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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Dec 162016
 

With thanks to Ian McLaren, PR account manager, Innes Associates.

The Bell Type 47G helicopter apparently being jump started by a car in Bellabeg, Strathdon, Aberdeenshire

The organisers of the annual Lonach Highland Gathering and Games are asking for the help of the north-east public to unearth the story behind a mysterious photograph.
Earlier this year, the Lonach Highland and Friendly Society asked for people to send in copies of old photographs of the event for a display to mark the 175th Lonach Highland Gathering. 

Amongst a bundle of old slides were a number taken in Strathdon in the 1960s and 70s, which illustrate how the community has changed.

One image stood out due to its intriguing subject. It features a small helicopter which appears to have landed on the A944, the main road through the village of Bellabeg where the gathering is held, and looks like it is being jumped started by a car.

The car is believed to be a Rover 2000 P6 Series 1, which was produced between 1963 and 1970 and trailing from its open bonnet are what look like jump leads. From the registration mark on its tail, the helicopter has been identified as a 1966 Bell 47G-5, which was owned by a Humberside company involved in aerial spraying.

In a second slide the car is gone and helicopter’s rotors are turning and it looks set for take-off.

The Lonach Highland and Friendly Society is now asking for anyone who can shed light on the picture to get in touch with them.

Jennifer Stewart, secretary and chief executive of the Lonach Highland and Friendly Society, said:

“We had a great response to our appeal for old pictures, which turned up some fantastic images.  Some were more curious than others and left us scratching our heads and asking a number of questions. The visitor response to the display at this year’s gathering provided information about some of those pictures.

“The picture in question was in a box of slides marked Strathdon and Lonach that was donated to us. The person who took the slides died a few years ago and their family had never seen the slides before so couldn’t shed any light on the image. It had us stumped.

“Did a car really jump start a helicopter on the main road in Bellabeg? It’s all very peculiar, but there must be an intriguing story behind it. These types of unusual events play an important part in the history of our local communities.

“Why did a helicopter apparently land on the main road in Bellabeg? Was it really jump started by a car? Does anyone remember it happening, if so when was it? Somebody is bound to be able to fill in all the details, and it would be great to hear from them.”

Anyone with information is encouraged to contact the Lonach Highland and Friendly Society via its Facebook or Twitter pages, or by e-mailing info@lonach.org.

Held annually on the fourth Saturday in August, the Lonach Highland Gathering and Games is one of the oldest and most iconic traditional events in north-east Scotland.  Alongside a full programme of traditional highland events, the event features the unique march of the Lonach Highlanders, who are believed to be the largest body of non-military men to carry ceremonial weapons in Britain.

In 2017, the Lonach Highland Gathering and Games will take place on Saturday, 26 August.

Established in 1823, by Sir Charles Forbes, 1st Baronet of Newe and Edinglassie, the Lonach Highland and Friendly Society is a charitable organisation based in Strathdon, Aberdeenshire.  The society organises the annual Lonach Gathering at Bellabeg Park, Strathdon, which is held on the fourth Saturday of August.  The main attraction at the gathering is the march of the Lonach Highlanders, a unique body of non-military men.

Further information on the Lonach Highland and Friendly Society, the Lonach Highlanders and the annual Lonach Highland Gathering can be found at www.lonach.org.

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Dec 062016
 

With thanks to Julia Heys, Marketing Executive, VisitAberdeenshire.

In light of its continued collaborative work, a group of 10 major North-east festivals has again announced its shortlisting for a national art award.

Aberdeen Festivals, a group formed to bolster the festival product on offer in the region, has been shortlisted for an award at the upcoming Arts & Business Awards 2017.

The shortlist recognises the group’s collective work with local destination management organisation (DMO), VisitAberdeenshire, in positioning the region as an exciting, culturally diverse, place to visit.

The valuable relationship is in the shortlist to win the ‘Placemaking Award’.

Angela Michael, Festivals & Culture Director at VisitAberdeenshire commented;

“We are delighted to have our hard work recognised on such a high-profile scale. The shortlisting reinforces the work this group has undertaken to promote Aberdeen as a culturally distinctive place.”

She continued;

“The successes of this campaign have shown through each of our festivals significantly increased profile and many have reported considerable audience growth. Aberdeen Jazz Festival saw an audience increase of 40% whilst 35,000 people attended Spectra in 2016, compared to the 10,000 that visited in 2015. VisitAberdeenshire’s support, expertise as well as market entry has been pivotal to this.”

