Monthly Archives: January 2016

Holocaust Memorial Day – January 27th 2016

Holocaust Memorial Day 2016

Today is Holocaust Day (27th January 2016) and it’s 71 years since the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau. The theme marking this year’s day is “Don’t Stand by”. And if anyone could teach us the importance of this statement – it would be Sir Nicholas Winton.

A few days ago I watched a film called Nicky’s Family, which was screened at Glasgow’s Film Theatre to a cinema full of secondary school children. A version of this film will be shown on BBC1 tonight at 22.45 pm.

Nicky's Family

This documentary, made by film director and producer Matej Minac, tells the story of Sir Nicholas Winton, a London-based stockbroker, who became known as Britain’s Schindler. In 1939, aged 28, he embarked on an incredible journey to Czechoslovakia which led him to save the lives of 669 children from Nazi-occupied Czechoslovakia. He established the British Committee for Refugees from Czechoslovakia – Children’s Section and he brought children to Britain via train, called Kindertransport, arranging for their adoption by families throughout the country.

Sir Nicholas Winton

Winton helped 669 children out of Czechoslovakia in 1939

The film was made in 2011 and it’s a compelling story, pieced together by interviews with some of these children who are now well into middle age.

It’s impossible to imagine the trauma these children faced, and now when interviewed, the pain and memories are evident, seen in the tears that trickle down their older, wiser, wrinkled faces. They retell the stories of their parents anguish and heartbreak at putting them on trains to a far and distant land. And when most of those parents faced the Nazi gas chambers, they knew they had done the right thing because they had saved their children by sending them away.

Six million Jews died during WWII and the recollections in Nicky’s Family will stay with you. One story tells of a mother being advised to encourage her children to sing when they are in the gas chamber, because singing means increased inhalation and a quicker death.

Some of these children who came to Britain were as young as three years old, split up from their families with hardly any possessions in a strange country, but they were given a lifeline. It was heartbreaking to hear that a train was due to leave for Britain on Sept 1st 1939 carrying over 250 children – then war broke out, following Hitler’s invasion of Poland  – and everything changed. The train never left and those children most certainly didn’t survive.

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There were some funny recollections. When the train stopped in Holland the children were welcomed by women in national dress serving hot chocolates and strange white bread – which the children had never tasted before.

And we learned that Britain in 1939 was a tolerant and compassionate country. Willing to reach out and help. One man told a story of how he arrived in London with his four brothers. It was dark, they had been waiting all day for someone to collect them. A taxi driver took the five boys off the street and back home to his wife, who looked after them.

The compassion and tenacity of Winton was inspiring. He was someone who didn’t stand by. He pressed on with his crusade and tried to get as many children out as he could. Often speeding up the process by making up fake passports and papers.

When the children stopped arriving after the onset of war, there was nothing else Winton could do. He joined the RAF in the fight against the war.  He eventually met his wife Grete, and settled down. He told no one about his past, not even Grete, but she discovered his old scrapbooks in the attic of their home. There were names upon names of children, photographs and documents.

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Eventually Winton’s story found its way onto Esther Rantzen’s TV programme That’s Life in 1988. Where unknown to Winton, he was sitting in the audience with around 100 people – all of whom he had rescued. One can’t imagine what that must have felt like for him, as he wiped tears away from his eyes, or for those people who finally met the man who had rescued them.

He was knighted in 2003 and in Nicky’s Family we also get a sense of his later years, still helping people, finding causes and creating some mischief, being booked for speeding and retaining a sense of adventure by flying in small aircraft. What is most striking though is his humility, he seemed embarrassed at all the attention and we have his wife to thank for bringing his story to us.

Sir Nicholas Winton

While this film contains many horrors, there is also a strong sense of hope. The “children” Winton saved – have married, made families, and the generations include grandchildren. Those 669 children have grown to 5,700 people. And so the story becomes Nicky’s Family. Many of these people have found their way into charitable acts and are making real differences to the world around them. And people who have heard of Winton’s story have been inspired to help others.

