Jun 022016

90th-party2With thanks to Esther Green, Senior Account Executive, Tricker PR.

A band of volunteers from the village of Ballater have organised a Royal knees up in the form of the ‘Happy Birthday Ma’am’ street party to celebrate the monarch’s milestone birthday on Saturday, June 11.

Being located in the heart of Royal Deeside, organisers will use the Queen’s 90th birthday to continue to build up the community spirit which has been evident in the village since it was affected by flooding last December.

Balmoral Castle remains a favourite summer retreat for the Royal Family, and Ballater is often referred to as the ‘Royal Warrant Town’, due to the large number of businesses that hold the prestigious mark of recognition to those who supply goods or services to the Households of HM The Queen, HRH The Duke of Edinburgh or HRH The Prince of Wales.

Many of these businesses have already reopened or are on track to reopen in the summer, and the ‘Happy Birthday Ma’am’ street party is one in a number of events planned to welcome tourists back to the picturesque village.

Both visitors and residents are invited to join in with the celebrations which will see the whole community come together. The free event takes place from 2-11pm on Saturday 11 June at the Churchyard Green in Ballater and will feature live music, a bouncy castle, old-fashioned games, and family karaoke. Funds raised from donations made on the day will go towards those affected by flooding.

In honour of the momentous occasion, Ballater resident Lorraine Barr is encouraging people to sponsor a tree in what will be known as ‘The Queen’s Ballater Wood’. Lorraine and those involved wish to leave a legacy which will remind others of the spirit of community in Ballater. The wooded area will feature 90 trees of different varieties known to be favourites of Her Majesty The Queen.

Rev David Barr, who is helping to organise the Queen’s birthday street party, says that the event is giving those affected by floods something positive to focus on.

He says,

“All of the volunteers involved in the planning of the street party were affected by the floods in some way. We all really wanted to give something back to the community which allowed everyone to get together and celebrate what a fantastic place Ballater is. Visitors are more than welcome to join in the celebrations with us on the day, we’re all keen to show people how far we’ve come as a village and that Ballater is on its way back to its full glory.

“The Royal family took a great interest in Ballater after the flooding and we received daily encouragement through telephone calls from the palace. It meant a great deal to us all, so the street party is our way of saying thank you to the Queen and also to everyone who reached out to us with messages of support, help and donations.

“The support has been absolutely phenomenal and for that we are forever grateful. From individuals to companies, we wouldn’t be where we are today if it wasn’t for the general public.

“The whole situation has definitely brought us all closer together, we’re such a tight knit community and everyone is helping to spread the word that Ballater is still open for business. It’s such a great place to visit, I’m very much looking forward to celebrating with other residents and visitors from far and wide on June 11.”

Richard Watts of Ballater Business Association says,

“There’s been a real buzz in the village in the run up to the Queen’s birthday street party. Local businesses have been getting involved by donating goods and money towards the event, whilst all the volunteers involved have done a brilliant job at organising the ‘Happy Birthday Ma’am’ street party.

 “It’s so inspiring to see how far Ballater has come as a village and as a community. This will be very apparent during the street party and we hope that visitors join us in celebrating in the Queen’s birthday and how far Ballater has come in 2016.”

The ‘Happy Birthday Ma’am’ street party takes place from 2-11pm at the Churchyard Green in Ballater. Those attending are encouraged to bring their own picnic.

For more information about the street party then contact Rev. David Barr on revdavidbarr@btinternet.com. If you would like to know more about how to sponsor a tree in ‘The Queen’s Ballater Wood’ then contact Lorraine Barr on 01339 756111.

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Sep 282015

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

Stonehaven Fireballs - credit pic Paul Mitchell

Stonehaven Fireballs – Photo credit: Paul Mitchell

Legendary Scottish pop group Deacon Blue will headline Stonehaven’s Open Air in the Square this Hogmanay.
But those travelling to the event won’t need a ship called Dignity to see the top pop act: the Aberdeen Altens Hotel has unveiled an exclusive travel and accommodation package to allow revellers to party the night away without any stress.

The Stonehaven Package includes a delicious three-course buffet meal, transport to and from Stonehaven, entry into the event, and traditional stovies on return.

Tickets are available from just £159.00 per person, for a two-night stay arriving on December 30 or 31.

With additional acts still to be announced, Stonehaven’s Hogmanay celebrations are set to rival those of major cities, building upon previous years which have seen Simple Minds and the Human League visit the picturesque coastal town in the north east of Scotland.

The town will also once again host the iconic Fireballs Ceremony to bring in the bells, during which dozens of locals will take to the streets to swing homemade fireballs through the air in an amazing and unforgettable display.

Built from a wire cage attached to a chain and filled with combustible material, the swingers spin and twirl the flaming balls to ward off the evil spirits of the past year as they parade through the town.

Kris Manship, general manager of The Aberdeen Altens Hotel, says,

“Deacon Blue are undoubtedly one of Scotland’s greatest musical exports, so to have them playing at the Hogmanay celebrations in Stonehaven is a real coup.

“Fans will be travelling from all across the country to spend the night dancing to anthems like Dignity and Real Gone Kid, and witness the incredible spectacle of the fireballs, and as the official hotel partner we will be able to provide them with an easy way to attend on the night.