The partnership between Aberdeen Festivals and VisitAberdeenshire saw, for the first time, Aberdeen being promoted as a cultural destination. The group, with the DMO’s support, collectively undertook substantial marketing campaigns locally, nationally – across Scotland, as well as London and Newcastle, and internationally – predominantly in Norway.

Steve Harris (pictured), CEO of VisitAberdeenshire and Chair of Aberdeen Festivals added;

“Our collaborative work with Aberdeen Festivals is going a long way towards profiling this region for something other than industry. One of our core goals is to reposition Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire in the minds of our audiences as a creative place, whilst marketing it as a region of cultural prominence. We have already seen great success in profiling the region as a cultural destination and we look forward to continuing this wonderful partnership over the coming years.”

The Arts & Business Scotland award ceremony, which celebrate the most creative and innovative partnerships, will take place on Thursday 23 March 2017, in Glasgow.

Aberdeen Festivals is a cultural initiative representing 10 member festivals and is sponsored by Statoil, and supported by VisitAberdeenshire and Aberdeen City Council. For more information visit www.aberdeenfestivals.com. VisitAberdeenshire is the destination marketing organisation for the region of Aberdeen & Aberdeenshire, further information can be found at www.visitabdn.com.

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Sep 012016
 

With thanks to Ian McLaren, PR account manager, Innes Associates.

March of the Lonach Highlanders 2016

The Lonach Highlanders set out following in the footsteps of their forefathers on their traditional six-mile march round local six properties.

The history and heritage of one of Scotland oldest and most iconic highland games was celebrated on Saturday (27 Aug) in the Aberdeenshire village of Bellabeg.

Thousands of visitors from across Scotland and further afield attended the 175th Lonach Highland Gathering and Games and witness the unique and emotive march of the Lonach Highlanders.

An estimated crowd of around 9,000 packed into Bellabeg Park in Strathdon to watch the day’s proceedings, which enjoyed warm dry conditions with long spells of bright sunshine.

Organised by the Lonach Highland and Friendly Society, the Lonach Highland Gathering and Games has been held annually since 1832 except during the years of the first and second world wars.

To mark the 175th anniversary games, the Lonach Highlanders, believed to be the largest body of non-military men to carry ceremonial weapons in Britain, were joined on their marches by Europe’s only private army, the Atholl Highlanders.

In total, 210 individuals dressed in full highland regalia, which included members of both highlanders’ pipe bands, took part in the day’s marches. There were 170 members of the Lonach Highlanders armed eight-foot long pikes and Lochaber axes, and 40 Atholl Highlanders carrying Lee-Metford rifles.

The day’s proceedings in Strathdon began at 8am as the Lonach Highlanders set out following in the footsteps of their forefathers on their traditional six-mile march round local six properties. The glen came to life as the still morning air was broken by the strains of the pipes and drums of the bands, the footsteps of marching highlanders and sound of the following horse and cart.

At each of the six stops the highlanders received a dram from the properties owners, continuing a tradition begun by their predecessors.  The highlanders toasted the health of their hosts, the society and the local area, with the cry ‘Ho Ho Lonach’ resounding through the strath.

Five new Lonach Highlanders took part in the march for the first time. Membership of the Lonach Highland and Friendly Society currently stands at over 230.  The oldest Lonach Highlander marching was 76-year-old marshalling sergeant George Thomson from Strathdon, while the youngest was 16-year-old Bradley Joss from Kintore, who was among three generations of his family marching.

The 175th anniversary of the gathering was also marked with a display of old photographs, which charted the evolution of the gathering and the changing fashions of its visitors. Some of the photographs dated back to the 1890s. Many had been donated by society members and regulars to the Lonach Gathering who were keen to share their memories of the event.

March of the Lonach Highlanders 2016 (2)Crowds packed the grandstands and stood up to six deep in places around the main arena to watch proceedings, with the heavy events, the hill race and highland dancing receiving enthusiastic support.

The Lonach Highlanders, the Atholl Highlanders and the massed pipe bands received rousing welcomes as they circled the arena.

However, the loudest cheers were reserved for Socks, the Lonach horse, who made his second appearance at the games pulling the traditional ‘cairt’. Owned by Derek Gray of Kildrummy, Socks is a seven-year-old Irish Heavy Cob.

