focuses on our perception and experience of colour. As part of the IETM Glasgow Voices plenary, Nic Greene presents her award-winning and “life-afﬁrming” Trilogy which celebrates modern-day feminism and explores the joys and difﬁculties of being a woman today Elsewhere, John Tiffany’s goliath-esque Black Watch runs until the 9th of October at the SECC. Seen through the eyes of soldiers on the ground Black Watch is as immediate, visceral and arresting as before. Film-maker and photographer Babette Mangolte’s chronology of the work of Yvonne Rainer is a valuable record of a creative dialogue, showing until the 29th of October at Sorcha Dallas Gallery. To be honest, I am not sure where we are going; I am sure that there are difﬁculties to be overcome. But looking back and looking forward it seems that with the levels of talent and determination that are evident, it looks to be an interesting journey.
11. 12. 13. 14. 15. 16. 17. 18.
5. 6. 7. 8. 9. 10.
1. 2. 3. 4.
Tramway 25 Albert Drive Mary Mary Suite 2/1, 6 Dixon Street SWG3 Studio Warehouse Glasgow 100 Eastvale Place CCA Centre for Contemporary Arts 350 Sauchiehall Street GSA The Glasgow School of Art 168 Renfrew Street GOMA Gallery of Modern Art Queen Street Transmission 28 King Street Glasgow Sculpture Studios 145 Kelvinhaugh Street Glasgow Print Studio located within Trongate103 Che Camille Floor 6, Argyll Chambers, Buchanan Street (and Barras Market) Modern Institute 73 Robertson Street Sorcha Dallas 5 St Margaret's Place Tron Theatre 63 Trongate Citizens Theatre 119 Gorbals Street Kings Theatre 297 Bath Street Theatre Royal 282 Hope Street Blackfriars 4 Blackfriars Road The Stand 333 Woodlands Road
Ruby Wight points you in the right direction
Glasgow's Art Galleries and Theatres
5 PA G E
A real stand-up guy World's Greatest Dad Dir: Bobcat Goldthwait On general release now
>> Michael Gray-Buchanan
can only imagine that trying to make a successful and challenging dark comedy, which actually contains a laugh or two, is a bit like trying to make Coq au Vin entirely out of ingredients from an all-night service station – bloody difficult. Truly great dark comedy tends to tread the tightrope of uneasy and self-conscious laughter, attempting to make the audience question their own sense of humour without pushing them so far out that they end up alienated by the feature. This is exactly what writer/director Bobcat Goldthwait set out to do in his latest feature-length film; although whilst I’m sure black comedy is a fickle endeavour, it can’t be nearly as fickle as the career of his star cast-member. Since making a name for himself in Good Morning, Vietnam and Dead Poets Society, Robin Williams has led an almost schizophrenic career fluttering between moments of brilliance (Good Will Hunting, The Fisher King) and extended periods of trite ill-judgement (Jack, Patch Adams, Flubber) leaving him as one of Hollywood’s ‘untouchables’ (and not the good kind) for much of the past decade. During the film’s opening act we follow Lance Clayton (Williams), a writer and single father,
struggling to build a relationship with his bigoted, perverted and narcissistic teenage son. When his son dies through an accident involving autoerotic-asphyxiation, Lance decides to make his son’s death appear intentional, writing a moving and articulate suicide note to accompany the body. The resulting consequence is that the son, previously a universally hated and hateful individual, is transformed into a cult figure and romanticised as a tortured soul. Lance’s writing career is finally given the lift off as he fakes his son’s journal, propelling him and the figure of the boy to national fame. As a film that starts out as a screwball-indie comedy, World’s Greatest Dad swells into a cold and ultimately hollow satire about the cult of suicide and the shallow nature of celebrity. The laughs are dark and uncomfortable, although plentiful, and at times it feels like a film that’s genuinely trying to push the boundaries of comedy. Every character, with exception to Lance and his elderly next-door neighbour (who bond over a love for old George A. Romero films and hash-brownies), is portrayed in the same repulsive light as that of the son; individuals are shown to be little else other than self-serving and self-obsessive sycophants. The film’s cynicism is sharp and erudite, with its social commentary firmly on the pulse of modern society and our fad obsessions, making it a particular standout amongst this year’s satirical comedies. If the film has a downfall, and unfortunately it does, it’s in not having the strength of its own convictions to push the audience, eventually returning to the mainstream and traditional comedy formula. There are however, some stalwart scenes along the way and Williams gives his finest performance of the past ten years, in what one would tentatively call a ‘return to form’. If you like your comedies out of the ordinary, you’ll find little else out there which holds as much interest as World’s Greatest Dad – but be prepared to come away ultimately unsatisfied by a conventional conclusion to what is, for the most part, a very unconventional film.