His story is an inspiration. He died on 1st July 2015, the anniversary of the departure of a train in 1939 which carried the largest number of children – 241. He was 106.

This film was shown at the Glasgow Film Theatre as part of Holocaust Day. And there was also a Q&A session afterwards with 92-year-old  Henry Wuga. Henry came to Scotland aged 15 via Kindertransport system. He eventually met his wife Ingrid, in a refugee club in Glasgow’s Sauchiehall Street. They married in the synagogue at Pollokshields on December 27, 1944.

His recollections were fascinating and he received an MBE in 1999 for his work with the British Limbless Ex-Servicemen’s Association. A keen skier, he only stopped skiing last year, aged 91. He trained ex-soldiers who have lost limbs to slalom down slopes, as well as raising tens of thousands of pounds for the charity.

Read more of Henry’s story here on the Daily Record link

Henry emphasized the importance of reaching out to people and helping, “it’s so important” he said and it really does make a difference. Don’t Stand By.

 

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Profile: Glasgow singer/songwriter: Horse

Horse - Singer

Horse – Picture Credit: Kris Kesiak

Glasgow-based singer Horse may not be occupying the charts but she commands respect and has gravitas. September 2015 saw her celebrating the 25th anniversary of her breakthrough album The Same Sky, which upon its release, gained critical acclaim, with standout songs such as The Speed Of The Beat Of My Heart, Breathe Me and Careful. The latter of which was covered by Will Young at VFestival in 2009.

Rightly recognised as someone with a vast musical knowledge, married with life experience, she’s now a wise Scottish stateswoman, who gets called upon to host radio shows, comment on the music industry, she gives master classes to help up-and-coming artists and is an ambassador for The Clutha Trust. She also continues to bring much emotion to many people who find solace in the words of her cathartic songs.

Reaching people is important to Horse and it’s also apparent she still loves to perform. She has a faithful following who want to hear her. And when you sound this good – who can blame them? Horse still boasts one of the most remarkable voices in Scottish music.

I saw her recently at her annual Wintersong in December at The Union in East Kilbride, a small intimate venue, decked out with fairy lights. She ran through her songbook and sounded impeccable, even though she struggled with a heavy cold, an affliction which often causes Horse distress due to her asthma. When she sings it’s a very physical act as she puts everything into her voice, so the strain this puts on her can be quite considerable.

She’s a great storyteller who loves to chat, and the night was peppered with funny and sad stories, as well as dedications to the audience and great songs. Careful never fails to move the crowd and renditions of God’s Home Movie and Sweet Thing also stand out, as well as the cover of Dusty Springfield’s I Close My Eyes And Count To Ten.

The video below shows Horse singing this cover version at a previous Wintersong gig in Edinburgh.

This year Horse has already got dates in her diary. You can find her hosting the Gaia Women’s Supper at the Beardmore Hotel and Conference Centre in Glasgow on Friday January 29th. It’s a take on the traditional Burns’ Supper, but for women, and it’s all for a good cause, with money being raised for the Stonewall Scotland charity. Included in the price is a three course supper and entertainment. It looks set to be a great night. You can buy individual tickets priced at £49 or buy a table of 10 places for £490.

Gaia Women's Burns Supper 2016

For information on Gaia Women’s Burns’ Supper – click here for website

Horse also appears in an exclusive cover feature and interview in this month’s Gaia magazine out now – January 2016.

Gaia Magazine Cover - Horse - January 2016

To read Gaia Magazine – click here to access Issuu.com

In March she’s touring the UK with a series of dates which will include Newcastle, Liverpool and Ladock in Cornwall.

And April will see Horse with a full band at Glasgow’s Fruitmarket on the 16th of the month.