Six pipe bands from across Scotland performed at the gathering. Lonach Pipe Band was joined by the Pipe Band of the Atholl Highlanders, Ballater and District, Huntly and District, Towie and District and the Pipes and Drums of the Royal Guard from 2 SCOTS – the Royal Highland Fusiliers.

The gathering featured a full programme of traditional highland events, including solo and massed piping, highland dancing, children’s races, and light and heavy athletics, with some of the country’s leading athletes competing.

Once again, the heavy events drew a strong field of entrants. Current Scottish Highland Games Association World Heavyweight Champion, Scott Rider from London, competed and continued his exceptional performance this season by finishing first overall in the heavy events.

A field of over 90 lined up to tackle the four-mile hill race. The men’s race was won once again by James Espie of Dinnet, while the first lady home was Aboyne’s Stephanie Provan and the first Lonach Society member to finish was Neil Gauld of Midmar.

A keenly fought contest took place in the ladies tug o’ war, with the Glenbuchat Ladies proving victorious over Lonach Ladies and the team made up of ladies from the Rest of the World.

Jennifer Stewart, secretary and chief executive of the Lonach Highland and Friendly Society, said:

“It was a fantastic day from start to finish, with a brilliant atmosphere. The Lonach and Atholl Highlanders created a real spectacle and their combined numbers made it one of the largest marches we have seen. The reaction from those watching was quite something and generated a few tears amongst the crowd.

“Our 175th gathering is a hugely important milestone for the society and it was wonderful to see so many people here to help us celebrate it. The gathering has been a constant in a changing world and this was beautifully documented in our display of old photographs which received a lot of attention from visitors, and generated much laughter at some of the fashions.

“The gathering has always given the local area a huge boost, both socially and economically, and it is important that we maintain that. Our heritage is vitally important to preserve and with a number of young new members joining the society in the past year the future of Lonach looks bright.”

Established in 1823, by Sir Charles Forbes, 1st Baronet of Newe and Edinglassie, the Lonach Highland and Friendly Society is a charitable organisation based in Strathdon, Aberdeenshire.

The society organises the annual Lonach Gathering at Bellabeg Park, Strathdon, which is held on the fourth Saturday of August. The main attraction at the gathering is the march of the Lonach Highlanders, a unique body of non-military men. Further information on the Lonach Highland and Friendly Society, the Lonach Highlanders and the annual Lonach Highland Gathering can be found at www.lonach.org.

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Aug 262016
 

With thanks to Ian McLaren, PR account manager, Innes Associates.

Stars of the show - The Lonach Highlanders are one of the main attractions at the Lonach Gathering (picture credit Ian Halliday)lopro

Stars of the show – The Lonach Highlanders are one of the main attractions at the Lonach Gathering (picture credit Ian Halliday)

Europe’s only private army is heading to Aberdeenshire this Saturday to help celebrate the 175th anniversary of one of Scotland’s oldest and most iconic highland games.

The Atholl Highlanders have been invited to attend this year’s Lonach Highland Gathering and Games as the event takes place for the 175th time.

They will join the local Lonach Highlanders on their three annual games day marches, creating one of the largest marches of highlanders in the event’s long history.

Organised by the Lonach Highland and Friendly Society, the Lonach Gathering is one of Scotland’s best known traditional events, attracting up to 10,000 visitors to the Aberdeenshire village of Bellabeg. Held in village’s Bellabeg Park, this year’s gathering takes place on Saturday, 27 August.

The annual event features the unique march of the Lonach Highlanders, who are believed to be the largest body of non-military men to carry ceremonial weapons in Britain. Membership of the Lonach Highlanders currently stands at around 230 men and is drawn from residents of the local area who descend from the Forbes, Wallace and Gordon clans.

Commencing at 8am on the morning of the games, the march of the Lonach Highlanders winds its way through Strathdon in Aberdeenshire, stopping at six local properties. At each stop on the six-mile route the highlanders receive a dram to toast the health of the society and the area.

Dressed in full highland regalia and armed with eight-foot long pikes and Lochaber axes, the Lonach Highlanders bring traffic on the A944 through Strathdon to a standstill. With the similarly attired Atholl Highlanders, who carry Lee-Metford rifles, the spectacle will be even greater for visitors.

