Mar 152022
 
New 3 screen cinema boasts ‘Costing the Earth’ Fest over March Weekend. With thanks to Suzanne Kelly.
 

A trio of critically acclaimed films are to unspool on the big screen at Montrose’s new community run £3.5m cinema later this weekend, as the town boasts its first ever film festival with live Q&As.

The festival kicks off with a tenth anniversary screening of the multi-award-winning documentary ‘You’ve Been Trumped’ on Friday March 18.

Aberdeenshire residents who stood up to Donald Trump’s bullying over his luxury golf resort plans will join director Anthony Baxter (pictured) for audience questions after the film.
 
Also at the ‘Costing the Earth’ screening will be Aberdeenshire Councillor Martin Ford – the politician whose casting vote derailed Mr Trump’s golf resort the first time around – and artist David McCue whose paintings of key characters caught up in the drama, won praise from around the world.
 
The £10 ticket price includes a drink with the director and other guests in the cinema’s new community room – from 6.45pm, with the film starting at 7.30pm.
 
On Saturday March 19 the event, which is part of Scotland’s climate festival, continues with a special screening of BAFTA winning Bill Forsyth’s iconic Local Hero’ in Montrose at 7.30pm.
 
The film, which stars the legendary actor Burt Lancaster, is about an American oil company representative sent to the fictional village of Ferness on the west coast of Scotland to purchase the town and surrounding property for his company.  A Q&A following the film, will also include special guests.
 
Finally, on Sunday March 20 at 3.30pm, ‘A Dangerous Game’ will screen – the 2014 follow up to You’ve Been Trumped.  Residents from Aberdeenshire will again join for a Q&A following the screening, with the £10 ticket price also including tea and cake.
 
Filmmaker and Montrose Playhouse Patron Anthony Baxter added:
 
“It’s wonderful for Montrose to be hosting our first ever film festival.  And it’s an honour to be welcoming residents of the Menie Estate who stood up to Trump to our town – 10 years after the release of You’ve Been Trumped.
 
“All of these films, in their own way, highlight the cost to the planet, if we allow money and power to override environmental concerns.”
 
Tickets can be booked online for all the screenings at this link.
Dec 192021
 

In her tenth annual Christmas Satire Aberdeen Voice’s Suzanne ‘Old Susannah’ Kelly revisits the events of the past year and revisits last year’s satire, ‘A Night At Storybook Glen’. 

In that tale last year we learned how Angus performed on his first shift at the night security guard at Storybook Glen. Tonight we join Angus at his new job.

Angus straightened his tie, gave his lapels a pull to straighten his jacket and stepped off the No. 19 Hydrogen bus onto Union Street. Then he promptly slipped on the permanent temporary wooden decking, cracking his head on the wooden parklet (in other words a bench with a planter container filled with vandalised plants, fast-food wrappers and cigarette butts).

“Oh! ma heid!” he muttered, getting up and staggering towards the Souless bar, where he intended to have a quick weak beer before his 9pm shift at The Aberdeen Museum & Art Gallery would start.

Celebrating his new job since leaving Storybook Glen seemed a good idea.

“What’ll it be?” shouted the bar person over the heads of the noisy shouting/hugging throng.

“Ah’ll jist hae a Nanny State Shandy, mak it a half,” he smiled.

Just then a round-faced ginger-haired man in foggy spectacles popped his head around the bar.

“Oh no, my old pal Angus here wants something a wee bit stronger, don’t you pal? I hear you’re that new night security guard at the Musuem; you’ll be wantin tae stay awake.

“Here, have one of my Torry snowballs,” he said, pushing a glass to Angus.

Angus cocked his head to one side, and looked at the drink a bit dubiously.

He suddenly remembered the last time he’d had one of Pablo’s cocktails was last year at Storybook Glen’s drinks marquee, where he wasn’t sure whether half the things he’d seen that night were real or not.

He hadn’t been able to sleep properly for days afterwards, and found himself talking as long and as nonsensically as any ACC councillor.

“Pablo, ta aa the same, but Ah’m startin’ ma new job i noo, an’ need tae look sharp. By the wye, how did ye ken Ah’m on nights i noo?”

“Both the Night Time Economy Manger an’ the Alternate Night Time Economy Managers told me. Now just get that down yer neck an’ you’ll have a crackin’ time at the museum.”

Thinking both ‘fit’s an ‘Alternative Night Time Economy Manager’ and ‘Ach why nae?’ Angus downed the drink, thanked Pablo, and went on his merry way.

Who knows? Who cares? It’s a free dinner at the Marcliffe.

The snowy streets were dark, and here and there a fallen over pensioner, woman in high heels or people with mobility issues moaned for help as they slipped, slid and fell on the wooden pavements.

‘Anither normal night in the Deen’ Angus thought, watching brawling men spilling out of a pub swinging at each other and shouting.

Before long, turning down the beautifully illuminated street sign that read ‘elmo tree’ hanging over Belmont Street (one of twelve English-made signs a snip at £400k the lot), Angus found himself approaching the front of the Art Gallery.

He could see the curator standing just inside the doorway.

“It’s 2 minutes and 17 seconds to nine – I hope you’re going to be more punctual tomorrow night Angus!” the curator impatiently simmered, tapping at his watch.

“Angus, I think you met Tom, Dick and Harry; they’ll take it from here. I’m off to the award ceremony.”

“Thank you sir,” said Angus

“Err, which award ceremony is that?”

The curator gave a sign and an eyeroll, answering:

“Who knows? Who cares? It’s a free dinner at the Marcliffe.” And off he went.

Angus said ‘hullo’ to the three guards who stood before him. He had met them on his interview.

Angus heard a ‘SPLAT’ and the whole museum suddenly got eerily darker

They were all retired, but like so many people these days, chose to work minimum wages for the fun and excitement of it rather than enjoying their retirement.

Tom spoke first.

