Category Archives: Charity

The Railway People – Eva Kor & Raymond Meade, at the CCA, Glasgow – June 2017

Ray and Eva meeting

Eva Kor and Raymond Meade meeting in Krakow.                                                                                  Pic Credit – Mark Wilkinson for The Railway People

It’s an unlikely pairing. A quiet and thoughtful Glaswegian rock star who tours the world with Ocean Colour Scene and a feisty woman in her 80s, who’s a survivor of Auschwitz. They get together, and make a record. The result is a four track CD called The Railway People.
I had the privilege of meeting Raymond Meade and Eva Mozes Kor at an event at Glasgow’s CCA, where they were speaking about their record collaboration.
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This story also featured in an excellent BBC Scotland documentary called The Railway People, which was beautifully and sensitively put together by Demus Productions.
Raymond has been to Auschwitz and Birkenau. The former Nazi concentration camps are  located in the town of Oswiecim, around 30 miles west of Krakow in Poland. Raymond has visited the camps five times.
Auschwitz

Auschwitz

On his last visit he penned lyrics and a poem, but he had a idea, which led him to reach out to Eva. He emailed her and asked if she would read and record the poem How Could It Be? And to read this at Birkenau in a bid to capture the essence of the words. He didn’t expect a reply.
But when you hear Eva speak – you get the impression this woman is curious, and she was intrigued. Eventually, the two met in Krakow and started their journey. There is a bond between them which is palpable when you see the two of them interact. There’s a mutual respect and a genuine fondness.
Birkenau

Birkenau

What Eva has faced in her life is unimaginable. When she arrives in Birkenau, she’s with her twin sister Miriam. They are 10. Dressed in matching dresses, the identical twins catch the eye a Nazi officer.  He asks their mother – “Are they twins?” She hesitates “Is that a good or a bad thing?” He assures her it’s a good thing, and she confirms that they are. Their fate is decided.
The family is split up. The twin sisters are taken to Dr Joseph Mengele, named the Angel of Death. They never see their parents, father Alexander, mother Jaffa or sisters Edit and Aliz again. The family perished in the gas chambers of Birkenau. The twin sisters survived but suffered torturous experiments and treatment at the hands of Mengele.
Birkenau

Birkenau

In Glasgow – Eva talked about loss and said we always remember the last time we saw someone. It’s true. I remember my dad smiling and waving from his hospital bed as I left, fully expecting to see him the following day. He had a heart attack a few hours later, and I wasn’t there, but I still see his face as I left. It’s sad – but not traumatic.
Contrast that with 10-year-old Eva, and the tears, screaming, anguish and fear, that ensued as families were ripped apart. We can’t imagine how that final scene must haunt her. She’s revisited the scene, the railway platform at Birkenau many times. Astonishingly she found the courage, strength and compassion to forgive.
Birkenau

Birkenau

The path to forgiveness has been a long one. Eva talked about the time she met a former Nazi officer, a Dr Hans Munch. And she liked him. She described him as “a bad Nazi but a good human being”. He stood outside the gas chambers while people inside were killed. A death certificate recorded one death to hide the large numbers of people murdered. Dr Munch had joined Eva at a conference in Boston. He then agreed to go to Auschwitz with her in 1995 to sign an affidavit which stated the truth.
Eva wanted to thank him for this act but struggled to find an appropriate Thank You card, so she wrote a letter.  That letter prompted her to write a further letter, to forgive the Nazi who caused so much terror and cruelty to Eva and her sister Miriam – Dr Joseph Mengele, who was dead by this point.
She read the letter to Mengele out loud on the railway platform at Birkenau. And in that forgiveness she found strength. The act of forgiving gave her power and control. She owned the forgiveness, it was her’s to give, and no-one could change it. It was a defining moment.
“I discovered I had one power. What I tell everybody is that you — any victim, any person hurt — you have the same power. You have the power to forgive. And what it does, forgiveness, has nothing to do with the perpetrator. It has everything to do with the way the victim feels.” Eva Kor
Ray and Eva - platform

Raymond and Eva at Birkenau. Pic Credit – Mark Wilkinson for The Railway People (Official)

