GLASGOW UNIVERSITY MAGAZINE | SPRING 2009 | FREE
SCOTLAND’S OLDEST AND BEST STUDENT MAGAZINE
Editors: Franck Martin & Jim Wilson Deputy Editor: Catriona Matheson Web Editor: Jim Wilson Content: Franck Martin Design: Jim Wilson Contributors: Tom Bonnick, Laura Doherty, Katy Dycus, Scott McGinlay, James Porteous, Stefan Sealey, Claire Strickett, Kira Thomas, Michelle Williams. Cover Image: Recoat Gallery 323, North Woodside Road, Glasgow. Special Thanks: Zoe, Bob, Lucy, Amy & Ali, Patricia, Gill, Iain and Alison, Anna, Josefin, GU Archive Services, American Apparel, circavintage.co.uk, Get Lippy, New Look, Relics, Retro, River Island, Roots, Fruits and Flowers, Urban Outfitters. All works ÂŠ their authors 2009.
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I am 120 years old, no really I am. Not bad eh? Still got my shine, still entertaining and exhilarating, and dare I say it, still keeping you on your toes. Just think, when I was born, World Wars were unheard of, a photograph was cutting edge, the idea of walking on the moon was the stuff of a mad man’s dreams and claiming that you had updated your Facebook status was likely to secure your life long reservation in Hotel de la Bedlam. Yes the plucky little magazine that had its name stolen by sexual health clinics throughout the land is now well into its super-centenarian years and what a ride it has been. So what can you expect from this very special bumper birthday GUM? As it’s our last edition of 2008/2009 we have pushed the boat out and attached a cheeky turbo engine. The hand labour of our resident graffiti lords has created a birthday cover that is truly massively in its wonderfulness (visit their graf cave on 323 North Woodside Road to learn more of the ways of the can). You can also tuck into an interview with Clive Stafford Smith, campaigning human rights lawyer and head of Binyam Mohammed’s legal team. We have some experimental photography in our Human Canvas feature and our articles on the rise and demise of coffee culture and the psychology behind our desires to collect random trinkets will keep you entrained in even the most bland of scenarios. The jaw dropping fashion shoot is quite the treat though we must confess that our sport section is just downright dirty. We also have interviews with The Future of the Left, by far one of the most interesting bands of the year, Emmanuel Jal, child soldier turned rapper, and a run down of how to get your music festival fix on the cheap. Oh yes, GUM is also feeling the pinch, in fact the pinch is now beginning to feel like a herculean squeeze, so our travel section is also devoted to helping you plan a low cost, low carbon, local holiday the likes of which you never thought possible. Franck, Jim and Catriona would like to thank everyone who helped to make these editions of GUM so utterly splendid. But more importantly, we want you, our treasured reader, to know that even though GUM will not be on the streets it will most certainly be there in spirit, flying around Glasgow’s cultural haunts like a possessed phoenix. Be strong.
Rhetoric And Reality
Clive Stafford Smith OBE, former death row attorney, lawyer for Binyam Mohamed, and founder of the human rights charity Reprieve, speaks to Franck Martin about Guantanamo Bay and the profound significance of the legal case of Mr. Mohamed.
‘The rules have changed, you don’t get a lawyer.’ Such a reply is not what one would expect having asked a member of the FBI for the right to legal representation. Yet these simple, callous words were the response Binyam Mohammed received as he tried to ascertain why he had been abducted while holidaying in Pakistan. Legal protection is a fundamental human right, but from the ashes of 9/11 a shadowy disregard for such norms emerged within certain factions of Western security services. Faced with the ‘9/11’ threat, the White House washed the color from its international relations strategy, exemplified by Bush’s now infamous black and white philosophy: “You are either with us or against us”. For the organizations charged with the task of defeating the enemies of the state, international law became as meaningless as the rights of their captives and sadly for Binyam, the United Sates had decided that he was firmly against them. The extent to which the British Government endorsed these clandestine activities remains unclear, but the case of Binyam Mohamed has parachuted the issue of torture (in particular for the UK, complicity with torture) into the public consciousness and the government has found itself having to respond to some extremely difficult questions. Clive Stafford Smith has been a booming voice in a growing chorus of discontent. As information enters the public sphere more and more people are demanding to know the extent of the government’s knowledge of prisoner mistreatment by the United States. He is also the founder of Reprieve, a campaigning legal charity based in London. Its mandate is simple and in following it the organization has found itself at the centre of the Binyam storm: “Use the law to enforce the human rights of prisoners on death row or in Guantánamo Bay, promote the rule of law around the world, and secure each person’s right to a fair trial.” Having originally been set up to assist those facing the death penalty in the bible-belt states of the US, the events of 9/11 forced Reprieve to widen its focus to help a new type of prisoner being held in a new type of prison. As a lawyer with 25 years experience of working on behalf of clients on death row, and as a man who has witnessed firsthand the realities of Guantanamo, I begin by asking what the conditions are really like. “This is a long question” he replies.
“Briefly, I have visited almost all the worst death row prisons of the South, and Guantánamo bay is worse than any of them.” With the entire existence of the prison based on the shaky premise that the people of the United States and the wider Western world are now safer because these men are locked away, I ask if he believes that the prisoners detained in Guantanamo are indeed hardened terrorists. His simple, blunt response is more emphatic than any lofty phrase can ever be. “No!” Following interviews with Binyam, Reprieve learned that on 21 July 2002 he was rendered to Morocco on a CIA plane where he was held for 18 months in appalling conditions - he was 23 years old. There he was tortured, suffering horrific treatment ranging from genital mutilation to extreme sensory deprivation. During this time he was repeatedly questioned on the actions of British Muslims, information that could only have been ascertained by security agencies working for the British government. From there he was taken to the US military prison at Bagram airbase. In September 2004 he was taken to Guantánamo Bay, where he remained until February 2009 when he was released – having recently turned 30. The unlawful detention of “enemy combatants” which took place in Guantánamo Bay has come to be regarded as one of the most potent and controversial modern symbols of American regression from conventional legal and humanitarian norms. The Bush administration argued that the geographic position of the prison (on Cuban soil) gave them a legal basis for avoiding any code of international or domestic law, and most importantly the Geneva Convention, despite the fact that the detention centre was a US military base. In real terms, individuals such as Binyam found that they were locked in a prison that was paradoxically outside the law. Defense Sectary Robert Gates is quoted as saying the prison should be closed ‘because of all the things that happened… there is a taint about it.’ I ask Clive what he thinks he is referring to: “The issue here is the simple truth. There is no doubt that Guantánamo Bay has been a recruiting sergeant for extremism. The US actions are hypocritical – saying we are fighting a war for the rule of law, and then denying legal rights to Muslim prisoners – and hypocrisy is the yeast that
“I had met with British intelligence in Pakistan. I had been open with them. Yet the very people who I had hoped would come to my rescue, I later realized, had allied themselves with my abusers... I have been through an experience that I never thought to encounter in my darkest nightmares. Before this ordeal, “torture” was an abstract word to me. I could never have imagined that I would be its victim. It is still difficult for me to believe that I was abducted, hauled from one country to the next, and tortured in medieval ways – all orchestrated by the United States government.” Binyam Mohamed
