Apr 022019
 

Review and photos by Craig Chisholm.

The Men in Black returned to the Beach Ballroom for another triumphant performance, albeit one with a few teething troubles including a couple of false starts and one song being stopped half way through.

But, as lead singer Baz says apologetically “it’s only music, only a band” before pausing and adding:

“Not just any band – it’s the fucking Stranglers.”

And he’s right, it’s not just any band. It’s a legendary, critically acclaimed, punk band that scaled commercial peaks, influenced everyone from punks to Britpoppers and still sells out venues across the world nearly 50 years into their illustrious career.

And, as it’s only the second date of their 2019 tour, then any teething troubles can be as easily forgiven as the exuberance at seeing such a seminal act in front of a sold-out crowd.

Before the self-proclaimed Men in Black take the stage, however, there’s an opportunity to see another classic rock act ply their wares as Britain’s premier Rhythm & Blues act, the mighty Dr Feelgood, open the night’s proceedings.

It’s a very different Dr Feelgood that started in Canvey Island 1971 and became mainstays of the then burgeoning pub rock scene – long gone are original members Wilko Johnson, The Big Figure, John B Sparks and late, enigmatic frontman Lee Brilleaux.

Instead, present members Kevin Morris, PH Mitchell, Steve Walwyn and Robert Kane have been keeping
the band’s name alive as a going concern for a few decades now. 

Between them, they provide a competent, nostalgic and talented run through of some of the band’s finest moments – ‘Down by The Jetty’, ‘Milk and Alcohol’ and
a cover of ‘Route 66’ being stand out songs of their all too brief set.

The Stranglers themselves have a few line up changes over the years too and the only remaining members from their early years are bassist JJ Brunell and keyboard player Dave Greenfield – although drummer Jet Black is still part of the band when recording in the studio but no longer touring due to ill health.

It’s a typically eclectic set from the band that stretches back to their 70s beginnings right up to their most recent releases.

Chart hits such as ‘Golden Brown’, ‘Peaches’, ‘Always the Sun’ and closer ‘No More Heroes’ are well received by the adoring crowd as are fan favourites such as the pile driving ‘(Get a) Grip (On Yourself)’ which, as always, gets the crowd going wild only three songs in.

Humour is never far from the band – whether it’s JJ’s huge grin throughout the set, or lead singer and guitarist Baz Warne’s between song banter.

But the comedy moment of the night surely belongs to their poor guitar roadie, tonight celebrating his 40th birthday and getting the opportunity to dance topless on stage whilst wearing a tutu. Quite a sight, to say the least.

The Stranglers return to the Granite City in October as primary support to Alice Cooper in an eclectic three band bill that includes the surviving members seminal rockers The MC5, celebrating 50 years and billed on the night as The MC50.

It’s sure to be another unmissable night of live music that, one suspects, won’t feature any false song starts, early tour teething troubles and, most importantly, dancing roadies in skirts! Miss it if you dare.

Apr 012017
 

By Fred Wilkinson.

News has reached Aberdeen Voice that younger brother of US President Donald J Trump has bought a popular, iconic cafe located on Aberdeen’s beach front. It is widely rumoured that the Washington Cafe, currently being renovated, is to be renamed ‘The Windmill Views Restaurant’ by new owner Robert Trump.
In order to find out more, I tracked down local shopfitter, Archibald ‘Erchie’ Morrison who has been awarded the contract to refurbish the property. 

I could see Erchie and his colleagues were extremely busy, so Aberdeen Voice is grateful to have been given the time for a chat.

Erchie told me:

“Ah couldna believe it when Ah got the call fae Robert Trump’s agent. Ah thought somebody wis pullin ma leg, and Ah near hung up the phone. But, ken? Bein self employed ye canna jist gie up on gettin jobs – nae as lang as there’s a chunce it could be a genuine offer.

“Onywye, Ah had tae ask if he wis haein a fun wi ma, but nah … the job’s richt enough.”

I asked Erchie how he felt about working for the brother of the controversial US President.

“Ah wisna affa sure” Erchie commented.

“Ah did ask the agent, like in a funnin kind o’ wye, if he thocht eez client wisna aff eez heid buyin a business in Aiberdeen – fit wi a the stooshies we’ve had wi eez brither.

“He jist laughed and tellt ma he wid send ma the paperwork.”

“And that wis that until Ah got a notey fae Robert Trump eezsel. Ah near fell in a heap!”

