Jan 302015

By Suzanne Kelly.

Marischal protest (6)a

A protest was held at 1pm at Marischal College on Saturday 24 January. The protestors came from all walks of life and all age groups; at least 200 were there. Credit: Suzanne Kelly.

Marischal College played host a large demonstration on Saturday 24 January, as hundreds took to the city council’s offices to protest a development which will change the area’s character forever.

Directly across from Marischal College, one of Scotland’s most important modern buildings, another glass box office / retail complex will add to our growing collection of anonymous, soul-less architecture.

With the old St Nicholas House now torn down, space and light enters this part of the city; the Provost’s House and Marischal College are both set off to far better effect.

A natural civic square – if such a thing is really needed further to the Castlegate (which hosted a protest last Saturday for Charlie Hebdo solidarity) – exists where St Nicholas stood, which would have required hardly any money to create. Sadly, it seems that commercial interests override scale, the existing architectural environment, and the historic importance of the Provost’s House.

A protest was held at 1pm at Marischal College on Saturday 24 January; the protestors came from all walks of life and all age groups; at least 200 were there.

I spoke to some of those present; all believe that an opportunity has been lost at the site of the former St Nicholas House and Provost Skene’s House, a small historic structure which will be claustrophobically dwarfed by the glass box architecture Muse developments have agreed with the city.

What this will mean either for road traffic or for the city’s chronic air pollution issues (we have 3 of Scotland’s most polluted roads with air particulate levels well above European emission rules). But it seems certain the plans will go ahead.

Alan Spence said:

“I think it’s a complete waste of money; it’s a monstrosity that nobody wants.”

One of the prime organisers, Gordon Robertson, added:

“Last week’s protest had only about 30 or 40 protestors, hopefully with today’s turnout we can drum up more support and get more signatures… I just think the new building is far too big; it’s not in keeping with the style of the existing buildings. It’s not what the people want. We have six shopping centres already; we have offices … this just isn’t the place for this development.”

I spoke to Alan Morocco who likewise was protesting. He spoke about Dundee’s public spaces, and felt we compared badly besides that city. Morocco said:

“We got rid of one monstrosity and it appears we’re replacing it with another. I don’t think it’s in keeping with the area.”

Most of the protestors were citizens without any particular political axe to grind. However, some people showed up who just might have been there for political point scoring.

Kevin Stewart of the previous ACC administration was in the crowd.

Marischal protest (4)When he was in power, we saw land being sold at prices so low that Audit Scotland condemned the practices which cost the taxpayer dearly in terms of money and space.

Stewart of course had been instrumental in implementing the draconian cuts to social programmes which saw thousands take to the streets in protest.

His particular time in the city council didn’t exactly take the views of the citizens into account when it came to budget cuts or to developments either; that government’s fondness of developers saw parcels of land handed to developers like Stewart Milne for small amounts of money and allowed longstanding environmental protection to be swept aside at Loirston Loch.

Tom Smith of Aberdeen City Gardens Trust was there – although there seems to be no record of his group – which was poised to take over Common Good Land in the form of Union Terrace Gardens for the £190 million ‘granite web’ project – objecting to the Muse plans formally.

As a formal objector to the plans myself, I had been one of many people given an opportunity to address the full council on the matter – but by the time the full council was to meet, the plans seemed all but finalised to me. It would be wonderful to think that someone, somewhere in planning could look at the scale of this proposal, the problems it will bring, and even at this late date admit this is a huge – and very huge – error.

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Jan 082015

Voice’s Old Susannah takes a look over the past week’s events in the ‘Deen and beyond. By Suzanne Kelly.

DictionaryBefore I weigh in with the usual weekly attempt at satire, I hope you will forgive a few non-satirical comments in light of the slaughter of the Charlie Hebdo cartoonists, journalists and activists in Paris yesterday.

My paragraph order is shoddy today; my words are not going to be honed (yes, sometimes I do try) – but expediency is key this week I think.

Before the events of 7 January in Paris, I had nearly finished writing a piece on the role of protest and the different forms dissent can take. This was spurred on by several factors.

A USA Today article seemed to suggest that protests didn’t really do much, and that even if it seemed that there were many protests around the world in 2014, there weren’t that many, and they weren’t hugely successful.

That no dictatorships instantly toppled at the first sign of protest last year was taken as a proof that protests don’t amount to much. The Occupy movement was put down as being ‘a spent force’; and lip service was paid to events such as the Arab Spring and recent protests against police shootings in the USA.

