Apr 212020
 

By Duncan Harley with thanks to Andy Kite.

In March 2020 Aberdeen Performing Arts switched off the lights in its three iconic venues: His Majesty’s Theatre, Aberdeen Music Hall and the Lemon Tree amid the COVID-19 outbreak.
Shows were cancelled and staff put on furlough. Lockdown had struck and, like it or not, the theatre doors slammed shut on 17th March ironically on the very eve of a week long run of ‘A Monster Calls’.

You really couldn’t make it up.

Cancellations of Buddy Holly, Once and Something About Jamie swiftly followed and a planned May run of The Gondoliers described in glowing terms as ‘Sunny, funny and with more ‘tra la la las’ per square inch than any other opera in the canon’ is as they say, dead in the water.

But, as they say, the show must go on and today Aberdeen Performing Arts has announced a set of stay-at-home projects and initiatives designed to keep the North-east connected and engaged in arts and culture during the pandemic lockdown.

Titled ‘We’re Here For You’, the initiative spans a range of activities for all ages, from re-creating favourite album covers, to online piano recitals, all with the aim of encouraging contact and creativity in the North-east while under lockdown.

Aberdeen Performing Arts Chief Executive, Jane Spiers, says:

“There’s never been a time when we need to be more connected and here for each other. Here for You is about celebrating the amazing creativity we all have within us and across the North East.

“We’ve been so impressed with the entries we’ve had for our ‘Build Your Own HMT’ project, and we can’t wait to see what our ‘When Life Gives You Lemons’ project brings, re-creating your own album cover!

“Our Here for You activities are also a small thing we can do to say thank you to our audiences who have been so supportive and raised £50,000 to date to keep our charity alive when we rely so heavily on ticket sales.”

An early project, ‘Keep The Lights On At HMT’, seemingly resulted in a flood of home built model versions of His Majesty’s Theatre and a new initiative, ‘Armchair Audiences’, gives theatre goers a chance to sit back, relax and join a weekly theatre discussion each Tuesday at 6pm (bring your own ice cream).

The first event in the Armchair Audiences series is a collaboration with The National Theatre and features a free streamed performance of Jane Eyre.

More @: https://www.aberdeenperformingarts.com/

Apr 062020
 

Day 11 in the Old Susannah House. Old Susannah is feeding her cats, making pottery, and bothering her editor, asking him to print this pretty please: Three of the North East’s largest animal rescue charities, Halfpenny Farm, The New Arc and Willows Animal Sanctuary, are all in crisis and are seeking help from the Public.

For many years these charities, all members of R.E.A.C.H. (Reputable Animal Charities), have provided rescue, rehabilitation and specialised care for over 50,000 animals in the North East.

Together, they have cared for all types of animals from neglected, unwanted, abandoned, orphaned and injured animals ranging from domestic pets, exotics, farm and equines to our local wildlife. Between them their centres currently care for over a thousand creatures requiring their specialist help.

These charities are completely dependent on the good will of the public.

They receive no income from the Government and rely on their own fundraising activities and initiatives to continue their work.

Their only source of revenue has been through a variety of avenues.

  • Charity shops …. Closed.
  • Open Days….Postponed.
  • Fun events…Cancelled.
  • Fund raising such as pub quizzes, sponsored walks, charity tins and the like which have all been suspended.

In this current situation, everyone’s first concerns are understandably with family and friends.

However these charities continue to do what they can to rescue and care for animals in need. But if they fail then there is no replacement when things get better. They will be gone!

They are the animals ‘Front Line’. Please help them to continue their work!

Click on the following links.

Donate to Halfpenny Farm 
Donate to The New Arc 
Donate to Willows Animal Sanctuary 

Sep 192018
 

By Duncan Harley.

The four-star Maryculter House Hotel was today the venue for the Scottish Samurai Awards.  Scotland and Japan have long enjoyed both trade and cultural links – well for just around 150 years in truth.

Japan sent many students to the UK between the late Edo period (1603-1867) and the early Meiji period (1868-1912) in order to explore and import Western technology.

