Jul 042018

A coalition of trade unions, political parties, and equality, faith, and campaign groups will hold events in Glasgow and Edinburgh on 13th and 14th of July to coincide with Trump’s planned visit to the UK.  With thanks to Suzanne Kelly.

Scotland United Against Trump is a coalition of organisations and individuals that have come together to protest against the policies and politics of Trump and the corporate interests for whom he governs.

It includes the STUC, SNP, Labour, and the Greens as well as Scotland Against Trump, the group which organised protests following his election in 2016.

The SNP has also spoken out to encourage people to stand up for Scotland’s values during the President’s visit.

Dave Moxham, STUC Deputy General Secretary, said:

“All of the organisations coming together for these protests agree that Donald Trump’s presidency is proving every bit as dangerous and divisive as people feared.

“Trump’s administration represents corrupt corporate interests – cutting taxes for the rich, attacking workers’ rights, undermining democracy, endangering action on climate change, and stoking resentment based on racism, sexism, transphobia and bigotry.

“At the very moment when the world needs more solidarity, more cooperation, and a greater commitment to justice, he proposes to build walls and wants to turn us against each other.”

Leader of the Scottish Labour Party, Richard Leonard said:

“There is understandable anger at the prospect of Donald Trump coming to Scotland and a strong desire across the country to show that he is not welcome here.

“Someone who holds such misogynist, racist and anti-trade union views, and withdraws the US from the Paris Climate Change Agreement, should not be given the ‘red carpet’ treatment.

Scottish Labour wants to see a world that stands up to intolerance, injustice and climate change and that is why we are working with Scotland United Against Trump campaign to ensure there is a mass protest if Trump does visit.”

Co-convenor of the Scottish Green Party, Patrick Harvie said:

“Scotland has seen the bullying, arrogant and delusional side of Donald Trump long before his election. Since becoming President the whole world has seen far worse, as he gives political space to white supremacists, and seeks to wreck international cooperation on climate change.

We should unite to show him he’s unwelcome, and demand that the UK Government stops treating this dangerous man as though his politics are legitimate.”

Ian Blackford, the SNP’s Westminster leader, said:

“Scotland and America have historic ties that go back centuries and that will not be undermined by the policies of one President. We share values with the American people of equality, diversity and support for human rights and must always stand up for those values when they are threatened.

The President’s approach threatens international co-operation on key issues like climate change and it is our job to show that we will not be put off our efforts by his opposition.

If President Trump visits we have an opportunity to show that we will never compromise our values and Trump will go back to America with a clear message that in Scotland we build bridges, not walls.”

Kirsty Haigh of the Campaign organisation, Scotland Unite Against Trump, said:

“Trump likes to talk up his Scottish connections – but we are going to show that his politics are not welcome here.

A growing coalition of organisations and campaigns are coming together to say that Scotland will stand united against Trump. Over the next month, we’re going to be building support for two massive days of actions with a rally in Glasgow and national demonstration and festival in Edinburgh.

We will also send a message to the Tory government that we will not tolerate their pandering to Trump.”

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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.”


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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Feb 122015

martin-fordWith thanks to Martin Ford.

At yesterday’s (12 February) Aberdeenshire Council budget setting meeting, proposals from the Democratic Independent and Green group of councillors (DIGG) were echoed in proposals by other political groups.

But there were also key differences between the budgets put forward by the coalition administration, the SNP and the DIGG.

The administration alone backed increased care and burial charges.

Green councillor Martin Ford (pictured) said:

“Only the DIGG proposed more funding to improve Wi-Fi connectivity in schools, and for cycling. The administration’s decision to increase care charges was unnecessary, as the savings needed to balance the budget could be achieved more fairly in other ways.”

The administration, the SNP and the DIGG all proposed to make a saving on roads maintenance.

The key strategic difference between the three budget proposals was the emphasis in the DIGG budget on ‘invest-to-save’ initiatives. Seconding the DIGG budget, Cllr Paul Johnston outlined areas where the Council could potentially make changes, subject to public consultation, that could cut costs or generate income, including:

– Partnership investment arrangements in the delivery of industrial and economic development projects.

– Partnership investment arrangements to install wind turbines on suitable sites not owned by the Council.