Robert reached for the top pocket of his boiler suit where the prized letter has taken up permanent residence. Already well fingered, having been eagerly shown off to his family, friends and colleagues, the handwritten letter reads: 

“Dear Erchie.

Thank you for accepting the contract for the refurbishment of my newly acquired property. I look forward to working with you on this project.
My agent indicated to me that you have some concerns, which I’m sure can be addressed.

I am very aware of the ‘stooshies’ you have had to endure on account of my brother Donald’s actions. I trust you will judge our working relationship on my words and my actions, and not those of Donald J. We may share a country of origin, and the same parents, but I assure you, there the similarity ends. Brothers we may be, I’m afraid there’s nothing I can do about that, but we aint peas in a pod.

Only one of us actually loves Scotland and does not need to exploit the good name and memory of our Mom to prove it.
Only one of us gives our employees the correct payment for work carried out, and only one of us thinks Donald J is an asshole.

I trust you can work out which. Come and see me soon … the Glenfiddich’s are on me

Yours,
      Robert Trump.”

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Dec 232016
 

Craig Chisholm reviews Frightened Rabbit At The Beach Ballroom, Aberdeen. Photos by Craig
Chisholm.

On a night when the lights went out at Pittodrie during a Dons game against Motherwell, Frightened Rabbit lit up the nearby stage of The Beach Ballroom as they returned to the city in support of their latest album, 2016’s critically acclaimed ‘Painting of a Panic Attack’.

This tour represents a victory lap of sorts for the band as they celebrate a successful year which featured a Top 20 album and high profile live appearances at Glastonbury, T in The Park and a host of festivals throughout Europe and the US.

In a few days after their Aberdeen and Inverness dates they will play three sold out gigs at Glasgow’s iconic Barrowland Ballroom.

Make no mistake, this may be the last time in a while that you’ll catch them in venues of this size and headlining appearances at the AECC or Hydro beckon for the band.

Opening with the uplifting ‘Get Out’ from ‘Painting of a Panic Attack’, the band career straight into the fire and brimstone of ‘Holy’ and ‘The Modern Leper’ which featured on  2008’s ‘The Midnight Organ
Flight’.

Selkirk born singer Scott Hutchison chats amiably to the ecstatic crowd between songs.

“People always shout “Scotland” to us at our gigs” he notes.

“which is kind of weird, as we’re in Scotland…. Nah, just kidding, it’s only in America.”

Hutchison may have moved to Los Angeles after the bands previous album, ‘Pedestrian Verses’ and its subsequent tour but he and the band remain rooted in their home country musically and emotionally as their lyrics and between song banter attests.

The crowd hang onto his every word and exchange conversation with him as the mood remains happy and warm despite the driving cold wind and rain outside.

Hutchison may be the frontman, original member and main songwriter but the unsung star of the show is behind the drum kit in the shape of his brother, Grant.

Remaining a constant in the band since they were a duo recording the debut album, he is a flurry of careering arms, flying hair, snapped drum sticks and open mouthed expressions of pure emotion.

Part X-Men’s Wolverine, part Animal from The Muppets and, visually at least, part Oliver Reed, the drummer is a captivating sight behind the kit and guaranteed to hold your gaze once you see him.

The 19 song list set-list, lasting almost an hour and a half, is a career spanning set that includes eight tracks from their latest album and the oldest cut played being ‘Be Less Rude’ from their 2006 debut album ‘Sings The Greys’, each song received ecstatically by the partisan crowd and given rapturous applause and the upmost appreciation.

So, where next for Frightened Rabbit after such an amazing year then? Onwards and upwards one must assume – they may be frightened but they are certainly no rabbit in the headlights, frozen to the spot.

More Pics here.

Nov 042016
 

firework123picWith thanks to Jessica Murphy, Senior Account Executive, Citrus:Mix.

Webcams which have become increasingly popular with the public will stream the fireworks extravaganza at Aberdeen Beach this weekend.
Live images from The Roundhouse, home to Seacroft Marine Consultants, will, weather permitting, show the colourful 20 minute long display, which gets underway at 8pm on Saturday (November 5).

The Seacroft team has repositioned the north webcam (one of four) to allow those unable to attend the popular display to watch it online.

Jennifer Fraser, director at Seacroft, said:

“We get a brilliant view of the fireworks display from our office which we wanted to share with those who might not be able to attend it.

“To do this we have repositioned one of the webcams which has the best vantage point, so weather allowing, people will be able to tune into our website and watch the display from our north webcam.

