Glasgow University 3rd March 2009
Scottish Student Newspaper of the Year
Bolivin' la vida loca
Claire Strickett is impressed by Clint Eastwood in what could be his last role
Robin Perkins joins the carnival at Bolivia's cultural celebration
Seats left vacant in student elections
THE FOUR MAJOR STUDENT organisations at Glasgow University have announced the nominations for their upcoming elections, and a number of governing positions have been left without candidates. The elections for all four of the organisations will be taking place this week, although many of the important jobs have no students running for them. The Students’ Representative Council (SRC), Glasgow University Union (GUU) and Queen Margaret Union (QMU) will be holding by-elections later in the month for some of their most crucial spaces, after the initial nominations process resulted in too few applicants.
Scholarship initiative is announced
15 out of 20 positions at the SRC have been left either uncontested or unfilled. Both the SRC and GUU have only one candidate for their President. The SRC will be holding an election with just one nominee, Laura Laws, while the union has announced its new president, Chris Jubb, ahead of the elections. The QMU has three candidates for its presidency, but a number of other board positions are currently without nominees. In contrast, GUSA’s elections are set to be one of their most-contested for years, with two students competing for its head position and 20 nominees for the six Ordinary Member places available. (Continued on pages 2 and 3)
THE RIGHT HON. CHARLES Kennedy MP, last week launched this year’s Glasgow University Talent Scholarship drive. Designed to aid students who could face financial difficulties in taking up their place to study at Glasgow, fifty scholarships worth £1000 are being awarded each year. Mr. Kennedy, the current University rector, delivered the awards to the first 76 beneficiaries of the scholarship at a ceremony attended by recipients and donors. Kennedy told Guardian why he is promoting the scheme. He said: “It’s about widening the opportunity for people from backgrounds where financially they wouldn’t be able to come to university, although they’ve got the academic qualifications to do it. “I was the first member of my family ever to go to university, and I’m the youngest of three, but my parental income was such that I qualified for a full maintenance grant. But suppose I had been the eldest of three, and there were two other mouths to feed, I wonder if that would have been a contributing factor. (Continued on page 5)
Occupation members come under fire A TOTAL OF £673.27 WAS RAISED FOR the DEC appeal on the University’s fundraising day. However the preceding occupation of the Computer Sciences Department provoked a wave of complaints from students in Glasgow. The occupying activists had won their demand to publicise the DEC Appeal but were heavily criticised for both their low turnout on the fundraising day and their refusal to collect for Save a Child’s Heart, an Israeli-based charity that supports children from developing nations who suffer from heart disease. The
George Binning charity sends 49% of its proceeds to help children in Palestine. Although around 30 students took part in the occupation, the group only signed out four collection tins for the whole fundraising day. Gavin Lee, president of the SRC, criticised the occupiers’ lack of positive action saying: “We’re extremely disappointed that those who called for the fundraising day didn’t actually support it. Had more people participated
we would have been able to raise significantly more money.” Raymie Kiernan, a representative of the Stop the War Coalition (SWC) rebuffed, criticising the haste and lack of consultation with which the day was organised. He said: “The fundraising day wasn’t organised properly, the agreements weren’t stuck to and the university didn’t give much notice that it was happening and that had a serious impact on the money raised. Everybody knows Friday is not a busy day.”
“Without enough notice you can’t expect people to drop everything to do the collection, we got as many people as possible on a shift rotation for the four cans we signed out.” There were also concerns as to the aggressive nature of a number of the slogans that the group chanted. The SRC took a strong line of disapproval against the reported antagonism. President Gavin Lee told Guardian that the council had received anxious reports from students across campus. (Continued on page 4)
3rd March 2009
14% rise in students applying to Glasgow
THE UNIVERSITY OF GLASGOW HAS seen undergraduate applications rise by 14.3 per cent this year. The rise is the biggest increase for any of the Russell Group institutions, a group of the top 20 research-intensive universities in the United Kingdom, which includes Oxford, Cambridge and the London School of Economics. Figures released by the Universities and Colleges Admission Service (UCAS) show that home, EU and international applications to Glasgow, including applications in 2009 for entry in 2010, rose from 21,147 in 2008 to 24,171 for 2009. Fiona Andrews, Director of the Recruitments, Admissions and Participations Service believes the rise in figures reflect the University’s increasing stature as a leading institute. She said: “We are delighted to see an increase in applications to Glasgow which speaks volumes for the reputation of the University and the high esteem in which our teaching and research activities are held, both at home and abroad.” Overall, applications for the Russell Group’s 20 institutions rose 7 per cent yearon-year, with a total of 1,890,236 applications made.
New Director of Legal Practice announced DOUGLAS MILL HAS BEEN NAMED as Glasgow University’s new Director of Professional Legal Practice. Mill, a Glasgow University graduate with 18 years’ worth of experience in private legal practice and 11 years as Chief Executive of the Law Society, will be working to strengthen the Department of Law’s links with the legal profession as well as managing the return of the Diploma in Legal Practice. Professor Tom Mullen, Head of the School of Law, told Guardian that the appointment will greatly benefit the University. He said: “Douglas Mill will bring a combination of vision, energy and practical experience to his role as Director of Professional Legal Practice.” Mill explained how happy he is to be returning to Glasgow University, saying: “I am delighted to return to my alma mater to take up the challenge of delivering the University’s ambitious strategic plans for the School of Law. I enjoy working with students and have always been very involved in legal education. “With the 300th anniversary of the School of Law coming up in 2013, we aim to establish a centre of excellence for professional legal studies at Glasgow.”
Geography scheme goes ‘Global’ Jim Wilson
STUDENTS AT GLASGOW UNIVERSITY, in conjunction with the Royal Scottish Geographical Society (RSGS), have launched an initiative to encourage more people to study Geography at university. The move comes as figures show the number of students being recruited to study Geography at Glasgow has been declining for the past three years. In 2006, 107 level one students were recruited through the Science Faculty and by 2008 this number had dropped to just 47 students. While recruitments to the Earth Science course have been increasing gradually for several years, the 2008 recruitment figures for Geography are the lowest since 2000. The project, named ‘Global’, will be aimed at engaging school pupils and will attempt to introduce them to new and exciting concepts in order to bridge the gap between Geography at school and at university. In addition, membership of the RSGS will be widened to allow for a younger group. The BBC’s ‘Coast’ presenter Nick Crane and the writer, broadcaster and Glasgow PhD student
Vanessa Collingridge have already shown their support for the scheme. Dr. Gordon Curry of the Department of Geographical and Earth Sciences, speaking to Guardian, has argued that although there is a problem with Geography recruitment there is still success to speak of. He said: “Although Geography recruitment into Science Faculty declined last year, Earth Science recruitment increased. In a recent survey it was revealed that a higher proportion of our Earth Science graduates were in fulltime employment or further study than for any other UK Earth Science department.” Explaining the falling numbers of Geography students, Mike Robinson, Chairman of the RSGS, told Guardian that it was in part down to applicants choosing newer subjects over Geography. He explained: “Geography is not attracting as many students as it once did, but this is partly a consequence of the array of subjects now available and partly a low image and self esteem, so there is no question that it needs to do more to promote itself.” He therefore supports any attempts to increase in interest in Geography.
He said: “The RSGS, through initiatives like Global, aims to help make these connections between people, place and the planet for the decision makers and geographers of tomorrow.” The initiative has already been piloted with Glasgow students Alyson Meeke and Emma Culley delivering a talk for school pupils. And it is now hoped that the scheme will be implemented throughout all Scottish universities. Speaking to Guardian, Emma explained the ultimate aims of the initiative. She said: “Hopefully RSGS Global will help to dissolve the idea that Geography is just learning about rivers and capital cities, and show the great range of things which can be studied within the discipline.” Mike Robinson of the RSGS claims issues such as climate change make studying Geography more crucial now than ever before. He said: “Geography is a brilliant subject for today’s students as it draws together science, arts, humanities and the environment. “It is a way of teaching citizenship, responsibility, giving a sense of place in the world and encouraging joined up thinking, so it has never been more critical.”
The position of president involves not only the general running of GUSA and representation of student sport at Glasgow, but involvement in development planning and maintaining a close relationship with the SRS management. However the presidency is not the only sought-after position with more than 20 of 2008’s Freshers’ Helpers and club members already in the running for the six Ordinary Member positions. GUSA Secretary, Ruth Humphreys, explained that attempts to publicise the elections had resulted in high levels of interest. She told Guardian: “It is looking like these will be the biggest elections to date for GUSA with lots of interest already shown.
“There has also been lots of advertising to try and raise the profile of the elections.” The elections are set to take place on March 10 and voting will take place in the Stevenson Building reception from 9am-5pm. In order to do so, voters must be current members of the Sport and Recreation. Stephen Flavahan, speaking to Guardian, explained the importance of voting. He said: “Voter apathy has been a big issue for all student organisations at one time or another but students need to ensure they vote at this election so that the problems I know students are facing — rising gym membership costs, Kelvin Hall closure and limited club funding — can be tackled.”
GUSA elections attract competition Ross Mathers THIS YEAR’S GLASGOW UNIVERSITY Sports Association Council elections are set to be the biggest for years, with many of its positions hotly contested. There are 16 positions to be filled with 12 of these requiring no past place in the council. One year in the council is needed to be elected as President, Vice President Clubs, Vice President Recreation, or Secretary. Ruth Humphreys and Stephen Flavahan are the candidates competing for the coveted position of president, both having had past experience in the council as Secretary and Vice President of Clubs respectively.
SRC lacks representation
3rd March 2009
George Binning THE UPCOMING ELECTIONS FOR THE STUDENTS’ Representative Council (SRC) look like a foregone conclusion with the overwhelming majority of open positions, including the presidency, being left either unopposed or completely vacant. Of the 21 positions available only five will be contested, while six positions may be won by default. The remaining ten positions will be left open for a by-election on May 6. There has also been no application for the position of VicePresident (Media & Communications), one of the four most senior positions on the council, all of which command a salary of £15,216 per annum. Laura Laws, who is currently Vice-President of Student Support this year, will be President next year by default unless the majority of students vote to re-open nominations instead. Laws was careful not to claim her victory prematurely saying: “Although I am running unopposed in next week's election, I'm not taking anything for granted. “I really want students to look at what I am proposing, come and speak to me on election days and to vote for me if they think I am the right candidate for presidency. “If I do get elected, I'd obviously be absolutely delighted to be SRC President 09/10.” The only positions that will be contested are those of the Vice-President (Learning & Development), Vice-President (Student Support), LBSS Faculty and Faculty of Medicine convenors and Minority Ethnic Officer. Nominations for the other 16 posts will either be re-opened or will be subject to a ‘Re-open Nominations’ vote, in expectation of the May by-election. Nominations will open for the
by-election on March 23. Information will be available and distributed by the SRC in the coming weeks. Gavin Lee, the current SRC president, was disappointed by the lack of student participation in the nominating process stating that the SRC were examining the reasons for this. He said: “At the moment we're looking into different theories about why fewer people ran in this election than we were expecting, and hoped for. It’s certainly a strange happening considering the record-breaking number of candidates who stood in the Autumn Election. “Representation through the SRC is a key method of ensuring that students get the best experience possible at the University, and as such its essential to have as many people engaged in Council as possible. It's disappointing that, looking at the number of candidates, this has not happened as much as it could have.” In last year’s Spring elections four positions on the SRC were won unopposed and two positions were left vacant. Even in this comparatively competitive election, voter turnout was just over 7%. Laws admitted that the SRC would have to make an effort to engage with the student population. She said: “Next year I think we need to work really hard to build upon the relationship we have with students.” Her campaign has been built upon tackling the problems faced by students and graduates in the current recession. She explained: “It is essential to get formal recognition for students involved in volunteering or leading clubs and societies and to continue to develop more opportunities for students to develop their skills in preparation for getting a graduate job.” The elections will take place on March 4 and 5 with the results due to be announced soon afterwards.
GUU declares by-election Three Sarah Smith
THE NEXT PRESIDENT OF THE Glasgow University Union has been decided before the polls open due to a mistake on an application form made by one of the nominees. 22-year old Sports Medicine student, Chris Jubb, will not face a public election after the nomination form of fellow candidate, Graeme Ker was rejected for being completed incorrectly. At the close of nominations on February 26, a number of board
positions did not have any candidates. These included the significant roles of Honorary Secretary and Honorary Treasurer. Other positions on the GUU board will be subject to a by-election later this month, again due to candidates submitting wrongly filled out application forms. Only one student put himself forward for the position of Games Convenor and, after his nomination form was rejected, there will be another by-election in order to fill this post.
There will also be a by-election for one of the Present Student Member positions after a number of students were disqualified due to mistakes made on their application forms. Current GUU President, Chris Birrell, explained that candidates are made aware of the fact that their application risks being rejected if it is not completed accurately. He told Guardian: “There are strict legal procedures for charities and it says on the forms that they must be filled in correctly or they will be thrown out. “I think it is a shame that so many have been filled out wrongly this year but it is up to the candidates themselves to make sure that everything is in order before they submit their application.” Birrell made clear that, although the situation was not ideal, he was confident that Jubb would do well as his successor. He said: “Chris is a really good candidate and I think he will be a great president.” GUU members will be able to vote on March 5 with polls open from 9am-7pm in the Debates Chamber. The results are expected to be announced later that evening.
run for QMU top job Ishbel Begg NOMINATIONS FOR THE 2009 general elections at the Queen Margaret Union closed on February 27, with a number of positions left uncontested. Three students — Aaron Murray, Lewis Mackenzie, and Angus Shepherd — will be fighting it out to win the election and become the next President. In contrast to this, five positions are uncontested, including Honorary Secretary, and the roles of Events, Publications and Social Convenor. In addition, although there are thirteen Ordinary Board positions available, only seven candidates have been nominated. For the two Former Student Member board positions, only one candidate has been nominated. Despite this, outgoing President Alisdair Hunter has been impressed with the election interest thus far. He told Guardian: “So far the response has been great. I think the
fact that people invaded the computer science building flies in the face of student apathy. “People seem excited about the elections and I’m sure there will be a good turn-out.” Any member of the Queen Margaret Union can be nominated for any position, with first year Angus Shepherd in the running for President. The manifestos for all candidates will be available from March 2, both online and around the Union. Fourth year QMU member, Nina Doherty, told Guardian why she is looking forward to election day. She said: “I think it’s really important to have a part in choosing a good board of management in the QM, as it’s a place that’s really central to student life. It’s great to have the opportunity to take part in deciding that.” Voting will take place in person on March 5 between 9am and 6pm, with the results to be announced later the same day in the Food Factory.
Department scoops two awards for excellence Craig MacLellan THE UNIVERSITY OF GLASGOW’S Department of Urban Studies won two prizes at the recent Royal Town Planning Institute annual awards. The department, which launched a planning school in 2006, won an award for excellence in planning education. The planning school offers an MSc programme in real estate, planning and regeneration, which comprises five courses designed to overcome professional barriers. Judges praised the programme for creating “a business model that could help develop good practice elsewhere.” Professor David Adams, Ian MacTaggart Chair of Property and Urban Studies, believes the award is an important recognition of the programme and may help in attracting students to Glasgow. He said: “The award is important national recognition of what we’ve achieved since the programme was established in 2006: some
really good enthusiastic students, high quality work and the majority of graduates so far achieving merits or distinctions. “Awards will make this better known to potential students and employers.” George Weeks, who is studying for an MSc in city planning and real estate development at Glasgow, also won an award for outstanding student achievements in planning education for his study of the space around the University’s Adam Smith Building. Mr. Weeks said he was delighted to win the award and recommends the MSc to other graduates considering further study, but warns of the strains it places on a student. He said: “The teaching and assessment is good, with an excellent staff and an innovative course structures that makes it possible to choose from a wide choice of modules, reflecting one’s variety of interests and abilities. “At the same time, any student considering taking the course must recognise that the MSc is very intense.”
Biobank target hit early
Ishbel Begg IN A LANDMARK INITIATIVE, OVER A QUARTER OF A MILLION PEOPLE HAVE BEEN recruited for UK Biobank, the world’s largest medical study. The multi-million pound project aims to provide the biggest bank of health information ever collected, so as to provide future researchers with data that can be used to identify links between health, lifestyle and genetics. University of Glasgow Professor Jill Pell, who is leading UK Biobank in Scotland, said: “To hit this target ahead of schedule — and with more than 18,500 people in Glasgow signing up — is fantastic news. It shows that the public are willing to help us gain a greater understanding of our health and to help future generations.” The first project of this size and scale, UK Biobank will allow researchers in decades to come to study, in-depth, the role genes, lifestyle and environment play in relation to a wide range of medical conditions, including cancer, dementia, diabetes and depression. Thousands of invitations have been sent to people living in Glasgow, with the ultimate goal of recruiting half a million people from across Britain. Participants aged 40-69 years old provide information about their current health and lifestyle, as well as blood and urine samples for future analysis. Permission is also obtained for UK Biobank to track their health for up to 30 years and more. The £61m project is being funded by the Medical Research Council (MRC), the Wellcome Trust, the Department of Health, the Scottish Executive and the Northwest Regional Development Agency.