Small town crooks The Town
Dir: Ben Afﬂeck On general release now
>> Michael Gray-Buchanan
iven the success of Gone Baby Gone, it could be said that Ben Affleck proved to the plethora of dismissive critics that he was more than just a buttock-chinned, emotionally bland Hollywood superstar. His directorial follow-up, yet another Boston-based crime-drama, pays homage to classic 1960s and 70s thrillers in the vein of Bullitt and Friedkin’s The French Connection, and carries more than a passing resemblance to Michael Mann’s Heat. The setup keeps things fairly traditional, four thieves based in Charlestown (according to the film’s opening titles, the number one US city for bank heists) successfully hit a bank before kidnapping the manger (portrayed brilliantly by Rebecca Hall), all-the-while hiding their identities behind charmingly quirky masks, reminiscent of Kathryn Bigelow’s Point Break. They later discover the released hostage now resides on their very own street; when it becomes apparent that she needs to be taken out of the picture, chief thief Doug MacRay (Ben Affleck) steps up to the task and before you know it he’s treating her to fancy cocktail lunches and the odd stroll in the park. As things begin to unravel, Jeremy Renner – playing Affleck’s right hand man – begins to get a little bit suspicious and more than a little bit angry. It’s not always easy to hear what Renner’s going on about, but he’s entertaining enough to watch – usually because he’s about to punch someone in the face. The antithesis to these fairly one dimensional bank robbers (Affleck plays your typical criminalwith-a-conscience type, although he’s more than happy to shoot a few cops in the back given half the chance) is head FBI agent Adam Frawley, played by Jon Hamm, who alongside Hall, is the standout on-screen presence here. His maverick character has a little more depth than most, and in contrast to Affleck’s banal performance and flavourless character, his coldness is all the more intriguing. Pete Postlethwaite also puts in the odd appearance as the heist architect, which to my account makes any film worth watching,
even if he does have the worst Irish accent in recent cinema history – making Sean Connery’s attempt in The Untouchables seem almost authentic. While characterisation might not be the strong point of Affleck’s writing, his directional style ought to be applauded, as The Town confirms the fact that he is a far stronger presence behind the camera than in front. An almost shot-for-shot remake of Heat’s epic four-
blocks-of-stuff-blowing-up setpiece is a highlight, and fantastically executed, filling the screen minutes with an intensity and urgency that is sorely lacking in most conventional action flicks. And the zombie-nun outfits donned by the four bank crooks are simply delightful. William Friedkin, Affleck is not, but he demonstrates great promise for Hollywood blockbusters, even if he fails to capture the gritty reality of those he pays credence to.
The end of an affair: A long standing relationship with material is about to be put to the test as Jo Shaw relinquishes her most
espite being pretty much the least stereotypical version of a girl in many other respects (I enjoy contact sports, video games and do not own a pair of scales) I have one very stereotypical vice. I love to shop. I love clothes. I love fashion magazines. I even love America’s Next Top Model. Now, feminist guilt aside, over the last few months I have been beginning to feel 'The Guilt'. I am well aware that I waste vast amounts of money and time on the acquisition and veritable worship of garments. It has been a turbulent relationship, 'fashion' and me. We have had our ups – Marc Jacob's bags, Alice Dellal, American Apparel leggings, capes and Alexander McQueen. And we have deﬁnitely had our downs – Daisy Lowe, slogan t-shirts, anything nude, size zero and my bank balance. I have been the girl that would eat plain pasta to afford MAC eyeliner and the girl who has fully abused the term overdraft to save my faux-relationship. Before anyone starts to think that this is Sex and The City, I do also have serious ethical concerns about the fashion industry. What concerns me even more is that I have serious concerns about my own consumerist nature. I honestly do not think that we (and that is a collective 'we') can keep spending like this. The credit crunch gave us all a serious reality check, we’re all going to graduate thousands of pounds in debt and probably have to move back in with our parents aged thirty. Perhaps that is why we cannot seem to stop spending – fashion as escapism , Vogue as aspirational literature. The belief that, if you could only afford it, that one dress could change everything (before anyone laughs, seriously, I have thought this). The throwaway nature of the fashion industry genuinely terriﬁes me, not only because of falling ethical standards in the third world but also because, frankly, we do not have enough landﬁll space for another generation raised on Primark. Believe me, this is not in any way intended to preach or instruct. If anyone needs instructed, it is certainly me. Therefore, me-and-fashion are going to go to couples therapy. It has been a really hard decision, but I think we are en route for a pretty bad break up. It is time to go cold turkey. And so, for the next year, from now until October 1st 2011 I am going to aim not to buy any more clothes. Or shoes. Or bags. Or coats or jackets or capes or hats. Nothing. Nada. I am going to use this column to record, muse and, hopefully, amuse with the tales of my quest. It is going to be tough. We have some serious history, me-and-fashion. It’ll be difﬁcult not to drunk-dial at 3pm on some idle Tuesday, passing by Starry Starry Night, (a veritable home from home of mine). But I’m determined. I’m sorry consumerism – it's over.