The various international trade exhibitions of the 19th and early 20th Century provided useful platforms for the sharing of both scientific and aesthetic ideas. 

Cities such as Glasgow and Aberdeen provided ripe-pickings for the aspiring technologists and alongside acquisition of new skill-sets the two nations exchanged cultural and artistic aesthetics which continue to create broad-ripples to this day.

Japan, of course, had participated in the second Glasgow International Exhibition in 1901.

The Japan Pavilion was located near the main exhibition hall at Kelvingrove and there is a likelihood that Rennie Mackintosh and many other influential Scottish designers of the day would have visited and been influenced by what they saw there.

Some 11.5 million visits were recorded during the eight-month span of the exhibition and surely Mackintosh would have been one of those tempted to return again and again to absorb the sights.

Contemporaries of Mackintosh certainly visited Japan at about this time and Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum hold a collection of so-called ‘Industrial Art’ collected by Glasgow born designer Christopher Dresser who visited Japan in 1876 or thereabouts.

Aberdeenshire, of course, has a splendid claim to the forging of the Scottish-Japanese relationship and one man in particular played a pivotal role. Variously known as the Scottish Samurai or The Scot who shaped Japan,

Thomas Blake Glover was probably born in Fraserburgh in 1838.  His father worked as a coastguard officer and the family lived at various locations along the Aberdeenshire coastline including Sandend, Collieston and at Bridge of Don.

On leaving school, Glover began work with the trading company Jardine, Matheson & Co and quickly progressed to the Shanghai office before taking up a post in Japan. 

His role in Shanghai has often been glossed over in order to present a popular image of Glover as an enlightened trader intent on hauling an impoverished Japan into the industrial age. In truth however, Jardine Matheson & Co were happy to trade in everything from silks and tea to guns and opium.

Glover excelled in his role as trader and alongside making vast amounts of profit for his employer he soon started taking a substantial cut for himself.

His move to Japan, in 1859 age 21, came at a time when various rival clans were warring for control of the country. For more than 200 years, foreign trade with Japan had been permitted to the Dutch and Chinese exclusively.

However, following an episode of gunboat diplomacy in 1853, the US Government had persuaded the Japanese to open trade up with the West. 

Glover arrived in good time to use his proven skills to exploit the situation.

Soon he was supplying both sides in the civil war with guns and munitions. Before long he was taking orders for the building of warships, to be built in Scotland, to arm a fledgling Japanese Navy. The market for weaponry however soon became saturated and he turned to mining to maintain his by now dwindling fortune.

Glover is often credited with importing the first steam engine into Japan.

Demand for coal had surged as steamships began to proliferate in Japanese waters. Glover, in partnership with a Japanese clan, invested in developing the Takashima coal mine on an island near Nagasaki in 1868. 

The mine was the first in the country to employ Western methods. Mitsubishi acquired the Takashima mine in 1881 in the organization’s first main diversification beyond shipping.

Glover is often credited with importing the first steam engine into Japan and being instrumental in the formation of the Mitsubishi conglomerate. Japan also lacked modern facilities for repairing ships. So, Glover imported the necessary equipment for a dry dock in Nagasaki in 1868.

He later sold his share to the government, which leased the dock to Mitsubishi as part of the shipyard in 1884. By 1905 Japan had, according to many accounts, become the 3rd largest naval power in the world.

There are many enduring myths surrounding the life and career of Thomas Blake Glover.

One involves the notion that his Japanese wife Tsuru was somehow the inspiration for Puccini’s opera “Madame Butterfly”.

There appears to be little substance to this idea. A booklet produced by Aberdeen City Council to publicise the areas links with Glover asserts that:

“the association of Glover Garden in Nagasaki and Madame Butterfly no doubt relates to the fact that American soldiers after the Second World War dubbed the house Madame Butterfly House.” 

