Sep 222017
 

Review and Photography by Craig Chisholm.

As the darker nights draw in at the start of September, there was still time for one more music festival in Scotland. But, unlike your TRNSMT’s, Enjoy Music’s and Electric Field’s, this was one that didn’t require waterproofs and sunscreen as it wasn’t outdoors but in the more comfortable surroundings of His Majesty’s Theatre, The Lemon Tree and The Tivoli Theatre, right here in the heart of town.

True North is now in its third year and has drawn at eclectic range of artists over the years – from Tom O’Dell to Richard Hawley, King Creosote to Laura Mvula, a Neil Young Tribute to a night of Kate Bush songs.

This year continues that eclectic mix with sets from Arab Strap, Pictish Trail, Public Service Broadcasting, Wild Beasts and 2015 Scottish Album of The Year winner Kathryn Joseph.

And this year’s tribute? A evening of Fleetwood Mac songs that included a full live performance of their classic, mega selling 1977 album ‘Rumours’.

Pictish Trail at The Lemon Tree.

As well as the main headlining sets the festival also offered a range of fringe events for all ages – acoustic performances at the Maritime Museum by Pictish Trail and Neon Waltz; gigs at local record shop & bar, Spin, by The Great Bear, Willson Gray, Katie Mackie, The Sea Atlas and Leanne Smith; talks and panel discussions at the Lemon Tree and, most impressively, a Sunday afternoon gig for children aged 9-12 at the Lemon Tree featuring Be Charlotte and Findlay Napier – one that even provided a day care crèche in the bar downstairs for adults whilst the kids rocked out upstairs.

Lunchtime sessions at The Lemon Tree also had The 101, Harmonica Movement and The Deportees play sets for those that like a bit of music whilst having a drink and bite to eat.

It’s the headline events that are the big draw though – and these kicked off on Thursday evening at the grand environs of His Majesty’s Theatre as Public Service Broadcasting and BDY_PRTS played to a large crowd of theatre goers and rock fans.

Support act BDY_PRTS, dressed in matching eye catching yellow and green outfits are a beguiling mixture of indie pop tunes mixed with Bjork style weirdness and some nifty choreography.  

The female duo, consisting of former Sparrow & The Workshop singer Jill O’Sullivan and ex-Strike the Colours musician Jenny Reeve – who has also guested on tracks by artists such as Arab Strap, The Reindeer Section, Idlewild and Snow Patrol among others.

With a new album, due later in the year, you’d be wise to check the band out as their infectious, quirky songs will see them go from strength to strength in time.

Headliners Public Service Broadcasting are no strangers to Aberdeen, this being their fourth visit to town.

However, the crowd at His Majesty’s Theatre is much larger than the previous concerts at The Lemon Tree.

Not that this daunts them – they’re a much more polished act, used to the big stage and more confident than the they were on earlier visits, three or four years ago, when promoting their debut album.

Since their last visit, they’ve released a further couple of albums – 2015’s ‘The Race for Space’ and this year’s ‘Every Valley’, which is a concept album based on the Welsh Mining Industry.

If that seems to be quite a dry and boring idea for an album then you’d be wrong, as the band mix spoken word samples from old film and radio with a light, Kraftwerk-esque, danceable pop sheen.

There’s a pathos and depth to their music that can be sometimes be lost by instrumental electronic bands. But you can dance to it as well – although in the all seated environs of HMT there’s no real rush to do this by all audience members. But, by the end, the crowd are on their feet in rapturous applause as the band power through set filled with tracks such as ‘Progress’, ‘Go!’, ‘The Other Side’ and ‘Everest’ from their three studio albums.

Special mentions must also go to the horn section and the spaceman that appear onstage with the band for their own individual brand of enthusiastic dancing.

Hopefully it won’t be another three years before we see them back in town.

The night isn’t over yet though. For the brave, foolhardy and those without work the following day, there’s still a late-night gig at The Lemon Tree to attend.

Those quick enough to hot foot in down from HMT would have hopefully been able to catch the bulk of C.Macleod’s opening set. Hailing from the Isle of Lewis, the singer songwriter is alone on stage with only his electric guitar and rootsy, raw vocals to fill the space.

And it’s the voice that grips you – a deep rasp that has hints of Springsteen, the authentic roar of heartfelt Americana and the raging howl of the seas of his native shores in there. It’s a voice that has no business coming from someone so young – it’s the sound of experience and age. Check him out now before he goes on to bigger things.

Headliners Wild Beasts are a different proposition – flanked either side of the stage by banks of keyboards, the band are an exciting mix of indie synth pop and art-rock cool.
Singer Hayden Thorpe is a confident front man, standing centre stage commanding the crowd. Unlike opener C.MacLeod, his voice is a high falsetto that fits well over the band’s music. He jokingly interacts with the crowd and engages them in a friendly, jovial manner that endears him to them.

