Jun 252015
Zachariah Raja with the brick he laid as part of the ongoing Masjid Alhikmah project in Aberdeen. (3)

Zachariah Raja with the brick he laid as part of the ongoing Masjid Alhikmah project in Aberdeen.

With thanks to Paul Smith, Citrus Mix.

Community support for a landmark development in the heart of Aberdeen has been set in stone during a fitting ceremony to mark the latest stage of construction.
The Masjid Alhikmah, on the city’s Nelson Street, will feature community and youth facilities as well as prayer halls for north-east Muslims.

On Friday, June 19 families gathered to play their part in the build process when they took the opportunity to lay bricks in the foundations of the three-storey building.

The event coincided with the start of Ramadan, the holy month of fasting.

Each of the bricks had been sponsored during a fundraiser for the development earlier this year, with the Alhikmah Foundation continuing to work towards hitting its £1.7million target. More than half of that sum has already been donated, with the effort aided by the donation of the site.

Recent events included a sponsored expedition to Snowdonia earlier this month, with 12 intrepid participants, and next on the agenda is the latest in a series of fundraising dinners on July 1 at the Hilton Treetops in Aberdeen. Full and half tables for the Iftar dinner are available.

With costs being met entirely by community fundraising, the dedication of the project’s supporters has been welcomed by foundation committee members. The organisation’s annual report for 2014 has recently been published, outlining progress to date.

A spokesman said:

“Masjid Alhikmah is a community focused facility and we are incredibly grateful to all who have contributed. The sponsorship of the foundation bricks is an excellent example – with many families quick to support that initiative. We are delighted to welcome everyone to the site to set their bricks, a very symbolic part of the project.

“Every penny spent on the project will come from fundraising by our supporters and the response has been excellent. There is still a great deal of hard work to be done to realise our vision, but the energy and the commitment of the many people who are fundraising is an inspiration to everyone involved in the project.”

Masjid Alhikmah will feature space for worship, funeral preparations, dedicated women’s facilities and a family community centre. There is an active Muslim community living in and around the city of Aberdeen and the facility is designed to help create unity and foster a sense of harmony between Muslims and fellow north-east residents. The name chosen for the new centre stems from Arabic. Masjid translates as “a place of congregational worship” and Alhikmah as “wisdom”.

CHAP Group’s construction division is the main contractor for the structural and external aspects of the scheme. Work began in January, with the structural steel frame of the building now in place and the exterior due to be completed by August. The second phase will include all interior work.

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Jun 192015

With thanks to Paul Smith, Citrus Mix.

Jules wide shot cafe (2)Two businesses have lent a helping hand to a popular Aberdeen social enterprise café after hundreds of pounds were stolen following a recent break-in.

Rosie’s Café on the city’s Rosemount Place was targeted last month (May), with money set aside for a staff day out removed from the premises.

The café, which is part of Rosie’s Social Enterprises and Turning Point Scotland and provides valuable vocational training, support and work experience for people recovering from mental health issues.

Since the incident has occurred, it has been inundated with donations of support. As part of this, hub North Scotland and construction firm Robertson have come together to donate a range of materials alongside six days labour to help secure the premises after the break-in.

Jill Adie, business development manager at hub North Scotland, was delighted the organisation could help the café in its time of need.

She said:

“When we read about what had happened to Rosie’s Café, we were so disappointed and we immediately thought about what we could do to help them. We work quite closely with the team at Robertson through various other construction projects so we spoke to them and arranged for the material and labour to be provided, free of charge, to secure the café after the break-in.

“It really was the least we could do for a charity that provides so much help and support to people in Aberdeen. It’s great to see it up and running again and knowing we’ve helped give them peace of mind is fantastic.”

Patsy Telford, service manager at Rosie’s Social Enterprises, said:

“We’d just like to say a massive thank you to both hub North Scotland and Robertson for donating the materials and labour to secure the café after the break-in.

“We’ve been inundated with donations, both big and small, and every single one has meant the world to everyone associated with the charity. The response has been so heart-warming and we’re delighted that people have taken the time to help us when we needed it the most.”

Hub North Scotland is the delivery partner for various community-based projects across the north of Scotland including the new Alford Community Campus, Wick Community Campus, Brimmond School and Inverness Royal Academy.

