Apr 202017
 

With thanks to Aberdeen/Shire Greens.

After famously standing a mannequin in the 2012 Aberdeen local elections, Renée Slater is back as a candidate in her own right, standing in the Torry & Ferryhill ward for the Scottish Green Party.

The mannequin, Helena Torry, emerged as an activist figurehead in 2010 in campaigns against the destruction of Union Terrace Gardens, and soon became popular in anti-austerity protests.

As Renée witnessed the effects of cuts to services for disabled people and young people, she wanted to bring these issues into the spotlight and challenge the antagonistic political climate with humour.

In the 2012 council elections, she registered Helena as a candidate to represent ‘the voice of the silent majority.’

When authorities realised that Helena was not a real person, Renée was arrested. She was held until a prisoner exchange took place, and Helena was locked up for a year. The story was covered across the UK, and further afield [links below]. After Renée’s acquittal, Helena continued to support local causes, including the campaign for Scottish Independence.

Renée has been involved in local politics and activism for more than 40 years, and she joined the Scottish Greens in 2014. In standing for Aberdeen City Council in 2017, she hopes to help address issues across the city, from housing and jobs to local pollution and public health.

After years of bitter conflict between Labour and the SNP, Renée and other Green candidates want to bridge the divide and work constructively across parties.

Renée said,

“I’m concerned about inter-party bickering. It’s time we pulled together for all the people of Aberdeen. It’s time to make a change.”

Links:

BBC Report: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9WRFl9jvOCw
Daily Politics: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mJEL56CMOzc
ITV: http://www.itv.com/news/2012-04-20/mannequin-removed-from-scottish-elections/
BBC News: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-north-east-orkney-shetland-20970395
Huffington Post: http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/2012/04/20/shop-dummy-for-councillor-aberdeenshire_n_1440348.html
The Independent: http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/crime/woman-arrested-after-entering-mannequin-into-council-elections-7665476.html
Other: https://lenathehyena.wordpress.com/tag/helena-torry/

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Apr 132017
 

With thanks to Aberdeenshire SNP.

(L to r) Pastor Neil Cameron of Apex Church; Cllr Stuart Pratt and Cllr Stephen Smith.

Local SNP councillors Stuart Pratt and Stephen Smith have shown their support for Peterhead FC’s impressive range of community engagement programmes.
The club launched a new initiative with Peterhead Boys Club to give away 200 free season tickets and made presentations to the latest graduates of the ‘Football Fans In Training Programme’ at an event at Balmoor this week where the various national football trophies were also on display.

Commenting, Cllr Stuart Pratt – a regular at Balmoor Stadium – said:

“Peterhead Football Club do a huge amount throughout the year in terms of youth engagement and supporting their local community.  But even someone like myself who manages to attend most of Peterhead’s home games didn’t realise quite how much the club actually does.

“It is a very impressive list and the initiatives launched this week can only further strengthen the link between club and community.”

Cllr Stephen Smith, who made the trip to Hampden last April to support Peterhead in the final of the Petrofac Cup versus Rangers, added:

“The event was a very good showcase for the club and I’m grateful to General Manager Martin Johnston for inviting me, along with others who are active in the community, which helps strengthen those community links.”

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Apr 012017
 

With thanks to Julia Heys, Marketing Executive, VisitAberdeenshire.

Scottish Traditional Boat Festival at Portsoy 2010 © Kathy Mansfield

Aberdeen Festivals has announced the addition of the Scottish Traditional Boat Festival in Portsoy to further strengthen its portfolio of local member festivals.

Aberdeen Festivals, set up in 2014 to collectively promote festivals, develop audiences and strengthen the cultural sector, has welcomed the Scottish Traditional Boat Festival to its ranks.

The renowned festival, which takes place from 24-25 June 2017, will join 10 existing and diverse festivals including; SPECTRA, Aberdeen Jazz Festival, Look Again, May Festival, Aberdeen International Youth Festival, TechFest, True North, North East Open Studios, DanceLive and sound.

Roger Goodyear, co-chairman of Scottish Traditional Boat Festival commented:

“Joining Aberdeen Festivals has been on the festival’s horizons since the collective was formed in early 2014. We have since watched the success of Aberdeen Festivals through its facilitation of collective marketing and collaborative efforts to profile the cultural offering of Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire.”

In its 24 year history, the Scottish Traditional Boat Festival has become well known locally and internationally as it uniquely showcases the local marine and cultural heritage of North-east Scotland. The annual festival reports on average 16,000 visitors each year with a high proportion of international attendees.

