May 122017
 

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

Massed pipe bands at Aboyne Highland Games

One of Aberdeenshire’s leading traditional events is seeking the public’s input as it prepares to shine a spotlight on a century and a half of its history.

The organisers of Aboyne Highland Games are calling on the public to share their memories and photographs of the iconic Royal Deeside event as it prepares to celebrate its 150th anniversary later this year.

All of the contributions will be included in a special commemorative memory book that will be on display at this summer’s event. For visitors who wish to share their games memories on the day itself, boards will be set up to allow written reminiscences.

An extensive written and pictorial archive documenting the event’s history is held by the Aboyne Highland Games. However, the organising committee is keen to hear personal memories and see still or moving images of the games from those who have attended over the decades.

Aboyne Highland Games has become a highlight of the Deeside events calendar since its founding in 1867. It has been held annually on the town’s green for the past 150 years, with the only exception being during both world wars. This year’s event takes place on Saturday, 05 August and is once again expected to welcome up to 10,000 visitors.

The inaugural Aboyne Highland Games was held on Saturday, 31 August 1867 following just a month of planning and was well attended. The Aberdeen Journal of Wednesday, 04 September 1867 noted that:

“When the time arrived for beginning the competition, several thousands of spectators, of all classes, and all out for a holiday, surrounded the large enclosure on the muir.”

Today, the games is held on the first Saturday in August and features a packed programme of 95 traditional highland events, including solo and massed piping, highland dancing, light and heavy athletics and fiddle competitions. A popular feature is the 6.8-mile hill race that follows part of the Fungle Road and circles the base of Craigendinnie. With total combined prize fund of over £13,000 on offer, Aboyne Highland Games attracts some of the country’s leading pipers, dancers and athletes. 

After a near 40-year absence, one of the events that featured in the programme of the first games is being staged to mark the event’s milestone anniversary. Pole vaulting will be included in the Saturday afternoon programme for the first time since 1978. Once a staple of highland games events throughout Scotland, the discipline is now only contested at a handful of games each year.

Alistair Grant, chairman of Aboyne Highland Games, said:

“Aboyne Highland Games has been an important and much loved fixture of the Deeside calendar for a century and a half. We know it has played an important part of many people’s lives and are keen to hear from those with memories of the event, either as spectators, participants or involved in its organisation.

“Our minute books contain extensive written records of the evolution of the games, from the initial meeting on Saturday, 27 July 1867 where the idea of holding a highland games in Aboyne was first discussed, through to the present time. Although factual, these do not capture the people’s story of Aboyne Highland Games, which is vital for our memory book.

“Reaching our 150th anniversary is an important milestone in the history of the games. As we look back with great fondness and celebrate the history, heritage and culture of the local area, we also look to the future. To welcoming new faces annually on the first Saturday in August who can join us in making history and helping shape the future of this important Deeside event.”

The deadline for submitting photographs and memories is Thursday, 01 June and these can be e-mailed to secretary@aboynegames.com. Further information regarding sending photographs by post is available on the Aboyne Highland Games Facebook page.

Founded in 1867, Aboyne Highland Games is a traditional Scottish highland games held annually on the first Saturday in August.

The Aberdeenshire event, held under the patronage of Granville Gordon, the 13th Marquis of Huntly, attracts crowds of up to 10,000 people each year. Featuring a programme of traditional highland games events, including highland dancing, tossing the caber, piping and fiddle competitions, the event on the town’s green attracts visitors from around the world and makes an important contribution to the local Deeside economy.

Further information on Aboyne Highland Games can be found at www.aboynegames.com.

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May 122017
 

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

Aberdeenshire’s Lonach Highlanders are set to make a mark as they debut at this year’s Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo.

Seventy-five of Strathdon’s kilted clansmen will travel to the capital in August to be part of the iconic annual spectacle as it celebrates Scotland’s clans.

The men have been invited to be part of the performance on Monday, 14 August by Lord Forbes, chief of the Forbes clan.