“Fine seein’ ye Angus; welcome. Ah ken ye’ve got yer flashlicht, an’ ere’s the keys.”

Dick chimed in:

“An’ ye’ll be needin this instruction manual; tells ye aa ye need tae ken aboot workin here at nicht. Can get a bittie spooky, ken – “ he broke off.

“But ach, ye’ll be jis’ fine.”

Finally Harry spoke, thrusting a bag at Angus, saying:

“Ye’ll hae a gran’ time Angus, jist dinna mind ony noises ye hear or onythin’ funny ye think ye micht be gan on. Sometimes the lichts play funny tricks.

“An’ if yer feelin’ i cauld, jist hae some o’ this BrewDog Tactical Nuclear Penguin or Sink the Bismarck – we thocht ye micht like a wee gift fae us on yer first day.”

They toured the museum, now devoid of the last of its visitors. Tracey Emin’s artwork, basically a neon sign,made entirely by others based on a scrawled few words of hers through neon light which reflected strangely on a nearby copy of Michelangelo’s David, a statue of Robert the Bruce, and a few paintings.

‘Fit is it wi’ Aiberdeen thinkin neon signs should be elevated tae expensive artwork an’ road signs?’ Angus thought.

For a fleeting moment the light almost made it seem as if the statues could talk – and wanted to. He shook his head and the effect was gone.

The four men meandered through the museum’s many rooms and floors, they passed priceless artworks by Scottish masters, portraits, battle scenes.

They stood under the great glass oculus window when Angus heard a ‘SPLAT’ and the whole museum suddenly got eerily darker as the light seemed to lower.

The three other security guards laughed.

“Aye, ye looked spooked already pal; that’s jist a seagull splattering the windae wi’ sh*te.” Tom laughed.

Dick said:

“Aye, it came as a huge surprise tae the architects that seagulls sh*te near the sea. Fa wid hae thocht?”

“Didnae stop them gettin’ plenty o’ awards though – fer gettin’ rid o’ the auld marble stairs veneer, an putting a pottycabin on the roof. The original architects are nae thrilled at aa” added Harry.

Tom broke across him:

“Ya mean the original architects widna be thrilled.”

“At’s fit Ah’m sayin’,” Harry answered.

Angus thought the three exchanged a quick glance, but then they ushered him onward.

Peering at the Inventory, Angus thumbed through

They were now in the basement, or ‘Subterranean Treasure Hub No 19’ as a sign read. Huge mountainous shelves were piled high with items the museum had collected.

There were old sewing pattern books, pieces of granite, an old A-Z, unsold copies of the Evening Express from 1973, some old glass jars and more. Angus couldn’t help wonder why anyone in their right mind would keep this junk.

Almost as if sensing Angus’ misgivings about the quality of these items, Tom volunteered:

“Tae some fowk thon auld boots wi’ hols in em, auld used tin cans an’ the like are jist rubbish.”

‘Too right’ thought Angus.

“But,” continued Tom, “we ken they’re valuable, cause the city accepted thon donations an’ officially logged them here in this invinterry.”

They had gone through a door labelled ‘SECURITY’ and Tom pointed to a printed document marked ‘Inventory’. This was a few hundred pages in size.

Peering at the Inventory, Angus thumbed through it read a few lines as the other three men stepped into an ante room marked ‘NO ENTRY NOT EVEN YOU – KEN!’

“Afore we leave ye tae it, we’re, errr… jist gan tae git a few things we … err … left ahind, like ma piece box an ma shoppin’ fae Poondland.

“Noo, Angus, ye lisnin? – ye can ging onywye ye like in i museum, but nae past ess door.

“Nivver! – nae metter fitivver happens! Ye hear ma?”

Angus just shrugged, and left them to it. As he heard banging, and scraping noises from that room, he thumbed through the inventory:

ABDMS095514 Gilda Le Fevre Label, 1920-1980
ABDMS095515 Jane Doe’s Thimble, 1920-1940
ABDMS095516 Jane Doe’s broken Thimble, 1886
ABDMS095517 Pattern for Six-Section Hat, 1936-1980
ABDMS095518 Pattern for Six-Section Hat, 1936-1980
ABDMS095519 Oval Hat Pattern, 1936-1980
ABDMS095520 Jane Doe’s Brim Pattern, 1936-1980
ABDMS095521 Jane Doe Sewing, 1990
ABDMS095522 Photograph of Gilda LeFevre, 1990
ABDMS095523 Photograph of Jane Doe, 1936-1980
ABDMS095524 Photograph of Gilda LeFevre and Employees, 1990
ABDMS095525 Photograph of Gilda LeFevre and Employees, 1990
ABDMS095526 Photograph of Pantomime, 1944
ABDMS095527 Photograph of Pantomime, 1944
ABDMS095589 Results Past, 2017
ABDMS095590 Comment No 20.
ABDMS095591 Comment No 15.
ABDMS095592 Comment No 16.
ABDMS095562 Valuable Gift, 2011
ABDMS095533 Income Tax Record, 1944-1945
DISAGBS000057
DISAGBS000058
DISAGBS000059
DISAGBS000060
DISAGBS000061
DISAGBS000062
DISAGBS000063

“Fit’s a hat maker’s broken thimble daein in a museum?” He asked

“Nae idea, but ye can be sure it’s worth a fair few bob.” Tom shouted back

“Fits somebody’s auld tax record daein’ here?”

“Nae idea.” answered Dick

“Fit’s ess aboot? – items ca’d ‘Comment 20’ an’ hunners o’ blank lines?”

“Dinnae fash yersel loon, the important museum curator staff an’ cooncil will understan’ aa thon technical stuff.”

“Hey – how come there’s aa this stuff marked ‘missin’?” Angus asked.

Tom, Dick and Harry had stepped out of the back room.

Each now had on a huge backpack. Tom had a suitcase on wheels.

Dick had a big cardboard box with what looked like a gold frame sticking out of the top of it, and Harry had a big sack.