For tickets for Fruitmarket gig – click here

 

 

 

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Strathclyde Park, Motherwell, Scotland – January 2016

 

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January 19, 2016 · 3:21 pm

Profile: Guy Garvey, Courting the Squall, Solo Tour, Glasgow – 2015

Guy Garvey

When I worked at the Sunday Mail, one of my favourite interviewees was Elbow front man, Guy Garvey. I interviewed him on a number of occasions and he was as you would expect, full of affable good chat. One time he apologised for running a bit late and being out of breath because he was out buying “bacon butties for the lads”. The lads were Elbow bandmates, Richard Jupp, Craig Potter, Mark Potter and Pete Turnerand – and this seemed to sum him up. Front man/leader … but never too lofty to look after his mates and make sure they were well fed. Plus how can you not respect someone who often cites Glasgow band, The Blue Nile as an influence? Tune into his BBC 6Music radio show and you’ll hear his passion for great music.

I’ve also seen Elbow perform live many times, the last time I saw them they filled Glasgow’s Hydro and as usual the band formed a very tight unit.

But last year Garvey was flying solo. He launched and toured his album Courting the Squall in 2015. I went to see him at the 02ABC in Glasgow in December. I wasn’t sure what to expect because I couldn’t quite envisage him without his band mates.

However going solo for Guy Garvey isn’t quite “I’m going to lock myself in a log cabin and write an album”. It’s what Bon Iver (aka Justin Vernon), did when he wrote his stunning debut album For Emma, Forever Ago, but I can’t imagine Garvey adopting that approach. Plus we’d miss his cracking radio show on BBC 6Music. No, going solo for Garvey is an opportunity to work with other people, and explore some other musical styles.

His solo album Courting the Squall was recorded initially at Real World Studios near Bath and completed at Blueprint Studios in Salford. It features a band created by Garvey who include Pete Jobson, from I Am Kloot as lead guitarist, Nathan Sudders from The Whip on bass, Ben Christophers on keyboards, Alex Reeves on drums and Rachael Gladwin who plays harp.

Courting the Squall is a good body of work. Three Bells doesn’t stray too far from Elbow territory, while other tracks show a jazz influence, such as Electricity, a luscious torch song, which features a duet with Jolie Holland. Performed live however, the album soared to a new dimension and really shone.

The funky Belly of the Whale was brought to life by the horn section, Angela’s Eyes was a bluesy jam, Harder Edges was boosted by some big brassy instrumentation and the plaintive, lovelorn vocals of Garvey crooned perfectly over Electricity.

A particular highlight was the steady thrum of Yesterday, a swirling hypnotic melody.

Elbow are now stadium fillers, so it was good to the see Garvey in a more intimate space. The Glasgow gig was the last date of a short tour, and the mood was relaxed and loose. In typical style, the banter flowed. The band corrected Garvey when he mixed up the set list, he shook his head and confessed to getting old. And there were a lot of laughs along the way as Garvey engaged easily with the crowd. A frontman like Garvey with iconic anthems to his name such as One Day Like This, could find himself touring solo and facing audiences expecting to hear Elbow songs on the set list. It’s testament to his new work that in Glasgow, there is not one shout for his band’s much-loved tunes.

The support act was the talented Steve Mason, formerly of The Beta Band and many other guises. And to close the night, we were treated to a rare live outing of The Beta Band’s infectious Dry The Rain, performed by Garvey and Mason.

Garvey is apparently rehearsing in Scotland just now with his Elbow band mates, I hope he’s found some decent bacon butties, or a good roll and square sausage.

 

 

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Spotlight on: Glasgow band – Teen Canteen

Teen Canteen

TeenCanteen

TeenCanteen are a four piece girl band from Glasgow who make beautiful pop harmonies. Apart from sounding  great, what impresses me about this band is their ethos and social conscience.