The partnership and relationship between Raymond and Eva, transcends age, place, boundaries and cultures. There’s a willingness to engage, learn and to try and understand.
For Raymond’s part, he’s captured Auschwitz and Birkenau. I’ve also visited the former concentration camps. You cannot fail to be affected by what you see and feel. For me Auschwitz was horrific, but Birkenau hit even harder. While Auschwitz has the incredibly sad exhibits of what is left of the dead – the suitcases, piles of shoes, hair and spectacles – in Birkenau there is nothing. It’s empty. It’s a vast open space and you’re left to fill it with your imagination and emotions. The atmosphere sinks into your bones, chilling you to the core. It’s eerie, haunting, incredibly sad, and silent.
Raymond’s song At The Top of the Stairs was written after he stood atop the stairs overlooking the train tracks which brought carriage loads of people, to their final destination, and death.
Birkenau

Birkenau

In 1995, Eva opened the CANDLES (Children of Auschwitz Nazi Deadly Lab Experiments Survivors) Holocaust Museum and Education Center in Terre Haute, Indiana, where she now lives. It sees around 7,000 school children every year. She also lectures all over the world and the 82-year-old works tirelessly to educate people and to try to stop the atrocities of the past being repeated.
Auschwitz

Quote displayed at Auschwitz

Photo from the Candles Museu

Photo from the Candles Museum

Eva’s sister Miriam died in 1993 from a lung illness that Eva attributes to the tests that Mengele performed.
A radio documentary was made telling the story of how the project came to life. This documentary has been awarded the New York Festivals Bronze Winner for the World’s Best Radio Programmes.
Eva Kor is an amazing and inspiring woman and credit also goes to Raymond Meade for his determination to bring this project to life and as Eva said, “for following what was in his heart”.
“My hope is that younger generations from every future era ensure that this place is never forgotten, never repeated and always recognised as a symbol of senseless violence”. Raymond Meade

 

Eva Kor at the CCA in Glasgow

Eva Kor at the CCA in Glasgow

“It’s important to stand up for what you believe in and make the world a better place”. Eva Kor

You can buy the album The Railway People for £10 from the The Railway People Website It features 3 songs and the extended radio documentary. There is also a 12 page colour booklet inside. All proceeds are being donated to the CANDLES Museum.

http://www.therailwaypeople.com

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Glasgow Wood Recycling, charity/social enterprise – showroom launch – February 2016

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Peter Lavelle gave up his job as a social worker to found charity and social enterprise, Glasgow Wood Recycling – and he continues to help people – but in a different way.

Founded in 2007, the company not only gives old pieces of wood a new lease of life but people who may be struggling to get back into the job market, can also get a lifeline.

Glasgow Wood Recycling collects wood from all over Glasgow and surrounding areas. The wood is brought back to the workshop in the city’s South Street and lovingly crafted into gorgeous bespoke furniture, befitting of any designer home. They make an array of mirrors, coffee tables, shelves, chairs, benches and more. And there is a huge benefit to the environment as the amount of wood ending up in landfill is reduced.

“Bespoke, hand-crafted furniture. Ethically produced in Scotland”  Glasgow Wood Recycling

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Previously employed as a social worker for many years, Peter continues to help people at Glasgow Wood Recycling through a 10 week programme called Making Wood Work – it’s where people are given a chance to train and to make progress towards employment. They get back into the workplace, learn vital skills and their confidence and self-esteem gets a huge boost. After the course many people go on and find full time employment.

Through word of mouth the company is thriving from their workshop space. They are rightfully proud of their work which deserves to be shown off – but they did not have the facility to do this – until now.

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Now GWR have a showroom, a newly converted portacabin space which allows them to showcase examples of what they do. Buy or order a piece and know that it comes with a story. You’re saving a beautiful piece of reclaimed wood, protecting our environment and helping someone to find work. Plus the furniture is gorgeous, exceptionally well made, sturdy and made to last forever.

Making Wood Work – Making a Difference.

Peter joined the Making Wood Work programme in 2015. He said:

At Making Wood Work we were making things that customers would purchase, so it’s not like you are involved in pointless tasks. You are in an actual work environment and you are expected to meet certain standards. This was good for me, as being out of work for a while I needed a sense that I was working towards something useful.

The really good thing about this programme is that it doesn’t end after the 10 weeks as they are really motivated to progress their volunteers into work or further advancement through courses and I was really impressed by this. My confidence got the boost it needed and I learned new skills, and ultimately I found paid employment, which I am over the moon about.

Here’s a selection of images from Glasgow Wood Recycling open day and Showroom Launch – 26th February 2016.