breeds hatred. A CIA officer has said that for each prisoner we have held there, we have inspired 10 to want to do us harm. I suspect the number is far higher. It is a monumental exercise in folly, as well as being immoral.” Sadly history is littered with such folly, from Northern Ireland to Guatemala; states have failed to realize that mistreating prisoners breeds hatred in moderates and perpetuates the conflict. The government has been forced to confront deeply uncomfortable truths about its knowledge of, and alleged co-operation with, the United States’ treatment of Binyam Mohamed. Clive has been at the epicentre of this ongoing legal case, so what does he think it says about the British Government’s commitment to human rights? “It says a lot about British politicians’ lack of understanding of the real world. They only hear what people around them want them to hear. So, for example, they rely on the security services for their information about security issues. It is hardly surprising that they make such catastrophic mistakes. Most of their mistakes are, I suspect, honestly made – but I am actually more concerned about stupid decisions made without the necessary information than I am about decisions made for nefarious purposes. Those who truly believe that they have got it right are more dangerous than crooks.” Former CIA officer John Kiriakou has been criticised for claiming that the use of torture was a policy decision made in the White House: “Officers do not
simply wake up and decide to carry out an enhanced technique on a prisoner”. I ask him if he believes that the torture of individuals such as Binyam was top down or bottom up. “Binyam Mohamed revealed that he was told that the decision to render him was being made in the White House. Of course that is true. Nobody can believe that some small fry in the FBI or the CIA could make such a decision. This is the most important aspect of his case – tracing the decision into the White House. I suspect it will go all the way to Dick Cheney’s office.” If it is indeed true, as the evidence would suggest it is, that orders to torture and carry out renditions come from the top, then are cases such as Binyam’s isolated or does it reflect a growing threat to human rights? I put this question to Clive and his answer is worrying at best. “It is an example of an epidemic. Not with respect to torture, but secrecy. The most lasting and pernicious legacy of the Bush/ Blair era will be the use of ‘national security’ to override free speech and the freedom of the press. Perhaps the most dangerous aspect of this is the conflation of ‘national security’ with ‘national embarrassment’ – the governments are now using national security as the excuse to cover up evidence of their own misconduct, whether it be torture (in Binyam’s case) or their awful reasons for going to war.The events of January 20th offered a ray of hope that the United States’ unilateral response to terrorism may undergo some much
needed surgery. Within a week President Obama had declared that Guantanamo was to be closed. So what impact does Clive think the new administration will have on human rights? “Obama is a decent human being. However, those who cry ‘Mission Accomplished’ simply because we have elected a decent person are naïve. Bush said Mission Accomplished on the USS Abraham Lincoln 42 days into the conflict in Iraq, and to date 96.2% of the coalition’s casualties have come after he announced victory. Not to mention the other unfortunate victims of that ill-judged war. Given all those who would rather not move to liberalism, Obama cannot achieve much without both the correct information, and the right support and pressure.” The solutions to the problems that followed 9/11 will not be found in the revoking of treaties, the changing of norms, or the mistreatment of suspects. If Britain was involved in the torture and abuse of Binyam Mohamed then this gross mistake must be acknowledge and a full, judicial inquiry established. The decision of Attorney General Baroness Scotland to refer the case of Binyam Mohamed to the Metropolitan Police is a positive step but it will only scratch the surface. A separate independent inquiry into these and other allegations that the UK colluded in human rights abuses such as torture, rendition, and illegal detention will be essential to ensure this issue is effectively resolved. Secrecy and will only serve to fan the flames of suspicion and extremism.
YD O B N A M U H E H T OT N O R U OL O C D N A N R E T TAP ,T H G I L F O S N O I T C E J O R P YA L N I G C M T TO C S : Y H P A R G OTO H P YPPIL TEG @ NEKTIA ENNA :PUEKAM S M A I L L I W E L L E H C I M :T S I LY T S AKURD ANNA :LEDOM
PROJECTIONS OF LIGHT, PATTERN AND COLOUR ONTO THE HUMAN BODY PHOTOGRAPHY : SCOTT MCGINLAY MAKEUP: ANNE AITKEN @ GET LIPPY STYLIST: MICHELLE WILLIAMS MODEL: ANNA DRUKA
BRITISH TV SEES RED Tom Bonnick asks why British TV sits at the children’s table while its American cousin cuts the Christmas turkey.
ILLUSTRATION: KIRA THOMAS
It occurred to me recently, sitting through one of an endless line of turgid crime dramas – probably on STV and with a rather pretentious, sub-Robert Ludlum-esque title like The Perseus Complication or The Plot Replica – that an awful lot of television is rubbish. This is, of course, nothing new: rubbish has always been broadcast, and while a public taste for Piers Morgan’s smug portrait lingers, it always will be. What struck me, however, was how much worse our TV is than that made by our neighbours across the Atlantic – or rather, as Americans can patently plumb the depths of crapness no less adeptly than us plucky Brits, how much better their programming is than ours. Lest anyone should think me ungrateful and unpatriotic, consider the following scenario. Imagine a television show about murders. This show, unlike most, isn’t about police trying to prevent them from happening, or even about trying catch the people who’ve done all the murders, but rather, about the tedious court proceedings that ensue once the seedilyunshaven perpetrator has been brought to justice. Now, if you will, imagine that this show runs for hundreds of years, inspires multiple spin-offs and becomes the longestrunning primetime drama in our imaginary country… Schmamerica. Now imagine that the show is called Law and Order. Shocking as it will no doubt be to many of you, but an eerily similar set of events has taken place in the real world, leading up this February, when to its estimable canon a British addition was added to the L&O franchise, the imaginatively named Law and Order: UK. When I stumbled across the debut episode, not fully appreciating my folly,
my initial reaction was not “Wow, this sure is a treatment which has translated seamlessly into a British setting”, but rather “My, the cast of The Bill certainly seem to have become marginally more attractive, no?” Clearly, none of the Laws and Orders have ever really been able to make much claim to artistic integrity, due to, literally the exact same sequence of events occurs in every single episode, but at least the original has its pride: it was bold, brash, expensively made; a bit stupid. Here was a formula whose success clearly had absolutely nothing to do with content whatsoever, whose demands on creativity were so low that characters were just given names that would describe their personality traits, and whose template was so robust that a new version could be churned out almost every other week. We still managed to arse it up. Evidently, British TV cannot compete when it comes to glossy, high-productionvalue police procedurals. The reasons for this are transparent enough: as a people, we are not that glossy, and our industry doesn’t have enough money for values. What is slightly more damning is that whereas the inability to convincingly produce CSI: Linlithgow is of no great concern, our programming looks to be found even more severely wanting in the quality stakes. Imagine a second show. This one is about the mafia: a sprawling, intense look at an entire mob family that distinguishes itself from its predecessors by refusing to conform to the crass stereotypes prevalent on TV when it first airs. Lets call it… The Bopranos. For many years, perceived wisdom was that The Sopranos was the greatest show on earth – Chaucerian in scope, Shakespearean in human
understanding, wholly American in its depiction of New Jersey. In recent years, it has been under threat of being usurped by The Wire, the universally acclaimed genre-defying masterpiece that is in essence a ballad to a second American city, Baltimore – whose English lead, Dominic West, was to be found in late March on Radio 4, decrying the state of television at home. Where is all the good British drama? It seems absurd to think that we are just less capable of making good television, although strictly speaking, this is the case, and for the perennial excuse - economics. This is an industry in which, somewhat depressingly, most problems are solved by incomprehensibly large sums of money being thrown at them - not a viable option when the largest British television institution is publicly funded, and beholden to the whims of tabloid disposition as to how its finances ought to be distributed. Undoubtedly, the same creative potential exists in our island, and is allowed to flourish on a smaller scale – which is why we make such accomplished comedy (The Office; The Thick of It; Nathan Barley) and one-off specials, such as the recent adaptations of David Peace’s Red Riding novels shown on Channel 4 (but made independently), whose intelligence, depth and casting of Sean Bean have earned comparisons not to British TV, but to the more sophisticated narrative styles of The Wire and The Sopranos. It is often claimed - by that vague, undisprovable group known as ‘they’, of course - that Now is a Golden Age of television. We may indeed be enjoying a small-screen renaissance, but - Red Riding aside - only, I find, courtesy of the willingness to invest that is demonstrated at HBO; rarely at home.