This year, with the Atholl Highlanders in attendance, the march is expected to be one of the largest in history, numbering around 220 individuals, which includes members of both highlanders’ pipe bands. Both bodies of men will again march together during the afternoon marches on the games field at 1pm and 3pm, with the 3pm march being led by the massed pipes and drums of a number of pipe bands.

Featuring a full programme of traditional highland events, including individual and massed piping, highland dancing and light and heavy athletics, the Lonach Gathering attracts some of the country’s leading pipers, dancers and athletes. With a children’s race, a hill race, tug o’war, around 50 trade stands and a family funfair, there are many attractions to keep everyone entertained.

Activities on the games field commence at 10:30am with the piping competitions, before the full programme of traditional events commences at noon.

Jennifer Stewart, secretary and chief executive of the Lonach Highland and Friendly Society, said:

“The 175th Lonach Gathering is shaping up to be a real showstopper and the presence of Europe’s only private army will only add to that.  This anniversary is a milestone for the society and the gathering, and we hope to welcome visitors from near and far to help us celebrate it.

“We are really looking forward to the Atholl Highlanders joining the Lonach Highlanders on their marches, which are always a fantastic spectacle. In the crisp morning air, the sight and sound of the 8am march winding its way through the valley is magnificent. We don’t think that anywhere else in the world you can witness hundreds of kilted highlanders marching along a main road and bringing the traffic to a halt.

“Also to mark the anniversary, we are charting the history of the Lonach Gathering with a display of fascinating old photographs. It includes some from when the Atholl Highlanders have previously marched here at Lonach.”

The 175th Lonach Highland Gathering and Games takes place on Saturday, 27 August in Bellabeg, Strathdon, Aberdeenshire. Tickets are priced from £8 for adults, £4 for children aged between 5 and 15, while entry for children under 4 is free. Car parking is also free.

Established in 1823, by Sir Charles Forbes, 1st Baronet of Newe and Edinglassie, the Lonach Highland and Friendly Society is a charitable organisation based in Strathdon, Aberdeenshire.

The society organises the annual Lonach Gathering at Bellabeg Park, Strathdon, which is held on the fourth Saturday of August. The main attraction at the gathering is the march of the Lonach Highlanders, a unique body of non-military men. Further information on the Lonach Highland and Friendly Society, the Lonach Highlanders and the annual Lonach Highland Gathering can be found at www.lonach.org.

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Jul 292016
 

With thanks to Ian McLaren, PR account manager, Innes Associates.

2. Lonach Highlanders (L to R) George Thomson and Willie Coutts with a poster promoting the 1958 Lonach Highland Gathering and Games

Lonach Highlanders (L to R) George Thomson and Willie Coutts with a poster promoting the 1958 Lonach Highland Gathering and Games

One of the oldest traditional events in north-east Scotland is calling on the public to help celebrate a milestone anniversary next month.

On Saturday, 27 August, the 175th Lonach Highland Gathering and Games will be held in Strathdon and the event’s organisers are asking the public to contribute old pictures and videos of the event to help mark the occasion. The Lonach Highland and Friendly Society was founded in 1823 to preserve highland culture and promote community cohesion and charitable giving.

To help achieve this, it staged its first highland games in 1832, an event that has become an annual fixture. 

During the first and second world wars the gathering was put in abeyance.

Over the past two centuries the Lonach Gathering has grown to become a popular annual event that attracts up to 10,000 visitors each year. A large number of photographs documenting the evolution of the gathering and the local area are held by the society, but it knows thousands more images exist.

In order to stage a display of old photographs at this year’s gathering, organisers are keen to hear from locals and visitors who have attended the event over the decades and captured still images or video footage of the annual spectacle. The society would also be eager to see old photographs of the Lonach Highland Ball, which it also organises and is held in the Lonach Hall on the Friday following the gathering.

Held in the small, picturesque Aberdeenshire village of Bellabeg, the Lonach Highland Gathering features the unique march of the Lonach Highlanders.  With around 220 men, the Lonach Highlanders are believed to be the largest body of non-military men to carry ceremonial weapons in Britain. Membership of the Lonach Highlanders is drawn from residents of the local area who are descended from the Forbes, Wallace and Gordon clans.