In front of an audience of around 8,500 people, including many international visitors, the highlanders will parade onto Edinburgh Castle’s Esplanade to herald the start of the evening’s performance. Dressed in full highland regalia and armed with their traditional eight-foot long pikes, the men will create an imposing sight for the gathered crowd.

With a history stretching back to 1823 when the Lonach Highland and Friendly Society was formed, the Lonach Highlanders are believed to be the largest body of non-military men to carry ceremonial weapons in Britain. Membership is drawn from residents of the local area who descend from the Forbes, Wallace and Gordon clans. Society membership currently stands at 227 men, under the patronage of Sir James Forbes, 8th Baronet of Newe and Edinglassie.

The theme of this year’s Tattoo is a Splash of Tartan, something that the Lonach Highlanders will admirably provide. To mark Scotland’s Year of History, Heritage and Archaeology, Tattoo organisers have teamed up with The Standing Council of Scottish Chiefs to celebrate the country’s clan heritage and national fabric, and their influence around the world.

Two or three clans will be represented at each performance during the Tattoo’s three-week run. On the night of the Lonach Highlander’s attendance, both the Forbes and Wallace clans will muster on the castle esplanade and their Scottish ancestry celebrated.

This is a fantastic opportunity for the society and the highlanders to help promote our history and heritage

The highlanders’ trip to Edinburgh comes just 12 days before their own annual gathering takes place in Bellabeg, Aberdeenshire.

Attracting crowds of up to 10,000 people, the Lonach Highland Gathering and Games is one of north-east Scotland’s leading traditional highland games.

This year’s event on Saturday, 26 August marks the 176th time the gathering has been held. It will once again commence with the Lonach Highlanders embarking on six-mile march round the local area, following in the footsteps of their forefathers and continuing a near two-hundred year-old tradition.

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

“The Lonach Highland and Friendly Society is honoured to have been invited to participate in this year’s Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo. This is the first time that the Lonach Highlanders have been present at the event and there is huge excitement amongst those taking part.

“This is a fantastic opportunity for the society and the highlanders to help promote our history and heritage, the Lonach Gathering, Aberdeenshire and highland games in general. Television recording will be taking place on the night that we are parading. If we make the director’s cut then there is potential for millions of people around the world to learn about Lonach.

“Attending the Tattoo will be a great warm up for the 176th Lonach Highland Gathering and Games just 12 days later on Saturday, 26 August. If you think the sight of 75 Lonach Highlanders marching is special, the sight and sound of 200 of them, pikes aloft, marching through picturesque Strathdon is one to behold, and not to be missed.”

Ringside seat tickets for the 176th Lonach Highland Gathering and Games are on sale now, priced from £12 for adults and £7 for children. Visit www.lonach.org for full details.

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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Feb 172017
 

With thanks to Aberdeenshire SNP.

Aboyne, Upper Deeside and Donside SNP councillor Geva Blackett (pictured) has hailed the start of the project to reinstate Ballater’s popular Old Royal Station, destroyed by fire nearly two years ago.

The B-listed building, owned by the council, was historically used by the Royal Family travelling to nearby Balmoral Castle and was hit by a fire which broke out in May 2015.

The building had been leased to VisitScotland for the last 15 years and housed a Visitor Information Centre, restaurant, museum, clothes shop and photography business.

Although much of the building was severely damaged by the fire, a replica Royal carriage survived, as well as various undamaged display cases.

Aberdeenshire Council committed to rebuilding the station and subsequently submitted a successful planning application to the Cairngorms National Park Authority.

There will be changes to how the internal space will be used – both the Visitor Information Centre and the restaurant will return and these will be joined by a library and an enhanced exhibition space. The Royal Carriage will be reinstalled as one of the main attractions.

The project, expected to cost in the region of £3million, is expected to be completed in December of this year, all being well.

The principle elevations of the original building will be reinstated matching the Victorian architecture and detailing, including Queen Victoria’s Waiting Room.

Commenting, Cllr Geva Blackett said:

“This marks the start of the restoration of this iconic building that plays such an important role in Ballater and indeed the whole of Royal Deeside.  Watching the first turf being dug makes me hugely optimistic that the fortunes of this beautiful village have turned a corner.”

