Glasgow University 22nd October 2008
Scottish Student Newspaper of the Year
Burn, baby, burn
Horses for courses
Lewis Porteous reviews the latest offering from the Coen Brothers
Declan McKay speaks to Foals' frontman, Yannis Pilippakis
NHS block on new Hub pharmacy
Photo: Jim Wilson
Unanimous rejection for health centre proposal SRC expresses disappointment at panel ruling PLANS TO INTRODUCE A pharmacy in the refurbished Hub have been blocked by the NHS Pharmacy Practice Committee (PPC) in the interests of local competition. Neeraj Salwan, co-owner of Apple Pharmacy, submitted the application for a pharmacy to a panel consisting of the PPC and the representatives of the pharmacies in the local vicinity, referred to as the ‘interested parties’. The objective of the meeting was to “determine whether the granting of the application was necessary or desirable to secure the adequate provision of pharmaceutical services in the neighbourhood”. The panel concluded that the application was neither and voted unanimously against it. It was decided that the Boots on Byers Road and the Andrew Hand Pharmacy on Dumbarton road were the two pharmacies situated inside the boundaries of the local neighbourhood. Both Mr Salwan, ‘the Applicant’, and Mr Charles Tait, representing
George Binning Boots pharmaceutical chain, admitted that the subject of the boundaries had been the topic of some debate. Mr Salwan said: “I’m going to go back for another look, in past cases the local ‘neighbourhood’ has often been hard to define. “The issue is complicated by the fact that there are students coming onto campus everyday from many different neighbourhoods.” Mr Tait also said: “There is always a dispute over the boundaries of the local neighbourhood, but it is the prerogative of the Pharmaceutical Practice Committee to decide on this matter.” Prior to the meeting, the committee visited Stirling University’s on-campus pharmacy, a site which which Mr Salwan advocated as a perfect test case for the Hub proposals. “It is impossible to deny the good service that the Stirling Campus pharmacy provides to students. We spoke to the
pharmacist and saw how valuable a pharmacy was, especially in its capacity to devote extra time and resources to the needs of students. “I believe the proposal will improve existing pharmaceutical services rather than detract from their business. In Glasgow there seems to be a gap in the market for this specialised sort of service.” Charles Tait, representing the Boots pharmacy chain, disagreed, saying that the location of Stirling campus differed significantly from that of Glasgow, arguing: “The site of the Hub’s pharmacy is in a distinct category to Stirling’s on-campus pharmacy. The difference being that the Hub is in the middle of a major city, and its impact on the neighbourhood would be greater.” A range of student specific services was suggested in the application. Mr Salwan put forward suggestions including a travel clinic boasting a wide range of vaccines and a sexual health clinic with Chlamydia (continued on page 2)
Look before you leap: abseilers raise record funds for charity
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Energy costs GUU jobs News Staff
THE GLASGOW UNIVERSITY UNION (GUU) has been forced to lay off a number of employees as a result of the rising cost of fuel. Chris Birrell, president of the GUU, told Guardian that the union was losing a lot of money on utility bills and facing another year of financial hardship as a result: He said: “The major problem facing the
GUU this year is managing our rising utilities costs. The cost of oil and electricity has sky rocketed, and with such a large building and inefficient old oil boiler, we are losing a lot of money. We are currently working with the University in addressing these problems.” Birrell confirmed that there had been cutbacks in staff, but was unwilling to expand upon the particulars of the matter. (continued on page 4)
22nd October 2008
Photo: Jim Wilson
Hub hit by pharmacy rejection (continued from front page) testing and emergency hormonal contraception available, to which Mr Tait pointed out that some of the services promised were unavailable on the NHS, and would have had to be privately contracted. Gerry Hughes, representative for the Greater Glasgow and Clyde Area Pharmaceutical CP Subcommittee, said that his pharmacy was able to provide the majority of travel vaccines already. “We have all the travel vaccines the Hub would be offering, except for Japanese Encephalitis B and Yellow Fever.”
Mr Tait was of the same stance: “Boots already offers sexual health advice, but not all travel vaccines, though they can be ordered in.” Mr Hughes raised the subject of access to the Hub, claiming: “If entry to the Hub is requires a student card, then public access becomes an issue. If it is then classed as a private pharmacy then it will be impossible to get remuneration from the NHS.” Similarly Mr Tait claimed: “No pharmacy purely aimed at students would be viable.” However, with a population of 20,000 students and almost 6000 staff, Mr Salwan did not foresee
a problem arising: “It is not just students but the thousands of staff who will be able to make use of the facilities; I do not intend to make a massive profit on the project.” He did concede that the pharmacy would be unfeasible without the participation of the NHS: “We would need an NHS contract to make the pharmacy possible.” Mr Salwan also told Guardian that he intended to resubmit his application to the committee. He said: “I will be submitting a fresh application with more backing in the near future. The date for the next hearing will be arranged by
the health board. I will be going for it guns blazing this time. I want to play more on the desirability of the proposal in the next application.” Gerry Hughes explained that the law was unbending in relation to the creation of new pharmacies: “If there is already adequacy of provision the question of desirability is negated, this is a statutory instrument. We had no choice but to reject the application as we have a strict set of procedures to follow.” Gavin Lee, president of the SRC, expressed frustration at the PPC’s decision: “The SRC is extremely disappointed that the application
for a pharmacy in The Hub has been rejected. There is a real and significant need for a pharmacy on campus. “We believe that having a pharmacy at the centre of campus will benefit students’ health and wellbeing, and encourage far more students to seek out treatment for any illness they may be experiencing. The SRC will actively support any application for a pharmacy on Gilmorehill Campus.” Peter Venables, the third interested party, representing Andrew Hand pharmacy, declined to comment on the matter.
Glasgow students protest banking bail-out Pete Ramand
STUDENTS AND TRADE UNIONISTS demonstrated against bank-bailouts outside Halifax Bank of Scotland, Lloyds TSB and the Royal Bank of Scotland in Glasgow on October 18th. Danny McGregor, one of the organisers of the demonstration, outlined the demands of the protestors, highlighting the issues raised by rescuing big business with taxpayers’ money. He said: “Working people should not be the victims of job losses and home repossessions while the bankers are being bailed out with billions of pounds of public money. “Glasgow hosts some of the biggest finan-
cial corporations in the world. Despite the corporations being part of the cause of this crisis it is their profits that are being saved. “We demand a bail-out of ordinary people, not the bankers; and to nationalise the profits, not the debts.” RBS declined to comment, while both HBoS and Lloyds TSB were also unavailable to make a statement. The demonstration was organised by the Socialist Workers Student Society as a prelude to a mobilisation planned for October 31st outside the corporate headquarters of HBoS in Edinburgh. This event follows a series of demonstrations over the bank bailouts; the most notable
of which was held in London on October 10th, where 700 students attempted to occupy the Bank of England. In what was dubbed ‘Fight-back Friday’ students attempted to break into the London bank. Steve Henshaw, one of the organisers of the protest, described the scene. He said: “The police couldn’t really control things, and many started lashing out punches in frustration. The crowd were eventually trapped into a corner by police on horseback and officers with dogs. “It’s becoming harder to pay bills, to find work and our student loans are linked to inflation, so the loan company will add about 10%
extra onto our debts this year. We’ll fight with those trying to defend their homes from repossession, stand alongside workers on picket lines and we’ll be on the streets again on the 31st.” Rob Owen, of the NUS National Executive, was equally critical of the banks' handling of the current crisis. He said: “Students have had enough of one rule for the rich and another for the poor. The Bank of England gave billions of pounds of our money to the rich but we won’t be made to pay for their crisis.” A spokesperson for the City of London police force reported: “This was a wellcontrolled demonstration.”
Abseil raises record amount
22nd October 2008
GLASGOW UNIVERSITY’S BELL TOWER was once again the scene for the annual charity abseil, which was, this year, raising money for The Beatson Pebble Appeal. The abseil, which took place on Sunday 12th October, saw over one hundred volunteers, the majority of which were Glasgow University students, scale the 177 feet tall tower. A breezy autumnal day provided the participants with good conditions in which to take the daring plunge while friends and family members watched below and staff from the Glasgow Climbing Centre supervised from above. Although an exact figure has not yet been confirmed, the total raised on the day alone had already surpassed all previous years. The event organiser, Susanne Hill, was delighted with the amount raised by all of the abseil participants. She said: “It’s been a huge success and this has beaten all previous years already. On the day, a total of £26,000 was raised and there is still more money to come in.” Now in its seventh year, the money raised from this year’s abseil will go towards building the Beatson Translational Research Centre, which will form part of one of Europe’s biggest cancer centres: the Glasgow Centre for Cancer Research. The building, which will be based in the Garscube estate, will cost approximately £19.2 million in total and will be a Glasgow University facility. Although the university has taken a large role in the development of the centre, it is doing so in conjunction with Cancer Research UK, the Beatson Institute and the Greater Glasgow and Clyde Health Board. Kirsty Craig, the University of Glasgow's Events and Medical Development Manager, was also in no doubt as to the success of the abseil. She told Guardian: “It’s looking really good and people are being so generous. It makes everyone’s efforts worthwhile.” As the person responsible for the overall fundraising campaign, which has the task of raising £10 million, she explained the work that will be done at the new centre. She said: “Its purpose will be to translate basic scientific findings into treatment for patients with cancer. It’s the link between research and treatment.” The Beatson Pebble Appeal estimates that forty-one people die every day in Scotland as a result of cancer. As organiser of the abseil, Susanne Hill recognises the significance of
Leigh Anne MacDonald prepares to abseil the 177 feet of the Glasgow University Bell Tower, in aid of the Beatson Pebble Appeal (Photo: Jim Wilson)
Scotland‘s health problems in relation to the success of the fundraising campaign. She said: “I think that people will support it because, as it’s cancer, it’s close to many people's hearts.” Two such people are mother and daughter, Lilias and Ailsa Nichol, who took part in the abseil after having lost family members to cancer. The pair, both graduates of the University of Glasgow, together raised almost £300. After her arrival back on solid ground, Lilias described how it felt to have completed the abseil. She said: “I feel absolutely euphoric, you
get such a high coming down. I was very, very nervous but the worst part was climbing the stairs to the top.” 41-year-old Glasgow University graduate, Alan Kerr’s total of £6,500 was the most amount of money raised on the day. He explained that, when it comes to fundraising, it often helps if there is a nerve-wracking challenge involved. He told Guardian: “I wanted to raise money and people just won't give you any unless you offer to do something thoroughly unpleasant.” Fourth year music student, Jenny Evans, raised over £300 along with fellow student Amanda Gregor. When asked what made her
decide to take part, Jenny explained that she felt it was an opportunity worth taking. She said: “I just think that it should be done, and it’s one of those experiences that’s worth having.” The building of the Beatson Translational Research Centre is due to start this time next year, and with around £6 million still to raise, the Beatson Pebble Appeal has some way to go to meet its financial target. However, Kirsty Craig, who is responsible for fundraising, is certain this target can be met. She told Guardian: “We are very confident we’ll get there.”
22nd October 2008
GUU make cutbacks
Photo: Jim Wilson
Students protest airport harassment STUDENTS FROM THE UNIVERSITY of Glasgow joined a demonstration on October 14th to protest against the harassment of Glasgow’s Muslim community at Glasgow airport. The demonstration was organised by the Scottish Afghan Society and Glasgow Stop the War Coalition. This followed claims that Muslims, and the Afghan community in particular, have been unfairly singled out for questioning by Special Branch at Glasgow Airport. Mohammad Asif, President of the Scottish Afghan Society, reported: “People travelling to and from Glasgow airport have been interrogated for 2-3 hours and asked questions which bear no relation to immigration issues. “Individuals have also complained that they are then ‘asked’ to go to the Special Branch Headquarters for further questioning. Some have been asked questions like: do you know where Osama Bin Laden is? Have you trained with the Taliban?” Approximately 120 people attended the demonstration, including Patrick Harvie MSP, and human rights lawyer, Aamer Anwar. A spokesperson for Strathclyde Police said: “A study of the terrorism legislation at airports in Scotland is underway. This is to ensure that these powers are used effectively and are enforced with due regard to community impact and at the same time promote understanding and support."
Glasgow professor is appointed member of GMC
(Continued from front page) He said: “Just before the summer there were some staffing cuts. This was a necessary measure in cost saving ongoing for the Glasgow University Union. “It is GUU policy not to go into detail on the subject of staffing changes.” Birrell was able show some optimism for the coming year but was again unable to go into specifics: “Following the staffing cuts, the 2008 to 2009 budget is looking a lot better.” This development came following the news that the GUU had lost £650,000 in the past two years, and had received a £150,000 bail out from the University. The University Court had noted at the end of the last academic year that this was mainly due to financial mismanagement and a lack of adequate governance over that period. It was also noted in the minutes of the meeting of the last University Court that the Union would be required to reform its business model. The document says: “The Union would be required to provide a realistic plan for a financially sustainable future.”
Glasgow student nominated for helpline volunteer award Kirstien Hodgson
THE DEPUTY EXECUTIVE DEAN AT Glasgow University has been appointed to the General Medical Council. Professor James Mckillop, also the Muirhead Professor of Medicine, welcomed the chance to join the Council. He said:"I am honoured and delighted to be joining the Council at a time of great change in the regulation of the medical profession. I look forward to contributing to the Council's deliberations." Sir Graeme Catto, president of the GMC, was pleased with the new appointments. He stated: "I am delighted that the Appointments Commission has identified such high quality candidates to lead the GMC and I look forward to welcoming them onto the Council." The reconstitution of the GMC is designed to represent key interest groups, including patients and medical schools. Photo: Jim Wilson
A GLASGOW UNIVERSITY STUDENT HAS made it to the final stages of a competition that rewards the efforts of helpline workers. Morven Boyd was nominated by Chris Buckland, the Student Volunteer Support Service Coordinator, for the BT/THA Helpline Worker of the Year Awards 2008. Morven has been put forward for her work with the student service, Nightline. Chris told Guardian how vital Morven’s participation had been over the past year. He said: “Without Morven, this year wouldn’t have been the success it was for Nightline. Not only was she instrumental in arranging weekly shift and committee meetings, she also led from the front by doing 29 shifts from September to February. “It would not be unreasonable to estimate that her combined efforts over the year would reach well over 400 hours, a truly outstanding effort.” Nightline is a confidential information and listening service run by the Student Representative Council for students who need help or just a friendly person to talk to.
Morven, a fifth year French and Hispanic Studies joint honours student, first became involved with the service in her second year. She explained that the reason she continues to work for Nightline is chiefly that it is good to know that she is working to help people. She said: “I’ve been working with Nightline for three years now and it’s really exciting to realise that people are noticing and appreciating the work that you do.” “Everyone says this, I suppose, but you really feel like you’re doing a good thing and that you’re helping people who need it. When you get a good call and people tell you how useful the service is it makes you want to keep going.” Morven has been praised not only for her extraordinary effort but also for highlighting the importance of the voluntary service. Jamie Wightwick, VP Learning and Development for the Student Representative Council, explained the importance of Nightline and the recognition offered by the award. He said: “Nightline is a vital form of support for Glasgow students, and we are extremely pleased that Morven, and the service, is being recognised on a national level.”
22nd October 2008
Glasgow rises in world league table
THE UNIVERSITY OF GLASGOW HAS BEEN RANKED 73rd in the world by a comprehensive university league table. The climb of ten places in the Times Higher Education-QS World University Rankings bucked the general trend of decline of other UK universities. The THE-QS rankings elevate Glasgow to 11th in the UK and within the top one percent of higher education institutions worldwide. The University of Glasgow’s Principal, Sir Muir Russell, has expressed his pride over this recent achievement. He said: “The THE-QS World Ranking reflects the University of Glasgow’s place in global higher education. Over the past several years the University of Glasgow has been through a period of substantial change which has allowed us to compete nationally and internationally, and to be counted in the top 100 is testament to the hard work of all our staff.” Speaking to Guardian, a spokesperson for the Scottish Government’s Office of Education and Lifelong Learning revealed that she felt that this recognition was well deserved. She said: “This is further evidence that Scottish universities are among the best in the world and it is quite right that they should be featured so prominently in the World University Rankings published by the Times Higher last week. Our universities are at the heart of our drive to build a smarter, more prosperous Scotland.” Despite this, not all Scottish universities could join Glasgow in its success. St. Andrews fell from 76 in 2007 to 83 and Aberdeen dropped 16 places to 153. Similar blows were felt in England, notably with the Oxbridge institutions being beaten to the top spots by American rivals Harvard and Yale. This has led to further disquiet over the funding of higher education within the UK. There is concern that the quality of research and teaching delivered by UK universities could be hindered by the amount of funding in comparison to overseas institutions. In response to the THE-QS rankings, Dr Wendy Piatt, Director General of the Russell Group, forecast that, without improved funding, UK universities are in danger of losing out to international counterparts. She said: “We are very concerned about our ability to sustain this level of success in the face of fierce global competition. Without increased investment there is a real danger that the UK’s success will not be sustained.” Speaking to Guardian, a spokesperson for the Department of Education and Lifelong Learning asserted that they were dedicated to preserving the high standards of Scottish universities and that their budget reflected this. She said: “In total, through our budget, this Government invested £5.24 billion over three years in the further and higher education sectors in Scotland. This represents a cash increase of almost 11 per cent.”
