Infectious enthusiasm from the smiling woman at the door. “Go and play,” she says. On the ground floor, there’s face painting and a silent disco, dinosaurs and drinks. Oh, and there’s giant insect handling on the top floor. Just for a moment I get a slightly unpleasant giant insect flashback.
There was that nursery outing to Edinburgh Zoo when mothers and children were invited to stroke or at least touch small animals of varying degrees of cuddliness. Rabbits, rats, snakes even, were fine but who was going to be brave enough to hold the giant cockroach? My youngest son proudly volunteered the person next to him: “My mum will.”
I can still feel the sensation. Cockroaches cling.
But that was a long time ago. As it happens neither my youngest son nor I got as far as the top floor on Museum Lates night. S-Type was far too busy making music and his mother, wine glass in hand, was happy to hang around the Grand Gallery soaking up the atmosphere, watching lights bounce across the vibrating floor, enjoying the delicious sense of gatecrashing an exclusive party, except that we weren’t gatecrashing at all.
Waves of nostalgia. The National Museum of Scotland is one of my favourite buildings in Edinburgh. Something about those pillars soaring to the glass ceiling of the Grand Gallery has always lifted my spirits. Last time I was here with all my sons they would have been running round pressing buttons to make machines work. Some things don’t change then. Here they were pressing buttons again but this time they were raising the roof with reverberating music. And no-one was complaining.
It was a fantastic night. Warm-hearted, creative and more than a little eccentric: Edinburgh at its quirky best. This was the first of the RBS Museum Lates an inspired idea on the part of NMS which must surely help to polish up the bank’s tarnished image as well as bringing in a new museum audience of young people, that elastic group between school age and parenthood. (Apparently 1200 tickets sold out in record short time).
But it really was playtime for all ages. Throughout the building people were leaning over glass cases, lining up for face-painting, posing for pictures by mummies and dinosaurs, trooping into the Silent Disco (you wear headphones) and, for all I know, handling giant creepy crawlies on the top floor. One final touch of magic: when it was time to go home the up escalators starting going down. The next RBS Museum Lates is in February.
Imagine a country where supermarkets do not sell wine and spirits and the only off licence chain is owned by the state. What’s more the offy closes at 3pm on Saturdays and doesn’t open at all on public holidays. No, of course that country is not Scotland but would the Scottish Government be bold enough to nationalise drink?
And does the high price of booze stop people binge drinking? After only four days in Oslo I am in no position to pass an opinion. But first impressions can turn tourists into pundits. We saw some similarities with Scotland (it rained heavily, the word for child is ‘barn’ ) and lots of differences (no litter in the streets, few fast food outlets, no young folk spewing the night away in the city centre).
when we got there the offy was closed
I came away with great curiosity about the Norwegian way of life. It looks comfortable (some blogs talk about boredom) yet there is clearly a maverick streak in the national psyche. Salt water flows in the veins.Those Vikings were an interesting bunch (three days of heavy rain ensured we spent a lot of time in museums). They plundered their way across the northern hemisphere but built excellent boats, houses and made fine things to go in them, which both worked well and looked good. Even the peacemakers of our own time – Nansen and Thor Heyerdhal – had a peculiarly muscular way of making peace.
Now tourists are tamed by prices that make the eyes water. On a cold wet night Ray and I drowned our sorrows in two beers that cost the NKr equivalent of £16. Sixteen quid for two pints of lager! It’s not just the booze, anything you buy costs two or three times what it would in the UK. But most people probably earn at least twice as much. A quick Google implies that the average monthly salary is 38,400 Norwegian kroners or £4,363 Sterlin – roughly £52,356 per year (in Britain the annual mean salary is £22,000)
yep, we’re still in the museum
There’s obviously much more than meets the eye in a country where taxes, welfare and living standards are also higher than ours. But first impressions could persuade you that there is some merit in keeping booze off the supermarket shelves – now that would be a big fight for the Scottish government.