BEAN THERE, DONE THAT?
PHOTOGRAPHY: CATRIONA MATHESON
A cup of tea was the nation’s favourite tipple until we ditched the tea bag in favour of a stronger brew. But is our love of lattes a luxury we’re willing to give up? Catriona matheson asks if the nation’s once beloved coffee culture is starting to lose its kick. Last week, I arranged to meet a friend in Glasgow city centre who suggested we meet in Starbucks. My friend isn’t from Glasgow in fact she’d never been before and yet was able to suggest a possible meeting point. My dilemma was whether to point her in the direction of the Starbucks on Sauchiehall Street, in Princes Square, at Nelson Mandela Place, in Central Station, at Royal Exchange Square, on Renfield Street, in Buchanan Galleries or the Starbucks on Buchanan Street (either the one inside, or along from, Borders book shop). There are not many companies that are so ubiquitous their existence is an expectation. However I realised my predicament of choosing a coffee shop was largely irrelevant considering they all delivered identical café experiences. Indeed, it is the commonality between Starbucks’ stores which has turned the company into a global phenomenon. Recently however, as we’ve been limiting our spending habits, the coffee chain has suffered. At the end of last year, the company announced that its custom had fallen for the first time since it was founded in 1971, leading to a painful drop in its profits and the closure of 1,000 stores. Has Starbucks hit the wall running? The fact that the UK’s new biggest money-saving cliché is kicking our daily latte habit speaks volumes about how café culture has infiltrated the British psyche. We still may be some way behind our continental cousins, yet lattes have become synonymous with city life and the take-away coffee cup has become an everyday accessory. But café culture is not just about the coffee; it’s a lifestyle and one we adopted in full swing. With the aid of Starbucks, the UK embraced an Americanised European café culture creating societal evolution. In an age when we can buy a TV in a supermarket and shop from the comfort of our living room, it comes as no surprise that as consumers, we have an increasing desire for more choice when it comes to our caffeine intake. The request is no longer ‘black’ or ‘white’ but a rather unashamed, ‘tall, extra hot, skinny cappuccino with a shot of caramel syrup, please.’ Observers have also looked
towards American sit-coms as having a massive impact on the cultural aspirations of our generation and though we may not like to admit it, it is likely our lifestyle has been influenced by television from across the pond. Perhaps a more conceivable reason for the rise of British café culture however is that the dawn of the coffee shop in the UK was an innovation. Polished floors, brown leather seats, ambient music and skinny muffins provided a much welcomed alternative to greasy spoon cafes and smoky pubs. So café culture took off, and along with it several new coffee chains trying to cash in on the success. While we may have adopted a trend from Europe with an American twist, it would seem that our café culture here in the UK is different to that in mainland Europe and the U.S. According to Professor Jonathon Morris, a historian who specialises in cultural consumption, the way we use coffee shops is unique. He explains coffee shops in the UK are as much about selling time as they are about coffee. Indeed, you can spend a couple of hours in a coffee shop without a member of staff looking to throw you out, something that wouldn’t have happened 10 years ago in a British café. Most of us use a coffee shop as a social space to relax or work, to meet friends or to conduct meetings. The rise in working ‘from home’ in the advent of the laptop computer and wireless internet, the trend for mothers to meet outside the home, and for breaks to be taken outside the workplace, have all contributed to the rise of British café culture. Starbucks’ store closures however reflect a wider decline in coffee sales with companies such as Coffee Republic and Beascene also suffering from a drop in profits. So as we tighten our purse strings, is British café culture in demise? Clare Benfield, Editor of Café Culture Magazine seems to think not. She told GUM that while some outlets may suffer, café culture will survive the recession. Her point being, ‘At the end of the day, in tough times people still like their little pick-me-up treats i.e. a coffee and cake.’ Maybe Starbucks haven’t hit the wall running, but have just taken a nasty trip along the way.
CELEBRATING GLASGOW UNIVERSITY MAGAZINE 1889 - 2009
Cover of GUM, issue 1 - published 5 February 1889
Jim wilson celebrates gum’s birthday by bringing you a special collection of the best images from the last 120 years. 1889 was a very good year. It was the year that saw Vincent Van Gogh putting the finishing touches to his work ‘Starry Night’; the opening of the Eiffel Tower; the completion of the first long distance electric power transmission line in the USA, and the operation of the first jukebox at the Palais Royale Saloon in San Francisco. It was also the same year in which the first ever issue of Glasgow University Magazine was released to the masses, a moment grossly understated by modern historians. The first edition of GUM was published on 5th February 1889 and when you do the maths that makes GUM exactly 120 years old this year. To celebrate the Birthday of this fine publication, I arranged a visit to the Glasgow University Archives to see if I could find out more information about Scotland’s oldest and best magazine. I wasn’t sure what to expect upon arrival at the Glasgow University Archives building. It’s the kind of place you expect words to go to live out their twilight years. To be honest, I’d always imagined the place to ressemble the collection point of Ikea, only filled to the rafters with old, dusty books and papers. Filled with intrepidation, I ventured inside. After filling in a tray-load of paperwork and donning a pair of gloves I was beginning to look a bit like an extra from CSI. Reading the vast numbers of archived copies gave me a fascinating glimpse into the world of the previous generations that have graced our campus. Previous GUM contributors have covered everything from the stock market crash and a presidential assassination to the arrival of the new Millennium. Some of the more famous editors of the past include James Bridie, playwright, screenwriter and surgeon; John Buchan, the author of The Thirty-Nine Steps; and Hannah Frank, the much celebrated Scottish illustrator. If you enjoy this taster, then check out out GUM’s website for more information about the magazine, past and present. Check out PREVIOUS EDITIONS OF GUM online at www.glasgowuniversitymagazine.com and tell us what you think. Birthday wishes very welcome!