“We have been delighted with the response we have received from the public about our webcams over the past year and have been thrilled by the number of people that have got in touch and been talking about them.

“We are pleased to be able to utilise them to enable the fireworks display to be enjoyed online and we are all very much looking forward to Saturday.”

Images from Seacroft’s webcams have developed a global following with viewers from as far afield as the United States, Australia and Canada tuning in.

Established in 1995 by Captain Roderick MacSween, the firm has been owned and operated by the founder’s daughter Jennifer Fraser and Michael Cowlam since 2004.

Synonymous with its location, Seacroft has built its reputation in the marine assurance and consultancy sphere – and has expanded its expertise to offer a range of services to clients with maritime interests worldwide.

Specialisms include marine assurance packages, OVID and CMID inspections, marine warranty work, rig move services, International Safety Management audits and dynamic positioning assurance as well as simulator training in ship handling and bridge team management and specialist recovery and rescue assurance services.

The four webcams set up from the firm’s C-listed building focus on Aberdeen Beach and Bay to the north, the harbour entrance and out to sea eastwards, across the harbour navigation channel to Girdleness in a Southerly direction and across the main harbour turning basin to the west of the building.

For further information visit www.seacroftmarine.com and click on ‘Webcams’ to see Seacroft’s view. The fireworks display will be visible from the north webcam.

Photo © Anna Dobos | Dreamstime.com ….123 http://www.dreamstime.com/fireworks-imagefree176819

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May 302014
 

By Bob Smith.Lerwick torpedo tubes by Fred Wilkinson

We wanner’t doon ti the beach
‘Twis jist the ither day
Waves they cam rollin in
An gulls war aat their play
.
Waves they are aa different
Some saftly lap the shore
Ither eens cum rushin in
Wi a crash an affa roar
.
Lis’nin ti the waves some say
Is a pastime aat is fine
Waves slowly creepin ower the sand
Can calm a troubl’t myn
.
Canute fair grew tired o flattery
Fowk said the sea he cwid command
The king set oot ti prove ‘em wrang
An pit his throne amang the sand
.
Gyaang back the mannie roared
Bit the  sea kept rollin in
Canute he proved ye canna rule
The sea or waves therein
Wis aat a pirate ship a spied?
A fyow leagues fae the beach
Wis’t Jack Sparra at the helm
Or yon Blackbeard Edward Teach?
.
Pirates o The Caribbean
His a swashbucklin touch
The Pirates o Nigg Bay
Na – maybe nae sae much
.
A hidna bin at the bottle
Or puffin on “the weed”
Wis the skull an crossbones
On it’s wye ti Peterheid?
.
Crashin waves they brocht me back
An ti reality a took a tig
‘Twis ony a ile supply boatie
On it’s wye oot ti a rig
.
.
.
.
©Bob Smith “The Poetry Mannie” 2014
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Apr 042014
 

Blackdog Mar14 by Suzanne Kelly (8)By Suzanne Kelly.

While more southerly parts of the UK are currently worrying about Sahara sandstorms, Aberdeenshire has a nice long-running, ongoing mess at Blackdog.
The small community and its scenic beach were, some say, ill-used.

A landfill site, industrial area, marine pollution from offshore all contribute to the current status of a sandy beach which could have been a small paradise.

Reports were written about leaching pollutants, landfill leakages, hydrocarbons and pollutants from naphthalene to benzene which were all detected, and mitigation works undertaken after political wringing of hands.

But is all really well at Blackdog? Not so much.

Aberdeenshire produced and commissioned various reports on what was in the landfill, what was seeping into the beach, and what could be done about it.  Most of these reports can be found on the council’s website – although you’ll find that they don’t allow you to download such reports readily.

Some reports from c. 2009 recommend three or so years’ worth of further pollution monitoring. Aberdeen Voice will be looking into what the shire is doing, if anything, to ensure a full and proper beach clean-up is done.

Blackdog Mar14 by Suzanne Kelly (3)The photos taken on Saturday 29 March show what the area looks like at present, and it’s not exactly enticing.

Sea foam can be discoloured and extremely foamy and/or iridescent; often these types of foamy conditions are simply explained as naturally caused by algae blooms and dead organic matter.

But the real question in such cases is what causes the blooms and what kills phytoplankton and other sea life.

When it comes to the Blackdog area, perhaps the cause is hydrocarbons and other substances from landfill.

Blackdog Mar14 by Suzanne Kelly (7)

No doubt the shire’s environmental team are investigating; updates will follow.

