Oct 212011
 

By Bob Smith.

A’ve bin haen an e-mail natter
Wi a mannie fae the P&J
Aboot their lack o recogneetion
Fer the film aboot the Menie affray

Nae meention o it’s Scottish premiere
Fit wye?  A thocht a wid speir
“You’ve Been Trumped” is a success
The P&J winna mak iss clear

Na Na,  the chiel wisna haen iss
The paper hid scriven some spiel
On mony occasions said the mannie
He must think a’m bliddy feel !!

I syne askit plain an ti the pint
Dates please faan iss wis printed
The chiel widna say nae mair
So a didna git fit a wintit

Noo the craitur wis maist pit oot
Fer hintin they war Trumpie’s freen
Maybe if the mannie hid ‘s wye
A’d be run oot o Aiberdeen

A’ve aywis thocht a newspaper
Wis supposed ti report the news
Tho aboot  “You’ve Been Trumped”
We’ll nivver read the P&J’s views

©Bob Smith “The Poetry Mannie” 2011
Image Credit: © Guy Shapira | Dreamstime.com

Oct 072011
 

By Bob Smith.

Hark the “Sunday Herald”  did sing
An ti us aa the news did bring
Trump  he wintit oor cops ti be
Jist like the lot in the NYPD

Donald he cam fae oot the sky
An ti oor bobbies wint in bye
Askin they aa did his biddin
Fowks the mannie wisna kiddin!!

Fit dis the silly bugger fear
Molly Forbes in combat gear?
Maybe David Milne wi bows an arras
Dis Susan Munro train “Suicide sparras” ?

The tap bobbies noo they warna convinced
Bein accused o bias they maybe sensed
Bi drappin aathing at Trumpie’s request
Yet twa filmin chiels they did arrest

Aberdeenshire Cooncil think Donald’s a god
An were maybe happy that PC Plod
Wid flee aroon at Trumpie’s biddin
Checkin fit’s happenin at “Michael’s Midden”

Faa’s tellin the truth aboot the windfairm
Did Scottish Government agree nae ti hairm
The bonnie view fae Donald’s mansion
An turbine plans they winna sanction

The fowk faa work in MacLeod Hoose
Are feart that vandals are on the loose
Wull Dod Sorial an aa Trump’s posers
Be shoutin “Donald Faar’s Yer Rozzers?”

©Bob Smith “The Poetry Mannie” 2011
Picture Credit:  © Daniel Wiedemann | Dreamstime.com

 

 

 

 

 

Oct 072011
 

Dr David Kennedy, former Principal of The Robert Gordon University, is a man of many interests, experiences and opinions. Voice’s Suzanne Kelly was eager to get his views on contemporary local and global topics and they conversed, among other topics, about life, the planet, greed, oil, fish and Wood. This is the first extract from that conversation.

David Kennedy was not short of words, opinions or facts.
He had recently been interviewed in-depth by the mainstream media in connection with the proposed New Town development at Elsick, but in the end all that was reported was the well-publicised return of his own honorary RGU degree in protest over RGU’s decision to award a similar honour to Donald Trump.

This simple act of defiance was eloquently accomplished and captured beautifully in Anthony Baxter’s and Richard Phinney’s film, You’ve Been Trumped.

For those who mainly get their news from Aberdeen Journals, the rest of the world has been writing about this award-winning documentary for months, and it is hitting cinemas in Scotland again now – see details elsewhere in Voice.

I asked first about his son Peter’s concern over the development of a massive housing estate at Elsick and  Peter’s subsequent article in Voice   and wondered if Dr Kennedy himself was keeping up with the issues around this or other planned housing developments?

“There‘s a lull at the moment other than the application that went for approval last week. The BBC spent just under an hour with me. Despite taping a long video interview when the report of the development was eventually aired, virtually nothing of what I said was used, just a reference to my handing back my degree some 12 months ago to RGU.

“The arguments that I put during the interview were about farmland. Human beings have a few basic requirements. One is food; another is warmth. As a prime requirement, humans must be able to feed themselves. We were cautioned by Winston Churchill during WWII that we should NEVER allow ourselves to be dependent on other countries for our food. If our country is unable to do this, then we must depend on trade with other countries.

“How is Scotland going to feed its people if it hasn’t any farmland? Therein lies the problem. We’ve seen here in the North East the decline of all the indigenous industries that have been with us for hundreds of years – textiles, paper, agriculture, fishing, that sort of thing. They’ve all been virtually destroyed by the growth of the oil industry, which sucked skilled people away from these industries.

“Oil is a finite resource, therefore we know from the start it’s not sustainable. It is a short-term gain for a long-term loss. I was on a few committees debating the future of Aberdeen when the oil was gone. Tourism was the only answer they came up with. However, tourism is like taking in one another’s washing – our tourists go out, theirs come in. Where is the gain? The future of Scotland certainly depends on its being able to either produce its own food in sufficient quantities to feed its people, or otherwise manufacture and export goods other countries want.”

This led us to discuss red tape and over-regulation in the farming sector.

“That of course largely comes from what is happening in Brussels. I know one or two larger farmers in the area, one of whom told me he’d never been as well off in his life. Thanks to me and other taxpayers, he was being paid so many subsidies from Brussels for set-aside, tree-planting and so on, as Europe wanted to control where food is and isn’t produced and thereby avoid overproduction.”

Suzanne’s fascinating conversation with Dr Kennedy will continue in future issues of Aberdeen Voice. We are grateful for his input.

Sep 302011
 

You’ve Been Trumped – the documentary film branded ‘a failure’ by Donald Trump has just won its third major documentary award – and first in Scotland – clinching the Scottish Screen Archive Prize for Best Feature Documentary at the Edindocs Festival in Edinburgh. Suzanne Kelly reports.

The award means the film will be archived as an important piece of Scotland’s history and stored at The National Library of Scotland ‘forever’.

This latest award follows two other major festival awards for the film.

In June You’ve Been Trumped won the Green Prize – the top environmental award for UK documentaries – at the Sheffield International Documentary Festival.  And in August, the film scooped the Special Jury Prize at Michael Moore’s Traverse City Film Festival in Michigan.

