SWH! Is 10…

Today (25/08/2019) marks the 10th anniversary of Scots Whay Hae!, making it the perfect time to thank all those who have supported and helped along the way.

So – with a sharp intake of breath – thanks to every writer, poet, and publisher, who has shared their words, wit and wisdom with us. The same goes to all the bands, musicians, record labels and promoters who have sent us music and songs to listen to and review. Similarly, those artists, filmmakers, theatre companies, comedians, and festivals, who have invited us to view their previews and shows. We know your art and work is something which is vital and central to who you are and we appreciate you choosing to share it with us. It’s a privilege to be able to write, review, discuss, and celebrate it, and it’s a responsibility that SWH! takes seriously.

Huge thanks to all our podcast guests, some of whom you can see in the pictures at the top of the page (as well as some ever-evolving facial hair). The first was recorded in July 2011 and we are at 122 and counting. Number 123 is with American writer Elle Nash and will be with you soon.

If you have missed any you can find them here – SWH! Podcasts.
When taken together we like to think they are an informative and entertaining record of a contemporary Scottish culture which is thrilling, thriving, and diverse.

Ian Gregson

Special thanks must go to our sound guru Ian Gregson (right), without whom there would only be silence, and Sarah Jane Gregson for her undying support and advice. Also to our regular end of year reviewers Chris Ward, Vikki Reilly, and Wesley Shearer, and our resident ‘Dr Books’ Ronnie Young, all of whose expertise has been essential.

We are grateful to, and thankful for, our various partners over the years, including Dear Scotland, ASLS, Scottish Opera, LP Radio, and Braemar Gallery. If I have forgotten to mention others then please remind me and I will add them to this list, with sincere apologies for a memory failing.

Also kudos to the bloggers, podcasters, critics, journalists, broadcasters, and other cultural contributors, who have inspired and supported SWH! over the years. It means more than you could possible know and I hope that you feel the support and appreciation is mutual.

But most of all thanks to you, Dear Reader and Listener, as it would be fairly pointless doing this without you (although we probably still would). We value and treasure each and every one of you.

Before moving on, it’s worthwhile reflecting on the very first post which set out the aims and ideas behind Scots Whay Hae!’s inception. It’s encouraging to find that it is as relevant now as it was a decade ago, and hasn’t really changed at any time. Here it is in full so you can decide for yourself. In the meantime, ‘Cheers!’ & here’s to 10 more…

Why Hae?

swhfavicon

This is a little mission statement as to the reason for creating this website. Contemporary writing and commentary that deals with Scottish art and culture often obsess over questions of inclusion and exclusion, questions that usually arise from the thorny issue of nation. This blog aims to, if not ignore such questions, demote them to the sidelines as all aspects of art and culture are discussed and dissected.

I cannot deny that I am Scots, writing in Scotland, and will concentrate (although not exclusively) on Scottish writers, poets, music, films, TV, art, comedy etc, but ‘where and when’ is of far less importance to me than ‘what and why’. Discussions can be had elsewhere as to what is or is not Scots and often they become a barrier to the enjoyment of that which is under discussion.

And that is what this blog is really for, to celebrate, debate and enjoy art in its widest sense. To deal with the art itself, and allow discussion and comment that looks at the old and new anew. To not take too seriously something which I take very seriously indeed. We have an ongoing relationship with our respective cultures throughout our lives and it is important to remember the relationship as it was when first consummated. The joy, wonder and the reason we fell in love in with bands, films, poems and books. Like all relationships it changes, becomes more ‘serious’ as time goes by, and although I cannot pretend that a wary, weary and cynical side will be suppressed fully, (nor would I wish it so – where is the fun in that?) I want to focus on my belief that art in all its forms can give us a reason for living better lives.

The first post proper are thoughts on John Byrne’s Tutti Frutti. What struck me is the way that Byrne created a thoroughly Scottish drama, one that wears its roots and knowledge easily, giving reference to outside cultural influence without apology, and does so with a light touch and a self-mocking sense of humour.

It is in this spirit that I write this blog. Of course this may change at any time, but until it does please excuse the indulgence and read on…

Alistair Braidwood 25/08/2009.