When the area was photographed on Saturday 29 March, there were hardly any signs of wildlife on the shore and dune area. How clean and safe is this beach?

As well as discomforting mounds of foam in browns, greys and greens washing up on the shoreline, there was no shortage of plastic debris.

Blackdog Mar14 by Suzanne Kelly (5)Carrier bags were very much in evidence, a good reminder that plastics need to be disposed of in such a way that they can’t find themselves in the food chain for marine life or bird life.

Animals try to eat plastics, and many die from doing so.

Perhaps Blackdog is better environmentally speaking than it was in the recent past. Still, this area could and should have been a coastal wildlife haven and a recreation area.

It is a highly-polluted beach and artillery range with some worrying looking sea foam, rubbish, and oily streaks.

Ideas for mitigating measure are welcome.

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Jun 072012
 

By Fred Wilkinson.

The Olympic Flame will be carried through Aberdeen City on Monday 11th June, arriving in the City around 6.25pm at Peterculter, and making it’s way to the Castlegate via Milltimber, Cults, Mannofield, Holburn Street and Union Street.

Among the runners will be Scotland Roller Derby international and Aberdeen team captain, Carolyn Mackenzie, who will run with the flame around 6.33pm from a section of the A93 near Coronation Road to the Milltimber Village sign.

Having previously published articles on Europe’s fastest-growing sport, Aberdeen Voice were delighted to hear of Granite City Roller Girls being represented in the ceremony and eager to know how Carolyn was feeling about her involvement.

“I am absolutely thrilled and overjoyed and really looking forward to the event.” announced Carolyn proudly.

 “Part of the reason why my application was successful is the work I do with Aberdeen’s only Roller Derby league – Granite City Roller Girls. We are a nationally competitive league which was established in 2008 and we have been competing since 2010.”

Carolyn was originally nominated through the Diet Coke campaign by an ex-skater, Jenna Hunter, in recognition of her commitment to raising the profile of Roller Derby as a sport, and for her motivational role in the local team. In addition to the captaincy Carolyn also has the role of Head of Training for the team.

Carolyn explains:

“I am always looking for ways to put power into the team and try my best to inspire others to achieve their full potential. I’m forever scouting the internet, watching national and international teams and watching the regional play offs in USA online to keep up to date with the newest strategies.

“I’m also forever trying to persuade coaches from other successful leagues to train with us and trying my best to attend boot camps. On top of this I like to look up to other established full contact sports to see why they have become so successful and trying to do the same for our team and Roller Derby .”

In recognition of her hard work and commitment, Carolyn was one of two Aberdeen skaters selected to compete as part of Team Scotland at the inaugural Roller Derby World Cup in Toronto last December where the Scots finished 11 out of 13.

Carolyn commented:

“The World Cup was an eye-opener as some of the girls who were competing on the USA team have been skating longer than I have been alive! We also beat Brazil and Argentina to secure 11th place, something many Scottish teams can’t boast”

Carolyn will not be alone as she takes her turn carrying the Olympic flame on Monday. Fellow Roller girls are understandably proud of Carolyn’s achievements and are excited at the prospect of cheering her on along the route.

Team-mate  Kirsten Reid told Aberdeen Voice:

“Granite City Roller Girls are immensely proud of Carolyn, one of the privileged to have been selected in this once in a lifetime experience of carrying the Olympic Torch.

“Carolyn is an inspiration to all her family and friends with the achievements she has made in the last year. With all the hard work and dedication to her sport, this is a lovely way for Carolyn to be rewarded. Well Done Carolyn, carry that torch with Pride, you deserve it and we love you.”

Carolyn added:

“A lot of them are coming to line the streets to watch my run which is pretty emotional. We are a tight-knit group, and the team has gone though such a tough time so far in 2012 that it’s so nice to have something positive to do.

“Everyone is really happy for me. Some lucky souls are away on holiday at the time and will be watching me from Spain and USA.”

It has indeed been a tough few months for Roller Derby in Aberdeen. At the moment, GRCG  have no venue locally to compete.

They were housed at the Beach Leisure Centre for over a year, and hosted many national leagues there, competing with teams from as far afield as Leicester.

The first ever Scottish Tournament was held at the BLC back in 2010. However, early this year the BLC refurbished its flooring, and despite no damage having been caused by the skaters, they were informed that we could no longer use the venue.

Having explored many alternatives including schools, colleges and Aberdeen Sports Village, GCRG are still trying desperately to secure a suitable venue in order to continue developing the local league and the sport in general. Carolyn fears that the situation could have a profoundly negative impact on the future of the sport locally.

