Sep 032020
 

By Suzanne Kelly.

Multi-million pound charity Sustrans has halted controversial plans to spend £100k on artwork as part of its ‘Spaces for People‘ project in Aberdeen.
Aberdeen Voice has seen correspondence which reads:

“[Sustrans Scotland] … confirmed that Aberdeen City Council has decided not to proceed with this commission, especially in light of the recent increase in confirmed cases in the city, to enable it to prioritise the protection of public health.”

The city and Sustrans have £1.76 million to spend under the scheme, which is meant to aid social distancing and slow the spread of Covid-19.

The controversial plans include building 136 ‘parklets‘ (wooden benches with decking) on the city’s closed streets.

A group of over 30 people have formally complained to Sustrans, ACC and central government about how the £1.76 million is being deployed.

The complaint covers the road closures (done with no prior consultation), permission granted for tents and marquees (formerly banned – but fast-tracked for some, despite social distancing problems) and the parklets (at least one was dangerously vandalised, and which will see tonnes of wood wasted when these are removed – and they create new spaces which can harbour Covid-19 for hours or possibly days).

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Aug 202020
 

By Suzanne Kelly.

Sustrans, a pro walking and cycling charity with a multi-million pound budget might not seem an obvious choice for doling out millions in funds “to improve social distancing and slow the spread of Covid-19”, but here we are: Aberdeen will get benches and artwork, delivered in partnership with Sustrans, for £1.76 million of taxpayer money.

Sustrans’ website claims:

“The work we’re doing is creating healthier places and happier people.”

Not so much in Aberdeen where a second lockdown took place while Sustrans and the city were spending money.

Aberdonians familiar with the ‘Wallgate’ scandal may recall Sustrans’ involvement.

Former city councillor Willie Young’s father owned a stone wall that collapsed; through some maneuvering the city got Sustrans to spend a quarter of a million pounds to fix it. Neither Sustrans nor the city seem to have done any due diligence to find out the public did not own the wall; questions remain over the massive expenditure and where all the money went.

As an aside there was a vote to claw back this money from the Young family. It failed by one vote, with disgraced sex-offender Alan Donnelly voting in favour of letting Young off.

But that is a tale best told on Facebook by the Stop the Desecration of Marischal College page.

Many are still scratching their heads at the central government decision to give SUSTRANS the cash and remit to deal with social distancing in city centres. It exists to get us out of cars and buses and onto bikes or to walk instead – is this really the moment for doing so?

The city has just informed Aberdeen Voice where some of the money is going, and that all these wooden structures are temporary: All that wood will eventually be removed, possibly scrapped.

Parklets life:

These are not just any wooden benches with planters and decking; these are ‘parklets’. To date (21/7/20) ACC spent approximately:

“…£105,000 on the completed parklets, which has been carried out by in-house operational teams, with Hall & Tawse Ltd providing specialist joinery workshop fabrication and delivery to site… we were only able to locate one supplier that could meet the demand.

“The installer has a link to ACC by having an existing contract to manufacture and supply doors and fire doors from their workshop.”

Sustrans says Aberdonians will get 136 parklets. A Sustrans spokesperson said:

“It is hoped the parklets will be an attractive addition to the city centre and provide an alternative to the use of plastic bollards”

How it was determined that plastic bollards were essential in fighting Covid-19 is unclear.

Sustrans’ and Aberdeen City’s parklets jut into Union Street and other areas; many businesses are irked that they had not been consulted on road closures. Sustrans distanced itself from any road closure issues, but did not explain how it could be working with the city to build the parklets without being involved in putting them on city streets.

Businesses have been hurt by one-way traffic systems and road closures, with several small businesses closing.

The Covid-19 virus can live for quite some time on wood, but fear not. Sustrans said:

“…like all public infrastructure, it would be up to the user to assess the risk of catching the virus, before touching a surface.”