Roger continued:

“We already have a well-established audience and brand but, of course, there is always room for growth and we are looking forward to the various cross-collaborations with other festivals as well as taking part in the extensive and successful Aberdeen Festivals marketing campaign.”

Festivals in the Aberdeen Festivals group have consistently reported significant increases in audiences and ticket sales. In February this year, SPECTRA welcomed 63,000 visits, up by 28,000 on 2016 whilst Aberdeen Jazz Festival, which took place earlier this month, has already reported a 100% increase in ticket sales.

Steve Harris, chair of Aberdeen Festivals commented:

“Aberdeen Festivals has made substantial strides in its three years of existence. This has been recognised with continued local and private funding, audience and sales increases for each festival and numerous prestigious award shortlisting’s. The addition of the Scottish Traditional Boat Festival to the collective, with its well-connected, high profile festival and large international audience, will bolster this success of Aberdeen Festivals further in profiling the North-east as a top cultural tourism destination.”

Aberdeen Festivals has to date secured private sponsorship from energy company, Nexen, major funding from VisitScotland’s Growth Fund along with ongoing support from VisitAberdeenshire, Aberdeen City Council and Aberdeenshire Council. The group recently secured an E Award, organised by EventIt, for its excellence in digital marketing.

For more information about Aberdeen Festivals, please visit www.aberdeenfestivals.com.

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Apr 012017
 

Cllr Fiona McRae and Cllr Anne Allan at the new Peterhead Travelodge in Chapel Street.

With thanks to Aberdeenshire SNP.

Local councillors Fiona McRae and Anne Allan have hailed the opening of the new Travelodge in Peterhead as a tremendous boost for the Town Centre.
The new hotel in Chapel Street officially opens on Tuesday at a ceremony to be attended by Aberdeenshire Provost Hamish Vernal, amongst others. 

The development has transformed a semi-derelict part of the Town Centre and has saved the eastern façade of the street from demolition.

Commenting, Cllr Fiona McRae said:

“The former flats in Chapel Street have been a long-running issue and it’s great to see this development come to fruition with a new business coming to Peterhead and redeveloping the site.

“This is a huge boost for the regeneration of Peterhead Town Centre, brings life back to what was previously a very run-down building, and also brings another quality brand to Peterhead.”

Cllr Anne Allan added:

“While I’m delighted that Aberdeenshire Council has over £1.5Million allocated to assist with regeneration in Peterhead, private investment is a huge part of the process and this is an excellent example of that. 

There’s a lot going on currently in terms of investment in Peterhead. Work will begin shortly to upgrade the area at the Clerkhill shops; we’re seeing plans for a new academy move forward; Peterhead Port Authority are continuing their expansion, assisted by Scottish Government funding; and we’re seeing new businesses such as Travelodge moving into the Town Centre.  It’s all very encouraging and I’m keen to see more done, but this is a good start.”

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Apr 012017
 

A guitar once owned by Hendrix has been put up for auction in Aberdeen, following a council hunt for heirs. Duncan Harley reports.

When council housing officer Dennis Potter was called to the home of a council tenant on Aberdeen’s Kincorth Housing Estate he thought that it would be simply a routine house clearance.

The elderly male who had lived there for over 30 years had passed away and, with no relatives on hand to see to his affairs, it fell to the council to clear the flat and prepare it for a new tenant.

“I was pleasantly surprised” said Dennis “to find that the place was clean and in good order.”

“It’s not unusual for us to enter a property where someone has died and find that they had perhaps not been coping during what may have been a difficult end of life period. But, in this case that was definitely not the case and our tenant had taken really good care of the property.”

Initially, the council had assumed that relatives would come forward to claim possessions and see to the estate, but after a three-year hunt for heirs no-one came forward.

“We knew that Mr Brown had no surviving friends in the locality” said Dennis “but we thought that maybe he had relatives somewhere who might have kept in touch.”

“But as his birthdays came and went, there were no cards, and even at Christmas the deceased only received a few begging letters from the likes of the Salvation Army and a charity specialising in promoting paintings made by limbless artists from North Korea.”

Eventually council bosses asked Dennis to dispose of the few possessions left by the tenant and an Aberdeen auction firm was asked to provide a valuation.

“We needed to cover the costs involved” says Dennis.