It’s well after midnight when the band finishes but the night is not over yet as a late-night set by Hot Sauce DJs keeps the stragglers entertained well into the wee small hours.

Friday night and it’s down to The Tivoli theatre and a double bill of Geordie folk singer Richard Dawson and Falkirk’s finest miserablists, the mighty Arab Strap.

Calling him a folk singer doesn’t do Richard Dawson justice – he’s a much more bamboozling and entertaining performer than that. Singing either a cappella or accompanied by a guitar that constantly goes out of tune he is a revelation, winning over new fans in his 30-minute set.

Apparently inspired by Faith No More’s Mike Patton, his vocal range is enormous – from low depths to soaring highs, all in the space of verses and choruses of the same songs. The music is traditional but also experimental and Avant Garde – accessible but difficult, impenetrable but melodic.

Between songs, he is funny, self-depreciating and, quite truthfully, a bit mad. Random tall tales include staying at the ‘doggy hotel’ and getting showered down in the yard, about how in the future babies will be made on spaceships by computer and of confusion as to the fate of Judas Iscariot (Dawson preferred the gorier version of this particular tale).

And, to top it off, he introduces his last song by saying that after it he’s then going to “get drunk…. And have a poo”. And that sums him up really – there’s no boundaries to him or his music.

Arab Strap at The Tivoli.

Not many performers have trod the boards of the Tivoli and opened with the couplet “It was the biggest cock you’d ever seen / But you’ve no idea where that cock has been” – but, then, not many performers are Aidan Moffat of Arab Strap.

A year after the bands reformation, vocalist Moffat and guitarist Malcolm Middleton have finally made it up north, a full 11 years after their last performance here. Good things come to those who wait,
however, and Arab Strap are a good thing tonight
for sure.

Moffat, stage front and centre, is an amiable and friendly frontman and he’s in a buoyant, good humoured mood tonight with his between song tales. One highlight being a story of buying a parachute jump as present for a girlfriend who he subsequently found out was cheating on him so they finish. Next time he sees her she’s on crutches – after breaking her legs doing the parachute jump.

But it’s the songs that are Arab Strap’s greatest strength, as they should be. It’s a great feeling to hear classics such as ‘Girls of Summer’ and ‘Here We Go Again’ live once more. But it’s set closer ‘The Last Big Weekend’ that’s their stone cold classic and it’s still as thrilling and exciting nearly two decades after it was first released.

Late night at The Lemon Tree on Friday offers up another double bill of live acts as well as Radio Scotland DJ Galloway spinning tunes till late at night.

The opening act are Indigo Velvet, a young band from Edinburgh who first made a splash on the scene by playing T in The Park’s T Break Stage last year. Headlining are Manchester band Dutch Uncles.
It’s their first time in the Granite City and, according to singer Duncan Wallis, “It’s very grey”.

A lone voice pops up from the crowd to say “Aye, 50 shades of” to his bemusement.

It’s Wallis that’s the centre point of the band – his bendy legged dancing and high pitched, androgynous vocals proving to be quite a talking point.

Come Saturday and it’s time for the main event of the weekend at HMT as a stellar line up of guest vocalists perform Fleetwood Mac’s classic magnum opus in its entirety to celebrate its 40th anniversary.

Previous years have seen similar tributes to Kate Bush and Neil Young and proved to be a great success and this was also to be the case tonight.

Backed by musicians Start to End, the singers include luminaries such as Eugene Kelly (The Vaselines), Be Charlotte, Duglas T Stewart (BMX Bandits), Martha Ffion and last year’s compere and band leader, Emma Pollock.

The first half of the night comprises of a Fleetwood Mac greatest hits set with cuts such as ‘Rhainnon’, ‘Seven Wonders’, ‘Big Love’, ‘Little Lies’, ‘Tusk’ and more given an airing.

After the interval, it’s straight in ‘Rumours’ from beginning to end with a different singer taking each song before everyone takes to the stage for an encore of ‘Everywhere’.

It’s a fun experience that drew a mixed crowd – older HMT regulars that you wouldn’t necessarily see at the Lemon Tree gigs; gig regulars that are there to see the singer of their favourite band and, of course, Fleetwood Mac fans that are at the venue for the first time that might not be going to any other event.

I’m generalising slightly, but it’s good to see such an eclectic mix of punters and it’ll be interesting to see which singer or band gets the tribute next year.

Once that is over, it’s time to head to the Lemon Tree for the True North After Party, with headliner Pictish Trail and newcomers Neon Waltz.

Neon Waltz are tipped for big things – and it’s easy to see why.

The band are based in Thurso and John O’Groats and were subject of an article in The Guardian just days after their appearance here.

They have the looks – and the adoring female fans – that will take them places. Their sound is reminiscent of The Verve, Stone Roses, Oasis and Britpop – a pleasant, keyboard drenched indie sound with 90s influences and the polished sheen of current pop.