“Our Stonehaven Hogmanay packages have been extremely popular in recent years, with many guests commenting that it takes all the pressure out of the evening, allowing them to relax and have fun at New Year. We look forward to welcoming many more to The Aberdeen Altens Hotel this year.”

For those wishing to spend an evening in the city itself, the Aberdeen Altens Hotel will also offer a special package for a New Year’s Gala Hogmanay Ball. Guests will be able to dance the night away to the incredible sounds of Velvet Five, as well as enjoying a welcome drink on arrival, sumptuous five course meal and traditional stovies served throughout the night. At just £90.00 per guest (or from £125.00 including bed and breakfast), it’s the perfect way to bring in the New Year with friends.

To book your Hogmanay celebrations at the Aberdeen Altens Hotel, call 0871 376 9002 or email aberdeenaltenschristmas@thehotelcollection.co.uk

For more information, visit http://www.thehotelcollection.co.uk/hotels/aberdeen-altens-hotel/christmas-new-year/new-years-celebration/

The Aberdeen Altens Hotel is part of The Hotel Collection, which has two other venues in the city – The Aberdeen Skyway Hotel and The Caledonian Hotel. There are 446 bedrooms across the three venues, and each has conferencing and banqueting facilities. The Aberdeen Altens Hotel also has a health and leisure club. Further information is available at www.thehotelcollection.co.uk/aberdeen

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Sep 122014

Policing in Britain is changing, and not for the better. Almost every newspaper seems to carry a new tale of corruption, custody death, wrongful arrest, over-policing, wrongful stop and search, ignoring reports of crimes, criminalising young children and/or institutionalised racism within the police are some of the worrying developments. When police are caught in misdeeds, sometimes of enormous magnitude, there seems to be immunity – they are the police after all.

The suggestion is not that all police are corrupt. The questions that need to be addressed include the increased powers the police have been given, often under the sweeping broad brush of ‘preventing terrorism’, how they are doing their job, and what the scope of investigation should be. Additionally, Police Scotland seems to be granting itself the right to carry guns on routine patrols.

This has happened in the Highlands without recourse to elected officials and institutions, let alone seeking a mandate from the people who are largely against this change. There are far too many problems for them to go unanswered or the situation to go unchecked. ‘Protect and Serve’ is becoming a thing of the past.  We need to talk about the police. By Suzanne Kelly.

UTG event entry securityIntroduction.

This series will look at some recent police scandals, both high and low

Police decisions, police powers (and the misuse of same), institutionalised racism, custody, cover-ups and illegal activities will be addressed.

This first in the series will look at what should have been a simple, brief (less than a few hours in duration) bright and breezy event in Aberdeen’s Union Terrace Gardens: the Queen’s Baton Commonwealth function.

This is on the one hand a very minor chapter in the problems we have with the police. On the other hand, it illustrates what some of the underlying serious issues are.

A walk in the park?

On 30th June 2014 Aberdeen was filled with police and private security. If you tried to go about your lawful business on Union Terrace such as going into your hotel or a restaurant, you were prevented from doing so before your ID and your story was checked out by private security or police. High steel partitions blocked anyone from looking into Union Terrace Gardens.

If you wanted to see into the gardens, you may as well have tried to look over the Berlin Wall. If you wanted to go in the gardens – which are common good land, owned by the people and merely managed by the city on the day? If you had a pet, a drink, or heaven forbid a plastic folding chair, you would not even have been allowed to queue in the serpentine crowd barrier maze at the only entrance that hadn’t been blocked off.

I witnessed people turning away in disgust and disappointment. What was going on?

This level of security was laid on to protect the Queen’s baton, a former commonwealth winner, some musicians and local dancers for a two hour concert. Some would say this was slight overkill. On another level, this was a display of police power over the law abiding individual, a removal of basic rights without sufficient cause, and an expenditure that was far from justified.

Fun for all the Family?

Aberdeen City  Council’s press announcement started out cheerfully enough:

“An exciting programme of dance, music and song will showcase the cultural vibrancy of Aberdeen as the Queen’s Baton Relay’s journey across the city culminates with an end-of-day celebration in Union Terrace Gardens, on Monday 30 June.” http://www.aberdeencity.gov.uk/CouncilNews/ci_cns/pr_QBReveningcelebration_250614.asp

The press release soon gets ‘round to the details of what  you are going to give up, like it or not, for this brief event and other concurrent events such as an international market and a parade or two (my comments in square brackets):

“To support the safe management and delivery of this event, a secure event arena will be constructed in and around Union Terrace Gardens from Sunday 29 June. On Sunday [29 June] the east side footway on Union Terrace will be closed to pedestrians to allow the construction of temporary fencing to ensure public safety, to protect the balustrade surrounding the gardens and to create a corridor for emergency services.  

