Monthly Archives: August 2014

A Farewell to T in the Park – Balado


As the 21st T in the park drew to a close in July and said a final farewell to Balado, I was watching Calvin Harris from the comfort of my sofa and thinking about previous years.

At the Sunday Mail I was part of a team that covered T in the Park from 2001 to 2011. It’s Scotland’s biggest music festival and it was treated with respect. Our Editor wanted every band on every stage covered, no mean feat, especially as over the years T in the Park has grown exponentially.

The team was headed up by Sunday Mail Showbiz Editor Billy Sloan and one year the T in the Park coverage got off to a sticky start. I believe it was 2007. There had been huge traffic problems and when Billy and Sunday Mail Showbiz Writer Steve Hendry eventually arrived at Balado, some hours late, the ground was muddy, their car got stuck and they were going nowhere. Then in true Laurel & Hardy fashion, they got out to push, the wheels started spinning and they were covered from head to toe in dirt … And that was just the start of the weekend …

The press tent was often a bit of a tight squeeze as people sat close together and photographers always brought lots of gear. Then there was the time an unknown drunk person wandered into the tent and randomly swung a punch at someone, who was easily able to dodge the drunken fist before the staggering man ambled off elsewhere.

Armed with pieces of paper letting you know the running order of every stage, it was then time to get out on site and it was often the last time you saw your colleagues until the end of the day.

T in the Park - 2009

Working hard – Some of the Sunday Mail T in the Park team  – 2009

T in the Park has brought a huge amount of bands and musicians to Balado and I’ve seen some truly memorable performances over the years.

There’s been glamor, Gwen Stefani of No Doubt showed off an amazing washboard stomach in 2002, there’s been Fergie of Black Eyed Peas, while Lady Gaga and Kerry Perry fought to be the Queen of T 2009, and festival favourite Alison Goldfrapp always captivates. Lively and vibrant on stage were the Scissor Sisters in 2004 and 2007, with both Ana Matronic and Jake Shears equally bedazzling.

Gwen Stefani in 2002

Gwen Stefani in 2002

When the sun descends on a festival stretching out its long hazy afterglow, it becomes a magical moment. People at this point are usually merry and carefree. They haven’t quite tipped the scales into overindulgence, with its messy aftereffects. It’s also when most of the headline acts start appearing giving them a chance to shine.

Sunset at T in the Park

Sunset at T in the Park

And there’s been some amazing headliners at T in the Park. 2003 belonged to REM and The Flaming Lips. Dave Grohl’s Foo Fighters were on top form in 2005, while you knew The Killers, with their slot some way down the bill on the main stage, would be back to headline. (They headlined in 2007). They’ve got the tunes, as crowd-pleaser All Those Things That I Have Done, is perfect singalong festival fodder and they’ve got Las Vegas style glamor, all padded shoulders and feathers, sported by front man Brandon Flowers.

The Killers - Brandon Flowers

The Killers – Brandon Flowers

Arcade Fire were third from the top on the main stage in 2007, and they rocked the crowd, although they seemed a bit bemused by the Scottish audience, and perhaps that’s why they never came back?

Apart from the headliners, there’s been lots of other stand outs. Maxi Jazz of Faithless getting the whole crowd jumping finger in the air to their massive anthem We Come One. Elbow and Doves always delight and unite with their blokeish but sensitive rock. There’s been Tim Booth’s James and the good-natured vibe of hit Sit Down, The Proclaimers will always make sure everyone is up for a party and Paolo Nutini’s mix of laid back style and feel good romp is always popular.

The feisty crowds that appear for Primal Scream, Kasabian and Oasis are always a challenge when you’re standing with a notebook and pen. You’re bumped around, dodging pints and fielding statements like “who are you writing for?” and “gonna write about me”.

Snow Patrol headlining the King Tut’s tent 2004 just before single Run was about to propel them into super stardom and change their lives, was a special moment. The reception they got just about brought the tent down.

Snow Patrol's Gary Lightbody Picture Credit - All Posters

Snow Patrol’s Gary Lightbody
Picture Credit – All Posters

Then fast forward to 2009, and on the main stage Snow Patrol were just behind headliners Blur – who were playing a “will they / won’t they appear?” game – as guitarist Graham Coxon was hospitalized with suspected food poisoning. They made it eventually.

Scottish rockers Biffy Clyro have played at T in the Park more times than any other band. In 2014 they made their 10th appearance. They were signed as young band in 1999 after their first outing at T which was on the T Break Stage.

Biffy Clyro - T in the Park 2014

Biffy Clyro – T in the Park 2014

T in the Park is also a great place to discover new bands to love. A band that captured me at T was Sons & Daughters with a brilliant set that I raved about for ages afterwards.

And it’s good to see how bands progress through the years, like Snow Patrol, mentioned already, and also Calvin Harris. He was second to open the main stage in 2009 with an understated set – and look at his headline act this year. It had an announcement from Hollywood actor Will Smith and more lights than Sports Direct supremo Mike Ashley’s house at Christmas.

In the earlier days of reporting T in the Park you phoned your copy into the Glasgow office to a team of dedicated copy-takers.  Later on the copy-takers in Glasgow were no more and you phoned your copy to a central team in England. There were quite a few challenges around this process. You had to find a quiet spot away from the stage, music, and throng of people, and a decent phone signal.  If you found a quiet spot, you suddenly became like Houdini, i.e. invisible, as drunk people were often also looking for a quiet spot … to pee. Then when you eventually got through to a copy-taker, read your carefully thought out words, you left the phone call wondering if your words would appear as you had said them. It made for a nervous pick up of the newspaper the following morning as you wondered if any musicians had suddenly joined other bands without them knowing it.

And there were deadlines, which meant a rush during the headliners to get all copy over as the editors and sub-editors were sitting waiting patiently / impatiently for words and photos to arrive.