Another factor was a local activist had given up on a campaign trying to save a local landmark. They felt that the city was going to do whatever it wanted to do anyway, despite what the people might want. This seems true most of the time – I doubt anyone will forget the Aberdeen budget cut protest march of 2008. Several thousand people marched, and alas there was little immediate good outcome.

It actually took time to get rid of some of the elected authors of the cuts to services – cuts that hurt the most vulnerable in society. At the same time we had been selling the family silver in the form of property for next to nothing; beneficiaries included local luminary Stewart Milne (as per articles past).

Then an artist expressed doubt as to the value of the political commentary some of their work made. Can music and art make any headway or have influence when it comes to the art of protest?

On a personal note, my annual Christmas satire on local events hasn’t been without some backlash. I’m used to that kind of thing now – my columns have seen me threatened with legal action (such threats have all come to nothing), the odd (and I do mean odd) personal attacks on social media, a threat with being reported to the Scottish Football Association (which backfired spectacularly), the odd whispering campaign; I’ve been personally threatened, and I earned the title ‘Odious Susannah’ from the Liberal Dems.

It just makes me more determined. But no one should have to pay for their beliefs, their right to legal expression and their creativity in any manner – least not with their freedom or their lives.

Many people are disgusted with the bias shown by media; our very own little city is a classic example of how the powerful prevail when they can exert control over the news.

When bias editorials commingle with factual articles, and there is no acknowledgement of the blatant bias on the part of those whose self-interest dictates what news is presented, we need more than ever voices from the artists, the songwriters, the disenfranchised for counterbalance.

The evidence supporting the power of protest art, demonstrations and satire is everywhere. To the discouraged and downhearted I’d say look around, take courage and carry on. Even when a petition, protest or campaign fails, you never know who may take inspiration in the future, or what seeds your ground work may sow.

Let’s see. John Lennon’s piano is currently on a peace tour. The Creedence Clearwater Revival Protest Song ‘Fortunate Son’ reignited debate when it was performed by John Fogarty, Bruce Springsteen and (the venerable) David Grohl at a veteran’s concert at the end of 2014.

The song highlights the iniquity in American society at the time of the Vietnam War (or conflict as the propaganda machine preferred to call it) – and it’s clearly still hitting a nerve and creating debate over 40 years later.

Satire is nothing new, and seems part of the modern human condition. From the early Greek satire The Frogs through Gulliver’s Travels, Gargantua to name but a few, writers and poets such as Milton and Dante created enduring literary classics when they embarked on scathing satire.

Magazines such as Charlie Hebdo and Private Eye have brought stories to light which other newspapers either ignored or picked up later (often claiming ‘scoops’ where Private Eye had already laid stories bare).

Music is memorable, is influential, and a great song will keep a story alive longer than a newspaper article or online story. We remember heroes and villains of the past and distant past precisely because of art and music.

Some may argue that protest and satire are pointless and ‘offensive’ respectively; I would respectfully argue in today’s high-surveillance, unequal, unfair, violent, corrupt climate that it is essential to get as many songs of protest and politics written as we can for the benefit of educating people today and for helping to record events and feelings for the benefit of generations to come.

JK Rowling may be best remembered for writing books for children about magic. What I got out of reading her works (besides some good old fashioned fun and adventure) is that people need to question authority and stand up to corrupt bureaucracy wherever they find it, and how badly wrong things can go when people are complacent or deliberately hide their heads in the sand.

“Have you any idea how much tyrants fear the people they oppress? All of them realize that, one day, amongst their many victims, there is sure to be one who rises against them and strikes back!” – J K  Rowling

The USA today piece’s author seems to feel that unless a protest, movement or act of defiance has some immediate, measurable outcome, it is an inconsequential failure. It’s just as well that the Suffragettes didn’t share that view. If we were to take this article as guidance and not bother to speak out, protest and act out, we would soon have the homogenous, repressed world order that many in power would like us to have.

Perhaps An Sang Su Ki should have backed down after the first year or two of her arrest?

As with any other endeavour, the only way failure is assured is to either allow complacency and inertia to end it, or for the prospect of failure to stop a movement starting in the first place.

Perhaps the State, the extremists and private interests would like people to believe that protests, protest music and art and political satire are worthless. But if protest is the privilege of people in a democracy, then surely propaganda is the tool of the powers that be against the people.

On a local level an anecdote comes to mind.

Several artists who were turned down for an arts grant from Aberdeen City Council contacted me with concerns about one of the grant recipients. This particular recipient was someone who worked for the council… giving out arts grants.