You’ve Been Trumped was rejected for funding by Creative Scotland and passed over for this year’s Edinburgh International Film Festival

However, it has proven to be a hit at some of the world’s most prestigious documentary festivals and will shortly be screened in Australia, Taiwan, Bermuda and at several major film festivals in the United States.

You’ve Been Trumped tells the story of Donald Trump’s attempts to build what he claims will be ‘the greatest golf course in the world’ on a supposedly protected environmental site in Aberdeenshire.   The plan involves building 1500 houses and a luxury hotel on what scientists have described as ‘the crown jewels of Scotland’s Natural Heritage.’

You’ve Been Trumped has just begun a Sheffield Doc/Fest winners’ tour – playing at major independent cinemas across the UK and is also part of the Take One Action Film Festival which takes in Glasgow, Edinburgh and Inverness.    The film is also due to return to cinemas in Aberdeen and Dundee next month.  Meanwhile, You’ve Been Trumped will be travelling to the Vancouver International Film Festival later this month and will unspool for its official New York premiere in early October.

Director Anthony Baxter said:

“It’s a great honour for You’ve Been Trumped to be recognised as an important historical document and reassuring to know that future generations will be able to learn lessons from the environmental destruction that’s been unfolding on the Menie Estate for precious little economic benefit.”

Scottish folk singer-songwriter Karine Polwart (“exceptionally subtle and melodic” Q Magazine) is currently penning a new song inspired by events captured in the film, which will be unveiled when You’ve Been Trumped is screened at the FilmHouse in Edinburgh on 2nd October as part of the Take One Action Film Festival.

Footnotes:

  • You’ve Been Trumped (UK, running time 95 minutes) was made by Angus based independent production company Montrose Pictures Ltd.
  • The film score features music from world the world renowned Sigur Rus and the band’s front man Jonsi.
  • Many of You’ve Been Trumped’s future screenings can be viewed here – with more dates to be added.
  • Latest news on the film can be seen here.
  • For further information call Montrose Pictures: +44(0)1674 677 233 or email: projects@montrosepictures.co.uk
Sep 162011
 

Old Susannah watches the latest developments in the ‘Deen and the wider world and feels like a deer caught in headlights. Here is this week’slook at what’s happening where and who’s doing what to whom. By Suzanne Kelly.

It’s been another one of those weeks in Aberdeen. Campaigners launched an advertisement in the Evening Express highlighting the Tullos Hill Roe Deer situation ( link ). It also seems that our raptor population – golden eagles, red kites and so on – are still being poisoned left, right and centre.
Every spare bit of greenbelt land is up for development to the highest bidder here in the City and Shire, and things look rather grim on the environment front whever you turn. What do overdevelopment, the deer cull and bird poisonings have in common? The people behind them are more interested in money than our environment.

These little issues have not stopped our intrepid Kate Dean from welcoming a European delegation for a ‘Periurban Parks’ conference this week. 

Kate is slated (as ever) to give a welcome speech and explain how wonderfully well Aberdeen manages its parks and land.  I could not miss such a conference, and if you’re reading this on Friday morning 16/9, I will be sitting at said conference hanging on every word.  Who knows?  I might even have a few choice words of my own for the attendees.  But what to wear…? 

A bit of good news though – it looks as if some form of Referendum on the future of Union Terrace Gardens will take place.  As Aileen Malone  promised this referendum, we should not be surprised that it is coming about – she is a woman true to her word.  If she says we’re having a referendum, then we’re having a referendum.  If she says we’re going to start shooting deer in October on Tullos Hill, then we’re going to kill (sorry ‘manage’) deer.  Fantastic.

Finally, Old Susannah was dolphin and whale watching last Saturday morning with Ian Hay as part of Techfest’s rich programme. 

Do have a look at the other activities on offer at Techfest. Then on Sunday I had a fantastic outing with ‘Contact the Elderly’.  We all went to Crathes Castle, where the National Trust supplied a very generous afternoon tea.  Some of these elderly people are a bit confused:  they mistakenly think that once upon a time the City was accountable to its electorate, that the streets were clean, and green spaces were valued.  If only.
Anyway, they were a great bunch, and by the end of it they were fine, but I was exhausted.

Here are a few observations on recent developments regarding police and thieves….

Aberdeen Police:

I’ve got to say, I usually get good service from our local  police. Two weeks ago some maniac and his grandchildren decided to have a  family outing.  This took the form of going to the mouth of the harbour and setting fire to as many things they could get their hands on – next to a beautiful patch of wildflowers (including orchids).
For some crazy reason, I objected to this, but they were sticking to their right to burn stuff.  The police and fire services somehow saw things my way, and dealt with the situation quickly.  Thanks.

You may recall an Evening Express story about a dog-walker coming across a man in combat fatigues with a gun on Tullos Hill (he must have looked very macho indeed – I am most impressed!).  

The police answered my questions about this very quickly – but in truth they themselves haven’t much information.  I wondered if it wasn’t gull-shooting Mervyn New, enjoying a weekend away from shooting things at his workplace.  Anyway, the Council insist the gunman wasn’t there to blast  (sorry, I mean ‘manage’) our deer just yet.

Exactly how (and indeed why) someone gets permission to run around with shotguns to kill ‘vermin’ (that’s birds and small animals to you and me) is still a mystery to me, but I’m looking into it.

Aberdeenshire Police

If you’ve seen the documentary ‘you’ve been trumped!’, you  might recall a tiny, minor scene in which Anthony Baxter and Richard Phinney are arrested.  Quite right, too. 

They had clearly broken the law and deserved to be arrested, as earlier that day they had gone to speak to the estate managers overseeing the creation of the ‘world’s greatest golf course’ (now taking bookings from £150 a round- see you there!).  

The poor policemen must have been very intimidated by Baxter and Phinney; their aggressive use of words like ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ coupled with their undoubted martial arts skills and video camera would have frightened all but Stallone or Swarzenegger.  As caught on film, in mid sentence the police wisely jumped the pair and thrust them into a squadcar.  Only kind of language these people understand, or so I’m told.

Did they need a SWAT team?  Were MI6 and helicopters called?

My curiosity got the better of me, and I wrote to Aberdeenshire Police to find out more.  How did they usually deal with such dangerous men? How did the arrest come about?  Did they need a SWAT team?  Were MI6 and helicopters called?  

