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Posts Tagged ‘Scottish Culture’

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 »

The Continuing Scottish Revolution: Time to Tell New Stories of Scotland

Scottish Review, January 10th 2017

Gerry Hassan

It has been an unprecedented political year, and 2017 will also be full of high drama – globally, across Europe, in the UK, and nearer to home in Scotland.

Politics isn’t everything. Just as important is culture – a word used and over-used, seemingly about everything and everywhere, but difficult, and sometimes impossible to pin down and define.

Culture when we forensically examine it can mean so many things. It can describe individual growth and enrichment. It can be about a group or community’s way of life. It expresses the activities of consuming culture. And finally, it is also used to define the way groups and organisations act and the codes and practices which shape them.

The many facets of culture and the propensity not to define then can be seen in our nation. We have a politics which is meant to be all-encompassing, but often evades detail and substance. Reinforcing this is a widespread characteristic of not wanting to define Scottish culture – for fear of ghettoising and marginalising. Read the rest of this entry »

It’s Time for Dangerous Talk: Jaytalking Scotland

Gerry Hassan

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 »

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