[This temporary fencing/secure arena was a steel curtain over 6’ high – cost:  unknown at present. Why does a little local event need a secure arena?  In the event, it was clear that it didn’t. The city made a meal out of claims the balustrades around the park are unsafe during a referendum on building a horrendous giant, purposeless granite ‘web’ over the gardens. Thankfully this £140 million pound plan eventually met its match. The city finds the balustrades dangerous when it suits them; they are otherwise unguarded, repair specifics remain unknown, and the city happily allows market stalls in the arches directly under the deadly balustrades.]

“…In the interests of public safety, the pavement on Union Terrace will be available for through foot traffic only – no viewing will be allowed from this area. [First of all this was untrue:  No one was allowed to walk down Union Terrace:  it was completely shut off for free access.  I witnessed people being asked to explain why they wanted to walk down this hotel and restaurant lined street. It had been turned into an ‘overflow area’ – which proved to be wholly unneeded. ]

“Union Terrace Gardens will be closed to the public on Monday 30 June to allow preparation work including the construction of a stage. It will re-open at 5pm. [it is a large park; there would have been every chance to have people use the park, but avoid the stage-construction area. But that is far from the worst unnecessary use of muscle in this poorly managed event].

“To ensure public safety the following temporary road closures will be in place [a host of road closures were done for some parades on Union Street lasting a few hours, the baton ‘celebration’ caused closures spanning at least two days for an event which lasted a few hours, and for a market.  How public safety would have been jeopardised is unclear.  What is clear is that ‘to ensure public safety’ is now a stock phrase used whenever the police want carte blanche to carry out any operations, big or small.]

“The public is advised that:

  • there will be no disabled parking in the gardens but disabled spaces will be available at the Denburn car park on a first come, first served basis; [it is just as well the event was so very poorly attended]
  • there will be a disabled viewing area near the front of the stage on a first come, first served basis;
  • both auditoriums in the gardens and on Union Terrace are standing only – no chairs or picnic style furniture will be allowed; [a great boon to the infirm; did the police fear a plastic chair fight? Was the performance of a local choir going to be so inflammatory that rioting would break out?]
  • No animals including dogs except guide dogs will be allowed in Union Terrace Gardens or on Union Terrace during the event; [People were turned away who had dogs with them, they hadn’t seen the city’s press release and sought to use the gardens as per normal. They were in violation of now law, but this arbitrary whim stopped them exercising their rights.  I do like this phrase though ‘no animals including dogs’:  one might think it was given that ‘no animals’ included dogs.  One might also wonder if someone had planned to take their Shetland pony, cats or goldfish.]
  • the public drinking byelaw in Scotland has not been relaxed for the purposes of this outdoor, family event so no alcohol will be permitted within the event arena;
  • keep your belongings safe and close to you and ensure handbags are fastened securely;
  • the weather is changeable so remember to wear appropriate clothing; [for those Aberdonians who need nannying for a two hour event in the city centre]
  • there are no catering facilities at the evening celebration; [off topic, but this was hardly festive, was it?]
  • Aberdeen City Council, Police Scotland and event stewards reserve the right to refuse entry to anyone deemed unfit to participate safely in the event. [no explanations needed; the police and private stewards could have refused anyone entry for any reason at will.]”

The business of security.

It would seem these days that no event in Aberdeen can take place without crowd barriers, private security stewards and a host of police on foot, in cars and vans, and on horseback – and a stack of rules. It is the same in some other cities as well, but this over-policing is very much an Aberdeen phenomenon.

UTG security wallIt is no surprise that the International Festivals for literature, film and performing arts thrive in Edinburgh, not Aberdeen: you would be hard put to have our police allow swarms of tourists to wander vast areas, drink at tables outside pubs and restaurants in busy streets, crowd small public squares and in general allow crowds to freely move.

Local residents may remember the enjoyable Jubilee Tea Party (thanks to the Bothwell family) in Union Terrace

There was a good deal of rain, but lots of music, food and fun: over 3,000 people attended – more than this brief event by all accounts, as the Union Terrace overflow area went virtually unused. There have been other recent events that went off smoothly without as much security.

What entities were responsible for agreeing to the level of security hired in, the police man-hours approved, the steel barrier erected the night before, the decision to turn Union Terrace into an overflow area for 8000 people? Who approve the budget, and how much was actually spent?

One thing is certain, whether on policing, police overtime, and/or private security steward costs:  some stakeholders must have made a fair bit of money for this overly-secured event.

Private security firms are gaining more and more foothold in the public policing sector – running prisons, providing security, escorting prisoners to trial and running young offenders homes: there are millions to be made in the larger arena of private security, and the outcomes are often not good ones. More on that in a future piece.

Another Freedom of Information Failure.

Not a single entity involved in planning the baton event is willing to put its hands up and say how the security arrangements grew so gargantuan, how much of the taxpayer’s money was wasted, how it was agreed to temporarily take away our rights to go about our business and walk our streets or use our gardens.

The City Council, Police Scotland, and the Games organisers were all asked to supply their answers to straightforward questions about budget, numbers of police and private security used, how the private firm was chosen, and so on. Not one of these entities is letting the requested information out.