Featuring a full programme of traditional highland events, including solo and massed piping, highland dancing and light and heavy athletics, the gathering attracts some of the country’s leading pipers, dancers and athletes. Having already completed a march round the local area in the morning, the arrival onto the games field at 1pm of the Lonach Highlanders, armed with traditional Loachaber axes and pikes, is a highlight of the day.

This year, to help mark the 175th gathering the Lonach Highlanders will be joined on their marches by the Atholl Highlanders, Europe’s only private army. The Atholl Highlanders last marched at the Lonach Highland Gathering and Games in 2000.

Jennifer Stewart, secretary and chief executive of the Lonach Highland and Friendly Society, said:

“The 175th Lonach Gathering is a major milestone for the society and the event itself.  It remains an important community event and the many thousands of visitors we welcome to the gathering each year gives the local area a major boost.

“This year’s event is shaping up to a great occasion and will feature the traditional mix of dancing, piping and light and heavy athletics. We are keen for locals and visitors to really get involved by sharing their memories of past gatherings and also help us to document the event’s evolution.

“Whether the pictures or videos were taken in recent years or decades ago, it would be fantastic to see them all. If any company can help us to display these pictures at the gathering, or is interested in sponsoring part of the event, we’d be interested to hear from them.

“One constant at each games has been the Lonach Highlanders. They create a stirring sight and sound as they depart Bellabeg at 8am to begin their march around the local area and always receive a rousing welcome as they enter the games arena at 1pm. We are honoured that the Atholl Highlanders will be marching with the Lonach men this year to help us mark our 175th gathering.”

1. Looking through some of the Lonach archive (L to R) George Thomson, Jennifer Stewart, Willie Coutts and Scott Anderson

Jennifer Stewart, secretary and chief executive of the Lonach Highland and Friendly Society, looks through some of the society’s archive, which includes photographs, programmes and posters, with Lonach Highlanders (L to R) George Thomson, Willie Coutts and Scott Anderson

Anyone with old photographs or videos of the Lonach Gathering should e-mail them to info@lonach.org. Where possible, old photographs should be scanned to 300dpi and any video footage should be provided as a WMV file.

Established in 1823, by Sir Charles Forbes, 1st Baronet of Newe and Edinglassie, the Lonach Highland and Friendly Society is a charitable organisation based in Strathdon, Aberdeenshire.

The society organises the annual Lonach Gathering at Bellabeg Park, Strathdon, which is held on the fourth Saturday of August. The main attraction at the gathering is the march of the Lonach Highlanders, a unique body of non-military men.

Further information on the Lonach Highland and Friendly Society, the Lonach Highlanders and the annual Lonach Highland Gathering can be found at www.lonach.org.

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Jul 212016
 

With thanks to Ian McLaren, PR account manager, Innes Associates.

Lonach Hall defibrillator - Jennifer Stewart, Lonach Society, and Paul Hicks, Scottish Fire and Rescue Service

Jennifer Stewart  with Paul Hicks of Scottish Fire and Rescue Service, and members of the Lonach Highlanders and local firefighters.

The organisers of the annual Lonach Highland Gathering and Games, the Lonach Highland and Friendly Society, have launched a fundraising campaign to install lifesaving equipment in upper Strathdon.

The society has launched an appeal to raise nearly £7,000 to fund the purchase of four public access defibrillators that will be installed at venues in the Aberdeenshire valley.

It follows the installation of a defibrillator, funded by the Lonach Highland and Friendly Society, at the Lonach Hall.

Defibrillators give someone suffering a cardiac arrest more time while ambulances get to a patient’s location. It is estimated that every minute without CPR and defibrillation reduces a person’s chance of survival by 10 per cent. In remote, rural locations such as Strathdon, where the nearest major hospital is over 40 miles away in Aberdeen, access to defibrillation could prove vital.

Retained firefighters from the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service’s Strathdon fire station, which is made up mainly of Lonach Highland and Friendly Society members, were on hand at the unveiling of the Lonach Hall defibrillator.

The Strathdon fire station, like Scotland’s other 355 fire stations, acts as a base for local people to learn vital CPR skills that can potentially save someone’s life. The training is provided in partnership with British Heart Foundation Scotland, which has donated Call Push Rescue training kits to the stations. Anyone interested in this free CPR training should contact their local fire station.