Aberdeenshire Provost Hamish Vernal marked the start of the project by cutting the first turf with a ceremonial spade and wheelbarrow used to start the construction of Ballater Railway Station by the Great North of Scotland Railway Company in 1865.

He said:

“Ballater has had a tough time lately. The fire was a terrible tragedy along with the devastation suffered as a consequence of Storm Frank.

“However, I can see real progress with many shops open for business again and more and more residents returned to their homes.  Therefore, it is great to see another milestone achieved through the start of the construction work to redevelop the Old Royal Station.”

Morgan Sindall area director, Mark McBride, said:

“Morgan Sindall has a successful track record of delivering public sector projects and we’re proud to have been selected for one that has such significance to people not only in the local area, but across Scotland as a whole.

“It’s our first contract awarded through Aberdeenshire Council’s main contractor framework and we’re pleased to get work underway. 
 
“Ballater Old Royal Station has a rich cultural history and is integral to the region’s tourism industry. We’re mindful of the need to retain as many of the original heritage features as possible during the restoration process and confident that the finished building will be well received.”

The station was opened in October 1866 by the Great North of Scotland Railway and was the nearest station to Balmoral Castle. It closed in February 1966.

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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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Nov 102016
 

floydplay2By Chris Ramsay, Forviemedia.

‘One thinks of it all as a dream’ is a play written by Alan Bissett and directed by Sacha Kyle. It charts the 1967 release of Pink Floyd’s début album, ‘The Piper at the Gates of Dawn’ and the erratic behaviour of frontman Syd Barrett. Is he having a drug-induced breakdown, or is he playing an elaborate joke on the band and the music industry?

The play takes the form of dreamlike sequences and vignettes; occasionally it verges on pantomime.

I took loads of LSD and it was nothing like what the play shows, but that’s how acid and theatrical interpretation should be.

I saw the Floyd live a couple of times at festivals back then – that and the fact I once spent a weekend in Roger Waters’ Mum’s house made aficionados of the band jealous. These fanatics carried Floyd albums around with them. I told them that I thought Floyd was a great singles band, that I was totally wasted during my late teens and beyond. It confirmed what they suspected – I was the one with a problem, the wayward idiot winding them up.

In ‘One thinks of it all as a dream’, acid guru and Scottish psychiatrist RD Laing puts in a couple of surprise appearances.

“How do you know it’s Syd who has the problem?” he asks Roger Waters.  

This poignant play was specially commissioned by the Mental Health Foundation for the Scottish Mental Health Arts & Film Festival. It was co-produced with A Play, A Pie and A Pint, Traverse Theatre, Òran Mór and Aberdeen Performing Arts. The hour-long play manages to paint a vivid portrait of a revolutionary period in pop music and to sketch a character study of one of its most influential, enigmatic and complex figures. It stars Euan Cuthbertson as Syd Barrett.

Syd was the principal songwriter behind ‘The Piper at the Gates of Dawn’, a masterpiece, and he wrote a handful of strong early singles that helped define the psychedelic age. Syd however was happiest when he was painting. Unlike many of his contemporaries – Jimi Hendrix, Brian Jones, Janis Joplin – Roger ‘Syd’ Barrett survived that era; he died in July 2006 aged 60.

‘One thinks of it all as a dream’ was performed at the excellent Lemon Tree. A Play, A Pie and a Pint is great value for £11, and the format has whetted the appetite of Aberdeen’s culture vultures – the venue was packed for the matinee performance on November 4th. The audience was principally of a certain vintage: I didn’t spot anyone having acid flashbacks.

Alan Bissett is a playwright, novelist and performer who grew up in Falkirk, where he has a street named after him. He won the Glenfiddich Scottish Writer of the Year award in 2011. Alan and Sacha Kyle are one of Scotland’s most acclaimed writer-director teams, creators of Edinburgh Festival Fringe hits such as The Moira Monologues, The Pure, The Dead and the Brilliant and Ban this Filth! Sacha’s recent credits include Turbo Folk and What the F**kirk?

