Posts Tagged ‘Scottish Culture’
It’s Time for Dangerous Talk: Jaytalking Scotland
Scottish Review, September 15th 2016
These are strange times. We are told everyday in every way by numerous experts and talking heads that this is an age of unprecedented change, uncertainty and flux. That nothing can be taken for granted.
Yet this is also an age of great conformity and conservatism; not only in mainstream politics but in large acres of what passes for popular culture – from music to novels, theatre, comedy, TV and visual arts.
Scotland fits into this pattern rather well. It has shaken the UK to near breaking point and tells itself continually it is social democratic and egalitarian, while being rather conservative in how it goes about this as well as many other things.
Our country is littered with examples of our collective conformity and lack of interest in substantive change – let alone any real radicalism. And what is telling is our lack of interest or curiosity in these discrepancies – lest they disrupt our telling ourselves how unique we are.
If Scotland were this place of radicalism wouldn’t there be a land filled with lots of examples of radicalism? Of pioneering legislation, examples of social change, and people and communities empowered? Would there not have been a shake up of one of the ultimate closed shops: the Scottish legal establishment? Or the education community? Or even senior health consultants? Public sector reform is a phrase left at the border. Read the rest of this entry »
Every Year When the World Comes to Scotland
Sunday Mail, August 28th 2016
At the end of every summer Edinburgh becomes a global village – walking down any street or lane entails coming across numerous nationalities, languages and different cultures.
Streets are packed with tourists, sightseers, and cultural backpackers; there are performances in every nook and cranny of the city centre, and all sorts of impromptu and free shows going on all around.
All of this puts Edinburgh and Scotland on the cultural map unlike anything else. It generates large amounts of revenue for the city and wider – estimated to be around £313 million – and even brings parts of London and Oxbridge society on rare excursions north of the border. Read the rest of this entry »
Does Glasgow have a chip on the shoulder?
Scottish Review, June 1st 2016
Glasgow is not Scotland. For most of its history it has seen itself as bigger than the nation that hosts it – looking out to Transatlantic trade and commerce routes, and linked to the world through shipbuilding and human connections.
Since the early 19th century Glasgow has seen itself as a ‘Big City’ – even though it is now half the size it was at its peak, in the mid-1950s. This bigness is about swagger, attitude (both good and bad), and having a sense of importance. It isn’t an accident that outside of London the most written about and talked about UK city is Glasgow – a veritable ‘Glasgow industry’.
‘No other city in Britain carries the same resonances, the same baggage of expectations and preconceptions’, wrote travel writer Charles Jennings about Glasgow. That has a good side in the attachment and pride people feel for the place, but also a darker one where there is a constant feeling of being slighted, of not having your due place acknowledged, or being at the end of middle class conspiracies from high heid yins in Edinburgh or perfidious Albion. Read the rest of this entry »
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 »