3rd March 2009
Backlash against occupiers
(Continued from front page) He said: “There were considerable concerns raised by a number of students about some of the comments and racial slurs that were being bandied around during the occupation. “We were told of Jewish students feeling uncomfortable on campus during that period also. The SRC worked with the Jewish Society to help alleviate student concerns, and to reduce any offence that may be caused. “While everyone can have their own opinions and can campaign on campus, it's really damaging if even one student feels threatened or uncomfortable because of their racial, religious and ethnic background. “It shouldn't happen anywhere, never mind at University, and whatever's going on in the world that doesn't mean that hostility is permissible or beneficial in any way.” Adina Roth, president of the Glasgow Jewish Society, was supportive of the University’s handling of the occupation but echoed the SRC’s objection to the aggressive manner of some of the protest chants. She told Guardian: “We welcome the steps of Glasgow University to support the DEC Appeal and Save a Child's Heart, along with their refusal to boycott goods and academics. However, we're extremely concerned about the intimidating language used in these protests and the calls for the destruction of Israel that actively work against a peaceful two state solution which the majority of Palestinians and Israelis are desperate to achieve.” Having granted some of the occupiers’ demands, University authorities added to the number of objections. A University spokesman said: “The University does not wish to see any groups of students on campus made to feel uncomfortable by the behaviour of others and it is a matter of concern that several Jewish students found some chants used by demonstrators upsetting.” One of the slogans that has been called into question called for victory for the intifada, which has been linked to the two Palestinian revolutions in the latter half of the twentieth century. Heavy casualties were sustained on both sides during these especially violent periods of Israeli/Palestinian history. Objections were also raised to the chant “Palestine will be free, from the river to the sea” which alludes to a single Palestinian state covering the territory west of the Jordan River, a lot of which is accepted as belonging to Israel. Kiernan was swift to defend the group's
chant saying: “It’s a misunderstanding of the word intifada, it literally means the shake up or in common usage to mean popular uprising, now that doesn’t have anything to do with violence or armed struggle. I object to it being called a militaristic chant because people use the chant to identify with the struggle.” Anthony Silkoff, chair of OneVoice Glasgow, also warned that any hostile messages were not conducive to the peace process. He said: “Aggressive protests or actions by supporters of one side are not helpful, but it's important to acknowledge how the tragic events in Gaza have angered people and led to rash behaviour. Popular frustration at the lack of progress, and apparent worsening of the situation, has led to violence and outrage both in the region and closer to home.” There were serious misgivings from the occupiers’ camp that the decision to collect for Save a Child’s Heart was detracting from the donations for the DEC appeal. Kiernan told Guardian: “Everyone who supported the occupation was very disappointed and some were very angry at the decision. “Where were the protests or petitions for Save a Childs Heart? It was supposed to be an official collection day for the DEC appeal. We specified that the money we collected be put towards the DEC appeal only.” Gavin Lee explained that the collection for Save a Child’s Heart was a diplomatic gesture to bring political balance to the collection day. He said: “The University, in consultation with the SRC, decided to raise for this charity also because it is a wonderful example of, and represents, a peaceful and beneficial relationship between people of both Israel and Palestine. It is particularly pertinent to recognise this collaboration during the conflict.” Silkoff also praised the decision to hold a bipartisan collection day, saying: “The decision to raise money for the DEC Gaza appeal and Save a Child's Heart was a wise one, as these charities are both completely humanitarian in aims and character.” Lee added that there had been a number of complaints of aggressive chanting, some due to the appropriation of the Computing Department’s facilities. He said: “There were many complaints made by students, both to the University and the SRC, during the occupation. A significant number supported the SRC's stance on the occupation; a significant number demanded the University remove the protesters from the building.”
Kennedy launches scholarship drive
3rd March 2009
(Continued from front page) “Of course we’re talking about 30 years ago when the level of student cost and debt was nothing compared to what it is today, so there are bound to be people from lower income backgrounds that are put off by the thought of ‘Can I afford it? Is it for me? And am I just going to emerge with a mountain of personal debt round my neck for the rest of my life?’ So the more you can widen the access to university the better, without a shadow of a doubt.” The Talent Scholarships are open to any UK-based undergraduates studying for their first degree at the University of Glasgow.
“The more you can widen the access to university the better, without a shadow of a doubt” The scheme, which is now in its second year of operation, awards the scholarships to students on the basis of their ability and financial position. Michael O’Neill, a second year English Literature student and recipient of the Talent Scholarship, highlighted how the scheme has helped him to benefit further from his university experience at Glasgow, and allowed him to explore further opportunities outside of the lecture theatre. He told Guardian: “I wouldn't say it’s the case that without it my university attendance would be in jeopardy. Getting through is down to an accumulation of such things; grants, loans, bursaries and employment. “Without the scholarship I definitely would have to work through term-time — so what it’s done for me has allowed me to focus on my studies; and given me time to enjoy extracurricular activities, such as involvement with Student Theatre at Glasgow (STaG).” Not every aspect of the scheme has proved
popular, however, as O’Neill has some reservations about what he calls the “Magwitch Moment”. He said: “I object, in a somewhat slight and timid voice, to the decision, in some cases, to inform the recipient of the identity of the person who donated their scholarship — just because it seems a little smug, and enforces a feeling of indebtedness to the well-off elite that isn't really in the spirit of the scheme. Though saying that I do feel very, very grateful.” Mr. Kennedy, however, is keen to see more direct involvement from former students of Glasgow University. He told Guardian: “I secured a Fulbright Scholarship to go and study in the United States for the year after I graduated from Glasgow. “That was a terrific opportunity obviously, which wouldn’t have otherwise come my way, as I didn’t have the finances to contemplate that sort of thing. “What’s really good about these scholarships is, I assume when you hear the word ‘scholarship’, you’ve got to be very wealthy to consider setting up a scholarship. “The beauty of these is that for £1000 a year, people can provide a scholarship for an undergraduate student. “£1000 is a lot of money, particularly to a student who couldn’t otherwise come to university, but in truth, even in a recession, there are an awful lot of people for whom £1000, if that was their one charitable giving for the year, is affordable. “I think there are an awful lot of people of a certain income out there, who are not multimillionaires or anything like that, who if they realised ‘Gosh, I could achieve or deliver a scholarship for that amount of money’, would do so.” It is hoped that the drive will see least 200 students per year benefit from the annual award by 2012.
Glasgow Uni in trans-Atlantic venture THE UNIVERSITY OF GLASGOW will collaborate with Stanford University and the Caltech Institute in a £1.6 million project to investigate the commercial opportunities in the study of photonics. The collaborative programme, funded by the Science Bridges award from Research Councils UK, will see
the Universities of Glasgow, HeriotWatt, Strathclyde and St. Andrew’s work with their Californian partners to build a network between the institutions’ photonics departments with the aim of maximising the commercial opportunities of leading research. Professor of Experimental Physics at Glasgow University, Sheila Rowan,
Amy McGregor who will be heavily involved with the scheme, described the benefits the collaboration will bring. She said: “The venture has a great mix of opportunities for Scottish researchers to get experience of working at Stanford with
Jim Jim Wilson Wilson
mentoring from Stanford staff and industrialists with extensive experience in commercialising technologies in optics and photonics in the heart of silicon valley. “There is nowhere else in the world that you can get exposed to such a concentration of high-tech research and extensive first-hand knowledge of how to turn cuttingedge research into products. “It's a great opportunity for young researchers here to both spend time in the US and help translate that experience into technology transfer back in the UK.” The project itself will focus upon the application of photonics in life sciences and renewable energy. UK researchers will be able to spend a year working in a Stanford or Caltech laboratory and there will also be several staff exchanges to allow the development of joint activities.
Industrial growth will be encouraged by pilot projects demonstrating the potential for commercial exploitation and the development of an investor network of companies interested in investing within the photonics sector. Principal Investigator within the project, Professor Allister Ferguson, of Strathclyde University, explained the potential for economic development he believes the project will hopefully introduce. He told Guardian: ”The project will harness economic impact from collaborative research projects between the partner organisation. “The project will develop people through the entrepreneurship fellowships programmes and staff exchanges. “It will enable pilot projects that could lead to the creation of new enterprises.”
Committing some carnival sins 6
3rd March 2009
As Bolivia celebrates its cultural identity, Robin Perkins travels to Latin America to witness one of the world’s most intriguing carnivals.
olivia may well be known for its lofty peaks, its indigenous population and its position as Latin America’s second landlocked country, however, what most people do not realise is that it is also home to one of Latin America’s most colourful and intriguing Carnavals. Once a year the former mining city of Oruro, lying some 200 kilometres south of capital La Paz, is transformed into a sea of dance, music and debauchery — all done in the name of the mysterious Virgen del Socavon. Now recognised as the captial of Bolivian folkore, Oruro’s carnaval has its origins in a rare mix of catholic piety, paganic ritual and indigenous folklore. The festivities are held in the name of La Virgen del Socavon (Virgin of the Mineshaft), an apparition of the Virgin Mary said to have appeared on the wall of one of the city’s mine shafts in 1789. Ever since, the mining community has paid homage with outlandish parades in her honour. The festivites however, also incorporate indigenous celebrations, such as the Ito festival of the Uru pepople, which were forbidden by the Spanish in the 17th Century, but the people continued to celebrate, concealing their beliefs within Catholic symbolism. The Carnaval is the highlight of the calender, not only the Oruro community but for the whole of Bolivia, now accepted as Bolivia’s best Carnaval and named by UNESCO in 2001 as a Masterpiece of the Oral and Itangible Heritage of Humanity. The preperations begin as early as November building to a five day weekend the week before Ash Wednesday. The highlight of the festivities is Saturday’s four kilometer parade through the city by some fifty or so groups of dancers and musicians in outlandish costumes culminating in the Socavon Church where they pay homage to the Virgen and enact scenes between good and evil, the devil and angels. The parade starts at 7am and lasts into the early hours of the following morning, repeated again the next day and ending in the Diablada (Devil
dance) on the Monday. Since the first homage some two hundred years ago the numbers of participents has grown to nearly 30,000 dancers and some 10,000 musicians. Each group consists of teams of dancers and a band, not too dissimilar to the British brass bands, associated with the former mining communities. However, Oruro is no ‘Brassed Off’. The dances include satirical representations of the Spanish Conquistadores, traditional folkloric dances such as the Llamerada, Morenadas (inspired by the suffering of the black slaves brought by the Spanish to work in Bolivia’s mines) and Tobas, from the indigenous communities of the Amazon. Each group of dancers has its own specific identity, traditions and dances; some with hundreds of years of history and others
“Come Sunday evening many dancers are visibly inebriated, stumbling behind their troops or supported by fellow dancers, not helped by the exhausting parades” relatively recent. Every year the costumes are more impressive, the dances more expressive and the music louder and brasher. The most impressive and recogniseable of these groups are the Diabladas, leading the Carnaval and ending it. They are seen to represent the Devil or to others, the indigenous god if the mountains Tio Suapi, dressed with bright costumes and intricate masks, dancing alongside evil bears and seductive she-devils. They do however, also represent the high society of Oruro, who are able to pay for expensive costumes and the privelege to be the stars of the Carnaval. Over the weekend of the Carnaval, a normally quiet, poor, alti-plano city fills with tourists from Bolivia celebrating their own folkloric traditions and visitors from all over the world wishing to witness the impressive spectacle.
Another rather less pious tradition is the throwing of water between the audience and the excessive drinking not only of specators but particpents as well. Come Sunday evening many dancers are visibly inebriated, stumbling behind their troops or supported by fellow dancers, not at all helped by their participation in the exhausting parades. As a local Ormeno said, this year’s Carnaval was the biggest yet and that it continues to grow each year. It represents an economic lifeline for one of the poorest areas of Bolivia where the mining industry is a shadow of its former self and where employment rates remain low. Every hotel changes its rates from Bolivianos to Dollars, (around seven times more valuable), and every citizen becomes an entrepreneur, selling waterproofs, umbrellas, water baloons, cold beers and food. Alongside this influx of tourists, the city was visited this year by President Evo Morales, on the dawn of his succesful attempt to implement a new Bolivian constiutution on February 7th. Morales showed his own indigenous heritige, dancing alongside the Diabladas and later joining one the marching bands, mainly made up of indigenous Oruroenos, playing along to the joy of the watchful crowds. Each year the festivites continue to grow and Oruro’s renown continues to spread. Though a Christian tradition, the Carnaval is keeping alive local, indigenous traditions and culture in a country with one of the biggest indigenous populations in Latin America. It has also become an important economic influx for the region with the aid of tourism, albeit concentrated on one weekend in the year. A number of the Carnaval’s dancing troops are open to anyone who wishes to participate, or those who have the money and time. Many non-Oruroenos have participated in this unique event, however, regardless of any influx of tourists and new participants, the Carnaval remains a celebration of Bolivia’s folkloric and historic traditions.
3rd March 2009
Welcome to Digger land
David Graham Scott
George Binning hunts down the controversial James Cruickshank, editor of Glasgow’s infamous Digger magazine
magine a publication with such relentless and detailed crime reportage that even the most scandalous tabloid journalists turn their backs in disgust. Imagine this magazine’s editor retreating underground and working from a secret office to evade the death threats he receives from the infuriated criminals and gangsters that fill its pages. Welcome to Digger land, please check your sense of all that is good and true in at reception. I met with James Cruickshank, the Digger himself, to discuss why his publication both thrilled and appalled me. I also spoke to David Graham Scott, creator of the documentary: “The Dirty Digger”, who worked as a Digger photographer and filmed his experiences at the paper. Cruickshank has had quite a turbulent career; In 2003 he was ejected from the National Union of Journalists (NUJ) for an allegedly libellous article in a union newsletter about Paul Holleran, National Organiser for the NUJ, “It was absolutely ridiculous,” he told me, “It just reinforced allegations that the NUJ is a communist organisation. It’s out to protect its own members and wants to bring the industry to its knees.” The Digger started in August 2004, selling for 30 pence with a first print run of 500. Now it is 85 pence and its print run is round about 11,000. The history of the magazine has often made its own headlines. Cruickshank has faced a series of lawsuits as a result of his no-holes-barred brand of often libellous or unfounded investigative journalism. “We’re banned from the city council, Glasgow city council, we can’t phone up their press office, because again it’s an agency which is an enemy of free speech. “The state at one point withdrew our court privileges on unfounded allegations, and I eventually had to pay £6000 to right a wrong.” This is Cruickshank’s version of a time when his journalistic privileges were withdrawn after The Digger named and pictured the eight-year-old daughter of a Glasgow crime boss wearing a bulletproof vest in her garden. Scott’s documentary is quite critical of the Digger and its ruthless naming and shaming of local petty crooks, so I was
quite surprised by his insistent defence of a man he did not seem to have much affinity with. “I did notice there was quite a lot of hearsay printed.” He eventually admitted, “The problem is you’ve got some wee guy talking about some junkie and Cruickshank’s printing something which might be a heap of lies. The issue is going to be that that person is probably not going to be in a position where they can take out a legal action against the Digger.” This is the kind of dilemma that the magazine regularly throws up; the practice printing the addresses of suspected paedophiles or naming police informers can get those involved badly hurt. Cruickshank does not seem to consider the implications of sharing such sensitive information as his problem. “If you own a shop that sells kitchen knives and someone buys and knife and stabs someone is the shop that is at fault?” he argues, “I don’t think so.” It occurs to me that it’s more like selling a knife to a lunatic who offers to pay in severed fingers. Scott describes the reputation the Digger has picked up amongst the criminal fraternity: “The prospect of being in the Digger frightens folk because it does get people incensed. With those small time characters the Digger can probably get away with quite a lot of naming and shaming. But not when fighting the Glasgow Housing Association (GHA) though, they’re a very powerful organisation.” Nevertheless Cruickshank does take on the GHA as well as the police, the council, the masons, and any other stories the mainstream press won’t touch. “That’s when stories can start to not be fully substantiated,” Cruickshank says, “The police are a secretive organisation and it’s very difficult to prove allegations of corruption within the police because, who’s going to corroborate it? Violent crime only survives if its being aided and abetted by so called lawabiding citizens. “The police must be made properly accountable, the government could investigate the police but they don’t — the only way that is going to happen is if the mainstream media start investigating the police but they won’t do it either.”
He admits that it’s almost impossible to substantiate some stories to the standard of the mainstream press, but Cruickshank is agitated by my suggestion of a vigilante like edge to his editorial policy. “It’s not vigilantism, it’s genuine investigative journalism that the Scottish press have stopped doing.” Whether you agree or not, if none of the mainstream papers want, or are legally able, to pursue such scandals within the authorities, is there no justification to continue under the radar? With Cruickshank’s casual gossip of communists, corruption and conspiracy, I feel like I’m beginning to understand his worldview: his Digger-ish outlook. As my sense of the good and the true seems to have gained the upper hand Scott throws a curveball, showing the situation in a different light. “The Digger works from a grassroots level which the newspapers don’t speak from. It taps into a popular myth or misconception that there is this huge conspiracy going on. The readership wonder how these big time crime lords are getting away with it and Cruickshank says because they’re in cahoots with the police. They wonder how the GHA are running ruffshod over the tennants and he will explain it’s because it’s run by gangsters. They wonder: “Why are we so fucking poor? Why do we not get public services? Because there’s this big conspiracy keeping us in poverty,” and that can placate them to a certain extent. “I thought at first the Digger was going to be very right wing but it isn’t. It covers stories of racial abuse sexual abuse, minority issues, issues to do with the corruption that he sees in the council, the police and the HHA especially. It’s a big deal, the GHA, because a lot of the readership are in that environment.” I wonder how my attitude to the Digger has been affected as a distanced, broadsheet reading, wannabe journalist who just wants to see codes of practice upheld and standards met in the media; whether it prevents me from seeing the real value the Digger has to its target readership. “The Digger is a thorn in the side of the establishment,” Cruickshank sums up cheerily. By all accounts, this allegation is well founded.