“Angus, jist bide here, watch i telly, hae a drink an’ a nap, and we’ll see ye aboot 9 the morn’s mornin. Dinna worry aboot onythin’ an’ pey nae heed tae ony noises ye think ye micht be hearin’.” Tom said

“Aye, an’ read thon instruction manual if onythin’ … errr …  unusual pops up. See ye the morn.” said Dick.

“An’ mind fit Ah tellt ye. BIDE OOT O’ ESS ROOM…. Guid Nicht!” said Harry, shutting the door to the forbidden room.

The three turned to leave when with a clatter a selection of silver spoons fell out of Dick’s coat’s sleeve. Scooping them up Angus said:

“Hemen, hing on, looks like ye drapped summin. Ah think ah got ’em aa. See yiz the morn …  an’ thanks for the drink an’ yer help.”

The three men traded furtive looks and off they went out the security guard entrance. For some reason they turned off the light outside of the exit door, and the street outside was in darkness.

Angus watched as they pulled on their covid masks (‘for safety no doubt’ Angus thought), and drew their hats and scarves over their faces, their uniforms covered by their long dark coats. They threw their bags and boxes into the back of the van. Jumping in, they sped off into the night.

“Hey, ye’ve nae switched yer heidlights on”- Angus called after them, but they had sped out of sight.

Angus sat down and opened the bag he’d been left; pulling out a bottle of Tactical Nuclear Penguin he thought ‘At least this will be a bit more normal than Storybook Glen was’.

He thumbed through the inventory half-interested by the repeated words ‘missing’, ‘damaged’, ‘stolen’. On the desk he saw an old Press & Journal; its headlines read ‘Wood to save Torry by turning it into an industrial zone – Hoorah!’ and ‘Exclusive whitewash of oor role in Trump Menie development’.

Folding the paper up into a pillow, he put his head down and soon was fast asleep.

# # #

Angus slowly woke from a dream

He thought he heard voices.

Grabbing his flashlight and having a quick swig from his hip flask, followed by more fortified beer, he stealthily made his way to where the sound was coming from.

Approaching the centre of the building, he stopped to listen; he heard men and women chattering, the pop of a champagne cork, and glasses clinking.

Angus stood out of sight around a corner. The lights were on, and a few dozen well-dressed men and women were milling around the entrance foyer.

“.. so we donated 400 grubby auld cigarette cards, an’ got a 10k tax break; it wis hilarious!”

“I ken, right?,” said a woman’s voice “We donated some auld bits o’ stationery we were gan tae fling oot – seriously, an auld eraser, some index tabs. Chucked in a cigarette lighter or twa, and ken? We didnae hae tae pey tax fer a year. I’m affa gled ye suggested it; thanks again!”

Laughter ensued. Glasses clinked.

“Fit a crackin’ award ceremony; wis richt fine hearin’ Stew tell mair o’ his hilarious jokes doon the Marcliffe. Cooncil pickin’ up the tab Ah’d expect, aye?”

Angus kept hidden out of sight; he realised that these people were some of the town’s great and the good – and a few councillors.

“Hey, div ye still hae thon siller punch bowl roon at yer place? Ah widna mind a shottie o’ it in a couple o wikks fer the big ONE Christmas perty, if ye can spare it?”

Angus stayed out of sight and caught snippets of further conversations.

“Looks a richt sotter, dis it nae? Lik tuppence o’ mix. A metal box on tap o’ a MacKenzie mesterpiece? Nae cohesive use o’ materials, nae relation tae the existing proportions or aesthetic. It wis bound tae win awards. Did ye ken MacKenzie’d daen the Waldorf?

“D’ye think they’d let some hacks come alang an’ stick a metal box on tap o’ the Waldorf?”

Further laughter followed; Angus heard more glasses clinking.

“Fa’s carin’ fit it looks like?” a woman’s voice could be heard asking,

“The point is it wis a much-needed consultation an’ construction job – an’ fit’s mair vibrant an’ dynamic than a few extra crisp Jane Austen’s in your wikkly brownie?”

“The £36 mil wis weel spent – Ah mean, it’s nae like ony o’ us or we’re faimilies will hae tae pey for it.”

“A shame it didna help like we thocht it wid though … tae push the £180 million revamp o’ thon gerdens, Ah mean that wis the original plan, wis it nae?”

“Ach weel, at least the gerdens are aa dug up noo; thon space-hoggin, unprofitable trees awa – well maist o’ them, an’ thankfully some shops are gan in. Mair consultation, mair construction, an’ … errr …. some mair goodies up for grabs an’ aa.”

“Mind, ‘at was richt sleekit o’ ye tae announce with nae prior warning that the gallery wid fa’ tae bits if it didna get a new roof an’ a new a’thin else. Weel done.”

“Aye, an’ thon lottery ticket sellin’ racket wis genius an’ aa.”

“Foo lang dis onybody think ess new buildin’ work will stan’ up? That windae better be water ticht, an’ let’s hope that despite fit it looks like, that box winna ivver cause ony funny stresses or load issues ower time.”

“But twa years owerdue – how’d ye sell ‘at tae the public again?”

“Get this.” A short balding man said.

“We got the P&J tae say – an’ Ah hae tae laugh – we were ower spent an’ owerdue because ‘We had to get it right!’”

The room erupted in laughter.

Just then the doors burst open and three people, looking a bit the worse for wear staggered in, arms over each others’ shoulders, singing.

“Here’s oor Wullie!” one of the revellers shouted.

“Aye, an’ the Alternative Night Time Manager sure seems tae hae livened him an’ Al up a bit, aye?

Angus guessed it must still be snowing, as the newly-arrived trio were covered in white powder. The conversations continued.

