Sep 272013
 

‘I want to be there, there being no top of tree, no glory or honour, simply working good and well, and producing stuff that will last the ages.’ (William Lamb, 1923)

As a young lad growing up in Montrose in the 1960s I first came across William Lamb’s work when my uncle used his old studio. Surrounded by statues of massive figures, disembodied heads and nude young boys, the place had a strange, neglected atmosphere. These days, his large bronze figures are proudly displayed in the town and the studio is open to the public.  John Stansfeld’s new biography can only add to the reputation of an important artist, often described as ‘a Scottish Rodin’. Graham Stephen reviews.

People's-Sculptor3Lavishly illustrated, the book details Lamb’s artistic achievements and gives us insight to a complex man who, despite a reluctance to leave his beloved home town, once solo-cycled over 4000km through Europe on his trusty Raleigh, had a trial for Aberdeen FC and briefly became a playmate of the current queen.

From a variety of sources, most notably the Simms’ family archive, Stansfeld examines Lamb’s struggle to create superb work despite personal hardships.

Rooted in his community and landscape, Lamb chose to ‘starve among (his) own folk’ rather than dilute his native culture by moving away in search of a more lucrative market.

His portrayal of working men and women, real people often struggling with life and the elements, are a particular feature of his work.

The Lamb who enlisted in 1915 was a skilled stonemason, respected artist and all-round sportsman. He returned a broken man, temporarily struck dumb, physically and psychologically devastated and, tragically, with a permanently damaged right hand.

By sheer force of will he taught himself to work again with his left, skilled enough to win commissions to create the war memorials which funded his European travels in 1923. His surviving letters from this trip are one of the highlights of the book, an insight into a man with a meticulous eye for detail, realising that art would be his life, never taking the easy path.

Stansfeld’s detailed research unearths intriguing aspects of Lamb’s life. He was almost perpetually penniless, relying on friends to feed him, often on a daily basis. Any money he made was invariably used to fund materials, or help fellow artists like Ed Baird, another undervalued Montrose talent.

The local council, disturbed by his nude figures, suggested adding kilts for a major exhibition, and Lamb reacted predictably. He was a lifelong teetotaller, disgusted by his alcoholic father, supressing his probable homosexuality, living alone in a freezing attic. His attendance at fledgling Nationalist meetings held by poet Hugh MacDiarmid in the 1920s was more likely for the heat of the fire than for the rhetoric.

Lamb later took his revenge on the arrogant MacDiarmid by making his bust look ‘like him’.

Most intriguing is his commission to sculpt Princess Elizabeth in 1932 when he spends many hours alone with the future queen, playing house and crafting plasticine tea-sets, before returning to Montrose, and his ultimate decline.

In a rare speech in 1930 William Lamb described Scottish sculpture as ‘hopeless’, unappreciated and unloved by the majority of the population. Even today it would be hard to argue against him. This fine book should help to bring his achievements to a wider audience.

The People’s Sculptor: The Life and Art of William Lamb (1893-1951)
John Stansfeld
Birlinn Ltd
£14.99

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Feb 282013
 

Voice’s Old Susannah takes a look over the past week’s events in the ‘Deen and beyond. By Suzanne Kelly.

Could spring be around the corner? The weather is improving, a ‘the green shoots of the economic recovery’ (as the Tories used to say) are nearly as vibrant and dynamic as the blue-green dyed grass on Trump International’s  4th hole.  Old Susannah has been taking advantage of the warm weather, and had a few lovely coastal walks recently.

On the 16th I walked around the Menie coastline with a friend from Aberdeen Voice.  The Trump international people have accidentally locked a few gates shut, almost as if to discourage walkers.
No doubt once this is brought to their attention, they’ll remedy the situation.

I guess this will have to wait until the Maloney-Baloney honeymoon is over.  Which it will be soon enough. 

Elsewhere further down the coast I had a pleasant jog/run around the Torry lighthouse and Nigg Bay.  With the good weather lots of people were enjoying themselves on the coast and at Torrymelinos.  How wonderful it will be when the industrial harbour extends itself into these SSSI areas filled with protected wildlife.