In other words, rather than spending funds on awareness posters, stickers on the pavement telling people to social distance, stickers showing any one-way pedestrian areas, added hand sanitizer stations, partnerships with retailers and hospitality businesses to ensure better social distancing, you will get 136 temporary benches, providing 136 brand new surfaces where the virus can exist, creating a risk (even if small) where none previously existed.

Two weeks ago a photo was posted to social media showing a vandalized parklet, where wooden strip had been dangerously bent to a vertical position.

Aberdeen Voice asked the city whether it had done any cost projection for the cost of maintaining, cleaning, restoring the decking. We were told no cost projection has been undertaken yet.

The city’s FOI response also said:

“To date the decking materials expenditure is £31,167.45 total (to 21/7/20) for decking, anti slip inserts, bolts, nuts, shims, adhesive, sealant, non-slip tape.

“The suppliers used to date are Keith Builders Merchants, Jewson, MGM Timber, Premier, John Smith Ltd, Cordiners Timber, General & Technical Flooring, Hall & Tawse. Quotation enquiries have been sent to suppliers by email and telephone, in line with the ACC procurement regulations.

The process is still ongoing as the units are still being manufactured, and there is limited stock due to factory and cargo shutdowns… all suppliers except for Keith Builders had existing links as suppliers with ACC, and had supplied ACC in the past.”

Simultaneously, there are insufficient resources to facilitate blended and/or on line learning and children are returning to schools – many of which do not have their risk assessments finished.

These will not be published in any event, despite UK government recommendations to do so, and other unions and schools happily publishing their assessments.

While acknowledging that not a single other Scottish city which got some of the £38 million-pound Spaces for People pot opted for decking, we are assured that:

“The decking is grooved and is sold in Scotland commercially as decking. The trip and slip potential for footwear has been considered and non-slip strips have been provided on the decking.”

Convinced that no one will slip and fall / cut themselves on the edges of these parklets, the city confirmed:

“We are not considering procuring specific insurance for the decking. The Council has public liability insurance for all its activities should a claim be received from a member of the public.”

Whether that insurance has been updated to include 136 parklets is unknown, but seems unlikely in light of the city’s comment. By the way, the decking is not fireproof – because it doesn’t have to be.

Precisely how wooden decking, notorious for slippery nature and for its uneven surface hostile to those in heels or with mobility issues, artwork and security guards from Leicester will make Aberdonians happier and safer remains to be seen.

Icing on the cake:

In order to ‘make people feel confident’, the Sustrans money for Covid-19 distancing will see £100k spent on three artworks. Sustrans demanded the right to help approve how this is allocated, according to local press ‘to help Aberdeen stay within the rules’.

The same newspaper article quotes someone on the project saying:

“This will make people feel confident.”

Complaint:

Nearly 30 people sent a formal complaint about the Sustrans/Aberdeen City plans, asking for a review involving central government of just how these projects meet the initial remit, noting there has been a new spike – possibly because people were feeing a little too confident and not sufficiently cautious.

Moves like allowing marquees and crowded pavements may well have contributed to the transmission of new cases. Anyone wishing to add their name to the complaint can email sgvk27@aol.com.

Sustrans is very keen to distance itself from any responsibility for overcrowding that took place at a nightclub, saying it had no remit to deal with private businesses.

It was reminded that the crowd was on the public pavement and road.

More people are welcome to add their name to the complaint; it was felt best to get it out as soon as was possible due to the urgency of the situation. It replied to Aberdeen Voice quoting a portion of its remit; we replied quoting their website:

“The Spaces for People programme is funded by the Scottish Government and managed by Sustrans Scotland.

“It aims to enable statutory bodies to implement measures focused on protecting public health, supporting physical distancing and preventing a second wave of the outbreak.”

With £1.76 million going on benches, artwork and goodness knows whatever else, public health protection was a fail, physical distancing was a fail, and a second wave of the outbreak hit Aberdeen. That artwork had better be spectacular.

With millions flowing through Sustrans staff according to last year’s Companies House documents, the pro-walking/cycling quango will be just fine. As yet only a small portion of the £1.76 million has been spent or committed as yet: Aberdeen Voice will watch where the rest of the money goes.