Further information can be found at www.hubnorthscotland.co.uk

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May 152015

MartinFordUTGfeatWith thanks to Martin Ford.

Aberdeenshire councillors Paul Johnston and Martin Ford (pictured) have been pressing their council to publish an on-line planning enforcement register.

The councillors believe this would be a useful tool for members of the public concerned about potential breaches of planning permission or unauthorised development, allowing an easy check to see if the Council was already aware of the issue and what action was being taken.

An on-line facility would also allow people to quickly check on the progress of enforcement action and find the outcome, increasing transparency.

“A comprehensive on-line planning enforcement register would be a great help to the public and community councils,” said Democratic Independent councillor Paul Johnston.

“I have been pressing Aberdeenshire Council to publish one for more than four years now.”

“People want to know what Aberdeenshire Council is doing and sometimes not doing about developers’ breaches of planning permission. A properly published register will help the public but will also save staff time and effort in answering repeated enquiries. Better information will help everyone involved and the Council needs to be more transparent.”

The pressure for an on-line enforcement register has now resulted in Aberdeenshire Council putting a list of all enforcement notices issued on its website. The text on the website states: ‘The public access register relating to enforcement cases is expected in autumn 2015. A current list of all enforcement notices is available here.

Green councillor Martin Ford said:

“The on-line list of all enforcement notices issued is a step in the right direction, but falls well short of the comprehensive public access register of enforcement cases the Democratic Independent and Green councillors believe is needed.”

Cllr Paul Johnston said:

“Any progress is welcome, but I am deeply frustrated about how long it is taking the Council to get an on-line planning enforcement register up and running. We will continue to press on this issue until an on-line register is made available.”

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[Aberdeen Voice accepts and welcomes contributions from all sides/angles pertaining to any issue. Views and opinions expressed in any article are entirely those of the writer/contributor, and inclusion in our publication does not constitute support or endorsement of these by Aberdeen Voice as an organisation or any of its team members.]

Feb 202015

Scottish Women's InstitutesthmWith thanks to Eoin Smith, Tricker PR.

In a drive to attract a new generation of members, The Scottish Women’s Institute (SWI) will introduce a pilot project adopting new-style flexible meetings at different times of the day and in different venues to fit in with the lifestyles of prospective new members.

Meetings taking place in informal settings like coffee shops in the daytime or straight after work  will be trialled, to help the organisation become accessible to more women who work, have family commitments and busy lifestyles.

New Institutes will be encouraged to take up the themes and activities that reflect their own interests, lifestyles and communities.

The existing key aims of the SWI will remain as education and training in home skills, family welfare, citizenship and friendship and to promote the preservation and development of Scotland’s traditions, rural heritage and culture. However, there will be less formal minute taking and members being required to take on formal roles, with new institutes communicating perhaps instead by blogs and social media.

These pilots will run alongside the network of traditional meetings held all over Scotland by members since the organisation began in 1917.

In tandem with the pilot project of new style meetings, the organisation will in future be known as the Scottish Women’s Institutes rather than the Scottish Women’s Rural Institutes, to show that women from urban as well as rural locations are welcome.

A new logo has been designed to replace the Luckenbooth logo first introduced in 1918 and the motto ‘For Home and Country’ will be replaced by the strapline ‘Women Together.’ A new website is under construction and will make finding out how to join a local institute easier through a simple postcode search, and online payment option for the joining fee will also be introduced. (launch planned for March 2015).

Membership has fallen from 30,000 in the 1980s to under 18,500 today and it is seen as crucial that changes are implemented to attract a younger generation of women to continue the legacy of one of Scotland’s most loved institutions.

Chairman Christine Hutton explains:

“We are the guardians of our organisation and it’s our duty to leave a legacy for Scottish women of the future. Although they may not seem to be pioneers by today’s standards, the women who started the SWRI during the First World War were forging a new path for women learning and socialising together. It’s very important for us to retain and build on our aims, but we have to do this by attracting new members.

It has been estimated that if we continue a membership decline similar to that which we have experienced in recent years, our organisation may simply cease to exist. I am excited that we are pioneering new ways of reaching out to different generations of Scottish women while we retain our structure of traditional meetings which are so valued by many of our current members.”