Photo: Stefan Sealey
Glasgow named as top ten city Tom Bonnick
THE POPULAR TRAVEL GUIDE, LONELY PLANET, HAS named Glasgow as one of the ten best cities in the world. The new list, which was released to promote the ten cities Lonely Planet recommends visiting in 2009, also includes choices as diverse as Beirut, Warsaw and Shanghai. Half of the selections are European destinations, and three entrants - Mexico City, Sao Paulo and Shanghai - are also amongst the ten largest cities in the world by population size. The choices are not individually ranked, and Glasgow is the only nomination from the UK. Speaking to Guardian, Tom Hall of Lonely Planet explained why Glasgow was chosen. He said: "[Glasgow] was included because it showed Scotland as a modern, forward looking country. Its energy and friendliness were also mentioned [in it's citation], as were the city's excellent art and nightlife scenes." The list is equally notable for its absences. Cities often thought of as more conventional choices for tourists - such as Paris, New York and London - have all been omitted, reflecting
Lonely Planet's original remit; catering for backpackers looking to avoid so-called tourist traps in favour of a more low-key approach towards travelling. When asked whether there were any factors that led to Glasgow being chosen over other UK towns, Hall explained that the decision was more dependent on the city's individual characteristics. He said: "As Glasgow was chosen by an international panel of Lonely Planet's publishers who get together and have a big argument about where to include, it wasn't really preferred to other cities. It stood on its own merits as an energetic, exciting city." Scott Taylor, the Chief Executive of Glasgow City Marketing Bureau, welcomed the accolade as proof of Glasgow's current international reputation. He said: "Fun, chic and stylish are words which have become synonymous with Glasgow. To be offered such a solid endorsement from such a highly regarded guidebook is a welcome indicator of how the city is now perceived nationally and internationally."
Boost for unions after Freshers' Week success Craig MacLellan
STUDENT BODIES ACROSS CAMPUS HAVE CLAIMED Freshers’ Week 2008 as being one of the most successful ever. Both unions believed this year’s Freshers’ Week to be one of the best on record. Over 3,000 new students were treated to live performances from The Subways, Wiley and Kissy Sell Out, and DJ sets from Radio 1 DJs Colin Murray and Dave Pearce. Ally Hunter, President of the Queen Margaret Union, was very pleased with their performance during the week. He said: “It is a marked improvement from the past couple of years, and the enthusiasm of Freshers towards the QMU has been very encouraging for all of us.”
Ally also noted the Freshers’ Ball as being one of the most attended events of the week, with more than 1700 people passing through the QMU over the course of the night. Chris Birrell, President of the Glasgow University Union, believed this year’s Freshers’ Week to be great, in terms of both feeling and figures. He said: “This year has been the most successful Freshers’ Week the GUU has ever had, both in term of numbers and atmosphere throughout the week.” Chris also stressed the importance of Freshers’ Week in the university calendar. He explained: “The GUU has now built a reputation for running good Freshers’ Weeks, which is important, as a successful Freshers’ Week feeds into the union’s success for the
rest of the year.” With sign-ups ongoing, no final membership figures were available at the time of going to press. However, both unions have reported strong take-up, with the final numbers expected to be on a par with recent years. Euan Miller, President of Glasgow University Sports Association (GUSA), has also reported high sign-up numbers for the various clubs and classes provided by GUSA. He said: “Since Freshers’ Week, clubs, fitness classes and drop-in sessions have been reporting exceptionally high numbers joining. “This is fantastic for GUSA, as we are trying to increase our membership and represent all sporting activity at university and Freshers’ Week was a massive step toward that goal.”
22nd October 2008
Enterprise and Abolition
Photo: Courtesy of the University of Virginia
In the second of our three part series on a history of Glasgow University, Claire Strickett investigates the links between the University, the slave trade and the abolitionist movement.
he signs of Glasgow’s links to the slave trade are everywhere, if you know where to look. But until recently, most people have chosen to look the other way. “I think of it as the ‘non-shortbread’ history of Scotland,” Stephen Mullen, a historian specialising in the subject, told me wryly. An uncomfortable subject it may be, but recent years have seen something of a resurgence of interest in the topic. We are now beginning to understand to what extent Glasgow and its merchants benefited from the profits of slavery, as did the University itself. But as we learn more about this hugely significant part of the city’s past, it becomes clear that there is also much to celebrate. Thought it did profit from slavery, Scotland was also a key player in the fight for abolition – with Glasgow University leading the way. “Until recently, Glasgow has been able to separate itself from cities such as London, Liverpool and Bristol with regards to its involvement in the slave trade,” says Graham Campbell, a native Jamaican now working for the Glasgow Anti-Racism Alliance (GARA). “There was very little direct trading of slaves through Glasgow when compared to these other ports.” This lack of a clear, direct involvement in slavery has meant that its significance for Glasgow has been underestimated. To understand the city’s links with slavery, you have to look a little deeper. Ideally placed on the trade routes to the New World, Glasgow is a city that made its fortune through international commerce. Dominating the world’s tobacco market from the 1740s until the 1790s and then monopolising the sugar trade, Glasgow’s great mercantile families quite literally shaped the city around us. Imposing buildings such as that which is now home to the Gallery of Modern Art owe their existence to these rich merchants. Even street names bear witness to their sources of success – Jamaica Street, for example, named after the island where the sugar plantations were located, and Virginia Place, recalling the region where tobacco was grown. And these plantations were worked by slaves. It was, then, slave labour that generated much of Glasgow’s wealth. Scotland’s links with slavery continued to develop throughout the 18th and 19th centuries, as it became common for well-educated young Scotsmen to travel to places such as Jamaica to seek their fortune as plantation owners or overseers. These men were responsible for thousands of slaves, and participated in the trade themselves. The commodities the plantations produced were shipped back to Europe via Glasgow, depositing a tidy sum in the pockets of Glasgow merchants.
One such emigrant was Alexander MacFarlane, whose story Lesley Richmond, Director of Glasgow University's Archives, tells in her essay ‘Glasgow University, Slavery and Abolition’. A graduate of the University of Glasgow who became a merchant, his work included some participation in the slave trade. He was a successful businessman and was able to make a generous gift of astrological equipment to the University. MacFarlane’s name is still read out every year on Commemoration Day in recognition of his ‘generosity’. Similarly, every year the Ewing Gold Medal is still presented for the best essay in Civil History. This prize exists thanks to the gift of £100 from James Ewing, a Glasgow graduate who made his fortune as a plantation owner and sugar
"Some of the most important figures in the anti-slavery movement were based here at Glasgow University" trader. The money he bestowed to the University originated in his profits from the West Indian trade. Glasgow University was simply an institution of its time, accepting gifts from wealthy benefactors, even if these did come from the profits of slavery. However, as shameful as this seems to us today, we also have much to be proud of. Some of the most important figures in the anti-slavery movement were based here at Glasgow University. “When people think of the Scottish Enlightenment, they usually focus on Edinburgh,” says Mullen. “I would argue that Glasgow’s role has been a understated phenomenon.” The call for abolition became a mass nationwide movement by the 1780s, but throughout the 18th century voices from Glasgow had already been calling out in protest. Among the most prominent was Francis Hutcheson, who held the Chair of Moral Philosophy at Glasgow from 1729. In his great work A System of Moral Philosophy, he was one of the first to couch the argument against slavery in terms of a moral wrong against humanity. His argument gave great academic weight to the abolitionist cause, and was taken to heart by campaigners around the world. Two of Hutcheson’s best-known pupils, John Millar and Adam Smith, continued this opposition to slavery in their lectures and writings at Glasgow University. As the abolitionist movement grew, campaigners sought to make their voices heard. “This was an age before parliamentary
democracy as we would understand it,” points out Graham Campbell. With so many people unable to vote, they instead turned to petitioning Parliament for a change in the law. The first Scottish petition came, in fact, from the Senate of the University of Glasgow. Presented to Parliament in 1792, it condemned the slave trade as ‘an existing evil of infinite magnitude’ and “an infamous Traffick, which, by a horrible spirit of desolation, can subsist only in the fullness of Misery, in the ruin of the helpless and forlorn, and in the daily and wide extended Triumphs of Rapine and Murder.” Eventually, thanks to mass campaigning across the country, a law was passed in 1807 to ban the slave trade throughout the British Empire. But there was still work to be done. The 1807 law abolished only the slave trade and not the status of slavery itself. Glaswegians continued to participate in the battle for an outright ban through societies such as the Glasgow Emancipation Society, formed in 1835. One of the leading figures of this society was also one of Glasgow’s most remarkable students. James McCune Smith was born in New York, the son of former slaves, he showed exceptional academic promise. Despite this, racial discrimination meant he was refused entry to American colleges. Glasgow University, however, was one of the first to welcome black students, and so McCune Smith travelled to Scotland to study. At Glasgow, he obtained three degrees, becoming the first African-American to earn a Doctorate of Medicine anywhere in the world. Glasgow can be immensely proud of the role it played in this crucial step towards equality. McCune later returned to the USA where he devoted his life to promoting the welfare of African-Americans and campaigning for emancipation. Slavery was finally fully outlawed by the British Parliament in 1838, and while it continued to exist undetected for many more years in British territory and quite openly in many other nations, the great era of the abolitionist movement in Britain was over. Scotland and Glasgow in particular had played a hugely significant role in achieving abolition and emancipation. “The story we at GARA tell is one of both commiseration and of celebration,” says Campbell. “There’s a lot for Glasgow to be proud of as well as to regret. Jamaica’s full of Campbells, MacDonalds and the like, who took their names from their Scottish slave masters. This is the story of how we became part of Scotland’s family - but black history is common history, too. This is everyone's story.”
The People’s Peer 22nd October 2008
Lord Adebowale is the chief executive of Turning Point, the UK's leading social care network. Tom Bonnick spoke to him about disability, discrimination and the growing economic crisis.
t is difficult to reconcile first impressions of Lord Victor Adebowale with one’s notions of a typical peer. He does not own large tracts of land anywhere in the Home Counties; nor does he possess the accoutrements of wealth – a quadruple-barrelled surname, a wing of the National Gallery – that I like to believe are so beloved of the titled class. Most noticeably, though, he is not elderly, blindingly white, nor a card-carrying Conservative. Lord Adebowale was one of the first so-called ‘People’s Peers’, elevated to the House of Lords for his work as Chief Executive of Turning Point, the UK’s leading social care network. Turning Point provides services for people with a whole variety of complex needs – drug and alcohol addiction, mental health problems and learning disabilities for example. Along with its sister project here, Turning Point Scotland, it has helped almost 200,000 people in Great Britain in the last year alone. The first thing I want to know is how Turning Point’s work has evolved since Adebowale took charge seven years ago – what problems are the organisation responding to that they weren’t before? His response takes me slightly by surprise:
“There are 1.5 million people with learning disabilities in the country, who get a really bad deal. If they were all black, it would be like apartheid.” “The needs haven’t really changed, but our understanding of them has, and therefore our service is more sophisticated”. I’m not entirely certain what this entails, and Adebowale obligingly elaborates. “I guess what has changed is the general view that public services need to be more integrated and personal, so we’ve become more bespoke in our intervention. And we’ve grown because the problems haven’t gone away.” When I ask for an example of how exactly this change has manifested, the answer is a damning one. Adebowale talks with a disarming candour: “Well, there are 1.5 million people with learning disabilities in the country, who get a really bad deal. If they were all black, it would be like apartheid.” A waitress comes to our table and appears slightly alarmed to hear us discussing modern parallels to apartheid, and there is a moment of silence during which the implications of this statement are considered, before he continues. “People with learning disabilities are just like everybody else – they need a healthcare system, they need education, it’s just that they don’t get them. And there’s an awful lot of discrimination and hatred. One of the things Turning Point does is campaign against that.” Given Victor’s position in the Lords – the enviable one shared by his fellow peers which allows him to be relatively unafraid of controversy, unlike elected MPs – his perspective regarding the government’s handling of social care is a unique one. He is keenly aware of the short comings of present and previous administrations, and does not shy away from making criticisms. I ask whether government relies too heavily on charities like Turning Point to provide what has typically been thought of as public sector welfare and I am surprised again: “It doesn’t rely enough on them – it relies too much on the private sector, and private sector business models in an area that should be about public service.” And how far does this sort of policy affect Turning Point and other NGOs who share a similar position? “Even though we turn over £100 million, when I get up in the morning I am legally obliged to improve the life of my clients. If Turning Point were a shareholder company, I’d be obliged to improve shareholder value. The difference is quite fundamental.”
Inevitably, our conversation turns to the subject of Britain falling into the middle of the biggest global recession since the ’80s. The implications of economic downturn are huge for the marginalised groups in society whose lives depend on state benefits or individual social care, and my immediate question concerns how financial crisis will affect the most vulnerable people in Britain. To this, I am presented with a stark picture. “In a lot of ways, their lives couldn’t get any worse. What we are going to see, though, is people making choices of whether to feed their kids or heat their homes – and people will be driven to acts of desperation.” Of course, what will be of equally significant concern to Turning Point’s clients will be the impact of the recession not only on their immediate lives, but also on welfare policy. Will government become more complacent now that everyone has begun to feel the pinch? “I’m not sure complacent is the right word. There’ll be a reassertion of the idea of the ‘deserving’ and ‘undeserving’ poor – certainly some of the rhetoric coming out of the Tories leads me to think that they believe the public are OK with them saying ‘It’s your own fault’.” I wonder, then, how far this mentality extends into general Conservative mindset, and the response reveals an interesting truth – “In times of stress, what happens is we start to create excuses for abandoning people.” So does he see any difference between the provision of services in Scotland as opposed to England and Wales? Could he, for instance, characterise Glasgow according to its needs? The answer, if there is one, is not that simple. “I don’t think there’s a lot of difference between us really. The Scottish system is different in that it’s more individualised; there’s more reliance on not-for-profit intervention in social care. But in terms of needs – the problems are the same.” Does he consider the model in Scotland to be a more efficient one? “The issue is how the state differentiates in its treatment between not-for-profit and profit organisations. There is a greater tendency for Scottish Government to be –” at this moment he pauses to choose his words carefully, “less in awe of private sector business, which I don’t think is a bad thing.” He is eager to qualify this statement further: “It’s not that I’m anti-private sector, but it has its limits.” I am curious about Adebowale’s peerage, about which he remains remarkably unfazed, despite it being a rare and outstanding accomplishment. I want to know whether it is a position of which he is proud to achieve, and he answers with a reply that is both philosophical and characteristically blunt. “I’m not sure I’m proud. That’s a funny thing. I think it adds value, but never confuse access with influence. It has its uses.” And how difficult has it been to get to where he is now? “Well, I’m a six foot black guy. I’ve overcome a few barriers.” As we come to the end of our time together,
I ask how he would like to change social policy, and what he sees as its most fundamental flaws. According to Adebowale, our problems with welfare policy and the recession can both essentially be explained by our relationship with tax. “Taxation is the fairest form of distribution, but successive governments have mugged people into thinking that paying it is a waste of money. What they should be saying is, ‘Actually, it’s pretty good value’.” How, though, has this lie been so successfully disseminated? Surely, I think, the general public would have no qualms with raising taxes against those being rewarded with seven or eight figure salaries. “The super-rich own the means of debate, and it’s impossible to get another view across. And the government now are so frightened by the media they go along with it.” I am fairly confident that this is not an accusation being levelled specifically towards the Glasgow University Guardian, so I ask what this illusion will do to our economy, to the poor and the vulnerable. “The lie is to pretend it can all be waved away, which it can’t be. It’s really very dangerous.”