– Development of the Council property portfolio through a third-sector partner.

– LED replacement of street lights and part night switch off in appropriate locations.
– Introduction of further comfort partnerships to improve publicly available toilet facilities.

– Differential car parking charges based on vehicle emission bands, lower charges for low emission vehicles and higher charges for high emission vehicles.

– An anaerobic digestion heat plant for district heating, using suitable organic waste generated or collected by the Council.

“We believe the Council should aim to develop an income stream, to help fund public services, independent of the Council Tax or Scottish Government grant funding,” said Cllr Johnston.

“Utilising existing assets and taking opportunities to develop renewable energy, at least £3 million a year extra could be secured towards service provision.”

There was praise for the budget consultation during December and January conducted by the DIGG, and an acceptance by the Council leadership that more and better consultation was needed on future budgets.

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Sep 262014

By Bob Smith.
YesNo - Credit Kay Roxby - Creative Commons.

Scots wha hinna voted yes
Scots wha left Eck in a mess
Scots wha widna settle fer less
Wint on ti victory
Wee Eck tho wis affa calm
Wis unnerneath tho blast an damn?
Maybe he took a wee bit dram
As No’s claimed victory
Fit noo wull wee Eck dee
As fowk refused Yes aims ti see
Apairt fae Glesga an Dundee
Maist regions voted No
The Yes voters they war cheesed
A fyow o them war fair displeased
Some o them widna be appeased
Cos No claimed victory
Lit’s hope Yes an No can be pals
An nae protest ootside toon halls
Nae kickin each ither in the balls
Jist accept it’s aa noo ower
Wee Eck his hid ti resign
Aat tap table nae langer dine
An somewye farrer doon the line
A new leader SNP wull embrace
Bickerin fowk a wid send ‘em
Far awa fae onything referendum
The “referendum his become the neverendum”
Fan wull it ivver bliddy eyn?
A really hope things settle doon
Some faces tho still weer a froon
Peace an quairt wid be a boon
Noo Scotland’s voted No

©Bob Smith “The Poetry Mannie” 2014
Image Credit: Kay Roxby. Use via Creative Commons Licence.

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Sep 262014

MartinFordatUTGWith thanks to Cllr Martin Ford.

The local Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire branch of the Scottish Green Party has doubled in size in just a few days following last week’s independence referendum.

Nationally, the Scottish Green Party has seen a rise in membership of over 3,800, again more than doubling the total number of party members.

So far, the Aberdeenshire Green Party branch has gained over 140 new members – with more still joining every day.

John McCallum, convenor of the Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire Green Party branch, said:

“The independence referendum truly energised politics in Scotland, bringing unprecedented levels of debate, engagement and voter turnout.

“‘Green Yes’, the Scottish Green Party’s distinctive vision of Scotland’s potential, meanwhile rang a bell with a great many new supporters, both Yes- and No-voters. They now see our Party as the best prospect of delivering the social, economic and environmental change they want to see in Scotland.

“I am delighted to be welcoming so many new Green Party members to our local branch. The huge boost to our membership will stand the Party in good stead in the elections to come. We can confidently look forward to fielding more candidates, running stronger campaigns and seeing more Greens elected over the next few years.”

Aberdeenshire Green councillor Martin Ford said:

“An increase in membership on this scale will transform the Party’s capacity to put its case for a fairer society based on the sustainable use of natural resources – and its capacity to fight and win elections.

“The priorities the Party highlighted during the referendum are applicable to either outcome. The difference for us now is that we will have many more members contributing to getting our message across.”

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Mar 182014

4 YesWith thanks to Dave Watt.

With the Scottish Independence Referendum just 6 months away the positive case for a YES vote in September comes to Aberdeen on Friday 28th of March, with the visit of 4 major YES figures.

Author Alan Bissett of the National Collective is joined by Scottish Greens leader Patrick Harvie MSP, Alan Grogan, head of of Labour for Independence and Natalie McGarry of Women For Independence as they tell us why they believe we need a Yes vote.

Each of these acclaimed speakers will give a brief description of their vision for an independent Scotland and why they’re voting Yes before the audience is given the unique opportunity to put their questions to some of the most prominent figures in the Yes campaign.