Christine continues:

“We are aware that many non-members who live in cities and towns feel we are not open to them; just to rural, country people and this could not be further from the truth. We may be dropping the word ‘rural’ from our name, but I am sure generations of women will continue to refer to us as The Rural and we welcome this. Whether we are known as the SWI or the ‘Rural’ our aims remain the same – to bring Scottish women together to enjoy learning and extending their crafts and skills.

There has been a UK wide revival in baking and crafts thanks to the popularity of television shows such as ‘The Great British Bake Off’ and ‘The Great British Sewing Bee’, there is a clear interest from women of all ages, in learning and sharing knowledge in skills including cooking, the arts and crafts, as well as leisure activities. We aim to move forward as a relevant, appealing membership organisation for women of all ages.”

One of the youngest institutes in the SWI is Garnethill  in Glasgow, where the programme of recent events has included an ecstatic dance workshop, life drawing; talks on drug law reform and working in child psychiatry; and members joining  a ‘Reclaim the Night’ march in Glasgow. The new pilot projects may adopt similar styles of meetings and activities.

Chair Lindsay Finnie and her fellow Garnethill members are excited about the refocus of the national organisation and she says:

“We are more of an ‘ideas and brainfood’ group than some of the more traditional institutes but we became affiliated to the SWI as we see how members get so much out of meeting with others, having fun and also taking part in stimulating activities that are relevant to them and the communities which they live.

“I would encourage more women to be part of the move to make the SWI increasingly relevant to women of all ages.”

Long standing SWI member Isabell Montgomerie of the Ochiltree Institute in Ayrshire says:

“This evolution of the SWI is an exciting and interesting time for us as current members. Being relevant and inclusive for women across Scotland has always been at the core of the SWI and while I am sure we’ll all still be calling it ‘the rural’ for many years, it is time for us to reach out to many more women in Scotland’s urban and rural areas to join us.

“It will be great to be able to choose between our traditional meetings and a more informal get together while still having the chance to meet like-minded women and to improve our skills.”

With a membership drawn from Shetland to Wigtown, the SWI remains one of the largest women’s organisations in Scotland. It offers women of all ages the opportunity to learn new skills, take part in a wide variety of activities from art, crafts and cookery to choral singing, debating and dancing, all of which offer friendship and fun and the chance to get to know your neighbours.

Christine Hutton adds:

“We celebrates our centenary in 2017 and we hope to reach this important milestone with an increased membership and a choice of meeting structures for institutes which will be enjoyed by members old and new.”

For more details of how to find your nearest institute, or advice on how to set up a new one, visit www.srwi.org or go to its Facebook pages at https://www.facebook.com/ScottishWomensRuralInstitutes

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Oct 312014

A cheerful article in Aberdeen’s free sheet, the Aberdeen Citizen, appeared on the 23rd of October.  The piece proclaims that plans to take over Nigg Bay for industrialisation “have today been welcomed by local residents.” 

Suzanne Kelly, knowing full well the strength of local opposition to this scheme, looks at the two residents quoted in the piece, and finds the Citizen’s ‘happy’ conclusion somewhat wanting.

rainbow torry 1 apr 06 2

Rainbow viewed across the harbour from Torry

The Scottish Government, Scottish Enterprise, scandal-hit again lately over millions given to companies that its board has shares in, and Aberdeen’s Harbour Board want to take over Nigg Bay and significant other greenbelt locations in Torry and
They rejected plans to renovate brownfield sites north of the harbour and want Nigg Bay because it is the least expensive option.

They are also worried that other Scottish, or worse, European harbours may expand instead, thereby allowing other communities to gain from shipping instead of just Aberdeen.

All of this is spelled out in the booklet the Harbour Board is dishing out to the public at recent consultations. The booklet is written as if the scheme to take Nigg Bay out of public use is a fait accompli.

It should be noted that the public was never asked to consider the options. The one option we are having foisted on us is to give up the Torry coastline and land. That means giving up our already threatened wildlife and our recreation areas, and it means turning this community into a completely industrialised area.

It is a rare resident of Torry who can be delighted at increased pollution: marine fuel is not refined, and is a serious pollutant. Or at the prospect of increased road traffic , and loss of amenities and environment. So, how did the Citizen come up with a headline and an article so favourable to the city’s business interests?

You can understand a booklet written by supporters of a scheme being slanted, but should the Citizen have produced a more objective, honest piece than the one it printed? According to Aberdeen Journals Ltd., we are happy about this. Well, two of us are happy, anyway. Alan Reid, described as being of the Torry Heritage Group is quoted, and so is another person, Tinotendra Okere.