The Myth of McCain: 8 FEATURES
In light of the recent attacks on the personal credibility of Democratic presidential nominee Bara
cultural and biographical chasm divides Barack Obama and John McCain. Rarely has American presidential politics produced two candidates with so little in common by way of life experience, character and temperament. However, while McCain has generally been treated with astonishing deference by supporters and opponents alike, Obama’s personality and personal history have been subjected to aggressive scrutiny from both the mainstream ‘liberal’ media and the Republican Party’s scores of professional and ruthless strategists. A central tactic of McCain’s campaign has been to present Obama as ‘unfamiliar’, ‘alien’ and ‘un-American’. Right-wing commentators habitually emphasise his distinctly Arabic sounding middle name: Hussein. They have sought to paint the Democrat as an aloof and humourless Ivy League intellectual, with little or no practical knowledge of ‘the real world’ as experienced by ‘ordinary folks’. He has been variously accused of harbouring Messianic pretentions, terrorist sympathies, black-nationalist tendencies and celebrity conceits. These labels serve one fundamental purpose: to frighten and intimidate potential Obama supporters to the point at which they no longer feel they can trust his candidacy. This ploy has met with some success. For instance, 19% of rural Americans believe Obama is a Muslim. Jonathan- a Texan native studying comparative literature at Glasgow University- described how a friend of his was frequently confronted with shouts of “We don’t want a Muslim in the White House” when out leafleting for the Illinois Senator. This misconception is not insignificant: it demonstrates how effective ‘negative’ or cynical campaigning can be. Doubts concerning Obama’s religious orientation have persisted, even after the well-publicised controversy surrounding his radical Christian pastor Rev. Jeremiah Wright. Why, then, have John McCain’s personality and integrity not been exposed to similar assaults? Even among his Democratic opponents the trend is to qualify each attack with reference to the Senator’s honesty and unimpeachable patriotic credentials. The answer lies in McCain’s reputation as an authentic American hero; a reputation that stems from his long-standing military associations. The descendent of two admirals, he served in the US Navy as an aviator for twenty-two years and was for five and a-half years confined to a prison cell in North Vietnam. McCain is perceived by many Americans to have ‘suffered’ for his country and as such his commitment and spirit are considered beyond
criticism. He is venerated across the United States as a man who will always put the national interest and honour first. The Democrats, of course, do not want to be seen to be hostile to a veteran of war and have, in turn, duly acquiesced to the McCain legend. However, this caution has left some of the darker elements of McCain’s character and past hidden. In contrast to the extra-ordinary speed and spontaneity of Obama’s entry into the mainstream of American politics, it sometimes appears that John McCain has been planning a bid for the presidency since his incarceration in that Vietnamese prison camp in the late 1960s: an experience that others might be reluctant to boast about, but one that McCain trades on and is immensely proud of. Included in his acceptance speech to the Republican National Convention in August was an excruciating and graphic description of his capture and captivity
“The delicately crafted image of McCain the patriot warhero and conservative iconoclast is constructed around and dependent on the myth of his military valour; a myth that the Arizona Senator has consistently and shamelessly fetishised.” in Vietnam: “I found myself falling toward a small lake in the city of Hanoi, with two broken arms, a broken leg, and an angry crowd waiting to greet me. I was dumped in a dark cell and left to die…They couldn’t set my bones properly, so they just slapped a cast on me…I couldn’t eat.” McCain then proceeded to gloat of the scale of his own resolve and grit: “A lot of prisoners had it worse than I did. I’d been mistreated before, but not as badly as others. I always liked to strut a little after I’d been roughed up to show the other guys I was tough enough to take it”. Despite having vowed to refrain from exploiting his history of military service, he has built his campaign around it. The words ‘honour’, ‘courage’ and ‘sacrifice’ adorn his supporter’s placards and decorate his official press releases. In recent years, however, and certainly since he won the Republican presidential nomination, the only things John McCain can rightly be said to have ‘sacrificed’ are any claims to modesty and humility. He has a habit of giving his books and autobiographies wildly self-aggrandising titles ('Why Courage Matters: The Way to a Braver Life', and 'Worth the Fighting For: The
Education of an American Maverick, a just two examples). He compulsively and tenacity: “You know, I’ve been cal to the beat of his own drum. Sometimes times it’s not…I’ve fought corruption… from Indian tribes…I don’t mind a good I’ve had quite a few tough ones in my role as political under-dog and misfit, Republican campaign machine behind h the polls said the ‘surge’ was unpopul makers opposed it…I chose to support observers said my position would end m would rather lose a campaign than see A It is clear that John McCain has l as a principled and independent politic rewarded. He has, however, at crucial t erent Republican Party apparatus. McC candidates and strategists will sink in o tion, having himself been the target o during his battle with the current Wh Republican presidential ticket in 2000. O mous spin doctor and professional sche Schmidt, were said to have been involv that suggested McCain had fathered a American woman, and that he was psy incarceration. These accusations were o McCain has hired Schmidt to co-ordin character. This war has included an eff wife- as ‘un-patriotic’ and a strained atte domestic ‘terrorist’ Bill Ayers. Such ta as sleazy and dishonest; that McCain distressing. The delicately crafted image of McC tive iconoclast is constructed around and valour; a myth that the Arizona Senator ised. At the heart of that myth lies the wa
Maverick or Maniac?
ack Obama, Jamie Maxwell and Scott Lavery investigate his Republican opponent, John McCain.
and the Heroes Who Inspired Him' are alludes to his own supposed boldness lled a maverick; someone who marches s it’s meant as a compliment and some…I’ve fought lobbyists who’ve stolen d fight. For reasons known only to God, y life”. He revels in his self-appointed despite having the full weight of the him. On the conflict in Iraq, he said “All lar. Many pundits, experts and policythe counterinsurgency strategy…Many my hopes of becoming president. I said I America lose a war”. laboured hard to establish a reputation cian, and his efforts have been lavishly times yielded to the notoriously belligCain knows the depths to which some order to secure a nomination or an elecof particularly vicious smear operation hite House incumbent to represent the On behalf of George W. Bush, the infaemer Karl Rove and his protégé, Steve ved in disseminating a series of rumours an ‘illegitimate’ child with an Africanychologically unstable as a result of his of course totally unfounded. Perversely, nate a war of attrition against Obama’s fort to cast Michelle Obama- Barack’s empt to associate Obama with reformed actics can only accurately be described n seems so comfortable with them is
Cain the patriot war-hero and conservad dependent on the myth of his military has consistently and shamelessly fetishar in Vietnam. The customary references
he makes to his role in the conflict serve two rhetorical purposes. Firstly, they solidify the image of McCain as the audacious and determined veteran who endured torture for the sake of his homeland. Secondly, they act as a diversionary tactic against questions he would rather leave unanswered. For example, on a popular American chat-show McCain was questioned about his previous failure to identify how many houses he owned. Predictably, he managed to twist his response into an anecdote about his POW experience. McCain is fully aware that the war-hero image has struck a chord with American machismo and has cynically used this perception to his own electoral advantage. Former-president Jimmy Carter is one of the few public figures in America who has criticized McCain for his use of Vietnam as a propaganda tool. Carter observed that during a performance at the Saddleback Presidential Forum, McCain replied to virtually every question with mention of his time spent as a prisoner of war. Carter said that whether the question was one of religion, domestic or foreign policy, McCain refocused the issue upon his record as a veteran. There is something distinctly sinister about McCain’s use of the Vietnam War as a technique by which to draw attention to his perceived virtues. America’s fourteen-year crusade in the jungles of Indochina attracted a level of unprecedented public disapproval in the United States and across the world. Indeed, the conflict has become a yardstick against which subsequent wars are measured to determine their moral and strategic value. When we hear talk of Iraq- yet one more war McCain has resolutely defended- as ‘another Vietnam’, it is not usually meant to be complimentary. The well-documented means by which America conducted the war – the indiscriminate use of napalm, the carpet-bombing of villages, and the spraying of the carcinogenic herbicide Agent Orange over civilian areas – continue to incite anger and disgust. McCain uses the part he played in this most vicious of conflicts as a tool of brazen selfpromotion. Sasha Lakind, a Glasgow University student originally from New Mexico, expressed her apprehensions about McCain’s war record. She said, “Having connections to Vietnam should, if anything, make you feel horrible about yourself. It’s really awful that he had to go to there, and what he had to go through, but it’s more awful that he is proud of it.” She continued, “(The) inhumanity and injustice…he should apologise for it”. Perhaps the most revealing aspect of McCain’s Vietnam obsession is that he has expressed only two regrets about the war: he has often publicly lamented
McCain in the Vietnam war (far right)
the deaths of the 58,000 American soldiers who were killed in the conflict and he has bemoaned the damage that it caused to US military prestige. McCain refuses to acknowledge the suffering of the estimated four million Vietnamese and two million Laotians and Cambodians who were slaughtered. He displays no remorse for the chemical weaponry that was used to mutilate the landscape and the people of Vietnam. He offers no apologies to the children who today are born with deformed limbs as a result of exposure to American-made chemical bombs. Instead of demonstrating compassion for the millions of Vietnamese innocents who were maimed throughout the bombardment, he has happily paraded an explicit contempt for them. In 1973 he referred to the Vietnamese as ‘gooks’ – a highly offensive and racist term that can be compared to the word ‘nigger’ – and on the campaign trail in 1999 he again used the slur in front of a group of reporters. Who, then, is John McCain? Is he, as he would have us believe, a genuine political maverick? Is he a sincere patriot, willing to stand against all vested interests and established powers, including those in his own Party and ideological constituency? He is, certainly, an American patriot, but his is a pathologically violent patriotism informed by a highly militaristic upbringing and a series of defining and destabilising experiences in South-east Asia in the 1960s. John McCain thinks
“McCain refuses to acknowledge the suffering of the estimated four million Vietnamese and two million Laotians and Cambodians who were slaughtered. He displays no remorse for the chemical weaponry used to mutilate the landscape and the people of Vietnam.”
of himself primarily as a soldier, not as a politician, and acts accordingly. That he has been complicit in some truly questionable attacks on Barack Obama is indicative of his ‘warrior’ mentality; that his campaign has so far been defined by an ultra-aggressive attitude to his opponents- all opponents- is evidence of his addiction to conflict and antagonism. Only in the dark waters of American political culture could the McCain myth have proved so electorally advantageous. Only a man as charmless and narcissistic as John McCain could have come to believe it.
All photographs courtesy of John McCain 2008.
22nd October 2008
Sweet words of truth As Glasgow celebrates the work of Tennessee Williams, Tara Hepburn joins in the admiration.
his year marks a huge list of anniversaries if you’re inclined to look for them. It is, as it happens, 75 years since Monopoly was invented, 50 years since Elvis was drafted into the US Army, and 25 years since playwright Tennessee Williams died under dubious circumstances at the Hotel Elysee in New York. Glasgow has chosen to celebrate only one of the three anniversaries listed above, perhaps deeming a celebration of all things Monopoly a little inappropriate given our current financial climate. And, although he was marvellous, the work that Mr Presley did for hearts and minds will always be secondary to the more noble work he did for rock and roll. Perhaps as a result of that exact process of elimination (or some utterly separate process of admiration) Glasgay! have decided to dedicate a chunk of this year’s festival to all things Tennessee Williams. Gay issues were prevalent in Williams work at a time when homosexuality was still very much illegal. His most famous creation, Blanche DuBois, of “A Streetcar Named Desire” fame, lamented: “What is straight? A line can be straight, or a street, but the human heart, oh no, it's curved like a road through mountains.” The festival allows anyone and everyone to revel in the beautiful language of a master, and he is – amongst a vast list of things – gay and brilliant. And that’s probably the general vibe that Glasgay! were going for anyway. Born in 1911 to an abusive father, and an aggressive, delusional mother, Tennessee (then Thomas) Williams forged a close bond with his sister Rose, who suffered from schizophrenia and spent much of her life in and out of mental hospitals. After Tennessee left home, his parents had his sister lobotomised, a decision for which Williams never forgave
them. He became estranged from his family and retreated to his writing, creating work which – not entirely surprisingly – was steeped in turmoil, guilt and mental instability. Although his work went on to win innumerable awards, Williams' life was blighted by alcoholism, depression and fear that he would ultimately fall victim to the sort of insanity which had ravaged his beloved sister. He died aged 72, having choked on a bottle cap whilst putting in eyedrops. His younger brother, from whom Williams was distant for a great part of his life, maintains that he was suffocated by those
“I never much cared for how capable Mr Williams was at applying eyedrops, I was always rather more interested in his capability for writing amazing plays.” who attended to Williams’ health in his final years, murderously disgruntled by planned changes to their patient’s will. Like any situation involving wills and vast inheritance, trust is slippery concept. I never much cared for how capable Mr Williams was at applying eyedrops, I was always rather more interested in his capability for writing amazing plays. Some of Williams’ plays are being rehashed for the festival season, with Tron theatre putting on a loyal and passionate rendering of the Williams hit “Suddenly Last Summer”, as well as giving UK stage premieres to a few lesser-known one-act plays such as “Hello from Bertha” – a harrowingly dramatic piece which details the dying moments of a prostitute in a low-class bordello. The Arches are fielding a more experimental take on the Williams’ season, with “Elysian Fields”, a newly-penned play about Williams’ final months as a drunken and slowly maddening genius
which has opened to rave reviews. The GFT have an equally-exciting programme on offer, reeling up for a month of Tennessee Williams film adaptations from the golden age of cinema. A timely opportunity to catch “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof” starring the recently-late and interminably-great Paul Newman in a performance of complexity and depth, trying as he was to shake the weighty burden of incorrigible beauty that he so reluctantly hauled from role to role. His portrayal of Brick, the sexually-conflicted yet powerfully masculine leading man, is compounded by his character’s extraordinary ability to spurn the advances of his own wife, Maggie, who is played by such an exquisitelybeautiful Elizabeth Taylor. Sexual orientation aside, you’d have to be crazy not to want to look at her face all day long. Other highlights include Marlon Brando and Vivien Leigh’s superbly-acted turn in Williams’ most celebrated creation “A Streetcar Named Desire”, as well as hidden gem “This Property is Condemned”, a one-act play spun seamlessly into a full-length feature starring Robert Redford and Natalie Wood. The experience proves that, for all the developments in cinematography, budget and special effects, there really is no competition for good acting and even better dialogue. Not only do they no longer make them like they used to, they don’t write them like they used to either. Although Williams’ work is often upsettingly personal, it has an enduring, accessible quality. A testament, perhaps, to the quality of his imagination and turn of phrase, but an indication also that the high-ideals and dark-sadness of which he writes are perhaps not as melodramatic after all. Tennessee Williams succeeds in convincing us that not only does the course of love tail a windy road, the course of life does much the same.
22nd October 2008
Bank bail-out: Who's to blame? Autodidakt >>James Foley
hree decades ago, the leaders of the Anglo-Saxon countries reached a bi-partisan consensus that reforming capitalism through welfare had failed: a dose of austerity was required, and workers would pay the price. In 1976, Labour chancellor Denis Healey pushed through the biggest welfare cuts in history, amounting to £83 billion in today’s money. With the crucial support of “left” union leaders like Jack Jones and Hugh Scanlon, Labour imposed a 10% pay cap for low paid workers while inflation ran at 24%. Meanwhile, Paul Volcker, chair of the US Federal Reserve, drove the productive economy into tailspin with interest rake hikes designed to drive down inflation. Again, this received “bipartisan” support in the US. This consensus brought Thatcher and Reagan to power. Thatcher’s opponent, Michael Foot, proposed a Labour manifesto dubbed “the longest suicide note in history”. His most controversial idea was nationalising the banks. The subsequent metamorphosis of the Labour Party, from patrician bureaucrats to free market boosterisers, is well documented. When I first arrived at Glasgow University, very few people questioned Gordon Brown’s assertion that he had abolished “boom and bust” forever by surrendering control of the economy to the banks. The current crisis, the evaporation of confidence in casino capitalism, is a political phenomenon unparalleled for decades. Tory leader David Cameron condemns Labour’s addiction to “irresponsible capitalism”; embracing free markets “without question”, he notes, Labour has not “properly understood how it works”.
In America, Barack Obama has revived a sluggish Presidential campaign, attacking Wall Street and free market economics. With unemployment skyrocketing and home repossessions running at 10,000 per day, he promises to “fire the whole trickle-down, on-your-own, look-the-other-way crowd in Washington who led us down this disastrous path”. With most of the UK banking industry now in some form of public ownership, it looks like crazy old Michael Foot has had the last laugh. Brown and Cameron should get themselves fitted for a donkey jacket, as the ruling class searches for a straightjacket small enough to restrain Milton Friedman. Long before the latest round of crashes – nationalisations, failed bailouts, Iceland’s implosion – Alistair Darling acknowledged that it could be the worst crisis since the Second World War. Now we are looking further back: the dole queues of the seventies and eighties if we’re lucky, the soup kitchens of the “hungry 30s” if we’re not. None of the mainstream parties has a solution. Labour’s pro-war and pro-market policies have made it the biggest electoral liability since Michael Foot donned a donkey jacket and called for nationalising the banks. David Cameron might make soft criticisms of Brown’s free wheeling casino Britain (“New Tory – Old Labour”?) but too many people remember the dole queues, the miners, and the hysterical campaign against “scrounging single mums” to make the Tories the solution to a crisis in free market capitalism. The neoliberal strategy of the SNP right-wing is in tatters. RBS and HBOS – supposedly the pillars of an independent, pro-business Scottish economy – have been bailed out by the British state. And Salmond has had no choice but to support it. Meanwhile, Iceland, the SNP’s paradigm of a small successful economy, has paid the price for dicing with casino capitalism. Its economy is sinking into the sea. Why is Brown willing to stake £10,000 per UK citizen to bale out the banks when we have been told for years that student grants are “too expensive”? With the ruling class floundering, it is the victims of the current crisis that will determine its outcome. If ordinary people fight back, can we use the crisis to ask new questions about public welfare.
Picture this: Guardian photographer Stefan Sealey captures the striking architecture of the SECC footbridge.
Orthodoxy >>Aidan Cook
ou may look at the economic crisis and wonder how it actually affects you as a student. And for the most part, it doesn’t. After all, the average student doesn’t have more than about a fiver in the bank, let alone the £50,000 that are guaranteed should your bank go under. None of us are likely to default on a mortgage, given that we don’t have one. And our stock investments are minimal, to say the least. So what should we think of the governments here and abroad pumping billions into the banking system? We were told that we were witnessing the end of capitalism as we know it. Perhaps that is so but it is definitely not the end of capitalism. That said, something has gone wrong somewhere, and so we are left with two possibilities. Either we get more regulation, or we get better regulation. There were plenty of rules in place prior to the financial crisis and they were, for the most part, strictly observed. What is missing is a set of values. There has been a prevailing sense that making profit should be one's only objective, and that regulations are the only barriers to this goal. If people obey rules simply because they are the rules then disaster will never be far away. There are always ways to get around rules if you should so wish. So what does this have to do with the bailouts? Well, the banks did obey the rules so the government couldn’t just say, “it was your fault” because the banks had in fact done everything they had been told to. If the government tries to regulate in detail then it has to accept responsibility when its regulations fail. If the government sets itself up as an expert in banking then the banks and the public will expect it to properly exercise its powers. If, on the contrary, the government simply lays out a regulatory framework, that is to say guidelines for the banks and businesses to follow, then responsibility for the detail lies with the individual firms and they will act responsibly. A firm can follow all the rules and yet still not get the right result. If regulators simply seek to impose rules then they will protect neither the general public nor the banks that follow the rules. Moreover, a bank that is trying to protect its investors and depositors cannot compete with one that is not—the unfair economic advantage is too great. And so we can see that the ‘spirit’ of the law does not ultimately matter—if the letter of the law is defective then the results will be as well. If people are always told exactly what to do then they get into the habit of only doing what they are told. But what does this have to do with students? On the surface it doesn’t really affect us any more than anyone else but digging deeper we see how it does. It is not only the banking sector that is suffering from an overdose of bad regulation but indeed much of our lives, and particularly so as a student. We like being told what to do so that we can blame someone else if it goes wrong. It is the difference between an essay that ticks all the right boxes and an essay that is actually good. One can easily be in the first category without being in the second. So, stretching the comparison well beyond breaking point, we see that just like a comatose student, capitalism is not dead; it just needs to take responsibility for itself and show the world what it can do.