Behind the dry ice and red lighting singer Jordan Shearer could pass for a young Tim Burgess of The Charlatans – hunched over the mic in a similar fashion with that distinctive bowl cut.

This will probably be their last support slot in the Lemon Tree – they’ll be headlining it soon enough.

Headliner Pictish Trail is no stranger to this venue, having played it numerous times. And if you’ve never seen or heard him before then you’ve missed out.

His music is folky, electronic and rocky – sometimes all in the same song. Between songs, he could pass as a comedian, such is his wit – droll and downright funny. He has a toy plastic horse on stage and changes into what can only be described as a psychedelic orange dress.

Oh, and he has a large beard and is wearing sparkly makeup.

All of which would mark him as a novelty act but he is anything but. Tracks from albums ‘Secret Soundz Vol 1 & 2’ and the recent ‘Future Echoes’ sound fantastic tonight – especially the wonderful and haunting ‘Far Gone (Don’t Leave)’ written about “The greatest film ever made” according to the man known to his Mum as Johnny Lynch.

The movie is question is ‘Fargo’ incidentally. There’s a good chance he’s completely correct as well.

It’s always a pleasure to see him live and tonight was no exception.

Despite this being the festival after party, there’s still one major gig to come on the Sunday night at The Tivoli theatre – and that’s a double bill of 2015 Scottish Album of the Year winner Kathryn Joseph and Frightened Rabbit front Scott Hutchison.

Hidden behind her piano with a glass of red wine and accompanied by percussionist Marcus Mackay, Joseph is first on stage.

Her songs are objects of beauty – her whispery voice plunging the depths of despair and depression whilst floating poetically over the haunting music.

She genuinely takes you places sonically and emotionally, with tracks that are, at turns, poignant and angry but somehow comforting and warm.

Soul baring lyrics are sung with a whisper, but are an inner scream to her fragility, to her openness and to her wounded soul.

It’s easy to compare her to Kate Bush or Tori Amos but such comparisons are superficial and lazy – based purely on her voice and her gender. But her music, and her words, transcend gender and classification – she may not sound like Nick Cave or Tom Waits vocally, but these are good comparisons. There’s a Gothic bleakness in there, beneath the melodies, and subjects so weighty that no 3 minute could do them justice.

The crowd are rapt – silently trapped in her songs, only taken back to reality by her whispered between song monologues.

Her next Aberdeen date is on December 28th at The Tunnels – don’t miss it.

Headliner Scott Hutchison has an equal depth to his words and emotions – something that can sometimes be hidden when backed by a loud rock band.

But tonight, accompanied only by acoustic guitar, the emotions are there to see. His music, and musings, make a perfect accompaniment to Joseph. As well as similar themes and emotions the two share a genuine friendship and camaraderie as shown by their joking conversations during the gig as he talks to her in her seat on the balcony.

His acoustic renditions of Frightened Rabbit songs are equal to, or in some cases better than, the originals.

If there’s any complaint, however, is that his band have sold out both the Music Hall and Beach Ballroom in recent years but tickets remain for tonight. Sorry, but if you’re a Frightened Rabbit fan and you weren’t there then you genuinely missed something special.

And after Hutchison leaves the stage that’s it all over – the gig, the weekend and the wonderful True North Festival. It’s been an overwhelming and impressive few days and praise must go to the attendees, the artists and especially to the unsung organisers behind the scene who have made it a fantastic weekend of music and song.

Here’s to next year and to more of the same.

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Sep 222017
 

With thanks to Jill Lerner, James H Soars Media Services.

Neville Staple, also known as The Original Rudeboy, is credited with changing the face of pop music not only once but twice.

He is a living legend, and his band, The Neville Staple Band are appearing at The Assembly, Aberdeen on Friday Oct 7.

Neville Staple’s thirty-five year career in the music business is well documented, from the early days with The Coventry Automatics, The Specials and Fun Boy Three in the late ‘70s and ‘80s, to The Special Beat and various other collaborations during his solo career from the ‘90s up to the present day.

Neville’s 2-Tone legacy is huge. 2-Tone fused traditional ska music with punk rock attitude, energy and musical elements. The movement helped to transcend and defuse racial tensions in Thatcher-era Britain.

The actual imagery of 2 Tone has become almost as famous as the music itself. The famous black and white chequered design has become synonymous with ska.

About his musical legacy, Neville Staple comments: 

“The way we brought it was mixing Jamaican music with the English style, which was actually punk at the time. Now most people are into ska, they listen to all the people that we talked about that they might not have listened to before… This has happened again and again with the different waves of ska.

“I am hearing lots more young bands now also putting their own spin on ska – some with dance music and some with a rock beat. It’s all good. The music just makes you want to dance. Even when singing about tough times, every-day things or bad things, the beat and the rhythm makes you want to move!” 