“So fylst the average mannie in the street says ‘oh fit a bonny buildin! ‘it’s won an award’ or ‘we get tae see a heap o’ local artwork’ an’ aa that crap, we get some tax write affs for donating tat, a wee thank you fae the commissioning an’ construction folk, AND…”

The voice paused for a moment

“An’ aa the priceless airtwork, siller an’ nick-nacks ye could ivver want or need tae decorate wi’, or use tae pad up yer retirement fund.”

An anxious woman’s voice was heard next

“But will fowk nae twig that it’s aa o’ us fa’s donating absolute rubbish? Will they nae catch on that the good stuff’s naewye tae be found?”

The man who’d just spoken answered her,

“Nah, nah, dinna worry yersel; hae anither scoof o’ bubbly. Aa the donations are anonymous – unless somebody’s gan for a big publicity stunt; an’ naebody’ll ivver ken fa donated aa thon auld muck.

“Efter aa, thon auld bits o’ auld crap, unsellt papers, broken thimbles an’ fit hiv ye, are of course – should onybody ask – IMPORTANT PIECES O’ OOR HERITAGE.

“Onybody says stuff’s gan missing? Weel: fa’s gan tae clipe? Certainly nae oor local papers – by the wye, gled tae see yiz aa here the nicht an’ hope yer likin’ yer Marischal Square offices. We were happy tae help ye get thon rent breaks an’ perks; fit’s a few mill between chums? The morn, Ah’ve some mair stories for ye tae rin, but the nicht’s a social occasion. Here’s tae us!”

“HERE’S TAE US!!” the room answered back.

As Angus slowly crept away he heard a voice:

“Love how the granite an’ marble looks in yer gerden; lucky for yersel it’s aff limits an’ yer nae subject tae ess right tae roam stuff like the rest o’ us, as befits a mannie in yer position….”

“Ye’ll be in the hoose o’ heroes afore lang; oor very ain king o hydrogen…”

“…chose affa weel indeed… nah, nae The Shamen – drug references, ye ken? The beer brewing fowk – nah, too critical o’ Donald an’ made a few ither controversial missteps as weel …. St Machar the founder? Nah, nae famous enough. If we’d brocht up Glover fowk micht start askin’ aboot eez hoose an’ its contents…. nae punk musicians obviously – that would hae a toxic effect… an’ certainly nae St Fittick…”

Angus decided not to tangle with this crew and silently backed away into the darkness of the museum.
Reaching his guard room again, he tried to make sense of what he’d just overheard. ‘Far’s tha instruction manual?’ he muttered, and finding it started to read.

Rules:
1. Ye see nithin, ye ken nithin
2. If summin’s wrang an’ ye want to report it tae the line manager, dinna!. Mind, ye’ve got a job an’ jobs are hard tae come by. The cooncil’s the biggest employer roon here.
3. If ye feel ye need tae report summin an’ canna trust yer line manager, jist tell the local papers. They’ll keep a lid on it for us. Better still, see Rule 1.
4. If ye can follae Rule 1, we’ll be sure ye get a nice pat on the heid fer daein fit yer tellt, ken fit ah mean?

However, the various drinks he’d had this evening were starting to make him feel woozy, so he reached for another one, and had a few swigs from a few bottles.

He was putting his head down as the loud voices seemed to go away.

He thought he heard the museum’s door shut, and soon it fell silent.

Angus went back to sleep, the words ‘hoose o’ heroes’ echoing in his mind.

Alas, Angus had only started this security job before the museum refit! The B.R. Premier Oil Lamp (now missing) was actually a magic lamp. When it had been in the museum, at midnight it’s magic brought ALL of the collection to life, kind of like that Ben Stiller series of films.

This included the (now missing) painting of the Gods on Olympus, 1798 by William Williams, including the (missing) Apollo and Daphne, also by Williams.

The architect who so carefully planned the Art Gallery, Mr Mackenzie, once roamed the halls when they were under construction shouting and screaming about his jewel being cannibalised and desecrated to the other gallery inhabitants when the magic lamp brought him to life; but he is heard no more.

The (missing) portrait of Sir Thomas More [sic] by Francesco Bartolozzi RA, After Hans Holbein, came to life and spoke with eloquent logic.

Back then the (now missing) Scottish Maid by an unknown master sat down to enjoy a (now missing) Still Life With Candlestick & Bread by Oskar Kokoschka with the handsome (now missing) James, Fifth Earl of Fife by Alexander Brodie.

Highland Cattle came out of (now missing) paintings and huge, beautiful artworks were filled with life.

During the day, some of that magic could be seen by visiting school children, some of whom might once have been inspired to make similar work. Some of these pieces could have provided historical information to artists, researchers and family historians. And heck, some people might just have enjoyed looking at these now missing windows on another world and time.

nasty glass-box architecture rose

But today no one will see their beauty or magic again: save the people who know where these and 1,577 items are that belonged to Aberdonians.

While this is a satire with no relation to anyone living or dead, should anyone in possession of stolen valuable, irreplaceable art taken from the public ever read these lines, may they encounter the karma they have earned.

As to those who were paid to protect the art that belongs to all of us, but whether by ignorance, negligence or deliberate acts stole, turned a blind eye or otherwise allowed this betrayal of trust, may such judases eventually get their karmic rewards too.

Anyone who knows where any of the missing 1,577 items are but who is keeping quiet is an accessory after the fact to theft. Time to unburden yourselves and fess up.

In Angus’ dreams hundreds of valuable portraits disappeared out of the museum into nowhere. Bits of old papers, bus tickets, broken biros were put in gilt frames in place of the fine art and hung on the gallery walls. And he dreamed people were in awe of the elevated rubbish because they were told it was art.

He dreamed that the things of real value in his beloved city were being stolen, bulldozed, built over, sold cheaply and cheap, nasty glass-box architecture rose over what was once a collection of historic, unique buildings.

He dreamed the land once loved by heroes and literal saints was now governed by incompetents, venal, greedy self-serving sneaks, egotistical ward- and attention-seeking narcissists and sex offenders.