14•GUM PHOTOGRAPHY: STEFAN SEALEY
THE HIGH RISE AND FALL OF MODERNISM
Claire strickett REDISCOVERS the influence of Le Corbusier, the inspiration behind Glasgow’s post-war architectural renaissance. Post-war Glasgow faced housing problems on a vast scale. Thousands of people lived in slum conditions and the Victorian city’s infrastructure was rapidly becoming outdated. Something had to be done - and so Glasgow’s city fathers embarked on a series of hugely ambitious development projects that were to radically alter the face of the city and the lives of its inhabitants. Their quest for a new direction led them to the ideas of Le Corbusier. The work of French architect and urban planner Le Corbusier can be seen at an exhibition hosted by The Barbican in London. Considered by many as the greatest architect of the 20th century, Le Corbusier failed to have a single commission built in Britain, and he’s hardly a household name. Despite this, he’s arguably had more of an impact on changes to Britain’s urban landscapes than any other single figure, and in few places more so than Glasgow. Le Corbusier was one of the great pioneers of modernism, eschewing unnecessary ornamentation, building upwards to minimise structures’ “footprints” and embracing new methods and materials. Indeed, he was a particular fan of concrete and a great believer in the power of urban planning, wholeheartedly embracing new technology, especially the automobile. Le Corbusier was convinced that carefully engineered urban landscapes could make their inhabitants’ lives more efficient, healthier and happier, and couldn’t bear the unplanned, unsanitary muddle of most European cities. In the 1920s, for example, he proposed the wholesale demolition of Paris’ Right Bank, to be replaced by a geometric arrangement of skyscrapers amidst landscaped parkland. More of a publicity stunt than a realistic proposal the plan was, somewhat understandably, not adopted by the Parisian authorities. Yet it isn’t hard to see how Le Corbusier’s approach must have appealed to the post-war leaders of Glasgow, and in 1947, city councilors visited Marseille to inspect mid-rise housing devised by Le Corbusier. They planned to re-invent the old, haphazardly organised Victorian city as a modern metropolis, and Le Corbusier’s visions of sweeping motorways linking sleek, geometric structures was about as far from the old Glasgow as you could get. His influence is obvious in the astonishing vision of the new Glasgow put forward by the city’s chief planner, Sir Robert Bruce. The ‘Bruce Report’ proposed the complete demolition of Glasgow town centre. In its place - a system of regular tower blocks, ringed by a motorway, built in districts according to function. Like Le Corbusier’s plan for Paris, Bruce’s modernist utopia/dystopia was too extreme to be feasible. Nevertheless, the final approved plans for Glasgow did indeed see huge swathes of the city demolished. Sadly much that resulted from this period of redevelopment has since become a byword for
failures in town planning and social housing – the infamous Red Road flats, for example, or the ‘Hutcheson C’ development in the Gorbals, directly inspired by Le Corbusier’s ‘Unité d’Habitation’ complex in Marseille, and demolished in 1993. How did we get from Le Corbusier’s modernist ideals to such failures on the part of his British disciples? Some would argue that his ideas were unrealistic and dehumanising from the very start, placing too much emphasis on order and planning at the expense of an understanding of the importance of tradition, individuality and community needs. This is perhaps unfair and doesn’t take into account the fact that many of his theories were either misunderstood or poorly implemented by the Glasgow planners. Le Corbusier believed in simplifying people’s lives by placing amenities within easy and convenient reach – within one building, if possible. By contrast, many housing developments around Glasgow were poorly served by public transport, lacked essential facilities, and required their inhabitants to travel long distances. He envisioned housing blocks as relatively self-contained, close-knit communities. Yet, slum clearance and re-housing in Glasgow achieved the opposite, breaking up just such communities irrevocably. Building systems and materials suitable for the sunny south of France soon degraded, or led to terrible problems with damp when employed under Scotland’s rainy skies. A lack of funds meant that corners were cut in both design and construction, and the money required to maintain many of the new buildings in a habitable state never materialised. Perhaps the biggest problem was the way that Glasgow’s planners saw poor living conditions almost as a cause and not as a symptom of far deeper, underlying economic and social difficulties. With the city’s economy in post-industrial decline, it was unrealistic to have hoped that redevelopment could solve such problems. Yet to tar all of Glasgow’s modernist monuments with the same brush because of the high-profile failures would be equally closed-minded. As Glasgow re-emerges as a vibrant and relatively prosperous city, we’ve come to embrace the Victorian architectural heritage that post-war planners condemned and to regret their ‘demolish, don’t refurbish’ policy. Perhaps it’s time for us, in the 21st century, to learn to appreciate some of the modernist structures that are their legacy, rather than repeating that same mistake again. To see some Corbusierinspired Glasgow structures for yourself, take a wander down to the 1964 College of Building and Printing, or the more recent Matrix building along Cowcaddens Road, both of which pay homage to the Unité d’Habitation. And next time you struggle to cross the M8, one of the few realised elements of the Bruce Report, you can judge for yourself how well Le Corbusier’s vision of pedestrians and cars existing in integrated harmony has worked out for Glasgow.
ONE PERSON’S TRASH ... KATY DYCUS dusts down the clutter, delves into the psychology of collecting, and leaRns that there is a fine line between a casual hobby and the world of obsession.
The landscape is fast and dramatic, with surfaces eroded by sweaty palms and hot breath. Entering the shop is like discovering your grandmother’s attic, suddenly open for your perusal. Without words, the objects tells the story of collecting. Stop by and see for yourself, but if you suffer from asthma, remember to bring your inhaler. Dust coats the items of dubious antiquity. You’ll cough once or twice and start sneezing in triplets, but your child-like sense of wonder and amazement will awaken at every turn. After a couple of visits to Relics, a hidden gem tucked down Ruthven Lane off Byres Road, my curiosity led me to the owner. “I’m Steven Currie,” he replied, shielded by a towering old lamp, dating from the sixties. I instantly linked him with Oldbuck, The Antiquary’s protagonist of Walter Scott’s The Antiquary —amateur historian and collector—who is forever looking for treasure in hidden ruins.
The shop is covered in treasures of the past—mainly classic sixties items and things of Scandinavian origin—with “organization” an irrelevant and useless term. “The business started because I collected things,” he said. “The store is perfect for other collectors, with the same customers trailing in every week, in search of items to add to ever-expanding collections. While I speak with Mr. Currie, a middle-aged man purchases an old military badge, which has lost its sheen but certainly not its dignity. He leaves looking rather proud of himself. Mary Duenwald, in an article entitled ‘The Psychology of…Hoarding’, explains: “The instinct to hoard offers clear evolutionary advantages elsewhere in the animal kingdom. The Arctic gray jay gathers berries, insects, and spiders to endure the long, dark winters. But humans appear to be the only species that takes hoarding to pathological excess.”
Mr. Currie explains that every artifact of old has history and that may be why people are so attracted to seemingly innocuous items. “It’s had a previous life at another time,” he adds. “And that’s the romance of it: you must use your imagination.” While we chat, Flash the cat roams in and perches on top of a pile of books. People may feel at home here but I get the feeling she is the real master of this cluttered domain. “I try to do a real variety across the board, but I’m really interested in—it sounds pretentious but—postwar British social history,” he manages to unhinge the words at the tip of his tongue. “Snap-shots that capture the essence of the time.” Yes, Relics is cluttered, but it is a business, and not the result of obsessive hoarding. Paddy O’Donnell, Professor of Psychology at the University of Glasgow, says that
hoarding presents the excessive version of what is a normal human activity. “Collecting is an expression of the human capacity to categorize objects, to fit things into useful and functional categories,” he explains. “The tendency originates in middle childhood, when race cars and stuffed toys line the perimeters of children’s bedrooms. At this stage, collecting is endearing, but when the habit reaches far into adulthood in consuming degrees, it can turn into an obsession.” Professor O’Donnell concedes that collecting can take on a darker side: “Categorizing becomes an escape from other anxieties. It’s soothing and reassuring, but it can become an escape from life itself.” He adds, “we can also develop emotional attachments to these items” and such attachments make giving up items a highly stressful and emotional ordeal, almost equal to giving a child for adoption or experiencing bereavement.