We here in the Radon City can be proud of one of our environmental records which no other Scottish city seems to be able to match these many years; more of our city streets show up in the lists of top ten most polluted Scottish streets than any other city can manage.  Result!

According to the latest from  Friends of the Earth, Wellington Road, Union Street and Market Street are highly placed for various forms of air pollution.  Well done.  http://www.foe-scotland.org.uk/news030213 .

As we know, that sort of environmental nonsense doesn’t count for much around here, especially if there are jobs to be created and money to theoretically be made (for a few anyway).  We could have done even better if we’d have got rid of those old trees in Union Terrace Gardens and put up some concrete (sorry – granite).

Even further still down the coast, Old Susannah had another walk with a friend on Lunan Bay.  It was ‘underused’.  I’m sure it could be put to more practical use and made more crowded; perhaps a golf course and a few  hundred homes would do the trick.

The area is rather spoilt at one end of the bay, as an old, boring red structure looms over the scene.  It must have some health and safety issues, and probably should be torn down for a shopping mall.  Apparently it is called the Red Castle, and in some boring old past time some guy named William the Conqueror built it (bad job, William, it’s falling down).

Then other guys named  Robert the Bruce and William Wallace used it, too.

I’m sure people visiting Scotland aren’t interested in this kind of thing, and would rather shop and eat – let’s hope Visit Scotland and Scottish Enterprise can spend some of our tax money on a nice development study for Lunan, like they did for the Menie Estate.

Overall, things are just a bit confusing this past week in the Granite City, the McCote d’Azure (formerly known as Balmedie, now famous for its turquoise dyed grass), and the wider world.  It’s hard to know where to begin with all the exciting developments.  But I’ll make a start.  Here are some definitions relevant to this week’s current events.

Inappropriate Behaviour: (mod Eng phrase)  conduct which is beyond what is accepted in societal norms; often sexual, unbalanced and/or aggressive in nature.

They say you should never discuss religion and politics. At the moment, that philosophy would leave almost nothing to talk or write about.

We’ve had the shocking spectacle of people of the same sex  in love wanting to get married.  Thankfully, our most senior religious figures have been there to condemn this outrageous concept, leading by example.  None other than the UK’s Cardinal Keith O’Brien was one such outspoken guardian of our morals.  Well, until recently.

O’Brien was at first slightly tolerant of homosexuality; then he came out (as it were) against same-sex marriages.  Now his behaviour is being called ‘inappropriate.’ O’Brien apparently had a more liberal outlook in his early days climbing the greasy pole of church hierarchy.

However, his views on same sex marriage included quotes such as:-

“The empirical evidence is clear, same-sex relationships are demonstrably harmful to the medical [yes, he  really said that], emotional and spiritual wellbeing of those involved, no compassionate society should ever enact legislation to facilitate or promote such relationships, we have failed those who struggle with same-sex attraction and wider society by our actions;

and apparently,

“Down with this sort of thing;

and,

“Careful now.”

O’Brien is now resigning because of alleged  ‘inappropriate behaviour’ towards other priests.  If Old Susannah understands correctly, this  means he can’t vote for the next pope, who is resigning immediately (from a scandal-riddled institution), possibly because of some kind of scandal about to break.

I’m not one to knock the churchgoing or bash the bishops, but I’m starting to get a sneaking suspicion that there may be some flaws in the very fibre of the church.  Whether or not he went around saying ‘Drink!  Feck!  Arse!  Girls!  Boys!’ is yet to be confirmed or denied.  But it looks as if someone is up for a de-frocking (in an appropriate way of course – I think the ‘inappropriate’ in the church will be told to ‘frock off.’).

Inappropriate behaviour in the religious spotlight at the moment also seems to include financial inconsistencies, which if a group of men take vows of poverty while living in palaces surrounded by art treasures and wealth could just be a problem.  I’m sure any missing money was just resting in someone’s account.