This event is a perfect opportunity for those who remain undecided to listen to and then question leading Yes figures as to why Scotland should vote Yes in September and their views as to what an Independent Scotland will look like following a Yes vote.

The event begins at 19.30 at the MacRobert Lecture Theatre, Aberdeen University on Friday 28th of March.

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Apr 262013

With thanks to Kathryn Russell.

Better Together Aberdeen, part of the pro-UK Better Together campaign, was launched yesterday, Thursday 25 April by Aberdeen’s own world-renowned scientist Professor Hugh Pennington at Aberdeen’s Park Inn Hotel.

This important event in the campaign for Scotland’s future featured North East MSPs and local business and community leaders.

Ahead of the meeting, Professor Pennington said,

“I am delighted to be launching the local Better Together group in Aberdeen. The meeting will be a chance for people to find out how they can get involved in the campaign for a strong Scotland in the UK.

Richard Baker MSP, Better Together Director, said,

“Now that we know the date of the referendum, Better Together are stepping up our campaign. The response we have been getting in Aberdeen has been fantastic; so many local people have expressed their support and wish to remain in the UK. This launch is a chance for local people to get involved in the campaign for a strong Scotland in the UK, regardless of campaigning experience.

Daniel O’Malley, a youth member of Better Together Aberdeen, added,

“In September 2014 Scots will make the biggest political decision of our lives. Better Together Aberdeen will campaign hard to ensure that local people have the facts to make this decision. We’re looking forward to talking to residents about what separation would mean and signing up more local people to our campaign.  Whether you’ve campaigned before or not; if you believe Scotland is stronger as a part of the UK – we need you.”

The event starts at 8pm.

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Jun 282012

Old Susannah watches the latest developments in the ‘Deen and the wider world and helps Voice readers to get their whites right. By Suzanne Kelly.

One of the best events in recent memory?  The Party in the Park held by Common Good Aberdeen last Saturday was fantastic, despite the rains.  Nearly 4,000 people visited over the course of the day, all of the thousands of home bakes Mrs B created over a course of weeks disappeared long before the day ended, and the shelter of the marquee made the rain a minor inconvenience rather than a show-stopper.

And what a show it was.  Gerry Jablonsiki and the Electric Band opened the entertainment, and played an extraordinary set (I must say the solos Gerry comes out with are riveting, but you can’t play like that without a solid rhythm section.

The big surprise for many was the unique, creative duo ‘The Pounding’ whose electronic compositions went over a storm.

The final act of the day were the school choirs performing ‘Sing’.  The audience went wild as they danced to Danse MacCabre’s ceildh music.

I was honoured to have been asked to do a speech of thanks at the end; it was a privilege to thank the many volunteers who made the day a success, and Mrs B in particular, without whom this would not have been realised.  All around the gardens people commented ‘there should be more events like this’, ‘we don’t need to build anything here, just hold events’ and ‘get me some more of this delicious cake!’

Marie Boulton, Depute ACC Leader, made a brief but wonderful speech; many politicians came out to have fun and talk to their constituents.  Everyone was pleased in particular that Dame Anne Begg MP was there, proving that the gardens are accessible.  They could be made more accessible it is true – but access does exist, despite odd claims to the contrary.

I would like to apologise for not getting to have proper chats with a number of people, but I was charged with getting the acts on and off stage according to a strict timetable. Neale Bothwell and I did a fair job of it, I think.  Don’t wait for someone to throw another event, but when we next do get a dry, sunny day, use your gardens – they are common good land, and you own them.

Another event of this past week was Aberdeen Voice’s 2nd anniversary drinks held in Ma Cameron’s, where the idea for AV was launched.

Members of local band Toxik Ephex had been talking about the need for an independent  newspaper, and two years later Fred Wilkinson and a host of volunteers are keeping AV going.

People came and went over the course of the night; we were pleased to see some of the Aberdeen cyclists, a member of the Silver City Surfers, and in particular Anthony Baxter.   Baxter has a new version of ‘You’ve Been Trumped’ about to start a UK and North American tour (details elsewhere in Aberdeen Voice) with new footage of The Donald.