Fear and loathing in the Middle East
In a country that feels constantly under attack, what progress can peace make? Chris Watt heads to Israel to investigate teenage conscription and militaristic attitudes in the region
ixteen - year - old Asher is tring to grow a moustache, but he’s not doing a very good job. At his stage of life you might expect him to have pretty mundane priorities — passing his exams, picking a university and maybe finding a girlfriend at the same time. For Asher, though, growing up in one of Israel’s most troubled regions, there are more pressing problems — the Kassam rockets that slam almost daily into his hometown, the young soldier, Gilad Shalit, held hostage by Hamas militants inside the nearby Gaza strip, and the fact that he will have to join his country’s army in just two years time. Skiving school to hang around the marketplace in Sderot, a small and
troubled town in southern Israel, he is happy to talk about his concerns. “The most important thing is the Kassams, the army and Gaza. It’s the fight against Hamas,” he says. “Israel should go into Gaza again and get Gilad back with the army.” Asher’s are popular sentiments in a town known for little other than rocket fire and its proximity to Hamas territory. His friend Azzan, also aged 16, is quick to agree — even if his face betrays lingering doubts. “At first I didn’t want to go to the army but now, after I’ve seen what they did in Gaza, I want to join,” he says, seeming to convince himself with every word. “I think it’s good for Israel, and we have to fight them. Sure I want to serve my country, and I feel good helping my country to survive.”
The fighting talk among young Israelis exemplifies the patriotic anger that has built up in Sderot during eight years of shelling from Gaza. Israeli flags adorn every item of street furniture, and the election posters around town are almost all for hawkish, rightwing parties. Sderot is a focal point of the reactionary, vengeful wrath that has gripped swathes of the Israeli population; a microcosm of the forces governing Israel. It’s a fact often overlooked in Scotland that most Israelis feel wholly justified in the occupation and bombing of Gaza. Awkward questions about civilian deaths, heavy-handed tactics and international law are met with bewilderment at best, righteous anger at worst.
Touring Sderot’ bombsites with Israeli Defence Force spokesman Captain Ron Adelheit it is the latter emotion that dominates. He says that 6000 bombs have fallen on Sderot — a town smaller than Dumfries — in eight years, killing 13 citizens. Writing this from Glasgow one week later, I have to stop myself writing only 13. Dozens of rockets stored in the police station car park — just a couple of months’ worth — give some idea of the bombardment’s intensity. The rusting archive comprises a combination of Kassams, small homemade explosives with a gauge of 90 to 115mm and a wildly unpredictable trajectory; and also the larger Grads — factory-made in Iran, I am told, and more than capable of demolishing a home, as I am shown later that day.
Israeli Defence force spokesperson Captain Ron Adelheit, aboard board his motorbike in Sderot, a Southern District of Israel, where he carries out his civilian job as tour guide.
Ron, as he introduces himself, says the recent campaign in Gaza destroyed hundreds of the tunnels used to smuggle rockets into the region and sent the majority of Hamas’ arsenal up in smoke. He smiles confidently as he states that “the operation was definitely a success”. It is confusing then to say the least that Sderot’s weary population was roused on the morning of our visit by the familiar wail of sirens as yet another rocket pulverised a car on the town’s outskirts. Does that seem particularly successful, I wonder? Ron, like almost everyone else I speak to during six days in Israel, is at pains to point out that the objective of Operation Cast Lead was neither to topple Hamas from power nor to completely destroy its military. Were the subject less serious, the IDF spokesman would be a comical character. He rolls up on his motorbike, aging military body stuffed into a tight olive uniform, and manages about half an hour of amicable sightseeing — his civilian job is, in fact, as a tour guide — before persistent questioning frays his patience and awakens the anger aroused by a delegation of “patronising” student journalists. The question is put bluntly: would he call Israel’s force in Gaza proportionate to the threat? “I’ll put something else in proportion,” he replies. “We have one soldier sitting in the Gaza strip for almost three years. Hamas wants a thousand terrorists for one soldier. Is that proportionate?” Well no, obviously not, but can he please answer the question? He believes he has. “That is the answer. Proportion is that we will open fire to make sure the source of fire will not fire again. And we’ll do it fast, quick, with the necessary force to close their fire and we will not have any casualties on our side.” Perhaps sensing scepticism, he moves on. “I’ll go somewhere else. Say a bank robber with a gun runs into a bank, and takes a person as a hostage. The person is definitely a hostage.
A policeman comes in. He’s with a gun, the robber is with a gun, and the policeman knows, ‘In two seconds he’s shooting at me’. So he takes out his gun and he tries to shoot the robber. The hostage gets killed. There’s a court case afterwards. Who is charged? The robber with murder, because that is the case — that is international law. If somebody takes a hostage, that person is responsible. Hamas is taking the people hostage.” I protest, but Captain Adelheit’s message (he no longer seems like Ron) is somewhat obscured when he shouts over me: “Aren’t the morals and standards that Israel is holding in this conflict much higher than any other country’s standards in any other place in the world? Think about it.” But the idea of Palestinians as Hamas hostages is aired time and time again by people across Israeli society, though the initial means of Hamas’ ascent to power — a democratic election — rarely comes up. Dr Adriana Katz, the director of Sderot’s Centre for Mental Health and Trauma, is adamant that European visitors cannot understand the forces that govern Israeli minds. Originally from Italy, Dr Katz says: “The people living in Gaza are basically hostages in one way or another. I have a lot of conversations with people who end up on this side, and they tell me how life there has no value, and how many terrible things the people over there have gone through. You start to look at it slightly differently [when you live here], and I don’t see any solution. You just have to survive.” She has seen first hand the crippling toll of the conflict on her neighbours’ emotional state and — chillingly — believes there may be a selfperpetuating element to the fighting. “Until the war,” she says, “no-one in the country was interested in what
was going on in Sderot. There was the world of Tel Aviv and its environs, and then there was the world down here. The moment the Grads started reaching the wider area, though, they really got interested. Since then we’ve seen the same symptoms in a bigger population over a wider area — lots of feelings of anger and frustration. “But since the war, people are willing to put up with things in the belief that there might be some sort of solution. It’s tolerable trauma, or fear. You can cope with a certain amount, and there’s maybe a little bit of optimism as well. People stop feeling passive and they start feeling active.” Dr Katz, a pacifist who opposes Jewish settlements in Gaza and supports the creation of a Palestinian
send its young into such seemingly futile situations? One senior official in Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, speaking under condition of anonymity, puts forward a discomforting hypothesis: “Imagine some kind of French resistance group was firing rockets across the Channel into London for eight years. They weren’t killing many, but the intention was there. What do you think Britain would do about it?” I like to think the response would be measured, precise and proportionate. But would we wait for UN backing before taking action? Recent history suggests otherwise. Would we send in ground troops, accepting the risk of British casualties but minimising civilian deaths? Or would we
“Hamas wants a thousand terrorists for one soldier. Is that proportionate?” state, looks almost ashamed as she admits her thoughts on the recent conflict: “There’s a value to life, and I’m always in favour of peace. But for the first time in my life I wanted to say thank you to the commander of the air force, because living here before was totally intolerable.” Observers and activists in the UK are quick to judge — and perhaps accurately — but what is often forgotten is that Israel has its reasons, whether or not one agrees with them, for sending its teenage conscripts into the neverending theatres of war around the country’s borders. The soldiers risking their lives in Lebanon, the Gaza Strip, and even on the streets of Israel’s cities, are the children of those men and women who give the orders for war. Everyone we speak to has served in the forces themselves and most have children either about to go to or recently returned from conflict zones. What kind of mentality must exist for a nation to
bomb the wider area, protecting our own at the enemy population’s cost? One recurrent argument is that Israel’s conscript army, drawing recruits as it does from every family in the country, is able to survive only because individual soldiers’ safety is held as paramount. Would the voluntary, professional composition of Britain’s forces make combat deaths more acceptable to the voting population? These are questions that, thankfully, we do not have to address right now, but the answers may not be as simple as they seem. My trip to Israel, organised by the Union of Jewish Students and paid for by the Pears Foundation, a UK-based Jewish charity, was never going to present a completely bipartisan view of the conflict. It is not, however, as one-sided as I had expected; even within Jewish Israeli society there are deep divisions and violent disagreements over how best to pull the country out of the quicksand on which it is
built. And even though meetings with Palestinians in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem are both cancelled because of border problems trying to enter Israel, that situation itself says as much about the Palestinians’ plight as any interview possibly could. But one thing the trip certainly does display is the flipside of a conflict that is, in many Scottish minds, an entirely black and white affair. However one may judge Israel’s conduct, an understanding of their concerns is essential if any progress is to be made beyond mere condemnation and futile anger. The peace process is now at a crossroads, and there is no-one in Israel who does not want the fighting to end one way or another. It is the terms of any settlement that will pose the next obstacle, but as the new government assembles under rightwinger Binyamin Netanyahu’s leadership, the prospects look bleak. Most commentators within Israel see little prospect of reconciliation, such is the public anger at incoming rocket-fire and the prolonged captivity of Gilad Shalit. It seems like more or less everyone has their own reasons for coming to the same conclusion — that any hopes of peace have been crushed in recent years. Jerusalem Post editor David Horowitz, whose right-wing Englishlanguage daily is one of Israel’s most influential media organs, states bitterly that “unilateralism is buried under the Kassam rockets”, and that the hawkish Israeli mindset has been bolstered by the election of Hamas. “There is a sense that if even the outgoing government couldn’t make a deal,” he continues, “then we’d better just try and manage this conflict and protect ourselves as well as we can.” Khaled Abu Alia, a Palestinian born just months after the 1967 war redefined Israel’s borders yet again, is resigned to the fact that he has never
seen a Palestinian state and probably never will. “I think my three year old might live one day in a Palestinian state, but not in my time,” he says, adding that the recent conflict critically threatened hopes of negotiations. “It’s not productive for either side. The rockets are still flying into Israel, the situation remains as it is, and conditions are going back how they were before. Nothing changed on the ground. We’ll see what the new government will bring.” Among the bitter hawks and tragic doves on both sides of the conflict, it seems voices of moderation are rare. Robi Damelin, though, provides an oasis of hope among the charred battlefields; an Israeli Jew whose young son, David, was killed by a sniper while serving in the IDF, she has spent the last six years forging bonds across the borders and lobbying the government to enter into a genuine dialogue with Palestinian leaders. Personally scarred by the conflict, she proves that it is possible to escape the vicious circle — a term given a literal dimension in the Middle Eastern conflict — and move towards reconciliation. What does she think is the major obstacle in the peace process? Her answer echoes Dr Katz’s claim that fear is the factor spuring Israelis into violent action, but — unlike many of the people I speak to — she recognises that the Palestinians too have emotions and fears like any Jew. If there is to be any hope of resolution in the years ahead, Robi Damelin’s words must be sung from the rooftops and set in stone on Israel’s borders. “Knowing is the beginning,” she says, “and fear of the Jews is the worst enemy of peace.” Only once Israel’s leaders understand the truth of this statement can anyone hope for harmony in the Middle East.
Sense and Censor-bility 10 FEATURES
3rd March 2009
Tom Bonnick investigates the murky waters of the organisations self-appointed to police the Internet for us
here are few superlatives yet to be utilised in description of the Internet’s mind-boggling capacities. It is the world’s largest communication platform; the greatest tool for creative freedom for some, and creativity’s greatest threat to others. It is, according to technophiles, the single most significant advance of the twentieth century and, in the minds of some of the more reactionary tabloids, a modern-day Wild West with no purpose other than propagating degenerate pornography and convincing vulnerable teenagers to become anorexic. Given such a profound ambivalence, then, it is hardly surprising that governments and law-enforcement agencies have had such a hard time policing the ether. As well as the prolonged and complicated mess surrounding illegal downloading from sources such as BitTorrent — a mess that has arisen entirely because of erstwhile legislators’ failure to anticipate that, one day, this would become a problem — authorities are surrounded with an increasingly fraught set of issues around freedom of speech and the censorship of online content; civil liberties groups on one side, and sensationalist journalism on the other. In the last decade, several organisations have sprung up to address some of these concerns and fill the void left by the government’s apparent lack of interest in directly legislating on the matter of whether or not the public ought to be prevented from seeing anything on the Internet. The most prominent of these is the Internet Watch Foundation (IWF), who act as a hotline for the public to report illegal content, and are the ‘notice and take-down’ body for the industry as a whole. In 2004, the IWF developed a so-called blacklist, compiled of several hundred URLs,
to which the Internet Service Providers with whom they work can voluntarily adhere. Any webpage on the blacklist cannot, therefore, be accessed anywhere using one of these ISPs. All of the pages have been deemed by the IWF to contain images of child sexual abuse, and until last year, the whole process had received remarkably little interest from the mainstream media, except to address a few concerns that the list could be reverse-engineered and used for more nefarious purposes. However, in December 2008, the blacklist appeared in the headlines after a Wikipedia page for a record by 80s metal band Scorpion, entitled Virgin Killers, was added, after its album cover was considered to be inappropriate. The reaction from the press was not so much an outcry, as a cry of bemusement: after all, the album could still be bought on Amazon, and had been around for 20 years — what made it illicit all of a sudden? After initially sticking to their guns, the IWF eventually backed down and released the page from their list, citing unique reasons of contextuality. I spoke to the organisation’s Communications Director, Sarah Robertson, to ask her about their operations. How was the blacklist started, for instance? When it comes to the list — and indeed, any contentious issue in which the IWF is involved — Robertson becomes rather selfeffacing with regards to the Foundation’s achievements. “Some of our members approached us and asked if we could provide them with a list. It’s not meant to be a large scale answer, but we’ve gradually been developing resources to maintain it.” And the Scorpions page? How did that business come about? “Well, that was an anomaly, and it came out in that way.” Still, the only reason for the
overturning of the original decision was, after a rejected appeal, the independent board ruling — so how does the organisation safeguard against this sort of thing? “If you were one of our independent inspectors, appointed by our independent board, you would feel reassured, I suspect.” It isn’t entirely made clear to me why this would be the case. Thanks to the glowing successes that have come about from the financial market being allowed to run itself, however it pleases, any mention of the phrase ‘self-regulation’ has begun to send my scepticism-sense tingling: the problem with being told that private institutions can run front-line services responsibly, and with the public’s interests at heart, is the overwhelming evidence to the contrary. The IWF are different, of course, in that they are not out to make money from their endeavours. Indeed, the worry that has been frequently voiced in the media in the wake of the “Wikipedia incident”, as Robertson calls it — or, as I prefer, “Virgin Killers-gate” — is not mismanagement of the service but, rather, over-eager management. When I ask whether she thinks self-regulation is the best way of going about business, Robertson offers an impassioned defence of the IWF’s trustworthiness. “There’s no regulation behind this, and in fact people — stakeholders, the government, everyone — feels that self-regulation can be much more responsive. Legislation tends to be a lot slower, and by the time it comes to pass, things have changed and there’s a new challenge. And this doesn’t cost you anything!” The impression I receive — and which I have no doubt conveyed thus far — is that the IWF effectively block websites; for this, however indirectly, is the outcome of their actions: websites are blocked. It seems, though,
that I am sorely mistaken, and in this regard, Robertson is far less coy. “We don’t censor; what we do is provide this list.” Yes, I say, but then ISPs use the list, and then people can’t see things anymore — harmless things about rubbish hard rock bands — and then, those things have been censored. I do not phrase myself quite so facetiously, but the answer is no less emphatic. “Well, there is no law to do it – it’s absolutely voluntary. Being a member of the IWF is voluntary, and if you are one, then the list is voluntary.” This seems like semantics — whether the Internet is being censored voluntarily or not misses the point; after all, every major ISP is a member of the Foundation. I am still not entirely sure why this isn’t censorship, even if it’s a good kind. Robertson seems pretty sick of having accusations levelled against the IWF. “I wonder what conceptual rights you’re defending. If you accept that we’re a relevant authority, and understand a bit more the basis on which we work … It’s difficult, because you have the contextual issues of the Wikipedia incident, so if you take that aside for a moment, around 50% of the sites we deal with are levels 4 and 5 [The IWF use a 1-5 scale to measure the severity of images; level 5 images are of penetrative sex involving children]. Rather than come at it from the Wiki-angle, come at it from the last ten years-angle.” There is no denying, then, that the work of the Internet Watch Foundation over those years has undoubtedly been an incredibly important kind; work that ought to be done. However, with so little regulatory control currently in place, the organisation’s position calls to mind the old query best phrased by Juvenal: Quis custodiet ipsos custodes? Who guards the guards?