While psychology highlights the potential disorders of overzealous collectors, many people find that collecting offers healthy and rewarding benefits. Admit it, we are all collectors to an extent—it’s built into our genetic code. Isn’t it? Nick Mitchell, a post graduate student studying Philosophy, would seem to be a case in point. Since the age of 12 he has been faithfully collecting Games Workshops Miniatures: “It’s like if Dungeons and Dragons and RISK became one game” he explains as he grins at his fiancé, Tovah Ross, another avid collector and post grad in Archaeology. “I have upwards of 500 figures—potentially more than that. Thousands of pounds worth of plastic men. I had more toys than anyone else as a kid” he continues, with a beaming smile. “Way too many toys! But my father collects sports memorabilia—actually he collects everything. Maybe it’s hereditary.”
Tovah, sitting across from Nick, collecting her thoughts before cutting in: “I cleaned his room one time, and it was like pulling teeth getting him to get rid of any of it though I must admit I do have 102 DVDs here,” adds the New Jersey native. “But that doesn’t include television series. My parents have over 500—it’s like living in Blockbuster.” It must run in the family! All collectors value their items as treasures, whether they are out-of-tune banjos hanging upside down in a musty antique shop, or plastic figurines, or worn handbags. Isn’t it important to have something you can call your own? To be able to connect with others who collect similar items? Own it, enthuse over it, but remember Professor O’Donnell’s warning. If it’s going to be an obsession, make sure it’s a healthy one. PHOTOGRAPHY: JIM WILSON.tk
Shoes - Melissa @ Vivienne Westwood £78
Sash - American Apparel £12
Lace gloves - Retro £5
Tights - River Island £7.99
PHOTOGRAPHY: SCOTT MCGINLAY HAIR & MAKE-UP: ANN AITKEN @ GET LIPPY STYLING: MICHELLE WILLIAMS & CLAIRE STRICKETT MODEL: JOSEFIN SKULLBACKA LOCATION & PROPS: ROOTS, FRUITS & FLOWERS, Great Western Road
Dress - New Look £40
Flower clips (in hair) - New Look £3
Necklace - New Look £12
Pink trench coat - Luella @ Urban Outfitters £415 Floral sunglasses - New Look £8 Bangles - New Look £5
Blouse - Retro - £18 Skirt - Vivienne Westwood £69 Silk Corsage - Stylist’s own
Dress - New Look £28 Leather Jacket - Model’s own Leggings - American Apparel £28 Shoes - New Look £25 Hat - Circa Vintage £20 Corsage - New Look £5
A LIFE BEHIND BARS
Jumping on the pedals out of the gate, slinging from corner to corner, pumping jumps and keeping it low and fast - all the while sucking air through the mouthpiece of a full-face helmet and trying not to throw it all away as you thunder towards the finish line. No idea what’s going on? Not a problem - James Porteous talks downhill. Photography: James Porteous
Scotland has a history of being exceptionally bad at sport. We cling to the idea that beating England at football in 1967 makes us as good as the World Champions, when in reality we’re a nation that specialises in the noble art of the also-ran. Fortunately, mountain biking, and indeed cycling in general, is something we do reasonably well at - it makes a plesant change. Actually, that’s not at all fair the country pumps out some of the best riders and tracks on the planet - we have a reputation for brilliance, both in the events we host, and the people that ride in them. If we take the perspective of a sport that embraces the idea of a British team (and as a sport, we do), then you can speak proudly of a country that currently has three MTB World Championship titles to its name. Add them to a WorldRecord globe-trotter in the form of Glasgow University’s very own Mark Beaumont, and the knighted track-master that is Sir Chris Hoy, then it’s hard to find a sport in which Great Britain is more potent. Two wheels twixt our thighs frequently seem to equate to glory for the athletes of these Isles. So why have you not heard more of the sport? Who’s to say - the nature of the discipline itself can only be described as televisual gold, with riders competing against the clock, thrashing their way down mountainsides at speeds that see them snatch victory, or snap appendages; all or nothing is often the name of the game, and clipping a tree at the speed of fast moving traffic will do a little more than spoil your afternoon. Downhill mountain biking is the
mud-bourne equivalent of the ski races of the same name, with riders competing one at a time to push themselves into the top spot on the podium, or into the foliage that lines every race. Ben Cathro, current British National Points Series Champion and World Cup competitor, is keen to elaborate on the reasoning behind Scotland’s enthusiasm for the sport: “Scotland has a landscape which suits downhill biking very well, as almost everyone can build a good track near where they live. Scotland also has a vast trail network which draws a lot of people into mountain biking in general so naturally, a lot of these people will progress into downhill biking. “The World Cup round at Fort William is one of the biggest downhill events in the world and it is one of the best to witness. If you have been to this race and not wanted to take up downhill then you probably never will.” The race the young Highlander speaks of is the crown in Scotland’s DH jewels - the round of the World Cup series that’s hosted in Fort William every summer. In the past, Nevis Range has played host to the World Championships (a mountain bike event second only in stature to the Olympics), and at present, is an immovable, award-winning fixture in the international race series that decides the creme-dela-creme of the mountain biking elite throughout the world. While Cathro is happy to admit the limitations of the country’s biking infrastructure, he also points out its inherent strengths and how it drew him into the
sport: “Scotland doesn’t have the vast chairlift networks of France or Canada but it has some of the best tracks in the world. It helps if you like to ride in the wet. “I used to ride my bikes down walkers’ paths and fire-roads for fun but I didn’t find out about proper downhill tracks ‘til some friends started riding downhill. One of them decided to sell his bike, and I convinced my father to buy it - I’ve been riding downhill since then.” With enthusiasm such as Cathro’s - an attitude that took him into a career-best 8th spot at the Fort William WC event in 2008 - and the abundance of trails in the country, it’s hard to resist the idea of throwing yourself astride a bike, and down the trails at some of the country’s toughest tracks at Dunkeld, Innerleithen or even the World Championship track at Nevis Range. However, the NPS champ is quick to warn of the dangers involved in the sport, and the limitations of a newcomer to the discipline: “If you want to take up downhill properly you do have to spend quite a bit of money on a proper bike and equipment. So no, I wouldn’t say anyone could pick it up. If you want to have a bit of fun on a tame downhill track any strong standard bike would do. I know I used to love thrashing my Raleigh Max down some fire-roads.” While it’s clear that the sport is something accessible to the majority of seasoned mountain bikers, it is not a side of cycling open to the faint hearted - you will be hitting speeds that can, and often do end with the rider bouncing down the side of a rocky mountain.