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22nd October 2008 John McIntyre Building University Avenue Glasgow G12 8QQ T: 0141 341 6215 E: firstname.lastname@example.org www.glasgowguardian.co.uk
Participation Prerequisite The rough and the smooth Following Guardian's coverage of campus elections last year, in which the apparent apathy amongst students towards campus politics was brought into focus (with many electoral positons running un-opposed, or suffering from a low voter turnout), it is encouraging to see the upcoming SRC elections have attracted thirty nominations for the various council roles — indeed, the position of Postgraduate Representative has eight people running for two posts. Student participation is a part of life on campus that is often taken for granted, but continuing contribution from the student body is vital in every part of university life. Aside from the obvious importance to the student media outlets, who survive on the enthusiasm and hard graft of those willing to take on the often substantial extra workload involved with being a part of print and broadcast journalism, there are numerous events and organisations within Glasgow University that would simply cease to function without student involvement.
As an example that almost everyone can relate to, Freshers' Week is peerless. Most people reading this will have memories of their first week at Glasgow, alcohol addled or not —most will not, however, think about how hundreds of older students would have been giving up their last week of summer (some even more than that), to pull it all together. Reading this, many will be thinking that it's just another way for uni to eat into your free time. True, it does require some of your leisure hours, but the fact is that your time at Glasgow should be about more than the day you pull on your rental robes and pick up your scroll. Ask anyone in charge of a club, a media head, a union board member, and you'll get a passionate reason why. Essentially, university is as much about what you give as what you take. By all means, get drunk, have a good time, and certainly do your course, but by the time you leave this part of the world, have something more than a degree to show for your time here.
The inhabitants of Guardian's office have spent the past year (at least) pretending to ignore the radical developments going on in the Hub. It has been the general consensus that finding your news by looking out of the office window to see what’s going on is lazy. Finally, we have found some real news concerning the Hub. Unfortunately, as is so often the case, it is not good news. The laws of local competition have reared their big, obstructive heads and blocked the application for a Hub based pharmacy. We are being told what healthcare we can and cannot access in order to protect the business interests of Boots and a pharmacy more than halfway down Dumbarton Road. It is regrettable when a blatantly brilliant idea gets jammed in the wheels of the machine. The conclusion of the Pharmacy Practice Committee that an oncampus pharmacy would not be ‘desirable’ is frankly beyond comprehension. More bad news: the Evening Times this week reported yet another attack on a Glasgow
student. It is tragic that the international student in question will take this experience away with him. Re-reading the editorial of last issue (‘Living on a knife-edge’) now carries a sense of horrible foreboding; again we urge students to be cautious, and again we can be thankful that the attack wasn’t worse. It’s not all doom and gloom; the prestige the University has earned in the world rankings, the city’s acclaim in the Lonely Planet Guide and the record successes of both the charity abseil and Freshers’ Week brighten the news considerably. These stories are an encouraging indicator that people are working for a better Glasgow; needless to say, nothing would have happened without the enthusiastic participation of the student population and the members of the wider community. While the reportage of the such events may not focus on the confrontational or the sensational angles that appeal to many readers and writers alike, they are nonetheless a pleasure to include in Guardian’s pages.
22nd October 2008
To the Editors… Dear Editors,
I very much appreciate the Guardian’s concern for the wellbeing of French Studies in this University, and, as one of a literary background, fully understand the need for a snappy story with a hard-hitting headline. Nonetheless, I hope to redress some of the distortions that editorial omission has created in your ‘Disenfrenchised’ article (29 September, pages 1 and 3). French at Glasgow has regularly been rated in the top 5 UK departments in league tables such as that of The Times. The recent National Student Survey placed us equal top in the UK with a 97% satisfaction score. Our research is recognised as amongst the best in Europe. To quote our external examiners, we are proud to be ‘a class act.’ Glasgow French will continue to be la crème de la crème the backing of the Faculty of Arts, the University is investing nearly two million pounds in a new refurbishment and extension of the Hetherington building that will give the School of Modern Languages state of the art facilities. Whereas elsewhere in the British Isles and North America student numbers in French are declining, in Glasgow numbers in French have been increasing steadily in the past few years. This puts us on par with other top-ranked establishments such as Middlebury College and Princeton. Our Honours options are amongst the widest ranging in Europe. We often r e q u i r e levels of research (yes, research) from our students that far surpass attainment at other universities. For this reason external examiners recommended that we prioritise such (often unique) quality over quantity. We have installed a comparative spreadsheet system that means we can absolutely guarantee that no student will be adversely affected by the re- weighting of exams. Course cancellations have been due solely to a senior member of the Section currently undergoing chemotherapy. We have been heartened by the numerous expressions of student sympathy and support. The bookshop has agreed to refund any books from cancelled courses, provided they are in good condition. I personally will refund those in bad condition as a ‘thank you’ for student enthusiasm. Three paragraphs from the end of your article you do mention, in passing, that the future of French looks rosy. I would like to promote La Vie en rose to headline and have it sung for all to hear.
With reference to your heavily edited article in the last issue regarding the French department, I feel it is important to write and put across the point of view of one of the many satisfied graduates of this department. The French department at Glasgow is world renowned and respected and the honours options available are, without a doubt, the best in the country. The departmental staff are understanding, flexible and good teachers as well as accomplished researchers.
Billy Grove Head of French University of Glasgow The Glasgow University Guardian welcomes all comments, thoughts and criticisms — please feel free to contact us with your letters to the editor, a selection are published every issue.
It is sad to see the Guardian take a swipe at a great department because they are suffering from long term staff sickness and, despite this, they are still doing all they can for their students. Unlike the Guardian, I wish the best to the staff member who is on long term sick leave and also to the hardworking staff in a year when yet again their numbers are up. Brian Casey
guardian Glasgow University 29th September 2008
Scottish Student Newspaper of the Year
Insight reviews the thrills and spills of this year's Freshers' events
Lewis Porteous reviews the latest attempt to contemporise a classic
Insight centre spread
Murano Street Mugging Girl's bag snatched on walk home Freshers threatened with stabbing Police enquiries ongoing A GIRL WAS MUGGED DURING Freshers' Week, just metres from Murano Street Student Village, after walking home from a night out at the unions. Rebecca Day, 19, and fellow first year student, Chris Forster, also 19, were almost back at the Murano Street Halls of Residence where they both live, when an unidentified woman threatened Rebecca before stealing her bag. Chris ran after the mugger and managed to recover the bag, along with Rebecca's mobile phone. Speaking exclusively to Guardian, Rebecca described how the attack, in the early hours of the
Sarah Smith Exclusive morning of September 20, came as a shock because they were minutes from home. She said: "We were just walking over the bridge to the student village when we were accosted by a man and a woman." "They asked if we had alcohol and when I said no, the woman started telling me to show her my bag. "Then she started grabbing my hair and shouting at me. I took my bag off and gave it to her and she ran off." (continued on p2)
Blade found in QMU bushes Sarah Smith
A KNIFE WAS FOUND IN THE bushes outside the entrance of the Queen Margaret Union on September 18, Guardian has learnt. The weapon was discovered during the day, before the Freshers' Ball took place, so it is thought that it was most likely to have been dropped by someone on the night of the 17th. It is believed that a student discarded the blade after seeing that the QMU's security policy includes searching people and their bags at the door before allowing them to enter the venue. Speaking to Guardian, Ally Hunter, President of the QMU, explained how he felt that the incident proved that security at the union serves to protect those who go there. He said: "I think it just highlights how good our search policy is. During Freshers' Week we did confiscate a number of blades and handed them over to the police but there is no reason to step up security. "The QM continues to be one of the The history of Glasgow University is a rich and varied tapestry safest places in Glasgow because of our Pick up the loose threads on page 7 >>i security." (cont. on p3)
Disenfrenchised: Students forced to drop modules FRENCH HONOURS STUDENTS HAVE found their course options dramatically narrowed as reductions in staff have left the department unable to offer its normal range of modules. Third year students following a joint honours course and those taking French with Law were spared from dropping a module, but those in senior honours were left with only one
Dionne Doherty module in the French half of their degree. The French department informed its students by email that, with the loss of half of its staff since 2000 and the honours convenor on sick leave, it would be necessary for some students to drop one of their modules. The department is adamant that the loss of staff has not been due
to the rumoured funding cuts, but is a result of retirement and in some cases, illness. The email, from senior lecturer Dr. Jim Simpson, included a declaration for students to complete and send back, confirming the module they wished to drop, and their agreement with the proposed doubling of the weighting of the final translation exam to compensate for lost credits. The latter decision was taken after
consultation with external examiners. Students were informed of the necessity of dropping a module during the summer, but the news came too late for many who had already purchased books for all of their intended modules. One senior honours student finding herself in this situation asked not to be named, but expressed her exasperation. (continued on page 3)
Contributors: Ross Mathers, Film Editors: Emily McQueenEditors: George Binning & Craig McLellan, Amy McGregor, Govan, Lewis Porteous James Porteous Kirstien Hodgson, Kate Hughes, Lifestyle Editor: Michelle News Editor: Sarah Smith Scott Lavery, Jamie Maxwell, Features Editors: Tara Hepburn Williams David Kirkpatrick, Ben Freeman, Photographers: Anna Kerr, & Pete Ramand Ming Lam, Chris Tait, Harry Stefan Sealey, Becky Sharpe, Sports Editor: Suzi Higton Tattersall Smith, Hannah Al Taylor InSight & Arts Editor: Tom Mackenzie, Louise Ogden, Columnists: Aidan Cook, James Bonnick Declan McKay, Laura Doherty, Foley, Harry Akehurst, Claire Picture Editor: Jim Wilson Oisin Keely, Laura Cernis Strickett Music Editor: Gerry McKeever 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 above contact details.
Glasgow University Guardian is funded through and supported by the Glasgow University Students' Representitive Council
If it wasn’t for a dentist appointment, Britain may have lost the Second World War. In 1940 R.A. Butler visited the office of Halifax to tell him that Labour were willing to make a coalition government, and thus make Halifax Prime Minister. As he walked in one door of Halifax’s office, Halifax went out the other to check on his teeth. By the time he returned, Churchill had been appointed instead and the rest, as they say, is history. In another race to victory, the McCain and Obama presidential campaigns cover hundreds of column inches in the British press, as well as hours of broadcast coverage on the UK television networks. But come election time, regardless of our debates, opinions and following of the peaks and troughs of their campaigns, we will be only bystanders; able to acknowledge the result, but not affect it. The point of this is not to begin a nihilistic conversation that would be at home round some stoned teenagers’ campfire (“Maaaan, isn’t it weird that, like, the whole world is based on luck?” “Duuuuude...”). Instead, it’s to introduce the question: Isn’t it nice when we can directly influence something which, in turn, directly influences us? The SRC Autumn Elections are a chance to do just that. With a record number of nominees standing for council – an average of 4 people running for each available position – it’s a great opportunity to choose representatives who will action change that you can see, experience, and benefit from. Funding, course choices, library policy, additional help, appeal processes: any issue that’s relevant to students is on the table for discussion. The SRC represents students’ views on a University, local, and national scale. Council is the governing body of the SRC and the democratic forum through which all students at the University can voice their opinion. And really, it could scarcely be easier for you find out who you want to vote for. Every nominee's manifesto is available to read online, and at 150 words each it’s almost as easy to do as watching re-runs of Sarah Palin on Saturday Night Live. A Heckling Meeting will be held on Wednesday 22nd October, at 5.30pm, in the Williams Room of the John McIntyre Building, where you can ask candidates the questions you want answers to, face to face. Elections take place the following Monday, on the 27th October, when you can log on to any computer on the University campus, or visit www.glasgowstudent.net, to vote.
22nd October 2008
Glasgow in Acrobatics Spectacular GUFC knocked out in first round Suzi Higton
Glasgow University Tennis Club sent a clear message to the rest of the Scottish League first division on Wednesday as they hit off the new season with success over city rivals Strathclyde. The men’s first squad, which included first year talent David Birrel and Tim Campbell, romped home to an incredible 10-0 victory. The women’s team, boasting fresher Sarah Mcconachie, eventually claimed a 6-4 win in a closely fought encounter at Western Tennis Courts. Afterwards, James Lush, men’s captain, was in buoyant mood. He told Guardian: “It was an excellent result for us and definitely puts us in good stead for the rest of the season. Our long term goal is to qualify for the BUSC nationals that are coming up and we’d also like to be able to challenge Stirling this year as they always seem to be the ones to beat.” A place at the nationals tournament is also the ambition for woman’s captain Ashley Easton. “The matches were played to a very high standard” she commented afterwards. “It’s very rewarding when you win a match, especially against your rivals.” she said. “Hopefully the team will progress to a higher level each match and will go on to compete in BUSA as we did last year.”
(continued from back page) The match seemed to stagnate into a game dictated by the premise of the optimistic long ball, yet on the half hour the match was marred by a sickening injury to the Vales young winger which saw the Glasgow side reduced to ten men, as Ross Montgomery was shown a straight red. The tackle, although clearly accidental on the hazardous surface, was clumsy and reckless and resulted in the game being delayed for half an hour as paramedics saw to the player. Being reduced to ten men completely changed the context of the game. O’Day, who had been the heartbeat of the side’s creativity, was withdrawn to defence and this stifled any attacking intent. However the first real chance of the match fell to the invigorated Holt, who pounced on sloppiness in the Vale rear guard from another long throw. He was first to react to the bouncing ball and was unlucky to see his header flicked off the line by a panicking Vale defence. This proved to be Glasgow’s only opportunity as they were gradually reduced to desperately repelling intense Vale pressure. It seemed inevitable that Vale would eventually break through. Glasgow must have felt destined for a return trip down the Borders however, thanks to goalkeeper Mackay. The stopper produced several stunning reaction saves, most spectacularly from a cleverly worked free kick which saw him miraculously turn the ball away after another shot on goal. Cruelly, after 83 minutes, a sweeping move saw Shortreed burst into the box and from an acute angle neatly flick it under the despairing McKay. With the wind knocked from their sails, Glasgow attempted a heroic comeback but it wasn’t to be, and will now just have to turn there attentions to improving for the league season ahead.
The taste of Celtic spirits
Photo: Culture and Sport Glasgow
Tennis Club serve up a storm
Glasgow illustrated its credibility as a sporting host city ahead of the 2014 Commonwealth Games, by staging the 21st World Acrobatics Championships as well as the 5th International Age group Competition at the Kelvin Hall arena. The event which was supported by Event Scotland and organised by Glasgow City Culture and Sport attracted competitors from 31 countries, the largest gathering of gymnasts since the Beijing Olympics. The event saw both dynamic and balance disciplines with spectacular and colourful routines for packed audiences at finals weekend. Britain’s gymnasts finished second in the medals table, winning three golds, four silvers and bronze in the Age Group Competition behind Russia who dominated with magnificent displays of agility and precision in both the mixed and women’s groups. The best of young British was headed by nineteen year old Louis Smith who won bronze in the pommel horse event at the Beijing games, Britain’s first medal in gymnastics in 100 years. In a bid to encourage spectators, SPT offered free underground travel to and from the event to those who had bought tickets in advance for the competition. Councillor Archie Graham, Glasgow City Council’s Executive Member for Culture and Sport, said: “The championsips were a great success, with a full house on Sunday watching the final. This goes to show, once again, that Glasgow is more than capable of hosting major, world-class sporting events. Athletes from across the world descended on the Kelvin Hall as they battled in their categories." He added: “As a city, we’re now counting down the days until we host the Commonwealth Games in 2014.”
Ming Lam samples the Irish charms of Women's Gaelic Football
Gaelic football is a sport that has had received relatively little attention in Glasgow University, but still continues to have a huge following in Ireland. After watching my first game in Waxy O’Connors between Irish counties teams Tyrone and Kerry and seeing the enthusiasm of the audience, as well as an atmosphere that would rival a football match, I was curious to find out more and decided to train with Glasgow University’s own women’s team. Although not the most prolific of sports teams at the university, the squad have enjoyed success at national level, winning two consecutive titles in the BUSA Championships in the last two seasons. Established in 1884 by Irish nationalist Michael Cusack, Women's Gaelic football is a hybrid between football and rugby, each team consisting of fifteen players where the ball can be either punched or kicked into goal. Although relatively parallel to the men's equivalent, women's gaelic football is less physical and shorter than the men's game but is just as popular in its native Ireland. Even in modern times, every country in Ireland has it own team in which local people play. the sport for passion and hometown glory and unlike national football is a sport that does revolve around financial gain. Many of Glasgow's players have taken part in the game from a young age, captain Roisin Devaney having started playing at the age of five or six and is passionate about her
Photo: Becky Sharpe
sport saying she would have ‘gone mad’ if she hadn’t been able to play Gaelic football at university. Orlaith nic Grianna, treasurer and secretary of the club is also keen to point out the friendship and teamwork that stems from the club: ‘Since I joined the team, I have made life long friends. The girls in the team are close on and off the pitch.’