Aberdeen Voice is happy to hear in strictest confidence from anyone with information on the spread of Covid-19 and/or related issues. Please contact Suzanne Kelly via sgvk27@aol.com

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Aug 122020
 

By David Forbes.

Covid-19 has had a damaging affect on the whole of society, however it’s not all doom and gloom.

Two local teenagers, who are life long friends, have stepped forward to help support their local community, particularly those that are physically disabled.

Ryan Bannerman (14) from Northfield, currently doing his Saltire Awards volunteers his time for local voluntary led charity Future Choices, a charity which provides social inclusion and recreational activities, however due to the current pandemic, the charities activities are currently suspended.

Ryan commented:

“Helping the most vulnerable is a really good feeling.”

Also currently doing his Saltire Awards and a Future Choices volunteer, is Ryan’s friend Lucas Mackenzie (13) from Tillydrone,

Lucas added:

“I’m so excited to help the most in need during these tough times.”

For both teenagers, the challenges of going back to a new school routine and academic year is a hurdle in itself so trying to help the community via an online fundraiser is very commendable. 

Both Ryan and Lucas have learnt a great deal by doing their Saltire Awards and take pride in the community work they both do. They hope that their appeal will raise much needed funds and inspire other young people to volunteer.

The funds they raise will help to provide vital support to help those most vulnerable adults post covid-19, and to help engage them in social inclusion by breaking down the social isolation barriers they have had to endure since March.

You can check out their special film and view their Crowdfunding page at:

Aug 082020
 

By Suzanne Kelly.

Aberdeen City Council yesterday admitted that it has not finalised revising risk assessments for next week’s school openings and have refused to release the assessments to Aberdeen Voice.
Students are due to return to school despite a new lockdown in Aberdeen City Centre in response to the recent Covid-19 outbreak.

The City told Aberdeen Voice the school risk assessments were being revised.

With days to go before schools open, Aberdeen Voice asked for sight of the assessments; a city council spokesperson said:

“These are internal documents which we would not routinely share with the media. You can of course submit an FOI request.”

Aberdeen Voice replied it had never received a freedom of information request response from the city in less than 25 days – clearly too late for concerned parents

The City pointed Aberdeen Voice to its website when we first asked about safety for students, teachers and everyone connected to schools. The website lacks any specific provision details – but does say that distance learning has virtually been ruled out:  and parents must send children to school.

Additionally, on the Aberdeen City Council website, it says that risk assessments have been done. 

However earlier today ACC told Aberdeen Voice: 

“These will be discussed and agreed with all staff at the beginning of next week and before children return.  This is in keeping with the best practice advised in the national guidance. The risk assessments are informing the information that is being shared with families.” 

How the city can claim the assessments are done when they are now being redone, and claim ‘the information that is being shared with families’ but will not release the assessments to the general public is unclear.

The TUC is one of many organisations to publish its Covid-19 risk assessment; its website reads:

“UK law says every employer with more than five staff must produce a risk assessment. And new government guidance for the return to work after the coronavirus pandemic says that these risk assessments should be published on employers’ own websites.”

One school proud of its risk assessment that has published it to its website is Blackheath; it can be seen here: 

Parents and teachers throughout the UK are concerned at safety and according to The Scotsman only 1 in 5 teachers are confident about returning to the classroom.

The myth that children are ‘nearly immune’ to Covid-19 has been dispelled; they are not only efficient carriers who can transmit the virus to others, but when infected themselves, they may be prone to syndromes including multisystem inflammatory syndrome and Kawasaki syndrome.

Aberdeen Voice also awaits comment from Aberdeenshire council and Unison.  We are happy to continue receiving information and questions from parents, teachers and health professionals who alerted us to the situation.

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Jun 242020
 

By Suzanne Kelly.

Rob Scott’s ‘Zombie Cake’.