Related reading:

http://www.sachakyle.com  Sacha’s website

https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/alan-bissett/david-maclennan-portrait-of-life-in-theatre Alan Bissett article – ‘Portrait of a life in theatre’

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Nov 042016
 

There are few people taking to social media to profess love for Muse’s Marischal Square development which is growing up and around – and now under Provost Skene House.  Photographs from the site show that far from respecting the house, it is not only surrounded by this oversized new office structure, but also digging works are also taking place which certainly seem less than safe for the Provost Skene House. Article by Jon Symons, Photographs by Suzanne Kelly of the Provost’s House as it now sits, and from Writing from Scotland – by Christine Laennec.

provost-skene-house-one-use-onlyPhotographs which have appeared on social media make it look as if the fabric of Lord Provost Skene House is not being respected by the builders. Aberdeen Voice has been promised access to the site and a statement from the builders.

This will be published in due course.

So what is it about Provost Skene House (PSH) that inspires an abiding affinity with most Aberdonians?

Is it the fact it was initially built in 1545 and is 471 years old?

Is it the fact Mary the First was on the Scottish throne when the foundation stones were laid?

Perhaps it’s because PSH is the oldest surviving house in Aberdeen and one of the few remaining examples of early burgh architecture in the city.

It has an exceptional interior with outstanding examples of 17th century plasterwork and a painted gallery with an unusual cycle of religious tempera paintings.

The first records of the house date back to 1545 and the vaulted basement is likely to be from this period.

In 1622 this former three storey house was bought by Matthew Lumsden who added a two storey and attic gabled section to the south west side. His Coat-of-Arms, dated 1626 is clearly visible in one of the dormer gables.

The house was then bought in 1669 by the wealthy merchant and later Provost of Aberdeen, George Skene of Rubislaw and he reconstructed the original house and built the square tower on the north west side.

The house is steeped in history and was used by the marauding Duke of Cumberland’s troops in 1746 and for a long time after was known as ‘Cumberland’s House’.

In 1732, the house was divided into two separate tenements but was then brought together again in the mid 19th century and later used as a lodging house (Victoria Lodging House) but thereafter it slowly fell into disrepair.

Many of the slum buildings surrounding it were demolished in the 1930s but a public campaign (purportedly supported by the Queen Mother) saved Provost Skene House from Council vandalism.

provost-skene-house-one-use-only-facadeThe painted gallery is important and unusual.

Originally depicting The Life of Christ in 10 panels the ceiling is by an unknown artist although it does show Flemish and Germanic influences.

Some of the armorial devices included in the paintings may be those of previous owner Matthew Lumsden and this suggests the ceiling may have been painted between 1622-44.

The smaller painted room depicts landscapes with figures all done in a Classical style.

The archway, now removed at Muse’s instigation, was transported from Union Terrace Gardens and rebuilt at the house in 1931.

In the sixties the then Council decided to erect the monstrosity known as St Nicholas House and PSH was virtually hidden from public view from 1968 until 2013 when the Council’s carbuncle was finally demolished.

You could be forgiven for thinking Aberdonians had forgotten about their historical city centre jewel but that was not the case. During the limited (some might say derisory) consultation with the public on what should be done with the site it became obvious that Aberdeen’s residents had rediscovered their love for PSH.

Even the present Council realised this and determined, in recognition of the importance of the Broad Street site to the future of the city centre, officers should explore the options open to the council to ensure any development was of the highest quality and sympathetic to Provost Skene House and Marischal College and ruled that should include consideration of the council developing the site through a joint venture and the possibility of a design competition tender exercise.

Of course, saying one thing and doing something completely different would seem to be the hallmark of the current Council administration and it appears they have put money and potential profit ahead of all other considerations.

The final design (Muse Developments) was supposedly chosen by an unbiased and independently minded ten person working group based on Urban Design, Culture and Heritage but only five of the group were Councillors. The other five were Council Officers and an employee of Ryden, the site selling agent and later the company Muse chose to market the property.

More recently photographs have shown the apparent disregard the contractor has shown for PSH as they appear to dig under the south west gable end foundations with no obvious support for the four hundred and seventy one year old building.