He dreamed that the historic was written off as old-fashioned and the cheap, profiteering projects destroying the greenbelt and its wildlife, as well as the once-unique city scape, were hailed in a bought-and-paid for biased press as ‘vibrant’ ‘dynamic’ and ‘job-creating’.

He dreamed that same press had abandoned any pretence of journalistic independence, integrity and impartiality by taking millions from the taxpayer and were happy to mislead the public when it suited them if there was money in it.

Then Angus saw it was morning and that he wasn’t dreaming.

Angus decided he’d had enough. He picked a few causes to fight, some wrongs to try to right, and he set off to lobby, to investigate and to run for office.

He might not succeed, but he was going to try.

# # #

Follow up on the 2018 Christmas Satire ‘The Snowman’

The above video Aberdeen Voice satire covered some of the awful events of 2019 worldwide. There are at least two happy endings – the Russian caging of beluga whales is over, and the cages destroyed: public pressure did this.

And happily Donald J Trump is out of office and in court – many courts – and may soon be convicted of crimes.

Here’s to a little people power: just what Aberdeen needs. Elections are in May. You can still register to run.

  • Comments enabled – see comments box below. Note, all comments will be moderated.
Oct 212021
 

Review and photographs by Craig Chisholm.

Sunderland art-rockers, Field Music, returned to Aberdeen after a 9 year hiatus to play to a receptive crowd at The Tunnels on Carnegie Brae. Having released their 8th studio album – Flat White Moon – last April the band would have been relieved to finally get the show on the road in support of it, with this date being the opening night of a full UK tour.

First up, however, was local musician Steven Milne.

The Little Kicks frontman was drafted in early that afternoon after original support act – Galaxians – were unable to perform.

Milne is at pains to point out this is his first live appearance in 19 months. Coupled with the late call up, it could have proved to be a recipe for disaster.

However, he is nothing but naturally talented and that talent shone through in his solo performance.

Sitting behind a keyboard, he was captivating and engrossing as he ran through a set of Little Kicks tracks and a cover version of The Blue Nile’s ‘Tinseltown in the Rain’.
And it’s a credit to his song writing skills that his own material more than held its own even beside the sublime Blue Nile track.

A new Little Kicks album is due for April and should be on everyone’s shopping lists.

Brothers Peter and David Brewis have released 8 albums in the last 16 years under the moniker Field Music and tonight’s gig showcases songs across that time span.

Swapping roles between vocals / guitar and drums, there’s a real chemistry and understanding between the two siblings.

The music, the humour – it’s all interchangeable and on the same level between and during tracks. They’re the anti-Gallagher’s in that respect – brothers in music with no friction or individual ambition tearing them apart.

But that’s where the comparison begins and ends – the Brewis brother’s music isn’t steeped in conservative, classic rock, like Noel and Liam are, but in art-rock futurism and forward thinking of bands such as Talking Heads or Scritti Politti.

The set itself leans heavily on the recently released ‘Flat White Moon’ but there’s a dive into their back catalogue, with tracks such as ‘A House is not a Home’ and ‘(I Keep Thinking) About a New Thing’ given an airing.

Personal highlight for this correspondent was ‘Disappointed’, a near perfect pop tune steeped in a light funk backbeat.

The late, great musical genius Prince once tweeted their track ‘The Noisy Days Are Over’ without comment to his millions of followers – and that says a lot.

If anyone could recognise good music, you’d expect it from someone like him.

And the crowd recognise it tonight – it’s a magnificent set that has them clapping enthusiastically and begging for more.

After a good few years without a visit North to the Granite City, it was a joy to see them here again – hopefully they return sooner than later.

Oct 202021
 

Review and photographs by Craig Chisholm.

Just over three decades ago, The Quireboys released their debut album ‘A Bit of What You Fancy’.

Tonight, they revisited their commercial high point with a date at the Lemon Tree in Aberdeen.

First however, the crowd are entertained by up-and-coming slide guitarist Troy Redfern, backed with drummer Finn McAuley and bassist Keira Kenworthy.

Redfern is a virtuoso guitarist.

His guitar fireworks are astonishing to watch, his fingers running up and down the fretboard fluidly and gracefully.

But it’s not just a show in histrionics and shredding, it’s raw, gritty, heartfelt blues filled with emotion and belief.

Watching him, you know that he believes in the music he is singing, that he feels it – and that’s important.

It shows authenticity and a love for the genre.

For him to light up the guitar, he needs a strong groove and foundation to sit upon and his rhythm section are more than up to the job – they provide a solid, thunderous backbone to Redfern’s solos and slide guitar masterclass.

Closing his half hour set with a cover of Jimi Hendrix’s classic ‘Voodoo Chile’ you can see he’s made some new fans in the audience, many of whom are queued up minutes later to meet him and purchase his music.

“It’s 7 O’clock and time for a party” as their song goes – well, it’s not, it’s 9 o’clock when they hit the stage, but the party is most definitely on.

It’s been over 31 years now since their debut album ‘A Bit of What You Fancy’ was released.

It was halcyon times for the band back then – the album hit no.2 in the charts, singles went Top 40. There were support slots with the likes of Aerosmith and The Rolling Stones, on the bill of the Monsters of Rock festival at Castle Donington, appearances on Top of The Pops and huge headline tours of the UK, Europe and beyond.

But time moves on and tastes change – at the height of grunge in the early 90s, the band parted ways and went on an extended hiatus for a few years.

But The Quireboys are nothing but tenacious and not ones to shy away from a challenge.

Certain musical styles never go away either – and in the case of their bluesy, classic rock it’s a style that will always have its fans.

And the fans are out tonight as they revisit their debut, changing the running order to bring new focus on old songs and remind everyone why they had so much success with it.

The singles are all greeted with cheers – ‘7 O’Clock’, ‘Hey You’ and ‘There She Goes Again’ working the crowd on the frenzy and getting them dancing.

And there’s moments of poignancy and reflection such as the emotional ballad ‘I Don’t Love You Anymore’.