To provide the rural community with the potentially lifesaving defibrillators, the Lonach Highland and Friendly Society is seeking support from local businesses, organisations and local benefactors to help fund the purchase. The four bright green ‘shock boxes’ will be placed in prominent public locations throughout the rural Aberdeenshire community.

Public access defibrillators are designed for anyone to use on someone in cardiac arrest. The devices talk users through the steps required, including CPR and patient analysis, and will only deliver a shock to the patient if it detects that one is required. This means that there is no chance of malicious or accidental usage.

The sites earmarked to host one of the devices are Glenbuchat Hall, Corgarff Hall and locations in Glenkindie and Kildrummy.

Lonach Hall was chosen to host Strathdon’s first defibrillator due to its role as an important community facility. The well-used venue has been a fixture of the Bellabeg area since 1845 and hosts a range of functions, including weddings, concerts, meetings, dances and corporate events. It is also the venue for the annual Lonach Highland Ball which is organised by the society and is held the week following the annual Lonach Highland Gathering.

Jennifer Stewart, secretary and chief executive of the Lonach Highland and Friendly Society, said:

“The society was founded to preserve highland culture and promote community cohesion and charitable giving, all of which still run through its core today. Supporting the local community is imperative to the society and our annual gathering continues to make a significant contribution to the local economy. We always strive to increase the scope of that contribution and this fundraising initiative is part of that.

“Strathdon is a beautiful, rural location, but one that can take some time for emergency services to get to. Defibrillators can prove crucial to increasing the chances of a patient’s survival in the minutes before an ambulance arrives. With a predominately older population, installing these pieces of lifesaving kit in the local area makes a lot of sense, particularly as no such provision currently exists.

“Applications for grant funding have been made, but any contribution from businesses, organisations or individuals would be warmly received. Our aim is to raise enough funding to have the additional four defibrillators installed by the end of 2016.”

This year sees the Lonach Highland and Friendly Society’s showpiece event reach a major milestone. The 175th Lonach Highland Gathering and Games will take place in Bellabeg on Saturday, 27 August. To mark the anniversary, the Lonach Highlanders will be joined at the games and on their march round the local area prior to the games commencing by the Atholl Highlanders, Europe’s only private army.

Established in 1823, by Sir Charles Forbes, 1st Baronet of Newe and Edinglassie, the Lonach Highland and Friendly Society is a charitable organisation based in Strathdon, Aberdeenshire. The society organises the annual Lonach Gathering at Bellabeg Park, Strathdon, which is held on the fourth Saturday of August. The main attraction at the gathering is the march of the Lonach Highlanders, a unique body of non-military men.

Further information on the Lonach Highland and Friendly Society, the Lonach Highlanders and the annual Lonach Highland Gathering can be found at www.lonach.org.

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Jul 212016
 

Duncan Harley reviews ‘Jackie the Musical’ at His Majesty’s Theatre Aberdeen.

Jackie_3The 1970s was an era when people actually spoke face to face or, in extremis, resorted to sending handwritten letters through the post.

Although home computers were beginning to appear, digital media was largely the prerogative of the military, academia and government.

Personal mobile phones were available, but tended to be the size of bricks, and the social media app of choice was the humble GPO land line.

Remembered for its bell-bottoms, the miners’ strike and the rise of disco, the 70s heralded a few wars, a moon landing or two, plus a good few political scandals. The US had its Watergate, and in the UK we had Rinkagate, perhaps better known as the Jeremy Thorpe Affair.

While Maggie and Arthur battled it out on the picket lines, the gender-bending Bowie performed on Top of the Pops; pirate radio, the precursor to local radio, was moving shore-side, and novelist Tom Wolfe’s ‘Me Decade’ was welcoming in the recovery of the self in a flawed and corrupted society.

Boys read Commando Comics, sneaked the odd copy of naturist magazine ‘Health and Efficiency’ into the classroom and occasionally, just occasionally, thumbed through big sister’s personal copy of Jackie Magazine.

With tips on how to meet Mister Right, and with a distinctly interactive format for the day, Jackie the Magazine proved an enduring read, and by the mid 70s it was selling over 600,000 copies per week to teenage girls hooked on a heady mix of girl meets boy comic strips, advice columns and pop star pull-outs.

Then of course there were those agony aunts Cathie and Claire. In reality a randomly rotating team of DC Thomson staffers, Cathie and Claire received up to 400 letters each week from troubled teens asking about anything from the mysteries of menstruation to the mysterious nature of Mister Right.