Inappropriate behaviour, sex scandals, child abuse, ignored abuse, lying, financial inconsistencies… these are not just the domain of the religious; the LibDems seem to like a bit of it, too.  I wonder if a nice cup of tea would help.  G’wan.

Inquiry: (modern compound English noun) 1.  to examine a situation and learn lessons to avoid a repetition; 2.  to issue a big, baffling report at the end of a few months’ of expensive taxpayer-funded testimony which clears the government of wrongdoing.

Nearly as clearly as the above situation, we have the case of Lord Rennard, and what the LibDems knew, didn’t know or suspected.  Nick Clegg gave one of his straightforward interviews to save the day and let everyone know where the LibDems stood.

From his statement we can determine that yes, Clegg knew of abuse rumours, but no he didn’t really know anything, but yes, the police are investigating, but no Clegg  did not look into it when it arose, but yes, it was ‘all a long time ago’, but no Clegg and the LibDems ‘cannot provide a running commentary on every shred of speculation’.

And they say the guy is wishy-washy and prone to u-turns.

He told Sky News:

“I understand there are many people who appear to want to act as self-appointed detectives trying to piece together events that happened many years ago, but the only way that we are going to get to the bottom of the truth, the only way we are going to ensure that the women whose allegations were broadcast on television last week are properly listened to, the only way were are going to establish exactly what happened and who knew what and when, is by allowing the two investigations that I established immediately after the Channel 4 broadcast to do their job and, indeed, to allow the police, whom we have now approached, to do their job as well.

“And in the meantime I cannot and my party cannot provide a running commentary on every shred of speculation about events which happened many years ago.”

Clegg does in his words ‘want to get to the bottom’ of the truth.  What he’ll do when he finally hits rock bottom is another matter.  Better late than never, though.

Still, with two government inquiries announced, we’ll have the truth in no time, just like we did after government inquiries into the sexed-up dodgy dossier that got us into the Iraq war, the mysterious death of Dr Kelly, the petrol pricing inquiry, and so on.

But as Nick Clegg helpfully pointed out a few times to the press, the scandal and abuse was ‘all a long time ago,’ (so it can’t really matter).

You have to wonder why the victims of sexual abuse just don’t pop down to a friendly police station and report abuse.  What could be less traumatic and simpler than finding a sympathetic, understanding government institution to get swift, fair justice?

Operation Sapphire: (modern English compound noun) a Police initiative in south London to address sexual crime.

Result!  A South London police initiative to help victims of sexual crime!  No doubt they would treat victims with great dignity, understanding and offer support.

Or, as came out in the news this week, they could just tell victims that the police wouldn’t be interested in getting any justice, and they should just forget it.

I guess they think this is a great way not only to keep the reported crime statistics low, but also to save taxpayer money on costly trials and even costlier jail sentences (not that many rapists get convicted anyway).  That’s what they seemed to think anyway, as they helpfully, sympathetically told rape victims not to press charges.  Brilliant.

“The Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) said Southwark Sapphire unit in south London “encouraged” victims to withdraw allegations to boost detection rates.

“The Metropolitan Police said substantial changes had been made.”
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-london-21586786

It looks as if at least one accused rapist who was let off the hook went on to kill a couple of children per the above report.  Well, stuff happens.  It’s not as if there is any reason to think a violent sexual predator would pose a long-term threat, is there?

Let’s face it, being a police officer can be stressful.  I hope these victims of violent crime can think about the effect their stories might have on the police before they go around upsetting them by making allegations.

Back in 2009, the UK had the worst rape conviction rate in Europe. It seems some people in power might want to keep it that way.
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/law-and-order/

I hope these little definitions will help to give everyone the faith in our institutions that they deserve.  As the ConDems will be the first to tell you, ‘we’re all in this together.’  Indeed we are.

Next week:  a look at some great letters I’ve received from government branches, hopefully an update on the SNH’s plans to shoot 700 deer in Scotland out of season, and more definitions.