All of these positive developments are enough to sap a girl of any sarcasm.  Thankfully, there are always a few banking, tax, trident, deer cull scandals to keep me on track.  So, without further hesitation, here are a few definitions.

White Cliffs of Dover: (noun, Eng. geography) A steep, dramatic chalk cliff face on the South of England.

The iconic White Cliffs of Dover are in the news this past week; some NIMBYS are objecting to a proposed housing development near them.

The Cliffs also have some problems with erosion, but the main issue of course is that they are not accessible.  There is no access for the  able-bodied, let alone people with any mobility issues, and to be honest, the connectivity is just not there.

If the cliffs could just be raised (or would that be lowered?) to street level, and a bosque, theatre  and parking be thrown in, they might just be onto something there.  As to refusing a housing development, well, that would mean that England is not open for business.

Craig Whyte: (Proper Noun, possibly Improper noun) – a colourful character.

Oh dear, could it be that Craig Whyte is not whiter than white?  The would-be king of Rangers has had one or two previous problems in the boardroom.  This would-be white knight  sadly no longer looks set to take over Rangers.  Private Eye magazine unkindly suggests that someone with a failed directorship or two is not a fit person for the Rangers role.

Indeed they are correct; Whyte’s considerable talents would be used to best advantage in central government.

To add to this week’s colour theme, it would seem that Green owns the club, but Brown is trying to make the fans see  red, and opt for a buyout.  Will Rangers ever be in the black again?  It is currently a bit of grey area.

Whitewash: (verb, mod English) to cover up bad news, dilute the truth, gloss over facts for political, personal or monetary gain.

Aberdonians and UK taxpayers will be most unfamiliar with this term, and Old Susannah thought you might like to know more about it.  It will be difficult, but I shall try and find some examples.

On the national level, there have been one or two little Inquiries which have unjustly been described as being whitewashes.

There was the Hutton Inquiry into the small matter of how a bland dossier about Iraq was magically transformed into a document proving Sadam Hussein was about to use his Weapons of Mass Destruction on the UK, and would only need 45 minutes to wipe us  out.  This Inquiry found that changing a report into a justification for waging war was a bit naughty, but was fair enough.

No less a person than Alasdair Campbell said he defended ‘every word’ of the ‘sexed-up’ dossier.  Why bother to have an Inquiry at all I wonder?  If the man who wrote the thing for his boss Tony Blair says it’s above-board, then who are we to question it?

We’ve also had the Levenson Inquiry, a great spectacle for the whole family.  One frail little old pensioner, a Mr R Murdoch is cruelly being asked questions about newspaper reporters hacking into phonecalls and emails.  The poor Australian gent keeps telling the investigators he can’t remember anything, but they keep asking him questions.

Just because he and his family own the newspapers which carried out the illegal spying is no reason to think he’d know about it or be in any way responsible for it.

Are there any whitewashes going on here in the Deen?  Let’s think.  The city has been totally transparent over the Tullos Hill deer cull; they pride themselves on their transparency and consultation with the people; quite good of them really.

Freedom of Information requests are answered immediately and clearly.  It’s not as if the FOI officers are waiting until the last moment to supply information, or that the information they supply contradicts information they’ve previously released.   Surely they have nothing to hide?

Were the city in the right to have guns blazing on a hill used by families, motorcyclists, animals and indeed the occasional free-range arsonist without giving warning?  The mainstream press quoted a ‘council spokesperson’ as saying ‘there was no legal requirement’ for any warning signs.  Has this whitewash covered the matter sufficiently?  We shall see what the public and the authorities think.

White Collar Crime: (Modern English phrase)  to commit a non-violent, financial criminal offense.

WE must pause to think of those in our society who are being asked to go without, who are being forced to justify their dependence on State handouts.  Yes, I am worried about our banking sector.

We clearly did not give them enough of a bail-out, in fact, they can’t even afford decent IT systems, and some financial institutions are  experiencing problems with their electronic banking and cash machines.  I do hope none of the bankers will be terribly inconvenienced by people demanding money.

Sometimes however, when forced to the wall, a banker will have no alternative but to turn to crime.  It is because we do not have a caring mentality, and because we do not yet have ‘The Big Society’ (whatever that is) which Cameron wants that poor Barclays was forced to what certainly looks like white collar crime.