The magazine ceased publication in 1993 after 1,534 issues, and although vintage copies can be found on eBay, perhaps the best way to connect, or re-connect according to your age, is via Jackie the Musical.

Jackie_2The show is built around a well trodden plot familiar to many. Jackie, played by Janet Dibley, is divorcing errant husband John, Graham Bickley.

He has fallen for Gemma, Tricia Adele-Turner, but has doubts about the new relationship. John and Jackie have a teenage son David, Michael Hamway, who aspires to pop star status, but he is in a state of unrequited love with Prosecco-saturated older woman Jill, Lori Haley Fox.

While packing for the inevitable divorce-led house move, Jackie discovers her long forgotten hoard of Jackie Magazines nestling under the stairs.

Opening the dusty boxes releases a genie in the form of a fresh-faced and sweetly naive teenage version of herself, played by Daisy Steere. A tranche of cliché-ridden 1970s-era dating advice is proffered by the younger Jackie, and things soon become heated in Jackie-land.

A convoluted but well-engineered farce ensues. The punch lines are at points slightly laboured, and the tree-dancing sequence was a bit on the odd side of fabulous; but overall the toe-tapping, gut-busting energy of this production more than makes up for those minor niggles.

The musical framework and the story line generally work seamlessly to create a powerfully nostalgic musical spectacular, fully laden with beautifully choreographed textbook 70s jukebox hits from the likes of the Osmonds, David Essex and T Rex.

Jackie_1Musical numbers include the classic ‘Love Hurts’, ‘I Beg Your Pardon’ and ‘Crazy Horses’. A highlight is Michael Hamway’s hilarious bump ‘n’ grind groin-shuffling rendition of the T-Rex hit ‘20th Century Boy’: even Bolan might have loved it!

For my money though, the proof of the pudding often lies in the audience reaction. At the finale, the theatre audience were literally dancing in the aisles. Nuff said!

This is a feel-good production intended to do just that, make folk feel good, and Jackie the Musical succeeds brilliantly.

Resident Director Harry Blumenau. Choreographed by Arlene Philips.
Jackie the Musical plays at HMT Aberdeen until Saturday 23rd July.

Tickets from Aberdeen Performing Arts Tel: 01224- 641122

Words © Duncan Harley and Images © DC Thomson & Co Ltd

Jun 302016
 

With thanks to Paul Smith, Citrus:Mix.
Alhikmah2

Plans for the next stage in an ambitious Aberdeen community project have taken another major step forward after a fundraiser in the city added £75,000 to the running total. The Alhikmah Foundation is the driving force behind the creation of the Masjid Alhikmah, which will feature community and youth facilities as well as prayer halls for north-east Muslims.

Made possible entirely through donations and the fundraising activities of supporters, already £1.2million has been donated and an Iftar dinner at the Hilton Treetops Hotel in Aberdeen on Friday, June 17, brought in £75,000 during an evening attended by more than 500 people.

The generous backing to date has enabled the Nelson Street project to make significant progress, with the main part of the construction programme concluded in January (2016).

The first phase incorporated all structural and external aspects and the foundation is pushing forward for plans for the second stage, which will involve the internal fit and finish of the three-storey building.

A spokesman for the Alhikmah Foundation said:

“The completion of the external elements of the  building was a significant milestone and a very proud moment for all who have been involved in the project. To see the site transformed and regenerated is very rewarding, with the feedback we have had from local residents extremely positive.

“None of this would have been possible without the support the foundation has received from donors and from fundraisers who have taken on an incredible array of challenges. To reach £1.2m is a wonderful achievement and we cannot thank those who have contributed enough.

“Without them the vision for Masjid Alhikmah could not have become a reality and the latest event is another demonstration of the strength of support there is – the £75,000 total from the Iftar dinner exceeded our expectations and we thank all who attended and made the evening such a success.”

Iftar is part of the month of Ramadan and marks the breaking of the daily fast between dawn and sunset. The foundation dinner was an opportunity for the north-east Muslim community to join together for Iftar whilst supporting a fundraising cause close to their heart.

The campaign will continue as the project progresses, with the target of raising an additional £425,000 to pay for the internal aspects of the new facility. The full annual report for 2015 has been published and is available to download online, outlining the financial performance of the foundation for the year and also detailing key aspects of the project.