Many people just glance at headlines, and assume something in print is accurate. This is exactly what a propagandist relies on. The article talks about everything, except air quality, loss of land, increasing industrialisation, increased lorry traffic in Torry, loss of wildlife and wildlife habitat, and further urban sprawl. We are meant to be happy for money and jobs creation, and anything else is a secondary concern.

Alan Reid is interested in the area’s heritage, that is clear (seemingly the built environment is more important to him than the natural heritage, as he is happy to consign Nigg Bay and its two SSSIs to history for potential job creation). He is entitled to his opinion.  The article sees fit to mention that he is part of Torry Heritage (one of 1600 members on the Facebook page), but to be clear – he does not speak for the group.   The Citizen doesn’t tell us about Tinotendra Okere’s interest,s though it tells us about Reid’s background.  If Reid’s background is relevant, than surely so is Okere’s.  Researching what her interests may be, it seems Ms Okere may indeed be quite happy about the industrial expansion plan…

‘Happy’ Tinotendra Okere, your average Torry resident who…

… is a journalist and Director of Aberdeen Geophysical Services Limited, a company formed at the end of August this year.


Ms Okere seems to have been involved in many interesting, worthwhile activities and charities. When it comes to the harbour issue, could she possibly have an interest? Perhaps this is just a ‘happy’ coincidence for Aberdeen Citizen’s reporter, but surely one journalist would identify themselves if another journalist approached them for an interview?

Surely it is relevant for the reader to know the happy camper in question is one.

Aberdeen Geophysical Services Limited does not list the nature of its work on its Companies House listing; but from further internet searches, it would seem this company is involved in marine geophysical services:  perhaps building in Nigg Bay would be a very happy opportunity for them?

Ms Okere describes herself on Linked In as :-

“I am a focused, self-motivated and determined information and communications professional with more than four years experience. I have been instrumental in the formulation and revision of internal and external communication strategies which have yielded excellent results.

“I have also played an active role in sourcing and contacting potential partners and donors which were key in the success of specific programme areas. Am an excellent and insightful communicator, with experience working in multi-cultural environments and clients of various calibres.”

It seems fair to wonder, given her communication and strategy skills, coupled with her business venture, whether she may have an interest in the project going ahead. It is a pity the Aberdeen Citizen article didn’t find time to mention any of this, which undoubtedly its reporter would have learnt as part of her thorough interview at the time.

Alan Reid – maybe not so happy after all? The Citizen quotes Alan as being very pleased by the proposal:

“If it is going to get people jobs and bring money into the area, then it is a good thing.  Creating jobs in this day and age is the most important thing…. [it is] vital the development preserved the heritage and history of the area… I hope people still have access to the recreational facilities in the area.

“People should still be able to go out and have picnics by the burn for example. Nothing should be blocked off by gates or security.” – Alan Reid quote, Aberdeen Citizen 23rd October 2014

Alan later advised that he was questioned at the Union Square public display. From his quotes it seems he hasn’t had time to digest everything fully as there will be fenced off areas, it is not just a question of a bit of jetty jutting into the Bay. Aberdeen is not at a loss for either jobs or money and compared to many other parts of the UK is quite strong.

torry thistles aug 04The harbour will be made deeper, with inevitable consequences for marine life. Further areas of land are wanted, the Bay itself will be out of bounds for people, and the whole coast will be lost for wildlife and recreation. Two Sites of Special Scientific interest (SSSIs) will be compromised. The presentation booklet tells you some of this, but it does not tell you about the SSSIs and wildlife does not get much attention.

Alan can be forgiven for not digesting the issues on the spot.

Here is what Alan wrote when asked about his position on a Facebook thread:-

“.. as far as I know the bit at the bottom of St Fitticks Road is the area where they will jut out into the sea to the south of that on the Cove Road will be widened much about the same along Greyhope Road. The back bit where the church and burn runs should be okay I know what you’re saying and I agree but when the wheels start rolling the decisions are made.

“You know how the council are, look what happened to the Victoria Road school project once they make up their mind we don’t count. We need to vote these lot out, they don’t care about Torry” – Facebook 24 October

So as well-intentioned as Mr Reid is towards Torry, this statement is hardly a rolling endorsement from a ‘happy’ resident.