Welcome back to the Broughton music festival (see yesterday’s blog). Thank goodness for the alphabet because it would be impossible to give any other order of priority to these highly individual musicians. What they all have in common is a desire to experiment and a strong collaborative streak. A roll of drums please for Andy Bain…
Specialised in percussion at Edinburgh Music School Last saw Andy playing at Henry’s Jazz Bar in Edinburgh, stirring fond memories of Broughton jazz and wind bands. Plays far and wide these days, with CV covering Guildhall School of Music and Drama plus Manhattan School of Music, New York. Andy performs and teaches in UK and US. Co-director of National Youth Jazz Orchestra of Scotland, Instructor of jazz Drumset at Birmingham Conservatoire and instructor of jazz for City of Edinburgh Music School.
Guitar specialist at Edinburgh Music School. Like Morgan (see below) Adam has a special feeling for Latin American composers. From Broughton Adam went to Royal College of Music in London and Juilliard School in New York City ( he was the first guitarist to obtain Julliard’s Artist Diploma degree) then to a doctorate in composition at University of Southern California in Los Angeles.
His first album The Rebels Within was released in 2009 (For the time being I have given up trying to embed YouTube links for everyone – they keep disappearing – but click here to enjoy Adam’s performance videos). Now London based. Sadly, we missed his last performance in Edinburgh but he keeps coming back.
Saxophonist in Broughton jazz and wind bands (if you look hard you can spot him in the video above). Not a professional musician – Sam’s day job is social work – but you will see him performing at rock festivals round Scotland in his time off Sam plays saxophone in Edinburgh country rock and jazz band Woodenbox whose first album Home and the Wildhunt was released 2010 and the band are off to SxSW this summer.
Percussionist in Broughton jazz and wind bands To many, he’s better known as S-Type, electronica producer with a new single launched on Phuturelabs Glasgow label and he will be launching a new project on LuckyMelater this year. His day job is music producer and sound editor at Inner Ear where he’s also a programme maker for Radio Magnetic [ Rumour has it, he's planning to reintroduce live drums into stage performance]
Soprano sax in jazz band, clarinet in wind band but you will see him on bass these days. One of the recent Vital Spark award winners. Tommy (the one on the left) is part of Found. The experimental pop band have a publishing deal with Domino Records and record deal with Chemikal Underground. Can be FOUND in art galleries, warehouses and even storage containers. From SXSW to Small Isles Festival. Creators of emotional robot band Cybraphon
Oboe in wind band. Guitar in jazz band, member of Broughton Youth Theatre. Co-founder of the UK’s longest running internet radio station. Radio Magnetic is part of Dougal’s production company Inner Ear, digital media creatives who work with the likes of Channel 4, BBC and Scottish Enterprise. And music is the theme that pulls it all together. Also on the board of the Scottish Music Industry Association. (Rumoured to be working on a composition for many metronomes as well as planning a big Radio Magnetic tenth birthday party).
Trumpet in Broughton jazz band and wind bands, an Edinburgh Music School specialist. More recently we saw Ruth making wonderfully innovative music at the Bongo Club in Edinburgh. Classical doesn’t properly describe her style. Now specialises in trumpet and natural trumpet. Performs in classic orchestra and jazz ensembles, and plays early natural trumpet in the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment
[here's a nice pic of Emma but would be good to get one of her on stage with Gorillaz or Morgan maybe]
Double bass player, Emma spent 6th year in the Edinburgh Music School at Broughton and graduated from Royal College of Music. Look for her playing bass with Gorillaz, but her innovative and experimental repertoire ranges far and wide. Emma is equally at home with Latin American and Flamenco. She also teaches at Edinburgh Music School.