From top left to right:
At Cafe Trans-Europe KATE wears: Leather jacket - H&M Vest - Topshop Skinny leg trousers - American Apparel Chain necklace - stylist's own Leather gloves - Primark Beret - H&M
At Tatty Bon CLAIRE wears: Blouse - Tatty Bon Skirt - Tatty Bon Handbag - Tatty Bon
At Cafe Trans-Europe CLAIRE wears: Gold jacket - Tatty Bon Leather skirt - stylist's own Beret - H&M Leopard print body (just visible) - H&M Shoes courtesy of Lynne Anderson
At Cafe Cossachok KATE wears: Dress - Tatty Bon Necklace - Tatty Bon Shoes - model's own Faux fur stole - H&M Hat courtesy of Lev at Cafe Cossachok Rings - model's own
PHOTOGRAPHY: Rosie Blake (www.aumeta.com/rosie) STYLING: Claudia Nova MODELS: Kate Hunt & Claire Stuart LOCATIONS: Trans-Europe Cafe, Cafe Cossachok, Tatty Bon MAKE UP: Claudia Nova & Lynne Anderson HAIR: Claudia Nova (www.claudianova.co.uk)
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A place for growth Kathy Beckett
lasgow is a vibrant city, with world famous attractions ranging from the classic style of the Makintosh building at the Glasgow School of Art, to the bustling Buchanan street with it’s performers and excessive crowds. However, once the obvious boxes have been ticked you might be interested in where raw vibrancy resides... Hit the lanes surrounding Byres Road for unique shopping and drinking adventures. There's Gibson Street, which boasts some of the best cafes in Glasgow and just around the corner is Otago Lane home of Tchai-Ovna (meaning 'house of tea' – literally hundreds!). But for me, the most exciting area is the East End of the city. Calton, as its geographically known, is where Glasgow's famous (and infamous) Barras market and Barrowlands are located. Established formally in the 1920's, The Barra’s has become well known for 'liberated' merchandise and more than modestly priced imports. Despite this, it retains a certain charm; behind the Glaswegian doppelgängers of Rodney and Del-Boy there are diamonds in the rough, hiding under years of dust and waiting for discovery... Furthermore, there is change afoot. 'King of the Barras', Tom (a.k.a. market manager), gave me the low down on the new set up where open mindedness and imagination are key. Initially, I was wary of this 'Camden-style' regeneration – nostalgia comforts me. But Tom emphasised, “these things have to happen in an organic way”. Tom's vision started more than ten years ago, “the problem was ﬁnding the right people”. People like Greg, project manager of The Glasgow Bike Shed, and Che Camille have
set the ball rolling as pioneering social enterprises that offer one-of-a-kind services. These new saplings are now springing up all over the old market’s cobbled and paint layered facade. The Glasgow Bike shed is about 'encouraging cycling and recycling'. Their volunteer based team build and repair bikes from reclaimed and donated parts then sell them at absurdly reasonable prices. Their friendly faces are awaiting the results of an application for charity status (ﬁngers crossed!). One door along is Trakke. Down to earth and exceptionally polite lads run this aspiring outdoor company who create bags and other equipment from rescued materials, donated by generous businesses, friends and strangers.
Both ventures offer versatile, functional and (dare I say it) sustainable options for our sinful consumerist lifestyles. Over the road in The New Barras Centre the vibe is similar. Obscure Couture's 'street stage-wear for the introverted extrovert' and open workshop is situated on the corner of this new build, allowing wishful and watchful eyes to gaze – and be inspired. Glasgow's queen of bespoke class, Che Camille, reigns over two units, with their Tailoring Studio (made to measure services!) and The Che Marché offering accessible chic. And amidst these two creative forces is Made In The Shade, a neo-craft group who showcase over forty designers and artists work. Opposite is Pigin Perfect, whose work directly confronts ideas of trade and heritage. This Masters of Architecture duo hope to continue running community based projects - watch this space. Remaining units are ﬁlling up fast and it's truly a hub of creativity. I was overwhelmed by the graciousness of each collective; everyone is genuine and ready to involve anybody in any of their ideas. All of these guys ooze motivation and ingenuity alongside lashings of passion. The resonating message from all of the new kids on the block is community. These ventures offer 'high end' ideas that are accessible; after all, conversation is free. They are part of the bigger picture of the Barras, which should continue for many years to come. Its survival is dependant on sharing, a hopeful fusion of generations and ideals will come in handy - they need your support and all it takes is a little excitement.