What correspondence took place to allow this event to be blown out of all proportion?  Aberdeen City Council at present finds it far too wide a question to answer. They were asked questions in mid-July, and there has been no movement from their 24 July position:-

“Under our duty to advise and assist, we would like to take this opportunity to advise you that the following question will likely be refused by ACC under Section 12 – Excessive Cost of Compliance  – of the FOISA, as the relevant services are concerned that the scope of this question would likely exceed the £600 limit.”   (Email from ACC to S Kelly)

The City has recently admitted in a separate FOI request that it has NO document management policy in place, despite there being a statutory duty to have one. Lack of suitable procedure in place notwithstanding, precisely  how a half-day event would have generated so much paperwork that in this electronic age it is not possible to supply the relevant correspondence for less than £600 is hard to understand.

Still, my group and I saw at least 20 police of different ranks, several cars and vans, and at least 20 private security guards. If the lowest-paid police officer is on £ 23,493 pa , the lowest-band for sergeants is £ 36,885 (£768/week), and the lowest pay for an inspector is £ 47,256 (£984/week), we can do some estimations. If that lowest paid officer was on an hourly rate it would be c. £13.97 (£489/week).

Even assuming no overtime rate was paid, then if 20 police spent say 2 hours before the event, 2 hours at the actual event, and one hour after the event (and that’s being rather conservative), then 20 officers at £13.97 per hour for 5 hours equates to  £1397 in salary.

If they had one sergeant and one inspector, at 5 hours that would be £105 for the sergeant and £140 for the inspector.   This minimum total salary figure would then be £1642. The odds are that the real cost will be far, far higher for the police – once we’re finally told what it is.

The police were once forced to disclose that it cost the taxpayer thousands when Donald Trump cancelled a visit to Aberdeen:  the actual cost of police escort from the airport to a hotel or his Menie Estate therefore must be considerably more.  However, the police have never had to explain this further.  How the police manage to skirt many Freedom of Information Requests will be looked at in a future article in this series.

Aside from the cost, it is undeniable that police were milling about to ensure the safety of a stick and some performers from threats such as pet dogs and plastic chairs, while elsewhere in the city crimes go uninvestigated, and people are told ‘there is nothing we can do’ by police when it comes to investigating thefts. Something is wrong. We do need to talk about the police.

Attendance estimates? An 8,000 over-estimate

On the day, people were harassed for trying to get into restaurants and the hotel on Union Terrace. The police had set up an arbitrary no-go zone.

UTG security railings

This was, one has to assume, based on the bizarre projection (god knows made by whom) that some 10,000 people would want to listen to Giz Giz, and see the stick.

Apparently the gardens would close after hitting 2,000 attendees, and up to 8,000 people would be so eager with anticipation for this event that they would want to fit into the giant metal fence enclosure created on Union Terrace with a giant screen on which they could see that baton, or listen to those singers.

It would be interesting to know how those claiming their desire was ‘to ensure the public safety’ thought corralling up to 8,000 people in a giant outdoor wire pen with only one access point was a great idea, or that having only one entrance to the garden open was clever.

One might have thought that some of the dozens of under employed police and guards near HMT could have manned an extra entrance or two rather than standing around idly.

It would be interesting to know how much the giant screen [which Orwell would have shaken his head at] cost the taxpayer as well.

The group I was with on the perimeter of this circus peered down into that veritable cage, and didn’t see a single person. We asked one of the private stewards (who seemed as bemused as we were and agreed it was overstaffed as events go) about it; they had a counter in their hand.  When asked how many people had gone into the overflow area, by the time the event was more than half finished, the steward replied:  15.

Fifteen people in the overflow area; and all around it probably as many more were trying to exercise the freedoms the police had decided to take from them to stage this non-event.  Even those who enjoyed the event would have to admit this was a hugely over-policed, vastly overly regulated waste of resources, namely taxpayer money.

But it served its purpose.  Police Scotland had succeeded in:

*  demonstrating their absolute power over the legitimate rights of ordinary citizens trying to go about their normal, legal business;
*  overestimating greatly the crowd size and security needed – and getting the stakeholders (ACC, games organisers) to allow them to run the show, serving to increase their perceived power and importance;
*  making decisions  impacting on the public purse without the need to explain or justify their obvious overestimation of any possible rational risk assessment;
*  having a hand in recommending private security stewards which were vastly overstaffed on the day;
*  making those who did want to attend the event comply with unnecessary, draconian demands and ingraining obedience above freedoms;
*  having a  hand in unnecessary road closures and having their advice taken, seemingly without question by the local organisers;
*  exercising an apparent desire to take more control than necessary from the public, and having this go unquestioned.

Are the police seeking to get more and more control over our movements, or did they genuinely think that terrorists were going to come to Aberdeen to make a show of power at an event of nearly no significance? If so, what was the evidence?

If security was their one and only goal, which I am sure is the argument they would make, then you have to wonder about the wisdom of corralling people into enclosed spaces with only one access point.

If anything like 4,000 people had gone into the Union Terrace enclosure, and a problem had erupted, it would have resulted in serious injury from any panic as people sought to get out of the space:  this is a very basic safety observation, backed up by past events – and yet not one the police identified. Safety? To some it might seem more like exerting control for the sake of it.

As someone put it to me on the night, ‘they do take the jolly out of everything.’