“The members and volunteers of Granite City Roller Girls have built this sport up from nothing, and being a relatively new and misunderstood sport we have struggled to reach the level that we are at today.

“Roller Derby is a recognised sport and follows rules and infrastructure like any other sport. There are rumours that our governing body the Womens’ Flat Track Derby Association will be creating a European League in the very near future and our aim is to be able to one day compete in it.

“Without the experience that competitive play brings (and the funding that spectator fees generate) there is a very real possibility that the momentum behind the team will cease and the game will keep rolling forward without us. “

Roller Derby is played on an oval track, with a 10 ft clearance zone around it. Adding areas for spectators and team benches the space required for Roller Derby is the equivalent of a double sports hall – 8 badminton courts – 1221m2- circa.13,000 sq.ft.

The existence and availability of such spaces is only part of the problem faced by GCRG, as Carolyn  explained:

“We have been making enquiries into warehouse spaces around Aberdeen, but with Aberdeen being the Oil and Gas Capital of Europe, these spaces all come with a price, and a not-for-profit organisation like ours just cannot compete with Multi-National Companies.

 “Our dream is to have such a space though and we believe it is possible.

“Apart from a warehouse, any venue with wooden or concrete flooring of this size will be suitable. I know there are some schools that have sizeable halls but whether they are as big as we require is a different story.

“As members of Aberdeen Sports Council we have been given some excellent advice on approaching potential new venues which includes talking to schools which is something we are very keen to do.”

If any one has any leads or knows of some way they can help they can contact carolynmackenzie@hotmail.com or use the  www.granitecityrollergirls.org contact form.

Footnote:

Roller Derby is a full contact sport played on quad roller skates – predominantly by women. It is played on an oval track, each team can have 5 players on track at any given time – 4 blockers and 1 jammer.

The jammer wears a star on her head and her role is to score points by passing each blockers hips. The blockers role is to prevent the other team scoring points by physically blocking the jammer and also to assist her own jammer in scoring points by blocking the opposing blockers. It’s one of the few games where offence and defence are played simultaneously.

More about Roller Derby here.

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May 312012
 

Voice’s Old Susannah comments on current events and enlightens us with definitions of some tricky terms with a locally topical taste. By Suzanne Kelly.

Result!  I am sure we have all been dancing in the streets as our benevolent UK coalition Government has decided NOT to introduce a tax on heated Cornish Pasties!  What a relief!  I feel much better now about the Government writing off millions of pounds in tax owed by Vodaphone (and others).  You can’t say the ConDems didn’t look after us.

And here in Aberdeen, the P&J have launched a fantastic survey proving beyond any doubt that people still want the web at all costs (well, £140 million at a minimum).

We were blitzed by hugely expensive print and radio advertising saying the web will improve our lives, make us rich, and give us thousands of permanent jobs.

We were asked to pity poor Tom Smith (of ACSEF, City Gardens Trust, etc. etc.) who the press said had been the victim of harassment and illegal spying in the run-up to the referendum.  We were not allowed to examine the voting records for evidence of potential fraud (even after people joked/boasted about selling votes) – but the referendum should be obeyed at all costs.

We don’t have the actual visuals showing what the web will look like when the ramps’ security features are up – but don’t let that worry you.  We don’t have either a business plan, or architectural plans, and we can’t afford it – but let’s just go ahead anyway, as that will make Sir Ian happy.

Of course Labour always said they did not want a referendum and they pointed out it is not legally binding.  Labour also said that if elected they would scrap the CGP – and miraculously they got elected.

Old Susannah would like to end any ambiguity regarding issues on which public opinion matters:

Public opinion does not matter on: Loirston Loch, cuts to services for the elderly or specially abled, school closures, policing, street cleaning, community centre management, programmes for young people; Tullos Hill and its deer; common good land; Redmoss green spaces; grounds of Cove Bay FC; Don Crossings and Union Terrace Gardens improvement.

Public opinion matters on:  Putting a granite web over Union Terrace Gardens and chopping down its trees

I hope that helps.

Aside from Poor Mr Milne having problems with his fans revolting and Portlethen trash accumulation, the sun shone, and people in their hundreds flocked to the FUN Beach, in order to leave litter, barbeque grilles, paddling pools and rubbish in the sand.