Scots Whay Hae! Presents… Starry Skies’ new single & video, ‘Starry Skies’

ss_ss.jpg

Against all odds, and just when we need it most, kindness is having a welcome renaissance, at least in terms of our culture. At this year’s Edinburgh International Book Festival, talking about his collection of essays The Passion Of Harry Bingo, journalist Peter Ross explained that the key to his work is kindness. He never belittles or condescends to those who he writes about, no matter how alternative their lifestyles or interests may appear. From S&M clubs to the subject of self-harm, Ross approaches his interviewees from a position of empathy and understanding.

It’s refreshing to hear, and other examples can be found in the work of Grammy winning singer/producer Adam Bainbridge, who is better know as Kindness, and in recent books by Helen Taylor and Helen McClory. What unites them is a desire to understand the choices and lifestyles of others, and include them in any conversation – benevolance without patronization. In short, and in the words of Abraham Lincoln, the theme is, “Be excellent to each other”.

To those you can add the forthcoming Starry Skies’ album Be Kind which is out in UnknownOctober on Fox Star Records. Starry Skies are a bit of a Supergroup, as well as a super group, with members of Sister John, The Gracious Losers, and Attic Lights involved, as well as a various guest appearances when playing live. They are ably led by singer-songwriter Warren McIntyre,  a man who has played with legendary bands The Ducks, The Moondials, and many more. This is a band of multi-talents who come together to make a greater whole. Continue reading

The Write Stuff: Scots Whay Hae!’s Top 10 (+1) Picks Of The Edinburgh International Book Festival…

programme_cropped.png

From the 11th – 27th August in Edinburgh’s Charlotte Square Gardens (and George Street) once again becomes the place for book lovers to meet, greet, and be merry as the Edinburgh International Book Festival takes up its annual residence. It’s always an oasis of calm and conversation in a city gone daft, and it is one of SWH!’s favourite places to be.

There’s a lot of great events to choose from, so to help you find something just for you here are Scots Whay Hae!’s Top Ten Picks of what to see at this year’s book festival (with a bonus extra because you’re special).

67dac432Robin Robertson, Sat 11 Aug 12:00 – 13:00 – The Spiegeltent
A renowned poet whose work often hauntingly evokes the lives of Scottish outsiders, Robin Robertson strikes out with a breathtaking new project, The Long Take. In this verse novel, Walker is a war veteran from Nova Scotia who sets out for Los Angeles in 1948. Robertson’s book demonstrates the origins of ‘noir’, presented here with period filmic and musical accompaniment.

And you can read the SWH! review of The Long Take here. Continue reading

Talking Books: A Preview Of Aye Write! 2018…

927478a6-2332-4a2a-be7b-a86600a344a6.jpeg

For 10 days in March (15th – 25th) Glasgow’s Book Festival Aye Write! is the only show in town for lovers of fact, fiction, food, poetry, prose, biography, comics, and any other form of writing that takes your fancy.  While the majority of events remain at the festival’s spiritual home of The Mitchell Library there is also plenty occuring at the CCA, Glasgow Royal Concert Hall, Tramway, City Halls, GFT and Glasgow University Chapel. But it is only right that Glasgow’s most famous library is the focus point for a book festival which is international in scope, but has its roots firmly planted in the city.

Here are SWH!’s carefully selected daily highlights to give you something to think about, but you can peruse the full programme at your leisure here.

You can also keep up to date with events as they unfold by following @AyeWrite on Twitter or on Facebook. Tickets can be bought here and you can click the links below for further details on the individual events.

619at83IyAL._SX329_BO1,204,203,200_Thursday 15th – Stuart David, 7.45 – 8.45pm, University of Glasgow Memorial Chapel
Ex-Belle & Sebastian and current Looper, Stuart David is arguably better known as a musician than a writer, but his debut novel Nalda Said is one of the most-underrated Scottish novels of the last 20 years, and his memoir about his time in Belle & Sebastian, In The All Night Cafe is a must for any Scottish pop music fan. Now his latest novel, Peacock’s Alibi, is being published by Polygon, and SWH!’s very own Ali Braidwood will be in conversation with Stuart on the 15th to discuss the new book, the true story of Peacock Johnson, the Ian Rankin connection, and so much more. If you have a burning question you’ve always wanted to ask Stuart please come along as this is your chance to do so.