[aaargh my version of WordPress just ate Morgan's Machaca video, will try to upload again soon]
Guitar specialist Edinburgh Music School and then graduate of Royal School of Music, Morgan launched a new international ensemble Machaca with a sparkling event in the Purcell Room at the Southbank Centre and they are now on to their second CD. Passionate about Latin American music, Morgan introduced us to the Buena Vista Social Club (no, not literally) and is effectively Mexico’s music ambassador to Europe – (despite the name he is Mexican). He regularly returns to perform in Edinburgh
Trombone in jazz band and wind bands, an Edinburgh Music School specialist Chris is a creative entrepreneur. He founded the Heritage Orchestra in 2004 because he was disillusioned with classical music. Chris also appears as a ‘cultural engineer’ on Dream Factory website. Quoted as wanting to transcend styles, shatter stereotypes, experiment with art and music (no pressure then). CD links to follow…
Saxophonist in Broughton jazz and wind bands, teaching music in Thailand and then she’s cycling all the way home…more about that very soon. [by the way, her mum made the waistcoats the Broughton jazz band wore at all their prize winning concerts]
You can find them at clubs, concert halls or festivals near you whether you are in New York, Austin Texas, Mexico, London, Edinburgh or Glasgow – a fantastic bunch of young people making music for a living and for fun. They are at T in the Park and on the Island of Eigg; live on Jools Holland and recorded on Vic Galloway. They have even been found in an old container on a car park during the Edinburgh Fringe.
At least part of the credit for all this creativity must go to a local state school where music has inspired generations of students. Not all of them were specialist students in the Edinburgh School of Music but the music unit (directed by Tudor Morris) has been infecting Broughton High School with a special kind of enthusiasm for years – with more than a little help from talented kids and their dedicated teachers.
You might be forgiven for thinking that the only people to make anything of their lives after attending Broughton High School were Hugh McDiarmid, Tommy Smith, Shirley Manson and Martyn Bennett. It really is time to put the record straight. Specially since BHS (the school not the store) currently does not have a live website and their outdated Facebook and Wikipedia pages still trot out the same four names. ( Sadly Martyn Bennett died in 2005).
I am not attempting to bring the story right up to date. I am sure there are many other proud parents who can tell similar success stories and not just in music (BHS produces talented dancers, drama students, writers, town planners and social workers). But music has a special power to bring out the individual best in students in the collective experience of a band or orchestra.
To avoid making this a very long blog I will now post more about them on a proper roll of honour (click here for the rest of the story…it’s still a work in progress as there’s a lot of uploading to do).
With special thanks to Dave Simpson who started the jazz band and Andy Barker, master of the wind band. (and thanks to Tommy and Bobby for the art work).
No time for blogging this week. I have thousands of words to churn out for another publication. But, oh dear, maybe I shouldn’t bother trying to write anything new here, a quick look at my dashboard shows another crop of comments on the old Tesco blogs. Could be my bag for life…
Thank you, thank you Jim Naughtie. Yesterday was a pretty grim day news wise apart from that wonderful slip of the tongue on Today. And, oh, it was an accident waiting to happen, some people have names that invite mischief. Reminds me when I was a trainee reporter, on my newspaper in East Anglia we had an advertising manager by the name of Fluck. One day a very nice old lady came into the front office and asked to speak to Mr Clunt.
Perhaps the best thing about Naughtie’s verbal slip was that it seemed to be so highly contagious. Andrew Marr did the exact same thing just half an hour or so later on Start the Week and then, bless me, didn’t the hapless Herbert let it slip in the House of Commons in the afternoon. Accident or subconscious design?
The Right Hon Culture Secretary takes it all in good part apparently. But then he went to Charterhouse public school and Oxford. Hard to believe Jeremy Hunt’s surname has never inspired a schoolboy’s rhyming couplet before now. To say nothing of his politics.
Here’s something to cheer me up and maybe you too. I started the morning fed up with the snow, tired of people oohing and aaahing about how pretty it looks on Twitter, and wondering how much longer it can go on. Then I discover Tommy has recycled some old Christmas rapping on Facebook.
It’s wonderfully wicked. And probably a bit odd for a mother to be so proud of signs of her sons’ mis-spent youth. I daren’t tell you about the alphabet rap that Tommy and Bobby composed for the PPC (and don’t even ask what PPC stands for). Like a lot of rap the alphabet was infectiously, fiendishly funny – long before anyone said LOL I laughed out loud, sitting on my own in the car at traffic lights, when we got to the letter F.