Unkind authorities are asking for £290,000,000 from the Barclays group for a wee matter of its fixing interest rates.  What’s the problem?  I thought we wanted fixed interest rates?  Unfortunately the bank seems to have given false information about rates it was borrowing money at.  Firstly, £290,000,000 is really small change, in fact, it would only get you two granite webs at today’s rates.  Secondly, how is a poor bank like Barclay’s going to get its hands on this kind of money?

I think the taxpayer should voluntarily help this poor bank out.  After all, if we don’t do so voluntarily, no doubt the treasury will just give them our money anyway.  I believe there used to be a commercial with Mr Bean with the repeating phrase ‘Well, thank you BARCLAYCARD!’.  Barclays, thank you indeed.

Old Susannah is going to have to cut it there, as she is in Edinburgh – and the sun is out.

Next week:  A look at some of the little arguments within Council Chambers.

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Jun 282012

The Common Good Jubilee Tea Party on June 23rd was the embodiment of what teamwork and determination are about.  Despite the rains the crowds came in their thousands, and the Common Good Party was Uncommonly Good.  Photographs by John Rutherford and Earl Solomon. They tell their own story of memorable day in Union Terrace Gardens.

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Jun 222012

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

Tally Ho!  I’m not sure if this past week was more vibrant than it was dynamic or more dynamic than it was vibrant – but it’s been good on the whole.  Gray’s School of Art degree and fashion shows took place, I went along to the Sunday movie at The Moorings, and there were lots of cocktails.

RGU was interesting; for some reason just as we arrived, I was puzzled as my friends abruptly scarpered in different directions.  I was told later that I’d been standing next to HoMalone, and my friends didn’t want to see what would happen next. Not that I would have confronted her; I would have said “Hello!  My deer!”, or asked her where she got the fluorescent mustard coloured blazer she wore at the vote count.

She was probably searching for the Gray’s designer who made clothing out of fur, or the jeweller using bone, or so I would imagine (NB there were some imaginative uses of fake fur on show – why use dead animals for decorative reasons?).

Before the RGU fashion show, Gray’s Head of School made a speech, concluding that Gray’s and RGU were firmly behind Aberdeen’s bid for the highly coveted ‘City of Culture’ title.  Hooray!

There were several interesting artists and designers on show; I particularly liked jewellery by Sarah Sidwick.  In a written statement Sarah claimed:-

“Body image dissatisfaction is on the rise, with more pressure than ever before put on both women and men to obtain society’s projected ideal beauty…. I believe we should all start taking the growing problem of bodily image dissatisfaction more seriously and question our view on what makes someone ‘beautiful’.

We all have different ideas of what is beautiful I guess.  As long as someone’s not to fat or too thin, or too tall or short, and doesn’t show any sign of ageing – and wears lots of designer gear, it’s safe to say they are beautiful.

For anyone who likes to watch a movie without interruptions or without listening to other people’s mobiles going off every five minute, I’d suggest the Sunday Movie at the Moorings Bar.  The lights are dimmed around 4pm-ish, the doors are locked, and the audience is quiet.  Last week’s movie was called ‘Dazed & Confused’.

Old Susannah found some of the film’s references difficult to follow, and was puzzled that the young people in it seemed to smoke roll-up cigarettes with excessive frequency; I can’t imagine why.

There were a few occasions for cocktails this week, and my first visit to 99 Back Wynd won’t be my last.  There is a ‘Painkiller’ cocktail which is delicious, and they have violet-flavoured alcohol, which I love.

  Saturday 23 June is nearly upon us, and the biggest party Union Terrace Gardens has ever seen will be on

Possibly best of all is that BrewDog is offering cocktails.  Beer cocktails.  BrewDog craft beer  cocktails.    These spirit-lifting cocktails include Pretty in Punk, Saint’s Delight, Hardcore Pornography and Orange Tide.   A girl in BrewDog had selected about 20 bottles of different beers to take away; she told me it was a birthday present for a friend.  I told her my birthday is 9 July.