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Jan 272012
 

One of America’s biggest stars, Rosie O’Donnell, has admitted to millions that she was “moved to tears” by the hit feature documentary You’ve Been Trumped when the film’s director was the main guest on her show last week.

Footage of what the National Union of Journalists (NUJ) described as filmmaker Anthony Baxter’s “violent arrest” was broadcast across  America for the first time.

The broadcast prompted scores of outraged viewers to hit Twitter and Facebook to voice their anger at the actions of Donald Trump, the Scottish Government and Grampian Police.

On The Rosie Show, Baxter revealed how Freedom of Information requests made by the Sunday Herald have only heightened concerns that Grampian Police “have been acting like Donald Trump’s private security force”.  He also accused the force of carrying out a “whitewash cover up enquiry’ into his arrest.

The arrests of Baxter and his colleague Richard Phinney whilst making their film in 2010 prompted fierce criticism from the NUJ. The union described the police’s actions as “a breach of human rights” with “important implications for press freedom”.  

Meanwhile, O’Donnell is urging Americans to watch what she describes as “an amazing film”. She admits to crying during the scene where hundreds of people walk across the bulldozed dunes of the Menie Estate, to show of support for local resident Michael Forbes, accused by Mr Trump of “living like a pig in a slum”.

You’ve Been Trumped will be screened again in Chicago on 22 March, prior to its being rolled out for screenings in Europe as well as in Washington DC, Miami, New York, San Francisco, Arizona and other major American cities.

Clips from The Rosie Show…
http://www.oprah.com/rosie/The-Rosie-Show-Rosie-Takes-on-Trump

You’ve Been Trumped has won a total of eight international film festival awards

WINNER: Starz Denver Film Festival, USA
WINNER: Take One Action Film Festival, Scotland
WINNER: Michael Moore’s Traverse City Film Festival, Michigan
WINNER: DaKINO International Film Festival, Bucharest
WINNER: Hamptons International Film Festival, New York
WINNER: Edindocs Film Festival, Edinburgh
WINNER: Wild & Scenic Environmental Film Festival, Nevada City
WINNER: Sheffield International Documentary Festival UK

Michael Moore hand-picked You’ve Been Trumped for his Traverse City Film Festival in Michigan where it won the Special Jury Prize. It is now well on course to be the most successful cinema feature documentary ever produced in Scotland.

Nov 222011
 

‘You’ve Been Trumped’ scoops Best Documentary award at one of America’s biggest film festivals ~ Jury calls film ‘deeply troubling’ ~ Salmond stays silent.  With thanks to Tripping Up Trump.

Feature documentary ‘You’ve Been Trumped’ has won its fifth major award – clinching the Best Documentary Prize at the 34th Starz Denver Film Festival, Denver, Colorado, USA.

In winning the award, ‘You’ve Been Trumped’ topped an impressive list of 59 of the year’s very best documentaries from around the world.

Other winners at the prestigious ceremony at the city’s Ellie Caulkins Opera House included actress Judy Greer, Scottish actor Alan Cumming OBE, and Hollywood star James Cromwell – who personally congratulated Montrose based director Anthony Baxter on ‘You’ve Been Trumped’s achievement.

The jury statement read,

“We decided upon a film that tells a story about a greedy capitalist and a community trying to save its home.   We admired the filmmaker’s perseverance and his reluctance to insert himself into the David and Goliath story.

Deeply troubling, amusing, and rousing all at the same time, the winner of the 2011 Maysles Brothers Award for Best Documentary Film is You’ve Been Trumped.”

Mr Baxter told the audience of several thousand filmgoers and Denver dignitaries,

“The Trump Organisation has called our film ‘a failure’ and me ‘a fraud’ whilst the local residents have been branded ‘a national embarrassment for Scotland.’   I’m proud to accept this award on their behalf.”

You’ve Been Trumped’ has now won a total of five major film festival awards – including a Special Jury Prize at Michael Moore’s Traverse City Film Festival, the Victor Rabinowitz and Joanne Grant Social Justice Award at the Hamptons International Film Festival in New York, and the Green Award at the Sheffield International Documentary Film Festival.