This has been a brief look at excessive use of muscle and expenditure at our expense. In fact, some of it might seem comical in a way. The following articles in this series will seem far less so.

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

May 012014

Mayday2014The Annual Aberdeen Trades Union Council (ATUC) May Day March and Rally 2014 will take place on Saturday with its theme for this year to celebrate “solidarity across borders”.

In celebrating International Workers Day, the march and rally will welcome Trade Unionists, friends, families, community activists, community organisations and local politicians to join with ATUC in a family friendly march down the whole length of Union Street to demonstrate  opposition to austerity and to show solidarity across borders.

The 2014 May Day March and Rally, on Saturday 3 May 2014, will gather at Rubislaw Terrace Gardens, Aberdeen at 11am.

Organised by Aberdeen Trades Union Council (ATUC), it will march off at 11.30am down the full length of Union Street, to a Rally in the Castlegate at 12.15 where there will be a variety of speakers, including Ian Tasker from STUC and Janice Godrich PCS Union National President, as well as local politicians and community figures.

The march will be led, once again, by the Guarama Drummers who will bring plenty of rhythm, noise and cheer to the proceedings

Alan Robertson, President of the ATUC urged union members, their families and friends, and community activists to attend the march and rally in numbers.

He said:

“Once again marchers will be able to march the whole length of Union Street so it is really important that as many trades union and community activists as possible turn out.

“Please bring your banners, flags, pendants and signs to make the march and rally as colourful as possible.”

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Feb 042014

The Zombies, Animals & Friends, The Yardbirds, Maggie Bell and members of The Spencer Davis Group have embarked on a UK tour which includes a concert in Aberdeen on 15th February.

ZOMBIES_SOFA pic With this amazing line-up that had 37 hit records  in the UK charts for over 300 weeks you are guaranteed an unforgettable night.  Come and celebrate 50 years of Rhythm and Blues with the artists that shaped music for generations to come.

Ultimate Rhythm and Blues 50th Anniversary Tour

The Ultimate Rhythm and Blues 50th Anniversary Tour brings together a one time line up of British Invasion rock royalty.

The Zombies, Animals & Friends, The Yardbirds, Spencer Davis and Maggie Bell clock up an amazing 37 hit records between them and can boast over 300 weeks in the charts!

The Zombies, led by Rod Argent on keyboards and Colin Blunstone on vocals, scored US hits in the mid and late 1960s with ‘She’s Not There’, ‘Tell Her No’, and ‘Time of the Season’. Their 1968 album ‘Odessey and Oracle’ is ranked 80 on Rolling Stone’s list of 500 Greatest Albums of all Time.

Animals & Friends are exemplified by their signature song and transatlantic No.1 hit single, ‘The House of the Rising Sun’, as well as by hits such as ‘We Gotta Get Out of This Place’, ‘It’s My Life’, and ‘Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood’. The band balanced tough, rock-edged pop singles against rhythm and blues-oriented album material and were known in the US as part of the British Invasion, alongside the likes of The Beatles and The Rolling Stones.

YardbirdspicGraduating three of the great PhDs of rock guitar; Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck and Jimmy Page, The Yardbirds were the bridge between the tributary white R&B of early 1960s London, and the pastures of the fuzz-toned psychedelia and power-chorded heavy metal much later in the decade and throughout the 1970s.

The line-up on this tour sees Chris Dreja replaced by original guitarist, Top Topham due to health issues.

Completing the line-up is Maggie Bell  and Dave Berry has joined the package.

Maggie Bell is often referred to over her long career as ‘Britain’s Janis Joplin’ and known to millions as the voice of TV’s ‘Taggart’ theme, ‘No Mean City’.

So come along for an unforgettable night celebrating 50 years of hits with the artists that shaped music for generations to come.

Don’t miss this chance to hear the musical revolution of 1964.


Wednesday 5th: TUNBRIDGE WELLS, Assembly Hall Theatre,
Crescent Rd  Tunbridge Wells,Kent,TN1 2LU

7.30pm  £27.50   01892 530613

Thursday 6th: CHATHAM, The Central Theatre, Chatham:
170 High St, ME4 4AS

7.30pm   £27.50   £25  :01634 338338 boxoffice@medway.gov.uk

Friday 7th: NORTHAMPTON, The Royal & The Derngate,
Guildhall Road, Northampton, NN1 1DP  01604  624811


Saturday 8th: CANTERBURY, Marlowe Theatre,
The Friars  Canterbury CT1 2AS

7.30pm  £27.50  ( Marlowe friends £25)  01227 787787

Sunday 9th: SOUTHEND, Cliffs Pavillion,
Station Rd  Southend-on-Sea, Essex SS0 7RA

7.30pm £28.50  £26   01702 351135

Thursday 13th: PERTH, The Concert Hall, Perth
Mill St, PH1 5HZ  01738 621031

7.30pm  £29.50 no concessions

Friday 14th: GLASGOW, The Royal Concert Hall, Glasgow
2 Sauchiehall St, G2 3NY

7.30pm  £27.50  £25.50  0141 353 8000

Saturday 15th: ABERDEEN, The Music Hall,
Union St, AB10 1QS 01224 632080

7.30pm £26.oo/£28.50

Wednesday 19th: MANCHESTER, The Bridgewater Hall,
Lower Mosley St, Lancashire M2 3WS