Thomas Glover eventually became famous in Japan and was the first non-Japanese to be awarded the Order of the Rising Sun.

today’s event saw some 23 or so Samurai and Shogun awards made to a broad range of recipients

When he died in Tokyo in 1911 age 73, his ashes were interred in Nagasaki’s Sakamoto International Cemetery. Fraserburgh Heritage Centre host a permanent exhibition celebrating his North-east links and his former house in Nagasaki attracts two million visitors each year.

Founded and overseen by Aberdonian and OBE Ronnie Watt, the Order of the Scottish Samurai is an award inspired by Blake Glover and those admitted to the Order are encouraged to use the letters OSS after their name.

While Ronnie actively heads the Order, he is supported by patrons, members and recipients – many of whom, such as Lord Bruce and Joanna Lumley take an active interest in the progression of the historic relationship between the two nations.

Opened by Ms Masami Fujimoto, Deputy Consul General at Consulate-General of Japan in Edinburgh, today’s event saw some 23 or so Samurai and Shogun awards made to a broad range of recipients.

Two previous Lord Provosts, Margaret Smith and Margaret Farquhar received Shogun awards for services to Aberdeen while Duncan McPherson and Robert Boyd received Legendary Samurai Awards for services to the Japanese Martial Arts.

Terry Boyle and Tyrone Smith were awarded OSS Shogun and Becca Hobart – alongside delivering a splendid display of Highland Sword Dance – collected up a well-earned OSS Hatamoto for services to the Order of the Scottish Samurai.

Previous recipients of the various Scottish Samurai Awards have included Ian Wood, Alex Salmond, Charlie Abel, Len Ironside (for services to wrestling) and film producer Compton Ross. So it looks likely that Becca Hobart is in fairly good company.

Words and images © Duncan Harley – Inverurie September 16th 2018.

  • Duncan Harley is author of The A-Z of Curious Aberdeenshire plus the forthcoming title: The Little History of Aberdeenshire- due out in March 2019
Nov 082017
 

With thanks to Roger White.

A prestigious North-East Scotland magazine of new writing and the visual arts, Pushing Out The Boat (POTB), is reminding young writers and artists in the North East and
beyond that they’ve got less than a month left to submit entries for their new online venture, ‘ePOTB’.

ePOTB will be the magazine’s first e-zine and will be devoted entirely to work by young people aged 12-17.

Like its parent magazine, ePOTB submissions will be subject to the same distinctive ‘blind selection’ process, which ensures that work is selected on merit alone.

Prize-winning author Juliet Lovering, chairing the ePOTB team, said:

“We know there’s a wealth of young writing and artistic talent out there but this is the first time we’ve given young people the chance to shine in their own publication. Three prizes of £50 are also on offer for the best contribution in the prose, poetry and art categories.”

The ePOTB team encourage anyone considering entering to read previous editions of the magazine, which are available on its website, to understand the variety of work accepted in years gone by.

Young writer Hannah Kunzlik, one of POTB’s previous contributors, said:

“I was published in POTB when I was 16 and it remains one of my proudest moments. Submitting a piece is something I would advise any young person to do with even a passing interest in writing or art. Apart from the creative fulfilment, it’s like gold dust on a CV for college or work.”

The call for submissions to ePOTB opened a month ago. Full details and registration are available at www.pushingouttheboat.co.uk.

The deadline for submissions is 30 November 2017 and the e-zine will be published on the Pushing Out The Boat website in Spring 2018.

Oct 132017
 

With thanks to Ross Anderson, Senior Account Manager, Jasmine Ltd.

With just a few days to go before the round one pound coin ceases to be legal tender, a leading north-east cancer charity is urging people to donate their old coins.
CLAN Cancer Support is encouraging people to clear out their piggy banks and hunt down the back of sofas and support the charity in the process by donating their old coins.

The new 12 sided £1 coin was brought into circulation in March 2017 and has security features to combat counterfeiting.

From October 15 the existing coins will no longer be legal tender but can be given to charity or handed into banks or Post Offices.

Fiona Fernie, Head of Income Generation and Business Development at CLAN Cancer Support, believes donations received from £1 coins stored in people’s piggy banks and car gloveboxes could help make a real difference in the coming months.