At the end of the night everyone would get together again in the press tent, with sore feet and legs from standing or running about all day. We might have exchanged a few terse words during the day, it’s expected, but we still had a celebratory hug at the end.

T in the Park 2009

T in the Park 2009

T in the Park Balado is no-more … it will be interesting to see what next year’s T looks like in its new home.

Pic: from T in the Park

Pic: from T in the Park



For more information about T in the Park 2015:  T in the Park website

Tickets on sale now for 10th – 12th July 2015


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Filed under Festivals, Gig Reviews, Music, Scotland, T in the Park

The Rucksack Project and The Invisibles

This is a late blog but it’s important, inspiring and relevant. It also highlights how social media can create a movement.

I found the Rucksack Project via a friend’s Facebook page. It made me curious and I checked it out. The idea was simple. Buy/find/donate an old rucksack – fill it with some essential items and bring it to a designated drop off point. It was being organised by Lorna McLean from Stepps near Glasgow.

Rucksack Project

Rucksack Project – Police Notice

There was a list of items and the drop off point was in Glasgow just before Christmas 2013. The rucksacks were then to distributed to homeless people around Glasgow. If you couldn’t make the day’s drop off point, there were plenty alternatives.

In this day and age, no one should be living on the streets without shelter, food or basic facilities. I also believe it’s much easier to end up in these situations than a lot of people may think. A case of “there but for the Grace of God go I”.

And although I worry about people sleeping rough, I also feel powerless. I buy a Big Issue and put some money in someone’s hat, but surely I can do more?

Someone who did more was Matthew White from Bristol. The story of how he founded the Rucksack Project can be found on the link below.

The Rucksack Project Website

The Rucksack Project has grown steadily, with 2013 showing huge amounts of success, helped by social media. And 2013 was the first appearance of the project in Glasgow after Lorna decided to organise it. She had no idea how successful it was going to become and where it would lead.

So along with my usual Christmas shopping I added items such as a sleeping bag and a warm fleece. I duly packed my rucksack and when I got to the drop off point on December 22nd, I was amazed by the amount of rucksacks and the steady throng of people that kept appearing throughout the day. Inside the drop off point, located in a small tenement building, there was a room full of rucksacks. In another room a group of people sorted through extra items such as hats, socks and shoes. There were even tins of dog food brought in for people’s pets.

People helping to sort through items at Glasgow's Rucksack Project

People helping to sort through items at Glasgow’s Rucksack Project

With not a Scrooge in sight, the true spirit of Christmas was captured in that building.Two friendly policemen also stopped by and joined in.

The Rucksack Project

Lorna and her team then had the task of making sure the rucksacks found their new owners. There was an amazing 4000 plus bags waiting to be delivered. The team lost count in the end.

The Rucksack Project

Lorna McLean – Glasgow Rucksack Project with some of the rucksacks

Because the response was so overwhelming and unexpected, the reach was widened and even more people were helped.

I contacted Lorna after the event and met up with her to speak about the project. I could see the overwhelming results and although there are successful Rucksack Projects running all through the UK, with a few others in Scotland (Aberdeen, Edinburgh, Falkirk etc), the response to the project in Glasgow surpassed them all.

Why? I asked Lorna. She just laughed, shrugged her shoulders and said she knew she would get a great response in Glasgow, but even she didn’t anticipate just how successful it would be.

In the lead up to Christmas, the rucksacks were taking over her house, as her home also became a drop off point. At one point she could hardly get up her stairs.

Matthew White, the founder of the Rucksack Project noted with interest the success in Glasgow. Although Lorna doesn’t have an answer, I suspect it may be partly down to Lorna herself. She has a good network and she is a lovely and welcoming person. And social media seemed to really take off around the project in Glasgow.

Other homeless charities have now also been speaking to Lorna, including the Glasgow Simon Community, Glasgow’s Marie Trust and the Glasgow City Mission.

The Marie Trust highlighted that help can be extended not only to the homeless but to the many other people in need. The increasing numbers visiting food banks demonstrate how vulnerable some people are becoming.

Then along came T in The Park and another excellent idea, again noticed via social media. Again the idea was simple – instead of leaving your sleeping bag at the campsite donate it to a homeless person.

This idea was run by an organisation called The Invisibles fronted by Dermot Hill, a railway maintenance man, who had often witnessed the plight of the homeless around railways.

Read their statement here:

The Invisibles

All in they collected around 1,100 sleeping bags, 500 from T in the Park revelers, around 75 from another collection point and 500 were also donated by Tangerine Fields, a private company who set up tents at T in the Park.

STV News on The Invisibles T in the Park Project

The Invisibles logo

Now Lorna says The Rucksack Project and The Invisibles are talking about meeting to discuss perhaps working together on some projects. And another Rucksack Project is also planned for this December.

All of the above highlights the possibilities. Social media makes connecting and promoting easy. If you have an idea you can create a movement and inspire others. Sometimes we need people like Matthew White, Lorna McLean and Dermot Hill to take up the baton and guide us there, but we can all join them.

One story from Lorna McLean stayed with me. During the Christmas drop-in day, a lady appeared with a bag to donate, but she clutched it tight to her, reluctant to let it go. Eventually she handed it over and explained it was her own bag which she used when she was homeless. Now she was passing it to someone else who needed it, to help them through a difficult stage. At one point perhaps that bag was her life. Now she was handing it over. Her life now back on track, maybe she was able to close that chapter but it was evident it was an experience that would always remain with her.

The Rucksack Project Glasgow Facebook Page

Image taken from  The Rucksack Project

Image taken from
The Rucksack Project


Filed under Charities, Glasgow, Scotland, T in the Park, The Invisibles, The Rucksack Project