Old Susannah asked a guy to dispose of his empty redbull can the other day; all I can say is at least he didn’t curse me out and just ignored me instead.  Here’s to the people who join the organised beach cleans, and to the people who keep places like Torrymelinos clean on their own.

Now that we’re back to our usual weather, it’s time to get on with a look at Aberdeen City Council’s internet pages and its A-Z list of services.  Visiting the Aberdeen City Council website and trying to find a service?  You can easily look up any information you want alphabetically.

Old Susannah takes a romp through the city’s website listings and brings you highlights :-

A is for ‘3Rs’  – (NB: I make ‘3’ starting with a ‘T’. But let’s not split hairs). This great 3R scheme sees the city doing yet more PPI-type deals in which private companies perform a service or build something (like a school) and lease it back to the City for massive sums of money.  It’s as if I sold you my flat for a fraction of its value, paid you to fix it up for me, and then paid you to rent it back to me for 10 times its value.  Bargain!

Most of the rest of the UK has moved away from this disastrous concept (invented in part by our dear ex-Treasurer, ex-PM Gordon Brown in order to keep debts off the books and make the financial picture look rosy).  But here in the Deen, we’re still embracing it, with our ex-Lord Provost seemingly quite proud of his services to the 3Rs (3Rs stands for Readin’ Ritin’ and ‘Rhithmatic – to use the spelling taught in the new PPI outsourced schools).

B is for Bats – Normally you might expect a city council proud of its environment to tell you that bats are a unique and endangered species it is proud to have within its city limits, and that bats are protected by EU as well as national laws.  But the A-Z tells you nothing of the kind.  It tells you about pest control, and how much the city wants for getting rid of all sorts of critters:-

  • Insects £56 + VAT
  • Rodents [Domestic] £78.50 + VAT per course of treatment
  • Rodents [Commercial] £56 + VAT per visit
  • Bed bugs £74.50 + VAT per visit.

I suppose the difference between domestic and commercial rodents are whether or not they have ACSEF membership.

Of all the city’s money-making, nickel-and dime schemes, this one seems to be both expensive and extensively recommended, as you will see.

Aberdeen seems happy enough to scare and scatter bats in Union Terrace Gardens by allowing HMT to throw massive fireworks displays at Hogmanay.  (What was wrong with the beach as a venue one wonders?)  Doubtless the rangers were consulted and saw nothing wrong with lighting fireworks over UTG.

Then again they are happy to plunk a 21,000 seat stadium in an SAC at Loirston, and happily arranged for the eradication of our pesky deer.  So what if bats, the peregrines,now ‘discouraged’ from their usual roost at Triple Kirks by Mr Milne, and other animals living in the park were exposed to fireworks?

We might be about the only town centre with this mix of animals anywhere in Europe, but we’ve got webs and offices to build, so let’s use subtle tactics like fireworks to get rid of our annoying wildlife. Again, using any of the tons of empty offices buildings isn’t nearly as important as ensuring construction companies can make lots of dosh.  So – mind the bedbugs.

Sadly, the council omitted to say how much it charges to kill your deer.

C is for Civic Receptions – like the one we just held for the outgoing Provost.  I never did get my invitation to this £4,000 tradition, which could not possibly have been cut back on.  Then again, me and another independent candidate never got our passes for the vote count.

C is also for Cat – the link on the City’s website will for some strange reason take you back to the page where you can get pest control to get rid of your rodents.  Hopefully our more bloodthirstier council personnel haven’t started exterminating cats just yet.  (I can’t wait to get to ‘R’ to see if there is a ‘rats’ listing – but it looks so far like it is politically correct to say ‘rodent’, not ‘rat’).  Note ‘C’ is also for ‘complaint’ – but doubtless no one needs to complain to the city about anything.

D is for Debt Counselling – Old Susannah is not sure she’d take financial advice from a city which hadn’t known it was over £50,000,000 in debt some years back, which had written off £11 million in bad debts in the recent past, and was cutting back on essentials but buying portraits and sending Lord Provosts off to Japan.

However, if you are a football club owner and builder who needs to know how to stop losing money when your team plays or needs help shifting ‘luxury’ flats – do feel free to use this service.  D is also for ‘dog’ and ‘dog fouling’ – at least the ‘dog’ link didn’t take me to the pest control site again.  As to dog fouling – as I stay in Torry, I really have no idea what this means.

E is for Earwig – yes you guessed it – which takes you back to the vermin control pricelist.  Quite frankly, I would probably look in the yellow pages before I went to the City’s site for info on earwigs.  Speaking of earwigging, Old Susannah is hearing some very interesting stories emerging from LibDem HQ.  Can the Liberals lose any more members?  Maybe it can.