“There was a very small amount of outstanding rent, but on top of that there was the matter of the burial; and we felt we had a duty to recover what we could to protect the public purse.”

The valuation, however, far exceeded expectations, for in amongst the few possessions left by Mr Brown there was a guitar.

“I had assumed that it might be worth just a few pounds” said Dennis.

“I mean, it was badly scratched, the frets looked worn and the strings had seen better days. But you never know at auction since maybe someone is looking to get a real bargain.”

The auctioneers were initially unimpressed with the item and consigned it to the weekly general sale in expectation that it might be worth something to someone willing to restore the neglected instrument. However, and quite by chance, musicologist Jim Hawsworthy came to preview the lots for sale.

“I couldn’t believe my eyes” he said “at first I thought I was dreaming, but there right in front of me was a genuine Strattofaster!”

“I mean these instruments are the Stradivariuses of the guitar world. There are probably only around fourteen known examples worldwide, and this one is completely genuine.”

Seemingly Jimi Hendrix owned two of these instruments, but after his death aged 27 in September 1970, it emerged that one was unaccounted for.

In a strange twist, it transpired that Mr Brown had been drinking red wine with Marmalade stars Gary Farr and Jimmy Cregan, together with Eric Clapton at the Scotch of St James bar in Mayfair on the night of Hendrix’s death.

“When Jimi came in” said Clapton “he had no dosh and neither had the rest of us.”

“So we asked Bennie the roadie to bung us a few quid – just to keep the party going you understand. By that time the bar bill was astronomical and to be honest we were all a bit keen to get more wasted, so to calm Bennie Brown down, I suggested that we bung him a guitar as collateral. That’s how it all happened really. He was pleased as punch and went off strumming Jimi’s guitar.

“I know that ‘cause I was there. Or at least I think I was. That is until I awoke to find that Jimi had, well you know – gone off somewhere and died basically. Never forget that night really. What year is it today anyway?”

Be that as it may, the auction of the Hendrix Strattofaster takes place at Aberdeen Auction House on East Silver Street on April 1st with all proceeds going directly to the council.

The sales catalogue reads as follows:

LOT 405
FENDER STRATTOFASTER, JIMI HENDRIX SIGNATURE MODEL, 1967
Serial number CZ510969, maple tarnished finish, maple neck with skunk-stripe routing, red paper dot on back of headstock beside “Sandy Klaus Fender Custom Shop” transfer, twenty-two fret fingerboard with dot inlays, three pre-Vintage Noiseless pickups, three rotary controls, selector switch, tremolo/bridge tail block and white pick guard; and a black Harry Fender hard-shell bright-contour case with black plush lining and cream cloth sticker inscribed in hazy purple felt pen “Good luck Jimi from your good old pals Otis, Eric and Shanker” and tie on paper label inscribed on both sides in black felt pen “FENDER STRAT CZ510969 MAPLE  1”, one red and one green paper dot on two case latches.”

A reserve price of £2,500 has been placed on the item and international interest is expected.

Words and images © Duncan Harley
Additional reporting by April McGinty

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Mar 242017
 

Aberdeenshire’s Democratic Independent and Green Group (DIGG) councillors – Paul Johnston and Martin Ford – have welcomed a report on ‘Augmented provision for young people’ being considered at a meeting of their Council’s Education and Children’s Services Committee. 

The report recommends how to use the additional £100,000 for ‘youth work’ included in Aberdeenshire’s 2017/18 revenue budget passed on 9 February.

The DIGG included £70,000 for youth work (re-allocated from within the community learning and development budget) in its draft 2017/18 budget proposals published last November.

Following budget discussions, £70,000 of new money for youth work was included in the Aberdeenshire administration’s 2017/18 budget proposals published on 2 February.

The amount for youth work was then increased from £70,000 to £100,000 after the Scottish Government announced additional funding for councils on 2 February and further discussions took place between the DIGG and the administration regarding the extra Government grant.

The DIGG argued that new Council funding for youth work was required to support activities that now fall outside the scope of community learning and development, and suggested either direct provision by the Council or grants to community groups would be appropriate.

Both direct provision and grants are now being recommended by officers. 

Cllr Martin Ford said:

“The DIGG identified funding for youth work as a budget priority and we are very pleased £100,000 has been included in the 2017/18 revenue budget.

“The report to the 23 March meeting of the Education and Children’s Services Committee means a decision can be taken on how to use the additional money before the financial year starts at the beginning of April.”