Peacock’s Alibi is published by Polygon Books, and you can hear Stuart and Karn David talking to the SWH! Podcast back in 2015. Continue reading

Reporting Scotland: The Scots Whay Hae! Podcast Talks To Peter Ross…

DSC_0469.JPG

On the latest podcast, Ali spoke to journalist Peter Ross about the follow-up to his 2014 book, Daunderlust: Dispatches From Unreported Scotland, (which Peter spoke to us about in a previous podcastThe Passion Of Harry Bingo: Further Dispatches From Unreported Scotland. Peter goes into some of those dispatches in detail as the two discuss how Scottish football may be a microcosm of Scottish life, the importance of tradition, post-referendum Scotland, how he was accepted in so many diverse places – from grouse shoot to sex shop, and so much more. Even then they only touch upon a handful of the stories told, so if you want to know the rest you’re going to have to read the book, the SWH! review of which you can read here.

Booked_Peter_Ross

Peter is one of Scotland’s finest writers and his type of reportage journalism is increasingly rare. The essays in The Passion Of Harry Bingo are a reminder that, to paraphrase James Kelman, “the drama of ordinary people’s every day lives” will always be compelling and will tell readers more about their country, their neighbours and themselves than fiction could ever manage.

This is the 84th SWH! podcast, so if you are new round these parts there is quite a substantial back catalogue for you to discover. If you aren’t yet a subscriber you can do so, (or simply listen) at iTunes or by RSS (but you’ll need to have an RSS reader to do so). You can also download the podcast by clicking on the relevant link to the right of this post, or, if you want it right here, right now, you can listen on…

..SoundCloud

..or on YouTube:

If our plans come together we’re going to have a couple of rather interesting podcasts coming soon, so keep your ear to the ground…

The Road Less Travelled: A Review Of Peter Ross’s The Passion Of Harry Bingo…

DSC_0469.JPG

What a difference three years makes. Peter Ross’s previous book, Daundlerust: Dispatches From Unreported Scotland was published in the Spring of 2014, a time when, in the run up to the Scottish Independence Referendum in September, there was a widespread sense of optimism for the future among those who saw Scottish independence as the opportunity of a lifetime, and who tended to be more vocal about it than those who did not. There was something stirring in Scotland and the stories in Daunderlust, although gathered over the years, reflected this feeling. Most of them told of people thriving and surviving, often against the odds. It celebrated individual and collective lives as the smaller yet still vital part of a larger whole. If you thought you knew what it meant to be Scottish then Peter Ross made you think again.

Cut to 2017 and the country and the people have been through a lot. It’s been emotional. The Referendum divided the nation, often friends and family, and those scars still cut deep. It’s an interesting and apposite time for Ross’s follow-up to Daunderlust, The Passion Of Harry Bingo: Further Dispatches From Unreported Scotland, to arrive. It’s a more measured book, perhaps as a result of this change in the Scottish psyche. The opening chapter, ‘After The Referendum’, would suggest this is on Ross’s mind. It’s a look back at the day and the aftermath of the result and it sets the tone for the book, but only in that it accepts the importance of the vote and all that went with it, digests and attempts to comprehend what it meant and means, then moves on. And so should we, for the moment. Continue reading

Scots Whay Hae!’s Alternative Hogmanay Night In, 2016…

montgomery_scott_enjoying_a_glass_of_scotch
Once again Montgomery Scott raises a glass to see out the old year and ring in the new and that means it’s time for Scots Whay Hae!’s annual selection of New Year’s Eve treats. It’s an alternative to the Hogmanay telly, so if there’s little you fancy on the box this might be more to your liking.

There’s audio, video, music, comedy, documentary, drama, and more involving some of our favourite folk, including The Blue Nile, Robbie Coltrane, John Byrne, David Hayman, Ette, Peter Ross, The Primevals, and Lomond Campbell. That’s quite a lot to get through, so without further ado….