7.30pm  £27.50  £25   0844 907 9000

Thursday 20th: SALISBURY, The City Hall,
Malthouse Ln  Salisbury, Wiltshire SP2 7TU 01722434434

            7.30pm  £27.50  £25 Online tickets + £1.50 B/F per ticket tickets@wiltshire.gov.uk

Friday 21st: PLYMOUTH, Plymouth Pavilions
Millbay Rd, PL1 3LF 0845 146 1460

 7.30pm    £27.50, £25 + £3 booking fee per ticket

Saturday 22nd: POOLE, The Lighthouse, Poole
21 Kingland Rd, Dorset BH15 1UG

7.30pm  £27.50 £25  0844 406 8666
Students and U18s £2 off  ATL card holders and groups please call – 0844 406 8666 to book

Sunday 23rd: NOTTINGHAM, The Royal Concert Hall, Nottingham Royal Centre,
Theatre Square, NG1 5ND 7.30pm  0115 989 5555

£27.50  £25  email tickets@trch.co.uk

Tuesday 25th: BIRMINGHAM, Symphony Hall, Birmingham
Victoria Square, B3 3DQ

B/O  0121 780 4949.  7.30pm   £25, £27.50 plus transaction fee

Wednesday 26th: LLANDUDNO, Venue Cymru, Llandudno
The Promenade, LL30 1BB

7.30pm  £27.50  £25 01492 872000


Saturday 1st: LIVERPOOL,  Philharmonic, Liverpool.
Hope St, L1 9BP    0151 709 3789

7.30pm  £33.50  £27.50  £25 + Booking fees

Sunday 2nd: BLACKPOOL, Opera House, Blackpool.
97 Church St  City Centre, FY1 1HU

Doors 7pm  £27.50  £25  B/O 0844 856 1111

Tuesday 4th: GATESHEAD, The Sage, Gateshead
St Mary’s Square, Gateshead Quays, Tyne and Wear NE8 2JR 0191 443 4661

7.30pm (hall 1)  £27.50  £25.50 + (£2.50 handling fee)

Friday 7th: LEICESTER, De Montfort Hall, Leicester
Granville Rd, LE1 7RU 0116 233 3111

7.30pm  £27.50 £25.50  Concessions £22.50 £24

Dec 232013

Paul Anderson With thanks to Paul Anderson.

Once again it promises to be a memorable night of the finest traditional Scottish music at Aberdeen Music Hall’s ever popular Hogmanay concert.
The show, produced by Tarland fiddle virtuoso Paul Anderson, is in its fifth year and has gained a reputation as one of the top traditional Hogmanay events in Scotland.

As in previous years, the 2013 concert boasts an impressive line up with the Jonny Hardie Ceilidh Band, Jim Stevenson on bagpipes, Joanne Pirrie (dancer), fiddle sets including music from Paul Andersons new album “Land of the Standing Stones”, song and laughter from compere Robert Lovie and some unforgettable singing from the newly crowned “Scots singer of the year Siobhan Miller.

An added attraction to this year’s show is a specially composed tune, written by Paul Anderson, which will be the prize at a draw during the concert. The successful winner will get to pick the tune title, receive a hand written copy of the piece and a recording of their tune.

“I did this a couple of years ago for the concert and it proved very popular. The title chosen that year was “the moose hoose” and it features on Land of the Standing Stones. The idea would be for this year’s tune to feature on my next album” said Paul.

The concert starts at 7.30 pm and finishes at 10 pm with tickets available from the Aberdeen Box Office. For further information please contact Paul Anderson on 01339881929 or andersoncromar@aol.com

Dec 012011

By Bob Smith.

Here comes the Retail Festival
Cooched in glossy Christmas cheer
Spen spen spen the shops cry oot
Their merchandisin moves up a gear

Maun we owerspen at Christmas
On presents aat leave us skint?
Mony fowk are left in debt
So aat shops can mak a mint

Christmas time itsel a fear
His lost it’s freenly glow
Fowk tryin to see faa can hae
The dearest presents on show

A sma present ti faimly members
There is nae hairm in iss
Bit keepin up wi the Joneses
Is some fowks idea o bliss

Hunners o poonds they are spent
On presents fer aa yer freens
Kids yammerin fer the latest
Toy or game shown on TV screens

Hotels an restaurants filled ti the brim
Yet their prices are ower the tap
Faan wull aa iss madness eyn
An prices wull stairt ti drap

Faimly Christmases used ti be
A time ti visit an hae a blether
Yet ti sit aroon the table
Nooadays fowk they dinna bither

The festivities noo a fear
Hiv naething ti dee wi the 25th
It’s aa ti dee wi consumerism
Spenin dosh on expeensive gifts

In case ye think a’m a scrooge
Tak time ti stop an think
Fit’s the purpose o aa iss spenin
Ither than bringin ye ti debt’s brink

It’s time fer a revolution
A time ti say stuff yer stuff
Resist the aa empowerin persuasion
Pit the retailers in a huff

Celebrate Christmas? Of coorse we shud
Yet think fit shud be deen
Raither than buy a material gift
Jist present yersel as a freen

©Bob Smith “The Poetry Mannie”
Image Credit: © Sergey Sundikov | Dreamstime.com

Nov 282011

This match really underlined how the sport of football can toy with the emotions of its followers. At half time Dunfermline would have bitten off hands for a point, but in the end it was Aberdeen who felt relieved to snatch a share – and yet, both teams will feel as if they could or should have won the game. Philip Sim reports.