When I joined the team for training, it proved to be quite a challenge, consisting of three drills. We ran two laps across the field then did some stretches. We then practicised hand passing, soloing and kicks. finally we were given to three members in the circle and one of the players in the middle of the circle must catch and pass the ball back to the circle. The second player in the middle must defend and prevent her partner from catching the ball. This was then followed by a mini match. Even though I was nervous before I started training, I felt proud that I took part and received plenty of encouragement. I realised the true teamwork that was involved as well as the evident lifelong friendships that the club has created. Club captain Roisin Devaney has high hopes for the upcoming season: "We're hoping to get as many games as possible because we've got quite a new team this year and I think we could progress far in this year's competitions." She added: "There are quite a lot of Scottish teams with a large Irish following and it would definitely be a big boost for the club to be part of that." Devaney is also keen to move up from the B to the A League in next year's British Championship Finals which will be held in Manchester next February. The club face Edinburgh in their next league game and will be hoping to kick off their campaign in style.
Living life in high gear
22nd October 2008
Suzi Higton talks to Mark Beaumont about university, Iranian hospitality and cycling around the planet. “I had no idea that you could make a job out of doing something you love so much,” Mark Beaumont smiles, “I genuinely thought I’d have to go back and do what my traditional education was for. I couldn’t have done what I was doing if I hadn’t gone to university, without a doubt.” This February saw the former Glasgow University student hit the headlines for breaking the world record for the fastest circumnavigation of the globe by bike, beginning and finishing his expedition in Paris, a feat that even he found difficult to come to terms with at first: “I wasn’t that excited about it (the world record) because I was so shattered, I’d spent six and half months on my own, stuck in the moment, trying to cycle as far as I could go each day. “When I cycled round the Arc de Triomphe there were over hundred people there, with this big sort of paparazzi hustle. I couldn’t get across the line because of all the cameras, I had to push my bike across the line. I was stuck there for three hours doing interviews and it was just amazing, but how bizarre — you spend half a year on your own and come back to this media craziness.” The attention that Beaumont’s expedition has drawn has been unprecedented, appearing in an advertising campaign for Orange and a two-hour documentary based on his own footage from the cycle. When broadcast by the BBC over two nights to a national audience averaged 3 million viewers a night. Having graduated from Glasgow University only two years ago with a joint politics and economic degree, it is apparent that student life is still a clear memory: “I still feel like a student. When I graduated two years ago in June I literally walked out of the West End of Glasgow and moved to Edinburgh and started training.” The move from Glasgow to Edinburgh was not a welcome one, having enjoyed the student culture whilst at Glasgow for four years: “I forcibly took myself from all my friends in Glasgow and moved to Edinburgh, where I knew almost nobody. It was a pretty lonely year; I was a facing a lot of insecurities about going from that sort of buzz and that sort of network and it was worth it, but at the same it was a bit of drag getting the project off the ground.” “But it’s only really been in the last six, seven months that my life has changed so much. Being approached to do things like the Orange adverts which are all over TV and cinema, its crazy, its absolutely amazing.” This new found fame has also opened up opportunities, with the graduate having recently launched intercity charity bike ride Pedal for Scotland and numerous school projects, meeting youngsters who had eagerly followed his expedition online, something which he would have never have imagined stemming from his global adventure: “I did the expedition for very personal ambition. I did it for charity and the fact that it has now allowed
Photo: James Porteous
me to have a public profile means I can quite easily go and do other expeditions and make other documentaries, which is fantastic.” His passion for endurance cycling was fuelled by his first expedition from Dundee to Oban at the age of only twelve: “It was very
"You get one chance, and I realised it was something that could happen whilst I lived other dreams first." small beginnings. Its quite easy in retrospect to say that there was some grand plan, but there’d never been one from the age of twelve. When I was fifteen I did John O’Groats to Land’s End and then over the years during my school holidays and at university we did other cycle trips through Europe.” It was at university where Beaumont nurtured his passion for sport, being heavily
involved with the Ski and Snowboard club as well as being elected treasurer and then vice president for GUSA. It was also where he kindled his ambition to shy away from the typical image of a graduate tied to a nine to five job: “I guess I was about half way through (my degree) when I went and did an internship in Boston and I absolutely loved it. It was brilliant, it was exactly what I wanted to do but it was also enough to make me realize that I didn’t want to work in the office environment. I saw people, five, ten years older than me and decided that it wasn’t what I wanted to do. You get one chance and I realised it was something that could happen whilst I lived other dreams first.” The dream expedition spanned over twenty countries and 18,000 miles and opened up a whistle-stop, panoramic view of the globe, of which Beaumont has many fond memories: “There weren’t many countries I wouldn’t
go back to, I had a really good time everywhere which was bizarre because I was always racing, pushing 160km (100 miles) every single day there was never any time to stop and to experience it the way most travelers would. I was sort of seeing the whole world as a slideshow.’ The expedition also opened a world that so many of us rarely see behind the headlines and although cautious, Beaumont found that a country portrayed so pessimistically in the media proved to be one of the most rewarding to visit: "My favorite country was Iran. It was the country I was most worried about before I went but in retrospect as soon as I got there it had some of the best infrastructure, easiest cycling roads it was just so different from what I expected. The people were so warm and welcoming. I would sleep in mosques at night, they would give me food and accommodation finding whatever way they could to look after me.” “All we ever hear about Iran is high politics in terms of international relations and the reality, when you get there, is that you never hear about the people in the place or the culture, those sorts of things.” In amongst the highlights, there were also low points to the global challenge. His bike was ruined and he was quite badly injured after being hit by a car and having his wallet and his BBC kit stolen on the same day in Louisiana. Although proving a setback, it was in Australia where the psychological “hitting of the brick wall” really pressed home: “I was cycling into a headwind pushing a hundred miles a day for the middle stretch of Australia through the Outback, there’s not a single turn off, not a single anything, and you’ve got chronic saddle sores and that sort of slow ride. That battle of attrition was harder than the specific accident of getting knocked off your bike, you can steer yourself and you know you can move on.” The mindset that brought him through his world record breaking cycle will have to be translated to his next challenge of rowing the North Atlantic as part of a crew of twelve, in June next year from New York to Falmouth in 55 days. “It’s going to be an incredible expedition and the reason I’m doing is to test myself in the team setup. I’d like to figure out if I could apply what I’ve learnt in mental and physical strength [to this field]” Mark’s current challenge is writing a book about his adventures and he is finding it quite arduous, the most he has previously written being 3000 word essays for politics at university. But he also sees this as an opportunity to remember his time on the road which he hadn’t previously been able to do: “I was so stuck in the moment because I was on my own, so it will be amazing to be able to look back and reflect on all that and relive some of the adventures, I find it almost therapeutic to get closer to this project before moving onto the next one.”
Inside: Cycling star Mark Beaumont speaks exclusively to Guardian also: Glasgow's Kelvin Hall hosts International Gymnastics
sport 22nd October 2008
Untimely exit for GUFC Glasgow 0-1 Vale of Leithen
Harry Tattersall Smith
Reduced to ten men, Glasgow were cruelly dumped out of the first round of the Scottish football Cup at a rain soaked Garscube, against Borders side Vale of Leithen.����������� The game’s pivotal moment came on the half hour mark, when Ross Montgomery was dismissed for a rash lunge on Vale winger Andy Martin which saw the game halted as paramedics were called to attend. In the face of superior numbers, Glasgow valiantly battled on in the treacherous conditions. Yet their plucky resistance was finally broken in the 83rd minute when Vale’s Ian Shortreed poked home to break both the 0-0 deadlock and sodden Glasgow hearts. Men’s captain Chris O’Day was nonetheless proud of his team’s performance. He told Guardian: ‘I thought we played really well considering we had someone sent off in just a few minutes. I felt that it was a soft sending off, I thought the ref reacted more towards the injury rather than the tackle itself.” He added: “We kept the ball quite well, Vale definitely made us work hard but we were confident of going into the replay until the last seven minutes. I felt like we were in control for most of the game and we worked well as a team.’ Anyone arriving at Garscube expecting an intimidating partisan home crowd, would have been alarmed to discover that all the noise was emanating from a vociferous travelling support who had made the hundred mile round trip up from the borders.The initial exchanges of the game were an attritional battle of aerial ping-pong, with first touches seemingly tainted by the effects of the prior nights revelries.
was almost inevitable the score was going to be broken by a mistake."
Photo: Stefan Sealey
It was in this state of incohesion that chances were inevitably going to be created. Glasgow’s main threat came early on from the torpedo-like long throw of Mark Campbell, a constant causer of chaos in the Vale defence. It was from one of these that Joe Watson almost burst through after great strength from Glasgow men’s captain, Chris O’Day. The treacherous conditions underfoot were never going to allow for beautiful football, and any odd flashes of brilliance were immediately counteracted by simple, schoolboy errors. It was almost inevitable that the score was going to be broken by a mistake. In this vein it was the tireless Jamie Kerr, who thanklessly hassled and harried all day, pounced on some hesitation by the Vale of Leithen right back. Kerr powered though the opposition, and his fizzing cross was smashed tantalisingly wide by Watson. (Continued on page 14)
George Saunders | Burn After Reading | Roots Manuva | Eagle Eye
Madam, Iâ€™m Adem Guardian meets a rising star
guardian Glasgow University
Bad dreams in the night
Tom Bonnick revisits Ken Loach's magnum opus, Cathy Come Home
Phillip Breen directs Nobel Laureate Harold Pinter's classic 1960 drama; the playwright's first major artistic and commerical success. Funny and discomfiting in equal measure, The Caretaker displays Pinter's full linguistic prowess.
irst aired in 1966 as part of the BBC’s — now sadly extinct — The Wednesday Play strand, Cathy Come Home is the story for which the word ‘harrowing’ may as well have been invented. It is also one of the best television dramas ever made, a tour de force of smallscreen acting and direction, whose impact is still being felt today — whether through the laws passed in its wake, or, on a smaller scale, by simply reducing an entire room of people to sweating, quivering wrecks, as it did courtesy of its inclusion into the Scottish Mental Health Arts and Film Festival. On first glance — and for the opening 10 minutes — the story is a misleadingly innocent one. Cathy (Carol White) falls in love with Reg (Ray Brooks). Not wishing to flout convention, the happy couple marry, move into a rather pleasant flat, and start a family. Rumour has it that that this was all director Ken Loach would tell the Beeb during production, for fear that he would not otherwise get away with telling such a disturbing story.
Citizens Theatre Wed. 22nd October – Sat. 15th November £9/£17
Suddenly Last Summer Being staged as part of Glasgay's Tennessee Williams festival, veteran Andy Arnolds directs Williams' one act story of the terrifying Mrs Venable. Tron Theatre Fri. 24th October – Sat. 8th November £7 – £14
Performance Slava's Snowshow A global phenomenon — and completely unique theatrical experience — Slava's Snowshow brings together snowstorms, cobwebs, comedy and an ensemble cast of clowns to spectacular visual effect. King's Theatre Tue. 11th – Sat. 15th November £10 – £26
Comedy Dylan Moran The Perrier award-winning comedian and star of cult Channel 4 show Black Books comes to Glasgow as part of his latest tour. Theatre Royal Tue. 4th November £19
“Cathy Come Home is the story for which the word ‘harrowing’ may as well have been invented” The tone changes as decisively as it is first set. Away goes the funky disco soundtrack, the declarations of love and happiness, and the pronouncements of financial security, and what follows is
sheer, unrelenting horror as Cathy’s circumstances unfold, and her and Reg’s lives begin to fall apart. Part documentary, part tragedy, Loach has crafted with forceful urgency a sustained and moving condemnation of the housing crisis faced by postwar Britain, and the government response to it. If any criticism can be made, it is that this latter intent seems at times to intrude on the narrative and dramatic capabilities of the story. The infuriating, and at times sinister, levels of bureaucracy Cathy and Reg are faced with as they attempt to repair their lives are personified by a series of one-dimensional office drones, each less capable of empathy than the last, which can feel somewhat contrived. What’s more, a disembodied voice providing various statistics regarding the housing shortage at strategic points in the story interferes with, rather than enhancing, the raw emotion on screen. These are all, however, trifling matters. Cathy Come Home is undoubt-
edly Loach’s capo lavoro, his masterpiece. Not only has it lost none of its relevance, but it is a shrewd choice on the part of the organisers of this year’s Mental Health festival — prompting exploration of new ideas and themes, as well as the need for new discussion.
Keeping it in the family Kate Hughes previews the Theatre Royal's new season-opener, The Secret Marriage
cottish Opera began their winter season with an inspired adaptation of Italian composer Domenico Cimarosa’s most lauded work, his 1792 opera Il Matrimonio Segreto (The Secret Marriage). Director Harry Fehr’s production is a far cry from the original Viennese setting, as the drama
and scenery are transported from the 18th century to the stage of upper class 1950s Britain, with an English translation to match. In spite of such a radical shift, the story — of a father’s attempt to marry off his two daughters, causing a heated love triangle — seems just as fitting to the troubles of marriage in the post-war decades, and the
scenery and costumes add an extra elegance to the performance. The squabbling sisters are acted brilliantly — though Wendy Dawn Thompson, playing Fidalma, steals the comedic air of the show with a role that is half mediator, half seductress. However, whilst all of the performer’s interpretations of Cimarosa’s acute social observations provide genuine humour to the piece, there are moments when the linguistic comedy seems at odds with the score. Though this is a more modern portrayal, proclamations of “bloody hell” still seem rather clumsily sung alongside the orchestra — perhaps the sacrifice of adapting a 200 year old opera. A bold and confident debut from conductor Garry Walker allows for the orchestra’s solo pieces and larger sections to harmonise with the cast brilliantly. The voices themselves are equally impressive, surprisingly so in some cases — especially in the shape of Rebecca Botonne, playing the younger daughter Carolina, whose petite frame hides the strongest voice of the cast. Bottone’s voice is utilised beautifully with those of the other performers’ to create complex and moving melodies. It is hard not to be drawn in by the energy and light-hearted drama on stage, and any moments where the (not insignificant) length of the production begins to be felt are quickly superceded by another burst of life.
PA G E
Battle of the bulge
Dear Aunt Peg...
Ben Freeman and David Kirkpatrick offer their views on the male fashion industry.
n days of old, the fashion industry spent trillions of pennies developing its collections, solely targeted at the female of the species. Men were generally ignored as they have not traditionally been as dedicated to the art of dressing since the days of Beau Brummell, pioneer of men’s fashion in the 19th century. This trend does appear to be changing, as straight men realise that dressing well and taking pride in their appearance does not automatically make them gay, meaning the male fashion industry is booming. It would have been unthinkable twenty years ago that a high fashion designer would be designing only for men, but this can be
“The designs do not require men to check their masculinity at the door ” seen today at Tom Ford Menswear. The clothes designed by Mr. Ford don’t take the piss by being so over the top that no self respecting man would be caught dead in them; his collection is full of clothes which are beautifully cut, classic pieces, and he’s not the only designer concentrating on menswear. Dior has created Dior Homme - an up to date,
on the pulse men’s fashion brand. Hedi Slimane’s collection concentrated on slim fit styling, which has seriously taken off on the high street, resulting in it now being hard to walk down Byres Road without seeing a pair of testicles constrained within skinny jeans. Balenciaga has also successfully launched a menswear label and, like Ford, the designs do not require men to check their masculinity at the door. Not only is the fashion industry taking men’s clothing seriously but there are a growing number of men’s fashion magazines, an important step in creating male fashion aficionados. With the influence of high fashion brands growing, it’s possible that their commitment to male fashion will trickle down into the high street, finally providing men with as much choice and style as women have been lucky enough to have for years.
can’t deny it. We’ve all seen it coming. The clothes on a man’s back are no longer picked by his girlfriend or off of the floor. From man-bags to guy-liner, men are forging their way into the world of clothing and the fashion industry is leading them by the hand. You are the modern man, no one’s questioning your sexuality and no ones stripping you of your masculinity, we’re just asking you to wrap it in skin tight denim and parade it for the world to see. Snap those fingers, take those bad boys for a stroll, but wait, Dad? What are you wearing? Yes that’s right, there’s nothing new about skinny jeans and there’s nothing new about male fashion. So why does it seem that we’ve just in-
vented the fashionable man? Topman has been providing stylish clothing for men since 1978 and Burton stretches even further back, having opened in 1903. Numerous high street stores exist offering male fashion at wallet friendly prices — to get the look of tight jeans you don’t have to be Slimane, just slim. Fashion has always been about using your body to make a statement (think of Jordan) and as a means of attraction. People who take an interest in what they wear want others to take an interest in them. Therefore, it could be argued that the modern man, who has traded his licence to kill for a permit to dress, only wants to be wearing enough of what’s ‘in’ to be noticed. The
“Man has traded his licence to kill for a permit to dress” realisation that clothing enhances your appearance, and that appearances are linked to physical attraction, has suddenly dawned and the market is in turn expanding to cater for our budding Beckhams. But nothing’s changed really — we’re still the same guys, with one thing on our mind, only now we’ve got a new honey trap, and we’ve got it in three different colours.
Taking a peek at Cafezique >> Claire Strickett
hey don’t quite spell it out for you, but it’s clear enough – at Cafezique, the focus is on the food. Everything about it screams casual, the atmosphere falling somewhere between café and gastropub. It’s a tiny place that manages to err on just the right side of cosy, while the welcome is friendly and the modern British ‘Autumn Menu’ is handed out on slightly crumpled sheets of A4. Aside from the questionable seasonality of several of the dishes (tomatoes and green beans in October?), the menu delivered on all its promises. The emphasis at Cafezique is on top-quality ingredients, simply cooked and presented without excessive fuss or fanfare. A starter of crayfish and crab mayonnaise salad was the night’s fussiest dish, a self-consciously retro reworking of prawn cocktail, served in a martini glass. The Vegetable linguini was cooked to perfection, though slightly under-seasoned. The Tamworth chop proved to be a generous slab of meat perfectly complemented by thick slices of roasted sweet potato, while my meaty fillet of Pollock came wrapped in crisped Parma ham and was set off well by the mild flavours of braised leek and a creamy sauce.