They support Scottish Women’s Aid and run an event called The Girl Effect, the second of which, called The Girl Effect #2, was held at Mono, Glasgow in November 2015. It’s where they brought together an impressive collection of Scottish musicians, and asked each of them to sing two cover songs. The only proviso was that the song choices had to originate from female singers. Some of the choices were surprising and inspired. And all the money raised from The Girl Effect was donated to Scottish Women’s Aid.

Scottish Women's Aid Logo

At November’s Girl Effect #2 – a total of £2146 was raised, add the takings from the first event, and it amounted to a grand total of £5602.72 which TeenCanteen has raised for Scottish Women’s Aid. It’s impressive. Apart from raising a whooping amount for a worthwhile charity, The Girl Effect was a slick, well organised operation, backed by excellent Scottish musical talent and an entertaining night. It attracted the likes of Kezia Dugdale, Scottish Labour Leader, Angela Constance, Education Secretary, Zara Kitson, who is currently running for female co-convenor of Scottish Green Party, SNP MP Alison Thewliss and Annie Wells, Scottish Conservative & Unionist Candidate, who all arrived on the night to support the event.

To keep the night running smoothly there were a lot of bands and musicians to get on and off the stage, added to this, there was a raffle, which boosted some great prizes, and if you wanted to shine you could even get your face adorned with glitter.

The Girl Effect #2 Poster

The Girl Effect #2 Poster

The list of bands ensured there was something for everyone, from the gorgeous Cairn String Quartet, to the rock of Skies Fell and the spellbinding vocals of SAY (Scottish Album of the Year) 2015 winner Kathryn Joseph and the heartbreaking tones of Jo Mango, who sang the beautiful November by Azure Ray – a perfect choice for her.

Edinburgh based Broken Records, were joined on stage by two TeenCanteen members (Carla Easton and Sita Pieracinni) for a rendition of The Supremes’ Stop In The Name of Love.

The video clip below comes from BMX Bandits and Duglas T Stewart – who were also playing at this event. This shows TeenCanteen performing their own song, Honey, accompanied by the Cairn String Quartet.

Worth a special mention is Skies Fell – who performed an outstanding version of the Shakespears Sister hit Stay. The lovely Kathryn Joseph will always leave a room spellbound and her song choices included Call The Shots by Girls Aloud and I’ll Set You Free by The Bangles.

Rounding up the end of the night was the always popular BMX Bandits who sang That’s How Heartaches are made by The Marvelettes and It’s Gonna Take A Miracle by the Royalettes, the latter being sung by BMX Bandit Chloe, who is also part of TeenCanteen.

And TeenCanteen finished with some excellent song choices – Trouble by Shampoo, Waterfalls by TLC, I Know Where It’s At by All Saints and their own song Sister.

A cracking night from a band who show a great passion and conviction for what they do.

TeenCanteen

TeenCanteen

Buy their single Sister and 20p from each download goes towards Scottish Women’s Aid.

Download via: TeenCanteen Bandcamp Download

And they’ve got some live dates coming up. See them:

Sunday 17th January, 2016, 02 ABC, Glasgow, (afternoon show – 2.30pm), as part of Celtic Connections.

Wednesday 27th January, 2016, Sneaky Pete’s, Edinburgh, (afternoon show – 2.30pm) as part of Independent Venue Week.

Thursday 28th April, 2016, Summerhall, Edinburgh

Friday 29th April, 2016, CCA, Glasgow

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Glasgow-based TeenCanteen formed in 2012. They are Carla Easton (lead vocals, keyboards), Sita Pieracinni (vocals, bass), Chloe Philip (vocals, guitar) and Deborah Smith (vocals, drums).

They describe themselves as “sticky cherry-cola kissed three part harmonies backed by talking toms and stomping beats in a new Wall of Sound”. Their debut single Honey, was mixed by Bill Ryder-Jones via Edinburgh Arts Collective Neu! Reekie! at the end of 2013.

See more at TeenCanteen Website

For more about Scottish Women’s Aid – see Scottish Women’s Aid Website

 

 

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