The spokesman added:

“The annual report is an opportunity to look back over a very productive year but also look forward to what is ahead. We know there are a number of community fundraising events in the pipeline and it is very important that the momentum that we have built is carried forward.

“It has been a wonderful effort to get to this stage, particularly given the challenging economic climate facing the north-east at present, and we are grateful to everyone who has contributed so far or who plans to in the weeks and months ahead. Every penny spent on the project will continue to come from fundraising by our supporters.”

Masjid Alhikmah will feature space for worship, funeral preparations, dedicated women’s facilities and a family community centre. There is an active Muslim community living in and around the city of Aberdeen and the facility is designed to help create unity and foster a sense of harmony between Muslims and fellow north-east residents.

The name chosen for the new centre stems from Arabic. Masjid translates as “a place of congregational worship” and Alhikmah as “wisdom”.

 

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Feb 042016
 
SOSWF Whisky Galore 4 Small

You’ll find whisky galore here….X marks the spot for the nation’s treasure.

With thanks to Account Director, Tricker PR

New ticket sales record set as Spirit of Speyside Whisky Festival events go on sale to whisky-loving public

Ticket sales for the 2016 Spirit of Speyside Whisky Festival have set new records, with over 2,700 tickets valued at almost £75,000 being bought within the first hour of their launch this week.

Just 10 minutes after the website went live on Tuesday (February 2) transactions reached the same level that took an hour to achieve in 2015, while the same amount of sales in an hour took 24 hours on last year’s opening day.

Over 60 events in the packed programme taking place in whisky’s spiritual home from April 28 to May 2 have already sold out, and many more have limited availability. The events attracts thousands of visitors to Speyside to raise a glass to Scotland’s national drink.

Visitors from the UK, Europe and North America have been the driving force behind the sales, with whisky lovers from as far afield as Bahrain, Australia, Japan and India also snapping up tickets on the opening day.

Festival manager Pery Zakeri says the phenomenal demand has taken everyone surprise, and there seems no sign of sales slowing down.

She adds,

“We have had ticket sales from a total of 22 different countries and in the first 24 hours of going live we had reached a sales value of over £91,000. 

“I think this just goes to show how eagerly anticipated the Festival is this year. We have garnered a fantastic reputation for putting on a world class event, and people are making sure they get in early to get tickets for the activities they really want.

“As with previous years, the exclusive distillery tours have sold out first. The real whisky aficionados are always looking for very special experiences that are only available at the time of the Festival, so tours of distilleries not normally open to the public, such as Strathmill and Dalmunach, were snapped up within minutes.

“However, with 467 different events on the programme from whisky tasting and blending experiences and from heritage walks to traditional ceilidhs, there are still plenty of tickets available.

“The beauty of the Spirit of Speyside Festival is that it is small enough to be incredibly friendly and welcoming, but big enough so that there is something for everyone. But we’d urge anyone thinking about coming to book their events soon as tickets are selling very quickly indeed.”

The Festival is taking part in Scotland’s Year of Innovation, Architecture and Design, and many of the events are focused on the theme. There will be the chance to enjoy drams against the background of stunning architecture, and visitors will learn about the innovation born in the region which is home to the world’s best-loved whiskies.

Paul Bush OBE, VisitScotland’s Director of Events, says,

“The Spirit of Speyside Whisky Festival is always a massively popular event with visitors from around the world and we are delighted to see so many people eager to take advantage of the opportunity to sample this unique aspect of Scotland’s history and culture in 2016.

“Much more than simply whisky tasting, the Festival celebrates Scotland’s national drink with an exciting and innovative programme of events, and we’re confident that the hugely encouraging sales over these first 24 hours will be maintained ahead of the Festival over the coming months.”

Along with helping whisky fans organise their itineraries and finalising details of the Festival, organisers are balancing that with planning their new mini-festival in the autumn.

It takes place from September 9 to 11 at Elgin Town Hall, and will bring many of the region’s whisky producers together under one roof on their own doorstep from September 9 to 11. Tickets for that event are due to go on sale after the main Festival in May.

Tickets for all events in the 2016 Spirit of Speyside Whisky Festival programme are available to buy now at www.spiritofspeyside.com The Festival is also active on FacebookTwitter and on Instagram.

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