The Citizen could have asked him whether or not he had read all the materials; they could also have looked on Facebook where they will find some in favour, and many people against the plans. Here are some recent Facebook quotes; ‘happiness’ is not exactly the word that best sums these feelings up:

“I did notice at last week’s meeting the Harbour guy said that the ‘majority’ of Torry people were ‘happy’ with the plans for the harbour & the work it would promote. There was no mention of the beach, coastline, wildlife or the increase in road traffic unfortunately.  Does this mean the majority of the Torry people are unaware of these issues? [quite possibly]

“Me [sic] personally thinks it would be a great benefit for the city!  Nobody really uses that beach anymore anyway”

“I read the same article In the Evening Express. In my opinion I think the expansion would be a disaster to the beautiful scenery away from the bustle of the harbour. We don’t have a lot of natural scenery left and we should preserve/improve on what we have. But in all honesty I don’t think it will matter to the city of our views as Aberdeen has and always will be driven by money…”

“No one cared what Torriers thought of closing a school or demolishing a landmark, this will be no different, it will come down to whose pockets are lined the thickest.”

“The Torry beach is always full of people at the first hint of sunshine!”

“You don’t need to be up a mountain to enjoy the view of the mountain just as you don’t need to sit on the beach to enjoy the scenery. I think it will be a sad day for the city when they destroy this natural Bay Area.”

“They need to sort at god awful stench if they want to entice cruise ships tho! I remember the days of the ice cream shop at the Bay, picking Buckies, camping there etc Harbour Board have spent millions already on this new project, so this ‘Consulting’ with local residents is utter nonsense!!”

Maybe it was the case that the Aberdeen Citizen interviewed scores of people, all of whom were happy. This happiness is clearly not universal.

In due course plans will be lodged that the public can object to. There seems to be no shortage of grounds to do so.

It should be noted the Harbour Board are regularly attending Torry Community Council meetings to update the council on developments: this is all well and good, but since these updates are made by those who want to take over Nigg Bay and several other swathes of land, let’s hope Torry Community Council is actively seeking representatives to update the council on the other side of the coin.

  • No doubt SEPA, with offices on the coastline in question, will raise all the environmental objections and take an active part in protecting Torry’s built (lighthouse) and natural (bay, land, wildlife, landscape) heritage from pollution and industrialisation. We will see.Comments enabled – see comments box below. Note, all comments will be moderated.
Aug 072014

By Duncan Harley

It’s officially 150 years since the first Turriff Show and the 2014 event drew record crowds to what must surely be Scotland’s premier agricultural event.

turra queenIn the blistering early August heat folk from far and wide turned up for a two day extravaganza of entertainment, fun and the meeting of guid’ friends.

Boasting well over 200 trade stands plus a selection of industrial and craft marquees and with everything from 90ft high wind turbine’s to the latest in sat-nav guided tractors on display, what was not to like?

It was indeed a show to remember with commentary on the Sunday by the North East’s favourite Doric broadcaster Robbie Shepherd plus a visit from HM the Queen on the Monday,

With pipe bands galore, vintage tractors plus dare-devil entertainment from the Bolddog Links Freestyle Motocross Display Team there was something for folk of all ages and interests.

The forestry area hosted interactive games and competitions while “Old MacDonald’s InFARMation“ tent provided hands on agricultural activities for youngsters.

In the Cookery and Butcher area award winning food writer Lady Claire Macdonald showcased Scotland’s best mouth-watering recipes using only the finest of Scottish ingredients such as Scotch Beef, locally sourced venison and wild caught Scottish salmon courtesy of Usan Fisheries near Montrose.

Show President Bruce Ferguson said:

“We enjoyed welcoming visitors from far and near to this year’s show.  Overseas visitors received a warm welcome in the Homecoming Marquee where they were offered hospitality and given a free show pack.”


“I am particularly pleased that the Queen visited Turriff Show especially since some of her own Highland cattle from the renowned Balmoral fold were being exhibited” Mr Ferguson made reference to the monarch’s entry “Ruaridh 1st of Ubhadh” which won several awards including “Best Senior Bull born before 1st January 2013” and the Champion Prize for the “Best Highland Animal in Show.”