March 17 – a day that is usually given over to a stereotypical but good-natured outbreak of beer-drinking to honour St Patrick.

This St Patrick’s Day, the UK was poised to go in a lockdown to slow the spread of the deadly Covid-19 virus. James Watt, co-founder of Ellon’s BrewDog, tweeted:

“At BrewDog we are doing all we can to make it through & protect as many jobs as we can. But we, like so many businesses have lost 70% of our income almost overnight.”

The growth of Brewdog is without precedent in the UK craft beer world, possibly without precedent anywhere.

In the beginning they were Watt, Martin Dickie, and a dog, selling 4 different brews at Aberdeen’s farmers’ market. They now employ thousands and have breweries in Columbus Ohio, Australia and Germany as well as their Ellon home.

From one Aberdeen Castlegate bar sprouted scores of bars on four continents. These bars are a key point of revenue – and just like that, all the UK’s hospitality sector was faced with the lockdown and all it implied.
This dog was not going to just roll over.

Sanitized News:

BrewDog first decided they would use their distillery to provide free-of-charge sanitizer for the NHS which had announced a shortage. They worked with the NHS and while the very first batch wasn’t quite strong enough (a BrewDog first), they’ve been pumping out sanitizer and packing it into any and all bottles and packages they can get. An NHS spokesman said:

“It’s heartening that firms like BrewDog are choosing to play their part, and helping protect our NHS workers on the frontline across Grampian.

“This serves as yet another example of the phenomenal support we’ve received from a number of businesses in the local community. By working together, and continuing to follow the government advice, we will get through this pandemic.”

The sanitizer is not for sale; BrewDog are now delivering some of it to North East Scotland’s nursing homes, and over 100,000 bottles have been distributed free.

Funding this initiative’s costs, and commenting on a government covid-19 scandal, BrewDog recently released a new product…

Barnard Castle Eye Test – Cummings’ Comeuppance:

While many of us were doing our part and following lockdown orders created by Boris Johnson and his advisers, he and his advisers seemed immune to these regulations they created.

BoJo shook hands with Covid-19 patients – later denying it- he caught the disease and passed it to others.

His unelected guru, Mekon-lookalike Dominic Cummings, decided that despite lockdown, despite being ill, and despite not able to see straight, he’d drive his family to stay with his dad (staying in a cottage on the property that seems to have no planning permission and for which no tax seems to be paid by the way. True: Dad owns a horse he named Barak because the horse is black and white: Racism is alive and well and in Barnard).

The country was outraged (save some Daily Mail readers) by these double-standards and all their implications. Watt told LBC Radio:

“If they’re asking the country to make sacrifices for the common good the government and its advisers should be abiding by the same rules.”

Following BrewDog’s longstanding history of ‘protest beers’ such as ‘Hello my name is Vlad’ (dig at Putin’s anti LGBT hardline actions), ‘Make Earth Great Again’ (a commentary on Trump) and more, BrewDog announced it would make a Cummings-related beer.

The name was put to a public vote, and within hours of being put on presale, ‘Barnard Castle Eye Test’ sold over 45,000 units: all profits going to the NHS hand sanitizer project.

Open Arms Welcome:

For many on lockdown, BrewDog provides a great online social resource, the BrewDog Open Arms https://www.brewdog.com/uk/onlinebar .

Every Friday at 6pm this virtual online pub opens up for a few hours of zany fun.

BrewDog told Aberdeen Voice:

“The Open Arms was started as soon as our bars shut so we could still bring our community together to be social and enjoy a beer. Since opening we’ve been blown away by the support and experience with over 100,000 people joining our sessions from all over the world.

“The Open Arms has hosted live music, virtual beer tastings, homebrew sessions, food & beer pairings and our weekly Friday session.

“We now have regulars joining us every week and, due to demand, have recently changed the Friday session to be unlimited entry via streaming on YouTube Live”.

Dawn Scott’s ‘Kamikazi Knitting Club’.

