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Posts Tagged ‘Scottish Culture’

Michael Marra: The Bard of Dundee and Modern Scotland

Gerry Hassan

Scottish Review, December 13th 2017

Michael Marra – musician, artist and force for good – was a precious Scottish gem. He was unique in his art but also in his delivery and style; singularly understated, modest and often humble to the extent that at times he hugely underpromoted himself and his work.

It is worthwhile celebrating that the writer James Robertson has contributed his time and intelligence to produce a biography of Marra – ‘Michael Marra: Arrest This Moment’. This is a fascinating book, and important beyond the subject of Marra in addressing music, the creative muse, the role of the artist and culture, and having something to say about his home town (and mine) Dundee – and contemporary Scotland.

Michael Marra was born in Dundee on February 17th 1952, the fourth of five children, and grew up in Lochee, then as now a working class part of the city. After an unhappy time at school and several routine jobs, Michael found his voice as a singer and songwriter. Read the rest of this entry »

Andrew O’Hagan’s Scotland, Storytellers, Culture and Politics

Gerry Hassan

Scottish Review, August 23rd 2017

Andrew O’Hagan is a gifted, talented writer and intellectual force who both encapsulates curiosity and creativity and encourages it in others. Last week he gave a fascinating keynote address in Edinburgh on the subject of Scotland.

O’Hagan’s very public painful relationship with modern Scotland has in the past created waves and controversies. He grew up in Kilwinning, Ayrshire, from a working class Catholic background scarred by the memories and shadow of intolerance and sectarianism. This left its mark on O’Hagan, and like James McMillan many of his crusades seem informed by the wounds left by this unpleasant experience.

He has also on numerous occasions expressed his disquiet at Scottish exceptionalism, the claims of Scottish nationalism, and intervened many times pouring a potent lyrical scorn on aspects of our conceits, and of course, the case for independence. In many respects, O’Hagan’s past interventions, like McMillan, come from a very old Scottish tradition, of over-stating your case to invite a response. This is the male, flyting, black and white tradition of the Hugh MacDiarmids and Hamish Hendersons, which some like to romanticise, but, undeniably excluded many, and hurt and humiliated others. Read the rest of this entry »

A World of Borders, Space and Culture: A Tribute to Roanne Dods

Gerry Hassan

Scottish Review, May 31st 2017

Much of modern life is shaped by the chasm between the official narratives of institutions, authority and experts and how most of us experience everyday life.

This is obvious in the bizarre experience of Britain and Scotland’s current election – one which is consuming the attentions of the political classes and its hangers-on, but which is bemusing and infuriating most of the rest of us. Don’t switch-off now. This isn’t another piece about the election and how awful it is. Instead, I want to take a journey into what it is that makes us human, the imagination and how we interact with each other.

Last weekend I went to a tribute to my friend and colleague Roanne Dods who recently passed away at the age of 51 after a battle with cancer. Many of you reading this may not have heard of her. She was a Scottish-based cultural maker of things – connections, exchanges, spaces, projects, interventions and insights. She had previously run the Jerwood Charitable Foundation arts body in London, and returned to Scotland several years ago to work on a range of projects. Read the rest of this entry »

When were the Swinging Scottish Sixties?

Gerry Hassan

Scottish Review, March 22nd 2017

The 1960s are referenced throughout the world as a period of immense change, hope, protest and turbulence.

There were ‘the winds of change’ of decolonisation, Latin American revolts and rebellions, the Chinese cultural revolution, upsurges in Paris and Prague, Biafra, the disastrous American military intervention in Vietnam and resultant protest movement in the US and worldwide.

What though did the sixties really represent? In the UK the sixties began with Philip Larkin and the trial of D.H. Lawrence’s ‘Lady Chatterley’s Lover’; in the US they were augmented by the assassination of JFK in Dallas in 1963. In both there was a shared moment – in early 1963 in the UK, and February 1964 in the US, with the arrival of the Beatles then morphing into a musical and cultural phenomenon the world had never seen before: Beatlemania.

In the UK this aided the overthrowing of the stuffy last remnants of Victoriania, the long shadow of the Second World War, and class-bound high culture. This was epitomised in John Lennon’s now seemingly innocent remark at the Royal Variety Performance in November 1963 in front of the Queen Mother that ‘the people in the cheaper seats, clap your hands. And the rest of you, if you’d just rattle your jewelry’. This was a national moment, shown on TV and immortalised in the press. Read the rest of this entry »

Could Scotland really be reduced to the status of a region?

Gerry Hassan

Scottish Review, January 18th 2017

When did present day Scotland begin? Not the ‘modern’ Scotland of post-war times, or the upside and then downside of Labour Scotland. But the land that we visibly live in today – shaped by the ghosts of industries long gone and the sins and excesses of Thatcher and Blair.

The conventional answer is 1979: the ‘Year Zero’ of Scottish sensibilities when, for many, the world was turned upside down with election of the Thatcher Government and the stalled first devolution referendum.

However, that is the view in retrospect. Thatcher didn’t unambiguously represent Thatcherism in 1979. Interestingly, most of Scotland’s non-Tory politicians and mainstream media didn’t represent it then the way we do now. For example ‘The Herald’ and ‘The Scotsman’ choose to interpret Thatcher’s first UK victory not in terms of the Scottish national dimension, but in British conventional left and right terms (neither of which were then as wedded to the constitutional debate as now).

In reality present day Scotland started somewhere between 1983 and 1987 – between the second Thatcher victory, the invention of the poll tax in 1985-86, and the third Thatcher victory in 1987: ‘the Doomsday scenario’ as it was called (meaning Scotland voted more Labour, but got a Tory Government based on English votes). Read the rest of this entry »

Gerry Hassan is a writer, commentator and thinker about Scotland, the UK, politics and ideas. more >
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