After touring the showground the Queen presented the Champion of Champions prize cup to Bruce & Partners Charolais “Balmaud Eclipse”, winner of the show’s top livestock award before returning to her estate in Deeside via a helicopter of the Royal Flight.

With preparations in hand for the 2015 Turra Show many folk will be curious to know how the Turriff and District Agricultural Association’s hard working team plan to top this year’s event.

Aug 052014

Young Scottish actor Declan Michael Laird moved to Hollywood after winning a prestigious full scholarship to the Stella Adler School. He’s on the audition trail, has various projects on the go, and has recently been cast in a new web series. In a brief interview, he lets us know about his project and plans. By Suzanne Kelly

Declan’s been shopping; he’s just moved across town – literally. He’s moved from a studio apartment into a larger place just across the street from where he is now. His mother is over from Scotland, helping him organise the move, and vacationing.

He sounds great for someone who’s constantly rushing from casting call to casting call, while moving house. We start by catching up on the latest news.

The subject of the Commonwealth games comes up; Glasgow is his hometown (he played for Greenock Morton FC). We discuss the opening ceremony, and like almost everyone else, he’s less than thrilled with the Scottish team parade outfit.

“I’ve been watching on the BBC site… Why would they do that? It’s like someone’s been sick all over it.”

Declan Michael Laird – Camp Abercorn

But it is his latest role that I’m really keen to discuss.  Camp Abercorn is a new seven part series, which will be shown on the web, and Declan has a starring role.

He will play a character from London who’s been removed from the comforts of a privileged city background and dumped in the middle of nowhere at a boy’s scouting camp. The character, Colin Benton Powers, is not a happy camper.

The project is seeking crowd funding; the details can be found here: and include details of how to support the project. Donations at different levels will get different rewards- including the chance to be an extra or character in the series.

There are various clips available; I find that Declan makes a very convincing jaded, bored English teenager who clearly is in the wrong place. I can see the opportunities for humour; I can see there will be a serious side to the project as well. Declan tells me more about it:-

“We filmed the pilot; but we still needed to raise another $100,000 so they’ve been trying to raise that over the past month. We’ve got about half and are looking for the other half. It’s difficult for people who don’t know you to give you that kind of money.”

“We have about $48,000 and 15 days to go, and I think money coming in from another investor. It’s a great project .. I’m Colin Benton Powers (descendent of the founder of fictional Compass Guides)… they can’t call it ‘Boy Scouts’ for legal reasons; so it’s become ’Compass Guides’. “ “The plan is to go to Colorado for a few weeks and film.”

We talk about the other actors in the series

“We’ve got Brad Leland who is on Friday Night Lights ; it’s great working with people like that. I think he’s done 82 episodes of Friday night live; it’s great being around them on set and hearing their stories.”

This will be among one of Declan’s first series credits. This series will deal with comedy, and serious subjects, including the issues of being gay in an institution where homosexuality is forbidden. Laird notes:-

“It’s 2014, we should be well past issues like this, but it is still an issue to that organisation (The Boy Scouts).”

But that’s not all Declan has going on. Jonny Paterson is a young Scottish producer (see https://aberdeenvoice.com/2014/05/interview-jonny-paterson/ ); and there is another new project afoot.

Jonny Paterson Ben Caird Quinton Aaron Declan Michael Laird

“On Sunday I’m actually meeting Jonny Paterson; we’re doing a table reading with Quinton (Quinton Aaron, best known for his breakout role as the co-lead in Academy Award nominated film, The Blind Side) ; I’m going to read one of the parts. It will be quite funny – little me from Glasgow in a confrontation scene with Quinton.

“I’m not officially cast by any means, and the character description doesn’t really match my look. But sometimes if you go and read, and if the chemistry works, they’ll sometimes change things.”

I ask if Declan if he’s still playing football; he is with the team Vinnie Jones put together, The Hollywood All-stars.

“The Hollywood All-stars team is kind of taking a rest right now; Vinnie Jones is not well and is getting treatment. We’re on a hiatus; he was the one who was behind it; he’s the main part of it.

“I still play in a league to keep myself sharp, and I’m boxing. It can be brutally, brutally painful.”

Aside from Camp Abercorn, auditioning, reading with Quinton Aaron, Declan’s got more than a few other projects, including a possible pitch for a show.