And I launched an eBook this week.  It’s a very short work entitled ‘Old Susannah’s Handbook of Modern Manners – Part One’.  It is available on kindle via Amazon.  The introduction is available to read for free, but after that it gets a tiny bit sarcastic.  It is yours for about £1.90, and should I sell any copies, then 20% of any profit will be split between four animal welfare/sanctuary groups. No doubt the City of Culture Bid Committee will be interested.

It can be found at http://www.amazon.com/dp/B008C81M1I

Seeing as the City of Culture is the topic on everyone’s lips (why, I can barely sleep!), I will include a few relevant definitions.  Before that, just a reminder that Saturday 23 June is nearly upon us, and the biggest party Union Terrace Gardens has ever seen will be on.  Hope to see you there.

But amid all this fun, the Freedom of Information people wrote to me this afternoon about some of my deer cull questions.  It seems that despite public observation to the contrary, warning signs were posted at each and every entrance during the weeks the shooting took place.

The signs said ‘forestry operations’ were in effect.  Obviously, forestry operations meant hunters were shooting rifles and a lethal risk existed.  By the way, 23 deer were shot, none were just wounded (so the city says), and all were ‘clean kills’.  However, to shoot 23 deer, 33 rounds of ammunition were fired.

I put my hands up (especially if confronted with a high-powered rifle) – but if 23 animals were shot instantly dead, doesn’t this mean an extra 10 shots were taken?  Did it take more than one shot to kill the poor (hand-fed in some cases) creatures?  Did any bullets miss – therefore meaning there could have been some serious accidents?

Feel free to ask the City yourself about the cull, the correct warning signs as to lethal risk, and the 33 rounds needed to kill 23 deer.

Now onwards with a few definitions

Culture: (noun, Eng) 1.  the collective qualities, traits, idiosyncrasies that give an area, a group or a nation its individuality.

A Ms D Morgan sent a letter to the Press & Journal last week; in it she noted that Aberdeen has closed nearly a dozen of its museums and/or sold collections over the past decade and a bit.  We recently flogged off some of the Thomas Glover House artefacts as well.  And about time.

No one is interested in history, old buildings or old paintings; people want to see sharks in fish tanks, skulls covered with diamonds, and granite webs.  The sooner we can get more vibrant and dynamic the better.  This is how it works.

  • Sell off your old stuff.  Sell old trees for lumber in Hazlehead Park and use the money to plant trees on Tullos Hill (irrespective of the existing ecosystem, peoples’ wishes, or the fact the trees won’t grow).
  • Shoot the deer that lived on the hill and sell their carcasses for game meat.
  • Let your old buildings either rot, get burnt down, or just sell them.  Then you have cash in hand.
  • Close museums; throw any books you find in Marischal College’s basement museum into a skip.
  • Buy some trendy new art, and get lots of consultants in.
  • Build new venues, even if the existing venues have to be subsidised by the taxpayer.
  • Borrow lots and lots of money over what you got by selling the family silverware.
  • Give money to consultants.
  • Borrow more money.
  • Set up some private companies, preferably with the established quangos which you’ve helped to set up.
  • You will need more money.  Cut funds, stop benefits, close schools, pressure libraries.
  • Ask arts practitioners in the area what they want, and ignore those who are politically awkward, not dependent on you for funding, or who want a slice of the new pie.
  • Set up lots of meetings, think-tanks, new groups.
  • Select a random area of the city to be the quarter for arts.  Impose this new geography.  Then sit back and wait for the public’s grateful thanks, and grants to roll in, and tourists in their thousands to appear, hopefully generating the £122,000,000 you promised people your granite web and new ideas would bring in each year.  If you build it, they will come.

I do not think Aberdeen can be rivalled in its ambition.

City of Culture: (noun, mod. English) title bestowed upon a UK/European City by vote. 

The irreverent magazine ‘Private Eye’ has previously pointed out how Liverpool, previous City of Culture, spent a great deal of money on events which sadly people weren’t sophisticated enough to appreciate or support, and wasted a fortune.  But Valerie  Watts, our Chief Executive, came from Derry.  Derry won City of Culture, and she wants another similar victory here!