Undoubtedly, one of the exceptional aspects of the sport is the manner in which it offers holiday opportunities that rival those of skiing - while sticking yourself aboard a pair of planks will offer up some smashing goggle-tan prospects, the summertime equivalent of downhill in the Alps is much more appealing. High twenties in temperature; mellow, quiet mountain resorts, and a smorgasbord of lift-served, professionally-tended trails make the Alps a fantastic alternative to the paperback-smothered wilderness of cheap beach holidays. Cathro is happy to testify to this: “My favourite place to ride is the Porte Du Soleil area in France. There are so many chairlifts and amazing tracks there. You can ride all day and not ride the same track twice. I haven’t found another place quite like it.” While the professional-level trails on offer Worldwide are not a wise starting point for everyone, there are certainly enough low-level trails both at home and abroad to offer up the chance for everyone to have a punt at the sport. Even if your interest is simply an observational tickling, then head up to Nevis Range on June 6th and 7th, grab an air-horn, buy a pass for the Scottish round of the World Cup series, and watch the best on the planet duke it out on the slopes of Aonach Mor. You cannot be disappointed by what you’ll see.
porteousphoto.com descent-world.co.uk fortwilliamworldcup.co.uk
PHOTOGRAPHY: CATRIONA MATHESON flickr.com/photos/catriona_matheson
REFUGEES, RIFLES & RAP
Franck Martin sits down with Emmanuel Jal, author, musician and documentary maker, to learn what hip-hop means to him and why he feels it is his duty to relive his days as a Sudanese child soldier.
It is a gross simplification to say that Emmanuel Jal has had a remarkable life. Forced by circumstances to leave his family as a child of roughly 6, (he is still unsure of his exact age but he places it close to 30) he went on to serve as a child soldier in the Sudan People’s Liberation Army. Unlike the estimated three hundred thousand child soldiers throughout the world, when Emmanuel turned 13 he luckily escaped this hellish fate. His journey has taken him from the wilds of Sudan, where as a child battling government troops brought him to the brink of insanity, to the stage of Hyde Park where he performed at Nelson Mandela’s 90th birthday concert. As a man who has led such a dramatic life I start by asking him at what point he found his musical voice. “I am still searching” he explains in his cool and calm Sudanese accent. “I am experiencing every day and trying to find a voice that is mine, but I am still developing and improving.” His previous album, ‘Gua’, amalgamated Arabic, English, Kiswahili, Dinka and Nuer (a compromise sadly lacking in Sudanese politics) raps with minimal, hip hop beats. So how has he progressed following the release of ‘War Child’ and what does this former soldier think of hip hops glorification of violence? “I have gone back and listened to Nas, the Fugues and Tupac to learn how they delivered the lyrics and in the new album I have attempted to build on this. I have tried to go to a new level while keeping the tracks diverse. The album also uses honest metaphors and a wide range of samples compared to previous works. The problem as I see it is that artists have realised that sex and violence sell so they incorporate it into their music but this has a negative influence on children. I always avoid this and try to emulate the old School hip hop artists who were about unity and had something important to say; sadly it’s not about peace anymore!” Despite his enthusiasm Emmanuel seems distant, though I later find out is he is only allowing himself one meal a day until his GUA charity raises enough money to build a new school in his home town, today is day 97. Emmanuel has had great success, from performing with Razorlight, Supergrass, Alica Keys and Faithless, to American tours and accompanying soundtracks on ER and Blood Diamond. Yet he is also an artist that is remarkably frank about his life experience. I am curious to know if he views music as therapy or has reliving the horrific memories become a macabre vocation thrust upon him as he became the unfortunate victim of unimaginable circumstances. After a lengthy pause that borders on the uncomfortable I am about to move onto my next question but he calmly looks me in the eye: “I am forced into this situation because...” again he pauses before continuing. I feel guilty as I realise that this is difficult for him. “I am happy but I see on the TV that my people are still suffering. It
is my duty to use my story as a voice to speak for those who can’t speak for themselves. It is not easy doing this job. It is painful.” Sitting in a matching ensemble of orange and black Vans, black jeans, orange polo shirt, and orange and grey jacket he is the picture of urban cool. But what attracted a young Sudanese man to use Hip Hop as a vehicle of expression? “Hip Hop is just speaking and you can say many words in a verse and you do not need an amazing voice, you just talk.” Unexpectedly he breaks into some impromptu, tongue-in-cheek acappella as proof of this fact. “I like eating nuts and everyday is cool and I wake up and jump on top of the building and I am so happy.” “It’s such a cool type of music” laughs Emmanuel as I sit amazed at his ability to juxtapose trauma and optimism. The International Criminal Court recently issued a warrant for the arrest of Omar al-Bashir, Sudan’s tyrannical leader. While this is undoubtedly the correct decision the effect on the ground has been devastating for the ordinary people. Virtually all the international NGOs have been expelled and the catalogue of suffering by the people of Darfur is set to increase. It is impossible to interview Emmanuel without raising the issue of the violence of Sudan; indeed it defines him almost as totally as it does his homeland. I inquire if he believes the warrant was the most appropriate course of action. “They have done a good job by actually identifying what is happening but Bashir is not alone.” The change in Emmanuel is stark as he lends his support to the ICC decision. Unsurprisingly the moment the issue of genocide is raised he becomes a different person, the laidback hip hopper is usurped by the enraged Sudanese native. He bangs his fist off the table, eyes glowing with intensity and tells me that “there are people who are committing genocide and people need to be punished. From 1983 up until now we only know about the genocide of Darfur. What about the ordinary people who have had their lives destroyed? It is good news to see the world finally addressing this issue but on the other hand the people of Sudan are now locked in and to defy Bashir would cost you your life.” I am full of questions but it is time for Emmanuel to meet with some local school children, 50 Cent he most certainly is not! Shortly after the interview I go down to watch him speak at the Mitchell Library as part of the Aye Write festival. As well has his own album Emmanuel is also the author of War Child, his harrowing biography. The audience sit awkwardly as he explains how he travelled from a world of refugees and rifles and a life of rap. His tales of an idyllic rural life obliterated by starvation, cannibalism, rape, and genocide echo incongruously around the opulent chandeliers and stained glass windows of the main auditorium. I see that Emmanuel Jal truly is a voice for the voiceless; Óscar Romero would be proud! www.gua-africa.org www.emmanueljal.org
FRANCK MARTIN has a chinwag with front man Andy ‘Falco’ Falkous from the delightfully abrasive, refreshingly anarchic alt rockers Future Of The Left. Think politics, an album preview and some multifacaeted bollocks!