3rd March 2009
Serious about Socialism? Jim Wilson
As the part privatisation of Royal Mail is announced, James Maxwell explores the ideological chaos at the heart of the British Labour Party uring the 1990s, the Labour Party quietly abandoned the language of the old left and adopted a less politically-loaded vocabulary. References to the ‘working-classes’ vanished and ministers began talking instead of ‘hard-working families’. Discussions concerning the redistribution of wealth and the nationalisation of key industries dried-up, while thinly sketched concepts of social justice and equality of opportunity appeared with increasing frequency in the party’s press releases and campaign pamphlets. Eventually, most of the ideas traditionally associated with the social democratic movement in Britain were reduced to a series of glossy, uncontroversial slogans. Today, by way of an official mission statement, Labour offers only empty rhetoric: “(Our) purpose is fairness: fair rules, fair chances and a fair say for everyone”. This vague platitude is indicative of the ideological confusion that has engulfed the Labour Party and most of its affiliate organisations since the ascendency of Blairism and the electoral victory of 1997. Blair and Brown were supporters and enthusiasts of the ‘Third Way’ - a project that claimed to have reconciled two mutually opposed philosophies: socialism and neoliberalism. It argued that, in practice, the latter is unrivalled in its capacity to generate wealth and prosperity, while the former is more conducive to the collective good and social welfare of the country. The distributive power of central government must, then, be combined with the productive power of the market and the profits shared equitably throughout society. With the state operating at arms length, private capital- under the benign guidance of Smith’s ‘invisible hand’- will stimulate unprecedented economic growth, employment security, and increased tax revenue, which can, in turn, be translated into better schools, hospitals and city transport systems. In other words, New Labour believed that capitalism could be used as a means by which to achieve socialist ends. If successful, Labour could present itself as both a ‘democratic, socialist party’ committed to massively expanding public sector investment, reducing material inequality, and promoting international development, and as a supporter of low taxation, unregulated markets, and free-trade. It could be a friend to the banker and the borrower; the trade unions and the bosses; the City and the slums. It could finally resolve the conflict of
ideas that has determined debate in Britain since the start of the twentieth century. It could effectively put an end to politics. The difficulty, however, that the former Prime Minister and his Chancellor failed to recognise — the theoretical flaw that would ultimately banish Labour to the ideological no-mans-land it currently treads — is (and it now seems painfully self-evident) that socialism and the free-market are not compatible. For all its slick sociological jargon and expert analysis, the ‘Third Way’ is essentially an illusion. Over the course of the last twelve months that illusion has been repeatedly shattered, on a world-wide scale. The implosion of the global financial markets and the partial collapse of the British banking system have given lie to the notion that the state can control private enterprise from a distance and produce results that serve the interests of working people. For example, Labour’s refusal to impose tighter restrictions on mortgage and credit companies’ lending habits has lead to an astonishing and unsustainable increase in levels of personal debt. This has plunged the economy into recession at time when state debt is approaching record highs. As of January this year, it accounted for almost 50% of the UK’s gross domestic product,
“Hundreds of thousands of people will lose their jobs because a generation of so-called social-democrats capitulated to the political settlement established by Mrs. Thatcher” while government expenditure rose to more than £585 billion. Gordon Brown is now faced with choice of addressing the Treasury’s astonishing deficit, or pumping money into public services. He can’t do both. Labour’s attempts to balance a lightly regulated economy alongside large scale municipal development have, predictably, caved in on themselves. And yet the government and its supporters stick firmly to their dogmas. David Tait, Convenor of Debates at the GU and a member of the Labour Party states: “It is categorically not the case that there is a contradiction between being in the Labour Party and being a socialist. Within socialism there is a tension between practice and theory. This government has established a healthy compromise between the two. It has used the market to achieve concrete good, without sacrificing its principles.” Mr. Tait identifies the minimum wage, working families’ tax
credits and increased public spending as evidence that the ‘Third Way’ works. But all these achievements have been put at risk by Labour’s unshakeable faith in the ability of the free-market to regulate and direct itself, even in the middle of a crisis. The minimum wage is meaningless to someone who cannnot find work or has been made redundant; working families’ tax credits are only operational when those families are working; and public services are certain to suffer during times of recession. In the coming months, hundreds of thousands of people will lose their jobs because a generation of so-called socialdemocrats capitulated to the political settlement established by Mrs. Thatcher. Further evidence of the intellectual disorder the Labour Party presently languishes in can be found here, on the campus of Glasgow University. Last year, the GU Labour Club revealed a new slogan: ‘Serious About Socialism’. Like David Tait, GULC co-chair Patrick Mcglinchey denies that there is any necessary conflict between considering one’s self part of the radical left and being an active member and admirer of Labour in its existing form: “The Labour Party”, he says emphatically, “is something worth fighting for”. So far, however, those who have battled to move the party back onto more progressive territory have lost every fight they have engaged in. Government policy remains in the hands of the extreme centrists and the social Thatcherites. With these self-proclaimed ‘modernisers’ still in charge, there is no good reason to believe that Labour will resolve its identity crisis any time soon. On issues of asylum and immigration, it will continue to parrot the rhetoric of the ultra-right; on public investment and state intervention, it will claim inspiration from Clemet Atlee and Aneurin Bevan. The party is in a state of moral drift. Even, Mr. Mcglinchey admits that it needs to “re-discover its purpose.” For over a decade, Labour has defied those who have attempted to place it at one or other end of the political spectrum. It has declared itself beyond the false left/right dichotomy. It has refused to publicly define itself. As such, the electorate is now struggling to discern exactly what the party stands for, where its values lie, and why it deserves to govern the country. In fact, voters are increasingly looking to the alternatives for a more precise and purposeful leadership in the UK. After all, that seems only fair.
3rd March 2009 John McIntyre Building University Avenue Glasgow G12 8QQ 0141 341 6215 email@example.com www.glasgowguardian.co.uk
Proposition without opposition Politics and PR nightmares The number of unopposed and vacant positions, in all but one of the current student elections, is a damning indictment of the level of student participation at Glasgow University, and the entire electoral process that serves to fill the numerous positions. As a result of various technical and apathetic reasons, two of the four Presidential positions open for election will most likely not be filled by a candidate who has won more votes than a competitor. Additionally, several positions, including that of the SRC sabbatical officer who oversees Glasgow University’s media, have nobody running at all. Beyond this, the way in which numerous contenders for GUU positions have essentially been wiped off the ballot paper, due to frankly insignificant clerical issues, smacks of an overzealous electoral process that is sacrificing voter choice, in order to conform to traditional rules and regulations. Are these rules actually protecting the integrity of the elections, or are they irrelevant bureaucracy that is preventing a larger number of nominees competing for the positions at the Union? The fact is, apathy has strangled student politics. The issue was reported last year in this paper and the problem has only worsened in the interim, with fewer people than ever getting
involved in the majority of the main student elections at Glasgow University. If this process is to repeat continually, then the student body faces a situation where they will no longer be represented by traditionally elected individuals, but simply those who can string together enough friends to propose them to the position of their choosing. It must also be mentioned that this is not criticism of those that are running in these elections, or indeed the manner in which they would conduct themselves in the role. Rather, it is a criticism of the failings of the system that they pass through on their way to office, and those that choose to ignore their right to contribute to their education in a manner beyond turning up to lectures and exams. Instead of repeatedly coming up short, student organisations must identify new methods of attracting these students to the empty positions. Important roles, such as the President of the GUU or SRC, should not be a position of virtual default. They should be fought for in the strongest possible terms, between several determined individuals, fighting on the basis of opposing manifestos, and elected on the basis of these. As such, and where possible, students must vote to re-open nominations in any case where an individual is running unopposed.
It is with a certain amount of disappointment that Guardian reports on the fallout from Glasgow’s occupation. When a serious and urgent cause is pushed by an interest group with such force, almost everybody in the community seriously considers where they stand on the issue. This means that the group in question will be somewhat responsible for informing the opinion of the many; a hefty burden to bear even if shared amongst 30 (or four, depending on how you look at it). One always hopes that the campaigners will set a model example and that people will react favourably. Sadly this time neither wish was granted. In the case of the Israel/Palestine conflict where racial, national and religious tensions run high, it is important to project a clear message. Inevitably humanitarian efforts in this area become wrapped up in politics, and racism and anti-Semitism are easily confused with valid resistance. This was clearly not the intention of the Socialist Workers Party, Stop the War Coalition and Scottish Palestine Solidarity Campaign. However the use of militaristic slogans, though not racist or anti-Semitic in itself, only alienates those who are genuinely pro-peace, perpetuating the confusion. Refusing to collect for a children’s charity on the grounds that it was not part of the original
deal simply does not wash, surely the SWP are opposed to this kind of stifling beaurocracy? Refusing to collect because it detracts from the DEC appeal is an equally frail defence. Similarly the failure to follow through on what they originally hailed a “triumphant success” was not a good way of gaining solidarity with the wider student population. When they took Computer Sciences by storm none of the activists were complaining about the amount of essays they had, and this excuse is likely to be met with scepticism as well. It is good news that any money has been raised for Gaza, though demanding a DEC Appeal day with so little time to prepare might have been a little hasty. Although time was a significant factor in getting aid to the crisis and £673 is a sum to be proud of, the vet rodeo was able to raise over £26,000 with a fundraiser organized well in advance. A second fundraising day has been proposed, which will hopefully be better publicised and organised. The SRC, who normally tread very softly in even the slightest of contentious issues, responded surprisingly strongly. If their extreme level of disappointment is any sort of barometer of general student opinion, perhaps these political groups ought to be reassessing their public image.
Photo of the week — Jim Wilson Joss Stone takes time out to pose for the cameras and sign a few autographs, following her recent Oran Mor gig, in Glasgow’s West End.
3rd March 2009
To the Editors… Dear Editors,
I’d like to congratulate the Glasgow University Guardian on its coverage of the recent occupation of the Computer Science building, and the attention the paper gives to global events, including Gaza. As a student newspaper it is important that the GU Guardian gives fair coverage to the interests of members of the student body and this was done very well in terms of the occupation coverage, particularly in light of the biased response from student newspapers that many other occupations received, such as Edinburgh University. Furthermore, the Glasgow University Guardian does an excellent job of bringing global current and historical events which are important (or should be) to students, but often are ignored by many, to the attention of the wider student body, which is both informative and conducive to healthy debate on campus. Keep up the good work! Thanks, Clare Green Dear Editors, It is rare indeed that I find myself in agreement with your esteemed colleague Mr Foley, however I feel I must write to congratulate him on some excellent observations made in his article “Occupy and resist: the return of student radicalism?” published 10th of February 2009 AD. While I do not share many of the views expressed, my eye was caught by the passage “NUS... recently voted to bypass most of its democratic channels in favour of a rigid, topdown bureaucracy run by non-student political appointees”. The undemocratic and dictatorial nature of NUS was something that I, and other members of the Glasgow University NO2NUS Campaign, complained of vociferously a mere two years ago during the referendum on Glasgow’s potential membership of the National Union of Students. At that time we would have welcomed the support of Mr Foley and his comrades in fighting to preserve the political independence of our University. Instead he and others of his political persuasion used all of their campaigning expertise and resources to push for Glasgow’s entry into NUS and our submission to central control. I am pleased to note his political conversion and trust that he is duly grateful to the hundreds of No2NUS campaigners, QMU, SRC, GUSA and GUU who combined to save Glasgow from the politically impotent and out of touch bureaucracy of the NUS, so skillfully depicted by Mr Foley. Yours sincerely, David A. Tait Former Chairman Glasgow University NO2NUS Campaign
Glasgow University 10th February 2009
Scottish Student Newspaper of the Year
Oisin Kealy and Lewis Porteous on the highlights of Celtic Connections
Eleanor Mitchell promotes individual style over copycat chic
Police fail to advise of attack Sarah Smith Exclusive
THE RESIDENTS OF MURANO Street Student Village were shocked to learn this week that they had not been informed of an attack which took place close to one of its main entrances. A 29-year old woman was indecently assaulted whilst walking over the canal footbridge in the early hours of Saturday January 31. The assailant has not yet been caught and the police have issued an appeal for witnesses. Despite this, the students living at Murano Street were not contacted about the incident, nor were they warned about the fact that a potentially dangerous man was known to be in the area. Guardian spoke to a number of students who expressed concern about the lack of information given to them.
First-year English Literature student, Becky Sharp, told Guardian why she feels it is important for the police and the University to notify students when attacks like this occur. She said: “I think it was irresponsible for them to not alert the Murano Street residents of the attack as it is important that we know of the threats that surround the area. “I have, so far, been quite casual about being alone and in the area late at night, and hearing about the attack makes me feel more susceptible to the danger and more likely to be cautious. “It is important to give the students that awareness so that they can make a more informed choice about wandering around the area at all times.” Another Murano resident, Rachel Mitchell, explained that what was especially concerning was that the attack took place right next to one of Murano Street’s main entrances. (Continued on page 4)
Glasgow Uni occupied by activists George Binning A SERIES OF STUDENT-DRIVEN protests and occupations in aid of Gaza have prompted drastic action by universities across Scotland. On Wednesday February 4 students of Strathclyde University staged an occupation of Strathclyde’s registry and on Sunday January 25 the Stop the War Coalition (SWC) and Scottish Palestinian Solidarity Campaign (SPSC) also staged an occupation of the BBC headquarters in Glasgow. Today 10 February around 30 students of Glasgow University were continuing their occupation of the Computing Department of the University. The occupation was a response to the events of last Thursday when students associated with the SWC marched on the Principal’s office with their demands attached to two petitions. The first set of demands, supported by 560 signatures, requested that the University publicly condemn the BBC’s actions concerning the DEC appeal, that the appeal be publicised around campus and the University’s website, also that a collection day for Gaza be organized. Their second petition, with 350 signatories, (Continued on page 5)
Scottish principals receive 10% pay rise GLASGOW UNIVERSITY’S PRINCIPAL, Sir Muir Russell, received a pay increase almost four times the rate of inflation last year, making him the highest paid university principal in Scotland. Sir Muir, who is due to step down from his position in October, received a pay rise of 12.1%, increasing his salary from £205,000 in 2007 to £230,000 in 2008. When pensions are included, the figure rises to £262,000. University principals across Scotland saw their salaries rise by an average of 10%, while
Protesters take to the roof of the Computing Department in solidarity with Palestine
Craig MacLellan lecturers have seen their pay rise by only 5% during the same period. Guardian recently discovered that graduate teaching assistants at the University of Glasgow have not recieved a salary increase since 2002 and, in some cases, may be earning less than the national minimum wage. There are meetings planned to address this situation, but it is unlikely that any increase in pay will be as high as 12.1%.
The increases will see an additional £255,000 taken from Scotland’s higher education budget, with the total paid out to principals now topping £3m for the first time. This comes at a time when the higher education sector is dealing with the tightest settlement since devolution. In the budget settlement of November 2007, Universities Scotland, the body responsible for representing and promoting Scotland’s higher education sector, had asked for an increase of £168 million over three years.
However, the Scottish Government has announced that the figure would rise by only £30 million. Recent research has also shown that English universities, who already have the advantage of top-up fees, are increasing their share of research funding. Glasgow University defended the decision to increase the principle’s salary, stating that the pay rise is related to performance and reflects the University’s recent success. (Continued on page 3)
Editors: George Binning & James Porteous Lewis, Markee Rambo-Hood, Film Editor: Lewis Porteous Deputy Editor: Tom Bonnick Laura Doherty, James Maxwell, Picture Editor: Jim Wilson News Editor: Sarah Smith Louise Ogden, Claire Strickett, Reporters: Ishbel Begg, Craig Features Editors: Tara Colin Daniels, Rebecca Day, MacLellan, Ross Mathers, Amy Hepburn & Pete Ramand Robin Perkin, Chris Watt, Zoe McGregor Sports Editor: Harry Tattersall Grams Columnists: Ben Freeman, Smith Photographers: Sean Jamie Ross Music Editor: Oisín Kealy Anderson, Luke Winter, Contributors: Ellie Gallagher, Lifestyle Editors: Michelle ‘CrazyBobbles’, Stefan Sealey Laura Cernis, Dominic MaxwellWilliams & David Kirkpatrick The Glasgow University Guardian is editorially independent of the SRC and University. All complaints should be addressed to the editors, who can be reached via the above contact details.
This newspaper is funded through and supported by the Glasgow University Students’ Representitive Council.
glasgowguardian.co.uk The Glasgow University Guardian’s new website is now on-line, allowing you to discuss and comment on anything we print, and the reactions of others. You’ll also be able to read the full paper before it’s available in print, without even having to leave your home, and catch up on any issues you’ve missed during the year. We relish a heated debate, so the site is your chance to have your say on current news, sports events, and a wealth of features and lifestyle content. Log on, and join in.
How did March get here so quickly? It seems that people have only just recovered from the winter examinations, and already finals are on the horizon. With time passing so quickly, make sure you take advantage of all that’s being offered at the Uni. Here’s a quick run-down of what’s happening at the SRC between now and the Easter holidays. Elections. You’re continuously hearing about them, but elections really are the best and most important way of getting your voice heard. Elections will have taken place on 4th and 5th March, but if you didn’t take advantage of your democratic right then fear not, there’s another opportunity to do so. On March 9th, nominations will open for the SRC’s by-election. Nominations close April 24th so there’s plenty of time for you to have a look at what positions are available and consider whether getting involved is right for you (and let us tell you: it definitely is). Rector’s Surgery. Since being elected, Charles Kennedy has been showing his dedication to students by attending, speaking at, and helping with, a whole host of events. His monthly Rector’s Surgery will take place on March 19th from 12.30 to 2pm in the SRC Advice Centre. Students are welcome to drop-in to have a chat about any concerns they may have. Charles can then address any issues, alongside the SRC, by working closely with the University. Council Meeting. If you’re considering running in the May by-election, it would be extremely useful to head along to the Council Meeting on March 19th at 6.30pm in the Williams Room. All students are welcome to attend these meetings, at which ideas for improving students’ experiences at Glasgow, and different policies and events, are discussed. Find out what’s done. Green Week. Preparations are being made to make the week of the 23rd March as environmentally-friendly and fun as possible. Watch this space for more information of what’s on. Mobile phone recycling, a visit to Glasgow Wood Recycling, a film night and a fundraiser are just a few examples of what’s going on! Last but not least, March is the month that Subcity Radio are broadcasting on 106.6FM. You can hear them online at subcity.org but now it’s even easier for you to listen to some of Glasgow’s finest DJs play a huge range of music. Turn up the volume and enjoy.
Glasgow University Guardian welcomes letters to the editors; a selection are printed each issue. Please mark them ‘To the Editors — for printing’, and send them to the above address.