Only a minority of negative people in Derry think that money was wasted on this award.  £12  million or so was needed for Derry’s ‘Millennium Way’.  If you and I haven’t heard of it, it is because we are uncultured.    Here is some criticism of what I am sure was a brilliant idea:-  http://www.lurganmail.co.uk/news/local/city-of-culture-not-a-priority-1-3761381

But suddenly as I read these old stories, everything fell into place for Old Susannah as she remembered one of the huge white elephants of Liverpool.  Actually, it was not a white elephant

We have seen some of our quangos and LibDem / SNP politicians desperate to build a giant granite web.  I can now reveal the reason we are desperate for the giant web is that a city of culture must have:  A Giant Spider.

City movers and shakers in Liverpool,  (home of the Beatles, Echo  & the Bunnymen, classical performers, painters and sculptors) decided to ignore all that art nonsense and get really cultural – with a giant spider called ‘the princess project’.  The spider’s cost was nearly £2,000,000.  What a bargain!

Why DaVinci, Mozart, Bach, Turner and so on ignored the cultural importance of a giant spider is beyond me; I guess we’re just more enlightened now.  But ‘Liverpool Culture Company (in turn funded by the city, the Arts Council and the Department of Culture, Media and Sport) decided to get a giant Japanese spider.  I guess Godzilla, Mothra and Rodan were not available at the time.

Who were the creative geniuses behind this entire ‘city of culture’ invention?  Who wanted a giant spider above classical arts and indeed before serving the needs of the Liverpudlian citizen?

The entire concept of a Department of Culture, Media & Sport was an ancient dream we can thank Tony Blair for.  One of the first Ministers for this crucial cabinet post was the talented David Mellor.  He was famous for having his toes sucked by Antonia de Sancha, as reported widely at the time.

Was it a Shakespearean scholar, Tom Stoppard or another luminary who helped devise this spider scheme and run Liverpool’s year?  Indeed:  it was creator of Brookside Close, Phil Redmond, who was Liverpool Culture Company’s artistic director. To quote Wikipedia, which is quite accurate on this story, Redmond said :-

“At £1.5m I think it’s (the giant spider) actually cheaper than (booking) Macca (Sir Paul McCartney) and it has got us on the front of the South China Morning Post. So it’s good value for money.  However, the project has come in for criticism [whatever for? – Old Susannah asks] in some quarters: the UK mental health charity Anxiety has highlighted the potentially traumatic effect of the production upon those suffering with arachnophobia, and the TaxPayers’ Alliance has called the artwork an “outrageous waste of taxpayers’ money”.

The vast majority of the public response was … that “The Liverpool Princess’ performance was the highlight of the city’s Capital of Culture 2008 celebrations.”

I can well believe that was the highlight, remembering some of the other non-events Private Eye covered.  There were cancelled performances, people giving work to acquaintances, and all sorts of dubious goings-on.

None of that could happen here however.

Patronage: (noun) to support, pay for or otherwise assist an artist, project, sportsman, etc.

In a far distant past, the fine artist was paid by the rich to portray the wealthy patron in a favourable light.  The artists were obliged to do as they were told, but often they left clues behind in their work to say how they really felt about their patron (stone masons would leave small caricatures behind in the back of their work).

Later, the role of patron switched to the State.  If your artwork pleases the government, you get grants.

For instance the man who was paid £9,000 (or so) to paint our Lord Provost told the press:

”I think he ( Provost Stephens) is a really nice man.” 

Well, he would say that wouldn’t he? It’s not like he feels any obligation to the system that commissioned him; or that would mean we have the state controlling what artists do – heaven forbid! – whereas the negative, fault-finding, duo of Anthony Baxter and Richard Phinney were denied grants from Creative Scotland, as ‘no one would be interested in a documentary about Donald Trump and the Menie Estate’.

Thankfully, by letting the government dish out money to the artists they like is that we can try to prevent another ‘You’ve Been Trumped’ from getting made.  I wonder how many people with similar projects which were turned down didn’t find the resources to realize their artistic visions.

Thankfully, we will never find out.  Another benefit is we don’t have to think too much about what is good or bad art – the state chooses for us.  Result!

Old Susannah has already been a bit longer-winded than she had intended; apologies.

Next week:  No Creative Scotland commissions for me.