Neville’s autobiography, THE ORIGINAL RUDE BOY, was published by Aurum Press in the UK in May 2009. It is an amazing story that tells of Neville’s interest in music in the early ‘60s, his relationship with Pete Waterman (record producer, songwriter, radio and club DJ and television presenter) who he met at a club in Coventry and his rise out of hell into stardom.

“Out on his own, still pretty special” – Record Collector

Neville has a way with people, he cares about his audience and wants to give them a good time. In return, the crowd are word perfect on every song and each event turns into a party.

“Nothing came close to the sensational Neville Staple Band who really got the party started and had the masses dancing along” – Anita Merritt – Exeter Express & Echo.

Reviews of the latest album release Feb 2017 – Return Of Judge Roughneck:

“For me, ska and reggae has to be spot on to really work. Yes, I am a snob! Life’s too short. The proof is that, once you listen to ‘Return Of Judge Roughneck’, you will be smiling, nodding and indeed a-grooving round your lounge. It’s fun, but he means it”.  Martin Haslam, Uber Rock, Feb 2017.

“it is a joyous concoction of ska, reggae and dub, featuring intriguing remixes and fascinating bastardisations of old favourites. Add to the mix a few choice cover versions, and unexpected ones at that, and what you get is a thoroughly enjoyable album from start to finish”. Loz Etheridge, God Is In The TV.  Feb 2017.

 The Neville Staple Band

The Assembly,
3 Skene Terrace,
Aberdeen.
AB10 1RN.

Doors: 19:00  
Tickets: £20.00  
Venue: 01224 633336

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Sep 222017
 

Take the plot of a 1968 Italian-shot slap-stick Hollywood sex-comedy, add in a big bunch of ABBA hits and what have you got? That would-be Mama Mia! of course.Duncan Harley reviews.

The original Hollywood story-line involved Gina Lollobrigida as Italian housewife Mrs Carla Campbell who, following a short but ultimately successful war-time tryst with three US servicemen, tries to frantically to maintain a cover story which has led to three separate sets of child-support winging their way across the Atlantic for the past 20 odd years.

The film was titled Buona Sera Mrs Campbell, Carla Campbell was named after a famous soup brand and the alleged fathers included Phil Silvers and Telly Savalas. You really couldn’t make it up.

Mama Mia! the Musical of course is set in the 70’s, involves a bunch of liberated ex-back-packers reunited at a Greek wedding and, instead of highlighting benefit fraud, focuses more on female emancipation and freedom of action. Laudable sentiments indeed.

Basically, the musical begins on an Aegean Island. Single-parented child Sophie Sheridan, played by Lucy May Barker, is due to marry fiancée Sky but has no dad to walk her down the aisle. Fortunately, Mum’s secret diary has been compromised and bride to be Sophie has invited three paternal candidates – Sam, Bill and Harry –  to the wedding. Seemingly dads in Sophie-world are like buses, you don’t see one for a couple of decades and then they all come at once.

Unfortunately, ex-pat taverna owner mum, Donna –  Helen Hobson – is not amused. Elements of farce follow; closely interspersed with a jukebox-full of Dancing Queens, Super Troupers and Voulez-Vous. Unsurprisingly, the wedding does not go off as planned.

Entertaining from the word go, this colourful and extravagantly costumed musical punches high. Fans of high-heels, wide-flares and Lycra will not be disappointed. Nor will aficionados of dancing men in dresses or indeed dashingly athletic men in wet-suits and flippers.

Yes, there is an occasional bumpy moment where the transition between the dialogue and the musical numbers appears just a smidgen contrived and yes there is that panto-land-parody climax where everything really seems awfully rushed and everyone is suddenly getting hitched.

But in the big scheme of things this is simple good old-fashioned entertainment on a grand scale and it works surprisingly well.

Jukebox-wise, the show squeezes in around twenty Benny and Bjorn numbers. Super Trouper, Take a Chance on Me and Dancing Queen vie with Thank You for the Music, SOS and Winner Takes It All for prominence alongside that ABBA classic Mamma Mia.

The Broadway version of Lollobrigida’s Buona Sera Mrs Campbell seemingly stalled at the box-office but no such fate awaits the touring version of Mama Mia!
This is a show which will have you rummaging frantically through your cupboard looking for those long-lost dancing shoes.

Directed by Phyllida Lloyd, Mamma Mia! plays at His Majesty’s Theatre Aberdeen until Saturday October 14th.

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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Sep 152017
 

By Fin Hall.

At the end of July, my wife and I went looking for a cheap, last minute all inclusive holiday. Finding Europe still overpriced, we opted for two weeks in Cuba.
We flew out from Manchester to the beautiful island of Caya Coco. This gorgeous forested resort has only 4 or 5 hotels, and has the most gorgeous beaches and very uncommercial. Our first week was spent in an idyllic and restful state.

