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Posts Tagged ‘Scottish Culture’

Culture in Scotland in the midst of storms: A Call for Dangerous Cultures

Gerry Hassan

Bella Caledonia, March 16th 2018

Culture in Scotland is in difficult times: public spending cuts, the lost decade of stagnant living standards for the vast majority of people, limits to the Scottish Government’s largesse and devolution powers, controversy over Creative Scotland’s decision making and funding priorities resulting in the debate over the future of the Scottish Youth Theatre – and much more (with some questioning the continued existence of Creative Scotland).

If you think these are dangerous waters you ain’t seen nothing yet. While some yearn for the headwinds of populism, revolt and voter dissatisfaction to blow themselves out and ‘normal’ politics to resume, others recognise that what was normal was part of the problem and one of the reasons we got into the current mess. Restoration politics and culture which is what some dream of isn’t aiming very high.

Instead, we inhabit an age of broken mainstream politics, a discredited economic model, big questions about accountability, ethics and responsibility in both public life and in what is called private life, but is increasingly a contested arena. That’s without mentioning Brexit, Trump, the ineptitudes of the Theresa May UK Government, and that nearly everywhere in the developed world those notionally in control have lost their confidence, while continuing to pretend otherwise. Read the rest of this entry »

Time to Put the Culture into Creative Scotland

Gerry Hassan

Scottish Review, February 7th 2018

Creative Scotland’s latest stramash has again brought arts funding, decision-making and the role of the organisation centrestage.

It is a recurring problem. After the good news story before Christmas, of Culture Secretary Fiona Hyslop announcing – against expectations – a real terms increase in the funding of Creative Scotland, all seemed for a brief period sweetness and light. Then came the announcement on 25 January for Regularly Funding Organisations (RFOs), who have a three-year funding cycle, of significant cuts in a host of success stories – Transmission in Glasgow and Macrobert in Stirling being but two. More seriously, seven high profile, non-building based companies had their funding completely cut, with their sole support the prospect of one year touring funds.

This has brought controversy and resignations, with Ruth Wishart and Maggie Kinloch resigning from Creative Scotland’s Board. Culture Secretary Fiona Hyslop indicated a degree of displeasure at the recent funding announcement, tweeting that ‘angst and worry could be avoided if CS is clearer’ to bodies it was funding – in what amounted to an unprecedented public dressing down.

Joyce McMillan observed that Creative Scotland ‘is still an agency that generates blizzards of impenetrable reports and strategies, in all of which principles like equality, diversity and inclusion loom large, along with the importance of arts for children and young people.’ Neil Cooper, writing in ‘Bella Caledonia’, commented that the agency was characterised by a ‘dunder-headed managerialism’ which is ‘a microcosm of a far greater global malaise’ – and that ‘Creative Scotland was an ideological construct from the start’. Read the rest of this entry »

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 »

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