The Barras is open weekends 10am -4pm contact: www.tchaiovna.com www.glasgowbikeshed.org www.checamille.com www.trakke.co.uk www.obscure-couture.com www.wearemadeintheshade.com www.pidginperfect.com Images:Kathy Beckett
How to Have Fun in Glasgow Jean-Xavier Boucherat wants you to get out of the beer bar and go to more gigs.
Live music in Glasgow. It’s tricky! You’ve no idea who these bands playing the small venues are and you’re ﬁnding it hard to relate to their own brand of groan-wave-death-skifﬂe, unlike the one friend you’ve come along with who appears to be having an impossibly good time. Having said this however, you should almost certainly persevere. Showing up to support your local scenes is an incredibly wholesome and good thing to do – by feeding your energy, and a small amount of your money, into the various DIY institutions putting on shows around Glasgow you are forging communal identities outside that world of straitjackets constructed by pretentious editors, useless genre terms and beer sponsored festivals. Either that, or its just a lot of fun. I forget. Anyway, here’s ﬁve bands you should totally go and see ASAP.
THE COSMIC DEAD (http://www.myspace.com/thecosmicdead)
The Glasgow-based DIY adventure team Winning Sperm Party have taken to renting out the ‘Practice Pad’ rehearsal studios in Maryhill and throwing fairly mental parties featuring hundreds of bands and pretty good falafel. The Cosmic Dead, a revolving line up of musicians, ﬁnished off the recent night in one of the studio’s smaller rooms by completely ﬂooding it with smoke, lighting up the place in red, and unleashing a thirty minute sonic assault on the hundred or so ears lost in the fog. There’s an obvious nod to Sunn0))) as the set opens up, with the band blasting the crowd with a distorted, tonally-saturated wave of droning power chords. Then, slowly, there’s an eerie transformation as an entirely transcendent kraut-beat jam unfolds, featuring the kind of effect-heavy guitar work that you’d be more then happy to slowly drown in, all underpinned by a hypnotic, eternally repeating bass grooves. Epic, life-afﬁrming adventures in space, catch them at the Captains Rest, October 25th.
CLOCKED OUT (www.clockedout.bandcamp.com) I don’t even wanna talk about Clocked Out! They’re just really, really, really fun yeah?! That’s it! I swear! Fast, tanked-up, forget-thenine-to-ﬁve funcore? For anyone with healthy punk sensibilities, playing the Book Yer Ane Fest IV DIY punk and hardcore festival in Dundee December 4th.
HONEY AND THE HERBS (pictured) (www.myspace.com/honeyandtheherbs) Lets go surﬁng with Honey and the Herbs! There’s a good selection of photos detailing what these chaps get up to on their myspace; If you can think of something better to do then traipse around the West end in a Morris Minor with a plethora of instruments and soul-sodden lyrics, I want to hear from you. There is a seriously rich and pleasing garage and psyche-inﬂuenced sound to be enjoyed here – plenty of organs, plenty of heart-felt wailing.
And thats just the tip of the iceberg. Here’s a few of the countless others; Citizens, Holy Mountain, Second Hand Marching Band, Paws, Bronto Skylift, Two Minute Noodles, PVH, Gummy Stumps, Eternal Fags, Divorce, Les Bof!, Flags Raised, Blue Sabbath Black Fiji, Robbie and the Bastard, Jackie Onassis, Black Sun, Ug!, Cheer, Tangles, Noma, Kylie Minoise, honestly the list and the joy is never ending. Furthermore, there are some truly excellent promotion outﬁts in the city just now, watch out for shows organized by the likes of Cry Parrot, Winning Sperm Party, Unthank Collective and This is Our Battleﬁeld. So, remember, if meat is murder, then cheesy pop is just plain exploitation – go vegan and reject every stale union vomit-fest. Spend the money on your fantastic local scenes instead.
ULTIMATE THRUSH (www.myspace.com/ultimatethrush) Ultimate Thrush are good at all sorts of things, particularly costumes and some brutal variety of post-hardcore, post-everything party tunes. Go and see them live, its thrilling stuff. Sporadic, spontaneous and bristling with the kind of ﬁlthy excitement you usually associate with a prison riot gone wrong. Truly the best kind of totally awful. They’re playing stereo with other Glasgow treasures October 24th.