And the proposal they had which won funding over other artists? They created a short film showing all the positives of Aberdeen City which is veritably an advert for this city, warts removed.

As an artistic endeavour the film is not without merit. However, when you consider the job of an artist is in part to select and comment on the world around them, it is very handy indeed that the city and the artist could find no wrong in Aberdeen, and the resulting grant-winning project doubles nicely as a promotional piece for the city.

If you were to contrast this film with the gritty, excellent documentary ‘Run Down Aberdeen’ created by Fraser Denholm, it becomes apparent which is the more honest, holistic – and artistic piece of work.

Can a song have influence? Mark Edwards took Bob Dylan’s ‘A Hard Rain’s Gonna Fall’, and used it as the unifying theme and inspiration for his Hard Rain project. This is a globally-touring photo essay on the state of the world, the good, the bad and the ugly; it makes the viewer question where we are, where we are headed, and what could and should be done to improve the lot of humanity and the state of our environment.

All this from a 3 minute song. If songs were without power, do we believe the major political parties would spend so much time worrying about what song to pick for their conventions?

Around the world journalists, activists, writers, musicians and artists languish in prisons because they have dared to stand up to dictators. In the West, we have a tradition of political satire which is to be preserved at all costs – as sadly some people have paid highly for this freedom.

The courtiers of Versailles were satirised in the extreme; the simple cartoons summed up succinctly the excesses and cruelties of the day for all to see. Did they contribute to the Revolution? Absolutely.

If art had no power, Picasso’s epic Guernica would not have been created in response to Spanish Civil War atrocities and would not have been hung in the United Nations building (where are the UN and what are they doing to protect the individual’s rights seems a fair question) – but that’s not the end of the story.

When the US decided to ‘help out’ Iraq in 2003, it despatched Colin Powell to the UN to break the news. The only problem was that painting. It commemorates the bombing by Germany of the Spanish town for no other reason than to test its new military air prowess. The painting was removed lest it stir up any anti-war sentiment.

The powerful don’t want you and me to take to the streets, to write letters or write songs, to pen cartoons or poems and will denigrate such acts. But make no mistake, the powerful understand the value of propaganda and the power of protest music and art.

I’m sure the USA Today writer has more experience, credentials and skill than I do (who doesn’t?). If his position that protests don’t matter is ever proven, let’s keep it our little secret. Please don’t tell Banksy, Bob Dylan, Richard Thompson, Ian Hislop, Jello Biafra, Peter Gabriel, Doonesbury’s creator Gary Trudeau, Rage Against The Machine, Steve Bell, http://www.original-political-cartoon.com/, TV Smith, The Sex Pistols, etc. etc.

Definitely don’t tell Spitting Image’s creators Peter Fluck, Roger Law and Martin Lambie-Nairn – for rumour has it they might bring the show back (and do we ever need it). And please don’t tell Charlie Hebdo. Do think for a moment what a drabber world it would be without these voices.

Someone sent me this lyric the other day; perhaps it sums things up rather nicely when it comes to why we need protest music, protest art, cartoons and satire:

“We’ll fight, not out of spite For someone must stand up for what’s right
‘Cause where there’s a man who has no voice
There ours shall go singing”
– Jewel (Thanks Nicky Cairney)

But I think the fallen of Charlie Hebdo might have preferred it if I just carried on with a bit of satire this week as usual, so here goes. Thank you for bearing with me, and now it’s time for one quick definition.

Religion: (ancient archaic noun) Belief systems shared by individuals.

Many religious movements started with simple, peaceful intentions – ‘love one another’, ‘do no harm’ etc. etc. But sometimes a little violence, torture, war and guerrilla warfare is needed to spread the love.

All religions are valid. Confucianism and its passion for logic is just as valid as believing in an American who thinks some of us came from the Planet Zog and are really giant lobsters – who for a small fee can get higher up the cosmic pecking order. The use of any intellectual prowess to consider whether or not a religion has any redeeming features is offensive.

Criticising, doubting, questioning any religious group – be they Branch Davidians who believed in guns and child molestation, or extremists who want to save us by killing anyone who disagrees with them – is bang out of order.

Wanting to subjugate women, stone homosexuals and bisexuals and control freedom are all valid religious values and as such are not to be criticised. It is important to never question your own belief system, anyone else’s belief system, and to keep quiet. Occasionally it seems religion is being used as an excuse for violence, but that’s only if you’re a non-believer.

So if anyone’s looking for me after my eventual demise, look no further than the Lake of Fire in Hades. And please bring marshmallows, BrewDog and Jack D.