“I’m working on an idea right now; we’ve had meetings and another producer is involved. I can’t say too much right now. We’ve met with people who produced the show ‘Hannibal’”

“If you told me 2 years ago that I’d be walking into Universal Studios to pitch my own show, I’d say you’re having a laugh.”

His talents continue to garner recognition from his peers.

“What’s great right now is I got accepted to the BAFTA newcomers programme. This year had a record number of applications – they could only take 10 out of about 200.

“So, all the new movies are coming out and I’m getting to go to all the screenings. I’m going to 4 movies this week; my mom’s loving it. ‘Calvary’ with Brendan Gleeson was great. I’ll be seeing Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles soon; the kid in me can’t wait.”

We talk about the escapism of the comic genre – Batman v Superman is coming soon; there are plenty of Marvel films and they’re high grossing.

“Andrew Pierce is the main writer on Iron Man, Sherlock Holmes – and he’s from Kirkcaldy.”

– it seems to me there is a growing Scottish contingent taking Hollywood over.

But that’s not the end of it.

“The movie season is starting to pick up; I had a talk to my manager today. I’d been invited to the ‘young actors camp’ it’s for kids from around the world; they come over for a month to go to camp and learn.   The camp invited me as a special guest to help coach for 3 days, so that was fun. It’s great helping people and seeing them have fun.”

 It was a workshop in Hollywood which led him to be where he was and he is very grateful for it.

“I told them that story about me. I like to try and give something back. A lot of people were good to me, and I appreciate it.”

“I’m going to be on BAFTA’s website in a video interview as an up and coming newcomer in the next few weeks.”

“I was at the critic’s choice award – two guys from Aberdeen were there. Tony Cochran owns in Aberdeen a lot of clubs and Chris Dally was there – they run the green room at the awards, that’s how I met the producers from Hannibal. Someone dropped out, and I got invited; we got talking… I think I’ve got my dad’s gift of the gab.”

Conscious that his mom’s visiting, and I don’t want to take up too much time, we say goodbye. I can only guess what Declan will have going on the next time we speak. Whatever it is, it’s nice to know that he’s on his way, and that the voyage from Glasgow to West Hollywood is not an impossible one to make.

Jun 062014

Vamos Scotland (CQTC Group), a company whose purpose is to promote the Hispanic culture in the UK are currently organising the II European Young Entrepreneur Seminars. The next will take place in Aberdeen on 10th June. With thanks to Elena Sierra.

logo_vamos_scotlandAs Vamos Scotland (CQTC Group) is concerned about youth unemployment we are pleased to announce and bring to your attention the II European Young Entrepreneur Seminars and Integra-UK.

II European Young Entrepreneur Seminar and Integra-UK are conceived as a part of the initiatives that Vamos Scotland (CQTC Group) and the Ministry of Employment and Social Security are developing to support and make available useful information to young Spanish people who have questions about starting a business in the UK and to help them make their ideas a reality.

II European Young Entrepreneur Seminar will be held in 2 Scottish cities:

Aberdeen, 10th June at the Society of Advocates in Aberdeen, Concert Ct, Broad St, Aberdeen AB10. From 15:00 pm to 17:30 pm.

Glasgow, 25th September at Glasgow Union University, University of Glasgow, Glasgow, Glasgow City G12 8. From 15:00 pm to 18:30 pm.

Through these seminars, we will introduce Integra-UK, the only exchange programme which gives aspiring Spanish entrepreneurs the chance to learn from experienced entrepreneurs running small businesses in Scotland.

The exchange of experience takes place during a 2 month programme, which helps the new Spanish entrepreneur acquire the skills needed to run a small firm in the UK.

Likewise, the attendees of these Seminars will have the opportunity to know what kind of services business adviser institutions like Business Gateway and Entrepreneurial Spark can offer them.

In addition, we will learn from the experience of young entrepreneurs that have already started their own business in Scotland. They will show us how useful the help from the advisory offices can be and of course, our intuition and creativity.

More Info: 

First seminar edition

Aberdeen tickets available on Eventbrite
Glasgow tickets available on Eventbrite

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May 232014

By Suzanne Kelly.


With local councillors from all parties supporting the move to reopen Bon Accord Baths, surely the thousands who want them reopened will prevail. The BBC was on hand recently for a photo call. Despite having a very small window of time to get supporters to the baths on a work day, Craig Adams, leading the Bon Accord Campaign, got nearly 100 people down on the day to show their support.