The stand-out main, however, was the huge pile of mussles in a classic white wine sauce. ‘Simply amazing’ came the verdict. Dessert continued in the same vein – classic cooking, unadulterated. A wonderfully light crumble and its vanilla-flecked custard was moreish and homely, while my poached pear with chocolate soup (Valrhona, naturally) was perfectly executed and accompanied by previ-
Inside, the stripped-back décor works well, but the schoolroom-style chairs are far too low, while the tables are almost impossibly small for four. Prices are reflected in the quality of the food; eating here is not cheap at £25 for three courses, without wine. Still, these are small grumbles, and if you’re looking to treat someone, or just yourself, this is one of the best places to eat in the city right now.
“The emphasis is on quality ingredients, simply cooked and presented without fuss” ously unannounced triangles of smoky cinder toffee. The triangles served as a welcome crunchy contrast to the smoothness of the pear and dunked into the chocolate they were like Crunchies for grown- ups. The food at Cafezique is as good as anywhere I’ve eaten in Glasgow. However, it’s just a shame that its no-frills philosophy is occasionally pushed a little too far. Personally, I thought the home-baked bread was wonderful, but it’s a shame it’s not served as a standard accompaniment to every dish.
Cafezique, 66 Hyndland Street 0141339 7180
Dear Aunt Peg, As I leave the flat to go about my business or even merely twitch the curtains for a glance at the outside world, I’m attacked by a pack of flashing bulbs. At any time of day, I am ‘snapped’ mercilessly by a rowdy group of paparazzi. Their sharp focused lenses have no shame, and expose my every flaw. It’s driving me batty. Please help, before I biff the lot of them.
There’s only one cure for the horrendous paparazzi virus, and it’s very simple. Go down to your nearest fancy dress parlour and buy four wigs and a false moustache. Now, every time you venture outside, wear a different hairpiece. Your band of shameless stalkers will be so confounded by the appearance of so many new tenants and will eventually, after much cockney banter, come to the conclusions that their unflattering pictures lost you all hope of work and caused you to rent your flat out to extended family members. Believing their work to be done, they’ll depart to begin their night shift taxi driver stints and you’ll be left in peace. But don’t ever order a taxi in your own name, or they’ll sniff out your luxurious life style and return like a duck on a dune bug to root through your bins.
Dear Aunt Peg, My dog won’t pay the rent, and I’m pretty sure he hasn’t signed the council tax exemption form either. What should I do?
This is, indeed, a tricky situation. Dogs are unreliable and generally very touchy about their lack of organisational skills, and the last thing you want is some good old fashioned fisty-cuffs. So, plant the form in his bed, and seduce him. This attention will sweeten him to your opinions, so when he invites you into his domain for a little dalliance, whip back the covers and exclaim, “Goodness! Have you not sent this away yet?!” Once proceedings run their course, announce your rate, which will just so conveniently happen to be the exact sum of his share of the rent. He’ll pay up. And if he doesn’t, well then you’ll just have to look for a new flatmate. I suggest a budgerigar. They’re very conscientious with their finances.
Black and White Vision
Burn After Reading Dir: Ethan & Joel Coen On general release now
>> Lewis Porteous
>> Claire Strickett So you’re off to the cinema to see a film. Why? I don’t ask why you are going to the cinema as such (Boredom? Procrastination? A new love interest?) but rather, why are you going to see the film that you are, and not any other out of the thousands that have been made? At most mainstream cinemas, you certainly don’t have that much choice in the matter. And all of your options are likely to have one thing in common. They’re new. If a film’s not new, you’d just rent it, or perhaps download it. Going to the cinema has become synonymous with seeing the latest releases. Anything that isn’t new has been banished from the screens of most modern cinemas. But why this tyranny of newness? Undoubtedly the big screen is the better medium for experiencing films. Detail is amplified, effects heightened, sound quality should be better (something many multiplexes seem to have forgotten) and what’s more, the cinema transforms watching films into a communal experience, something to be shared with the rest of the audience. How can it be fair that we’re only allowed to experience the latest releases in this way? There must be better ways of deciding which films merit a big-screen outing other than the date on which they were released. This is the starting point for the Monorail Film Club. One Sunday every month at the Glasgow Film Theatre, a different guest curator gets to show a film they’ve picked for reasons rather more compelling than ‘It’s out this week.’ Try, ‘It’s a brilliant glimpse into how different Glasgow was 25 years ago’, or ‘It’s one of the most stylish films I know’. That kind of thing. And because the guest curators are chosen from among the great and the good of Glasgow’s music and art scenes, their film choices can provide a fascinating insight into their own work, too, through the form of an introductory talk or perhaps a post-film discussion. Since its foundation last year (in partnership with the renowned Monorail record shop/ café/gig venue down in the Merchant City) the MFC has welcomed Alex Kapranos, Stuart Murdoch and acclaimed Glasgow artist Toby Patterson, among others, to introduce and discuss their film choices. The films selected span many decades and styles, from cult classics to neglected masterpieces, from documentaries to surreal fantasies. These are films that have taken a special place in someone’s life, films that have been watched again and again, films that really mean something to someone. The MFC provides an opportunity to share that experience with others, and in the process to introduce the audience to something they might never otherwise have considered watching. A club this may be, but there’s no official system of membership. All you have to do is turn up with an open mind. It’s a very different approach to cinema-going from that which we’ve become used to, and something that I’d be happy to see a lot more of.
t seems as though, following the twin misfires of Intolerable Cruelty and The Ladykillers, fresh offerings from the Coen brothers will always be treated with a degree of suspicion. Indeed, some quarters, convinced of the duo’s decline, are already proclaiming Burn After Reading their worst film since the latter, a statement which, in literal terms means “it’s not as good as No Country for Old Men.” What many of the Coens’ detractors fail to note, however, is that their filmography is so diverse and steeped in genre exercises that often the weaknesses and limitations of their outputs reflect those of their genre as a whole. This is certainly true of Burn After
Reading, which, while finding the brothers’ creative partnership in good health, is far from essential. Set in Washington DC, the film revolves around the efforts of ‘Hardbodies’ gym employees Frances McDormand and Brad Pitt, as they attempt to blackmail John Malkovich’s disillusioned government insider. The pair, infused with a high-energy ‘can do’ attitude, soon find themselves out of their depth in typical Coen fashion, as events hurtle out of control with almost hilarious consequences. Much has been made of Burn After Reading’s all-star ensemble cast and, admittedly, it does seem an odd decision for the filmmakers to employ such terminally unhip A-listers as George Clooney and Pitt, while they struggle to renew their hard-won Indie credibility. Furthermore, the notion of such actors knowingly playing over-the-top roles that mock and contradict their public personas is a sickening one, which, on paper, seems sure to test the good-will of even the most ardent Coen fans.
Happily, the players prove adept at comedic performance, and clearly revel in conveying the idiosyncrasies required of the directors’ creations. Pitt in particular fails to come across as overly annoying, even when playing the role of an idiot. The project would implode amidst its leads’ gleeful mugging were it not for Malkovich’s intensely ‘straight’ performance serving as a sympathetic anchor for all the zany strands of action that take place. The film is crammed full of infidelities, insecurities, and life-threatening situations, however it is his intensely human presence that lends Burn After Reading a real dimension of darkness,
“Pitt in particular fails to come across as overly annoying, even when playing the role of an idiot” elevating it beyond hugely entertaining fluff, into something considerably more compelling, though hardly mind-blowing. If the work has a specific ‘message’ then it is that idiocy can, and almost certainly will, have destructive consequences for all concerned, whether the instigator or not. From the outset of the film the audience are conditioned to believe that its characters possess grave secrets. As events unfold, however, it transpires that they have nothing of any consequence to hide, their covert behaviour serving purely to mask for their own inconsequential nothingness and delusions of self-importance. Burn After Reading may seem an illogical follow up to No Country For Old Men, but if history has taught cinema-goers anything, it is that the Coens will go on to produce more ‘challenging’ material and that we should just enjoy their purely enjoyable films whenever they see fit to produce them.
Good Dick Dir: Marianna Palka On general release now
>> Hannah Mackenzie
n dramatic terms the boy-meets-girl and falls in love formula is familiar and staid. In Good Dick Glasgow-born Marianna Palka (writer, director and actress) takes a departure from her previous work, which includes ‘For My American Friends,’ a documentary on Maryhill, to reinvent a dull genre. The film documents a dejected girl (Palka) whose sole company are the pornographic DVDs she obtains from a boy (played by off-screen boyfriend Jason Ritter) who works at her local video rental shop. After a brief and unforthcoming exchange the boy conspires to penetrate the mysterious girl’s life in an intrusive yet endearing fashion. Though in synopsis the relationship between a monosyllabic porn-addict and a homeless video store clerk might sound improbable, the basis for couple’s connection becomes clear as the film unfurls. “She” is morose and struggles with intimacy while “he” is patient and lonely. They find solace in each others
company despite their peculiarities and propensity for bickering. The implausible practicalities of the boy’s pursuit (such as the remote likelihood of finding a parcel with a security gate code to the girl’s apartment written on it) are a weakness. However these are overshadowed by the exchanges between the two protagonists which are convincing and at times affecting. But this film is far from saccharine; when the boy washes the girl’s lank, unkempt hair and proceeds to brush it she rebuffs him. Visually the grey tones of the girl’s clothes and apartment reflect her melancholy demeanour (the
brightest items to be found are the orange covers of the DVDs she rents). However the stark realism of Good Dick is allayed by the unexpected humour that is interwoven throughout. In conversation the boy declares, “I think my dick looks really nice” to which the girl jibes, “That’s cos you’re an idiot.” Though marketed in a manner befitting most anonymous, gross-out American comedies, Good Dick rarely goes for obvious laughs, lest it should undermine the powerful sense of pathos it succeeds in conveying. The namelessness of Palka and Ritter’s characters is a device which serves not to distance the audience but remind them of the universality of the themes they portray: that love and sexuality are tools that can open a closed person. Good Dick is an absorbing and original film that illustrates the all-round talents of Palka – that she creates an uplifting film out of outwardly dour and realistic material is an achievement. This urban fairy tale reminds us of the transformative power of love, however unconventional.
The Rocker Dir: Peter Cattaneo On general release now
>> Louise Ogden
all me old-fashioned, but when a film is labelled a comedy, I expect it to be funny. And I’m not talking about laugh-a-minute, side-splitting humour- although that’s always a plus- but a couple of good, memorable comedy sequences that stick with you, however fleetingly. Such scenes are sorely missed in ‘The Rocker’, the latest film from Peter Cattaneo, the director behind ‘The Full Monty’ and not much else.
“It's a strange feeling to long for more of Christina Applegate's acting” The plot follows a drummer, Robert “Fish” Fishman (Rainn Wilson) who was kicked out of his band, Vesuvius, while they were on the verge of making it big twenty years ago. He gets a second chance when his nephew’s band, full of high-school misfits, are left in the lurch by their drummer and need Fish to play at their first gig, the high school prom. They eventually get signed to a record label and go on a tour of the Midwest, and while Fish, adamant that he will not pass up the opportunity, heartily embraces the rockstar lifestyle. Meanwhile, his bandmates are all underage and must be chaperoned by Christina Applegate as the lead singer’s mother. Sparks fly, allegedly. It is hard to watch ‘The Rocker’ and not have a distinct feeling of having seen it all before. Employing successful themes found in both ‘School of Rock’ and ‘Almost Famous’, it lacks the musicality
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of both these films, and struggles to find it’s niche within the genre. The music that is played is catchy if not a little mainstream, but it is hard to believe that a drummer who previously played with the biggest metal band of the time, would find himself playing in a band reminiscent of McFly. It’s not all bad. The band’s rise to fame as a Youtube sensation is quite a clever concept. I suspect almost anyone could become famous on the back of Youtube exposure, including a teenage band with an unkempt, middle-aged drummer. However, one feels that the plot leaves a lot of loose ends, which have pointlessly little impact on the story as a whole, untied. Applegate’s character is underused, (it’s a strange feeling to long for more of Christina Applegate’s acting) and the relationship between her and Fish is underdeveloped. It’s almost as though the scriptwriters realised how ridiculous it was half way through and abandoned it. There are some touching scenes between Fish and Curtis (Teddy Geiger), the lead singer who was abandoned by his Dad and is craving a father figure, but again this is left unfinished, and feels as though it’s been thrown in for good measure. It appears that the movie is intended to serve as an acting springboard for Geiger, but his performance doesn’t quite capture the supposed abandonment-fuelled angst his character draws on for his songwriting throughout the film. However, on the whole, the supporting cast are competent, and provide a little light relief from Wilson’s overdone ‘irresponsible rocker’ act. Wilson is probably best known for his role in the US incarnation of ‘The Office’ and this was a perfect opportunity for him to prove his credentials as a lead actor. Unfortunately, his lacklustre performance in The Rocker is merely of the calibre of a supporting role.
It's a bad time to be a terrorist Eagle Eye Dir: DJ Caruso On general release now
>> Emily McQueen - Govan
had high hopes for this film, expecting something perhaps resembling the Jason Bourne films in narration and style. Instead, Eagle Eye focuses entirely on set pieces and car chases over plot and character development. Shia LaBeouf - yes, him again - stars as Jerry Shaw, a slacker who, after the sudden death of his twin brother, begins receiving phone calls from a mysterious woman, and soon finds himself on the run after being framed for suspected terrorism. Whilst fleeing police custody he receives help from stranger Rachel (Michelle Monaghan), who finds herself in a similar predicament. Threatened with harm to her son, she co-operates and the two become partners. The ability of the annonymous voice to control every computer system in America forces the pair
to follow its instructions all the way to Thornton as FBI agent Thomas Morgan Washington DC, resulting in high-octane gets the best lines, although could quite drama along the journey. possibly be repaying a debt to someone by appearing. However, an appearance “Eagle Eye is a prime from Michael Chiklis (a.k.a. The Shield’s Vic Mackey) as the uncharacteristically example of technophobia principled Secretary of Defence is a at its most hypocritical; cliched device there only to inform us damning it on the one that there are still some decent people government office (something of hand whilst serving as a holding which I am still sceptical). marketing exercise” Following popular convention, the action is filmed so close and edited so By keeping the characters constantly frenetically that at most times it is futile on the move, Director DJ Caruso provides attempting to comprehend quite what distraction through the police chases is going on. Caruso wants to scare - events which would in the real world us with the potential evil of leave numerous casualties, but naturally technology and the Big are not given a second thought. LaBeouf Brother state (hard to and Monaghan make appealing leads, be scared of when though the lack of chemistry between you see the CCTV them means that the hastily written cameras outside final scene is forced and unnecessary; Tesco), especially in there simply to tick a box. Similarly, the the (metaphoropening scenes concerning the bombing ical) hands of of an Afghanistani village appear to serve a psychono purpose except to add a contem- p a t h i c porary and political edge. Billy Bob C I A
computer, Aria, plagieristically reminiscient of 2001: A Space Odyssey's HAL. Eagle Eye is a prime example of technophobia at its most hypocritical; damning it on the one hand whilst at the same time serving as a marketing exercise in product placement. The blatantly shoddy rip-offs of Alfred Hitchcock’s The
Man Who Knew Too Much and North by Northwest served only to make one long for the genius and competency of Hitchcock’s films. If you are willing to suspend your disbelief for all 118 minutes and enjoy mindless explosions, then see this film – if not, you would be far better off returning to the original classics.
inSIGHT the interview
Shouts & Murmurs of
Tom Bonnick chews the fat over culture, politics, and stupid news anchors with George Sau
eorge Saunders is one of America's leading contemporary satirists. The author of several books, both fiction and nonfiction, his work has earned comparisons to that of Mark Twain and Kurt Vonnegut for its brilliant wit and incisive cultural commentary. As well as teaching on the creative writing course at Syracuse University, he regularly contributes to publications which include Harper's, GQ and Esquire, and he has a weekly column in The Guardian.
tions are themselves as stupid as the method and manner of their discourse — or is it just cynicism on their behalf? I don't think they're stupid — they are made up of very intelligent, competent people. I would guess that it's not exactly cynicism either — some of them believe what they're saying. But mostly I think it's a form of careerism — which is, come to think of it, pretty cynical. In effect, they're really more like entertainers than thinkers, which is all well and good except that America treats them like thinkers. Joke's on us!
Saunder's first anthology of short stories, CivilWarLand in Bad Decline, was a finalist for the 1996 PEN/Hemingway Award. In 2000, he was named one of the 20 best writers under 40 by the New Yorker, and he was awarded a MacArthur Fellowship — otherwise known as the 'genius grant' — in 2006. His latest book, The Braindead Megaphone, is a collection of travel, literary and politcal essays.