I also asked why their DNA was stored, who decided to give them a caution rather than charge them (which stopped them having their day in court – obviously saving the taxpayer money if doing nothing for justice), and why they weren’t directly told when the charges were eventually dropped? 

The shire police told me  the answers are exempt from disclosure as:

“the requested information relates to the alleged commission of a criminal offence by two identifiable individuals.  Such information is classed as sensitive personal information under the Data Protection Act 1998.”

You might think the police would want to explain the thinking behind arresting two journalists on the say-so of a rich landowner’s hired help.  You might think it possible for Grampian’s finest to explain the rationale behind the arrests without leaking any personal details (after all, it’s all on film anyway).  But you’d be wrong.

I’d also asked police what their policy is for policing the Menie Estate (which if you look at the film seems to have more cops cruising it than you’d see on Miami Vice).  This is what they said:-

“…in Spring 2009, following the announcement of a number of strategic economic and infrastructure developments, Grampian Police established a short life Critical Incident Preparation Group (CIPG) with a remit to coordinate the prepared phase of ‘critical incidents”  (Note:  if someone can explain this to me, please get in touch).

“From this, a generic, local strategy, relevant to Menie Estate and other similar developments was developed.  This has been determined as; Maximise safety; minimise disruption; facilitate lawful protest; deter, detect, detain and report those responsible for unlawful behaviour.”  

(Again, can someone help me make sense of this?  Thanks!)

For openers’ it’s great the safety and disruption of the existing residents has been so well handled! (There have been lawful, peaceful protests, so no complaints there).

However, I’m thinking about this ‘deter, detect, detain’ business relating to ‘unlawful behaviour.’ How can you deter unlawful behaviour before it happens without undermining freedom?  Answers on a postcard, thanks.  I’ll put the kettle on.

Note:

– if you happen to see Anthony ‘Big Tony’ Baxter or Richard ‘Baby Face’ Phinney, just call the police.  Do not approach these men, as they are armed with numerous International documentary awards.

A United Scotland Police Force?:

Regarding the fire I reported; the police had to call me back and I described where the generational arsonists were in detail so they could find them (although the giant plume of smoke was a bit of a giveaway). 

If I’d had to explain to a phone operator in Glasgow which part of Greyhope Road I was on about, the harbour and its remaining vegetation would be ashes.  For many reasons, I am not comfortable with this united police service idea. 

For one thing, it would cost Stewart Milne a much bigger whack to get a sponsorship deal to have his logo on police cars across Scotland.  But we do have to save money and cut corners.  Schools, hospitals, fire, police, services to the old and disabled are so last year.  We need more buildings, statues, roads, car parks and shopping malls.  The Government isn’t a charity you know.

Thieves:

Caution!  There are thieves about.  No, not just the usual people robbing off-licenses and bookies.  Aberdeen City Council has another new campaign, and is very kindly warning us that there are scams doing the rounds.

There are fake lottery prize letters, fake inheritance scams, and so on.  Some scams are small; some are huge.  And here is perhaps the biggest one in the area at present…

In a huge swindle, local businesses are targeted by letter.  They are asked to participate in an ‘Economic Impact Survey’.  This survey is run by people who will stop at nothing to get their own way and seize property .  It is Union Terrace Gardens these mercenaries want – and they want
to get the consumer ultimately to pay for having their own park taken away from them.

Here is how this remarkable swindle works.

First, tell local businesses they were ‘specially chosen’ to be in a survey. Win their confidence and they’ll be eating out of your hand.  The so-called ‘survey’ is about 5 potential options for the city centre.  Get the businesses to agree with you, and agree to hand over Union Terrace Gardens for a building project.  As Edinburgh residents know, city centre projects are a great bet.

But who will ultimately pay for turning the gardens into whatever it is Woody and Stew want?

  your vote against changing the gardens got turned into the opposite vote.

The consumer, of course.  If the business rates are going to rise from their very low, generous current levels, then the retailer/shopkeeper will have to get that extra money from somewhere.

That somewhere is in increased prices to you and me.

Of course there is not one single shred of evidence to prove that changing the gardens (i.e: putting in a car park and ‘cosmopolitan cafe culture’ ) will bring any economic benefits at all.  But with charismatic business people leading the way, the scam seems legitimate to the gullible.

Here’s one catch:  the survey results will be completely confidential: only the people who want the gardens turned into something other than what they are will ever see the results!  And obviously the survey is only for businesses – we can’t have the average person involved in this deal, can we?

You may recall a related scam some months back.  The public were allowed to vote on changing the gardens or not.  If you voted online, there was a tiny glitch (an accident?) wherein your vote against changing the gardens got turned into the opposite vote. Result!  Obviously the results of this new survey – to be seen only by the committee who want to change the gardens – will have no such glitch and will be completely above board.

Theft prevention:

Thankfully, one of our elected officials is on the case to make sure you and I aren’t ‘ripped off’.  

In the course of the City Council’s debate over the Union Terrace Gardens referendum earlier this week, one brave man stood up and said the referendum might cost a quarter of a million pounds.  He argued that the taxpayer should not have to shell out for this.  What a champion!  After all, we have statues, portraits of the Lord Provost, ‘civic cars’, Lord Provost clothing allowances and so forth that we need to pay for.

If only John Stewart – for it was he – had been able to stand up when our tax money went to paying for the initial consultation.  This consultation included an expensive colour brochure on heavy paper which clearly showed a giant concrete square with one or two trees in pots.  This was why some people misunderstood the initial consultation and thought it was going to deliver a giant concrete square with one or two trees in pots.

Never mind, John’s on the case now and will save us money.  I suggest we watch him crusade in the coming months to safeguard our city’s budget.

Next week – more of the same and a report from the Periurban  Conference.

Sep 142011
 

Scotland’s Parliament is gearing up for a special screening of the award-winning documentary You’ve Been Trumped today, but First Minister Alex Salmond has declined an invitation to attend, sighting ‘long standing ministerial commitments’. 

Also absent from the Holyrood event will be Scotland’s Finance Secretary John Swinney MSP.  In a statement, Mr Swinney’s office said he was unable to attend due to ‘prior commitments’.  Mr Salmond has previously declined invitations to several presentations of the film across Scotland, including the green-carpet premiere in Aberdeen and subsequent screenings in Edinburgh and Glasgow.