‘Whipping Boy’ is a particular highlight – low down and dirty slow blues, underpinned with some bass that reverberates through your soul.

The band seem to be enjoying it – lead singer Spike seems particularly happy to be on stage again after Covid’s shutdown of live music.

Between songs he’s humorous and friendly, speaking directly to members of the crowd, always with a twinkle in his eye.

He also seems to be slightly lubricated; shall we say – despite his quips about having not drank for 10 years.

But it’s Friday night and most of the crowd are on the same level as him and it endears him to them even more.

Once a song starts, however, he is back to being the professional showman and singer. Every song is nailed perfectly, not a note dropped or lyric forgotten. And his voice, that raspy, 20 fags a day sound is spot on.

Despite tonight being a celebration of the past, it also points that there’s a strong future for the band – their unique take on that classic Stones or Faces sound, rooted in the blues, R&B and Country will always have listeners. And with over a dozen albums behind them and the potential for a dozen more, so will The Quireboys.

Oct 062021
 

By Craig Chisholm.

True North continued to cement its reputation as one of Aberdeen’s musical highlights of the year with another excellent event that showcased an eclectic and varied bill of excellent music.

After taking a brief hiatus from crowds last year – the event was online instead – it was encouraging to see people back in the Music Hall, Lemon Tree and numerous smaller venues and enjoying live music once more.

The number of events is slightly stripped back this with less late-night shows and no shows at The Tivoli Theatre but what was missing in quantity was more than made up in quality.

The Lemon Tree is the venue for the opening Thursday night event – a triple bill featuring Lavender Lane, Edinburgh’s Swim School and the indie pop of headliners Peaness. Providing the perfect start to usher in the weekend.

Friday night provides an even more varied bill. Opening musical proceedings is Aberdonian Katie Mackie.

Sat behind a keyboard she provides a short set of soaring baroque, chamber-pop that features a cover of Steely Dan’s ‘Dirty Work’.

Scottish / Kenyan multi-instrumentalist and poet Beldina Odenyo performs under the moniker Heir of the Cursed. Tonight, she plucks on heavily reverbed guitar and her operatic, hypnotic voice is soothing, expansive, and ethereal.

Despite a light-hearted between song gripe about the cost of salad in Aberdeen, her set is calm and transgressive, taking the crowd to a higher spiritual and musical space.

Singer-songwriter Ayanna Witter-Johnson is another rare talent.

Opening – rather boldly – with a dance, she picks up the more familiar cello for the remainder of her set.

Using a loop pedal she sounds like an entire band as opposed to one woman and an instrument.

Despite an unexpected power cut, Witter-Johnson delivers a strong, inspiring set that uplifts the audience.

Saturday night is the first of the Music Hall gigs.

Opening act Rachel Sermanni plays an intimate, minimalistic set. She somehow manages to make the cavernous Music Hall seem small and cosy, drawing the crowd into her private space.

A unique Scottish talent, she returns to The Lemon Tree in December.

Headliner John Grant is magnificent.
He cuts quite an imposing figure on stage – a large, hirsute bear of a man – but his voice is soothing but powerful.

Alternating between piano led torch songs and disco influenced bangers, he runs through a 100-minute set of dark humour, heartfelt confessionals, and unbridled joy. A stunning performance well deserving of the standing ovation at the end.

For those still looking to party into the night then the Lemon Tree is the place to be. Local rapper Ransom FA headlines an evening of beats, breaks and raps with support from DJ Home Alone, Bemz and Sean Focus.

Sunday night at True North is the traditional tribute night, curated and performed by a star performer.

This year, the performer is the talented Grammy Winner Corinne Bailey-Rae, and the subject of the tribute is the mercurial Stevie Wonder.

Looking radiant in a sparkly gold sequined dress, Bailey-Rae is every inch the superstar.

But this is not about her tonight, and she happily gives over the spotlight to guest vocalists such as Paix, Angus Munro, Jalen N’Gona and Little Acres.

And each more than hold their own and breathe new life in the songs of Stevie Wonder. The hits are all there – ‘Signed, Sealed, Delivered’ and ‘Don’t You Worry About Thing’ by Bailey-Rae are particular highlights – but there’s also plenty of deep cuts, forgotten classics and album tracks to keep the die hard Wonder fans happy.

The night – and the weekend – is brought down with a rousing, run through of Wonder’s classic ‘Superstition’ that has the crowd on their feet, hungry for more and ecstatic at the collective feeling of joy.

Yet again, True North has proved to be a success and a jewel in the crown of the Aberdeen Music Scene.

With next to no concerts in the last 18 months, it’s been a cathartic and joyful event, a light at the end of a very long, very dark tunnel and credit is due to the organisers, the venues, and the performers for pulling it all together in such a short, potentially unpredictable time.

Here’s to True North 2022, long may it continue!

Sep 282021
 

Duncan Harley reviews Slains Castle’s Secret History, a new publication by Mike Shepherd and Dacre Stoker.

Slains Castle on the very edge of the Buchan coastline is a widely misunderstood edifice and a confusion of associations with Dracula do little to explain the history of the place.
This new book by Mike Shepherd and Dacre Stoker is a gamechanger.

Readers of Mike’s previous books and followers of Dacre Stoker’s work – which includes Dracul, a Dracula prequel written in collaboration with J.D. Barker of Fourth Monkey fame – will already be aware of the Cruden Bay Dracula links.

But few however, will be aware of the true history of that Slains Castle we all love to associate with the Gothic Horror genre.

An extraordinary set of stories lie within these pages. Churchill visited as did Johnson and Boswell. The cutting off of the heads of dead Danes, an epic story of religious strife and a shambolic plan to surrender Scotland to the Spanish Crown inhabit this book. And the ‘tussle’ for the souls of the living takes centre stage.

There are tales of a French conspiracy to Anglicise Scotland and the role of the Earl of Errol in shaping Scotland’s future is explored in major detail. But no spoilers here.