When completed the Council seems determined to dumb down the house and use some of the rooms to showcase the likes of Joey Harper, Annie Lennox and other lesser known Aberdeen celebrities.

provost-skene-house-one-use-only-detailThey have also decided not to reopen the once popular PSH tea room and this may well be because they hope to rent the ground floor retail units of Marischal Square to fast food outlets.

Provost Skene House is a national, never mind a city, treasure and most Aberdonians hoped and thought it would finally be showcased in the green grassed and tree lined surroundings it deserved.

Unfortunately it seems this Council, just like the one in the nineteen thirties, has little if any regard for the needs and wants of Aberdeen’s long suffering citizens but then again, why on earth should we be surprised?

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Oct 272016
 

bulletsWith thanks to Jonathan Russell, Chair of Aberdeen and District Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament.

Izhar Khan a local hospital consultant, lecturer, and activist will be talking on the History behind the Middle East Conflicts. He gave this talk to great aclaim last year. The talk will be followed by a discussion.

The Public Meeting which is also supported by Aberdeen Student Left will take place at 7pm at the MacRobert Lecture Theatre in the MacRobert Building at the University of Aberdeen.

The MacRobert building is just off King Street before the roundabout at Seaton. There is parking and cycle racks and the building is wheelchair friendly.

There will be a further meeting on the Kurds in the Middle East on November 10th (venue to be announced) and subsequent meetings on Syria and the Yemen/

If you want to find out more about the Middle East please come along and share this article with your friends.

Oct 212016
 

With thanks to Yvette Rayner, PR Account Manager, Frasermedia.

graham-findlay-ceo-nessAberdeen Football Club legends are reuniting from across the globe at a charity lunch in Aberdeen this month.
Eleven of Aberdeen Football Club’s 1976 Scottish League Cup winning squad will reunite for the first time in 40 years at a sell out event in aid of North East Sensory Services (NESS) on 28th October at the Chester Hotel, Aberdeen.

Legends of the exciting campaign, whose final took place on 6th November 1976 at Hampden Park, including international star Arthur Graham, Stuart Kennedy, Willie Garner and Joe Harper will join teammates to reminisce over the historic cup win.

The AFC heroes are travelling from as far afield as Australia for the reunion, which is the second fundraising football lunch for NESS.

NESS, which is based in Aberdeen, with centres in Dundee and Elgin, supports over 5,000 people who have vision or hearing loss. The charity has been helping people in Aberdeen since 1879 and is the only organisation that supports both deaf and blind people.

BBC sports presenter, and AFC fan, Richard Gordon, who was born and bred in Aberdeen, will compere the afternoon, and squad members will discuss the thrilling cup-winning run and take part in a question and answer session.

Guests will have the opportunity to get autographs and photographs with the team members, and some players have generously donated unique items for auction on the day.

Graham Findlay (pictured), CEO for NESS, said:

“We are delighted that 11 players of the AFC legendary 1976 squad are taking time out to join us in our celebration. With George Campbell coming from Australia, and others traveling from England and across Scotland, this will be a truly unique event.

“For fans like myself who just about remember the game in 1976, this is a real treat. We have some pretty incredible auction prizes which cannot be found anywhere else, and so we hope to raise some much needed funds for deaf and blind people in the North-east.”

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Oct 212016
 

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

From the park

Kincardine Castle is hosting The Nomads Tent Roadshow this autumn.

An Aberdeenshire castle will be transformed into an Eastern bazaar later this month as a Scottish home furnishing, textile and gift company opens a pop-up shop inside its historic walls.

Kincardine Castle on Royal Deeside, which is not normally open to the public, will throw open its Victorian doors to visitors when The Nomads Tent Roadshow arrives later this month.

The pop-up shop will run from Friday, 28 October until Sunday, 06 November and feature a wide range of authentic Middle and Far Eastern goods available for purchase, bringing a flavour of the Orient to the oldest village on Deeside.