 Scotland’s Government was responsible for giving Donald Trump’s controversial golf development the go-ahead at the Menie Estate in Aberdeenshire.

However, a number of high profile politicians and key environmental figures have booked places for this evening’s jam-packed Edinburgh screening, including Patrick Harvie MSP (Scottish Green Party Co-Convenor) Stan Blackley, Chief Executive, Friends of the Earth Scotland and geomorphologist Dr Jim Hansom, University of Glasgow (who gave evidence to the Scottish Government inquiry on the Trump development on behalf of Scottish Natural Heritage).

Also present will be Menie Estate resident David Milne whose home overlooks Mr Trump’s resort.  Mr Milne said:

“It’s very important to bring this film to Parliament to emphasise to those who make the laws that it’s not abstract. It’s all about living, breathing, people who have a right to live unharrassed in their own homes, in a landscape that should never have been touched.”

Also watching the documentary unspool will be academics, golf writers and legal experts including Frances McCartney, whose client, 87 year old widow Molly Forbes, has been threatened with eviction and a legal bill of up to £50,000 by US billionaire Donald Trump.

Mr Trump’s office in New York has yet to respond to a personal invitation to the event.

Meanwhile politicians who have not booked their place are being urged to do so by Bob Ward, Policy and Communications Director at the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment at London School of Economics and Political Science who recently saw You’ve Been Trumped in London.   Mr Ward describes the tycoon’s efforts to build a golf resort on Site of Special Scientific Interest as ruthless in an article for The Guardian.

Director Anthony Baxter who will also be at the screening said, “We wanted to make it as easy as possible for Scotland’s decision-makers to see the film.  We await to see if any other members of the Government will attend today’s screening, to comment on what an international film jury recently described as:

“one of the worst environmental crimes in recent UK history.”

Today’s screening at the Scottish Parliament is being staged by the Take One Action Film Festival.

Aug 292011
 

Old Susannah watches the latest developments in the ‘Deen and the wider world and feels like a deer caught in headlights.  Here is this week’s look at what’s happening where and who’s doing what to whom.  By Suzanne Kelly.

Evening Express readers were rejoicing in the streets last weekend as the results of the ‘Happy Tots’ photo contest were revealed. Little wonder then, that there has been no word there or in the P&J of Anthony Baxter’s continued world tour of his award-winning film ‘You’ve Been Trumped, or the screening of Emily James’s film ‘Just Do It’ at the Belmont. Nor was there space for the little matter of the council’s ongoing deer debacle.
Word has it that the SNP is growing squeamish over the blood-letting that the little creatures (ie the LibDems) will suffer at the ballot box when the voting season opens, and are looking for a way out.

Let’s hope so. Not even the most gullible politician believes the promised carbon off-setting benefits of this unwanted forest has any merit. The Public Services Ombudsman likewise are weighing up the City’s actions over the deer. The Ombudsman may soon look at other matters, but that is another story for another time.

In the larger, non EE world, there is violence at every turn it seems.  Happily we can all feel safer for a few reasons. One, the use of tasers seems to be going up in the UK.  This seems to coincide with the number of deaths caused by tasers likewise increasing – but then again, that means less criminals on the streets.  

It also means less innocent people on the streets, but you can’t have everything. 

Tasers don’t cause severe agony I’m told, but there was a police official who was going to make a film demonstrating how innocuous the tasers were, using himself as a guinea pig.  Unfortunately, he was in excruciating pain, and his little film didn’t have the desired effect.  Tasers are only used by calm, rational, well-trained men, and not angry cops who might repeatedly taser a suspect until they die.  Usually.

But I feel even safer still:  the US Navy’s been spending time (and lots and lots of money) developing a means to make their weaponry even more deadly.  It has been said that this new technology means weapons can explode with up to five times the energy of existing armaments.  I guess this is their way of trying to be more energy efficient, so that’s quite good.  As things stood, NATO was only able to destroy the world a few dozen times over. Now we can sleep soundly in our beds.

Old Susannah enjoyed the (mostly) sunny Tullos Hill picnic last Sunday and was happy to see some new faces there. 

It is a beautiful hill with beautiful panoramic views over city and sea – so it’s got to go.  Sadly, a second group of picnic-ers failed to find the main party, but a good time was still had. 

Anyway, time for some definitions.

Board:

(noun) a collection of people who have managerial, supervisory, or other responsibilities and powers, e.g.. ‘Board of Directors’ ‘Board of Governors’.

Private company boards are established (normally) to oversee methods and manage reasonable, defined objectives.  However, we are in Aberdeen, and are ruled by Aberdeen City Council.

There is no shortage of boards set up by the City and given  powers – powers which are always used in a fair, reasonable and democratic  way.  The Licensing Board did itself proud two years ago; it ran straight to the Press & Journal to say a dozen or so restaurants and clubs, etc. were not compliant with new licensing laws.  These wrong-doers were named and shamed in the press, and faced being closed, fined, and having their licenses revoked.

In a truly dramatic style, this was announced about a week before the traditional Christmas lunches and dinners were to be held.

Naturally you would expect a Board to have possession of all the facts before going to the papers.  Yet somehow this board made a few tiny mistakes.  A few of those it named as non-compliant with the law had, er, long gone out of business.  Slightly more embarrassing, at least two of the named-and-shamed establishments were fully compliant, having jumped through hoops made of red tape.

Old Susannah had planned a lunch in such a place, and called the Board once I knew for certain how wrong the Board was.  I spoke to a woman; she was very helpful.  She asked me who I was to question the board, and told me I must be mistaken.  However, a day or so later, the Board had gone back to the P&J with a grudging retraction.  My Christmas lunch went ahead, and all was right.

But here are a few lines from the Board we should all be looking at:-

“The role of the Project Monitoring Group is to oversee the Union Terrace City Garden project’s progress and ensure that Council’s interests, and that of the majority of Aberdeen citizens, are protected as the project progresses. The membership of the Project Monitoring Group comprises   Councillors Malone (Chair), Boulton, McDonald, Kirsty West, Wisely, Young and Yuill”.