This is in essence a history of Scotland as told through the lens of Slains. The castle itself dips in and out of the tale, and it’s only on page 197 that we get to the essence of the Dracula connection.

I would have preferred an earlier link if truth be told. And this perhaps suggests that the authors were conflicted in purpose. In part diary, there is however much to recommend in this book.

Spanning from 1164 to the present day, this take on the untold history of Slains is an important addition to the history, and the mythology, of North East Scotland.

With a foreword by Alan Hay – archivist of Clan Hay – Slains Castle’s Secret History, is published in paperback by Wild Wolf Publishing on 20th September and, if you’ll excuse the pun, is a book to get your teeth into.

Highly recommended. Five Stars.

Slains Castle’s Secret History by Mike Shepherd and Dacre Stoker.
ISBN: 979-8469387046

Sep 172021
 

Ayanna Witter-Johnson

By Craig Chisholm.

Aberdeen Performing Arts’ award-winning music festival, True North will return from 23-26 September for a weekend of live music and free events, boasting an inspirational and vibrant line up of shows and Fringe events at venues across the city.

True North will be based around the theme of Rise Up, celebrating freedom of expression, diversity and community as we prepare to re-open and welcome back audiences to the Music Hall, Lemon Tree and His Majesty’s Theatre for the first time since March 2020.

American singer songwriter and former Czars frontman John Grant will headline True North at the Music Hall on the Saturday evening.

John Grant

Described as ‘the misfit’s misfit’, Grant is too weird to be mainstream, too mainstream to be weird; too sad to be happy, too sharp not to crack a mordant joke about it.

The dolorous ace in his song-writing pack is to gauge impressionistic childhood experiences against their amplified adult consequences.

Rachel Sermanni

He will be supported by acclaimed Scottish performer Rachel Sermanni.

Grammy and MOBO award-winning star Corinne Bailey Rae will close the festival on Sunday with a specially curated concert at the Music Hall called “A Celebration of Stevie Wonder by Corinne Bailey Rae.”

The evening will see Corinne joined by special guests to perform the many legendary hits from the catalogue of Stevie Wonder songs in what promises to be an extraordinary evening of music.

.

With previous True North curated concerts celebrating the music of Neil Young, David Bowie and Kate Bush among others, this concert at True North has become a highlight of the festival and a firm favourite among audiences.

Headlining on Friday night at the Lemon Tree with a Night of New Voices is the soulful, eclectic Ayanna Witter-Johnson.  A singer, songwriter, cellist, composer, producer and arranger with phenomenal musical prowess, mesmerising vocals, uncompromising lyrics and mastery of the cello. Ayanna unapologetically imprints her unique musical signature into her music.  

Heir of the Cursed, Robyn Davidson and DJ Rebecca Vasmant complete the line-up.

Ransom FA

Aberdonian grime rapper Ransom FA will head up late night at the Lemon Tree on Saturday.  The fast-rising artist, was a contestant on the UK TV show, The Rap Game, where he battled other budding rappers for a record deal.  

Prior to the Rap Game, Ransom had already shared the stage with many of the biggest UK rappers, such as Skepta, Wiley, Mist, M Huncho to name only a few. He will be joined by Chef, Sean Focus and DJ HomeAlone.

Playing on Thursday 23 September and kicking off True North 2021 will be Peaness, who will be bringing their catchy, fuzzy, harmony-driven indie-pop songs about love, friendship, frustrations, Brexit and food waste to the Lemon Tree.

Formed in 2014 in Chester university digs, the trio have secured nationwide and international shows with bands such as The Beths, Kero Kero Bonito, The Cribs, We Are Scientists, The Big Moon and Dream Wife. They will be joined at the Lemon Tree by Swim School and Lavender Lane.

A spoken word event specially commissioned by Aberdeen Performing Arts and headed up by award winning poet and three-time slam champion Jo Gilbert will focus on the festival’s theme of Rise Up.

Four local spoken word artists will produce new work based around this theme and showcase their work at the Lemon Tree on Sunday in an event which promises to challenge and inspire in equal measure.

Fringe events are planned to take place in venues across the city over True North weekend and details will be announced shortly.

Ben Torrie, Aberdeen Performing Arts’ Director of Programming and Creative Projects said:

“We are thrilled to announce the lineup for True North 2021, which feels like a huge step in the return of live performance at our venues. It feels really good to be able to bring the festival to a live audience once again.

“It means a lot to us to be able to put this on for people in Aberdeen, and to shine a spotlight on so many talented performers and musicians is a privilege that has never been so important.

“The theme of this year’s festival is Rise Up. It’s a positive message about rising up to bring people together, marking the re-opening of our venues, and celebrating the power of music to help us stand up for the things we believe in. We could not be prouder of this festival at this time.”

Tickets for all True North events are available from www.aberdeenperformingarts.com

 

Sep 072021
 

By Craig Chisholm.

Young British guitarists Mikhail Asanovic and Jake Wright, together known as The Showhawk Duo, have dazzled audiences worldwide with their spectacular approach to playing the guitar, breaking down barriers between acoustic and electronic music.

Whether playing old-school trance classics or modern funky house, their live show knows no boundaries and will leave you amazed.

Mik is a classical guitarist at heart, having studied at Manchester’s RNCM whereas Jake is an electric junkie and grew up playing in rock and metal bands. Mik’s classical foundation shines through in the music with Jake’s raw percussive approach always keeping the crowd moving.

Together they create a truly unique and impressive sound, and have turned many “acoustic” nights into a thumping rave. 

Together, they started out as buskers and have since gone on to play all over the globe.

They have appeared on BBC Radio 1 on the Nick Grimshaw’s Breakfast Show,  did a 40 minute live broadcast for the LAD Bible, BBC Radio Bristol, and have performed at most of the UK’s large festivals including Main Stage at Bestival, Glastonbury, Isle of Wight Festival, Secret Garden Party, Wilderness, Somersault, Lost Village, Boomtown and more.