What is the future of the left? We have just finished mastering our latest album and putting the different bits of our work together, which is always far more complicated than it should be. We have a release date now (due out in June) and then we will be touring around that and beyond that The Future of the Left will either be a succession of temporary jobs or continuing if the record is successful enough in order to justify that. What can we expect from ‘Travels With Myself And Another’? Expect really loud rock music that is more direct. It sounds massive, absolutely naturally gigantic. We have developed it in a way that explores melody while being uncompromising to the original sound and ideas of the band. How has the music progressed since the release of Curses? Consciously we never came up with an agenda about what we would do. We knew that we did not want to repeat ourselves but this can be a problem when you are building up momentum and a fan base. When people fall in love with a band they fall in love with the first thing they hear and then want to hear that for the rest of the bands career, whether or not they will admit it that is the truth. So we wanted to trim the fat. It is hardly a record with long intros or instrumental passages. It begins hard and it hits all the way through for 33 minutes. Some people say that is too short
but the advantage of this is that if you enjoy it as much as we hope you will then you can put it back onto the start. You recently premiered some new material at the South by South West Festival, how did the new tracks go down with the crowd? Very very well. We had played some of the songs in Britain and the reaction was muted to say the least, though these were support slots. We were disappointed as ‘Arming Eritrea’ the first song from the record, is what I call a banker track because if you don’t like that song you will not like the rest but thankfully the reaction in the States was fantastic. Future of the Left has been the title of various books exploring the decline of the socialist politics. Do you view the band as political? No. We are all left leaning as individuals, some of us more than others, but it was more a name chosen because it was so striking rather than being part of any overall political agenda. So would you say that politics belongs in music? Politics belongs in music as much as humour belongs in music as much as pathos belongs in music as much drama belongs in music. It is all part of the personalities that combine to make the band. I think that when politics is the main thing in the band, or when it is overt in its sense it
becomes a little bit po-faced and becomes a case of preaching to the converted. It would disable any good intentions that the band has. The lyrics have come to be one of the bands more unique trademarks. How do you approach the lyrical process? The short answer is at the last minute. Most bands approach lyrics from a narrative perspective and then they become a slave to the story. I approach it from the other side and start with some words and sounds and attempt to conger an atmosphere in a natural way. In saying that, the songs on the new record are more linear and should, in theory, make more sense. Arming Eritrea is the exception as it goes off on a couple of tangents that do not make very much sense. There are a few songs that do approach stories of a beginning, middle and end. I am not proud of it but there we are. So was it a conscious decision to make the lyrics more accessible? Not at all. It’s about the way songs come from the sky and how the personalities of the band shape this. The second you bring an agenda to a song that is not natural is the second it all goes wrong. What music has been grabbing your attention of late? Personally speaking very very little. To be honest To be honest I am always the wrong person to ask about that.
Andy Falkous, singer/guitarist (L), Kelson Mathias, drummer (C), Jack Egglestone, singer/bassist (R)
photography: hamish brown
Fair enough. What about up-and -coming bands, are there any that you think people should look out for? Yes. A band we played with in Manchester called Kong, who are a collection of very noisy and nasty individuals who make really compelling, bizarre music. You are not going to leave whistling any of their tunes - that is really not the point of what they do. Essentially we are a pop band, loud and angry but pop nonetheless. That is not true of Kong. I typed the bandâ€™s name into the NME search engine and it produced 13,600 results. Is the band happy with the attention the NME and the wider media have given them? I will say in a general sense that it can make things a little bit difficult. I mean I am certainly not an NME reader and I do not get anything about music from print magazines anymore. When I was growing up the NME and Melody Maker were my
Bibles and I used to buy records on the basis of reviews. Music journalism used to do records justice but I would question how much the media in general are able to convey that now. It is certainly good to get any exposure, be it from the NME or a guy called Charles in Dumbarton but at this moment in time it has made very little difference to me. Speaking of NME, would you agree that you have done for guitar music what the Klaxons have done for electro? I would not say I agree with that but I believe that any opinion about the band is fine unless it dissolves into the arena of personal confrontation. It is a positive comment which I appreciate but personally I regard that comment as demented. Your most recent outing in Glasgow was at the Captains Rest, a night which ended in a stage invasion and an overzealous punter having a bash at
the drums. Does the band have plans to relive this bedlam by the Clyde? We have one in May. Glasgow crowds are notoriously stationary, especially since our crowd tends to be 18 and over they are a little bit cynical compared to gangs of 15 year olds hurtling against each other. As a band fame for heckling comebacks, how would you rate Glasgow in terms of its heckling prowess? The problem is the intelligibility of the heckling as the Scottish accent is not always the best enunciated to us Southerners, even though I am from Newcastle I still suppose up there I am a Southerner. I am sure much of it is very eloquent but internationally the Scots do not have a reputation for long, drawn-out, intellectual discourse but I am sure it is contained within the screams of bollocks. Is the bollocks multifaceted? Oho yes, it is layered on many levels.
ALTERNATIVE FESTIVALS OK so the recession’s crept its way into our summer plans and we’re being a little more wary with our cash. In the past we’ve been all too happy to chuck our hard earned overdraft in the direction of a certain domineering, beer-scented festival sponsor. but what should we be doing now we’re being a little more discerning with our financial moves this year? laura dohertY wades through the portaloo spotted scenery of the summer’s festivals to show you where to invest your tent pegs. Isle of Bute Jazz Festival 30th APRIL - 4th MAY Don’t let the image of aging jazz cats fool you – apparently the Isle of Bute has gained a reputation for becoming the rowdiest place on earth during this jazz weekender. Now in its twenty-second year it has become a staple of the island’s calendar, attracting homegrown and internationally renowned acts for a five-day jazz, rhythm and blues spectacular. Tickets are only £45 for five days and Bute’s spectacular scenery lies within an hour’s drive and a short ferry trip from Glasgow. You could probably even spend that time making jazz hands in eager, time-signature splicing anticipation: who’s to judge? Kelburn Garden Party 19th - 21st June Usually home to adventure playgrounds and mystical castle adventures, the Garden Party throws open the grounds of Kelburn Castle for three days of music and arts. Boasting some rather picturesque surroundings, you can spend the afternoon taking in the views of the glens and waterfalls that the grounds have to offer before spending the evening dancing away on the tennis courts, specially transformed for the musical onslaught. With Mungo’s Hi-Fi, Samba Ya Bamba, Numbers and the Kinky Afro DJs amongst the many, many guests there will be no shortage of beats to make you feel like King and/or Queen
Illustration: Kira thomas
of the castle. The tickets are only £58 and revellers are encouraged to travel by ecofriendly means in order to preserve the festival’s idyllic backdrop. Outsider Festival 27th - 28th JUNE The Outsider festival makes a return this year in Rothiemurchus, near Aviemore. The line-up has a pretty hefty Scottish edge to it, with appearances from the legends that are Teenage Fanclub, King Creosote and James Yorkston (the Fence presence a must-see for those who missed this April’s Homegame festival in Anstruther) and newer acts such as The Phantom Band, We Were Promised Jetpacks and Attic Lights to sate those in search of up-and-coming acts. The festival also features a comedy tent with stand up from Fred MacAulay, Miles Jupp and the hilarious Kevin Bridges, a twenty-three year old Bankie whose Edinburgh Fringe and Glasgow Comedy Festival appearances have had him singled out as one of the most exciting new acts in Scottish comedy. Wickerman Festival 24th - 25th July This out and out hippy fest takes place in Dundrennan, near Dumfries; the two day festival culminates in the burning of a giant wicker doll, just to keep the Dumfries and Galloway constabulary on their toes. Musically the festival typically attracts
one or two large headliners supported by a plethora of credible smaller acts: this year being no exception with The Human League initiating the Rock n Roll (hey!) along with soul legend Candi Staton. The supporting cast of mis-matched local acts include Drums of Death, The Second Hand Marching Band, Pearl and the Puppets, Remember Remember, The Bum-Clocks and many, many more over the festival’s stages. Knockengorroch Festival 19th 21st September Another Dumfries and Galloway based festival, which probably proves the existence of ley lines beneath the region, is the Knockengorroch festival, a gathering of music and arts which celebrates Celtic arts whilst promoting the natural beauty of the area. Their aim is to “promote multi-cultural forms and musical genres, highlighting the connection between roots music and the land that gave birth to that music and its people”, see? The line-up features many chill-axed DJ sets specially chosen to get you in tune with the earth which spawned you: The Orb are headliners, need we say more? There will also be fire shows, cabaret, workshops, street theatre, a silent disco, rumours The Bays may make an appearance and a healing area to wind down your recession woes: with a student discount attached to the adult weekend pass you can’t say fairer than that now can you?