Perhaps the least surprising recommendation to regular readers will be journalist Ken Sweeney’s documentary on The Blue Nile (which he talked about in detail to the Glasgowist). He starts at the band’s very beginning, and tries to understand why, with a mere four albums to their name in 20 years, they are so beloved by some, yet unheard of or ignored by others. If you are in the latter camp and would like to know more about them then I can recommend Allan Brown’s Nileism: The Strange Course Of The Blue Nilebut not before you listen to the following – and, more importantly, their music. It just may change your life:

Continue reading

Stranger Than Fiction: A Review Of Peter Ross’s Daunderlust…

One of the biggest problems with the downsizing of newspapers, magazines and journals is the thinning out of great journalists and columnists. You may think that it is more democratic that we are constantly asked ‘What do you think?’ to fill pages in papers and online, but that sort of often uninformed opinion becomes white noise to me. The best columnists don’t tell us what we want to hear, or what we already think, they tell us what we need to know.

Those who have informed my life regularly include Andrew Rawnsley, George Monbiot, Clive James, Chris Roberts, Caitlin Moran, Mark Steel, Deborah Orr and Jon Ronson to name just a few. I might not always agree with what they say, but at least I trust that they mean it. In Scotland, at the moment, there are the two Ia(i)ns from the Heralds, (Bell and Macwhirter), Kevin McKenna in The Observer, and Peter Ross in Scotland on Sunday. If you haven’t caught the latter’s columns then fear not as the best of them are now available in one place in the form of Daunderlust: Dispatches From Unreported Scotland.

That title is informative as Ross takes you behind the scenes of people and places which you may have noted as you go about your day to day lives, but have never had the time or inclination to find out more about. On a personal level, I’ve always wondered about Luigi Corvi, who sings over suppers at the Val D’Oro chippy at the bottom of my road; about the fishermen, who I used to run past daily when training in the summer months, who reside under the Dalmarnock Bridge in Glasgow, and the fruit farms I drive past in Perthshire when I go to visit my brother in Braemar. Ross has done that so I don’t have to.

Other memorable encounters in the book include tracking down the Castlemilk Lads, who were captured by photographer Oscar Marzaroli, and who adorned the cover of Deacon Blue’s Chocolate Girl single, time spent with the ‘Extreme Cleaners’ (imagine Kim and Aggy in CSI Glasgow), the close and dysfunctional family who live in Barlinnie, the travelling folk responsible for Scotland’s ‘shows’, and the New Town gunslingers of the Grand Ole Opry.

As you would expect, drink, or at least bar life, is a running theme through the book and we meet the karaoke belters at Glasgow’s Horseshoe Bar, those who frequent The Waterloo Bar, and just where they stand, both literally and in the pecking order of regulars. We are introduced to ‘Val At The Crown and Anchor’ in Aberdeen, the well oiled ex-pat attendees of ‘The Royal Caledonian Ball’ in London, and the various booze fuelled sporting events which take place regularly in towns from the Border to the Islands.

I realise I have mainly mentioned Glasgow tales so far, but this is stravaigin on a national level as Ross goes behind the scenes of  the Forth Rail Bridge, ‘Ladies Day at Musselburgh’, the arrival of the starlings in Gretna, and working on the peat fields of the Hebrides. His daunders have taken him all over the country in search of characters, and he is not disappointed, but this is not an exercise in voyeurism, pointing a finger at the strange and unfamiliar. Ross not only goes behind the scenes of ‘unreported Scotland’, he empathises with those he meets there, and even if he doesn’t always entirely understand them, he tries to, refusing to remain outside and getting in and amongst it.

He has a fabulous knack of getting people to tell their tales, finding the individual stories which explain why they do what they do, but also why they are who they are. There is comedy and tragedy as all of human life is here, and even though you may not be familiar with these lifestyles, they are as valid and important as any other. Put together in a collection like this, a picture of a country emerges which is off the beaten track, but which remains recognisably Scottish. As I said at the top of the page, interesting and entertaining columnists are a dying breed and that’s a great shame, so treasure them while you can. I mentioned Jon Ronson earlier, and I can’t help but feel that if he lived and worked in Scotland, this is the sort of book he would write, and Ross shares Ronson’s incisive eye, lightness of touch and a turn of phrase to die for. After finishing Daunderlust I knew far more about my country then I had previously, and that is a great thing for a writer to achieve.