If "stupid discourse" is a disease, do you think that you are the cure? Or, at the very least, one of those slightly weird alternative remedies? Well, I do, actually. Or rather I see literature as being the remedy. I am kind of a bad example, being infected with the same disease of inexactness of expression, by virtue of my only so-so primary school education and then my college education as an engineer. But I think a person can exploit his own weaknesses — I am, for example, kind of decent at affecting a blurry, corporatese in my dialogue. Part of the reason I can
You’ve spoken about Fox News and it's ilk lowering the "intelligence ceiling" of America. Do you think these news organisa-
do this is because I actually think this way. But I know it's odd and bad, and so, even as I'm doing it, I can exaggerate and thus parody it — and the effect, I hope, is to sort of praise perfection (i.e. clear, articulate speech) by manifesting its opposite. Kind of like a very bad dancer, who knows he's awkward, ramping it up a bit, and becoming a comedian. He is, in effect, praising the beauty of dance, by messing it up so completely (I read this somewhere: Comedy is the indirect praise of perfection). And of course, when I was doing PR for the book, I noticed that the more appearances I did, going around espousing precision, the thinner my rhetorical ice got — I too started doing sound-bytish schtick, not replying thoughtfully, getting less and less precise with every interview, etc. My guess is, a lot of this cultural stupidity is a function of pace. I know I need a lot of time — revision time, reflection time — to even begin to make sense. So when everyone is going so fast, the bar is going to get lowered. And with these 24-hour news channels, there has to be a lot of talk; much more talk than is merited by the state of our knowledge. And it tends to be talk about such inane, even cruel, things
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f an American Psyche
unders, the funniest smart-guy — or maybe the smartest funny-guy — in the room — brutal murders, innuendo, discussion of the ramifications of a rumor not yet proven true, should it prove to be true. For that matter (physician, heal thyself) look at this interview. I'm typing my responses directly into an email, doing a little spot revising, but nothing like what I'd do if I were writing this for publication. And yet, I am writing it for publication. And I think, these days, that's considered OK. It's understood that you will understand. But there can be no arguing that you are not getting me at my best here — what ideas I have will be, I know, far better and deeper when I've revised them for several months. How do you feel about Stephen Colbert's characterisation of yourself as an "NPR, pipe smoking, let's-all-hug-each-other liberal"? Well, I don't smoke a pipe. Other than that, he's correct. Of course, behind the scenes, that is also a good description of him. Pauline Kael famously said "When we championed trash culture we had no idea that it would become the only culture". Has this happened? I'm afraid I do think so. There is this strange lack of irony in, for example, our reality TV. It's like snarky teenagers at a very mean-spirited party. Although, back when there was high culture, it could be pretty full of crap. Remember when Mailer got that guy Jack Abbot out of jail, and then, that very night, the guy stabbed a waiter to death? Hail, art! Remember all of that high modernist nastiness masquerading as sophistication? Is it an accident that, when high art was at its highest, we had the Russian Revolution, two World Wars, a Holocaust?
"If a very few people read something and are moved by it, there's a lot of potential energy in that. A thousand people reading Vonnegut trumps a hundred thousand watching 'America's Ugliest and Most Talented Babies'." In a sense, we make the art we need, from the level at which we actually exist and think and communicate. And so the New Crudity might just be a good reflection that we live in a decadent time. Or it might even, at some level, be serving a good purpose — making us less sure of our beliefs, because we have fewer of them, or maybe the ones we have are more common sense and intuitive and less huge and destructive. Or it might also be that we are becoming such complete materialists that, as long as we're fed, and adding a JetSki a month to our garage, our violent tendencies are dormant. It also could be that I have entered into a Generalisation Spiral the likes of which I have not entered since I was in high school… Still, what I think has been lost in our culture is a sense that there might be something valid that exists beyond one's first impressions. We seem to be losing the idea that art takes a long time to make, and has, or should have, subtlety and multiple levels. So much of literary criticism is either just plot summary or takes a reductive stance — talking about real-life corollaries ("Today we're reading Hamlet — has anyone in your family ever really hurt your feelings, and yet you found yourself having trouble standing up for yourself?") as if art's only function was to create a moral view. Beauty, mystery, be damned — this is about problem solving. If I could generalise — and just by looking at what I've written
above, I see I very clearly can — I'd say that America has, in my lifespan, become much more literal, much less curious about art and respectful of artists. Our attitude can be summed up by the old "If you're so smart, why aren't you rich?" idea. Iraq was a sobering, embittering reminder that if we eschew ideas and intelligence, they will eschew us, and we will suffer. A lot of your writing addresses a kind of cultural malaise that permeates society. Is it optimistic to think that the election could do anything to change that? Or are the problems ingrained at a deeper level? I think both things are true; that is, yes, they are ingrained at a deeper level and also, this election could help change that. It's really a pretty exciting moment here — a lot hangs in the balance. Although what complicates it is that McCain is a pretty good guy — not a Bush, not by a long shot. But we haven't seen anyone like Obama in a long time, and many of us are so hungry to get our country back. Do you worry that satire such as your own credits the general population with a greater intelligence than that which it possesses? Not really — I mean, a lot of people just don't get it, but that's OK. Writing works in a cool way — if a few, very intense people read something and are moved by it, there's a lot of potential energy in that. A thousand people reading Vonnegut trumps a hundred thousand watching "America's Ugliest and Most Talented Babies." Also, I'm hopeful that even a person who doesn't agree with me might be moved by a story I've written. Or, putting it another way — that there's not that much difference between me and the people who disagree with me. I know this for a fact, from my own life — I've lived in a lot of situations, met a lot of people from all walks of life — and I really believe that the divisions between us are mostly illusory, and that literature is one way of breaking them down, if only for a few moments —– so I'm basically not too worried about a small audience. I'd rather make my work as interesting and edgy as possible and hope that my readers will find it. You've been awarded the MacArthur Grant. How does it feel to be accredited as a bona fide
genius? Have you considered getting business cards printed? Yes, but I can't figure out how to do it.
If you could put one thing into modern society, and take one thing out, what would they be? I would put in horses, and take out the automobile. Or, no — actually I'd put horses on top of the automobiles. And I'd also put in those flying cars. It would be funny to see how the horses, on top of the nonflying cars, reacted to the flying cars. And then put sheep on top of the horses. OK, sure, you may say I'm a dreamer. But guess what – I'm not the only one. The Braindead Megaphone is out now in paperback.
inSIGHT music Insight into a colossal mind
Noah and the Whale 25/10/08 The Arches On the back of debut album 'Peaceful, The World Lays Me Down', Twickenham's Folk-rockers bring their unique sound to The Arches this month. Pleasant. Black Kids 26/10/08 ABC Reggie Youngblood et al hit the ABC for a spot of catchy indie-rock and confusing racial classifications. Proving that not everyone in Florida is retired. Al Green 30/10/08 SECC Purveyor of all things Soul and bonafide legend Green is still on the road at age 62 touring latest album 'Lay It Down'. A true pillar of the musical community - not to be missed. Isosceles 31/10/08 King Tuts One of the most exciting bands emerging from Glasgow's thriving scene. Generally very good live and King Tut's should be no exception. Bringing back the Hammond Organ with a bang. Hot Chip 02/11/08 Carling Academy English electropop pioneers Hot Chip tend to divide opinion between "fabulously fun" and "horribly irritating". For those relating to the former, this should be a great jump around. Leonard Cohen 05/11/08-06/11/08 SECC Alongside Neil Young, Cohen makes up the absolute cream of Canada's musical exports, beating er... Celine Dion hands down. Hopefully his timeless delivery and thought-provoking lyrics won't be lost in the caverns of the SECC. Joker & Dexplicit 07/11/08 SubClub One of the most exciting Dubstep artists around, Joker is known for his combative and adventurous style. Alongside Dexplicit this should be a night for serious bass-enthusiasts. Volcano! 10/11/08 The Arches Signed to reliably left-field label 'Leaf Records', Volcano! are capable of extraordinarily involving soundscapes. With support from local favourites, Glasgow's own Punch and the Apostles, this night will be nothing if not interesting.
Gerry McKeever kicks back with Roots Manuva (Photos by Becky Sharpe)
oots treads the imaginary tightrope of success with a flair few can claim to posses. Somehow, he has nestled into the hearts of a huge number of fans in the UK and worldwide, yet managed to retain an image of being edgy and underground. His unmistakable hip-hop cool avoids being tempered by an honest and explicit intelligence, which never fails to shine through in his reliably interesting tunes. On the back of his new album ‘Slime and Reason’, Roots brought his show to an expectant Arches, with mainly positive results. Before the show, Roots took some time to chat to Guardian in one of The Arches' dressing rooms. Bizarrely toting a Halloween trick-or-treat handbag, Roots was nevertheless a formidable personality, oozing London-informed Jamaican sensibilities. What do you think about Glasgow & Scotland? “Yeah, it’s amazing, the people are warm. I've been coming here for nearly 11 years now, it’s been a beautiful romance. I totally feel in love with the place, just the stones, just the geography, it’s just like uh! It’s a beautiful place. On top of that, I don’t properly understand the intricacies of it, but there’s the Irish connection, and as a Jamaican descendent there’s always a connection to the Irish, and we’re always eating Scottish oats. It's how people connect to people, through namesakes, through food and just through characters man. A lot of the Jamaicans have got Scottish surnames. We’re family, it’s a massive connection!” Tell us about your religious upbringing? My mum and dad were devout Pentecostal Christians, from a West-Indian kind of breakaway sect. I look at it now, I’m 36 now, I’m old. I’m an old boy! But yeah I look at it now and I think: ‘my upbringing was quite extreme, quite specific’. It’s even more extreme than Catholic. It’s almost like – you’ve got fashion, you’ve got Topshop fashion, Versace fashion, Moschino fashion, up and up and
British Sea Power 11/10/08 ABC >> Lewis Porteous
ince Franz Ferdinand hijacked it for marketing purposes, the term ‘art rock’ has become synonymous with impotent posturing; the genre of choice for musicians who favour style over substance and real ideas. When British Sea Power’s debut album emerged in 2003, they seemed the antithesis of these lightweight imposters, a fully conceptualised unit favouring obtuse lyrical sentiments, angular guitars, foliage and World War I paraphernalia over skinny ties, danceable drum beats and songs about visiting student discos. Their live shows were suitably chaotic and there seemed no end to the group’s ambition, however enigmatic or curious their goals may have appeared. The British Sea Power of 2008’s intentions are a little easier to comprehend, the band having set its sights on something approximating world domination. Two increasingly
up, and I feel like the Pentecostal Church is like fucking Gucci man! Yeah really high, high, high fucking fashion. I’d go out with my Mum and meet people on the street, she would meet lesbians on the street and try and convert them. It’s like ‘Where you sleeping tonight?’, and they were in the house
“Bizarrely toting a Halloween trick-or-treat handbag, Roots was nevertheless a formidable personality.”
You’ve collaborated with loads of interesting people, who sticks in your mind? “I always say this, but it’s Leftfield. Just the attitude was so succinct, they didn’t give a fuck, they were in the studio for days and days, just spending tons of money, just like ‘we don’t care, we need to get our sound right’. They opened my ears to what became my sound, they’re a massive influence on me. They were meticulous man, they’d spend days over a high-hat. It was that dedication that knocked me out, and I always try to implement a level of that into what I do.” The conversation then turns to Roots’s label-mate Mr. Scruff, with Roots keen to make an album together, and him explaining how much Ninja Tune have helped and taught him. All the while, Roots veers between a focused interest and a distracted preoccupation with his now empty glass of Whisky. The interview finishes with Roots discussing his plan to do community work helping kids to get involved in the arts. An hour later Roots hit the stage, causing absolute uproar from the Glasgow faithful. The show went well, with Roots and wingman Ricky Ranking both bantering well with the Glasgow crowd. In terms of a stand-out moment, 'Witness the Fitness' sent everyone silly. The level of pioneering throughout Roots’ career really shone through with the lasting freshness of all his back-catalogue, not to mention the new material which went down well. An absorbing evening spent in the company of a truly warm character.
within a day, living in the house, looking after me. But that’s part of their faith, Pentecostal faith, to share. Even if you’ve got half a piece of cheese, you’re supposed to share that. I’m different now, cos it’s not a piece of cheese – if I’ve got half a bag of weed, I’m gonna share it with you, if I’ve got half a bottle of Whisky, I’m gonna share it with you, If I’ve got a line of cocaine I’m gonna share it with you too! - My daddy’s not gonna like that one!” (impersonating his father) “You're taking drugs! Son, drugs have got only one way to go, to the devil!” grandiose albums have been released during the intervening five years, and the most recent has even been afforded a Mercury Music Prize nomination. However many fans have found themselves alienated by the combo’s decision to embrace widescreen, consciously epic production values, their recent exposure is enough to ensure that their tour of uncharacteristically large venues will be well attended. It’s simply a question of whether or not BSP can rise to the occasion and capitalise on whatever momentum they’ve gathered over the last year. Following an impressive start to the set that sees them tackle old favourites ‘Fear of Drowning’ and ‘Carrion’ back to back, it is not long before the
band find themselves crushed under the weight of their own ambition, as efforts to replicate their recent ‘Do You Like Rock Music?’ album’s sonic assault find them lost in a sea of pounding drums and echo. If recent critical thought is to be believed, BSP are currently aping the ‘Big Music’ acts of the Eighties, subverting their forbearers’ heart-ontheir-sleeves melodramatics by marrying them to an icy laconism. While this works on record with the vocals pushed to the front of the mix, the material just seems anonymous, sluggish and lazy live. Bereft of the early Waterboys’ unashamed passion or even U2’s spirited careerism, the Brighton four piece (joined onstage by a violinist) struggle to engage the audience, or connect with any real precision. Think Joy Division performing in a wind tunnel, only murkier. By the time the gig reaches its ‘wild and wacky’ conclusion (the band wrestle with a man in a bear suit, while one member repeatedly stage dives) it’s too little too late. The audience has spent 90 minutes immersing itself in an unsatisfying musical sludge and, as the venue empties, the atmosphere is one of a bad hangover.
Mr. Scruff Ninja Tuna
Buena Vista Social Club: Live at the Carnegie Hall
Ninja Tune - 06/10/08
World Circuit - 13/10/08
Mr Scruff is the nom de plume of one Andy Carthy, and by all accounts a title that has become synonymous with marathon DJ sets of outstanding quality. Here on his first release of new material since Trouser Jazz in 2002, he returns a little more relaxed but with the same playful sound suggested by his naive album artwork. Taking his music out of a live setting does dampen the freedom of it somewhat, but the energy still translates. What is collected here is pretty inoffensive stuff, funk with a lowercase f, but enjoyable fluff nonetheless. As long as you are not looking for anything revelatory, this album will happily accompany any dimly lit room. Music Takes Me Up is an early highlight, a Latin piano figure bounces along punctuated by some colourful organ chords, while the vocals of Alice Russell sail through the chorus rather infectiously. Later songs This Way and Hold On are two convincing floor fillers, the latter only betrayed as being of this decade by its pulsating drum rhythm, otherwise perfectly believable as a lost entry from canon of seventies soul. The promising Roots Manuva led Nice Up The Function, however, fails to live up to the potential suggested by its collaborators and settles for okay rather than great. The albums standout moment is in Kalimba, a brilliantly constructed piece. This is what Mr Scruff does best, collecting bits of musical debris and uniting them so well that conceiving them in any other form becomes a tough task. The stitching doesn’t show here at all, gutsy organ funk and energetic percussion carrying the song throughout, the entry of fevered strings halfway through entirely seamless. Stockport Carnival caps the album on the Latin influence, a five-and-a-half minute playground for trumpet and flute which just might convince you to press play again. (Oisin Kealy)
Famed as one of the most magical performances of the last century, Live At Carnegie Hall documents one of only two concerts Buena Vista Social Club ever played as a full ensemble. It is a beautiful, irresistible album; capturing the exuberance and nostalgia the collective celebrated so well. From the opening sway of Chan Chan, the album is no disappointment, the rhythmic vibrancy of the group invoking the spirit of 1940’s Havana, whilst the sound of the crowd amongst the haunting refrains of lost love (sung by a 91 year old Compay Segundo in Dos Gardenias, no less) brings the album the atmosphere the studio album perhaps lacked a little. The existence of the recording becomes yet more of a feat when you look at the history of the group – that members emerged from retirement to play, piano virtuoso Ruben Gonzalez constantly nursing his arthritis while no longer owning a piano due to an infestation of termites – there were a few things to overcome. Many of the members had never been to America before playing the great Carnegie Hall, and the excitement is contagious still, even through the medium of a ten year old recording. These were great, great musicians, the like of which I doubt you can hear today – as guitarist Ry Cooder said on release of the album, “You’ll never hear it again, people of this calibre working together. They were dramatic personalities and they’re now nearly all gone. There’s nobody left like that any more.” This sums up the poignancy of the album – with the very music mourning and simultaneously celebrating a Cuba which is more and more fading, less and less of this era and the people who embodied it remain. From the opening track through to the closing Silencio, the album resonates with the echo of a complicated, rich past drafted with nostalgia – this is a heart-achingly beautiful recording. (Laura Cernis)
Photo: Al Taylor
McNaught’s programme, including piano arrangements of two songs (‘An die Musik’ and ‘Der Leiermann’) and the complete sonata in B flat major, powerfully demonstrated his expressive abilities. The first piece was restrained, with delicately modelled rubato for the fragmented melody. The second song unleashed triplets, violent dynamics and scales so deft they might have been glissandi – at once both precise and emotional. The sonata enters less familiar territory, and McNaught proceeded almost over-cautiously through less standard classical modes: rippling dynamics, startling sforzandos and false cadences lie concealed throughout the work, all of which were, however, executed immaculately. Last week’s lunchtime performance was from the winners of the Glasgow Music Festival: Alison Turriff, a rising star of the clarinet, and Gary Blair, a precocious accordion player. Accompanied by piano from a very able Claire Haslin, Turriff played a delightful French-tinged set, full of tangy contemporary melodies and showy interplay between the clarinet and piano. Silences
Back In The Groove
Classical Music Series Sep - Oct 08 Glasgow University >> Harry Akehurst
unning quietly alongside the new academic year is 2008-09’s Music in the University programme, a series of concerts from high-profile performers, both classical and contemporary. If it sounds like some musty anachronism then you should read on – actually, it’s quite something. On the 25th of September the Edinburgh and Alba string quartets joined forces in our own concert hall to recite Mendelssohn’s Octet: composed for the eight players as two distinct, interacting quartets this showcased Scotland’s two premier string quartets as an exhilarating introduction to the programme. The drama took off with swelling syncopation, diving in and out of unison and swooping through the full dynamic range of a full orchestra. The middle scherzo was treated with the slight increase in subtlety its detail requires, but positively blossomed playfulness, both quartets obviously enjoying the performance. The final presto was delivered at full pace, the accompaniment approaching with train-like momentum, suddenly breaking out over the audience in all directions, with exquisite melodic interplay ricocheting off the walls. It was played as an adventure, all classical stagnancy skimmed and discarded, and so it sounded one too. A week later Graeme McNaught played a programme of Schubert on one of the concert hall’s two spectacular Steinway concert grand pianos.
and abrupt awakenings from dream-like harmonic developments meant that the pieces could have distracted from their actual performance: she did well to beat the profile of her pieces. Gary Blair opened with a high-speed Scottish medley, setting the scene well for his set. His selection lacked the harmonic maturity of Turriff’s clarinet pieces, but the set, particularly its closing piece, Monti’s ‘Czardas’ – a speed showcase on any instrument – was played with great confidence. Classical music, however, is not the whole deal. Already a violin and electronics blacked out the windows and decked out the concert hall with lasers; on the 23rd Emma Pollock of the Delgados will perform. The programme ranges from classical guitar to ‘audiovisual sculptures’. Although the concerts are well attended by staff and members of the public, the programme’s director Ms Anne Cumberland would like to see more students from beyond the music department. I advise you not to bother checking what’s on, but simply to wander into the main building at 1.00 on a Thursday, follow the signs and see what you find.