She's ﬁt and she plays the harp Joanna Newsom Glasgow Royal Concert Hall 20/09/10 So, we're living in an age of deafening headphones and noise worship; and feedback (as in cyclical noise) is an element that shocks few music lovers these days. Indeed, it positively delights many. So it's a sobering and uneasy experience to witness a somewhat distressed Joanna Newsom squirming in discomfort when dogged by a particularly nasty hissing one song into her performance tonight. This kind of thing can have a serious, immediate effect on the sensitized ears of the classically trained. It's a shame that the Glasgow Royal Concert Hall, for all its pomp, circumstance and wildly over-priced tickets, can't get a handle on this, and prevent these initial anxieties. Luckily this appears to have little effect on the overall performance. On the basis of her three LP's, you'd be forgiven for associating the crystal tones of a harp with notions of gentle innocence and clarity. The visual element of Newsom shifting about on the stool, literally wrestling with a six foot instrument, is arresting, and reveals a messy, emotional turbulence you'd more readily associate with the jagged world of guitar based singer-songwriters. Tonight's set is a collection from across the harpist's back-catalogue, featuring a minimal line up compared to the orchestras she has previously
played with. The band features collaborators Neal Morgan and Ryan Francesconi who, as well as feeding into the sound a range of string instruments and some very emotive, earthy drumming, were responsible for some of the song-writing to be found on latest release Have One on Me, and re-arranging and shortening some of Newsom's grander creations. Completing the line up are session muscians taking up violins and the trombone, plus a few other surprises. It genuinely works well. The group's sound is organic and punctuated, never overwhelming. As a result, this tends to ground the audience in the immediate situation - Newsom's storytelling is complex, and she wouldn't want you to get lost. Respite comes in the form of the shimmering spaces created by Newsom's expertly executed solo harp ﬂourishes, unleashed in tasteful frequency ("That last one gave me a blister!" she complains after a particularly gruelling work-out). Part of what's so good about what is going on tonight is for all their arpeggios and seamless chord changes, Newsom and co. never comes off as pretentious, aloof, or otherwise unreachable; each song resonates with that folk-based spirit of welcome that has characterised much of her work. This kind of execution, a technical brilliance which radiates a certain effortlessness and freedom, is rare, and despite some technical difﬁculties and a somewhat tepid atmosphere, tonight's performance is a pleasure to witness. Jean-Xavier Boucherat
9 PA G E
We Know What You Did Last Summer The Insight Music Team take a look at what we missed whilst on holiday.
e can’t be there for you all the time. When the summer comes around, we’re just like you; we need to get back home to work our crappy nine-to-ﬁves, and mentally prepare for another year of this bewildering experience called uni. Here’s a selection of what we were listening to whilst we were recuperating;
The Gaslight Anthem - American Slang (released 15/06/10, SideOneDummy) American Slang, the third album from New Jersey soul-punks, The Gaslight Anthem sees them embracing motown and reggae inﬂuences aside from the "Springsteen on speed" punk of their ﬁrst two records. The result is ten of the most singable tunes of the summer. Peter Brearley
Darker My Love – Alive As You Are (released 26/06/10, Dangerbird) Los Angeles based Darker My Love has managed yet again to transform their sound, giving fans a slightly new tone, and eleven new tunes to sway to. Creative lyricism gives indie rockers from up and down the coast of the Golden State the perfect summer afternoon blaze record. Elsbeth Riley Mogwai – Special Moves/Burning (released 23/08/2010, Rock Action)
Kele - The Boxer (released 21/06/10, Wichita) Arguably it is the abruptness of Kele’s musical transformation that prevented many from taking his electronic revelations seriously. Booming euro-disco synths and triumphant lyrics suggest a diametric change in his artistic persona. Still, chanting uplifting lines straight from a self-help book and making his toned physique the a focus of a video may not be the way to do it. Anna Danielewicz
Arcade Fire – The Suburbs (released 02/08/10, Mercury)
This live CD/DVD release serves as a worthy reminder of the gorgeous, haunting and epic sounds of one of Glasgow's greatest bands, ever. Older tracks stand ﬁrm against their newer material, whilst the black and white ﬁlm of Burning works as a clever and aesthetically pleasing accompaniment to the live record. Lauren Martin
Mount Kimbie - Crooks and Lovers (released 19/07/10, Hotﬂush)
Between its pulsating rhythms, repeated lyrical themes, fantastic segues and exemplary orchestration and production, The Suburbs is an album that demands to be listened to from start to ﬁnish. Its beauty is in its simplicity: from the piano riff majesty of the title track until the reprise some ﬁfteen tracks later, this is unquestionably one of the best records of this year. Matthew Nicol
