Posts Tagged ‘Scottish Culture’
The Real Glasgow Effect on all of us
Scottish Review, February 10th 2016
Glasgow is many things. It is a place, an idea and a story.
Willie McIlvanney once captured this writing: ‘Glasgow is a great city. Glasgow is in trouble. Glasgow is handsome. Glasgow is ugly. Glasgow is kind. Glasgow is cruel.’
There is a Glasgow industry of books about the city – the biggest and most burgeoning concerning any UK city – London apart, which is over ten times its size. There are dry academic accounts and studious examinations. There are cultural tours. Then there is football – ‘the Old Firm’ and occasionally Hampden, Queen’s Park and the Scotch Professors. There are gang memories of violence and crime of a grim, Razor City. For light relief there are celeb biographies of the city’s celebrated sons and daughters from Dorothy Paul to Elaine C. Smith. Finally, there are coffee table books of photographs – sometimes historic, sometimes of the present.
This adds up to seven types of Glasgow Book which according to Christopher Booker in his ‘The Seven Basic Plots’ is the number of elemental stories in the world. Let’s leave aside that he attempts to have his cake and eat it, by both having lots of micro-stories below the seven, and one unifying story which unites the seven. His point is that there are a limited number of stories. Read the rest of this entry »
Whatever happened to the Scottish Tut?
Scottish Review, January 13th 2016
Once upon a time there was a thing called the Scottish Tut.
It defined many of our exchanges, stalked our land and policed the boundaries of permissible behaviour. It gave and took away acceptance; and once it was seemingly everywhere and now seems nowhere. Whatever happened to the once powerful tut, can we live without it, and should we lament its apparent demise?
The Scottish Tut involves many different motivations, styles and gradations. It could be used to indicate someone seen as ‘getting above their station’ or pronouncing a view viewed as gauche or inappropriate. Being judged as high-faluting and having an inappropriate attitude could bring forth the tut. But so could wearing a rather loud shirt or trousers, or trying too obviously to look different or alternative.
The tut embodied a passive aggressiveness: the use of pursed lips, staring, glaring, looking shocked, silence and a whole host of body language signals. This had power in a society that had all kinds of hang-ups, no-go areas and numerous unwritten rules. People often associate this with authority and officialdom – from councillors and faceless bureaucrats to the revenge of the local minister or priest. But it had its roots in a deep well of culture, history and traditions. Read the rest of this entry »
‘The Cheviot, the Stag and the Black, Black Oil’ Still Matters
Sunday Mail, September 27th 2015
One year after the referendum has seen a golden summer and autumn of Scottish theatre. Adaptions of Alasdair Gray’s ‘Lanark’ at the Citizens’ Theatre, and Alan Warner’s ‘The Sopranos’ at the Traverse, along with John McGrath’s ‘The Cheviot, the Stag and the Black, Black Oil’ at Dundee Rep.
These are all iconic, evocative plays that tell much about the Scotland in which the original texts were written, the times in which they are set, as well as the present day. ‘Lanark’ addresses the scale of economic, social and psychological change in post-war Glasgow and the West of Scotland; ‘The Sopranos’ (adapted as ‘Our Ladies of Perpetual Succour’) deals with youthful rebellion and expression, but it is ‘The Cheviot’ which attempts the most over-arching account of Scotland through the centuries to modern times.
Written by John McGrath, first premiered by his theatre company 7:84 in Aberdeen in 1973 and then shown as a BBC ‘Play for Today’ in 1974, it has now returned for the first time in over twenty years, adapted by Joe Douglas and Dundee Rep Ensemble. Read the rest of this entry »
The Sounds of Silence in Scotland
Sunday Mail, August 23rd 2015
Scotland is a land of tolerance and friendliness.
Glasgow is the friendly city, Scottish people chat to strangers, and we are, many think, more convivial than the English. Some believe this the product of tenement living.
There are moments which jar with this. There was the Section 28/Clause 2A battle on ‘promoting’ homosexuality in schools more than a decade ago. There was the revelation of the Catholic Church’s systemic covering up of child sexual abuse in its ranks, for which it apologised this week in the McLellan Commission.
There are many other fissures in our idea of who we are. One is, that like elsewhere, racism and xenophobia exists in Scotland. Hostility to asylum seekers and immigrants is only less potent in our country because of the numbers and visibility factor. Scotland is not that different from the rest of the UK – with 68% of the population wanting much tougher controls on immigration. Read the rest of this entry »
Beyond the Cultural Cringe: The Need for a Multi-Story Scotland
Scottish Review, September 3rd 2014
The independence referendum is remaking Scotland. History is being made which scholars will look back and study years from now. The very idea of Scotland is on the move and changing, as is what we think of as politics and even the notion of what is public.
One of the constant refrains, both in the independence debate, and over the last 30 years, has been the importance, role and, critically, the fragility of Scottish culture.
Whether it has been the existence (or not) of a ‘cultural renaissance’ in the 1980s, the supposed influence of Alasdair Gray’s ‘Lanark’, or artistic and cultural figures becoming politically engaged, first in the 1980s, and now in the referendum, the politics of culture have influenced both cultural politics and politics per se.
At the same time, a counter-strand has worried about Scottish culture, that its very existence might be under threat and that somehow it might be assimilated or excised. In certain circles, this anxiety has reached a crescendo in the independence debate which has been revealing, but which has deeper roots in history and the Scottish psyche. Read the rest of this entry »