“For reference, the membership of the City Garden Project Management Board comprises Councillor John Stewart (Chair), Councillor Callum   McCaig and Valerie Watts, ACC; Tom Smith and Colin Crosby, ACSEF; Jennifer Craw, the Wood Family Trust; Bob Collier, Aberdeen and Grampian Chamber of Commerce; John Michie, Aberdeen City Centre Association; Lavina Massie, the Aberdeen City Alliance, Maggie McGinlay, Scottish Enterprise and Paul Harris, Gray’s School of Art”.

Aberdeen City Council Website

I guess it must be an Aberdonian thing, but here we have a board to oversee a project which 55% of people responding to a survey don’t support.  (Arguably the number against ruining UTG is higher, as a tiny hiccough in the online voting system changed negative votes to positive ones – I guess it’s hard to use this new-fangled technology).

Isn’t it wonderful that this Board just sprang into being without the need to trouble the taxpayer or voter as to their thoughts? 

Perhaps it will be a difficult job to be a board member here – for one thing these selfless souls have to ‘oversee the progress’ of the project which is unknown (there is no scope, timescale or budget agreed – but I’m splitting hairs).  If you look at the paragraphs above, you might get the idea that not progressing the project is not an option.

The tricky bit will be how on earth to ‘ensure that Council’s interests, AND that of the majority of Aberdeen citizens, are protected as the project progresses.’

 I vote we protect the Council’s interests above all else.  The project will progress, and the vastly different interests of the Council and the citizen somehow have to be both ‘protected’.   This Board (led by one Mr Gerry Brough) has so far protected us by employing a wide range of techniques.  

These include setting up a company to take the project forward with no mandate from the people, stacking the board with people who want a Wood Group solution for UTG, and by redacting minutes to protect us from truth.  I feel as protected by Gerry Brough and this board as I do by the US Navy and its brand new super-explosives.

It is unclear who designed the make-up of this board, but I wonder – did they have a small, subconscious desire for the project to go ahead? 

It almost seems as if most of these people are desperate for the gardens to be turned into whatever Wood (and Milne) want.  Then again, the presence of Jennifer Craw to represent the Wood Family Trust is a reassuring sign that everything is totally impartial and ‘above Board’.

Citizens opposed to the project should not bother their heads about the decision the board made:  there will be no opportunity at the upcoming public consultation to vote to leave the gardens as is.  You get to vote on which of the six shortlisted projects (again chosen by a handful of non-elected people) you want – and that’s that.  And this wonderful, unbiased board has just decided at its last meeting to start lobbying government officials to pressure them to go ahead and fill in our garden.

If you want to write to the Board and tell them how happy you are with their work so far, please do.  And if you feel like doing some lobbying of your own, you can always write to the Scottish Futures Trust to tell them how happy you are about these fantastic garden-raising  plans.

The City is some £50,000,000 in the red

But of all the many boards we have working hard to keep Aberdeen the efficient vibrant, dynamic hub it is, there is a board composed completely of planks.

I refer of course to the Budget Monitoring Board:  the City is some 50 million pounds in the red that we know of.  That really is some job they have managed  these past few years.

Dictatorship

(noun) system of government wherein a single person or small  group has undemocratic control and powers over the citizenry; often a totalitarian state.

Despite their threatening and irrational behaviour, it looks as if some of the world’s most hated dictators are set to topple.   These hated figures have held onto power at all costs, some for many years, despite people demanding that they go. Dictators try to threaten journalists and other critics; they use threats of legal action to silence opposition.  These dictators often look slightly deranged and dress in odd garments, and often look over-tired and slightly bloated.

One of my favourite quotes from the ‘Harry Potter’ series of books by the inimitable JK Rowling went something like this (I paraphrase).

“Dictators always fear the people that they oppress, for they know that one day, someone will rise above the masses and over-throw them.” 

– Apologies for the bad  phrasing JK,  but it’s true.  Those who come to power and then disregard clear voices of opposition and who do not play fairly will eventually be overthrown, or just voted out of office.

So dictators, do everyone a favour and just leave when asked to go.  (PS – in a related development it seems that Libya has finally got rid of Gaddafi).

Next week:  start queueing now:  the great St. Nicholas House furniture sale is ON!  Grab a future heirloom from the used, battered desks and chairs.  You paid for them once – here’s your chance to pay for them again (not to mention the brand new furniture you bought for Marischal College).  Sale stars 3 September.

Aug 032011
 

Anthony Baxter takes time out again from promoting his film to update Aberdeen Voice readers.  Don’t look for the story in the Press & Journal.
Don’t look for any updates in the Evening Express.  Except for STV, Northsound, and of course the Voice – as far as the local press is concerned,
IT NEVER HAPPENED Now read on…

Traverse City, Michigan, USA:

The Scottish-made documentary ‘You’ve Been Trumped’ scooped its second major film festival award in as many months after clinching the Special Jury Prize at Michael Moore’s prestigious Traverse City Film  Festival, which has just drawn to a close in Michigan, USA. Oscar-winning director Moore was present for the awards at the City’s famous State Theatre – a renovated classic cinema dating back to 1916.

“This is a huge honour and we’re delighted to accept this award,” said Anthony Baxter.

Producer Richard Phinney also attended the ceremony – the filmmakers were among a record 100 brought to Michigan with the help of a grant to the festival from the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences.

The festival was founded by Academy Award-winning Director Michael Moore, who runs the festival and serves as president of its board of directors.

Other board members are photographer John Robert Williams and New York Times best-selling author Doug Stanton, both Traverse City residents, and filmmakers Larry Charles (director, “Borat”), Terry George (director, “Hotel Rwanda”), Sabina Guzzanti (director, “Viva Zapatero!”), and Christine Lahti (actor, “Running on Empty”).

The 95-minute feature documentary You’ve Been Trumped tells the story of the American  tycoon Donald Trump building a golf course resort on one of Scotland’s last wilderness areas north of Aberdeen.

Branded ‘a failure’ by the Trump Organisation, You’ve Been Trumped proved to be a sell-out hit at its World Premiere at Hot Docs in Toronto in May (despite claims from Creative Scotland that ‘nobody would watch it’).

The film has since played to packed cinemas through special preview screenings in major cities across Scotland in association with Take One Action and also as part of the acclaimed Stranger than Fiction series at New York’s IFC Center.  Further screenings are on the way (see last week’s Voice for listings).