As we were on holiday, we avoided Facebook and other social media sites. However, I did go online quickly to check on something at the weekend, and saw a message from one of my sisters in law telling me that there was a possibility of a hurricane coming our way.

Then on Monday when I phoned my daughter, her husband also pointed out there was a hurricane coming our way.

I then switched on the television and looked at CNN and heard about Irma heading up towards us. We then realised that things could get difficult. As time went on the situation became more and more serious.

On Tuesday it was announced that the area was on an official hurricane watch. That changed on Thursday when were told that we had to meet in the main hotel lobby at 1330 with all our suitcases packed and that the whole island was going to be evacuated up north, a 7 1/2 hour drive to Valadero.

Canadian tourists had been flown back home, but for some reason Thomas Cook decided not to fly us home; in fact they still flew the latest batch of tourists into Caya Coco on theWednesday.

After hours of delay we set off on this road trip. Crossing, for the last time, the 17km causeway, with pink flamingos resting in the water, that joined the island onto the mainland, stopping only once, at a petrol station, where the shop basically only sold coffee, beer and cracker biscuits.

Arriving just after midnight at the Iberis Starfish hotel, we all alighted he bus and were given our rooms. Tired and weary, and a bit hungry, we made our way to our room. On entering, we discovered it was ant infested, on the floor, in fact everywhere. The hallway leading to the room looked as if they hadn’t been cleaned since Castro officially opened it in 1977. Holes in the ceiling, dog ends on the threadbare carpet and mould were only some of the defects found.

We headed back down to reception to complain only to find the around 3/4 of the 20 bus loads of people were in the same situation. In protest, we all decided to spend the night in the public areas of the hotel, snatching only small stretches of sleep.

About 6.30am, we decided to go up to our rooms to quickly shower and change, a nap was put on hold when my wife saw ants on one of the beds.

Mid morning, after a bit of breakfast, we were allocated another room. This one totally opposite in quality, being utterly five star.

It wasn’t empty yet as the guest within hadn’t checked out. We returned after 2.30 pm to find that she decided not to check out, and the hotel staff had neglected to inform us.

They then gave us another room, actually a bungalow outside the main building, in the gardens near one of the pools.
So around 4.30pm, twenty four hours after we left the island, we eventually went to bed.

A good bit past midnight we awoke, having missed dinner, to the sound of the wind blowing a hooley outside. Looking out the windows, the trees had already begun to lose some of their fruits.

Just after 7 am, I saw that the buffet breakfast area was open. After eating we had a meeting to attend in the main building, walking up to it through puddles of water and broken branches lying strewn the gardens and footpaths. At the meeting we were informed that those guest who were in the bungalows were being moved to the main building, and that all the guests were being confined to their bedrooms to ride out the hurricane.

Each section of the hotel had a staff member on hand to assist. On entering our room. We saw that the sliding patio door type windows, had broken seals and that there was was gaps between the glass and the frame. We immediately took the mattress off one of the beds and placed it in front of one of the doors, and then took the bottom of the bed and placed it in front of the other door.

Getting towels from the maid, we placed them in front of the window on the floor, and the same in the bathroom.

It was a case from there on in of wringing the towels out and mopping the floor, until we gave it up as a bad job, and joined some of the other people in the corridor along with Maria, the customer service assistant, who proceeded to give us free salsa lessons.

Around this time, another member of the hotel staff came up and told us all to get our necessary belongings, not our cases, and get into the hallway. So, chairs, pillows, food, towels etc were removed from the rooms to the safety of the aforementioned corridor.

The category 5 hurricane was well taking hold in this part of the country, after demolishing our previous holiday destination.

After being out of our rooms for a couple of hours, we heard a crash from within our room, and when I tried to get in, even with two of us pushing, we couldn’t open the door. The window had obviously been blown in, and the wind was swirling round it.

Later a male staff member arrived, and we managed to get into the room, where our suitcases were rescued from the safety of the cupboard they resided in. It transpired that the window with the mattress in front of it had blown in, and broke, but the only thing that stopped it shattering, was the fact it had fallen on the mattress that wa placed in front of it. The one with bed was still holding up. Water was all over the floor, and the television was rescued in case it blew away.

We immediately took the mattress off one of the beds and placed it in front of one of the doors.

And so the long and hot vigil continued.

Around 11pm, we were allowed back into our rooms; or to be more precise, those on the left side as the other side, our side, was deemed too dangerous.

A Canadian couple gave us their room as they were going to share with their teenage daughters.

We just had time to clean our teeth and we were called out again, as a window in a room on the ‘safe’ side had blown in.

Fortunately it was just a store room, but people’s safety was paramount.

Just before 1am, the door to our damaged room was opened a tad and a small wedge was put in place so fresh air was able to circulate along the passageway. Much to everyone’s relief.

Every action has an opposite reaction they say, because just as it became easier to breath, the power went out.