They played sell-out shows on their 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018 & 2019 UK tours, headlining The O2 Forum in the most recent, and five star reviews followed an official sell out show at Edinburgh Fringe.

International performances include F1 Grand Prix in Singapore, Seychelles, club tours in Spain, Switzerland and the Netherlands and a 20 – date residency at Pacha in Ibiza. 

Now, the duo will perform on stages across the nation, as they embark on their mammoth UK and Ireland tour.

Spanning 26th different dates – including a date at Unit 51 in Aberdeen on Saturday, October 9th – the duo will unleash their fiery acoustic sound to audiences far and wide, as they turn soft acoustic guitars into the ingredients for an unforgettable night of raving.

Support comes from Zen Lewis.

Ages 14+ // Under 18s must be accompanied by an adult. Tickets available now at Skiddle.

Aug 242021
 

When the granite stairs went temporarily missing from the custodianship of Aberdeen City Council and its contractor Balfour Beatty, questions arose over how the city looked after its valuable property. The conclusions are shocking. By Suzanne Kelly

Aberdeen City Council cannot say with certainty where 1,500 valuables in its possession are.

This information was acquired in response to a freedom of information request by Aberdeen Voice following the confusion over the whereabouts of the Victorian granite steps which are part of Union Terrace Gardens.

The request was to cover items in the Aberdeen Art Gallery, Town House including gifts from outside organisations, and in entities such as Provost Skene’s House.

The city responded as follows:

“Although c. 1500 items have a ‘missing’ status, we have assigned around 3100 items with temporary numbers; many of which have become disassociated from their accession number e.g. the label with the number has become separated from the object.

“It is highly likely that there is an overlap between these two categories and we will be able to reconcile in the future by undertaking research in to the extensive paper files pre-computerisation. The remaining temporary numbers are items stored in the buildings but not accessioned into the collections.

“Many of the ‘historical loss pre-TMS’ records refer to a ‘missing’ date of 2020. It is important to note that these items were missing before we began using TMS in 2002, however, their status was confirmed as ‘still missing’ in 2020 as data cleaning work was undertaken.

“A number of items have been recorded as ‘missing’ and requiring further investigation during the decant of the art gallery in 2015. As we were moving thousands of items between buildings we suspected an admin error occurred in the recording of blocks.”

The city is meant to supply, electronically is the preference, an inventory of the valuables in question, but they advise they are having difficulties with the spreadsheet.

The city said no insurance claims have been made in the past 5 years.

The request is on the ‘What Do They Know’ Freedom of Information request website, visible to any other reporters or newspapers that are interested in Aberdeen City Council, where the city’s reply was posted on 29 June.

What Do They Know helps anyone who wants to make FOI requests or look at existing FOI requests. They run on donations and can be found here https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/

  • Comments enabled – see comments box below. Note, all comments will be moderated.
Jul 192021
 

Mike Shepherd reviews Duncan Harley’s latest publication, Long Shadows – Tales of Scotland’s North East.

Authors are told that when they write the blurb for the back jacket of their book they should focus on explaining what the reader will get out of it when they buy it.

So let’s apply this recommendation to Duncan Harley’s new book, Long Shadows. What will you get out of it?
You will be entertained for sure.

Duncan is a walking encyclopaedia of curious and interesting facts about everything that’s been written about Northeast Scotland.

If something extraordinary happened in your town or village, it’s probably in this book.

I can assure you that after reading it you will never dare repeat that ‘nothing interesting ever happens…’ in Buckie, Kintore, Ellon or the likes.

Now I do like quirky stories, and there is plenty in here to tickle the fancy – unexpected tales; little known tales. Take the story on page 54 about the artist Joseph Farquharson from Finzean.

In 1883, Farquharson painted The Joyless Winter Day which hangs in the Tate Gallery. It depicts a shepherd tending his flock in a raging Deeside blizzard. The execution of the painting was tricky because as Duncan explains:

“sheep cannot easily be persuaded to stand still.”

He adds:

“To solve this difficult problem, Farquharson commissioned a flock of life size plaster sheep from Monymusk born craftsman William Wilson of Kelly’s Cats fame, and used these to mark out the positions of the original live subjects in order to preserve the scene as the work progressed.”

The downside of all this ingenuity was that Joseph Farquharson ended up getting the nickname from his fellow artists of ‘Frozen Mutton Farquharson’.

Or the connection between the horror writer Stephen King and Buckie.

Did you know (a phrase you will find yourself repeating after reading Duncan’s book) that in the course of investigating a terrorist act in If It Bleeds, fictional private investigator Holly Gibney discovers that Buckie Academy is twinned with a bombed US High School.

The two schools take a mutual interest in each other’s local sports teams – Buckie Thistle thus picking up a small fanbase in a fictional part of the US.

Long Shadows comprises thirty-three chapters starting with Aberdeen and ending up with Turriff.

In between are tales from local towns and villages, or in one case, the forest at Lenabo where there was once an airship base during World War I. The airships would fly silently out over the North Sea scouting for German submarines to shoot up with machine guns. The story is laid out in chapter 22.

Now I do know about this. My paternal grandfather, who was too old to fight in the trenches, helped to build the Lenabo base. If that makes me sound ancient – be aware that both my grandfather and father became parents in their forties.

Having written this I now take a peek at Duncan’s back-cover blurb.

“In his two previous two books, Duncan exposed readers to an exciting mix of history and mythology. The intention of this new book is to expand greatly on these themes in an entertaining and informative way.

“Please enjoy these wee snippets of Scottish history and smile gently at the past. Long Shadows – Tales of Scotland’s North East is guaranteed to enthral both residents and visitors alike!”

I must agree.

I enjoyed reading this book and recommend it. It’s available on Amazon at a price of £17.95 and looks to be selling fast. Do buy it.