Glasgow Wood Recycling, Unit 6, Barclay Curle Complex, 739 South Street, Glasgow G14 0BX

0141 237 8566

info@glasgowwoodrecycling.org.uk

Useful links and follow:

@GlasgowWood

Glasgow Wood Recycling Facebook Page

Glasgow Wood Recycling

Zero Waste Scotland  Inspiring change for Scotland’s resource economy

Glasgow Wood Recycling are members of the Glasgow Social Enterprise Network

Initiatives such as Making Wood Work are helped by Big Lottery Fund Scotland

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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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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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Film Review – Hector, and a spotlight on homelessness

Hector Movie Poster

Quicker than a swirl of a lightsaber, the country has embraced the Dark Side. The hotly anticipated Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens has opened with gross earnings estimated to reach £1.3 billion. So on the weekend of the film’s release, I duly went out to the cinema – but not to see the fate of Han Solo – I went to see the heart-warming Hector, a film about a Glaswegian homeless man.

Hector is the directorial debut of Jake Gavin, known more for his photography skills. But on this showing, a bright film career beckons.

The film has already been hailed by some as the best Christmas movie this season. And this is a film that makes you count your blessings and instills a will to help those less fortunate than yourself. It’s not a shiny, sugary sweet fairytale but a story with a sharp gritty realism and grim settings.

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We follow Hector’s journey, and he’s sensitively and expertly played by Peter Mullan. The Glaswegian actor is known for playing some down-right nasty characters. I only saw him in Sunset Song, just a few nights previous – where he was Chris Guthrie’s brutal father, a heinous hateful man with a heart full of demons. But here as Hector, Mullan shows an understanding and a softer touch. With a worn face, grey beard and with sometimes twinkly blue eyes, I would actually like to see him play a modern day Father Christmas in some kind of alternative festive story. But as Hector, he’s a man who’s been dealt a hard hand from life, and his back story unravels during his journey from Glasgow to a London homeless shelter to attend an annual Christmas dinner.

Hector Movie

The film is a stark reminder that for some people life cruelly snatches away those things we hold dear, and the phrase “there but for the grace of god, go I” springs to mind.

Hector and two of his homeless friends, joined by a dog called Braveheart, are sleeping where they can, in doorways, in toilets and under cardboard. There’s the everyday practicalities of being homeless, trying to keep clean, keep charge of your worldly possessions (thugs mug Hector and try to steal from him), and get access to medical help.

Then we join Hector on his journey. He’s suffering from ill-health, limping and using medication to keep pain at bay. There’s lots of motorway shots, as he hitches lifts, and we see the kindness of strangers. The high-vis jackets that “fall off the back of a lorry” and into the hands of the homeless, the church who gives him shelter and the cafes who feed him.

There’s the down points, as Hector tries to reconcile with his estranged family, after he “gave up on life” and disappeared for 15 years, and there’s also the fate and desperation of his homeless friends, Dougie played by Laurie Ventry and the young 18-year-old Hazel, played by Natalie Gavin.

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When he gets to the London shelter we meet Sara, who works there, played by Sarah Solemani. She appears like an angel, a wonderfully kind, non-judgemental and humane character.

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At the shelter we see various sides of homelessness, from the young boy, to a drop-out priest and an injured soldier, to the chancer-like Jimbo – played by Keith Allen – who turns in a good job in this role.

We don’t know their back story, but we still wonder what led them to where they are, and what their fate will be.

The men are treated with care and respect and receive the things we take for granted. Hot water, clean clothes, a bed and a hot meal. And I defy the hardest heart not to break down when a male choir sings a rendition of Abide with Me, to the men who sit quietly with their own thoughts.

This is a sensitively put together film which puts the plight of homelessness to the fore and challenges some perhaps pre-conceived perceptions.

It will also make you want to help others and I hope it leads to some charities receiving more help. There’s lots of great organisations around the country.

The Christmas appeal from  Glasgow City Mission has the tagline “Love Changes Everything” and you can donate £7 to give a homeless person a Christmas meal, while £22 will feed and support a homeless person for a month.

Social Bite is a great social enterprise café who help homeless people. Read more about them here –  Social Bite

and there’s still time to buy into the Social Bite Itison deal, it runs until 22nd December. Donate £5 to help feed a homeless person at Christmas and also help refugees in Europe.

https://www.itison.com/Edinburgh/deals/buy-a-homeless-person-xmas-dinner-social-bite–3

I also love the good work of the Rucksack Project, where the Glasgow arm of this is organised by Lorna McLean. Thousands of rucksacks have been donated and delivered to help those in need.

See more at The Rucksack Project Glasgow who help many charities around the city and surrounding areas including the Simon Community Scotland

If only we could brandish a lightsaber and solve the world’s problems, in this universe and in any universe, no-one should be sleeping on the streets.