Eventually sleep came to all, some on chairs, some on suitcase tables, my wife and I on a blanket on the ground.

Daylight came and the rain had ceased but the wind, although lessened, was still blowing hard. Looking around the outside, the devastation was unmissable. Trees down, roof tiles shattered, many windows smashed and water in places water wasn’t meant to be.

Areas inside, which had openings to the outside were as badly damaged. Ceiling liners all over the walkways, electric lights also. Vegetation had found its way into the interior as well. Within hours though,such was the efficiency of the staff, that all of the interior debris, in public places had been cleared and people were able to move about freely. Some exterior areas had been made accessible too.

Food was still being delivered to the guests.

Normality resumed later that evening. Despite being informed that we would be under lockdown from 10pm, the bar, which had only been serving coffee or tea and soft drinks, started serving beers at the back of nine, and remained doing so until 11.

Food was no longer being delivered, but was being distributed in the bar area. Sunday saw things return to some semblance of normality, well as of normal as possible. The buffet restaurant reopened for lunch, it had its own generator. The fridges/freezers however were still down as they were on the grid of the local town.

A lot of the main footpaths were being cleared by hand, with the only extra being a lorry was deployed to pull the trees away from the walkways.

News was given that the airport had re-opened and all the Canadian tourists were going home on Tuesday along with 3 three flights of the Thomas Cook ones. Our flight, which was due to depart on Wednesday, appeared to be on schedule.

So as I finish writing this, I have just returned from the bar where a trio of elderly Cuban men played some Cuban music, and, yes I did get up and dance, the first up. After all it was my birthday on the day of Hurricane Irma.

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Sep 152017
 

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

Sir Clive Woodward and Scott Kerr Mintra Group CEO.

The global energy industry can learn from training techniques used in the professional sports arena, according to rugby World Cup winning coach Sir Clive Woodward.

Leading energy industry training provider, Mintra Group, hosted Sir Clive at its Aberdeen training facility on Carden Place for the company’s Raising the Bar event during Offshore Europe on Wednesday, September 6.

Sir Clive, whose theories and techniques helped conquer the rugby world in 2003 and drive Team GB to their greatest success to date at the London 2012 Olympics, addressed more than 100 guests about what makes a champion and how to create a winning culture.

During his presentation, Sir Clive covered themes including the ability to learn, performance under pressure and how marginal gains can lead to success.

Sir Clive said:

“The energy industry has rightly focused on training and competency solutions to improve performance and develop winning teams at all levels.

“Investing in these areas can make a significant impact on the success of any business and it’s clear to me that the sector could learn a lot from what is being done in the professional sports training arena where we are constantly pushing to improve.

“Even small improvements add up, and these marginal gains can make a big difference for companies looking to stand out in a competitive market.”

Mintra provides eLearning courses as well as training and competency management solutions to the global oil and gas and maritime industries.

Scott Kerr, CEO of Mintra Group, said:

“We were absolutely delighted that Sir Clive joined us for our Offshore Europe event in Aberdeen which proved very popular with guests.

“It was very interesting to hear about Sir Clive’s experience in training and performance improvement in sport and many of the techniques he highlighted could be adopted by the energy industry to improve performance, ensure competency and build a winning team.”

Mintra Group is owned by private equity firm, The Riverside Company, and has Norwegian roots. The company is a result of a recent merger between Mintra Trainingportal and OCS HR.

Mintra Trainingportal was established in Oslo in 1997, and specialised in tailor-made eLearning courses for the energy and petroleum sector.

OCS HR was founded in Bergen in 1983, and has since then grown into a leading international provider of HR, payroll and crew management for the offshore and maritime sector. Mintra Group has offices in Oslo, Bergen, Stavanger, Aberdeen, Dubai and Singapore.

Sep 152017
 

With thanks to Rob Adams.

Internationally acclaimed Scottish saxophonist Tommy Smith brings his new quartet to the Blue Lamp on Thursday, September 28 as part of a UK tour that includes a concert at the world famous Ronnie Scott’s jazz club in London.

The tour marks two anniversaries.

This year is the 50th anniversary of the death of jazz icon and Smith’s greatest inspiration, saxophonist John Coltrane.

It is also Smith’s fiftieth birthday year and he celebrated this with a sold-out, rapturously received concert in his home town during Edinburgh Jazz & Blues Festival in July.

A presence on the global jazz scene since his teenage years with vibraphonist Gary Burton’s Whiz Kids quintet, Smith has recorded for two of the most prestigious record labels in jazz, Blue Note and ECM Records.

He keeps a busy diary and when he’s not working with his own groups, directing the Scottish National Jazz Orchestra and overseeing the jazz programme he established at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland in Glasgow, he tours the world with Norwegian bass master Arild Andersen’s trio, which is widely regarded as one of the premier jazz groups working today.

His new quartet was formed specifically to play the music of Coltrane, a challenge Smith describes as daunting, as well as some new pieces written by Smith in homage to his hero.