I always wanted the boys to produce a Fringe show based on the PPC. But the ecard they made for Radio Magneticmay be a better alternative – the day it was released two (or was it three?) Christmases ago Sno Biz was briefly a YouTube top hit. And it recycles very nicely.
Now slightly concerned that the boys are becoming too respectable. There’s Tommy in Found, on the Fence Label and about to release an album with Chemikal Underground next year. Bobby, aka S-Type, gets promotion on the List for his new single on Scottish label Phuturelabs. And Dougal’s Radio Magnetic celebrates as the UK’s longest running internet radio station with a Winter Rave in Glasgow on 18th December.
Wish I could blame the parents.
(perhaps it is time to pay that long overdue tribute to Broughton High School. Back soon with the BHS hall of fame…)
Time for bed, tomorrow we are off to Berlin by train on a long slow journey from Edinburgh Waverley. I am still struggling to decide whether I should take my laptop. Maybe I should just fill my bag with books. On the other hand I might just look out of the window and watch the miles go by. Blisssssss.
By the time we got there the red bikini was off. But the naked body in the water was discreetly half hidden by foliage. A couple pass by not quite sure what to make of it, “Look,” says the woman, “there’s someone in the water.” Which would Gormley prefer, I wonder, the innocent reaction of passers by or the red bikini cover up?
It was a pity we missed the bikini. Apparently the Metro managed to snap it and I am not sure which is funnier: the thought of someone going to the trouble to attach a bikini to Antony Gormley’s (obviously masculine) work of art, or the effort someone else took to remove it. Would that be the new art wardens of Edinburgh?
Whatever. Gormley’s six pieces are a gift. As blogged by Raya few weeks ago they stretch from the Modern Art Gallery down to Leith Docks, marking the rise and fall of the water. It is a treat to discover them one by one – our Sunday morning walk through cyclists and gently strolling families on the Water of Leith Walkway had a sense of purpose and a real feeling of discovery when we spotted them. Just standing there, gently rusting in the sunshine.
I think my favourite definition of art is Ian Hamilton Finlay’s: “Art is a small adjustment.” It fits Gormley’s figures beautifully. He casts the figure and leaves nature to make the small adjustment. The rust is a touch of genius. And maybe the bikini was too.
Rust in peace near the Modern Art Gallery: thanks to Tommyand Ray for the pictures. And Tommy for the heading too.
“If you think we are rubbish,” says Ziggy, “you can always go upstairs and listen to Cybraphon.” Actually he put it stronger than that but this is a family blog (sort of) and however he put it, Ziggy knew there was a risk people might just do that. Found has created a formidable cyber celebrity with their emotional robot bandin the wardrobe.
It’s no secret that Cybraphon has more Facebook fans than the guys who assembled last year’s BAFTA winner from an odd mix of musical instruments and (let’s face it) old junk. When Simon switched the emotional wardrobe on again earlier this month, reconnecting all those vital circuits in the social media network, it was just a matter of hours before the Twittering and tweeting began. Cybraphon was back.
But Frankenstein is not yet redundant. Robots need electricity as well as noise in cyberspace. Tommy picked up a disturbing text on the way to Cybraphon launch gig at the start of Glasgow Arts Festival on Saturday. Cybraphon not working, bring some tools, said the text, or words to that effect.
Oh dear, said Tommy, or maybe he put it stronger than that. But old style rock bands have their priorities too. While Cybraphon sulked silently on the second floor of the wonderfulStudio Warehouse SWG3 (what a place!), Found soundchecked for their own gig on the floor below where they were booked to rock the room with OnTheFly and Radio Magnetic Sound System.
It could have been a very disappointing start to the exhibition. All those Facebook fans and Twitterers have expectations to meet. After an hour or so of nervous checking someone had an old fashioned thought. A fuse was all it took for Cybraphon to light up again.
So the crowds on the second floor were not disappointed. Any more than the crowds downstairs. Seemed to me no-one felt drawn upstairs once Found began to play. As you can maybe see from the admittedly very murky video clip.
The autonomous robot band is playing at Studio Warehouse SWG3(and constantly scanning the internet for references) until 3 May.