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Mar 242017
 

Stewart Stevenson, has contacted ALDI to voice local residents’ concerns re. new store.

With thanks to Banffshire & Buchan Coast SNP.

Concerns from local residents over the apparent lack of any visible progress in developing the former Kirkburn Mills site in Peterhead have prompted local SNP MSP Stewart Stevenson to contact ALDI Stores.

ALDI secured planning permission to build a store on the site but, to date, this prominent piece of land on the approach to Peterhead Town Centre remains undeveloped.

Commenting, Stewart Stevenson said:

“I am pleased that ALDI have confirmed once again their commitment to Peterhead and it does appear that work is going on in the background in order to get to a position where construction on the site can start.

“This site on the main approach to Peterhead Town Centre has lain vacant for too long and has been a source of vandalism around the perimeter hoardings.  ALDI recognise that the local community is keen to see this move forward and I trust we can see some evidence of this on the ground before too long.”

In his letter to Mr Stevenson, ALDI Managing Director Richard Holloway said:

“Having recently received planning consent, we are now undertaking a series of complex tests to fully assess the works required to build a store on the site. We are of course working to start construction as soon as possible and understand from previous engagement that the community are eager to see the store opened.”

Peterhead North & Rattray SNP councillor Anne Allan added:

“I’m grateful to Stewart Stevenson for keeping the pressure on ALDI. With the council having granted planning consent, I think everyone in the town is keen to see progress made and the site developed in the very near future.”

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Mar 242017
 

With thanks to Aberdeenshire SNP.

Local resident Heather Coull has been selected by SNP members in Westhill & District ward to join Councillor David Aitchison in seeking election to represent the ward on Aberdeenshire Council.

Councillor Mandy Allan, who has represented the Ward since 2007 is stepping down at the forthcoming election owing to work commitments.

Heather Coull was born in Aberdeen and has lived all her life in Aberdeenshire. Heather, aged 38, is married and is the youngest daughter of two school teachers.

Heather is committed to lifelong learning. She studied at RGU where she successfully achieved both BA and MSc degrees. 

As a former oil and gas industry worker, Heather has the experience and background to identify with a large number of residents in and around the Westhill area.

A member of Westhill & Elrick Community Council, one of Heather’s main priorities and areas of focus if successful in being elected will be in supporting and championing community groups in Westhill and the surrounding villages to achieve their ambitions via community choice budgeting.

Commenting, Heather Coull said:

“I am delighted to be selected as an SNP candidate for the Westhill & District ward and if elected I aim to carry on Mandy Allan’s good work and work together with David, and indeed the other Westhill councillors, as a strong team for our local area.”

David Aitchison was elected as a councillor at the 2012 election and was formerly a surveyor in the civil service. David who is married with 3 children grew up in Eyemouth and worked in Edinburgh, Nottingham and Durham before moving to Westhill over twenty years ago.

Since being elected David has served on the Infrastructure Services, Scrutiny & Audit and Education & Children’s Services Committees. Since June 2015 he has been Chairman of Aberdeenshire’s Infrastructure Services Committee and Vice-Chairman of NESTRANS, the North-east transport partnership.

Commenting on his selection David Aitchison said:

“It has been a privilege to represent Westhill & District and I am delighted to be a candidate to represent the ward again.

“In my two years as an administration senior councillor I have been able to oversee policies on regeneration, planning and economic development which will benefit Aberdeenshire.

“Westhill is now at a crossroads in terms of its development. It is time to consider what we want our community to look like in the future. If re-elected I will continue the dialogue that I am already having on this issue and work with partners and residents to create a vision for the future which Westhill deserves.”

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Mar 172017
 

With thanks to Martin Ford.

In an initiative by Aberdeenshire’s Democratic Independent and Green councillors Councillor Martin Ford is asking Aberdeenshire Council to ‘give consideration to the feasibility of creating a significant visual arts, museum or other cultural facility as part of its redevelopment of the Harlaw Road site in Inverurie’.

Cllr Ford’s call comes in a notice of motion he has submitted for debate at the next meeting of Aberdeenshire’s Education and Children’s Services Committee on 23 March.

It has only been possible to submit notices of motion for debate at Aberdeenshire Council’s policy committees since 27 January this year when the Council’s new scheme of governance was introduced (previously notices of motion were restricted to Area Committees and full council).