“I recorded one of Coltrane’s tunes on my very first album, Giant Strides when I was sixteen, but I’ve never felt ready to do his music justice with a full tribute concert before,” he says.

“I’m not sure I’m ready now, because Coltrane was so far ahead of his time but these musicians I have with me are some of the best I’ve ever played with and they really inspire me to try and take my playing to the next level.”

The quartet features former Herbie Hancock and Jamie Cullum drummer, Sebastiaan de Krom, the Young Scottish Jazz Musician of the Year 2012, pianist Peter Johnstone, and Scottish National Jazz Orchestra bassist Calum Gourlay and released its first album, Embodying the Light, to rave reviews in July.

In concert they play without amplification, an approach that Smith has long favoured in his well-established duo with pianist Brian Kellock and one he prefers to follow whenever possible.

“I’ve nothing against amplified music,” he says,

“but it feels more natural to play acoustically. It makes us listen to each other more carefully and the audience gets to hear the true sounds of the instruments and the band – we sound the way we are.”

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Sep 072017
 

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

Legal eagles from Aberdeen have been pushing themselves to their physical limits this year and have raised almost £6,000 for charities close to their hearts.
Three legal experts from Mackinnons Solicitors tackled gruelling individual challenges which took one to the top of the highest mountain in the British Isles while one ran the London Marathon and another took on the Highland Cross coast-to-coast challenge.

Sarah Polson, from Mackinnons’ dispute resolution department, Fiona Cheyne from the firm’s commercial and marine department and Mackinnons’ partner Martin Sinclair, who is a specialist in personal injury law, have raised a combined fundraising total of £5,975 for three different charities.

In June, Fiona Cheyne hiked up the 1,345 metre Ben Nevis with her Mum Elizabeth Copp and raised £4,610 for the PSP Association in recognition of the support the charity provides to her dad Andy Copp who has been diagnosed with the rare and as yet incurable Corticobasal Degeneration (CBD).

Fiona said:

“We had never heard of the PSP Association until earlier last year, when dad was diagnosed with the degenerative condition which limits his ability to talk, to walk, to grip and to swallow.

“The charity funds research into treatments and it’s hoped a cure can ultimately be found for both conditions. It’s thanks to the PSP Association that mum and dad have been given good practical advice and support in how to deal with dad’s condition. Their support worker keeps in touch with them over the phone and they value that greatly.

“To give something back, my mum and I decided to do some fundraising and laced up our hiking boots to reach the top of Ben Nevis which was a challenging and humbling experience.”

Earlier in the year, Mackinnons’ Litigation Associate Sarah Polson ran in the London Marathon after receiving a ballot place. For the firm’s 175th anniversary she decided to fundraise for the Fishermen’s Mission, Mackinnons charity of the year.

After months of training she joined the 40,000-strong field who ran the 26.2-mile course in April and raised £600 for the charity which provides support and welfare to fishermen and their families.

Sarah said:

“They say the crowds get you through the marathon in London and they really do. The route around London’s landmarks was lined with thousands of supporters handing out sweets and biscuits to keep you going and cheering you on.

“There were even brass bands, an orchestra and singers providing entertainment along the way. It was tough in parts but I survived and I’m already planning my next challenge.”

In June, Mackinnons’ partner Martin Sinclair raised £765 for several charities by completing the Highland Cross challenge.

The Highland Cross is a 50-mile duathlon, 20 miles either running or walking and 30miles by bike, which crosses Scotland between Kintail and Beauly.

The funds were split between both the Fisherman’s Mission and the Highland Cross nominated charities in the Highlands which benefit from the event.

Martin said:

“The Highland Cross is a terrific event and I’ve been keen to take part for a while. More than £4.4m has been raised through the event since 1983 and I was delighted to contribute in some small part to the ongoing success of this event.

“The amount of time and work put in by the teams of volunteers to run the event is enormous. The camaraderie amongst the competitors is another key factor in the event and seeing such a large cross section of Scotland as you cross helps to underline how good a nation we are.”

Mackinnons offers bespoke legal services for residential property, personal advice, wills and estate planning, commercial property, business and corporate matters, renewables and dispute resolution.

The firm, which also has offices in Cults and Aboyne, is also well known and internationally recognised for its long-standing expertise in fishing, shipping and marine law.

The firm’s experienced team of solicitors provide professional, pragmatic, bespoke advice for clients, whether they are multinational corporations, local businesses or individuals.

As part of Mackinnons’ 175th anniversary celebrations this year the firm is raising money for The Fishermen’s Mission throughout 2017.

For more information about Mackinnons Solicitors and its range of legal and financial services, please visit: www.mackinnons.com

Sep 022017
 

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

Aberdeen businesses have reported a significant boost in trade over the weekend following large crowds in the city centre for Celebrate Aberdeen and the Great Aberdeen Run.
Business organisation Aberdeen Inspired has been in touch with traders to assess the impact of the two events – with initial feedback highlighting that some saw an increase of more than 30 percent increase in sales compared to a normal weekend.

