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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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Christmas Concert for Maggie’s Glasgow Oran Mor, Glasgow, December 7, 2014

Maggie's Glasgow Christmas Concert, Oran Mor, 7th Dec 2014

It’s the first time a Christmas concert has been organised for Maggie’s and I hope it becomes an annual event. It was well organised with a great collection of choirs, singers and musicians, and with a focus on Christmas, it was a heart-warming, inspiring and uplifting afternoon.

Kirsty Wark as Patron announced the proceedings, followed by Gillian Hailstones, the Centre Head for Maggie’s at Gartnavel. Some of the people in the audience have had some experience of Maggie’s and most of us know of someone who has had cancer.

The programme reminds us of a message from Laura Lee, Maggie’s Chief Executive:

“Our Centres are here for anyone with any type of cancer and their families and friends, offering the practical, emotional and social support that people with cancer need”

Maggie's Glasgow Christmas Concert, Oran Mor, 7th Dec 2014

The day started with a choir from Maggie’s, who we were told, had been practising fervently, and it showed. A surprise was a lovely crafted song called Sancta Maria.

Next up was the BBC Pacific Quire – which as the name suggests was made up with employees from the BBC, and they seem to be harbouring a few workers with hidden talents as their renditions of Gaudete, Silent Night and Away In A Manager ensured people captured the Christmas spirit. Their version of Wham’s Last Christmas showed an impressive solo vocal performance and some gorgeous harmonies.

Jerry Burns shimmered on the stage as she wore a silver glittery outfit and lovely skyscraper heels, and coming from a talented background of creatives and artists, she was joined by a younger member of the Burns family, her nephew Ryan Joseph Burns. And it’s such a treat to hear Jerry Burns sing, she has one of the country’s most beautiful voices. She accompanied Ryan on a few of his songs, including the dreamy melody Where She And I Were Born.

Then taking centre stage Jerry sang A Softer Place To Fall (After All), accompanied by Ryan.

Ryan also performed with  singer/songwriter Tommy Reilly on Old Habits Die Hard.

An interval allowed for some time to visit the tombola while having some mulled wine and mince pies – the sweet pasties that had survived a stealthy theft and swift snaffling from some greedy labradors. It seemed that someone’s pets had infiltrated the homemade mince pies – thankfully there were still lots to go around.

The second half introduced the music impresario Craig Armstrong. For someone who has composed movie scores for some of Hollywood’s biggest blockbusters, he seemed humble and unassuming.  He sat at the piano and was joined by the McOpera Ensembles – a string quartet from Scottish Opera, and played the theme from the movies Love Actually and The Great Gatsby.

Craig Armstrong and Jerry Burns go back a long way and there’s an obvious friendship and mutual respect. They have collaborated recently on Armstrong’s latest album – the excellent It’s Nearly Tomorrow and Jerry joined him to sing the haunting Powder.

Then it was the turn of Alistair Ogilvy to join Armstrong on stage for Wake Up In New York.

Closing the day was the West of Scotland Military Wives Choir and this collection of women were an inspired addition to the day. With the focus very much on Christmas, we were reminded that for various reasons some people may be facing a festive season worrying about their loved ones.

 

The West of Scotland Military Wives Choir at Maggie's Glasgow Christmas Concert, Oran Mor, 7th Dec 2014

Their version of the Karine Polwart song The Good Years was especially poignant and affecting. There were some lovely solo performances on On My Own from Les Miserables, Let It Go from Disney’s massive hit movie Frozen was a popular choice and Pharrell Williams’ Happy got the crowd clapping and singing.

The day ended with everyone on their feet trying to remember the order and actions of the 12 Days of Christmas and ensured that everyone left in a festive and good-natured mood with their hearts a little lighter.

Maggie's Christmas Music with Craig Armstrong and Friends

 

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