We are the music-makers,
And we are the dreamers of dreams,
Wandering by lone sea-breakers,
And sitting by desolate streams.
World-losers and world-forsakers,
Upon whom the pale moon gleams;
Yet we are the movers and shakers,
Of the world forever, it seems.

With wonderful deathless ditties
We build up the world’s great cities,
And out of a fabulous story
We fashion an empire’s glory:
One man with a dream, at pleasure,
Shall go forth and conquer a crown;
And three with a new song’s measure
Can trample an empire down.

We, in the ages lying
In the buried past of the earth,
Built Nineveh with our sighing,
And Babel itself with our mirth;
And o’erthrew them with prophesying
To the old of the new world’s worth;
For each age is a dream that is dying,
Or one that is coming to birth.

Arthur William Edgar O’Shaughnessy

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Oct 172014

By Andrew Macgregor.

protestA new website which aims to tell the history of protest in Aberdeen has been launched.
The resource features potted histories of individuals, groups, community spaces and co-operatives which have campaigned on various issues – economic, military, political or religious.

Most of the individuals and groups are from the left of the political spectrum but others have been non-political and protested about specific local issues.

There are groups which are branches of Scottish or British organisations, yet others which are just local to Aberdeen. Lastly, the groups are not just historical as current groups are included as well. The website also has a directory of active local groups, a list of further web and printed resources and information on a current campaign for an Aberdeen Social Centre.

This resource has been created in order that these campaigns are not forgotten. The stories are part of Aberdeen’s history and although individuals and groups may be long gone, their influence still lives on in their writings, speeches and actions. The importance of the documentary record is emphasised as well, as any archival sources created by the campaigns are noted in the histories.

Currently around 40 histories, ranging from the 19th century to current, have been added to the website and just one example is:

“The Aberdeen University Peace Society existed between 1912 and 1914 with the aim of encouraging critical debate on the subject of war and the possible ways it could be prevented. Lectures and discussions included topics such as war and social evolution, international courts and how economic ties could bind nations together. The life and death of the Society’s secretary, William Henry Sutherland, illustrates at once the fate of the Society and the tragedy of war. In March 1913 he had enlisted in the 4th Gordon Highlanders and in October 1917 after many years fighting at the front, he was mentioned in dispatches and was awarded the Military Cross. He tragically fell in action soon after, on the 23rd March 1918.”

– Sources: papers held at University of Aberdeen Library. Minute book from 1912 – 1914 and a journal called ‘Concordia’ from 1913.

There will no doubt be gaps in information as research on this type of subject is very difficult due to the paucity of documentary sources. If it is difficult, perhaps even impossible, to trace the existence of the more radical political groups farther back in time (due to government suppression as just one example) and it can be just as difficult to capture the protest groups of today as they organise via social media and often leave no record.

I hope though that this resource will grow as others (perhaps those who were involved in the campaigns) fill in the gaps in the research.

The website address is – http://aberdeenprotest.wordpress.com/

If you were involved in some of these campaigns or have more information which you think would help me please get in touch. Also if you are interested in helping in the setting up of the social centre please contact Andrew MacGregor

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Feb 072014

By Bob Smith.
800px-Pete_Seeger2_-_6-16-07_Photo_by_Anthony_Pepitone lopro

Last wikk we lost a legend
Pete Seeger wis his name
The chiel he wis aged 94
Fin oot wis snuffed his flame
Awa back in his young’r days
The lad he wis a commie
Atween him an yon McCarthy
There wisnae much bonhomie
A folk singer o warld renown
An an activist forbye
Supportit the Spanish Republicans
In a war far mony wid die
A singer fa fair protestit
The arms race an Vietnam war
He supportit the Civil Richts
An wis agin the colour bar
His singer sister Peggy
She mairrit Ewan MacColl
A bet at faimily githerins
They wid hae hid a ball
A freen o Woody Guthrie
An a early backer o Dylan
Fin Bob wint aa “electric”
Pete didna fin es thrillin
A lover o the environment
Tae es life he wis a giver
An got thingies fair stairted
Tae clean up the Hudson River
A ca’ed the chiel a legend
O es a hiv nae doot
A singer o folk sangs
An an activist tae boot
Seeger, Guthrie an Dylan
Protest lyrics wis their thing
Sangs fer the common man
Wis fit es three did bring
©Bob Smith “The Poetry Mannie” 2014

licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.
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Nov 212013

turra Coo duncan harley2One hundred years on, Duncan Harley examines the story of the Fite Coo.