She said:

“The Government estimates that £1.3bn worth of coins are stored in savings jars across the country, about a third of which are £1 coins. If just a fraction of that total was donated to charitable organisations it could make a huge difference.

“We are encouraging people to have a look in all their old purses and wallets and down the back of sofas and donate what they find to CLAN. Each £1 we receive will help to support people affected by cancer in communities across north-east Scotland, Moray, Orkney and Shetland.

“By donating just £25 you can help to fund breakfast for one day for everyone staying in CLAN Haven, our bed and breakfast facility which provides accommodation for people travelling to Aberdeen Royal Infirmary for cancer related treatment.

“Every single donation we receive helps us to continue to provide valuable wellbeing and support services for people affected by cancer.”

CLAN Cancer Support is an independent charity which provides comfort, support and information, free of charge, for anyone, of any age, affected by any type of cancer. CLAN aims to support people to reduce anxiety, stress and to increase their ability to cope with the effects of a serious illness.

Based in Aberdeen, the charity covers the whole of north-east Scotland, Moray, Orkney and Shetland. CLAN has a presence in Ballater, Banchory, Elgin, Inverurie, Fraserburgh, Lossiemouth, Peterhead, Stonehaven, Turriff, Kirkwall and Lerwick.

For further information about CLAN Cancer Support please call (01224) 647 000 or visit www.clanhouse.org

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Oct 132017
 

With thanks to Jessica Murphy, PR and Marketing Manager at Think PR.

Two young professionals based in the North East have launched an entirely new approach to people and asset resourcing, which they believe has the potential to provide massive cost savings to the oil and gas industry.

Having recently won the backing of Highlands and Islands Enterprise, Leximo is the brainchild of Alex Crossland and Simon Patterson, both of whom are passionate about facilitating a cultural shift in employment patterns, how company assets are maximised and how innovators collaborate.

Leximo comprises three online platforms.

LexiResource is helping businesses and individuals improve their workforce and career flexibility; LexiEdge adopts the key characteristics of the Circular Economy, enabling companies across a wide range of sectors to communicate asset requirements and availability, including equipment, tools and facilities; and Lexi-X will provide clear visibility of company and industry innovation challenges, providing the opportunity for companies and academia to collaborate in order to focus resource and expertise to deliver commercially viable solutions.

Leximo co-founder Alex Crossland describes the impetus behind Leximo:

“Simon and I have spent several years realising that there are flaws in restrictive traditional resourcing models whether the requirement is skills, assets or ideas. A fundamental lack of communication is hindering some obvious cost efficiencies. With that in mind, we are in talks with a number of oil and gas industry bodies, all of whom are keen to adopt and promote the Leximo approach.

“We’re all familiar with the process of online connection between a requirement and an offering – think airbnb, or any online retail system for example. In the context of the North Sea oil and gas industry, Leximo is allowing businesses to survive downturns and maximise upturns, by gaining access to resources and expertise that may not previously have been possible due to costs or lack of contacts.”

Aberdeen-based ITCA Training is amongst the first companies to adopt the Leximo approach. Managing Director, June Jones explains:

“We are excited to have ITCA’s course and resource availability already published on Leximo and look forward to starting our pre-apprenticeship learners on their career journey by engaging them with the platform. Leximo is an extremely forward-thinking innovation for marketing all types of resources, which has great potential to meet business and individual needs.”

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Oct 132017
 

Managing director of Zenith Energy, Martin Booth.

With thanks to Donna Ross, Senior Account Manager, Frasermedia Ltd.

An Aberdeen-based well engineering and project management company has marked five years in business by opening new
bases across the globe to meet growing demand.
Zenith Energy, which provides a range of services to the oil and gas sector within the UK and internationally through its Aberdeen headquarters, has opened offices in Abu Dhabi and Perth, Australia, following contract wins with major names in the industry.

The specialist firm has built its client base to more than 34, with continued repeat business, since its establishment in 2012, going from a two-man business, to a global organisation employing 23 people.