MCs Tim Warwood & Adam Gendle host the event and run a hilarious quiz with prizes randomly given out. James Watt and Martin Dickie are among the hundreds who attend. Musical guests have included Carl Barat from The Libertines and a host of upcoming talents performing from their homes.

It usually ends up with people dancing in their living rooms to the cheesiest of music, ending in Toto’s Africa (yes, really).

James and Martin announced, seemingly off the cuff that they’d give away £1,000 next week in beer vouchers for the best costume. Amanda Scott won the bar’s costume competition with a hyper-creative recreation of BrewDog’s ‘Homicidal Helpdesk Puppet’.

Runners-up included Jazza Crawford and Linz as ‘Super Bario Brothers’, while Rob Scott and his wife Dawn recreated BrewDog beer labels for ‘Zombie Cake’ and ‘Kamikazi Knitting Club’.

Rob said:

“I love the Open Arms Online bar…[it] lets us experience some of the vibe. We attend the Open Arms bar and afterwards we videocall each other and talk some more.

“Another reason I like the Open Arms is that I’m an introvert. This way I can take part of the experience on my own terms.”

Jazza said:

“Since the very first week both Linz and I have been enjoying catching up with friends and other Equity Punks in the BrewDog open arms.

“So far we have learned a lot more about the creation of some of our favourite beers and spirits. Learned how to cook some amazing dishes. Painted sharks and whales with Plague Fisher.

“Most of all our Friday night highlight is the quiz and after party. It’s been brilliant to have what feels like and escape from the home without actually leaving the house.

“I hope it stays after lockdown maybe as a once monthly catch up for the international friends that we have made through BrewDog.

“Brewdog Open Arms is a great community, it’s fun to see everyone and to hear James & Martin talk about the business and the new beers and sprits they’re making!”

The Open Arms session on 29 May featured a challenge which raised a massive £3,000 for the NHS. Sessions are occasionally held on other days, featuring beer yoga, recipes, virtual tasting sessions, and even an art tutorial from Craig Fisher, whose distinctive bold designs decorate BrewDog bars and breweries around the world.

Craig, who no longer works in-house for BrewDog, said:

“It’s been an awesome way to interact with the BrewDog fans who’ve followed my work, despite the current limitations.”

While many businesses are losing revenue, while many people are worried about finances, friends and lockdown, BrewDog is coming through with helpful initiatives – and it all started on our doorsteps in Fraserburgh, Ellon, and Aberdeen.

On a personal note, I am a shareholder (as I always disclose when I write about the company) – I’ve had many proud moments as such, but how they’ve handled lockdown’s challenges, but these initiatives re-set the scale and won’t be forgotten anytime soon.

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May 152020
 

With thanks to Alec Westwood.

A new series exploring true stories from Aberdeen’s mysterious and murky past has been launched.
Delivered as a podcast, ‘Darkside Of The Deen’ is presented by Aberdonian actor Alec Westwood.

Following on from playing Sgt Howie in the audio drama sequel to The Wickerman, Alec set up a home studio and began working remotely with writers and producers Richard Skinner (Turriff) and Cliff Hughes (Peterhead).

Known for his role Folly the Jester in cult childrens’ TV show Knightmare, Davy Reins in the BBC’s Roughnecks and portraying Robert Louis Stevenson on Radio 4’s Great Lives,  Alec also enlisted help from a number of fellow local actors and musician/Inverurie Postmaster, Rory Will to bring dark stories from Aberdeen’s past to life.

In the show Alec presents a different true story from the shadier parts of Aberdeen’s history in each new episode, from bubonic plague, to bodysnatching, all the way to more recent, intriguing, true crimes.

The first episode (available now) recounts the time in 1964 when the city was hit by the biggest typhoid outbreak in modern day history.

He investigates the causes of the outbreak, the effect it had on local individuals and the lessons learned that are relevant more than ever during the current Covid-19 crisis.

There will also be special episodes that will bring strange stories from further afield in Scotland, such as the mysterious disappearance of three lighthouse keepers from the remote island of Eilean Mor in the Outer Hebrides during the festive period of 1900 – an event which inspired the 2019 Gerard Butler film The Vanishing.