Almost a hundred years ago Lloyd George’s National Insurance Act came into force. The legislation was intended to improve the lot of farm labourers, fisher folk and factory workers who were often employed for a contractual period of six months or less.

The Act of Parliament (The National Insurance Act 1913) provided for medical and unemployment benefits for workers and their families who were in need of state support through either ill health or lack of employment.

The tax received a mixed reception. Suspicion and prejudice against government interference fuelled discontent in many minds and the bare fact that both workers and employers were required to contribute hard cash caused many to consider direct action.

The Scottish Farm Servants’ Union welcomed the measure since it offered some improvement for those workers who simply became worn out and too ill to continue working and who would otherwise have to rely on the mercy and support of former employers.

Many Scottish farmers, however, remained unconvinced of the merits of state support for those in need.

Protest movements arose in various parts of Scotland and in a somewhat strange alliance for the times, the Liberal government of the time found itself in sympathy with the Marxists over the issue of both land reform and workers social security.

The farmers around the Aberdeenshire market town of Turriff in Aberdeenshire were particularly incensed, partly because of the now increased costs of employing farm labourers and also because many genuinely felt that they already took good care of the workforce upon which they relied.

There were riots, demonstrations and protests.

In the end a farmer by the name Robert Paterson of Lendrum near Turriff became the focus of Sheriff’s Officers when he refused to pay what he called the “unfair and unjust tax”. He had previously been convicted and fined in court for 20 such offences against the 1911 National Insurance Act and had paid the accumulated £15 fine, however he refused to pay the arrears of National Insurance.

the authorities reacted by seizing one of his milk cows

A Unionist by nature, he publicly stated that “because it was a service that farmers and farm labourer would rarely use” he would not pay the tax imposed by a Welsh led government. Lendrum to Leeks became the campaign slogan.

Paterson quickly became a cause célèbre in the North East and indeed beyond. Following court action for the unpaid debt to the National Insurance Fund, the authorities reacted by seizing one of his milk cows, intending to auction it to re-coup the debt he owed to the government for unpaid National Insurance Contributions.

Things got from bad to worse. There were further riots and much civil disobedience. The seized cow then became the cause célèbre and the press had a field day.

The immediate events following the seizing of the Turra Coo by Sherriff Officers are well known.

No local auctioneer could be found to sell the beast and the “Fite Coo”, now emblazoned with the painted slogan “Breath Bad – Gummy Leeks” as a reference to the Welsh born Lloyd George, seemingly ran off home to Lendrum where after a few days it was again seized by the authorities and taken by train to Aberdeen’s Denburn Auction Market where it was sold for seven pounds on 16th December 1913 to a Mr Alex Craig.

Mr Craig then sold the animal on to a Mr Davidson for £14 thus making a tidy profit on the deal.

turra Coo duncan harley4

Mr Davidson then transported the now famous cow back to Turriff where crowds of townsfolk and farm workers gathered to witness the event. The local pipe band played “See the Conquering Hero Comes” and the poor cow sported more painted slogans on her sides including “Free! Divn’t ye wish ye were me.”

The war to end all wars was looming. Indeed many of the participants in this sometimes hilarious series of events would soon be dead. Sacrificed on the battlefronts of the 1914-18 war.

The cow however survived and was returned to Lendrum Farm, where it died of bovine tuberculosis in 1920.

Depending on which account is read, it was either stuffed and displayed at Lendrum Farm for a while before being sent by train to Aberdeen’s Marischal College for display or simply buried in a field at Lendrum to remain undisturbed for many years until excavations for a new water supply uncovered her bones.

The myth of the Turra Coo perpetuates to this day however.

The West Aberdeenshire MP of the time, Mr J.M. Henderson MP, had a take on it. He toured the North East in the January of 1914 speaking to meetings of constituents who were mainly opposed to the idea of state care for the elderly and infirm.

At a meeting in Culsalmond he was heckled after saying that  farmers did not seem to grasp the idea that the Insurance Act was designed to provide for those workers who having attained the age of 50 and upwards who were unable to work due to illness or disability.

“Insurance follows the servant” said Henderson and he told the heckling audiences that although he knew that a good many masters were good to there servants the facts showed that farm workers rarely stayed in one position for long. The Insurance Act was he said, designed to combat this problem by providing a fundamental right to healthcare and assistance in times of financial hardship.

Not only Culsamond but Tarland, Turriff and indeed seemingly the entire Garioch seemed to agree that the Act of Parliament was both unfair and unnecessary.