The Dons undoubtedly controlled more of the match and created a greater quantity and quality of chances, but it was the home side who somehow found themselves 3-1 ahead – and indeed, it could have been 4-1 if not for a terrific save from visiting keeper David Gonzalez.

Ten minutes of madness at the back soured what had been developing into a decent Aberdeen performance.
It’s little consolation that the Dons have now quadrupled their away goals tally for the season, as they remain rooted second-bottom of the SPL.

Aberdeen’s back line will come in for some deserved criticism after an all-too familiar second-half collapse, but special mention once again has to go to Andrew Considine, arguably his team’s most effective performer this season. The centre half has looked solid in defence and has popped up with vital goals several times already this term, and it was hardly a surprise that he broke the deadlock.

The fact a defender can be so lauded in a team which is shipping so many goals speaks to the nature of this match – while undoubtedly an entertaining affair, it was as laden with negatives as positives. While Aberdeen found themselves trailing 3-1 to a team who haven’t won a home match all season, they then showed great character and resolve to come back and tie the match, and came within inches of a winner in the final seconds.

Craig Brown will again point to his side’s statistical superiority, and while it’s true that the Dons largely bossed the first half, made plenty of chances and won endless corners, all too often they showed profligacy in front of goal. Josh Magennis was the main offender, missing four good chances including an open goal before he finally netted the late equaliser.

A cutting edge up front has been Aberdeen’s key failing this season, and a quick glance at the SPL’s top scorers confirms this – Scott Vernon just makes it the top 15, while Inverness, the only team separating the Dons from bottom of the league, have both Andrew Shinnie and Gregory Tade.

Beyond the striking issues and occasional defensive standstill, the result points out how fragile Aberdeen are, looking distinctly makeshift after losing just a few players to injury. Kari Arnason would be badly missed from any midfield in the country, but really it was Scott Vernon’s absence that hurt the Dons here.

With Rory Fallon withdrawn presumably due to injury after an anonymous first half and Mo Chalali off on international duty – still the only situation where he has actually scored a goal – the absence of Vernon leaves Aberdeen with a front duo of Magennis and Darren Mackie. This is not a pairing which will strike fear into the hearts of many SPL defenders, especially given the scant service they tend to receive – Richard Foster remains the team’s only source of width, given the uninspiring form of eternal substitute Peter Pawlett.

Brown and indeed many of the supporters might be looking forward to the January transfer window and a strengthening of the squad, but there are six more games to be negotiated before then.

Depending on whether your glass is half full or half empty (discounting the rather vocal minority of fans who broke their glass and went home in a huff at 3-1) these six are all winnable games in a league as evenly balanced as the SPL outside of the Old Firm. On the empty-glass relegation-dogfight hand, maybe a point away from home against a fellow struggler is a decent result – but this was the type of game that Aberdeen really need to look to win if they are going to build a move up the table.

Oct 312011

Another narrow 2-1 defeat against the Old Firm for Aberdeen in a physical battle of a game which lacked entertaining football but was never short on controversy and incident. The Dons conceded a penalty, had an appeal of their own turned down and had a man dismissed in a tough-tackling match which also saw potentially serious injuries for both teams. Philip Sim reports from Pittodrie.

Injury to striker Scott Vernon prior to the match left Rory Fallon deployed up front alone, Chris Clark taking his place in a five-man midfield. The suspended Ryan Jack was replaced at right-back by Rory McArdle looking suitably out of his depth in an unfamiliar position.

Overloading the midfield meant much of the action took place there, which played into Aberdeen’s hands in the first half – while free-flowing football and chances were at a premium in the opening period, David Gonzalez in the home goal barely touched the ball, while his side carved out several good opportunities.

Clark in particular had his best game since returning to Pittodrie, buzzing about and chasing every ball kicked in the middle of the park. There was some pressure on Clark to step up after Rob Milsom, who had started brightly, had to be withdrawn with a badly gashed ankle courtesy of a horrific tackle by Steven Naismith.

The Scotland striker managed to badly injure himself in the act, but somehow escaped even a yellow card for the worst tackle of a game which was far from pretty at its best.

The second half was a mirror of the first. While the midfield war of attrition raged on as previous, this time it was Rangers who were making opportunities and it was hardly a surprise when they broke the deadlock. After that, Aberdeen always seemed to be swimming upstream, and despite some excellent play from Andy Considine in particular, the game seemed lost.

Blame is going to be difficult to dole out from this defeat, but beyond the odd simple incidence of poor play several arbitrary factors came into play.

Heavy rain through the first half saw many of the players slipping and sliding around on the slick Pittodrie turf, epitomised by Ricky Foster on his backside as Rangers burst through the score the opening goal.