Peter Mullan interviewed by The Independent had this to say:

Your new film ‘Hector’ was out last week; ‘Star Wars’ was out this Thursday. That’s big competition. Why should we see ‘Hector’?

When it started off, Star Wars was about the little people taking on the Death Star and now it is the Death Star. So go and see little independent movies in protest against the Death Star. If you really want to help Luke Skywalker, go see Hector.

Read the full interview here: Peter Mullan interview – The Independent

 

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Maggie’s Culture Crawl – Edinburgh, 25th September, 2015

Maggie's Culture Crawl

Culture Crawls have been a part of Maggie’s cancer charity for a number of years, held very successfully in London and in other parts of the country.

Now the charity have brought this successful fundraiser to Scotland. They held their first Scottish Culture Crawl in the country’s capital through the organisation of Maggie’s Edinburgh, who have a centre at the Western General Hospital.

I’ve been a long-time admirer of the fantastic work this cancer charity does, and like so many people, I have friends whose lives have been affected by this cruel disease.

But I hesitated slightly when I realised the Culture Crawl involved walking 10 miles, my fitness levels aren’t what they used to be, or should be, but I signed up anyway and hoped for the best.

I liked the premise – enjoy some culture in Scotland’s capital city, get access to some of the city’s top arts venues and raise money for a worthwhile cause.

I was also assured there were lots of stops along the way and I wouldn’t even notice the mileage. I wasn’t convinced – but it was true.

The starting point was Edinburgh’s Fettes College, where we picked up t-shirts, snacks and a route map. We had a fun warm-up and a chat from author of the No.1 Ladies’ Detective Agency series, Alexander McCall Smith, who was supporting the event by gifting a specially written story. Then we went on our merry way.

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Our first stop. was at the Scotch Malt Whisky Society. It proved warm and welcoming with free drams on offer, and for those driving, like myself, there were little tubs of whisky flavoured ice cream. 2015-09-25 19.45.48

Next up was the beautiful Scottish National Portrait Gallery. It was time for snacks and a lovely look around an eye-catching exhibition called Head to Head.

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A little bit further on was Parliament Hall, where we had some more refuelling while we listened to a beautiful choir.

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Dovecot Studios was an interesting discovery and somewhere I’m already planning to revisit. We were met here with a welcoming delicious hot chocolate, yummy cake and a walk around this fascinating building. It used to be a swimming baths and it is now home to a tapestry studio. You can visit during the day, see the weavers at work and buy some of the lovely gifts on display, as well as spend some time in the cafe.2015-09-25 21.35.41

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A lovely touch at Dovecot Studios was the chance we got to be creative by making up Maggie’s hearts and saying what the charity means to us. It was a time for quiet reflection as well as a chat to some of the many Maggie’s volunteers who were in attendance all during the night, and who made sure we were well looked after. The heart-felt sentiments were collected and by the time we finished our walk, they were already on display at the Maggie’s Centre in Edinburgh.

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The next stop at Summerhall gave us an interesting chat with Pickering’s Gin and some tasting sessions.

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There was even time for some disco dancing – for those lucky people who still had some energy left in their legs!

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By this point we were on the home run, and I was starting to flag a little. So the pit stop at the Clydesdale Bank Plaza was a welcome chilled out zone. We were served teas, coffees, soups, and Tunnock’s snacks, while we listened to the lovely Christie Quartet. A couple even took to the middle of the plaza for some ballroom dancing.

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Another wonderful discovery was the Gallery of Modern Art, where we were met with the message across the building which said “Everything is going to be alright”. This was also a particularly poignant part of the trail, as we saw Charles Jencks illuminated “Landform”, a dedication to his late wife, Maggie Keswick Jencks – who the Maggie’s Centres are named after.

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Then with the end in sight, we walked to our final destination – the Maggie’s Centre in Edinburgh. All 330 people who took part in the walk, were all safely counted back in again. We had a celebratory drink, either prosecco, tea, coffee, soft drinks, and delicious pizzas supplied by La Favourita. And there was a chill out zone which consisted of huge bean bags.

This was a fantastic event, extremely well organised, and great fun. I loved exploring the city at night time and discovering new treasures, while also raising money for a great cause. Although I’d signed up to walk on my own, I chatted to lots of people all along the way. I met people from Aberdeen and Newcastle, as well as those closer to home. Some were walking for people dear to them, and they all knew how important it is to keep supporting the fantastic work of the Maggie’s Centres.

Thank you Maggie’s and well done. I’ll be signing up for next year.

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