Effigies of Lloyd George and the local MP WH Cowan were publicly burned in Inverurie town square.

a crowd of around 1500 packed Turriff’s main square

It does seem ironic nowadays that in many cases those workers whose interests the National Insurance Act was designed to protect were often the most vehement in their opposition.

Cynics of the time suggested that the workforce was being manipulated by the land owners and bullied or perhaps being encouraged into opposition. For example a crowd of around 1500 packed Turriff’s main square on the day of the proposed sale of Mr Paterson’s cow to meet the Insurance arrears due by him.

Many were local farmers and many more were farm workers who had been given a half day holiday at a time when the Scottish Farm Servants’ Union had been unsuccessfully campaigning for regular holidays for farm workers.

The more sympathetic amongst us would perhaps understand that the spectre of state interference in rural affairs loomed large in the minds of both employers and employees.

In a court judgement of the time, Sheriff Stewart of Banff convicted and fined two farmers from Gamrie and Fordyce following representations by the defendant’s legal representatives that they had been “misguided” and “stupid” in failing to pay to stamp the National Insurance cards of their employees.

In his summing up, the good Sheriff said that if there were further examples of resistance to the act of parliament then he would seriously consider whether the penalty should not be materially increased.

Strong sentiments indeed.

The Poetry Mannie – Bob Smith has a take on it.


A bronze statue o the Turra Coo
Noo staans proodly in the toon
Ti commemorate a gweed story
A’ve kent since a wis a loon

The fite coo fae Lendrum
Wis the celebrity o it’s day
Fin fairmer Robert Paterson
Thocht NI wisna fair play

Sheriff Geordie Keith set oot
Tae seize property as a fine
Bit the locals widna help him
An refused tae tae the line

The coo wis pit up fer auction
Fegs iss nearly caused a riot
Syne up steps Alexander Craig
As the bodie faa wid buy it

Noo iss is nae the eyn o the story
Fowk  an injustice they hid seen
A fair pucklie did rally roon
Wi fairmer Craig a deal wis deen

The coo wis noo back at Lendrum
Tae see oot the rest o her days
Nae doot neen the wiser o
The stooshie she did raise

At a junction in the bonnie toon
Iss a sculture o the beast
Faa brocht a fair bit o fame
Tae Turra an the haill north-east

©Bob Smith “The Poetry Mannie” 2013

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Aug 152013

By Jill Austin.

As I was walking past the old Summerhill Academy site on the Lang Stracht last Thursday night I noticed an amazing open-air gallery adorning the fencing.

It stretched all the way from the bus stop round the corner and down the lane to Gairsay Drive.

There were at least 20 works of art- ranging from 10” square to 5’ square!

They were composed in varying media from spray paint to fine pen-work to collage.

Unfortunately, the evening light was poor.

Therefore the quality of these photographs don’t do the artwork justice.

( Click on the images to enlarge. )

There was also a wee garden further down Gairsay Drive planted in shopping baskets.  [Photo- Little Garden2]

Two of the arts contained something of a manifesto and the name of the group who had installed the gallery.

Intrigued, I investigated this group and managed to get a hold of them by email. They sent me the following statement:


1.The Creation

An open-air gallery and garden at the old SummerhilAcademy on the Lang Stracht.  A place once of education, a place once for community.

2. The Aim

To highlight with beauty the ugly mess that has been left by the supermarket wars of the 21st Century.

3. The Reasoning 

Morrisons have created a pile of rubble taller than the houses whose view it blights.

“This is because Tesco objected to their plans then throw up a supermarket on the site they had left unused for decades as soon as Morrisons acquired the Summerhill site. Tesco must think the people of Summerhill are only worth building a shop for to stop another chain from making profit.

The council may have given Morrisons the green light now, but will they replace the rubble with a store?

No profit in competing with Tesco next door. No profit in cleaning up their mess.

A working class area  – No local residents hold shares – no local residents hold sway – no local residents are rich and with power.

Supermarkets buy land and leave it unused to avoid tax.

Around 40 million square feet of land is owned by supermarkets. 

The vast majority of it will never be built upon.

Beneath the pavement, the beach!

We encourage people to reclaim their city, reclaim their spaces and make the ugly beautiful.

Fences are for climbing – borders are for crossing – the world is ours but only of we make it so, yes?”

MUSTA BLOKKI are an international incubationist fine ART bloc.

Their previous works include the 2011 installation “Wood”.

Constructed in bronze and granite (effect) it was erected in Union Terrace Gardens, which at the time were under threat. 