Two types of people in the world. There are those who listen to Crooks and Robbers and immediately launch into some selfimportant tirade stolen from any number of music blogs on how the record demonstrates that dubstep has become a world without point of reference. And there's those who just really love its tasteful mix of ambience and chopped up beats. Jean-Xavier Boucherat
The Idiot's Guide to Becoming a Superhero Get Cape, Wear Cape, Fly The Garage 25/09/10
After a signiﬁcant time away from Scotland (discussions with the crowd eventually calculated it had been one and a half years since his last visit) Get Cape. Wear Cape. Fly - otherwise known as Sam Duckworth - made his outstanding return to Glasgow. Taking to the stage with an energetic version of single Collapsing Cities, the standard for the evening was set. The crowd were in good voice, aiding Sam with his classic track I-Spy. Despite a few technical glitches, the band were tight and it seemed all seemed pleased to be back on tour. The set continued with numerous tracks from the newly released eponymous album. Unfortunately many tracks were unknown to the audience, but this didn’t seem to faze Duckworth who continued to perform passionately. The much anticipated political discussion from the Southend balladeer appeared before his rendition of Glasshouses, a track discussing immigration. During this speech, Duckworth managed to congratulate the
Scots numerous times on the lack of BNP seats in the area and continually praised our frequent protests and stands against racism and fascism. After this educational aspect to the evening, Sam pleased the crowd with Call Me Ishmael and a stunning version of The Uprising, informing us that we could all make a difference. Returning to the stage for an encore, Duckworth performed a chilling and highly emotional version of his track, Once More With Feeling. Duckworh was clearly teary-eyed as he performed, after confessing that it had been a long and hard 7 years since he wrote the ﬁrst album. the response highlighted the strong bond which had been formulated between singer and audience. The evening ended with a version of album track, Morning Light, a bouncy, energetic end to the evening. After the many thanks from Duckworth and the band, and the appreciation shown by the crowd, a beautiful night of music came to an end. With the crowd truly moved and touched by the music, we hope it will not be quite as long before adopted citizen of Glasgow, Sam Duckworth, returns. Laura Stockwell
Deerhunter Halcyon Digest
Gigs & Club Nights
4AD - 28/09/10
>> Nick Biggs
Mice Parade 08/10/10 Stereo Dual drummers give Adam Pierce's post-punk outﬁt a distinctive sound, and with their eigth album What It Means To Be Left Handed hot off the presses, the New Yorkers have an extensive back catalogue to draw on.
alcyon Digest will be the album to propel Deerhunter from their position as interesting indie outsiders into the front line of progressive, experimental pop music. Possibly. Halcyon Digest is a good album, very good in fact. But if making good music alone were enough to win popular acclaim, Bradford Cox, Lockett Pundt & co. would have achieved it many times over in the last few years. The band has been remarkably proliﬁc and astoundingly consistent. Including Cox and Pudnt’s solo projects (Atlas Sound and Lotus Plaza respectively), the band have released a staggering seven albums (and two EPs) since 2005, each one of them exploring a different musical terrain, each one of them wonderful in its own right. So perhaps wider recognition will again remain elusive to the American four-piece. Actually, this is probably how Deerhunter like it. The rate at which the band has evolved has not lent itself well to satisfying a wide-ranging fan base. Even the band themselves have been keen to disassociate themselves from their early material. When asked about their ﬁrst LP, Turn it Up, Faggot (named after a particularly memorable slice of abuse they were served up at an early gig), Cox has gone as far to say that it "sucks" and they now ﬁnd it "embarrassing". Their follow up effort, Cryptograms, was unrecognisable: a fusion of murky, distorted guitar swell to a climax of psychedelic dream-pop. They then reinvented themselves again with the up-beat, poppier Microcastle, which included a 40 minute, reverb-drenched bonus disc (Weird Era Cont). So it should come as no surprise that, Halcyon Digest also breaks new ground, and bares little resemblance to their previous fulllength efforts. The distorted guitars and hypnotic vocal lines, which have been so characteristic of their music to date, are largely absent. They have been peeled away, and the happy result is that a new set of strengths reveal themselves. Cox and Pundt’s imaginative lyricism, the sensitivity of their song-writing, and the range of
Sufjan Stevens The Age Of Adz