The Nomads Tent is a popular Edinburgh-based warehouse that sells a range of items, including carpets, rugs, furniture, pottery, lanterns, Christmas decorations, scarves and jewellery. All of which is sourced from markets and bazaars in countries including India, Turkey, Vietnam and Morocco.

A private family residence, Kincardine Castle is widely used as a venue for meetings, conferences, corporate events and weddings.  It also offers group accommodation in 16 of its bedrooms. The Nomads Tent pop-up eastern bazaar will give the public a chance to venture inside this late Victorian arts and crafts style castle free of charge.

As part of the 10-day event, a series of fringe events will also be held at the castle, which sits on the outskirts of Kincardine O’Neil, four miles east of Aboyne. On Tuesday, 01 November a dinner and illustrated talk on the origins and imagery of Persian garden carpets will be held, with money being raised for Scottish children’s charity Children 1st.

Tea, coffee and light lunches will be available in the castle each day during the roadshow, but Kincardine’s monthly pop-up café with its more extensive lunch menu will take place on Friday, 04 November.  Two half-day cookery classes will also take place at the castle. Run by Kincardine Cookery, the class on Saturday, 05 November will feature Middle Eastern cuisine, while Indian cookery will be covered on Sunday, 06 November.

Nicky Bradford of Kincardine Castle said:

“We are very excited that The Nomads Tent Roadshow is pitching up at Kincardine for 10 days this autumn to set out its wares. The pop-up shop is a great way to experience some of the huge range of authentic eastern furnishings, textiles and gifts that it offers, including some Christmas items.

“It is shaping up to be a brilliant few days with something for everyone. Food features in all the fringe events, providing a platform for us to showcase some of the fantastic local produce that is grown in Deeside.

“Kincardine Castle has always welcomed people and has a real buzz to it when packed with guests.  Over the past 30 years we’ve worked to increase the number and variety of events that can be held here, but we’ve never opened the castle up to visitors for so many days at a time. We’re looking forward to welcoming everyone to our historic home.”

The Nomads Tent Roadshow will take place at Kincardine Castle from Friday, 28 October until Sunday, 06 November, opening daily between 10:00am and 5:00pm, except on Sundays when it will open at 11:30am.

Kincardine Castle is the centrepiece of the 3,000-acre Kincardine Estate, which is owned and managed by Andrew and Nicky Bradford. The estate was bought in the 1880s by Andrew’s great-grandmother and the castle remains a private family residence. Built in 1894, the castle was designed by architects David Niven and Herbert Wigglesworth.

The building incorporates elements of five centuries of castle architecture in its design, starting with the 14th century style square keep tower.  Kincardine Castle is available for hire for a range of events, including meetings, conferences, dinners and weddings. Sixteen bedrooms in the castle provide overnight accommodation for groups of six or more.

For further information Kincardine Castle, visit www.kincardinecastle.com or telephone 01339 884225.

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Oct 052016
 

The Cheviot, the Stag and the Black, Black Oil – at His Majesty’s Theatre Aberdeen. Duncan Harley reviews.

the-cheviot-production-image-9-photo-credit-tommy-ga-ken-wan-1

Performed by the Dundee Rep Ensemble as a Highland Ceilidh, Cheviot has been brought bang up to date.

Written by the late John McGrath, The Cheviot, the Stag and the Black, Black Oil tells the story of forced economic change in the Highlands.
First performed by 7:84 Theatre Company in 1973, the Ceilidh play pointedly compares the sheer brutality of the landowning capitalists of the Clearances to the often callous exploitation of Scotland by the predatory capitalists behind the oil boom.

As an unconventional piece of popular theatre combining radical politics with drama, plus music and song, Cheviot predictably attracts mixed reaction.

The Establishment was seemingly not much impressed with the original production, and sheafs of appalled letters were written to The Scotsman. The general reaction ranged from deep hostility from supporters of global capitalism, to a feeling of empowerment amongst nationalists who, despite the extreme Socialist views expressed in the play, sensed that an unlikely ally had emerged to challenge the mores of the day.