I would highly recommend a visit to this unusual gallery, but alas, it is no longer there.

Instead, I hope Aberdeen Voice readers can at least enjoy this pictorial record.

Here is a bit more about the group’s ethos – be inspired!


Art is accessible and free
Art can be created by anyone
Public space is contaminated by the corporate debris of the 21st century
Public space should be reclaimed – Beneath the pavement, the beach!
We resist corporate domination and social apathy
We commit to shaping something original despite our culture’s fascination with the disposable
We commit to shaping something original from society’s superficial consumer culture
If we cannot enjoy the process, we cannot enjoy the result

If we cannot dance it is not our revolution

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Nov 202012

Following the latest, ongoing outbreak of Israeli violence against the people of Gaza, citizens of Aberdeen demonstrate their solidarity and support for those under attack.  With thanks to Dave Black.

On Saturday 17 November, some 50 people gathered at short notice to show their support and solidarity for the people of Gaza, who are facing daily massacres at the hands of the Israeli Defence Force.
Meeting in Aberdeen’s St Nicholas Square, many carried flags or banners stating “Stand With Gaza” and “End Israeli War Crimes,” while shouts of “Free Palestine” rang in the air.

Powerful speeches were delivered by Brian Carroll (Aberdeen TUC President) and Tommy Campbell (Unite Regional Officer).

Veteran pro-Palestinian activist and member of Scottish Jews for a Just Peace Hilda Meers gave the crowd a moving rendition of her poem Erasure – Death-Dance for a Palestinian Child.

Many passers-by stopped and took the time to sign a petition demanding Alec Salmond immediately halts any political and economic relationships with Israel until the oppression of Gaza has ended and the human rights of Palestinians are recognised.

Plans for taking forward solidarity with the people of Gaza will be progressed at a public meeting upstairs at the Belmont Cinema this Thursday 22 November at 7.30pm.

The agenda will include building towards an Aberdeen-Gaza Skype link-up at 2pm on 08 December at the University of Aberdeen’s MacRobert Building (room 613). This event is aimed at hearing directly the experiences of people in Gaza, forging links between activists and interested groups/individuals in Aberdeen and Gaza and looking at how these can be taken forward in the future.

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  ERASURE – Death-Dance For A Palestinian Child, As Seen On A Video From Gaza

(During the Israeli Cast Lead attack on Gaza, Israeli soldiers fired on Palestinian ambulances to prevent them carrying wounded civilians to hospital. Sixteen medics were killed, resulting in casualties being ferried in donkey carts).

See the donkey-cart driver
race along the road, fast, fast –
pulling up with a jerk, not a word,
now his journey’s done.
See a mother leap out of the cart.
As she runs, runs, runs,
see her feet pound the ground,
the child in her arms so still, silent and still.
A man comes at a run, running quick, quick,
he runs towards the woman,
his arms reach for the child who lies silent,
unmoving and silent in sheltering arms.
Then turning, he runs, runs fast, quickly nears,
nearing the open door he surrenders the child
to other arms reaching, to bring help
for the child lying silent and still.
See the doctors bend over the hospital bed,
as they work for response from the child on the bed –
despairing at last, they must cover the head
of a child whose life has been stilled.
Whose life has been stilled,
has been stolen away,
the mother’s heart broken –
what more can I say?
What more can I say
What more can I do
As I try to convince you
This is our heartbreak too.
© Hilda Meers
Nov 202012

A fundraising event to support local activist Renee Slater in her forthcoming court case will be held on Thursday 29 November at Sopranos Bistro in Aberdeen’s Guild Street. With thanks to Friends of Helena Torry.

In the 2012 Aberdeen council elections, a candidate named Helena Torry was put forward by her agent, Renee Slater.

Nothing unusual in that, you might think, until you discover Helena is a dummy.

Not your usual political dummy, we hasten to add, but an actual shop mannequin!

Local activist Renee told Aberdeen Voice:

“Putting Helena forward for election was an act of political satire. I was trying to make a serious political point in a humorous way.

“During my campaign on Helena’s behalf, I tried to bring to the fore the point of view of a silent majority of Aberdonians.

“It was a direct response to what I saw as an under-representation of certain issues in the manifestos of the main political parties, particularly the closure of social centres for disabled people and cutbacks in community and youth work budgets.”

The council’s somewhat cack-handed response to the appearance of Helena as a candidate was to report 63-year-old Renee to the police. She was subsequently arrested and charged under Section 65 part 2A of the 1983 Representation of the People Act, then released to appear in court later.