Way of the Tomb 16/10/10 Flying Duck A Mexican ‘Dia de los Muertos’ - style celebration of all things spooky. The Low Miffs, Divorce, Findo Gask and Yoko Oh No! will be taking to the stage. Coke Bust 11/10/10 Arts School The straight-edge New York City Hardcore heavyweights visit Glasgow on their epic European tour. Two things to know about this gig; It will be loud, and it will be good. their soundscape are all allowed to ﬂourish on Halcyon Digest. Revival is a clean and conventional pop song, but lit up by a jangly guitar lick and given depth by spiritual ponderings, “Would you believe it/ All of the day/ I felt his presence near me.” Basement Scene is a throw back to the minimalism of Cryptograms, and a love song to their days of small-scale gigging, “Dream a little dream, all about the basement scene/ I don't wanna wake up.” The introverted reﬂections of Cox are counter-balanced well by Pundt’s quicker, guitar driven anthems. With its elegant riff and catchy chorus, Desire Lines might, in fact, be the best track on the record. Coronado, like the Spanish explorer it’s named after, ventures into unfamiliar territory. Shockingly, it utilises a saxophone as its fo-
How To Dress Well Love Remains
Asthmatic Kitty - 12/10/10
Lefse - 20/09/10
his is not the Sufjan Stevens that we listened to in high school. Much different from his 2005 Illinoise, the new album adds an electric element that takes away from his complex and enchanting orchestral arrangements. The Age of Adz drops on October 12th, and offers fans a quite drastically different sound. It might be going to far to say that this album sounds like The Postal Service got a new singer, but not far enough to simply say that Sufjan’s style has changed. Track six Get Real, Get Right is a great example of how much this sound has been altered. His old identity if certainly present, but the back-beat will surprise you. The electronic age is upon us. Overall great album, but unexpectedly uncharacteristic from this notoriously acoustic artist. Elsbeth Riley
t has been a year now since Tom Krell emerged from the forsaken playground of contemporary R&B as a salutary evening star. Behind the gentle moniker of How To Dress Well, Krell has put together the forgotten patterns of the 1990s to reconﬁgure them in an unparalleled lo-ﬁ landscape. Currently based in Cologne, Krell divides his time between participating in the post-Kantian discourse and performing extensive bedroom experiments with sound texture and deconstruction. Although Krell may be denounced for taking the rudimentary principles of song-writing rather lightly, his songs are not devoid of entertaining hooks. In You Hold the water an ostensibly random dialogue seamlessly merges into the ambientish plains of the opening track. Multilayered chanting interweaves with the placid humming of the drum
cal point: unimaginable on any of their previous outings. The album culminates with He Would Have Laughed; a seven minute tribute to recently departed punk rocker (and personal friend of the band) Jay Reatard. The guitar riff is brilliant in its simplicity, and works perfectly as a foil to Cox’s sorrowful ruminations, asking mournfully "Where are your friends tonight?" True to its subject, the song ends suddenly, unexpectedly, prematurely. Halcyon Digest is Deerhunter’s maturest work to date. It deﬁes labels such as dreampop or ambient-punk, and operates within a more conventional form and structure. It may not have the hooks and thrills of Microcastle, but it more than compensates in variety and sheer depth: it rewards with every new listen. Where the band go from here is anybody’s guess. machine, carrying us towards the harmonious distortions of Ready For The World. Pierced with shrill notes of excitement and corroded synths, the lover’s plea blooms above droning percussions. Other highlights include the recurrent crescendo of My Body, translucent upbeat in Walking This Dumb and fuzzy bassline riffs of You Won’t Need Me Where I’m Goin. Where the ascetic instrumentation ﬂounders, Krell’s exquisite vocals come to rescue. Hence, the intensity of his explorations of the eerie land of hope and longing never abates for more than a moment. A couple of weaker tracks, including Endless Rain and Mr. By & By appear to be helplessly sunk in underproduction. Drifting feebly among the relics of new jack swing, they fail to convey the same tremendous yearning, leaving the gap between the artist and the listener unabridged. Nonetheless, these lapses do not break the steady ﬂow of the album. On the rising tide of bedroom ﬁdelity, How To Dress Well manages to assemble from it something worthwhile in itself, the joy of introspection. Anna Danielwicz
DOOM 18/10/10 Arches Whether you know him as MF Doom, Dangerdoom, Viktor Vaughn, King Geedorah, Madvillain, or even plain old Daniel Dumile, be sure to catch hip-hop's most mysterious talent when he makes a rare trip to Glasgow. Tricky 19/10/10 Arches Tricky is the English rapper who fuses elements of rock and hip-hop. Whether you love it or hate it, the result is undeniably interesting, and well worth a look. Crystal Castles 19/10/10 O2 ABC Although they still tend to divide opinion, a strong second album released earlier this year has boosted the credibility of this electro duo. They deﬁnitely have some strong songs, just watch out for those moshing scenesters! Carl Barat 21/10/10 Oran Mor The ex-Libertine has taken a step away from his former band to play a string of solo gigs. Just hope he plays a Dirty Pretty Things-light set. Yeasayer 24/10/10 O2 ABC The Brooklyn-based psychedilic rock group come to Glasgow! If indie art-pop is your thing, this is one gig not to be missed.
PA G E
music Genre Trouble…
Swanning about Jean-Xavier Boucherat has a word with Michael Gira of Swans.