3rd March 2009
GUSA honours Glasgow sporting achievements Colin Daniels
The Marriot Hotel was the scene of great rejoicing as the annual GUSA Blues Reception took place. The awards ceremony — a pinnacle of the university sporting calendar as part of the GUSA Ball — is held annually to acknowledge those university teams and students who have made outstanding contributions to sport over the years. GUSA President Euan Miller hosted the Reception to present the various accolades — Full Blues, Half Blues and Awards — to those nominated by the student body across the entire campus. Miller opened the ceremony by highlighting the achievements of Chris Wilson; the swimmer was magnificent at the Scottish University Championships, winning gold in the 200m IM, silver in the 100m Breaststroke and bronze in the 100m IM. Emma Reid’s performance at the events was similarly admirable, with gold in the 400m, silver in 200m and
bronze in the 4x50m freestyles; as Miller reflected: “This achievement is even greater when you consider that she really considers herself a long distance swimmer.” The awards recognise Glasgow students who have been called up to play at national level in their respective sports. This landmark achievement has been reached by various individuals. Alasdair Mott’s lacrosse career was, according to Miller: “Given its silver lining when he was selected to represent the Scotland senior squad,” Additionally, Chris Paton was called up to the national under-19 team. Kevin McCloy was particularly outstanding in representing Athletics, finishing third at the Scottish Championships — an event not exclusively set up for Scottish nationals but remarkably open to an international field. The awards also distinguish those students and teams who have turned out for their sport at the
British Universities Championships. Sarah Finlay managed this feat in Riding, reaching the regional final of the competition, while David MacPherson won a Judo silver medal in the national event. The senior men’s boat team also finished second at the British Universities Regatta, which preceded their selection to represent Great Britain at the European Universities Regetta in which they finished eighth. Many Half Blues were given to those students who have reached the Scottish Universities Championships. In athletics, Andrew Douglas was crowned champion at the 3000m for the second time. Miller reflected on yet another encouraging homegrown success in waterpolo: “Suzy Lewis had never played waterpolo before coming to university but she has grown into an excellent player.” Lewis’progress was marked by her being asked to train with the national squad in addition to her participation in the Scottish Universities Team at
the Celtic Nations in Dublin. This year marked the introduction of a new award, the Rebecca Cooke Trophy, to recognise the most outstanding sportswoman at the university. The award’s name is a fitting reward for the student who has achieved the remarkable feat of winning the Bob Wilson Memorial Trophy for each of the last six years. Emma Mason, with five international and four Scottish badminton titles to
Three cheers for Glasgow Rebecca Day dusts off her pom poms to train with the GU cheerleaders It is hard to ignore the stereotype entrenched in the mind when someone mentions the word ‘cheerleader’. It has almost become a by-word for blond, tanned and sparkly-toothed American Girls pushing past the high school geeks with one flick of the pompom. So I was curious to see what Glasgow University Cheerleading Squad had to offer. Before I went to see the girls in action, I was told the team were fresh from the success of coming first in the senior open dance category in the British university cheerleading competition Futurecheer, and were already in training for the upcoming nationals in March. The training session commenced with an intense 15-minute warm-up, in which the squad marched, stretched and jumped in unison aided by the sounds of 80s electro-pop. The team were then given a briefing of their performance in the competition by Captain Justice Reilly, a fourth year medical student who trains and leads the squad. She read from the judge’s reports and they were unanimously glowing, with one praising the “great energy” of the team. Justice was ecstatic with the result, stating: “I’m very proud as the whole team participated in the dance. Usually it is only an elite group of about ten people that take part, so it was great that everybody got involved, and of course that we went on to win.” After the briefing, the training session continued in full swing. The atmosphere in the exercise suite was charged with positivity, the girls were laughing and joking yet simultaneously focused on the task at hand. The girls stood in rows of five and carried out a slick routine in perfect synchrony. Justice observed each routine, highlighting minute
Courtesy of GUC
areas of improvement — errors invisible to the untrained eye of a casual observer. The girls then arranged themselves into groups of five, and it was in total amazement that I watched as one team lifted the centre girl, the ‘flyer’, above their shoulders, totally unfazed, before she twirled in the air and fell into the arms of her teammates. In a sport where glory can be the matter of millimeters, the levels of trust amongst the girls is staggering. On one occasion one ‘flyer’ unceremoniously topples to the floor yet is almost instantly back in the air getting tossed about. After witnessing the extraordinary skills and techniques of the team members, I spoke to Justice about the previous experience of the squad as a whole She explained that the cheer-
leading group consists of girls with different levels of ability and experience. “Most people have danced before, but we also have people in the squad who have never had dancing lessons and just fancied trying something new.” After seeing the Cheerleading squad in action, I realised that modern day media has completely warped my view on ‘cheering’ and it is this somewhat negative stereotype that Justice and her team are out to change. The students dedicate hours of practice to perfect complex routines in order to compete in national sporting competitions. Evidently the results have paid off, with Glasgow’s Cheerleading Squad now ranking amongst the highest University teams in Britain.
her name, had the honour of lifting the new trophy in its inaugural year. As well as outstanding individuals, the ceremony acknowledged the excellent performances of particular clubs. The women’s rugby team was given the William Ross Cunningham Memorial Trophy whilst the boat men’s first squad, in light of their performance at the Regatta, were similarly revered with the Proctor and Gamble Millennium Trophy.
Gridiron team thrash Teeside
(Continued from back page) A succession of intelligent passes drove the Tigers forward whilst his vision to unleash David McCann for the third touchdown was simply astounding, as a deft pass wrong footed much of a static Teeside defensive line. Ruari McKeon and Nick Halfpenny touch downs either side of a Cougars consolation saw the Tigers romp away towards the end with a victory margin that perhaps flattered their exhausted visitors. McKeon scrambled home from ten yards, whilst Halfpenny capped a fine individual performance with a superb darting run in from 20 yards. Afterwards coach Ian Cochrane was enthused about his side’s performance in the match, and optimistic about the team’s Collegebowl aspirations: “We are really starting to play our best football now which is great because we are now reaching play off time. It’s a young squad we’ve got out there but they are really starting to gel as a unit. “I don’t think any team will really fancy a trip up here because our record on home soil is staggering. If we can find a bit more form on the road this team will definately go places.” The positive sentiments were reiterated by line backer Ross Wilson: “Everything is really starting to come together nicely for the side-all the pieces are starting to fall into place.We are in the playoffs now,and everyone knows anything can happen!” Tigers now go on to face the Sunderland Spartans as they continue their push for Northern Conference glory.
Hockey team back on form
3rd March 2009
In a season that has been marred all too often by frustration and set backs Glasgow University hockey managed to haul their campaign back on track with an emphatic victory over a beleaguered Ayr side at the Garscube. Glasgow started off the brighter of the two, yet struggled early on to find the break through that their territorial dominance deserved. They spent large spells of the first period camped in the Ayr half, yet consistently saw intricate build-up play thwarted by a failure to make the final killer pass. It has been very much the story of Glasgow’s season; attractive attacking hockey coupled with a failure to finish. Glasgow’s intensity however soon paid off. They were awarded a short corner and after some intelligent interplay between Euan Miller and Finlay Horn, the captain was on hand to lash in past the helpless keeper. Ayr offered little in the way of attacking strength, and were guilty of far too regularly turning to the optimistic long ball as they attempted to penetrate the resolute University defence. The Glasgow back four were largely spectators throughout the match, as any potential danger was invariably mopped up by the experienced centre half pairing of Craig Sinclair and Alastair Claxon. One moment of defensive sloppiness almost cost Glasgow dearly — An overly ambitious pass saw Ayr able to burst into the box yet the ever alert Louis Alwood was able to save smartly at the feet of the attacker whilst the resulting ricochet was narrowly slashed wide. Glasgow had perhaps been guilty of merely going through the motions, yet this scare soon saw a significant increase in the university intensity. Captain Finlay Horn, at the heart of midfield, began to orchestrate proceedings. A clever through ball saw Rory McCann unleashed through the middle, and although the
Northern Irishman was able to round the goalkeeper his effort was desperately cleared off the line by a scrambling Ayr defence. The visitors reprieve however was to be short lived. Another well worked short corner saw Horn thread the ball through to McCann, and the striker was on hand to delicately poke it under the quickly advancing goalkeeper. McCann began to cause havoc at the heart of the Ayr defence, and was unlucky on several occasions not to double his tally. At times the ball seemed glued to his stick, and time after time he was able to effortlessly tear through the mesmerised opposition back line. Glasgow’s third and decisive goal came again from a set piece, and again it was the captain’s ingenuity around the edge of the box which saw him again able to fire home. A series of clever passes around the box confounded a sprawling Ayr defence, and a slip pass from McCann saw Horn free in the ‘D’ able to smash home from five yards. Glasgow continued to press and probe at a dispirited Ayr side, and perhaps the only concern will be that they were not able boost their goal difference on a day when there was a notable gulf in class. Yet the University team were forced to settle for three, and will be desperate to see that they continue this momentum into the business end of the season. Speaking afterwards Horn seemed pleased with the performance “I’m obviously delighted with the victory, it’s been a frustrating season, and that victory has really been a very long time in coming.” He went on to speak about how the Glasgow University team are fast becoming regarded as set piece specialists: “We’ve been practising a lot of short corners recently, so it’s great to see the effort put in by the lads on the training ground pay off so well. We have this team again in the cup,so we feel we have a great chance of progress”
You only swing when you’re winning
Harry Tattersall Smith
I’m about as far away from Carnoustie as you can probably imagine; I’m currently huddled in a dank pub toilet in Carluke on the phone to golf captain David Taggart. He is about to head out on a rather arduous 240 mile round trip to Golspie to face the University of Highlands and Islands in the leagues final round of BUSA fixtures. I had originally contemplated staging the interview over a round of golf but wisely thought better of it. Largely because on the one and only time I have attempted to play golf I was escorted off by an aggrieved groundsman after three holes of systematically uprooting large chunks of the fairway. So I guess this probably saves embarrassment for all parties concerned. Taggart seems cautiously optimistic, and seems eager to see his side put in a good performance after a draining season. “I think the side we are playing used to be made up predominantly of people doing degrees in Golf Course Management, so I guess there will be a good chance that this team will be similar and will eat, sleep and dream golf. If we can match their intensity I think we are in with a great chance” Taggart admits that the only thing about this season that has been consistent this season is their inconsistency. Resounding victories have all too often been coupled with narrow defeats,
and it’s a frustration that the captain feels comes with having such a young side: “There is no doubting the talent of the boys, but match play is a completely different game. With a bit more experience and ‘know-how’ playing at this level it’s only a matter of time before we can start grinding out the tough victories in the really tight matches” Taggart, who played at school boy level alongside Northern Irish teen sensation Rory Mcllroy, speaks optimistically about the squads future: “The team are really in a transitional phase at the moment, last year we lost a lot of our big players and this season the squad has been comprised mainly of a really promising bunch of fresher’s. We’ve been really unlucky to miss out on promotion from the league this year, but as the team grows in experience I think it really is a matter of time before this group of lads can compete at the very highest level” The captain talks of how hard it is to compete with the universities with a greater golfing pedigree,such as St Andrews, “They obviously have some of the best facilities and are constantly getting an influx of some fantastic American talent who come seeking the ‘St Andrews experience’. Stirling are up there as well, again, it’s hard to compete with a team that have a golf course on their actual campus!”
Inside: Comfortable win for GU men’s 1st XI hockey team also: Rebecca Day meets the high-flying Glasgow Cheerleaders
3rd March 2009
Tigers earn their stripes Glasgow 34 - 6 Teeside Harry Tattersall Smith
GLASGOW UNIVERSITY TIGERS OVERPOWERED the Teeside Cougars as they impressively continued their march to the playoffs. Whilst the start of the season saw the new squad struggling to generate momentum, their imperious home form at the aptly named ‘Fortress’ Garscube, has propelled their charge into the post-season. Caused largely by the hostile environment of the Garscube, it has seen many fancied teams come and crumble in the face of the raucous, partisan home crowd. A congested first quarter saw both teams struggle to create as defensive might quickly stifled out any potential attacking flare. It was fine reflection of the Tigers resilience that in the tense opening exchanges, as they found themselves camped in their own half, they were able to repel the intense Cougar pressure. The Teesside outfit dictated the match early on yet in the face of fierce GU defence quickly seemed to run out of ideas. Teeside often seemed to panic at the sheer physicality of the Tigers defence. Time after time Cougars fumbled the ball in contact, whilst their quarterback was on several occasions guilty of attempting some wildly ambitious throws in a desperate attempt to break through the unyeilding Glasgow defence. The Teesside quarterback, who seemed to lose any semblance of confidence after an early stumble, was erratic all afternoon. This allowed Glasgow to constantly turn defence into attack, as constant sloppiness and some outstanding GU agility saw the Tigers intercept 15 times as their North East rivals continued to squander promising field position. As the defence refused to buckle, the tigers attack early seemed jaded yet the spark was injected by the ever lively Nick Halfpenny. A smart interception signalled a significant momentum switch and gave Glasgow the offensive impetus from which the imploding Cougars never looked like recovering. In a game that had been so dominated by defence, it was always going to take something special to break the stalemate. A move straight off the training ground saw Rory McAlpine released on the wing, and the running back was able to unleash his dazzling pace as he charged the length of the field, leaving the desperate Cougars backline scrambling in his wake. The Tigers faithful had become slightly restless, yet McAlpine’s brilliance saw anxieties erased and they didn’t have to wait long before there was more to shout about. It came thanks to the towering figure of Matthew Crammond. Cougars defending deep in their own half saw a kick charged down, and after a melee in Teesside end zone, it was the imposing Fresher who rose from amongst the chaos with the ball. (Continued on page 15)
Emmy the Great | An Inspector Calls | Peter Doherty | Gran Torino
Dog tired Michelle Williams gives her best performance
A crass examination A spectacular set is let down by poor timing in An Inspector Calls, writes Sarah Smith becoming a spectacular metaphor for the family’s downfall towards the end. In fact, it is worth going to see this production for this aspect alone. One hugely disappointing aspect of the show, is Louis Hilyer’s unsubtle portrayal of the Inspector. Shouting almost from the moment he appeared on stage, many of his lines were rushed and given bizarre emphasis. In a lesser role these flaws might have been easier to overlook, but the contrast between the inspector and increasingly hysterical family is integral to the overall impact of J.B. Priestley’s script. In fairness, Hilyer did seem to relax slightly as the perform-
>> Jamie Ross
pon any diagnosis of a serious health problem, you’ll be given an entire rainforest’s worth of information leaflets. I assume that the main purpose of these are to put a patient’s mind at ease in a worrying time, but in my case, this was a spectacular failure for two reasons. Firstly, being given a list of local funeral directors and will-writers is not a precursor to a relaxing night’s sleep. Secondly, upon reading the infinite list of possible treatment side effects, I saw ‘complete or partial hair loss’ casually tossed in amongst insignificant things such as heart failure or permanent lung damage. Any person who has ever given me so much as a fleeting glance will realise that this is the single worst thing that could possibly happen to me. I’ve never made a secret of my vanity — I’ve often been mocked for my vast hairspray collection, and I used to spend countless mornings persuading my Mum to write a sick note for the previous day of school because I was having a bad hair day and refused to go in.
“A woman under 93 has to enter the haematology unit at some point and, when that day comes, I will be prepared to pounce”
However, now it appears that such callous actions have blown up in my face in the form of karma-induced hair loss. Of course, some doctors may tell you that it’s down to an awful drug slowly but surely destroying almost every cell in my body, but they’d say anything to sound like they know something that a common man doesn’t. It’s almost definitely karma pixies pulling it out strand by strand with maniacal glee, teaching me tiny lesson after tiny lesson. My nurse has said that it would be unusual for me to lose my hair completely, but I should be ‘prepared for some thinning‘ which I thought was a terrifyingly vague statement. Will I end up as the first nineteen-year-old in history to adopt a combover? Also, if this is true and I do have some of my original hair at the end, I’ll surely have two very different lengths of ridiculous hair when what I have lost begins to grow back. New hair can apparently be a completely different colour to the original, so I could easily end up looking like an incredibly shit and low-budget Batman villain. I’ve voiced these concerns with my nursing team, which often leads to hilarious jokes about my vanity. They just don’t understand why my hair is so important, stupidly believing that I’d be more concerned with overcoming cancer than whether I look sexy on the ward. But who knows who I could meet? A woman under 93 has to enter the haematology unit at some point and, when that day comes, I will be prepared to pounce.
“Hilyer never quite managed to completely shake off a tendency to fall back on melodrama”
aving seen, and loved, Stephen Daldry’s production of An Inspector Calls five years ago, I had high expectations for this performance. Unfortunately, whilst the performance on a whole was up to the standards I was hoping for, there were some aspects which left me sorely disappointed. One of the true stars of this particular production is the set itself: an Edwardian mansion raised up on stilts in the middle of a damp and misty cobbled street. It opens up like a dolls’ house to reveal the actors inside, before
ance neared its end, although he never quite managed to completely shake off a tendency to fall back on melodrama. The timing of the main cast at times felt rushed and, too often, lines were delivered early and with a lack of care. A notable exception to this was Sandra Duncan, whose performance of the arrogant matriarch was far and away the best of the evening. Her sense of timing and use of the dramatic pause meant that she made the most of the few comedic lines given to her character, much to the delight of the audience. Stephen Daldry’s production of J.B. Priestley’s classic thriller on the evils of captilism and individualism was first performed twenty years ago, to an audience still governed under the neo-liberal ideals of Thatcherism. Now, decades later, Priestley’s socialist message rings as true as it did when it was first delivered in 1945. It is impossible to hear Mr. Birling’s lectures on how one should forget any nonsense about being part of a community and not think of today’s banking chief executives, grasping for bonuses and pensions as their companies collapse. Sadly, it seems that An Inspector Calls will always be relevant in this way, highlighting as it does the underlying selfishness of the human race. It will also, however, retain its ability to shock and intrigue its audience, right up until the last line. If the director had taken a stronger hand with some of his cast members, it is possible that this production would have realised its potential. Luckily for the audience, Priestley’s drama is so well written that, even if some of his characters’ nuances are lost, it remains absolutely captivating. An Inspector Calls was shown at Theatre Royal; now touring.