Thousands of people spent time in the heart of the city as part of the Celebrate Aberdeen parade and musical performances over Saturday and Sunday as well as the Great Aberdeen Run.

Julie Haig, owner of Haigs Food Hall, said:

“Sunday was really special and to see Union Street geared up for such a great running event was fantastic. The buzz it created in the city was amazing.

“The sense of community spirit I felt over the weekend makes me proud to be an Aberdonian. We saw a significant increase in footfall over the weekend and we would like to thank the people of Aberdeen for coming out and supporting these wonderful events.”

Union Street McDonald’s franchise owner, Craig Duncan, added:

“Sales at breakfast were more than double what we would expect on a normal Sunday and overall for the day there was an increase of more than 30 percent. It’s great to see these big events come to our city and hopefully we’ll see more in the future.”

Craig Willox, owner of Books and Beans, also saw a significant increase in trade which was also boosted by the substantial number of people who visited the Belmont Street Market.

He said:

“This was the busiest weekend of the year for us so far. The Belmont Street Market on Saturday was even bigger than the one in July and looked even better attended. We also had a queue of people waiting outside before we even opened before the Great Aberdeen Run.”

Adrian Watson, Chief Executive of Aberdeen Inspired, praised the work of everyone who worked to deliver Celebrate Aberdeen and the Great Aberdeen Run

He said:

“To see the thousands of runners and well-wishers descend on our city over the weekend was very pleasing indeed and we are very proud to have worked with Aberdeen City Council and the other key partners to help deliver Celebrate Aberdeen and the Great Aberdeen Run over the weekend.

“This success clearly demonstrates the growing ambition we have for this city and we look forward to welcoming even more runners, from the city, region and beyond, for next year’s event as it establishes itself nationally as a ‘must attend’ event on the circuit.

“Of course, an acid test for my organisation is business feedback and the initial soundings from many of the retailers in the city centre has been very encouraging indeed.

“We’re now looking to the opening night of the Aberdeen Comedy Festival on Thursday, October 5, with this event being the third largest of its kind in the country, after proving hugely popular last year.

“We again look to the north-east public to come out in force to enjoy this great offering, as well as reach out to those from further afield, as the festival also establishes itself as another event that people will travel to the city to be part of.”

Aberdeen Inspired is the banner under which the Aberdeen BID operates. It is a business-led initiative within the city centre in which levy payers within the BID zone contribute.

Proceeds are used to fund projects designed to improve the business district. More information about Aberdeen Inspired is available at: www.aberdeeninspired.com

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Sep 022017
 

With thanks to Eoin Smith, Senior Account Executive, Tricker PR

Go4Set allows school pupils opportunities to meet with industry leaders and gain insight into the careers which studying science, engineering, technology and maths may lead to.

A scheme which encourages young people in Aberdeen to get involved with science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) has received a welcome donation from Aberdeen Charitable Foundation.

The global financial firm has previously sponsored the Engineering Development Trust’s Go4Set programme in London and
Edinburgh, and has now set its sights on aiding students in the north east of Scotland.

Throughout the 10-week Go4Set scheme, 12 to 14-year-old pupils from secondary schools across Aberdeen will get the opportunity to work with industry mentors on environmentally-themed STEM projects.

By working with industry leaders, they will be able to gain an insight into industries that they may work in themselves one day, seeing theoretical knowledge they have gained in the classroom put to real-world uses.

Helen Anderson, director of the Education Development Trust, says:

“Go4Set allows school pupils an unrivalled opportunity to meet with industry leaders and gain a greater insight into the career paths which studying science, engineering, technology and maths may take them on. The students who participate are all volunteers, meaning they are passionate about the subjects and eager to learn more. Aberdeen Charitable Foundation’s generous £1,194 donation will help us to continue to run Go4Set for pupils in and around Aberdeen, inspiring future STEM pioneers.”

Research has shown that by exposing younger pupils to STEM-related employers and allowing them an insight into the world in which they could find themselves in the future, more students choose to continue studying STEM courses at Higher and Advanced Higher level, and onwards to university.

Claire Drummond, head of charitable giving for Aberdeen Charitable Foundation, says,

“The Engineering Development Trust’s Go4Set programme is incredibly popular with pupils and employers across the country, allowing them to interact with each other to jointly discover the future of STEM subjects. STEM is integral to the work we do, so we are thrilled to be able to support a scheme which encourages young people to pursue these topics.”

For more information on the Engineering Development Trust and Go4SET, visit www.etrust.org.uk

For more information about the Charitable Foundation, visit http://aboutus.aberdeen-asset.com/en/aboutus/responsible-business/aberdeen-charitable