PHOTOGRAPHY: CATRIONA MATHESON
A841, ISLE OF ARRAN
from the highlands to the islands Mountain views to rival the Alps, turquoise sea that can match the Mediterranean and fresh air that can clean out those cobwebs and make you feel brand spanking new again. Catriona Matheson invites you to explore Scotland’s stunning west coast. GUM•29
BEINN TARSUINN, ISLE OF ARRAN
MACHRIE MOOR STANDING STONES, ISLE OF ARRAN
loch dunvegan, ISLE OF skye
It can be hard to imagine that not too far away from the library’s fluorescent lights lies some of the world’s most beautiful and untouched scenery. Often described as Western Europe’s last natural wilderness, Scotland’s highlands and islands are home to staggering mountain peaks, deep glens, expansive moors and beautiful woodlands, not to mention wildlife including golden eagles, deer and dolphins. Whether you fancy an overnight jaunt to take time off from revision, a celebratory trip after your exams or a summer holiday that will allow you to see the country at its best, Scotland’s west coast has plenty to offer the student traveller. So next time you’re thinking of booking a flight, take a look at what’s on your doorstep. From the southerly Isle of Arran to the Western Isles and everything in between, prepare to be wowed. There is something very appealing about holidaying on a Scottish island. Perhaps it is the sense of adventure from crossing water and the romance of being somewhere so remote. Luckily however, you don’t have to travel too far for the experience as the Isle of Arran is easily accessible from Glasgow and so makes the perfect destination for a short break. Sitting in the Firth of Clyde between Ayrshire and Kintyre, Arran is just a two-hour journey from central Glasgow, including the hour ferry ride from mainland Ardrosson to Brodick, Arran’s main port. It may only be 19 miles long by 10 miles wide however Arran is home to a remarkable diversity of landscapes, best experienced by pulling on the hiking boots or cycling its circular road. With rolling hills and sandy bays in the south and granite mountain-tops in the north, it is easy to see why Arran is often dubbed ‘Scotland in Miniature.’ Indeed, the locals will tell you that Arran has the best of what the rest of Scotland has on offer; golf courses, ancient castles, outdoor sports, top restaurants and a distillery. Music lovers should take note that Arran’s pubs also come alive with the sounds of session music during the summer months.
coral beach, ISLE OF skye
If, however, you need more than a short break to wet your travel taste buds, then you should head north-west out of Glasgow, and keep on going. If you haven’t already been, then a good first port of call is Loch Lomond and The Trossachs National Park. You can catch a train from Glasgow to Balloch which sits on the banks of Loch Lomond. From there, you can explore the surrounding area and, for £6.50 you can
waternish peninsula, ISLE OF SKYE
take a boat trip out onto the Loch. I’ve heard that on a sunny day it’s magnificent. If like on my recent trip there, you get battered and soaked by the wind and rain, then afterwards you can seek salvation in the loch-side Balloch House Hotel. Tastefully decorated and quaintly Scottish, the hotel offers an all-day menu and comfy sofas by a log fire. From Balloch, you can catch a bus to the coastal town of Oban which is the largest port on Scotland’s west coast. Oban is popular with tourists largely due to its local sites (castles and an impressive amphitheatre), excellent just-off-the-boat seafood (think fresh oysters, scallops and crab) and its ferry links to nearby islands. Caledonian MacBrayne runs ferries from Oban to the Isles of Mull, Barra, Colonsay, Tiree and South Uist so you have several options for travelling further afield. Staying on the mainland, onwards from Oban you can travel (preferably by a car, but there is a bus service) through the jaw-droppingly spectacular Glencoe, one of Scotland’s most historic and scenic glens. As you drive through the glen, the sheer scale and grandeur of its surrounding mountains will not fail to impress. I’ve driven through Glencoe in glorious sunshine as well as in torrential rain and on both occasions the views did not disappoint. When the sun shines on Glencoe, it bounces off the rocky crags; on a grey day, the weather only adds to the mystical atmosphere of the area which is rumored to be haunted due to the infamous 1692 Massacre of Glencoe involving the Campbell and MacDonald clans. If it seems familiar, then it may be due to its more recent claim to fame; the setting for part of the Harry Potter film ‘Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban.’ North of Oban lies Fort William, home to the mighty Ben Nevis which at 1344
meters is Britain’s highest peak. The mountain attracts many who would not normally attempt such a climb (myself included) with a staggering 100,000 people reaching the summit every year. Although anyone who is reasonably fit should be capable of the climb, the ascent should not be undertaken lightly. The weather can be temperamental (I experienced snow in June) and every year several people have to be rescued from the mountain so do your research first and make sure you’re well equipped. The climb is a challenge and your legs will probably be aching for days when you get back to level ground, however the rewards are certainly worth it. If you’re lucky with the weather then the views are spectacular, and your pint at the Ben Nevis Inn following your descent will be the best you have ever tasted. From Fort William, you have several options for travelling north including Ullapool, Cape Wrath, Sandlewood Bay or eastwards to Loch Ness. However I would highly recommend making your way to Kyle of Lochalsh from where you can cross the bridge to the Isle of Skye. I may be biased about Skye as I’ve been visiting for years and have some wonderful memories, however the island is truly one of Scotland’s finest. Skye boasts an intriguing history; as the song goes, Bonnie Prince Charlie fled to the Isle to escape capture. Portree, Skye’s capital is picturesque with a delightful, cottage-lined harbour. However, it is the backdrop of dramatic scenery that keeps tourists returning year after year. The Isle of Skye is a Mecca for hill walkers and rock climbers but every visitor will be in awe of its views. Come prepared for all weather; Skye is known as the ‘Misty Isle’. However when the sun is out, it is glorious. The surrounding sea turns turquoise and sparkles in the sunlight, and the deserted, white sandy beaches will make you very glad you didn’t book that flight.
coral beach, ISLE OF SKYE
GETTING THERE BY TRAIN
Trains depart Glasgow for Ardrossan every half hour from where you can catch the ferry to the Isle of Arran. For travelling north, you can catch trains from Glasgow to Balloch in Loch Lomond, Oban, Fort William and also Kyle of Lochalsh via Perth and Inverness. Alternatively you can travel up the west coast by bus. Citylink runs services from Glasgow to Portree, stopping at Loch Lomond, Fort William and many other places of interest along the way. BY BUS
If you fancy a road trip but don’t have your own wheels, you can rent a car in Glasgow from around £70 for a weekend. TOURS
The Scottish Youth Hostel Association offers a great selection of budget accomodation. But the cost of accommodation doesn’t have to break the bank- you can camp from £4 per person per night at sites all around the west coast of Scotland.
O O O O O O O
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isle of skye Kyle of Lochalsh fort william glencoe oban loch lomond glasgow ISLE OF ARRAN
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