No encouragement needed
ebecca Stott once wrote that one in four listeners of Radio 4 have started writing a novel, a statistic which, anecdotally speaking, I can attest to. Given the unbelievably large, exponential growth in the numbers of published books, aspiring writers and cherished manuscripts produced every year, it seems equally fitting that a number of ‘How to…’ books would spring up to answer the unyielding and eternal call of market demand. As its title suggests, Sandra Newman and Howard Mittelmark’s offering in this field has taken a slightly different approach: theirs is not a ‘How to…’ book, but a ‘How not to…’ one. Accordingly, it is its execution which differentiates ‘How not to write a novel: 200 mistakes to avoid at all costs if you ever want to get published’ from the myriad tomes vying for the attention of budding authors. It is also what provides a daring, slightly perverse hook — page after page of really, really awful prose, laden with every cliché, plot device and dei from machinis known to man and literary agent, deliberately employed by Newman and Mittelmark to illustrate each piece of advice. Mercifully, the bad writing never leaks into the rest of the book, and each example, entitled with
such Lewis Carroll-esque headings as ‘Wherein the author trips over his own cleverness’, is meticulously demarked with all manner of fonts and black boxes to avoid any risk of text as leaden as “Pausing in their circumambulation of the verdancy, the duo jocularly noted a bi-canine” being mistaken for the authors’ own. Which it sort of is, anyway. However, as bitingly funny as Newman and Mittelmark are in identifying the tropes of clunky literature — and doing so in so acute a fashion — there is no escaping the fact that after the first hundred times, the formula begins to wear thin. What's more, prospective authors would probably be best served steering clear all together, given how crushing it must be to see one’s own shortcomings mocked so robustly, and with such obvious glee. In fact, confronted with so many literary crimes, the impression one gets is that their perpetrators should be left well alone; not given additional encouragement. It strikes me that a more apt proverb with which to approach works such as these is not Ms Stott’s, but that other well-known maxim: “Everybody has a novel in them. And that’s exactly where it should stay.” (Tom Bonnick)
How not to write a novel: 200 mistakes to avoid at all costs if you ever want to get published is out now in paperback by Penguin, R.R.P. £9.99
Reginald D. Hunter
Willy Russell’s classic drama is starting to show its age, writes Tom Bonnick
Brilliant, philosophising comedian who begun his career on a bet and has won criticism and praise in equal measure since. Stand Comedy Club Thurs. 12th March/Tues. 24th March £7 - 12
A kind of British Sarah Silverman, Porter hides a wicked mind behind a "butter wouldn't melt in her mouth" exterior, with usually rewarding results. Oran Mor Sun. 22nd March £10 - 12
Edinburgh Fringe favourite and regular TV performer Andrew Maxwell returns to Glasgow to deliver a surreal brand of stream of consciousness. Old Fruitmarket Sat. 14th March £11- 13
Aye Write! Ben Goldacre
Author of The Guardian's Bad Science column, Goldacre is the master of debunking myth, pseudo-science and other hokum.
power dynamic — is admirably handled, and Cunniffe succeeds in seducing Frank into underestimating her. Even though Rita’s lack of experience occasionally comes across as a slightly unconvincing faux-naïve schtick, her insecurities in the company of Frank have real emotional depth, never more so than in his unpleasantly patronising desire to parade her to his friends. Still, although the relationship between the two evolves in a delicate and engrossing manner, the story on which it is structured feels flawed. The redemption both characters are forced into offering one another feels slightly clichéd — rendered trite by decades of overuse as a unifying device, perhaps
A bunch of scaredy-cats
Mitchell Library Fri. 13th March £6 - 7
...Or, The Man Who Angered Oprah With His Lies. Author of A Million Little Pieces, Fray has since redeemed himself with Bright Shining Morning. Mitchell Library Mon. 9th March £6 - 7
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taging productions of plays that have already been made into widely acclaimed, arguably better, films always seems like a daring gambit, and perhaps for this reason alone, the Citizens’ new production of Educating Rita deserves some credit, even if Emma Cunniffe and Charles Lawson do not quite fill the shoes so memorably worn by Julie Walthers and Michael Caine in the 1983 cinematic version, adapted by playwright Willy Russell himself. The problem with any new version is that it will already have had pointed out to it — and not just in the usual way, by critics, but by the author of the text, no less — areas in which it can be improved: add a couple more locations, some secondary characters, and cast Walthers and Caine. Even if they do not exactly have the staying power of their predecessors, Lawson and Cunniffe both give solid performances as Frank and Rita, the professor and Open University student who, over a series of tutorial sessions, consistently provide for one another the kind of revelatory insights into life that one only ever comes across in the theatre. Lawson’s is a great role to play with: the jaded, curmudgeonly alcoholic who has only taken on the work to pay his bar tab, and he emphasises his character’s intellectual arrogance, delivering lines like “she admires me enormously” with obvious relish (although perhaps missing the point in doing so). Just the wrong side of lovable rogue, he pitches Frank about right, and I couldn’t help but enjoy a little schadenfreude as his position is gradually usurped by Rita’s newfound social circle. Cunniffe’s performance is a more complex — although maybe less enjoyable — one, and she creates an air of perpetual chaos with ease. Her initial meeting with Frank — the most important scene in the play in terms of establishing their
Mitchell Library Sat. 7th March £6 - 7
Perhaps best known as "Bruno's dad in the film of The Witches", Glasgowborn actor and writer Paterson recounts his youth in his memoirs.
arts SIGHT Learning some manners
>> Tom Bonnick As well as providing an unmissable opportunity to buy as much hearts ’n’ teddy bear-encrusted merchandise that Hallmarks can fob on its unwitting public, this past Valentine’s Day also marked the 20th anniversary of the public issuance by Ayatollah Khomeini of a fatwa upon Salman Rushdie for his novel The Satanic Verses; deemed by Khomeini to be blasphemous against the prophet Muhammed. The fatwa — essentially a death sentence for Rushdie — condemned the author to years living underground, as well as resulting in the assassination of the novel’s Japanese translator and the attempted murders of several of its international publishers and translators. Although the fatwa was rescinded (sort of ) in 1998 — with the Iranian government promising to neither “support nor hinder assassination operations” — and Rushdie has since come out of hiding, a recent resurgence in hard line rhetoric amongst the country’s spiritual leadership has led to reaffirmation of intent. This intent hasn’t amounted to much in recent times, but the impact of
— and the constant, abrupt changes of scene — each one heralded in by Rita bursting into Frank’s office and closed with pithy summary — as a means of developing the story gives the play the feel of being made up of a series of montage-ish, episodic vignettes, rather than a single coalescing story. Even though the message of female empowerment has a very 80s feel to its delivery, and Russell using Rita as mouthpiece for a rather confusing set of ideologies, from bourgeois cultural values to anti-consumerist ones, feels contrived, Educating Rita is still a wholly likeable story, and under Jeremy Raison’s able direction, this production acquits itself endearingly well.
the fatwa is still being felt today, and ironically, has achieved a level of selfcensorship within the arts which could not be any greater had the attempts on Rushdie’s life even been successful. The practice of publishers, film distributors, theatres and production companies applying the red pen to their own works for fear of possible reprisal — whether from religious communities or elsewhere — has been on the gradual increase for several years now, periodically coming to a head with violent — or at the very least, emphatic — outbursts, recently, with the case of the Danish cartoons. The issue of self-censorship and its inherent dangers is clouded by the fact that whereas some incidences — including the Danish one — surround a patently untenable position, that of defying one of Islam’s most sacred tenets with antagonising pseudo-satire, others (the Russell Brand/ Jonathan Ross/ Andrew Sachs affair springs to mind) are invoked for reasons no more valid than the tabloid press flexing its indignant muscles and seeing how far its Middle England readership will take the bait. The consequences of these rabble-rousing campaigns is that institutions such as the BBC perpetuate a climate of timidity and spinelessness, stifling artistic talent and pre-emptively squashing any endeavour with a hint of risk to it — and it is this aspect; the fear of criticism which is only anticipated, not even material, which is so threatening. Another recent anniversary — fifteen years passing since Bill Hicks’ death — had me thinking. If Hicks were around today, would he get away with his brand of urgent, intelligent, and very rude comedy? If the answer is no, as I suspect it might be, then there can be no greater argument for the extent to which ruthlessly sanitising the arts is damaging our collective intelligence; our national consciousness; and our ability to express free speech.
Heretics and Philistines Dominic Maxwell-Lewis is disappointed by the Tron's overambition in Defender of the Faith
et in a farmhouse on the Irish border against a backdrop of uncompromising republicanism, Defender of The Faith tells the story of a family torn apart by an allegiance to the IRA. The play follows the story of a subsequent search for a police informer within the family that stretches relationships and heightens tensions. From the outset, Andy Arnold’s production had some good
the play lacked cohesion. The formula seemed unbeatable, a classic thriller with a series of stock characters that keep the audience within their comfort zone and a plot with a secret to reveal. An un-daring but strong exercise in realism where relationships are explored and preconceptions are deceived. However, the simplicity was overlooked and the production set out to try and achieve too many things at once. The grip of paranoia that one hopes would build gradually with a pace growing at a menacing rate instead arrives abruptly three quarters of the way through with a fiercely hammy dialogue between father and son. This scene displays a self-conscious pace (noticeable throughout the play) that prevents the brooding atmosphere that the play boasts in its programme from happening.
“The grip of paranoia that one hopes would build gradually with a pace growing at a menacing rate instead arrives abruptly three quarters of the way through”
moments, especially between the two brothers in the opening scenes. Here, comedy and domestic brutality seem to be interwoven, each event acting as a springboard for the arrival of the next. However, its success is short lived. With the growing presence of the father, who usurps his power to great effect initially, there came a point where it seemed two plays ran in parallel, a strange parody of Irish stereotypes and a crass polemic on the Northern Irish ‘Troubles’. This is to say that
This is truly a shame given that in Defender of The Faith’s better moments, which move away from a reliance on stage Irish there is a real lyricism that flows when the Actors relaxed into their characters. The use of coarse country language and primal symbolism gave a nod to the macabre, blackly comic plays of Martin McDonagh, who used the Irish vernacular successfully to portray the fine balance between tension and aggression. This is where Defender of The Faith’s biggest shortcoming lay; the occasional feeling of tension was created by an outward act of aggression and not a subtlety of dialogue or physicality. This gave the whole production a feeling of heavy-handedness, which restrained the compassion that could have otherwise come through should the range of expression been more controlled and varied.
Giving weight to proceedings Markee Rambo-Hood on a bold but flawed performance of Paperweight at the Citizens Theatre
aperweight details the struggle of two office workers and the monotony of their office life. The play follows a working day in the life of Harry and Anthony (devised and played by Tom Frankland and Sebastien Lawson), whose time is filled with mindless tasks include blowing up balloons, stuffing paperwork in envelopes and taking messages from the answering machine. The result is a performance that mirrors office life to such an extent, that if not for the short length of this play, it would be easy to be bored with the piece. Unfortunately, the build and the culmination are the only genuinely entertaining qualities of the performance, as both Harry and Anthony divulge further and further into their insanity. The climax comes as Anthony snaps from the pressure of turning thirty, combined with the unhappiness of his life, he strips nude and destroys his computer. This moment is such a release from the excessive monotony of the rest of the show that you do experience Anthony’s liberation along with the character on stage. Sadly, however, the play operates as a considerably less funny version of the TV series The Office,
and does not offer any further commentary on aspects of white collar life. Where the show ought to be commended is in its willingness to embrace naturalism to its fullest extent, as experienced during a scene when both actors remain completely still during the time it took for them to boil water in a kettle.
“It mirrors office life to such an extent that if not for the short length of this play, it would be easy to be bored” The further use of naturalistic lighting (two florescent lights and a couple of lamps) and sound (almost all noise is derived from the device intended to make it; so, for example, music from computer speakers are actually projected from computer speakers, instead of the sound system) is a bold and unusual move. That so little theatre is prepared to take these risks, opting instead for a more fabricated show that operates as a spectacle, makes Paperweight come as a pleasant relief. (Markee Rambo-Hood)
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Not that you need it
Claire Strickett ups her caffeine intake and reviews coffee houses in the West End
here are times in life — after a grilling in your 9am tutorial; when you have 1000 words to go on your essay the day before the deadline — when only a coffee will do. Nothing compares to the kick of a drink made with a real espresso machine and perfectly roasted beans at the hand of a skilled barista. Even in these financially tight times, it’s one of life’s little luxuries that won’t break the bank. All the same, if you’re treating yourself to a £2 cup of coffee, you want to know that you’re getting your money’s worth. We’re spoiled for choice around campus – but which West End café really gives you the best buzz for your buck?
I decided to adopt the cappuccino, the Italian breakfast drink that’s become the symbol of Britain’s modern café culture, as my coffee barometer. According to the official Italian guidelines (no, really), the perfect cappuccino equals 1 shot of espresso mixed with 125ml of warm milk, heated to no more than 650C. The ‘microfoam’ that tops it off should have bubbles so tiny as to be nearly invisible, and be swirled with chestnut-brown streaks. Finally the whole thing should be served up in a wide, relatively shallow ceramic cappuccino cup. With this in mind, my first testing ground was Beanscene. Negotiating my way through the yummy mummies, prams and small children that this café
attracts, I paid £2.10 for a small cappuccino. The cocoadusted foam was acceptable, but underneath lurked bitter, murky coffee, more like a watered down espresso than one blended with creamy frothed milk. Drinkable, but only if you’re desperate — which I wasn’t. I then moved to Little Italy, a traditional, bustling Glaswegian-Italian café on Byres Road. Here they charged only £1.60 and presented my coffee in a proper cappuccino cup. That was the only clue as to what lay inside. Under the foam was something that tasted like hot milk with the tiniest drip of coffee, this Italian proving diminutive in flavour as well as in name. Just over the road is Tinderbox, a West End institution that certainly looks the part. I had high hopes for such an obviously popular coffee bar, but the cappuccino here was surprisingly amateurishly assembled and, taste-wise, the worst of the lot so far. Bitter, aggressive and one-dimensional, if you’re really this desperate for caffeine you’d be better off grinding up a ProPlus and mixing it with ditchwater. Beginning to lose heart, I trudged up to the top of Byres Road to Heart Buchanan’s sit-in café. The wrong kind of cup, true, but I can forgive them that. The beautifully swirled foam concealed – finally! – a perfect blend of comforting, creamy milk and the most delicious cappuccino I’ve tasted in a long time. Rich, complex, strong but not bitter, this is how coffee ought to be. Hardly surprising, when you learn that this place sources its beans from London’s legendary Monmouth Coffee Co. At £2.20 it was the most expensive drink of all, but only just, and that’s a small price to pay for rediscovering how good coffee can really be.
Swap shop >> Michelle Williams
loom is looming, credit is crunching, and it’s still too expensive to turn the heating on. Given the ever more realistic prospect that none of us may ever find the proper job we need to fend off the dreaded Student Loans repayment man, it’s time to be realistic about our spending habits. As term wears on and the overdraft inches out a spot further, it can be difficult to justify food purchases to yourself, never mind the whimsical wardrobe additions we all indulge in from time to time. Welcome to the world of clothes swapping. With each successive financial low in the economy at large, the clothes swapping movement gathers pace as people latch on to the concept of satisfying the thrill of the new without the accompanying emptying of the purse. Clothes swapping is cropping up in various forms nationwide, with events held at a range of locations around Glasgow. So called ‘Swishing’ events are permeating bar and restaurant venues throughout
the city, and offer an evening of fashion based, ethical recycling. Each participant must bring along at least one item of quality clothing that they’re willing to part with, and may leave with as many as they wish after a presumably fraught countdown to commence the Swish. If all this sounds a little too similar to an Ann Summers party for comfort, (Swishing rules conclude with “Remember ladies: no scratching, spitting or biting!”) then CovertCandy might be the place for you. This new website, created by Glasgow graduates and financed by their student loans, offers an efficient and convenient forum for clothes swapping. Having shied away from the prospect of sacrificing my own, fussily maintained clothes under the pressure of trying to locate an elusive double coincidence of wants with a stranger at a swap event, CovertCandy solves the problem that blights barter economies by introducing an all important non-monetary medium of exchange. The user friendly site allows you to list items with photos, and other users request them for a credit price of
your choosing. You are then free to build up your earned credits in order to swap them for anything that takes your fancy — all the attraction of eBay, but without the financial outlay. Still in its early stages, the site shows enormous potential, and is sure to improve as membership numbers swell. Already, my flatmate has transferred her crippling eBay addiction to the site, using it as an online shopping nicotine patch in an effort to give her bank account a break.