Taking to the stage in Traverse City with fellow filmmaker Phinney to receive the award, Baxter thanked the hundreds of crowd-funders who had supported the film.

 “We were refused all funding to make You’ve Been Trumped and so I’d like to say a special thank you to the hundreds of people from around the world who enabled us to finish the film with donations from twenty countries.”

A tribute was also paid to Michael Moore for inviting the film to the festival along with dozens of other world-class award-winning documentaries – as well as to the 1300 volunteers who made the seventh outing for the Traverse City Film Fest was the biggest yet.

Other Traverse City Film Festival documentary winners included HBO hit Hot Coffee (The Documentary Everyone in America Should See Award) whilst Best Activism in a  Foreign Documentary went to BBC Storyville‘s Give Up Tomorrow. 

In the fiction category, award winners included Chris Morris’ Four Lions starring Steve Coogan (Best Screenplay in a Foreign Narrative Film) and the Academy Award nominated Incendies (Best World Narrative Film).

Nearly 130,000 people flocked to watch ‘Just Great Movies’ across the six-day Traverse City Film Festival where George Lucas gave special permission for crowd-puller Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back to be screened in the open air for the very first time in front of thousands of film fans from around the world.

The Special Jury Prize for You’ve Been Trumped comes just a month after the film won Britain’s top environmental prize for documentaries with the Green Award at the Sheffield International Documentary Festival (Sheffield Doc/Fest).  Then, the international jury lauded the film for:

“exposing one of the worst environmental crimes in recent UK history.”

(No word yet as to whether the Press & Journal or its sister paper have discovered the existence of ‘you’ve been trumped.’)

The Traverse City Film Festival is a charitable, educational, non-profit organisation committed to showing “Just Great Movies” and helping to save one of America’s few indigenous art forms – the cinema.  The festival brings films and filmmakers from around the world to northern Michigan for the annual film festival in late July. It was instrumental in renovating a shuttered historical downtown movie house, the State Theatre, which it continues to own and operate as a year-round,
community-based, mission-driven and volunteer-staffed art house movie theater.  A full list of award winners can be seen here.

You’ve Been Trumped will now receive a special London preview at the Frontline Club (12 August) and will be screening for a week at the DCA Dundee later this month (19-25 August) before going on to the Sidewalk Moving Picture Festival in Birmingham, Alabama (26-27)
August.  The film will also headline the Edindocs film festival (16th September) and a screening is being planned for the Scottish Parliament.

Jul 292011
 

A month ago Anthony Baxter and Richard Phinney attended the sold-out Aberdeen premier of their documentary ‘You’ve Been Trumped’ at Aberdeen’s Belmont Cinema.  If you don’t know, the film follows one year of (dramatic) events at the Menie Estate as Trump and his people change this part of Aberdeenshire forever.  What has Anthony been doing since those first Aberdeen screenings?  Aberdeen Voice’s Suzanne Kelly catches up with Baxter as ‘You’ve Been Trumped’ captures world-wide interest.

Anthony Baxter is in Trump’s hometown, New York City, where the documentary met great acclaim when it was screened earlier this month. A cursory web search for ‘You’ve Been Trumped’ comes up with an astounding 6 million plus results. Since those first UK showings, Baxter has been interviewed and quoted very widely; the film is being lined up for further screenings, and it is receiving the critical acclaim it deserves.

“I’m currently in New York – heading to Michigan tomorrow to Michael Moore’s festival which sounds great.  We’ve got excellent slots for the screenings”. Baxter advises.

 Michael Moore is one of the world’s greatest contemporary documentary film-makers.  Oscar-winner Moore’s successes include the documentary classic ‘Bowling for Columbine’ (a look at America’s deadly love affair with handguns) and ‘Fahrenheit 9/11.
For further info, blogs, book and film information, click here

Michael Moore chose ‘You’ve Been Trumped’ to feature at his festival this year; this selection is high praise indeed.  Moore is no stranger to controversy, and no stranger to Donald Trump.

Trump once labelled Moore with one of the worst labels a Conservative America can use: Trump called Moore ‘A Communist’. (Sources say Moore is holding up well despite this crushing slur).

Baxter is increasingly in demand, yet he and Phinney seem to be handling all of their international press, travel and booking arrangements themselves.  (By way of comparison, American CBS television flew several hundred of its staff to London to cover the Royal wedding, some coming several weeks in advance).  Baxter just keeps going forward:-

“I’ve done a guest column for TGO magazine and also an online interview with the European Documentary network which should be going online soon”.

Anthony advises that the film has undergone a small change. At one point ‘The Golf Channel’ was threatening him with legal action for using a clip of theirs (which Baxter fully credited of course).  Baxter and his legal team held fast.  As to the changes he did make:-

“Whilst here in New York I’ve done a new master of the film – we’ve basically made a couple of minor adjustments – one of which is adding the incident where David Milne is charged for a new boundary fence.   I’ve also been meeting with potential distributors and publicists as we attempt to get the ball rolling for distribution later this year.

“Also – you’ll probably have seen we’re screening the film at the Sidewalk Moving Picture Festival in Alabama which is good news.   But it’s clear we’ll need to get some further finance together to get the ball rolling on publicity”.

Funding for getting  ‘You’ve Been Trumped’ shown around the world was not raised from a far-sighted Scottish Arts board, but in part from ‘crowd funding’
See indiegogo for details here: Take-You’ve-Been-Trumped-To-Trump.
If you want to help ‘You’ve Been Trumped’ continue its ever-growing, world-wide tour, watch indiegogo and Facebook for further details and any upcoming announcements.
See: Youve-Been-Trumped-On-Facebook

Anthony is getting the film as wide a screening as possible before a probable, eventual DVD release.