The filmmakers are currently seeking distribution for ‘You’ve Been Trumped’ in the United States, and a major viral campaign supported by Karine Polwart is underway.  The Scottish singer-songwriter has donated her new song, inspired by the film and called Cover Your Eyes, to ‘You’ve Been Trumped’s crowd-funding campaign.

‘You’ve Been Trumped’ will be returning to cinemas in Scotland this weekend, when it plays at the Filmhouse in Edinburgh on Friday, Saturday and Sunday.  Scotland’s First Minister has been invited to the screenings through an open letter from the film’s director.    Alex Salmond’s private office, has yet to respond to the request.

For further information on ‘You’ve Been Trumped’ visit www.youvebeentrumped.com or on Facebook:
http://www.facebook.com/pages/Youve-Been-Trumped/187472834621346

‘You’ve Been Trumped’ has now won the following awards:

Victor Rabinowitz Social Justice Award – Hampton’s International Film Festival
Special Jury Prize – Michael Moore’s Traverse City Film Festival
Best Documentary (Maysles Brothers Award) – Starz Denver Film Festival
Best Film – Edindocs Film Festival, Edinburgh
Green Award – Doc/Fest (UK)

Sep 302011
 

You’ve Been Trumped – the documentary film branded ‘a failure’ by Donald Trump has just won its third major documentary award – and first in Scotland – clinching the Scottish Screen Archive Prize for Best Feature Documentary at the Edindocs Festival in Edinburgh. Suzanne Kelly reports.

The award means the film will be archived as an important piece of Scotland’s history and stored at The National Library of Scotland ‘forever’.

This latest award follows two other major festival awards for the film.

In June You’ve Been Trumped won the Green Prize – the top environmental award for UK documentaries – at the Sheffield International Documentary Festival.  And in August, the film scooped the Special Jury Prize at Michael Moore’s Traverse City Film Festival in Michigan.

You’ve Been Trumped was rejected for funding by Creative Scotland and passed over for this year’s Edinburgh International Film Festival

However, it has proven to be a hit at some of the world’s most prestigious documentary festivals and will shortly be screened in Australia, Taiwan, Bermuda and at several major film festivals in the United States.

You’ve Been Trumped tells the story of Donald Trump’s attempts to build what he claims will be ‘the greatest golf course in the world’ on a supposedly protected environmental site in Aberdeenshire.   The plan involves building 1500 houses and a luxury hotel on what scientists have described as ‘the crown jewels of Scotland’s Natural Heritage.’

You’ve Been Trumped has just begun a Sheffield Doc/Fest winners’ tour – playing at major independent cinemas across the UK and is also part of the Take One Action Film Festival which takes in Glasgow, Edinburgh and Inverness.    The film is also due to return to cinemas in Aberdeen and Dundee next month.  Meanwhile, You’ve Been Trumped will be travelling to the Vancouver International Film Festival later this month and will unspool for its official New York premiere in early October.

Director Anthony Baxter said:

“It’s a great honour for You’ve Been Trumped to be recognised as an important historical document and reassuring to know that future generations will be able to learn lessons from the environmental destruction that’s been unfolding on the Menie Estate for precious little economic benefit.”

Scottish folk singer-songwriter Karine Polwart (“exceptionally subtle and melodic” Q Magazine) is currently penning a new song inspired by events captured in the film, which will be unveiled when You’ve Been Trumped is screened at the FilmHouse in Edinburgh on 2nd October as part of the Take One Action Film Festival.

Footnotes:

  • You’ve Been Trumped (UK, running time 95 minutes) was made by Angus based independent production company Montrose Pictures Ltd.
  • The film score features music from world the world renowned Sigur Rus and the band’s front man Jonsi.
  • Many of You’ve Been Trumped’s future screenings can be viewed here – with more dates to be added.
  • Latest news on the film can be seen here.
  • For further information call Montrose Pictures: +44(0)1674 677 233 or email: projects@montrosepictures.co.uk