Whether you’re attracted by the sociable, frantic aspects of a swap event, the guilt-free shopping experience of a website, or simply the idea of clothes recycling as a way to fuel ethical fashion, CovertCandy could be right when they predict the movement as heralding a clothing revolution. www.swishing.org www.checamille.com www.covertcandy.co.uk
>> Ben Freeman Walking through Frasers recently, I was stopped in my tracks by a Chanel advert, for all the wrong reasons. I was not stunned by Nicole Kidman’s glowing skin or luscious locks; I was shocked by how unnatural she looked. There’s no way on God’s green earth that she looks that young and fresh. I spied the artistry of Photoshop and that got me thinking; how much airbrushing is too much? Do we want our celebrities plastic — like Barbie — or somewhat more realistic and loveable? When HRH The Princess of Pop, Britney’s new album was released, even her most hardcore fan (i.e. me) became slightly suspicious when greeted with her plastic limbed promo shots. Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate how much good ol’ Britney has been working out, but no amount of cross trainer can create the retouched vision
“She looks like someone from another planet” I saw before me. Yet another celebrity who appears to have morphed into a completely different person via a stop at airbrushing central is Courtney Cox. I don’t kow what happened to the lovely Monica Geller, maybe we should send out at search party? Cover girl of February’s Marie Claire, Court, a woman of 45, appears without a blemish or pore. Cox doesn’t even look like someone half her age; rather, she looks like someone from another planet. I do understand the necessity of airbrushing to a certain degree. If sod’s law strikes you down with a facial break-out on the day of shooting your album cover, then yeah, use a wee bit of retouching, but that’s where I draw the line, or we end up with technologicallycreated plastic celebs. I believe it has fallen to me (and the naturally beautiful Kate Winslet) to say Hollywood stop, the jig is up! We know no one looks like that so stop this insane conspiracy! These doctored pictures are dangerous, promoting comletely unattainable images. They are used as a benchmark of how we’re meant to look, but how can we achieve that level of beauty when even the subjects of the photos can’t? This fake form of gorgeousness is boring and must stop. In short, too much airbrushing equals one big fat lie.
inSIGHT the interview
Emmy: the greates
Emmy the Great’s frontwoman stops to talk Cantopop, Sweet Valley High an Emma-Lee Moss has been ‘next year’s big thing’ since 2006. This year, she’s more of a buried treasure. It seems folk was last year, with Noah and the Whale omnipresent on the radio and Laura Marling feyly slinking her way into every top ten list. If you dig beneath the identikit electro peddlers set to soundtrack this summer, however, you may find something in this unassuming young woman’s music that was lacking in her forbears, an honesty and immediacy that isn’t hidden behind ukelele or overwrought lyrics. Working within her own timeframe, she released her debut album First Love in February, almost three years since her first single Secret Circus. Much of the press surrounding the release of the album seemed to insist, rather unfairly, on emphasising the length of time it has taken as if something must have went wrong, as some sort of mistake. With youth and artlessness fetishized in the music industry at the moment, there have been quite a few victims of the prematurely expanding career. Moss has evaded this danger, quietly honing her sound for a number of years, and it has been well worth the wait. Meeting her before her Valentine’s day gig in a tiny and very angular King Tut’s dressing room, I ask if she found the impatience of the music press as ridiculous as I did.
She screws up her face and bats away the idea with her hand, “I feel that way but … one person says it and then everyone picks up on it. Some people feel like it’s been a long time because they’ve been aware of my music since the beginning”. Indeed, through steady touring and intermittently released EPs, interest in Moss’s music has remained consistent, if slow burning. The degree to which she has matured as a singer and songwriter between her first EP and tonight’s gig vindicates her decision to play it slow, as easy as it would have been to exploit her youth for an earlier record deal. “It feels pretty natural. I think it’s because I was coming out of the same scene as Kate Nash and she went absolutely massive” — she is not in it to reach Nash levels of success, though, softly adding “Some people just have a different part”. Moss is not playing her part alone, and encourages recognising the moniker she plays under as a referent for the whole band, and not just a stage name for herself: “Everyone has their own projects, but this is a project we all contribute to”. When asked how the differing styles each member plays when apart from the band adds to the aesthetic of Emmy the Great, she emphasises with no small degree of pride “It is Emmy the Great”.
Looking on her Myspace, you can follow each band member back to their own projects, each following divergent genres. You can also follow a link to a bewildering Youtube video for Cantonese pop star Aaron Kwok, dancing in various states of undress and peppering his song with awkward bilingualism. Moss’s face lights up at the mention of his name, half disbelief and half glee, and she starts humming the
“I think Arab Strap is a celebration, and I think (Charles) Bukowski can do whatever he wants to women– but I was offended by this novel, I thought ‘Jesus Christ, he really hates this woman!’” refrain for my benefit. “It’s like my favourite song in the world. It’s funny because it’s cheesy as fuck and it’s got no irony, and Cantopop stars don’t seem to know people are laughing.” There is an air of pretension that follows around many of the musicians that have emerged lately from the same London scene that Moss is a part of, but she frankly admits interests credible or otherwise. “The thing is, I can laugh at Aaron Kwok here in this dressing room, but he is one of the biggest
st show on earth?
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nd Samuel Beckett with Oisín Kealy stars in the world and is probably really really happy”, she muses with a decided chuckle. As a writer for Stool Pigeon she has become used to being on my end of the Dictaphone. This is good for me, as she obviously has sympathy for those who interview taciturn performers suffering from tour and press fatigue, being unaffectedly engaging and talkative throughout our meeting. She had spent the week previous editing the UK based music website Drowned in Sound, and her interest in writing reveals itself through her assiduous crafting of lyrics. Though more well known for her musical ventures, writing was Moss’s primary interest for much of her youth. “I used to distribute newspapers around my family home, I edited the school newspaper and I wrote a play at school". The two go hand in hand though, “It’s never been one passion. It’s been more like I love writing songs, but tomorrow I might want to write only diaries”. When asked if this is a career path she would consider for the future, she once again displays unashamed honesty in admitting her current literary concerns. “I kind of want to write generic teen novels. I’m reading Sweet Valley High at the moment and I’m feeling so inspired”, also confessing to reading “a fuck of a lot” of Buffy tie-in novels. While the future may be littered with the low brow, one current scholarly preoccupation is esteemed at least as much as anything from the Sweet Valley High canon. “Samuel Beckett wasn’t really a literary influence, it was just that one story that gripped me”. The title track of her album retells one of Beckett’s lesser-known short stories, also called First Love. In it, a homeless man befriends a woman in a park, she falls in love with him and becomes pregnant, only for him to abandon her as she gives birth. “I think I’m quite and open minded person; I think Arab Strap is a celebration and I think (Charles) Bukowski can do whatever he wants to women and it’s fine — but I was offended by this novel. I thought ‘Jesus fucking Christ, he really hates this woman!’ “. True enough, a cursory reading of the novel vindicates these accusations of misogyny, at one point the narrator thinking of his lover, considers “Kicking her in the cunt”. Despite the arresting quality of the book, Moss claims it was not entirely intentional at first to use the narrative as a basis for the song. “I thought about that book so much, and when I started writing that song I realised what I was writing was basically the story”, only seeing how her failed relationship paralleled with the novella when her ideas overlapped. She is wooed in the song by a cassette playing ‘Hallelujah’–”The original Leonard Cohen version”. The luck of timing would have it that this album was delayed from September, when the obvious oppositional version would be Jeff Buckley’s, until February, after two months of forced acclimatisation to Alexandra Burke’s sacrilegiously vapid performance of the song. “I read on the internet that it’s a cosmic joke”, she laughs; but Burke, like Kwok, will be laughing all the way to he bank after inking a 3.5 million pound contract. Moss is flippant, “Yeah well, she’ll probably sell 3.5 albums”. Alas, If only that were the case. With three religious refrains on the album (the aforementioned Hallelujah, Kyrie Eleison and Gloria in Excelsis Deo), it seems pointed that Easter Parade gives a pretty disillusioning description of religious tradition. “I think Easter Parade is more about Idealism. It’s about these girls growing up in a religious community, and they suddenly realise the things they are told are not always true. It’s not specifically about Christianity, it’s more about how not everything works out the way it should”. It seems the album is full of songs along this vein, the spectre of a failed relationship influencing the overall tone. She has, however, got back together with the very man that is so pilloried in songs like ‘24’, ‘Dylan’ and first single ‘We Almost Had a Baby’. This move to confessional songs is a bit of a departure from her earlier work, which followed fictional narratives rather than real life events.
“I might go back to writing general actually because I feel sometimes as if I can’t look my boyfriend in the eye it’s so bad”, understandable, with lyrics which by turns make him sound patronising, pretentious, careless, lazy and money scrounging — often in the same song. It is also understandable that Moss would want to expose his faults upon
“I was reading a lot of Anne Sexton and Anais Nin, and I was thinking this is my contribution to that genre, this is all about my fucking vagina” break-up, but the unprecedented reconciliation has been affected by her candour. “It’s definitely meant that he’s not as supportive about my gigs as he used to be” she reveals with a nervous laugh. “At the time it made perfect sense, I was reading a lot of Anne Sexton and Anais Nin, and I was thinking this is my contribution to that genre, this
is all about my fucking vagina”, she finishes, unable to keep a straight face as she exposes the sentiment. In the spirit of the evening, and in light of the genital preoccupation, I ask what her favourite love song is. She answers without hesitation, “The Saturday Boy by Billy Bragg. It’s about the first love you when you’re in school, I swear there is no more passionate love than the person you are in love with at school who doesn’t know you exist, it’s so sad!”. Asking if I’ve heard it, she gets out her laptop with enthusiasm and opens iTunes, leaving me to listen to it as she does her sound check. It’s a touch more poignant than romantic, Bragg having to look up the word “unrequited” in the dictionary, but it seems a distinctly apt choice for Moss in Light of her album. He conveys the masochistic, self-pitying and disappointing nature of first love, the very nature Moss expresses with her new release. It gives the evening a very anti-Valentine’s feeling, but the lonely hearts beaming at her throughout the gig don’t think of complaining.
Petering interest Peter Doherty - The Arches 24/02/2009 >> Laura Cernis Languorous types Ex-Lovers kick off tonight’s proceedings. Sadly, their half-dreamy, half-bored take on inter-band relationships (as The NME would have it) loses its wintery, ethereal quality in a space so huge and is simply lost on the disinterested crowd. It’s somewhat of a shame; in a smaller venue the sleepy calling of their boy/girl harmonies and disillusioned lyrics would probably draw in new fans. It’s rather an easy feat for a new band’s sound to get lost in the Barrows anytime — especially tonight; the trilby-wearing, cat-calling crowd are shamefully aware of only one singer. Always surrounded by controversy, Doherty’s forthcoming solo record (Grace/Wasteland) has been shadowed by the usual tales of kebab debauchery — to some extent explaining the air of excited anticipation on this, his second date of his solo UK tour. Waltzing onto the stage to a mass of applause, Doherty launches straight into an acoustic version of old Libertines’ favourite, ‘Music When The Lights Go Out’. Appeasing the waiting fans immediately, this sets the standard for the night. His new solo material being the priority of this tour, Doherty interweaves new tales of murder, death and love with the old familiar strains of the demise of Albion and English Arcadia.
Gigs The Broken Family Band 06/03/09 ABC2 Critically acclaimed yet shamefully overlooked, they have both the privelege of being one of the later bands championed by John Peel and the relative ignominy of having a song featured on Skins. Their guitar-led indie rock is brought to Glasgow as part of the JD set.
It’s clear that Doherty still retains his talent as a lyricist, but while the new tracks obtain a fair reception, it is the Libertines’ tracks and occasional Babyshambles ones that receive the greatest response — ‘Fuck Forever’ being one of the few moments when the crowd appear truly content. The new tracks are padded out with the ever-available Graham Coxon on guitar, and the odd cellist and violinist thrown in for good measure — this does add to the musical bonanza of the night, but I can’t shake the feeling
Howling Bells 11/03/09 Classic Grand The Aussie chamber pop peddlers return prepared this year with a more electro infused sound. Centred around Stein siblings Juanita and Joel, the new album looks set to put the disco back into discord.
“Doherty Interweaves new tales of murder, death and love with old familiar strains of the demise of Albion” that most people are here for either Libertines/ Babyshambles reminiscences or the ‘Who’s got the crack?’ t-shirts on sale in the other room. Few people seem genuinely excited about the prospect of hearing new material tonight, and the tracks don’t stand out in the vast room without an exultant crowd propping them up with all the enthusiasm of the tone-deaf. All in all, it’s an odd evening. The Libertines’ songs Doherty plays retain the promise they did years ago, but his new material appears to merely hold resonances of his talent. Perhaps it is the fault of the cavernous venue, but I can’t help feeling his new material would illustrate its worth much better in a more intimate setting. Tonight, unfortunately, it seems Doherty’s notoriety has given him a stage too big to convincingly fill.
M. Ward Hold Time
Instal 20-22/03/09 The Arches, CCA, Glasgow University Chapel A multi-venue weekend of experimental music, this should give you something to scratch your chin about. Performances range from electroacoustic tomfoolery through sparse organ works and on to near silence, don’t expect to hear a catchy chorus– or indeed, any chorus.
Lily Allen It’s Not Me, It’s You
4AD - 16/02/09
Regal Recordings - 09/02/09
Matt Ward has been quietly earning almost universal respect in indie circles over the last ten years, and returns with a record marking a progression in his sound. He now marries his rootsy blues to the pop sensibilities of the sixties that had been explored with Zooey Deschanel in last years impressive She & Him project, but produces mixed results. Like with previous releases featuring Jenny Lewis and Neko Case, Ward once again invites a selection of ladies to add to the texture of his album. Lucinda Wiliiams’s voice is a bit like marmite: Aside from inferring that you will either love it or hate it, it is also viscous, gurgling and requires sober judgment when considering what to serve it with– the latter obviously missing with her guest appearance on ‘Oh Lonesome Me’, as their similar gravely vocals give the peculiar impression that they are doing impressions of each other. Deschanel’s presence on ‘Never Had Nobody Like You’ and Buddy Holly’s ‘Rave on’, however, turn them into true highlights of the album. The sweetness and distance of Deschanel’s harmony providing a solid ground for his distorted guitar on the first, while the Holly cover utilises the often tiring Spectoresque wall-of-sound production technique of the album to winningly combine two distinct eras of musical history. Some of Ward’s own compositions, however, aren’t quite as successful: The title track sounds a little like the piped world music you might hear in a second-rate health spa. In other places he seems to be treading old ground, ‘Fisher of Men’ and ‘To Save Me’ bearing a little too much similarity to ‘Chinese Translation’ and ‘Big Boat’ from previous albums respectively This is essentially still a good album, but too many songs lack any distinctive character. More attention to melody, and this album could have been stunning; as it stands, it’s a sad case of style over substance. (Oisín kealy)
Whatever one’s feelings are vis a vis Lily Allen, it seems unreasonable that in order to be considered a success — and thereby acquitting its progeny of several years worth of drunken misdeeds — any new release must not merely be considered musically proficient, or heaven forbid, ‘kind of fun to listen to’, but nothing less than a cultural barometer for its time. It’s Not Me, It’s You is not exactly the zeitgeist-ish affair that its predecessor, Alright, Still was, but it certainly proves that Ms Allen hasn’t entirely replaced the creative juices with alcoholic ones. More than anything else, this album betrays that frequently insisted wish of Allen’s to be Grown Up And Mature. This isn’t to say that it actually is either of these things, but the effort ought to be commended. Rather than resting on her slightly tarnished laurels and reissuing a sound that might seem trite and formulaic the second time around, Allen has produced a record that has lost none of the witty lyricism and endearing rudeness of her debut. The disappearance of Alright, Still’s funky calypso rhythms and upbeat tempo — substituted for occasional use of the ‘ubiquitous in British pop’ electro beats and a more thoughtful, if subdued, pace — is a slight shame, and there is no immediately stand-out melody with the catchiness of LDN or Smile (a problem that constant radio exposure will no doubt soon put paid to), but nor is there any one particularly weak track. Fuck You — written about everybody’s favourite ex-President — has a juvenilia about it at odds with Allen’s professed sophistication, and seems redundant given that Dubya isn’t currently enjoying a welcome reception, but nonetheless has a refrain which can’t be faulted. Even if the enthusiastic rejection of her previous style is disappointing, It’s Not Me, It’s You should still vindicate Allen’s extracurricular activities — but don’t worry, Many Detractors: she’s still Keith Allen’s daughter. (Tom Bonnick)
The Noisettes 18/03/09 ABC2 Touring just ahead of the release of forthcoming album Wild Young Hearts, the trio will no doubt be giving an energetic performance to preview the new material. Riotous soul-injected rock enhanced by the acrobatic vocals of lead singer Shingai Shoniwa. Stiff Little Fingers 17/03/09 Barrowlands Forming during the troubles in Belfast, Stiff Little Fingers are apparently still at it. Classic punk with an ear for melody, hopefully this won’t dissolve into a nostalgia act; they’re too good for that.
Clubs Nevereverland 13/03/09 The Arches The Modular records event comes to Scotland with sets from Africa Bambaataa, Alexis Taylor (Hot Chip) and Tame Impala among others. Modular DJs will be in place to keep the party going well into the night. Death Disco 21/03/09 The Arches A night which needs no introduction, this month a host of guests well be making it one to remember. With Radio 1’s Annie Mac as MC, there is live music from emerging digitaleer Frankmusik as well as a Mystery Jets DJ set along with all the usual fluorescent capers.