hen Swans disbanded in 1997, they left the world with the two-disc epic 'Soundtracks for the Blind', a collection of dark soundscapes, found sound and ﬁeld recordings, and ambitious post-rock explorations. The parting gift was a testament to just how much the bands sound has developed since emerging from that short lived hipster wet-dream otherwise known as the no-wave scene. Central member Michael Gira has remained active since then, playing with the more melodically inclined Angels of Light, but now, 13 years later, Swans have returned with their 12th studio album 'My Father Will Guide Me Up a Rope to the Sky'. The forty ﬁve minute record is a dense, unsettling and often beautiful accomplishment – a vicious collection of sharp dynamic variance and entirely unconventional songwriting. Having just started their world tour, Michael seems in high spirits when I talk to him. 'We're travelling through the mountains right now, it's pretty special'. You've been keen to point out that you don't view the band's reformation as a re-union, why is that? Is this part of a move to escape the sound associated with the band? We're not revisiting the old Swans. This is a way for me to push forward and develop, and make some good music in the process, we just happened to decide to release it under the name of Swans. The last thing I would want is for what we're doing now to turn into an exercise in nostalgia. The new record sounds huge, how much continuity do you see between it and say Angels of Light, or Soundtracks for the Blind? Certainly there is continuity between from Soundtracks from the Blind, in fact they all ﬁgure in the new album, these elements all contribute, but there's also a key difference. I don't know what, but it makes perfect sense to me because I'm the same person (laughs). But yeah, the touring we're doing now really brings out the difference. Good! Tell us about the tour. It's going extremely well, we are all transforming around it. Do you detect a new dynamic in the new arrangement? Well I mean, me and the band get along incredibly well, there's no bickering or drama. One thing about this tour is that it's a real physical commitment, some of the songs we're playing are like twenty minutes long, it's a real ordeal getting through them without having a heart attack! But at the same time, it's a lot like say going to church, you get lost in something bigger then yourself. Many of our readers will know Devendera Banhart, who features on the album track 'You People Make Me Fucking Sick', how was it working with him? Well Devendera's a great guy, we're good friends, maybe you don't know about it in the UK but it was my label (Young God) that put out
>>Jean-Xavier Boucherat Seeing as it's our ﬁrst issue of the year lets forget the usual wild-speculation-on-the-natureof-the-generations-musical-identity malarky and keep it light. You've probably been hearing some unfortunate people throwing words like beach house, chill-wave or post-hypnogogic pop about. I'm sick of these people having all the fun making up genre names, so here are ﬁve as of yet ﬁctional genres I wish to see exploited immediately; GRINDGAZE The ferocity of Grindcore, the crushing apathy of Shoegaze. Sullen, crooning vocals about all the good stuff – sexual ambivalence, nihilism-lite, Bill Murray's adventures in Japan, accompanied by brutal, down-tuned 20 second beatdowns.
'Oh Me Oh My' (2002) as well as 'Rejoicing in the Hands' (2004) and 'Niño Rojo' (2004) which I actually produced, so yeah we're very close. I came to recording that particular song in a very odd way, and when I started singing it I realised I was singing exactly like Devendera, so I ﬁgured it'd make perfect sense to include him on the album. You also included your daughter's voice on the track which sounds quite childish and singsong-esque, don't get me wrong because I mean this in an entirely positive way but she transforms the track into something all together terrifying, what was behind that decision? Well yeah exactly! I just felt it needed a little something else so we decided to overdub her onto the track, it just made sense to me, it adds a certain implication to the lyrics I feel. A twisted childhood innocence say. Sure, yeah. I mean I wrote this song while I was absent-mindedly whipping around on some music website, looking at pictures of stylish young people full of violent sexual urges, and so I decided to write a love song from the point of view of a stalker.
Swans play Glasgow Arches October 25th. 'My Father Will Guide Me Up a Rope to The Sky' is out now on Young God'.
The GGM Playlist 001 - Balearic Beachcomber Wavves Beach Fossils The Drums Washed out jj Best Coast Memory Tapes Surfer Blood Neon Indian Toro Y Moi
Idiot Daydream I Felt Stupid New Theory Let Go Summer Mood Bicycle Take it Easy Should Have Taken Acid... You Hid
Anna Danielewicz Email us your playlist to: firstname.lastname@example.org
NO-STEP What the club scene really needs to do is to stop having so much fun and focus its energies on alienating absolutely everybody by banging out terribly produced, super discordant, un-danceable auto-tunes and having an elite of about twenty folk proclaim them the most important output in the history of the dance ﬂoor. Plus anybody who's come into contact with no-wave will know that the pictures are roughly a thousand times better then the tunes, so no-step will spell a golden age for people arrogant enough to put pictures of their nights out up on Facebook and show you what a good time THEY'RE having, thus making everyone just a little unhappier! Result! BATTLEFOLK Not a genre as such and more of a suggestion on how to improve folk in all its incarnations there aren't nearly enough beefs in the folk / singer-songwriter community, and if there are they simply aren't airing them explicitly enough. RELATED; BAD-ANECDOTE-WAVE Rubbish stories about what happened to you the other night when you were taking the trash out or whatever are the best. Lets see some heartwrenching acoustic sweetness being dreamed up to convey some utterly frivolous tales. TREE-IN-THE-WOODS-CORE This is simple – any band, any set-up, any style, anything, so long as they never record and perform exclusively in empty venues. A notoriously tricky scene to negotiate without selling out, like every other band in the world ever did. RIOT-GOAT A bit like Riot Grrrl. But freakier.
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