The firm provides specialist expertise for the complete well life cycle from the conceptual design phases through to field development planning, well operations, well intervention and well abandonments, using both rig and rig-less solutions.

During the first quarter of 2017 Zenith expanded its client base and successfully completed work in the UK, Italy and Equatorial Guinea for new and existing clients.

All projects were delivered on time and on budget, with zero HSE accidents or incidents showcasing the company’s ability to deliver the correct technical and commercial solution for our clients. 

Managing director of Zenith Energy, Martin Booth (pictured), said:

“Zenith Energy was set up with the intention of creating an Independent Well Engineering and Wells Project management company, and over the years we have diversified our services to meet demand.

“We have experienced the highs and lows of oil price and one of the longest, worst recessions in the oil industry that most of us remember. However, five years later we are still here, growing and developing our company and capabilities.

“We are now looking forward to the next five years from a position of strength in the market and an ability to deliver in a low cost environment.”

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Sep 282017
 

As the significant new data security regulation, the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), comes into force in May 2018, Darren Bird, Head of Technology at Xeretec, explains how businesses can stay compliant.

Xeretec’s Darren Bird.

Irrespective of how security conscious we have become in the digital era, the recent cyberattack on the NHS was a sobering reminder about the online vulnerabilities that all private and public sector organisations are still exposed to.

Cyberattacks come in many forms, with many resulting in confidential data either being exposed or compromised.

But security breaches don’t just arise from large scale, high-profile attacks. Sometimes poor internal processes, or a lack of diligence, can result in a breach.

In a bid to force companies to be even more proactive in their efforts to protect company and customer data, the EU has announced the GDPR will come into action in May of next year.

In the case of a breach, the EU is warning of hefty fines of up to €20m, or 4% of a company’s annual worldwide turnover – whichever is greater.

Here are our recommendations to help avoid GDPR non-compliance:

Implement measures to keep your data safe:

The primary objective of the GDPR is to strengthen and unify data protection for all individuals within the EU. This will ensure all organisations provide a broader duty of care to their customers, to prevent their personal details and data from leaking, so it is crucial that businesses start to think about the security measures they will put in place to comply with the GDPR.

The EU specifies that personal data is:

“any information relating to an individual, whether it relates to his or her private, professional or public life. It can be anything from a name, a home address, a photo, an email address, bank details, posts on social networking websites, medical information, or a computer’s IP address.”

Don’t overlook print from a security perspective:

In the context of document imaging and print, it’s well known that unprotected print devices can be a source of data leaks. Private data is still being left unclaimed on devices, even though solutions already exist to mitigate the risks. While May 2018 may seem some time away, now is the time for all organisations to start assessing how ready and able they are to comply with the GDPR. Xeretec ensures that all its clients’ print is secure and has vast experience helping businesses to understand the security vulnerabilities print exposes them to  

Find print solutions to comply with GDPR:

Xeretec can also provide intelligent print management solutions that enable IT administrators to set up automated workflows. These can detect if documents contain specific patterns relating to data, such as bank or credit card details, personal health information, or sensitive company data. It can then redact any, or all, instances of that pattern in a document.

On top of that, it is sophisticated enough to flag up incidents of potential compliance violations to a company’s chief data, security or compliance officer, thereby acting as an early warning system ahead of a potential breach.

Having a secure print function is another way that businesses can help their print comply with the GDPR, as this only allows those authorised to release prints from a device via a secure PIN code or swipe card. This is a powerful way to stop unclaimed documents being left on devices and an effective measure to help prevent security breaches from occurring.

Combined, these solutions can help deliver the type of proactive security management that could easily halt the kinds of security breaches that the GDPR is trying to prevent, therefore helping businesses avoid paying severe fines.

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Sep 282017
 

With thanks to Ross Anderson, Senior Account Manager, Jasmine Ltd.

A leading north-east accountancy firm is targeting further growth as it marks its one-year anniversary in Banchory after expanding in to Deeside.
James Milne Chartered Accountants acquired the business of AC Howat Chartered Accountant in September 2016 and moved into a new office in the Banchory Business Centre.