PA G E
Enjoy the silence
Out with the Touts
Shhh! An Evening of (Not So) Silent Films - Arches 22/02/2009 >> Oisín Kealy
Before we are shown the student films which this evening is advertised around, each band involved are get to to express themselves through their own choice of stock footage. First to get this opportunity is Dolby Anol/Ben Butler and Mousepad, and they don’t ease us in. As they run in circles around the desk that holds their machinery, we are treated to a video of sado-masochistic Asian nuns beating each other with rose stems and whips — naked. Jarring electro provides a suitable soundtrack to the visual assault, all apocalyptic sci-fi synth and cyclical keyboard hooks. The messiness of the performance enhances it, spinning wildly out of control as the footage flits from nun snuff to a seventies roller disco. A little more discipline is displayed next by Zoey Van Goey, who aid a Chaplin-like interval performer a farcical production, synchronising their instrumental attacks with his movements. They teasingly leave the stage after this short skit, and in their place are left sweaty metalmongers Holy Mountain, stirring up a very unholy racket to a redundantly obvious video of Apocalypse, Now (yeah I get it, war is hard, so is RAWK!). Their music goes nowhere slowly, but makes up for its narrowness with sheer volume. As they finish, I can hear a choir of ear nerves dying in harmony; they weren’t worth the slaughter. Zoey Van Goey return to do a bit of aural damage control, setting their subtly absorbing melodies to a series of public information films
>> Oisín Kealy
which by turns warn against the dangers of heavy petting and educate as to the proper way to survive nuclear attack– duck and cover. The latter film is soundtracked, rather drolly, by ‘City is Exploding’. The initial effect is of absurdity, watching families throw themselves under picnic blankets while the reds advance, but as Kim Moore’s sweet vocals reach the plaintive chorus, it becomes utterly compelling. Despite the generally strong performances tonight, Van Goey are the only ones the strike a convincing balance between song and film, playing with rather than competing against their assisting medium. A measured performance from My Latest Novel ends the live music portion of the evening, not quite as dynamic as the other acts, but neither
is their music. It is all about slow building, multilayered anthems, new song ‘Dragonhide’ typifying this as droning guitars progress to recieve support from violin, keyboard and vocal harmonies. It isn’t the lightest way to end the evening, but a quintet of student made videos set to the songs of the bands soon dispense with the intensity .They are a mixed bag, running the gamut from raving mice to Hiltonesque sex tape, and other than the retro-arcade accompaniment for Ben Butler and Mousepad never really succeed in expressing the sentiment of their soundtrack. A disappointment considering the aim of the evening, but rescued as it is by the live performances, no one complains that these have been tacked on as a coda.
Lights off - rock on Das Pop - King Tut’s 17/02/2009 >> Ellie Gallagher
“Children of Glasgow. We are Das Pop. We are going to be your friends tonight.” Lights focus on sparkling drums, then bass, guitar and finally vocals; a slick opening to a buzzing, animated and surprisingly friendly set by not any mere pop group, rather the pop group creeping across Europe. The choreographed introduction bled into single Fool For Love, the Belgian foursome’s childish energy seeping into every corner of King Tut’s. No one man carried the show. Piano faced drums, each player abided by the rules while visibly enjoying on-stage banter: challenging, joking and prompting each other. An atmosphere of juvenile fun and partying developed within the span of just a couple of tracks, and the feeling was shared between the band and the undeservedly thin crowd alike. Front man Bent Van Looy’s clear, bold words, delivered with just the right combination of arrogance and affection to the tiny crowd, broke down the barrier with karate kid-ease; his verbal highkicks suggesting they were genuinely pleased to
be at our service. Leading drums, always central though never overwhelming, were accompanied by arresting bass hooks in the likes of Underground, their summer release, while guitar and its siblings sat comfortably throughout. Everything was going swimmingly until — disaster struck. A complete power cut snatched any sound from both guitars and piano and threw silence in their place. Did chaos ensue — drumsticks thrown to the floor in rage, incoherent abuse hurled from one Belgian to another? More like, did the crowd even notice? The lull mid track led seamlessly into an impromptu drum solo thickened within seconds by tambourines and cowbells, just a few puzzled glances and scurrying roadies giving any hint of a change of plan. Like the chocolates their homeland is famous for, sheer smoothness. Das Pop’s creativity didn’t stop there either. A carefully designed light show accompanied the set transforming the four into characters worthy of a Frank Miller graphic novel. The delicate combination of a total blackout at the musical climax of their latest release, Try Again, followed by strategic strobe lighting drew them as black and white shapes, all lines and edges. Speech bubbles would compliment Bent’s sonic assault nicely.
Das Pop gave a solid performance from beginning to end, almost try-hard. The kind of wide-eyed, open-hearted pop one seems to like to dislike, even hate, but simply, deep down, can’t help falling for.
The Concert Promoters Association have recently unveiled a new anti-ticket tout website in an effort to protect concert goers from the dangers of the trade. Using a strict system of registered ticket numbers and addresses, officialboxoffice. com is setting itself up to attract touts away from sites like Seatwave or eBay where fans can pay for tickets that then fail to materialize: All very benevolent of them, then. Maybe not. Unlike others, they let sellers list their tickets at no charge, and have the buyer pick up the tab through a 12.5% service charge — this comes to an extra £175 if you purchase a pair of Madonna tickets that are currently listed there. As much as this could be seen as a taste tax (a third row view of her ageing yet thrusting crotch would be price enough, personally), it certainly seems to fly in the face of the pro-fan/anti-tout sentiment they are peddling to advertise the venture. In fairness, the stricter measures do guarantee fans that their tickets are genuine, but coming after years of
“Touts are the haemorrhoids on the rear-end of the music business”
lobbying against the second-hand market, it throws their motives in a different light. I don’t think it is overly cynical to look at this as an attempt to muscle in on the lucrative enterprise. Concert promoters share their profits from the tickets with the acts, touts don’t. If the tickets sell for only fifty percent more than face value, they are often still making more money than the promoters have on the same ticket. Using the front of benevolent giants they can benefit and attempt to deflect any judgment, like watching Hollyoaks ironically. It’s going to take legislation to make any real difference, and that is not going to be passed anytime soon going by recent reports, the government preferring a free market place. A surprising amount of people share this view, praising the activity for its capitalist opportunism and seeing it as beautiful market forces at work. These people are rarely music fans. These people have never set their alarm for half eight on a Sunday morning in an attempt to procure tickets on release, only to see them sold out before they can type whatever non-word (“weftage”?) is demanded as verification. Writers in favour of touting are also, unsurprisingly, generally solvent enough to afford the inflation. I might be a bit harsh, holding the opinion myself that ticket touts are the haemorrhoids on the rear-end of the music business, erupting in dubious niches to irritate and distress. Unlike haemorrhoids, however, It will take more than a warm bath to get rid of them. Music is not a commodity, it is something ineffable, and the most deserving investment will always be emotional, not financial.
The last American hero Gran Torino
Dir: Clint Eastwood On general release now
>> Claire Strickett
or what it has been said will be his last ever appearance in front of the camera, Clint Eastwood has chosen a role that cleverly plays on our familiarity with his long, impressive career. Gran Torino casts a complex and nuanced look at the themes with which he has so often been linked with — American identity, violence and masculinity. Eastwood (who also directs) plays Walt Kowalski, a newly-widowed Korean war vet who’s apparently set on spending his retirement from the Ford plant sitting alone on his front porch, growling to himself about the state of his suburban Detroit neighbourhood (run down, nothing but immigrants) and the state of his country (disrespectful youth, self-centred and materialistic adults). Walt has a line in racist insults that must outrun the vocabulary of even the most studious member of the BNP, and it’s hard to imagine anyone other than Eastwood pulling off this kind of character. We warm to the racist old curmudgeon, of course, because we just know that underneath the tough, gun-toting exterior he’s just a big softie. When Walt meets his neighbours, a family of Hmong (a SouthEast Asian minority) immigrants — or Gooks, as Mr. Sensitivity prefers — a chain of events is begun that allows that heart of gold to shine through. Upon catching the shy, insecure boy from next door in his garage one night, attempting to steal his 1972 Gran Torino as part of a forced initiation into one of the local gangs, this most inauspicious of beginnings leads to an unlikely friendship between the old man, the boy, Thao, and his independent and feisty sister, Sue, in which Walt’s prejudices are challenged and his mind opened. It’s a set-up that could have been corny and obvious, but isn’t, thanks to a sparkling and often very witty script that rounds out every character, even the most minor, with shades of light and dark that were almost entirely absent in Eastwood’s previous directorial outing, Changeling. Walt takes Thao under his wing, attempting to instil in him all the rules of the old American way, but as the film progresses it slowly becomes evident that the Walt’s old macho, patriotic attitude simply doesn’t fit the new America any more – and that, perhaps, it never truly solved anything in the first place. The more involved that Walt
The Young Victoria Dir: Jean-Marc Valée Released 6th March
>> Louise Ogden Despite being England's longest reigning monarch to date, Victoria has hardly proved a feature film favourite, her most notable depiction being ‘Mrs Brown’, in which Judi Dench painted a picture of the sour-faced, mourning widow she became in her later life. The ‘Famine Queen’ is portrayed as a woman so dependent on her husband, Prince Albert, that his death completely devastated her, severely hampering her ability to rule the country. Hardly an image of female strength and autonomy. The Young Victoria aims to redress this image of the ruler as a needy, dependent woman, providing insight into her formative years as a princess and newly crowned queen. Although a strange casting choice, Emily Blunt proves adept at re-inventing the protagonist’s image, infusing her with the youthfulness and sexuality with which she is rarely associated, while
gets in Thao and Sue’s world, the more he’s drawn into the ethnic gang rivalry that blights his new friends’ lives, and the meeting of the two Americas reaches its poignant climax. This film’s greatest strength is the subtly and open-mindedness with which it treats its themes, and big ones at that — race, identity, violence, life and death. There’s a sense of something lost, but not
hinting at characteristics associated with her later life. The film opens with the adolescent Victoria, describing her early life under the auspices of her over-protective mother (Miranda Richardson) and advisor (Mark Strong). It is under these circumstances that she first discovers the hopes a powerful nation have weighed on her young shoulders as the only living heir to the throne. Her two royal uncles, King William IV (Jim Broadbent) and King Leopold of Belgium, are adamant that she should marry the grooms that they have chosen, respectively. Albert (Rupert Friend), Victoria’s first cousin and nephew to Leopold is his choice for her. The princess remains resolute that she will rebel
without a critique of America’s past and its hypocrisies. There’s some promise in the next generation of new Americans, but in the context of a society riven by racism, hopelessness and aggression. Gran Torino provides no easy answers, but it provides a wise, understated and fitting performance with which Eastwood has chosen to end a truly great acting career.
against the expectations of her family, and will not marry for her uncles’ political gain, and yet, against her better judgement, strikes up a friendship with Albert. And so begins the long-distance courtship that leads to their marriage. The film is very much a showcase for Blunt’s weighty performance as the monarch, but Friend is equally striking, conveying the measured nuances of a man who must learn to indefinitely take a back seat to his wife. Paul Bettany, playing a man much older than he is, provides a further stand-out performance as Lord Melbourne, summoning the appropriate maturity and persuasiveness required for the the role. The script, by Gosford Park writer Julian Fellowes, is easy
for non-historians to follow, despite the complicated relationships binding its main characters, and it is deftly handled by the reasonably unknown Jean-Marc Vallée. However, at times the direction of the courtship feels a little lacklustre, developing as it does by way of endless correspondence. The act of letter writing lacks cinematic vitality. Although at its heart the film is a romance, it attempts to cover a number of other themes such as the political history of the time and the unpopu-
“Emily Blunt proves adept at re-inventing Victoria’s image, infusing her with the youthfulness and sexuality with which she is rarely associated” larity Victoria faced early on in her reign. However, these themes are visited and then set aside, never fully developed. Yet, it remains an enjoyable film, which not only succeeds in challenging popular perception of the monarch but also sheds new light on why she mourned the love of her life until the day she died.
Wendy and Lucy Dir: Kelly Reichardt Released 6th March
>> Tom Bonnick
hrough no fault of her own, Michelle Williams has over the years acquired a number of apparently indelible labels, which until recently it seemed that she would never be able to shed from her career and personal life. Depending on her audience’s generation, she appeared destined to remain in the mind as either “The one from Dawson’s Creek who wasn’t Joey”, “Ennis’ beard in Brokeback Mountain” or “Heath Ledger’s widow”, regardless of whatever new film she had a supporting role in. Now, thanks to Kelly Reichardt’s superb direction and her own absolutely remarkable perform-
ance, Williams has thrown all that aside in the most definitive fashion imaginable in Wendy and Lucy, playing the eponymous Wendy (Lucy is her beloved pet dog), who, stranded in Oregon after her car breaks down on the way to Alaska, where she plans on starting anew, struggles to hold her semblance of a life together. The lack of any distinct narrative for much of the film — to summarise, Wendy loses Lucy, and wants her back, desperately — is belied by the pure, haunting strength of Williams’ portrayal: she delineates the character with unbelievable acuity, turning a figure whom lesser actors may do little more with than ‘aimless waster’ into a woman whose motivations, however minimal and ordinary, are writ large across a pained, anxious face. Even whilst having created an extraordinarily sparse aesthetic — evoked as well by Will Oldham's bare, six-bar score — Reichardt and Williams
Marley & Me Dir: David Frankel Released 13th March
>> Laura Doherty
ne of my very first cinema-going memories is from the time I saw Beethoven in the Clydebank UCI; a screening which had a fifteen minute interval in the middle where the audience could meet and greet two large St Bernards at the front of the theatre. It was possibly one of the most exciting experiences of my life (assuming the hyperventilation was not indeed allergen-induced), the likes of which I assumed could never be matched by any other dog fronted film. Homeward Bound 2: Lost in San Francisco came close, Cats and Dogs elevated the canines in the age old war against their feline fo e s,
manage to convey an awful lot of beautifully realised detail that accumulates into a picture of Wendy so complete that it takes multiple viewings to really
Our greatest atrocity
“The lack of any distinguishable narrative is belied by the pure, haunting strength of Williams’ portrayal” begin to appreciate — everything, from the worn, tired face to the weak, high voice endows her with sadness and sympathy. Reichardt's proficiency in simultaneously assimilating so many themes into a single character's predicament — namely an economic and social alienation — have distinguished her as one of American independent cinema's true masters, and allowed Williams to finally found a role which cannot be reduced to a punchline.
but what I really wanted was the unity and heartfelt warmth as felt between man and dog. Marley and Me answered all my calls, like a slobbering Labrador to a squeaky toy (and if you’re enjoying that imagery then get in line now). Marley and Me features the bronzed, blonde Owen Wilson and Jennifer Aniston (like walking, talking paint-charts of golden perfection) as a journalistic couple juggling the trials and tribulations of married life whilst trying to gain control over their troublesome pooch. As the movie’s an adaptation of a book, and the book is compiled of newspaper columns, and the columns consist of glimpses into John Grogan’s life as a dog owner and all-round family man the film can begin to feel rather bitty at parts. It’s basically just the life story of some dude who has some stuff going on, does things, doesn’t do some other things, and all the while has a blonde loved one chew up furniture and pee around his house (the dog that is, not Aniston.) Despite the film’s occasional dalliance in slapstick jiggery pokery its real-life basis keeps it just on the right edge of sentimental. Minus the chewed up sofas and piles of poo, the themes underlying life with Marley such as family tragedy, the anxieties of growing older and the realisation of missed opportunities keep your eyes brimmed over at just the right parts: the final half hour especially is a tearduct workout for anyone with a soul.
>> Lewis Porteous
‘OMG da Holocauzt totally SUCKED!!! LOL letz uze it in r movie. P.S. Apple and Red Bull say that if we show their products on screen, then they'll let us keep them for free.’ So read ace writer/director David S. Goyer's text to his production staff on the eve of shooting his latest masterpiece ‘The Unborn’, a film which isn’t afraid to tackle all the big issues. Love? Check. Loss? Check. MP3 players? Check. Energy drinks? Check. Man’s greatest atrocity? Check. Perhaps it's unfair to bemoan the crass nature of what is, to all intents and purposes, a dire schlock horror film aimed largely at idiots. An important aspect of growing up, after all, is to accept the unrelenting force with which such products will always be churned out and, in turn, lapped up, or at least attended, by audiences. It’s rare, however, to come across a film which displays such disregard for decency as to be as genuinely offensive, contemptuous and insulting as The Unborn. The picture revolves around Odette Yustman’s Casey Beldon, a regular girl, just like you and I: she’s into her college studies and loves to go out ‘clubbing’ with her boundary-respecting boyfriend and her sassy black best friend. That is until a malicious soul, disconnected from its body, begins to pay her visits, manifesting itself in the form of a young boy and demanding that “it wants to be born.” The film’s promotional materials alone would have one believe that its creation was a positive exercise in instilling in popular culture an awareness of ancient Judaic mythology. Like a less antiSemitic ‘Der Golem’ for the Noughties. It’s hard to pinpoint exactly when I realised that the feature wasn’t quite the exercise in cultural relations I was anticipating, but it may well have been upon the sight of an octogenarian Holocaust survivor falling down a flight of stairs as the possessed, barking body of a stroke victim gave chase to her. Or upon hearing the line “It's time to finish what started back in Auschwitz all those years ago.” Or perhaps it was the harrowing Auschwitz flashback scenes, presumably shot at some kind of cheerful Butlins resort. Or upon Gary Oldman’s initial appearance as the suspiciously gentile Rabbi Sendak, presumably unaware that Hebrew is read right-to-left. “If only there was some kind of free, on-line encyclopaedia from which basic information about various subjects could be attained,” I thought “then the film wouldn't have been so inadvertently insensitive.” Weeks ago, I went into a bank branch, at which the staff, all female, addressed each other as ‘hun’ and ‘chicky,’ forgot about my enquiry and were witnessed doing some kind of spank-ass-dance thing, presumably in reference to their impending weekend's activities. I couldn't help but think “do I really want all these deplorable wretches looking after my money?” The Unborn, on the other hand, has so far grossed over $33,000,000. Perhaps its creators and the bank staff could swap occupations. There’d still be a constant influx of terrible movies to ignore, but at least my finances would seem a little more secure.
The seventh issue in the 2008/2009 run of the Glasgow University Guardian, edited by George Binning and James Porteous.
Published on Mar 15, 2009
The seventh issue in the 2008/2009 run of the Glasgow University Guardian, edited by George Binning and James Porteous.