Alec is enthusiastic to bring interesting stories from Aberdeen’s past to a global audience via Darkside Of The Deen.

Episode one ‘The Summer of 64’ is available now on Acast, Spotify, Apple Podcasts and Youtube.

Listen on Instagram
Listen on Youtube

May 122020
 

By Suzanne Kelly.

The Scottish Information Commissioner has agreed to investigate Aberdeen Voice’s complaint as Aberdeen City Council claims ‘it doesn’t know’ how much rent Aberdeen Journals Ltd pays for space in controversial Marischal Square.

Several parties have tried to obtain this information; and the information commissioner is investigating Suzanne Kelly’s formal complaint into the city’s recent refusal to disclose details.

According to an article published on Jan 27:

“Marischal Square.. is 75% let [after] just over two years… it is on track to achieve 100% occupancy later this year, defying critics who opposed the scheme and claimed it would become an expensive white elephant…”

Whichever Press & Journal hack wrote this piece praising Aberdeen City Council’s contentious (and ugly) Marischal Square development likely did so from the offices the paper got cheaply from…ACC.

You could be forgiven for thinking a newspaper should not take a free rent deal from a council it should be investigating (and there is plenty to look into), but the P&J and sister paper Evening Express did just that.

The £107 million Marischal project achieved the unthinkable: replacing a hideous 70s building with an even uglier office complex, while managing to immure the 16th c Provost Skene’s House inside a claustrophobic glass tomb. It ruins the setting for Marischal College across the road, as previously reported on by Piloti.

Other businesses thought to be enjoying sweetheart deals and free rent periods include multinationals with Chevron and EY set to move in. Why precisely such firms need to be subsidised is a mystery.

True to form, the city is releasing as little information as possible, however many FOI requests it receives.

It reluctantly admitted:

“Aberdeen Journals have been offered a rent-free period,”

and the current headline rent is £30 per square foot.

What dates the free rent covered, who agreed this deal and other details are ‘confidential’ according to the city. Despite public money being used to create the building and the public purse subsidising multinationals and newspapers, the city has clammed up. The Scottish Information Commissioner’s office is expected to investigate.

ACC insists only management company CBRE knows how much rent each company pays, and that ACC only gets the total figure of rent CBRE collects. CBRE are saying nothing.

We do know that:

“The total rental income received via CBRE for Marischal Square to 30 September 2019 is £849,936.61.”

The start of that time period? ACC aren’t saying.

Exactly how much the building cost to build, how much in debt the cash-strapped city is, and what negative impact Marischal Square has on companies that were already desperate to rent existing office space remains a mystery for now. But, as the P&J reported in January 2020, the building is ‘an award-winning success’.

Things moved on a bit since the paper reported on what it once called a ‘controversial’ and ‘contentious’ project. Councillor Willie Young claimed it would cost millions not to proceed with the project, but the P&J reported on March 5 2015 that there was scope to cancel the plans as some protesters wanted.

What possibly could have changed the paper’s position?

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/

Mar 212020
 

Three former Torry community councillors have lodged a complaint against Depute Lord Provost Jennifer Stewart with The Commission for Ethical Standards in Public Life. By Suzanne Kelly (one of the three).

The Commission for Ethical Standards in Public Life received a complaint from Bee Kerr, Renee Slater and Suzanne Kelly against Councillor Jennifer Stewart.
They have asked the Commission to investigate, and if appropriate, censure or suspend Jennifer Stewart on account of her behaviour following Councillor Alan Donnelly’s sexual assault of a person at a civic function.

Councillor Donnelly, who has represented Torry and Ferryhill in the past, was placed on the sex offenders register by the Aberdeen Sheriff Court. The court found him guilty of sexually assaulting a waiter.

The offence occurred while Donnelly was at a civic function in his capacity as councillor.