E is also for Environment – Were you expecting info on air pollution, the polluted burn at East Tullos (more on that next week), EU environmental projects and protection placed on animals?  Well, the link for ‘environment’ takes you to:

And what does it say about conservation areas?  “Conservation areas are designated by the planning authority as being areas of special architectural or historical interest.” – so it’s only the build environment we seem to be concerned with at the council.  That would explain quite a lot.

F is for Freedom of Information – yes, the council are proud to explain what your rights are, and what the law says.  I cannot tell you how swiftly, accurately, completely and transparently all of my FOI requests have been answered.  But do watch this space.  I am expecting some more info soon – hopefully sooner than my request about property sold to Milne-related companies and contracts these companies also won from the city.

That only took a  year and the Information Commissioner’s involvement.  Sadly, the FOI team at the city were found to be in the wrong on five different counts on that one.  Yes, F is also for five.  F is also for ‘feral cats’.  Yes, you have guessed correctly – the council’s website  for ‘feral cats’ takes you back to the pest & vermin control site.

There must be an awful lot of killing planned for this town.  Yes, F is also for fleas, flies and foxes – all of course linking to the vermin control page.

G is for ‘Green Space Audit – believe it or not, green spaces are open, usually green (! really!) spaces  in and around city centres.  We have a strategy.  One which is supposed to …

“…  provide attractive and appealing places throughout the city, particularly in those areas identified by the open space audit as low in quality. However within a context of serious financial constraint, it promotes innovative and radical ways of maintaining and managing these open spaces.”

Presumably within our serious financial constraint to manage our green heritage there is a fair amount of room for turning meadows into barren rocky hills,but no doubt Tullos will be tree-covered soon, even if it is a few months since the gorse was largely destroyed, shooting deer (and lots of other things too by the sounds of it), and especially borrowing 90 million pounds to put a granite web over a valley, and turn its earth into a stadium, with seating from the destruction of ancient trees.  Yes, that’s quite a strategy.

Well, that’s enough alphabet for now.  I’m going to go celebrate with a Cornish pasty, heated as hot as I can make it.  Oh, and a new BrewDog prototype beer:  American Saison.  This delicious offering is made from leaves and berries (like the Cair No Mohr wines I adore).

Next week:  more of the city’s website alphabet – and some head-scratching over the city’s wiping £26 million of debt off for the AECC.  Hmmm.

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Feb 232012
 

Next Friday (March 2nd) we will know the fate of Union Terrace Gardens. The results of the public referendum will be announced then. Will there be wild celebrations in the park itself or will the champagne corks be popping in the boardrooms? writes Mike Shepherd.

The Importance of Union Terrace Gardens 

I agree with the comment that in your mental map of Aberdeen, Union Terrace Gardens is at the centre of it. This observation gets right to the core of the controversy.
I’ve heard Sir Ian Wood dismiss the idea of building a civic square on the St Nicholas site. As far as he is concerned the Denburn is the heart of Aberdeen, and that’s where the civic square / garden should go.

The fate of our park will be highly symbolic for the future of Aberdeen city centre. If you agree to retain the Gardens, it’s a statement that heritage matters in the city centre and there is a will to maintain the historical nature of down-town Aberdeen.

On the other hand by agreeing to build a modern park and structure, this would probably give the green light to extensive development of the city centre. As the TIF business report for the City Garden Project states, the scheme could stimulate the establishment of a central business district and the accelerated construction of city centre office blocks.

The alternative is so much more attractive. With Jimmy Milne’s business fund we could sympathetically restore Union Terrace Gardens at a fraction of the cost. It would be a marker for preserving our city centre heritage.

The Erosion of the Character of the Granite City

My background is geology and I grew up near Rubislaw Quarry.  The geology of Scotland varies so much, it means that each town and city has its own distinctive building stone. This creates a strong sense of place and belonging unique to each part of Scotland.

I was born in Aberdeen and I love the granite buildings with a passion. It breaks my heart when one is pulled down and a concrete and glass box of no redeeming character is put in its place. I would agree with the sentiment expressed in the old Aberdeen City Plan (very tellingly omitted from the new plan that has just been approved):

“The standard of design in new development has been raised as a widespread cause for concern during the preparation of this Local Plan. This is one reason why new development can raise so much hostility amongst the public and this situation must change. The City has such a rich and relatively intact heritage of older buildings that shortcomings of newer ones are all the more obvious. It is necessary to encourage better design.”