At the other end of the park the sun rather than the rain was the enemy for visiting keeper Allan McGregor, who allowed Ricky Foster’s shot to apparently pass straight through him. The Scotland keeper had the sun in his eyes, but still should have comfortably dealt with Foster’s effort, which while well struck was heading right down his throat.

Another factor neither team could plan for was the referee – although Aberdeen might have had an idea what they were in for the minute Willie Collum’s name was called out over the tannoy.

Collum has always been greeted with derision by the Aberdeen support, often for good reason – and he will have earned no new fans in this match.

His first action was to book Kari Arnason for his very first tackle of the match, effectively putting the shackles on the combative midfielder for the rest of the match. The challenge might have been worthy of a booking, but Collum didn’t seem to maintain this opinion when it came to several identical tackles from visiting players.

Arnason has quickly become a fan’s favourite at Pittodrie with his no-nonsense attitude and occasional thunderbolt from distance – one of which sent McGregor scrambling in the first half – but he was visibly constrained by the early caution, pulling out of challenges he would usually relish.

The Main Stand linesman also had an absolute shocker, but provided one of the comedy highlights of the match – after the hapless official finally awarded a decision in Aberdeen’s favour in the final minutes, the fans behind him celebrated like a goal had been scored.

After two narrow defeats to the Old Firm, Aberdeen can approach their next run of games with some confidence, starting with the visit to managerless St Johnstone next week. One worry will be the loss of several key players – Rob Milsom and Scott Vernon are now questionable through injury, and Rory Fallon will miss two matches after receiving a rather soft red card in the final minutes. This gives Craig Brown something of a selection headache in a key area of the pitch – and one that has been far from the Dons’ strongest this term.

Oct 252011

An Aberdeen defeat at Parkhead is hardly unpredictable – it’s seemed like the Dons couldn’t buy a win against Celtic in recent years, not that they’d have to finance to do so – but at least the team are down to battling, one-goal margins now rather than the capitulations of last season. Philip Sim reports.

The Dons scored their first away goal of the season in this match, another little milestone in the crawl towards progress for Craig Brown’s side, who look to have a bit of confidence and fight about them after back to back home wins against Dunfermline and Dundee United.
Two things always seem certain when the men in red play against the hoops though – one of them will be sent off, usually controversially, and Charlie Mulgrew will score or create a goal to haunt his old club. The former Dons full-back often looks shaky during open play, but his set-pieces and surprising ability in the air have been invaluable to Celtic this term, which is perhaps why he was handed the captain’s armband for this match.

Wonderkid Ryan Jack went from hero to villain for the Dons, scoring an excellent solo goal to level the match before being sent off for a second yellow card.

Jack has really come into his own this season and for the most part his performance at Parkhead reflected this, but his dismissal ended the game as a contest.

Prior to that chances had really been at a premium, with both sides working hard to restrict opportunities for their opponents. Celtic had the lion’s share of the play, but Aberdeen were always in the game, fighting hard for every 50-50 ball and showing total commitment across the defence and midfield.

Jack’s first booking was a farce – a goal celebration of any kind is now apparently a foul, or was it merely for having the temerity to score against Celtic? However, he showed his inexperience when lunging into the tackle which earned him his second. He will now be suspended for the next match, the visit of the other Old Firm cheek, which presents Craig Brown with a defensive dilemma.

One option is to make a straight swap and drop Chris Clark in at full-back. This would be the continuity option and possibly the best one, given how well the rest of the team are playing in their respective positions, but Clark’s form has been very poor since his return to the Dons, especially defensively.

Another straight-swap option would be Rory McArdle, but full-back is far from his preferred position.

Brown has shown an admirable resolve to stick with the starting 11 and formation which has been performing well of late, but he is a tinkerer at heart and he may be tempted to move things around a bit.

Kari Arnason has been deployed at centre-half in several big games this season. Might Brown be tempted to move him into defence, shifting Andy Considine to left-back and Foster to right-back?

Arnason has formed a formidable partnership with Isaac Osbourne in the middle of the park and many Dons fans will be eager to see the havoc they could wreack on a Rangers midfield this weekend. Arnason’s composure and reliability are a bonus wherever he is deployed, but these charactistics work best alongside the wrecking-ball style of Osbourne in the middle of the park. One thing is for sure, and that’s that the Aberdeen board need to find some cash to sign these two up to longer-term deals as soon as possible.

Similar to the midfield duo, the defensive partnership of Considine and Youl Mawene is also probably working too well to be broken up. The experience and toughness of Mawene seems to give Considine real confidence, with the big defender already having his best season in the team, and the two complement each other nicely.

Players like Mawene, Arnason and Osbourne – and indeed Rory Fallon and David Gonzalez – weren’t in the side for any of last season’s humblings against the Old Firm, which can only be a good thing. They approach these games full of confidence rather than trepadition, expecting to win, and with these five really representing the spine of the team this really boosts the morale and belief of their team-mates.

During the latter years of the Jimmy Calderwood era Aberdeeen had an excellent home record against Rangers, winning almost every game, and the way the Dons are playing right now, there’s every chance that can be re-established again this weekend.