Donnelly tried to deny events; the court said he should be ashamed. He refused to step down despite his criminal act being a clear violation of the Code of Conduct for councillors.

Renee Slater launched a petition demanding Donnelly resign, which was signed by over 700 people.

The Standards Commissioner’s office announced his suspension one day after he voted on a crucial budget during a stormy council session, to the benefit of the council’s majority group. If he doesn’t resign, he will face a public trial.

Prior to this vote, Cllr Stewart took to radio and commented that the sexual assault didn’t sound serious.

She said:

“I would wonder if it was an attack. To me an attack is a much more physical and aggressive thing, but sentence has been passed.”

Her remarks infuriated many including councillors, residents and people connected to victim support groups.

The signatories to the complaint and experts they spoke to feel it is hard enough to cope as a victim of an assault; it is harder still to report it.  Getting to trial is stressful, and many trials end with no conviction.

It is arguably harder for a man to be a victim of sexual assault given some societal attitudes. Elected officials should not use their office to question the judgment of the courts and to add to the burden of the victim, who has had to endure the harmful insult by way of the Depute Lord Provost suggesting the assault was not serious.

It is quite probable, the complainers feel, that future sex assault victims who are aware of Stewart’s widely-reported remarks may be reluctant to come forward fearing she may weigh in to judge them too.

Undoubtedly, her comments on the assault would not have been published had she not been the Depute Lord Provost. She has not responded to a request for comment.

In press coverage almost immediately following her remarks, she accused both the SNP and Liberal Democrats of contributing to her confessed mental health problems through bullying and intimidation.

She named no names; the Liberal Democrats denied any such wrongdoing, and the SNP wished her recovery.

The complainants know the Ethics Commissioner will look into her remarks, which, as they stand, smear the entire opposition with serious accusations of breaking the Code of Conduct – accusations they cannot counter as they are not levelled at any one person or persons.

The Evening Express have been asked to explain how they verified her later claims of mental health problems caused by the SNP and Liberal Democrats; 5 days on, we still await their response

Anyone who wishes to add their name to the complaint or lodge a complaint against a councillor can contact the Commission here: info@ethicalstandards.org.uk

Mar 122020
 

Duncan Harley reviews On Your Feet – The Story of Emilio and Gloria Estefan at His Majesty’s Theatre, Aberdeen.

Despite the expansive title, this is really a biopic of Gloria.

Thin character development leaves husband/manager Emilio, played here by George Ioannides, lagging.

Portrayed as caring, charming and occasionally comedic, that’s about all you get of the essence of the man.

Gloria, a splendid Philippa Stefani, and her mum and her gran hold the plot strings and the show is really about the Estefan brand.

Plot-wise, an attempt is made to set the bands rise against a mid-20th century geo-socio-political scene in the aftermath of the Cuban Revolution. Havana born Gloria’s family flee to Miami following Castro’s takeover.

Dad Jose – Elia Lo Tauro, participates in the disastrous Bay of Pigs CIA inspired invasion of Cuba and is later exposed to a toxic chemical defoliant whilst serving in Vietnam. He gets ill and dies.

A later traffic accident leaves Gloria wheel-chair bound. She miraculously recovers. The band face determined music industry hostility. They overcome this.

In short, the link-story is all about triumph in the face of adversity. But it’s still paper-thin in places and perhaps over-reliant on tear-jerkers.

There are better musicals in the biopic juke-box pack, think Jersey Boys and Beautiful. But of course, none have a back catalogue which crosses over so many musical genres.

Ballad, disco, pop, samba all feature and in both Spanish and English.

Combined with the shows drop dead gorgeous dance numbers and, as a piece of uplifting entertainment, it works. Staging, and lighting and sound – superb. Ensemble/swing/band all good.

In all there are some twenty-one stunningly performed musical numbers. But please can I have some more plot sir?

Entertainment: 3/5
Stars: 3/5

On Your Feet is @ HMT Aberdeen until Saturday 14 March.

Words © Duncan Harley, Images © Aberdeen Performing Arts