The loss of Union Terrace Gardens could be the start of Aberdeen losing its special character as the Granite City. More and more old buildings may be lost, until the city starts to look like everywhere else. This would sadden me immensely.

A Test for Local Democracy

I also see the Union Terrace Gardens as a test case for local democracy. Despite the public referendum, local democracy has failed miserably on the issue. The development of Union Terrace Gardens was imposed on the public from the start with no serious attempt to build consensus. A so-called public consultation was run essentially as a marketing exercise, and when it failed to convince the Aberdeen public, it was conveniently ignored.

The recently held ‘public consultation’ on the design is remarkable in that the results were not even made public. Even the referendum has been lop-sided, with a massive public relations exercise on one side combined with a local press willing to publish anything it gets. There have been some new lows in recent days (see Richard Pelling’s article on the subject).

Will the public assert themselves against the machine? I hope and trust they will. If not, expect much more of the same.

A Waste of Public Money

Recently I received an email from the managing director of an oil service company in Aberdeen. He described the idea of using Central Government funds for the City Garden Project as a terrible waste of investment and infrastructure money. His opinion is that the city centre development will not affect the decision by oil companies and personnel to move to Aberdeen or otherwise.

“Companies invest in Aberdeen because of the fantastic talent pool, the high standard of living, the stable fiscal regime (assuming Osborne doesn’t have any more surprises), the access to West Africa and other merging oil & gas regions which are increasingly supported from Aberdeen.”

I agree. What is calamitous is that if Aberdeen Council was going to apply for TIF funding, they could have found much better projects than Sir Ian Wood’s city garden. How about these:

a. Revamping the Beach area

b. De-bottlenecking Aberdeen’s congested roads

c. Building the AREG renewable energy centre

 – And just about any other project you could think of.

If the City Garden Project goes ahead, we will have replaced a park with a park. Is this what we should be doing with public investment money in Aberdeen? Most certainly not.

If you agree with any of this and you haven’t voted yet; vote Retain Union Terrace Gardens (the option that does not destroy our Granite City).

Oct 282011
 

A new music event in Aberdeen aims to rock up support for Aberdeen Royal Infirmary after saving the life of the father of a local musician. With thanks to Eoin Smith.

Jimstock, a one-day music festival held in Aberdeen’s Beach Ballroom on the 5th of November, is the brainchild of well-known local musician Jamie Rodden, 27.
With the help of a cast of Aberdeen’s most popular bands and singers, he aims to rake in cash for the Aberdeen Royal Infirmary departments that helped his dad Jim Rodden, 55, recover from heart surgery earlier this year.

Jamie states:

“Dad ended up staying in Wards 19, 20 and 21, and struck up a real relationship with the staff there. They got him through a very difficult time. The proceeds from the event will go to those wards as a thank you gesture.”

What medics initially thought was a muscle injury turned out to be the start of a terrifying period for the family. Jim, himself a stalwart of the local music scene, who runs the Cellar 35 Open Mic night, said:

“I was complaining of pain for weeks, but the doctor had put it down to muscular pain. One night it got so awful; my chest was thumping, and at one point I felt as though I was nailed to the floor. I thought to myself, ‘This is it.’ I thought I was going to die.”

Jim was admitted to hospital after his heart attack in May and underwent gruelling triple bypass surgery. A further operation was needed when Jim suffered another attack six weeks later.

The dad-of-three said:

 “I met a tremendous group of people at the hospital who made my time there much easier.  I’m still friends with many of them.”

The local community has rallied round in support of Jimstock, with Aberdeen City Council and Grampian Police lending their support alongside other Aberdeen organisations.

Local music blog – Hercules Moments is covering Jimstock, while Cinergi – the Aberdeen University Film-Making Society – plans to produce a documentary of the event, which will be screened in the Belmont Cinema in early 2012.

But the crux of Jimstock is the live music. Jamie and his own band Shy James will be taking to the stage alongside Jim and a host of other top local talent including Stanley, country rocker Amy Sawers, The Lorelei and The Tijuana Sun.

Jamie added:

“We have a special guest headliner for the show – a band who are making a great name for themselves at the moment – but I won’t reveal who they are until the Monday before the event. The support I’ve had so far has been fantastic, and I am truly grateful to everyone involved.”

Tickets for Jimstock cost £15 and are available from One Up,Belmont Street,Aberdeen.

More information can be found at www.facebook.com/jimstock2011