Cllr Ford’s notice of motion says:

“Aberdeenshire Council shall give consideration to the feasibility of creating a significant visual arts, museum or other cultural facility as part of its redevelopment of the Harlaw Road site in Inverurie. The consideration process shall include seeking public views, establishing what external funding sources might be available and discussions with potential partners who may want to be involved (e.g. the local universities).”

Committee chair Cllr Alison Evison has confirmed Cllr Ford’s notice of motion will be included on the agenda for next week’s Education and Children’s Services Committee meeting.

Cllr Ford said:

“The motion doesn’t commit the Council to anything beyond an exploratory process. But it’s an exploratory process we should do, and we need to do it now before the site is master-planned.

“Essentially, the motion asks the Council to think about the possibilities, and have discussions with others. Why would it not do that?

“The motion is deliberately not prescriptive about the kind of facility. That needs to be discussed and a decision emerge from consultation and dialogue.

“Personally, I rather like the idea of an ‘Aberdeenshire Museum’, but that’s clearly just one possibility. I want to see what comes out of the discussion and consultation that I hope results from the motion I have tabled.

“The point is, who would have predicted the V&A going to Dundee? Someone had to suggest it, against all reasonable expectation, and it happened.

“There is certainly room on the Harlaw Road site.

“A major cultural facility would bring significant benefits for the Aberdeenshire economy and tourism. It would also contribute to the quality of life for residents and raise the profile of the area.

“Clearly, funding will be an issue – which is why the motion asks the Council to look at external funding possibilities and open discussions with potential partners as part of an initial exploratory process.”

Cllr Paul Johnston said:

“This is a good idea. At this stage, agreeing the motion does not commit the Council to expenditure, it only opens the door to exciting possibilities.

“The Council should be keen to hear the public’s views.”

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Mar 102017
 

With thanks to Martin Ford.

The confidence and supply agreement between Aberdeenshire’s Democratic Independent and Green Group (DIGG) councillors – Martin Ford and Paul Johnston – and their council’s Partnership administration has delivered significant benefits for Aberdeenshire residents. That is the view of both the DIGG and the Partnership.

The agreement was struck in 2015. The DIGG remained an independent opposition group but guaranteed limited support to the minority Partnership administration, allowing it to take office and bringing stability to the Council.

In return, the Partnership committed to supporting a range of specific policies and other changes put forward by the DIGG. 

The agreement has worked well and been adhered to by both sides. It is the first such arrangement in Aberdeenshire.

One provision in the agreement is that an annual, objective, assessment of progress with it be requested from the Council’s chief executive. The assessment for 2017 has now been received. 

The assessment shows the specific provisions in the confidence and supply agreement have either been delivered or are ‘work in progress’.

In addition to the policy changes in the confidence and supply agreement, the Partnership has adopted suggestions from the DIGG in the Council budget put forward by the Partnership.

Cllr Paul Johnston said:

“The DIGG’s aims in reaching a limited agreement with the Partnership were to bring stability to the Council at a time when no grouping could form an administration by itself, and to secure policy changes and service improvements for residents.

“The DIGG has remained an independent opposition group – but one that has been able to deliver significant policy change. I’ve been particularly pleased that the Council has taken steps towards genuine budget consultation and is working towards further improving links with the third sector, charities and voluntary oganisations.”

Cllr Martin Ford said:

“The cross-party co-operation between the DIGG and the Partnership has brought some significant progress. There have been been specific improvements, such as the investment in active travel.

“The adoption of the carbon budget is a governance measure of genuine significance – a Scottish first – that should deliver long-term benefits, and may provide a model for other councils.”

Council co-leader Cllr Richard Thomson added:

“The willingness of the DIG Group to offer political support to the Partnership where they could and constructive criticism where they couldn’t, has made this an extremely effective administration. Their willingness to engage and negotiate has shown just what can be achieved where politicians decide to concentrate on meaningful outcomes rather than just headlines.

“I hope that Aberdeeenshire is able to continue benefitting from this constructive approach to politics after May’s elections.”

Council co-leader Cllr Alison Evison said:

“We have fundamental aims in common with the DIGG – to provide quality public services to all residents in Aberdeenshire and in consultation with residents, and to develop effective partnership work with others in order to achieve this.

“Our agreement with the DIGG has in particular helped us to develop links with local credit unions. It has enabled our aspirations to develop more cycling and walking routes to become real projects.

In 2015 it was crucial for services in Aberdeenshire, and for the people dependent on these services, that we were able to form a stable Administration after a long, unsettled period. The Confidence and Supply Agreement secured this.”

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