There is good news for people who missed the film first-time around – here is an update on forthcoming screenings:

  • 26-31st July, Michael Moore’s Traverse City Film Festival official selection (Richard and Anthony in attendance)
  • 12th August,Preview Screening + Q&A, Frontline Club, London (Anthony in attendance)
  • 19-25th August,Screening at the DCA, Dundee (Q&A event on Friday 19 August Anthony in attendance)
  • 26-28th August, Sidewalk Moving Picture Festival, Birmingham, Alabama, USA, official selection (Anthony in attendance)
  • 11th September, 3pm, BFI, South Bank – London Premiere +Q&A (Anthony in attendance)
  • 14th September,Scottish Parliament screening, Edinburgh + Q&A (TBC)
  • 16th September,opening night headline film of the Edindocs Film Festival, Edinburgh + Q&A (Anthony in attendance)

Pencilled in but unconfirmed:

  • 30th September/1st October,Eden Court Inverness + Q&A
  • 2nd October-8th October,Filmhouse, Edinburgh
  • 13-17th October,Hamptons International Film Festival official selection, New York, USA (Richard and Anthony in attendance)
  • 27th October, Discovery Youth Film Festival, Dundee (Anthony in attendance)
  • 1 week in October, pencilled in at the Aberdeen Belmont Picturehouse but unconfirmed.

Updates will be posted in due course on Facebook (just search on ‘You’ve Been Trumped’ ) and most definitely on Aberdeen Voice.

The usually litigious Donald has been rather quiet of late.  Perhaps he will wind up being trumped  himself?  Time will tell.

Jul 052011
 

Old Susannah tries to get her head around the Council’s secrecy and finds them much more transparent than they had thought they were.  By Suzanne Kelly.

Firstly, I trust we are all excited about the discovery of a giant wombat’s fossil in Australia!

This lumbering, hulking, ungainly creature could not move with the times, and so faded into history. Its great big head only had a pea-sized brain which was useful only for more primitive functioning. It spent its time hoarding nuts and drinking at its favourite watering holes.

Any relation to Councillors K ♦♦♦ D♦♦♦ or N♦♦♦ F ♦♦♦♦♦♦ is curiously coincidental.

While I may have spent most  of this past week enjoying the sun as well as well as a pleasant afternoon or  two in Brewdog, I’ve not been oblivious to the things that the City Council,  local institutions and mainstream press want me to be oblivious to.  While I enjoyed champagne and plenty of Pimms  with my friends ♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦ and ♦♦♦♦♦♦  in the great outdoors, I’ve been informed of a few developments.

Despite the summer sun, there are shadowy  figures behind the scenes, keeping secrets, denying facts, and trying (with  little success) to keep people and stories quiet – some innocent, some not so  innocent.

‘No news is good news’ – so  the saying goes, but whoever came up with this particular phrase probably had  too much of Brewdog’s ‘Sink The Bismarck’ ultra-strong beer.  Here in Aberdeen ‘no news’ seems to mean the local,  mainstream press have decided to play things down.  So – listen very carefully, I will say this  only once…

Redacted: (adjective) – obscured,  covered up, deleted, censored.

Some months ago, I attended a special meeting of Torry Community Council at which  the Friends of Union Terrace Gardens presented their case, and a very nice lady  named Jan represented ACC (Gordon McIntosh  had been invited, but was having dinner instead).  Jan told us how everything was going to be  wonderful, and how the entire matter was going to be handled ‘in a transparent  manner’.

In fact, she used the word  ‘transparent’ half a dozen times.  I left the meeting with a warm, fuzzy feeling that if something were going on about  the gardens, it would all be transparent.  What a relief.

How very strange it was  then to open up a P&J this week and find our new Council Leader McCaig asking why the minutes of one of the Garden-related groups (and there are many  I can assure you) has been redacted.  Over the weekend I’d emailed him asking why the text had been redacted; he’s not slow off the mark, our Mr McCaig.

But what group is this redacting its papers?  It’s the City Gardens Project Monitoring  Group.  What do they do?  According to the City’s website,

“The role of the Project Monitoring Group is to oversee the City Garden project’s progress and ensure that Council’s interests, and  that of the majority of Aberdeen citizens, are protected as the project
progresses”.

I take it that makes it  quite clear why they must act in secret. It’s not a question of whether or not something will be done with the gardens – they are overseeing progress.  So – the Council’s interests are not the same  as the interests of Aberdeen citizens (minority or majority).  In all my years I never would have guessed  that.  Perhaps they should have redacted  this mission statement as well.

Who is in this group?  Who attends the meetings?  If you go to the city’s website, you can  download the minutes and reports – where you will see that all the names of  attendees have been blacked out, or in council-speak ‘redacted’, together with  lots of text.

The City was trying to keep this top secret information a closely guarded secret.  Perhaps the Monitoring Group is made up of  MI6, the CIA, Lord Lucan and Spiderman?  Whoever it is, I bet they have a dual identity, a good cover story – and probably a costume with a cape.  I hear they all meet at midnight and each have limos with blacked-out windows.

 From now on I hear that anyone in a Council committee which discusses  Union Terrace Gardens will sign the Official Secrets Act, be security-vetted,  be given a cover identity and undergo survival and torture training.

Mr McCaig has no  recollection of agreeing to this group’s identity being protected, and he wants  some answers.  Let’s hope he gets  them.  Why on earth would this be secret, and what do they wish to hide?  Answers  on a postcard please (preferably in a secret code).

Alas for our poor Council:  their secrets are out.  That nice Danny Law over at STV has announced that a simple bit of cutting and pasting reveals all.  Visit STV for further information.

http://local.stv.tv/aberdeen/news/261573-council-blunder-means-concealed-minutes-from-union-terrace-gardens-meetings-can-still-be-read/

You might also want to visit the (excellent) blogspot Other Aberdeen:-
http://otheraberdeen.blogspot.com/

It’s hard to imagine that  the City didn’t give due care and attention to this life-or-death matter of who’s going to meetings and what they are saying about our gardens.  I am stunned.  From now on I hear that anyone in a Council committee which discusses  Union Terrace Gardens will sign the Official Secrets Act, be security-vetted,  be given a cover identity and undergo survival and torture training.

For my part, one of my trusted sources told me how to spy at the hidden text a while ago, and I was sworn to secrecy – which I kept.  My secret hope was that the Council would continue to keep thinking it had successfully blacked out text that could actually be read.  We could have been onto a winner with this one.

My sympathies to the Garden Monitoring Group at this unfortunate point in time, and in particular to one of those in the group:  our very own old friend, Ms Aileen HoMalone.  Not only is the debacle an embarrassment in itself, but my very own spies tell me that since the balance of power shift, this and other committees will be re-arranged over the summer, shedding a few LibDems in favour of SNP councillors along the way.