Denied legal aid, Renee faces a court battle to clear her name in January 2013, not only having to foot her own legal costs but also facing the possibility of a substantial fine.

Fundraiser organisers Friends of Helena Torry is a group of local residents alarmed and disappointed at the council’s heavy-handed reaction to what is clearly a harmless act of political dissent, a type of political satire with a long and entertaining history.

Animals, inanimate objects and historical figures have been nominated for public office many times. Notable examples are American activist Michael Moore’s nomination of a ficus plant for congress and even Caligula’s horse (which apparently won) once featured in an electoral race. Even In the most recent U.S. presidential elections, the long-deceased Charles Darwin received around 4000 votes.

Friends of Helena Torry believe political dissent has an important role in a true democracy and should not be criminalised. Local authorities must respond to criticism in a morally acceptable way and should strive to act upon those criticisms in the interests of the public it serves.

One might think the police have more than enough to cope with as it is, that a court system under increasing strain must have more important matters to attend to than a piece of harmless satire, particularly one that actually brought a smile to a great many faces, not just in Aberdeen but around the globe.

Everyone is invited along to the evening. The fun kicks off at 7pm and will include live music from local bands and a raffle, so please come along and support Renee and join the campaign to free mannequin Helena (languishing in police custody to this day).

You can also donate or buy a T-Shirt or badge from the website:


All proceeds from the evening go towards Renee’s legal costs. Any surplus will be donated to a charity of Renee’s choice.

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Oct 262012

Trade union and community organisation members from the North-East join a demonstration against austerity.  With thanks to Brian Carroll, Chair/ President of Aberdeen Trades Union Council

Over 10,000 demonstrators gathered in George Square in Glasgow, from 10 o’clock onwards last Saturday morning to send out a message to the Government –

“ Stop what you’re doing or the economy will implode!
“Stop messing with our pay, pensions, terms and conditions!
“Invest in the future of our country and start investing for jobs, services, protecting those most in need – the youth of today!”

That is what is needed for a fair, just, equal, modern and diverse society and that is what Government should be delivering on.

This was a day which saw the people of Britain join people in Greece, Portugal, Spain, Italy and France in saying ‘NO’ to austerity.

The demonstrators then marched through the centre of Glasgowto a Rally on Glasgow Green where speaker after speaker gave the message –

“Give us Investment NOT austerity!  Austerity isn’t working!”

All major Unions, community organisations, activists and the general public were represented on the march, as was “Youth Fight for Jobs”, intrepid youngsters who had marched to Glasgow from Stirling

Aberdeen and the North East were well represented with union members from all the major trade unions as well as community organisations and local activists who travelled to Glasgow to be part of this event

It was a great day with PCS (Public and Commercial Services Union) Scottish Secretary, Lynn Henderson stating at the rally, to huge cheers and applause from the crowd:

“Let’s start the fightback, right here right now.  

“Come together, stand together, fight together and together we will win!”

Oct 042012

People from all over Scotland are calling on their local MSPs to do more to help Scotland tackle climate change and meet its commitment to cut greenhouse gas emissions.  With thanks to Mandy Carter, Press Officer, WWF Scotland.

A recent report highlighted that Scotland has missed its first target to cut greenhouse gas emissions.

This could make it even more difficult for the country to meet its commitment to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 42% by 2020, on 1990 levels, as outlined in the country’s world-leading Climate Change (Scotland) Act.

To make sure their MSP knows how strongly the public feel about this issue local residents are being invited to attend a Mass Lobby event at the Scottish Parliament at 12:45 on Thursday 25th October. 

The event is being organised by the largest civil society coalition in the country, Stop Climate Chaos Scotland,  and will bring MSPs face-to-face with their constituents.

Tom Ballantine, the Chair of Stop Climate Chaos Scotland, said,

 “The Scottish Government is quick to champion Scotland’s climate change legislation and hold it up as a world-leading example, but this risks looking somewhat hollow given that it has so far not been matched with enough action to follow through on the commitments in the Act.

“It’s now time for our politicians to get their act together and implement Scotland’s climate laws.”

Millions of people in developing countries are being hit first and hardest by the devastating effects of climate change, despite having done little to create the problem.  Changes to global weather patterns together with an increase in droughts, flooding and storms mean that crops are being destroyed, people are going hungry, and homes and livelihoods are being lost.

Scotland’s historic consumption of fossil fuels to generate great economic wealth now means the country has a moral obligation to address the climate change problem by cutting its domestic emissions.

To find out how you can help – click here

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