Established in 1888, James Milne has a team of 30 staff and partners across its offices in Aberdeen, Inverurie and Banchory who provide accountancy, taxation and business services to a range of business and personal clients.

The firm, which prides itself on its partner-led approach, has seen growth across all areas over the last twelve months.

Partner Richard Christie, who heads up the Banchory office, has worked with colleagues Lauren Thompson and Bill Urquhart to increase the firm’s client base in the area.

He said:

“We’ve had a very promising year since setting up in the Banchory Business Centre and the team has done an excellent job working with new and existing clients to provide a range of accountancy and taxation services.

“Being able to expand into Banchory and Deeside was a significant step for the firm and we are very excited about continuing to develop the relationships with our existing clients as well as the potential for further growth in the area.”

James Milne also provide support to businesses and are regularly contacted by people who are looking to start their own company and require advice. The firm’s range of services, includes, accountancy, business taxation, bookkeeping, payroll services and tax planning.

Bill Urquhart worked with Alan Howat for 13 years in Banchory and has helped to maintain important links with clients.

He said:

“It’s been a very quick year but it feels like there’s been a seamless transition and I’m delighted to be working with so many longstanding clients.

“We have a good team here in Banchory and Richard, Lauren and myself are on hand to assist clients with their accountancy needs and meet with people and businesses who want to find out more about our services.”

James Milne serves both personal and business clients across a diverse range of industries, from the Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire staples of oil and gas and agriculture through to retail, hospitality, fishing, haulage, trades, construction and many more. For more information, please visit: www.jamesmilne.co.uk

Sep 222017
 

With thanks to Yvette Rayner, PR Account Manager, Frasermedia Ltd.

One of Aberdeen’s oldest charities has been giving local people a taste of living without sight, during Remember a Charity Week.

North East Sensory Services (NESS), which has offices in Aberdeen, Dundee and Elgin, supports over 6500 people in the north-east who have sight or hearing impairment. 

The charity invited local dignitaries to experience what it feels like to live without sight this week, by taking them on a blindfold guided walk.

Aberdeen’s Lord Provost, Barney Crockett, was guided along Union Street and around the Town House buildings by NESS volunteer Christa Reid.

The Lord Provost wore glasses which demonstrated serious sight impairment and was given instruction by Ms Reid, to negotiate busy streets, steps, narrow doorways, revolving doors and busy corridors.

Russell Borthwick, Chairman of the Aberdeen and Grampian Chamber of Commerce, agreed to be blindfolded while he was guided around the AGCC offices in Aberdeen, and Zoey Clark, World Athletics Championships silver medal winner and University of Aberdeen graduate, learned how to navigate Aberdeen Sports Village in a blindfold.

The Lord Provost said:

“Being inside, in a building I know well, seemed fairly comfortable thanks to the expert guiding, but as soon as we got outside I felt quite overwhelmed. It was fascinating and gave me a real insight into what life is like for people with a sensory impairment.”

Mr Borthwick, who was guided by NESS volunteer Hazel Young, added:

“I am lucky that my eyesight has never caused me any problems, so I was quite surprised by how frightening it was to walk with no and reduced vision. Corridors and paths which had seemed wide and open, felt very close, and walking downstairs was particularly challenging. I was very grateful to my expert guide, who made me feel much more at ease and I relied upon her totally. It really made me feel grateful for having good vision.”

Zoey Clark said:

“I was expecting my hearing to compensate

“but actually the noise and voices made walking around more difficult!

“I relied completely on my guide and often felt very disorientated – particularly outside when I know the track quite well!”

Graham Findlay, CEO NESS, said:

“Remember a Charity Week is an annual event which asks people to think about the charities in there area and consider leaving a legacy to help less advantaged people.

“Something as simple as walking along the street and up stairs can be very difficult for people who have limited or no vision. We are very grateful to the Lord Provost, Mr Borthwick, Miss Clark for taking time out of their busy days to help us demonstrate what life is like without sight, and how a little bit of expert help can make an huge difference.”

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