As well as the BBC, STV and Northsound were on hand, looking for photos and quotes. Aberdeen Voice spoke to one of the many supporters on the day, Kate Urbaniak, and her partner.

Kate said:

 “It’s a shame about how things are going on here; look at St Nicholas House.  I learned how to swim in these baths, and if there is a chance they could be put to good use, then they should be. I used to come here, my family would come here, and people used to come here and have baths if they didn’t have baths at home. It’s a great building, and I’ve never been in nicer baths.”

Mr Urbaniak talked about the carbon footprint of the people who would be driving to the large new pool and how convenient the bon accord baths were for transport.

There are many reasons for opening this much-loved city centre recreation opportunity; for more information look here.  https://www.facebook.com/savebonaccordbaths Many skills will be needed to get the project going; see how you can help.

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May 092014

With the United Kingdom’s only known resident population of killer whales at risk of imminent extinction, securing new information about this endangered group is one of the ambitions of a new season of marine research expeditions being launched by Hebridean Whale and Dolphin Trust (HWDT) this week.


The Silurian – Credit G. Leaper

In its 20th anniversary year, HWDT is recruiting volunteers to work alongside marine scientists in surveys running from May to October, to gather crucial data on whales, dolphins and porpoises – collectively known as cetaceans – and basking sharks in western Scotland’s seas.

The new expeditions form part of the only offshore, long-term cetacean monitoring scheme of its type in the UK and will be carried out from HWDT’s specialised research yacht Silurian, previously used in the filming of the BBC’s acclaimed series, The Blue Planet.

Eva Varga, HWDT Operations Manager said:

“Our 2014 surveys offer an excellent volunteering opportunity to help ensure the long-term survival of Scotland’s remarkable cetaceans and basking sharks, while learning new skills and exploring some of the most wild and remote corners of Britain,”

With cetaceans facing increasing stress from human activities such as climate change, entanglement in fishing gear, pollution, underwater noise and habitat degradation, the findings will strengthen knowledge of species’ distribution, habitats and behaviour, and will be used to strengthen future conservation action.

Volunteers will live and work on-board Silurian for up to 12 days, receiving training and working with scientists – conducting visual surveys, acoustic monitoring using hydrophones and specialist software, and identification of individual cetaceans through photography of their dorsal fins. They will also assist with the day-to-day running of Silurian.

Areas covered will depend on weather but will range between the Mull of Kintyre in the south, Cape Wrath in the north and St Kilda in the west. These seas are one of Europe’s most important habitats for cetaceans. The long and complex coastline, mixed ocean currents and wide variety of habitats make the Hebrides one of the most biologically productive areas in the UK.

HWDT research has revealed that Hebridean waters are home to what is thought to be the UK’s only resident group of killer whales – five males and four females known as the ‘West Coast Community’, whose conservation status is believed to be critical. The charity believes that the group is likely to become extinct in our lifetime, as no calves have yet been seen within the group for several years.

The charity’s findings also include the discovery that The Hebrides host what could be the UK’s smallest resident population of bottlenose dolphins and one of Europe’s highest densities of harbour porpoise.


The ‘West Coast Community’ of killer whales – at risk of extinction. Photo by N. Van Geel/HWDT.

Twenty-four species of whales, dolphins and porpoises – including several national and international conservation priorities – have now been recorded in the region.

HWDT is working to secure the future of western Scotland’s cetaceans and The Hebrides’ globally important marine environment by enhancing knowledge and understanding through education, research and engagement with local communities.

Its research data is used to inform policy makers and generate recommendations for effective marine management.

The charity – which is based in Tobermory on the Isle of Mull, where it has its main education and research offices and a visitor centre – believes that conservation of our marine environment can bring economic and social benefits to the whole region.

The 2014 surveys run from May to September and depart from Tobermory on the Isle of Mull or Kyle of Lochalsh. Participation costs cover boat expenses, support HWDT’s research programme and include accommodation, food and insurance onboard Silurian.

For details, contact Mark Whitaker at volunteercoordinator@hwdt.org or 01688 302620, or visit www.hwdt.org.

Hebridean Whale and Dolphin Trust,
28 Main Street,
Isle of Mull,
PA75 6NU

Tel: 01688 302620
Fax: 01688 302728

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