>> Gerry McKeever 2.16! This apparently insignificant number may seem innocent and unthreatening to the untrained eye, possibly even alluring with it’s carefully constructed camouflage. Nevertheless, take note, with the imminent approach of the Hallowed 31st, this little rotter has been one of the biggest threats to the worldwide club and DnB scene in recent times, coming close to dealing it a serious body-blow. However, disaster has been largely avoided, and all is well again among the junglist ranks. Rude-boys everywhere can breath a big sigh of relief, thanks to the international power of celebrity to bend the rules. What on earth is all this nonsense do I hear you cry? The 11th saw the long-awaited return of the trailblazing Godfather of DnB, Grooverider, with a star-studded gig at London’s Koko. Released from prison in Dubai after serving just 10 months of his four-year sentence for drug-trafficking, Grooverider is back doing what he does best. Considering the UAE is known for it’s use of the “throw him down a big black hole forever” brand of law enforcement, we can thank the special treatment given to celebrities worldwide and probably our Foreign Office for getting him pardoned and back home. The extended or permanent loss of Grooverider would have been a real knock for the scene, as he stands almost singularly as one of the original pioneers of the broken-beat sound, taking and developing the hardcore and rave scene of the late-eighties. Furthermore, with his Radio1 show alongside Fabio, he’s been injecting a much needed element of credible underground culture into the notoriously bland current mainstream. His crime certainly deserves some analysis as ‘drug-trafficking’ does sound pretty serious. This is where the evil ‘2.16’ rears it’s ugly head. Grooverider was caught in Dubai International Airport on his way to play a gig in possession of 2.16 grams of cannabis. Now for anyone not particularly up on the metric system thats about enough to get a family of squirrels mildly stoned and would probably have lasted our crime-lord DJ until he got halfway to the venue. Drug-trafficking eh? Well, unless Dubai has a serious problem with glaucoma-suffering pixies, i think we can safely say Grooverider had no intention to distribute this petty morsel of contraband. Meanwhile, Glasgow is still suffering from a lack of visits by big name DnB DJs, with most of them either staying south of the border, or veering East to see our undeserving counterparts in capital city. As no small compensation we are however seeing a massive growth in the Dubstep scene here, with just about everyone worth their salt popping up in the next little while. Lets just hope none of them are planning big-time drugsmuggling trips to the middle-east before they get here...
Reluctant thoroughbreds of rock
Declan McKay finds his way backstage to meet Foals at Glasgow's Barrowlands
o there I was, being led nervously through the winding and somewhat grimly clad corridors and stairways of the infamous Glasgow Barrowlands to conduct my first ever interview, with the reputable, musically acclaimed and NME endorsed (drum roll please)… Foals. Fear sped through my veins as I approached their similarly bleak dressing room, with the infinite possibilities of failure and foolishness ransacking my mind. In at the deepend I had truly been thrown; but in I went, to have a leisurely chat with Foals front man ‘Yannis Philippakis’ about the second album test, social networking sites, totalitarian governments and their tenuous role in the supposed ‘class war’ in British music. After introductions and general pleasantries, Yannis (cross legged and smoking) began regaling me with the pressures of touring the world, “touring’s quite nomadic, you see very little unless you get up at like 10am and have a drive to experience every different place” he began, tenderly smoking away, “It’s very easy to get into a pattern of just waking up at 1pm, walking into sound check, getting stoned, playing the show. You know?” I didn’t really know of course, but for the sake of my image agreed sheepishly. I felt it was time to get off the subject of class C narcotics, and enquire if Foals have begun work on the ‘dreaded’ second album, a question that sparked life into the heavy-eyed front man: “I’m not dreading it; I can’t wait to do it to be honest. I don’t believe any of that fear mongering,” he began with the look of a man possessed with just cause and honesty, “new bands get wrapped into it; it cripples you instantly if you only feel you’ve got the life span of one album. You’re brought up to believe you can’t better yourself on a second album!” A short pause descended on the table before he concluded: “I don’t believe it.” I was convinced Foals would not fall at their next musical hurdle, but wondered if matching the
“There's an obsession in Britain about class, which is something that I feel pretty alien to.”
commercial success of their last album ‘Antidotes’ is a factor in their current writing, “I don’t know about commercial success, but that’s not the point of any of this is it? The point of the band wasn’t to put out an album to get into the top ten, and then put out a second album to better it,” Yannis replied adamantly, loosening up from his somewhat cagey cross-legged stance, “The point of this band is to try and make progressive music, and make albums that are hopefully better than the last ones, and eventually get to a place where we feel satisfied.” At this point in the interview I called into reference an article in The Guardian by Matt Bolton, in which he discussed the supposed ‘class war’ in contemporary British guitar music, contrasting working class bands like The Enemy with art rock bands such as Foals, whom he
Ronnie Spector 29/09/08 The Arches
>> Lewis Porteous
s a cursory glance at her official website will suggest, Ronnie Spector is obsessed with the notion of ‘rocking,’ perhaps to an extent not usually expected of a sixty-five
year old. “I started out rocking,” she informs her Glasgow audience, “and I’m gonna go out rocking!” She neglects to mention that she will carry out approximately fifty percent of this ‘rocking’ from a velvet futon, which she will mount whenever she needs to catch her breath. Nor does she acknowledge that her unique brand of ‘rocking’ will essentially consist
Photo: Stefan Sealey
describes as “solidly middle class in both membership and perceived appeal.” As I described the article Yannis became increasingly edgy and distanced before eventually calling for Edwin, the band's keyboard player, from the other side of the dressing room, explaining: “Edwin’s the good person to talk to because he’s read it.” Edwin entered accordingly and the question was repeated, “I think it’s a pretty benign thing to say, because we kind of are middle class, a lot of people are,” Edwin begins, “I’d wager a bet that The Enemy are pretty middle class as well, people who play guitars often are, it’s meaningless.” We began to talk about the current fixation with a band’s social background (Pete Doherty being a public school boy, etc.) before Yannis surmised: “there’s an obsession in Britain about class, which is something that I feel pretty alien to seen as neither of my parents are British.” Edwin took to his feet and before leaving, declared, “There’s absolutely no class war, because you know, we just don’t care, apparently The Enemy care,” with Yannis concluding: “They may care, but I don’t care what they think.”
of unwillingly off-kilter singing and faux-coquettish belly exposure. Still, on with the show! The evening’s set begins with her band taking to the stage alone, bursting into a pub-funk jam which can only be described as ‘painfully poor.’ Things pick up as Spector, accompanied by a minder resembling Drew Carey on anabolic steroids, arrives, launching into a rendition of 1964’s ‘I Wonder.’Though her voice lacks its toughness of old, her apparent frailty only serves to lend the vintage material, a song in which she speculates about future romances, a knowing poignancy. Likewise, Billy Joel’s ‘Say Goodbye to Hollywood,’ a track which sounded jaded when she cut it in the late ‘70s, sounds plain bitter when spat from the mouth of the proud, ageing New Yorker. There’s no questioning the former Mrs Spector’s credentials as a true rock ‘n’ roll survivor, and it is in the instances of the perforamance during which she assumes the mantle of an elder stateswoman
Given Foals have had their MySpace blog nominated for an NME award this year, I felt the need to ask how the singer viewed the everincreasing link between modern music and the Internet. “I’m pretty wary of social networking sights, if you use it for music, for a transparent contact with your fans, well that’s something bands have been trying to do since popular music started, it enables you to do that a lot easier. On a bigger level, on a social level, these are things that will change the way people in the West interact with each other. I’m pretty wary of Facebook and Google, they’re such powerful tools that if there not being exploited by people who have control and power and money in mind then they will be soon.” Much like the current suspicion surrounding identification cards I suggested, lost in the frantic conspiracy debate, “Yes, but it will be sweet though because John McCain and Sarah Palin will get in, and ban ‘Brave New World’ and ‘Clockwork Orange’ and ‘1984’ and people won’t be able to become informed about the idea of totalitarian states you know; there’s a nice big irony there.”
that her set truly comes together. Not all of her peerless back catalogue, however, is designed to survive the ‘grown-up’ treatment, and too frequently does the icon come across as a bizarre, nostalgic sideshow; a Sexagenarian dry-humping her way through a classic teenage songbook, oblivious to the irony of her situation. Recent cuts such as Johnny Thunders’ ‘You Can’t Put Your Arms Around a Memory’ tend to hold up more convincingly, as Spector breaks from her state of arrested development, acknowledging her mortality and decline in career prospects. If paired with a suitable producer (any mentions of Phil are strictly taboo) and the correct writers, Spector could possibly achieve a critical and commercial Renaissance. As it stands, Spector does rock - provided your definition of ‘rocking’ is to veer dangerously close to becoming purely a nostalgia act.
Photo: Debra Greenfield
In from the cold
Six Stringed Safari
Laura Doherty verbally jams with Adem and tries to avoid the f-word…
f you type ‘ADEM’ into google you’ll find info-sites on Acute Disseminated Encephalomyelitis, a rather complicated and nasty sounding brain affliction. “It’s also Danish for ‘breathe’, or ‘breath’, which is quite nice - at least it’s not Danish for ‘rubbish.’” So, here I am sitting with post-rock hero/ new-folk singer-songwriter Adem and conversation has turned to googling oneself: “It’s one of those things everybody has to do at one point, and thank god Vashti Bunyan did it, because if she didn’t she wouldn’t be making music today – she looked herself up one day and realised she was a cult hero and so thought ‘I can do this!’” It’s convenient (for my own linking purposes) that he should name-check Vashti; one of the last times Adem performed in Glasgow was as part of his ‘0 Degrees of Separation’ tour, a tour which brought Vashti Bunyan, Juana Molina Vetiver, The Elysian Quartet and other assorted friends together to play each others’ songs as an ensemble. The crossovers of artist, genre and space combined to build a new sound in each artists’ back-catalogues. Their coming
>> Harry Akehurst
he Ullapool Guitar Festival is different. Here’s the basic plot: the venues are the high school theatre, where there is an afternoon performance and an evening performance, and a local hotel bar, where a late night jamming/drinking session continues after the evening performance until about 5am. The crucial point, I think, to understanding why anyone could care less, is the calibre of the artists. Mostly playing solo acoustic guitars, the performers in Ullapool over the weekend 10th - 12th of October seemed absurdly incongruous with the size of event. Hugh Burns, who played on the Friday evening, has played for Michael Jackson and Paul McCartney, sounds like an entire band battering out whole jazz arrangements even when playing solo. On the Saturday afternoon a delightfully exuberant duo, ‘Wingin’ it’, played utterly spectacular arrangements for acoustic guitar and mandolin with both breathtaking speed and the unearthly precision to do it in unison. Don Ross and Andy McKee from Canada and the USA respectively played an outrageously funky set, which, although it lacked the variety of styles which marked out some of the festival’s other acts, was mesmerising, played as it was on two acoustic guitars.
“It’s also Danish for ‘breathe’, or ‘breath’, which is quite nice - at least it’s not Danish for ‘rubbish.’” together acted in a way to challenge the now conventional approach to touring and remove the constrictions between songs, sets and artists, eliminating the feeling of artist seperation- hence the title. It’s Adem’s style to push the boundaries of performance: he’s also known for organising improvisation sessions where large groups of people are encouraged to bring along instruments with an aim to work together to create a ‘cosmic sound’. “The idea is that you’re in a band for a session and the set is called ‘The Assembly’; I’ve done Assemblies with up to fifty people in places like Tate Britain, the ICA, The Barbican. Whenever I do it there are always musicians and non-musicians; everyone brings something to the table that’s different, I think it’s valuable to have both. It’s open to all, that’s the point of it, it’s not meant to have any edges.” Infact, the first time I encountered Adem live he was in the centre of a circle of children in Barrhead library attempting to eke out some coherence in a cacophony of clumsily hit tambourines. I hazard to ask whether this rather noisy experience was typical of the Assembly experience: “It’s never normally children, no. Those library shows were organised by the council - it was a good idea on their behalf. It was an interesting project but I didn’t find it satisfying; there were just too many people who didn’t care about what was happening. Most people were just having a laugh and sort of embarrassingly banging things, so that was a fun one, especially when I’m used to having quite established formal presentations of full on improvised music.” He pauses for a moment to consider the experience before adding: “But I’m very pleased that I did it.” As an experimental artist he clearly embraces that interesting concepts can also lead to failure, but that’s all part of the plan. Much of his work stems from building particular creative situations that were unavailable to him beforehand, so to have tried and to have failed is surely better than to not have tried at all. “All the improv stuff that I had been in touch with in London was either really dry self-help stuff or really intellectualised, small club art with, for example, references to one solo from seventy-three - proper jazz - so it was very isolated and kept separate. I thought ‘well, this should be fun! Someone should really do something’ And like so many other things I do I did it because nobody else was doing it.” It’s this very attitude that leads me to feel that Adem has become something of a new-folk troubadour in recent years, the ethic of a wandering spirit who - along with his solo albums and work with Fridge (a rather ifluential post-rock outfit also featuring Kieran Hebden, aka Four Tet) - is also organising his Homefires festival, collaborating with others on tours such as zero degrees and his occasional dalli-
ances with the likes of The Fence Collective (“I’m an honorary Fencer, having never released a record on Fence Records I’m still kind of part of the outer circle- peering over the fence into next door’s paddock”). I compare him to a bit of a newly styled Johnny Cash, showcasing his friends together on his travelling ‘Johnny Cash Show’, a new sound but with a refreshing old-school folky spirit. It seems I have used the fword somewhat too freely: “I’ve never really listened to that much folk, I’ve spoken to James Yorkston about this – he plays a lot of traditional
“The problem with folk is that people have this idea that it’s not ‘folk music’ unless it’s been through the mouths of a thousand people, but it has to have started somewhere” music, but he still considers himself as more of a singer/songwriter. I’d rather be considered as an interesting musician, someone who’s trying to push and change things with music. The problem with folk is that people have this idea that it’s not ‘folk music’ unless it’s been through the mouths of a thousand people, but it has to have started somewhere. I’m pretty sure ‘God Only Knows’ by The Beach Boys has been through quite a few mouths, so is that folk music?” I have to butt in and stop him here in his tracks, his last album ‘Takes’ was an album featuring reinterpretations of the songs which moulded him over the years, taking in the likes of PJ Harvey, The Smashing Pumpkins, Bjork and Aphex Twin and producing new versions via his own style – how can he escape being tarnished by the folk brush now? “That’s what Takes is about - it’s part of the point. Just because The Orb used part of Steve Reich’s Electric Counterpoint doesn’t mean they’re folk musicians, I think it’s just that they have roots and sources in the same places and have translated it in a different way - it’s the new folk” As the interview wound to a close I got caught up in a rendition of Leonard Cohen’s ‘Hey, That’s No Way to Say Goodbye’ as a contender for the night’s cover duet with support act Mary Hampton. As I left I couldn’t help but wonder what song they settled on in the end and what the covers of the future will be; will this ‘new folk’ eventually translate into echoes of tradition and what will stay around forever – God only knows.
“Go and find a video of him live, and politely concede that your ghast has been severely flabbered.” Clive Carroll is a man whose playing I can’t describe – go and find a video of him live, and politely concede that your ghast has been severely flabbered. The musicality which some of these players manage to inject into such virtuosic displays is extraordinary. There were many others, not least Andy Fairweather-Low, session man to Eric Clapton, the Who, David Crosby and many more, whose electric blues carried off the Saturday evening beautifully. Ullapool is set apart from other festival in other ways: there are workshops. After finally reconciling yourself to just how miserably inferior your playing is, you can amble back up to the school in the morning and join in a free lesson with one of the best guitarists you’ll ever hear. They all roll along to the bar after the performances and jam jazz standards and Leonard Cohen until the locally brewed ale is all gone. They hang around to watch the next act, and call each other onto stage for impromptu duets. Outside, Ullapool in Autumn is gorgeous, and the fans wander the beach, climb hills, sit on the harbour or just listen to more guitar music. It’s allowed. Fans, staff, artists - everyone smiles, and they all come back.
Photo: Stefan Sealey
Published on Mar 15, 2009
The second issue in the 2008/2009 run of the Glasgow University Guardian, edited by George Binning and James Porteous.