Cheviot played to audiences as small as twelve, in Fraserburgh of all places, on that first tour; but persevered and went on to tour the Highlands and beyond, gathering larger audiences along the way. Village halls which had never seen a live play performed were the venues. Folk in far-flung places whose own grandparents had witnessed the Clearances first hand became both spectators and willing participants in this new theatre.

I first saw Cheviot in the 1970s: yes, I am that old, and for free. Strathclyde Regional Council, God rest its cotton socks, had hired a Glasgow performance space so that John McGrath’s take on Scotland’s turbulent economic history could be played out to a wider audience.

What did I make of it then? I can recall the surprise at getting the afternoon off from work, and I can still remember wondering what on earth the city fathers hoped to achieve by exposing both me and my fellow workers to cutting edge agitprop theatre, since we were on the verge of revolution most of the time already. Perhaps they thought that Cheviot might just calm us all down a wee bit.

The show’s pedigree is unquestionably anti-establishment. Estate Factor Patrick Seller burns down a croft house with poor old granny still inside; the loathful Duke of Sutherland evicts 15k of his tenants to make way for 200,000 sheep; Highland regiments are sacrificed on a colonial whim, and Highland culture comes under sustained attack from the capitalised aristocracy.

The Astors, David Cameron’s family and a toupee-topped golf course magnate with Lewis connections all take it firmly on the chin; all in the best possible taste of course, and with unforgettable sing-along ditties, including:

“we’ve cleared the straths, we’ve cleared the paths, we’ve cleared the bens, we’ve cleared the glens, we’ll show them we’re the ruling class.”

Performed by the Dundee Rep Ensemble as a Highland Ceilidh, Cheviot has been brought bang up to date. The timeline of the original production concluded with the discovery of North Sea oil, but now concludes with the oil exploration downturn which Mark Carney has described as:

“a challenging environment which, given global prices, may persist for some time.”

The cast of ten play multiple roles and generally this works really well. A coat rail of costumes stands to hand, stage left, and fast changes are the order of the day.

the-cheviot-production-image-2b-photo-credit-tommy-ga-ken-wan-1As Irene Macdougall slips effortlessly into the gown of Sutherland’s infamous estate clearance manager James Loch, Billy Mack is swapping Queen Victoria’s crown for factor Patrick Seller’s top-hat.

Stephen Bangs moves fluidly between his role as the plaid-clad Sturdy Highlander and that of the totalitarian bible thumping preacher, while Barrie Hunter’s Duke of Sutherland alternates with both an old man and an old woman.

The audience have a big part to play too. This is Ceilidh after all. It’s safe enough to sit in the front row, so long as you don’t stick your hand up too high; but be warned that this production takes audience participation to entirely new levels.

Early on, during a warm-up Canadian Barn Dance, half the audience appeared to be heading off out to Union Terrace as Musical Director Alasdair Macrae called out the steps.

A hilarious sing-along parody of the Alexander Brothers stalwart “For these are my mountains and this is my glen” follows, before the more serious business of lampooning the men who own your glen begins in earnest.

Irvine Welsh‘s Trainspotting Renton, AKA Rent Boy, infamously cried out that:

“It’s SHITE being Scottish! We’re the lowest of the low. We’re ruled by effete assholes. It’s a SHITE state of affairs to be in … and ALL the fresh air in the world won’t make any fucking difference!”

He may have had a point, although McGrath might have disagreed on the finer detail of Renton’s argument. Cheviot, for all the humour – and some of it is very black indeed – takes the stance that the people don’t own the land under their feet; but perhaps they should!

Today’s Cheviot continues to hit the zeitgeist. The message of this play is as relevant today as it was when first performed in the early days of the oil boom. Nothing quite like it had seen before and if you are a newcomer to McGrath’s work, Cheviot will be nothing like you have ever seen before.

Make up your own mind, go see the play. I guarantee that you won’t be disappointed.

As John McGrath once said:

“Cheviot is the music of what is happening.”

The Cheviot, the Stag and the Black, Black Oil performs at HMT Aberdeen until Thursday 6th October

Tickets from Aberdeen Performing Arts Tel: 01224- 641122

Words © Duncan Harley and Images © Aberdeen Performing Arts