Gag:
1.  noun – a joke or stunt designed to cause laughter or possibly embarrassment.
2.  Verb – to make another remain silent via coercion or force. 

A gag can  be a stupid remark, like John Stewart’s saying Aberdeen needs a monorail, or a  stunt — like holding a design competition for ‘transforming’ a cherished  garden into a car park/mall.  On the more  sinister side of the coin, this week both Aberdeen City Council and Robert  Gordon University stand accused of gagging their staff.

Now, obviously the opinion  of staff at ACC is held in the highest esteem by management, and at an institution of higher learning such as RGU, nothing can be held more important  than the right to free expression and intellectual debate.  There is absolutely nothing ‘Big Brother’  about Aberdeen City Council rounding up four of its less-than-grateful staff as  it did this week to tell them off.

What had the four done?  They said mean things about the City and their bosses on something called ‘Facebook’, which apparently all the young people are using.  I hope these four ingrates have apologised for having opinions.  I do know that they have been issued with a set of guidelines as to what they can or can’t say.  Sounds like a great move.

In fact, back when the cuts were being  proposed in 2008, the City very wisely told its staff that they should in no way protest against the City’s school and service closures.  Many of them did so anyway.  You might think such people are brave in standing up for education and health services, but you must remember, when you take a job for the City, you lose all your human rights.  Fair trade, I’d say.

I hope these four people are at home right  now, reading their new behaviour guidelines and composing letters of apology.  I’d certainly hate to think they’d be sending  me copies of the city’s newest Kafkaesque policies.  Or even worse – they might be creating anonymous Facebook identities so they can continue to keep us posted with City developments and dark doings.

As to that bastion of higher education, Robert Gordon University: they are also gagging for it.  You may have seen the news that RGU want the Trade Unions to go away and stop bothering them. 

This institution of higher learning has announced that since the unions are now ‘smaller’, they shouldn’t have to recognise them at all. Quite right.  Just because the University has shed a few jobs and has a few less people, there is no reason the unions should have shrunk as well.  Staff and educators alike are overjoyed by this move on RGU’s part, as they won’t have to go to any more tedious union meetings.

The staff won’t publicly say how happy they are, because RGU is, according to STV “accused of ‘gagging’ staff as dozens protest over de-recognition decision”.  I know staff who have been asked to take on more work with no pay, who have had pensions cut, and who work weekends with no extra money to show for it.  I’m sure union representation is the furthest thing from their minds.

RGU wanted the whole episode to be treated as Top Secret:  staff were told not to discuss these special Trump security arrangements

It might be worth mentioning that RGU held its staff’s safety particularly important during Donald Trump’s visit for his honorary degree.  RGU management were so concerned about the safety of its people who would be in the same building as ‘the Donald’ that they let Trump’s private security people search bags, set up security checks, and made sure no one left the building until the great man himself had gone.

Some people say that their mobile phones were looked at, and they weren’t allowed to take any photos (which would have been the first thing on my mind), but this remains unconfirmed.

Those who did get in touch told me that RGU wanted the whole episode to be treated as Top Secret:  staff were told not to discuss these special Trump security arrangements.  I would be happy for the RGU administration to confirm or deny that private, American security was given power over its staff.

Maybe they could have done what Robert Gordon’s College did, and simply lock any bothersome people up in cupboards (congratulations to Ms Michie for winning her case against the College where she was indeed locked in a cupboard.  I await news of the dismissal of the person who did this, but it hasn’t appeared yet).

News Blackout: (modern English phrase) – to deliberately ignore or censor news events. (See also ‘P&J’)

The local press simply  don’t have the time and space to tell you the entire goings on.  The P&J may have covered the story of the City Council’s ‘redacting’ text (see below), as Cllr McCaig came forward with the story.

However, if you put ‘Robert Gordon University’ into the Press & Journal’s online search feature, you’ll see a collection of innocent PR stories about boat races and an RGU student appearing in something called ‘Glee’ (whatever that is).  No RGU bashing in the P&J; they don’t want to upset that nice Mr Wood and his friends.  No word of gagging staff or staff being kettled by American private scurity.

You might also search the P&J website for the story of guitar hero Richard Thompson’s honorary degree from Aberdeen University granted  on the 5th July (congratulations by the way). 

I’ll give you that Richard Thompson is no Donald Trump (who got his degree from Ian Wood’s RGU for services to money).  Thompson has only enjoyed a successful international musical career since the 1960s, released award-winning albums, and made a particularly important collection, ‘1000 years of popular music’.  I doubt the man even has his own jet.

Don’t bother searching for news of his honorary degree award in the local rags – it’s not there.

Just as Anthony Baxter never got any newspaper coverage for his documentary ‘you’ve been trumped’ about Trump and the Menie Estate (it was held over twice and had unprecedented demand at the Belmont), the local press are making life easier for us by deciding what’s newsworthy and what isn’t.

I for one am far more interested in petty burglaries, minor football matches and cute baby photo competitions than the workings of secrecy in local government and the schemes of our local millionaires.

It is the editors at the local papers who decide what goes in (or possibly a few of the city’s richercitizens), not the reporters.

At least we don’t have a ‘News of the World’ situation.  Several newspapers stand accused of hacking mobile phone conversations – of murder victims and their families. Potential evidence has been lost and Milly Dowler’s family wrongly believed she might still have been alive since her voicemail was being accessed.  If you can think of anything lower than this, don’t let me know.

PS – the Murdoch Empire isclosing the News of the World after Sunday!  Result!  However, Murdoch is looking to take over BskyB completely.  If you somehow think this might lead to a  monopoly over news coverage, speak now.

RGU, millionaires, the  future of our Gardens, quangos, dodgy deals, secret deer cull plans:  somewhere the truth is out there.  Just don’t hold your breath waiting for it. 

Speaking of holding your breath, I’d best go  close the windows.  The wind must have changed, and the scent drifting through my open windows in Torry is decidedly not roses and violets.   Old Susannah is off for a short but much needed holiday.  I am going to turn 50 on ♦♦♦♦♦♦ and will fly to  ♦♦♦♦♦♦♦ on ♦♦♦♦♦ and will stay with ♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦ where I hope very much to see ♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦My best wishes to ♦♦♦♦♦ ♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦.