Archive for November, 2011
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.
November 16th, 2011
A brief tribute to Brian Thompson, the man who had the vision and courage to create the legendary Barbecue 67 rock festival.
I am very sorry to hear that Brian, who celebrated his 70th birthday in 2008, died in an accident last week. His godson, Lee, has asked me to pass on the news. I’m afraid I know no more than that. I never met him but like so many others I will never forget the event that put the small Lincolnshire town of Spalding on the map.
It is an odd role for a long distance bystander. I have been back only a couple of times since I left the Spalding Guardian in 1969. But a chance blog about Barbecue 67 has put me in touch with some great people. No other topic has caused so much interest on my blog. Since writing about the 40th anniversary of the event four years ago I have enjoyed a succession of intriguing messages, sometimes from old friends but more often than not from people I have never met. What we all have in common is the memory of an event which brought Hendrix, Cream, The Move and Pink Floyd to fill Spalding’s tulip bulb auction hall with an explosion of sound that keeps echoing.
Lee’s message was a sad postscript but like everyone else he celebrates the legend. “Although I’m too young to have gone, I heard endless stories of the night in my childhood.”
Barbecue 67 is now the subject of a new theatre project being researched by scriptwriter Andy Barret for New Perspectives Theatre Company.
November 15th, 2011
Just wondering, in the event of revolution where would Edinburgh crowds gather, where is the city square, where the city’s heart? (Twitter Mon 21 Feb 17.50)
It was an impulsive question on Twitter. I didn’t really expect a response. During the Arab Spring it occurred to me that Edinburgh lacks a true centre. In the unlikely event of revolutionary fever spreading through the capital, where would crowds gather? Autumn has brought an answer of sorts.
I had asked a similar question (without the reference to revolution) when I first joined the board of the former Edinburgh City Centre Management Company. Excited by new plans for improving public space, I suggested we might hold a competition to find out exactly where the centre is.
The idea never caught on. So I was astonished at the number and speed of responses on Twitter. I stopped counting when 14 people answered within minutes. Sadly I never got round to making a copy of them; in retrospect they gave a hint of political upheaval to come.
“We could storm the palace then occupy parliament,”
Members of the SNP mostly suggested that Edinburgh’s political epicentre should be outside the Scottish Parliament. “We could storm the palace then occupy parliament,” I paraphrase but that was the gist back in February. (You can tell SNP tweets, by the way, because they sport the party symbol – if anyone wonders why the nationalist party now occupies parliament, if not the palace, just take a look at the social media savvy of their young bloods.)
A few Labour followers opted for Parliament Square, outside City Chambers, or round the Tron. Others just despaired: “We don’t even have a Pearl Roundabout let alone a Tahrir Square”. As far as I remember no-one suggested St Andrew Square. But now here are the non-party-political anti-capitalists politely setting up camp in the garden recently opened to the public. The land, leased to the council and maintained by Essential Edinburgh (which emerged from ECCM), still belongs to property owners round the square, including the Royal Bank of Scotland
Which is why Occupy Edinburgh is there.
Apart from admirable coverage by STV Edinburgh, the media has largely ignored the camp (though Occupy Edinburgh has a good website and well supported Facebook page). Some would say that’s because the occupy movement is not newsworthy, or not in Edinburgh anyway. But I am impressed by their good-natured organisation and the general confidence that the movement will take shape and spread if they talk and listen to enough people.
Maybe, maybe. At any rate I’m delighted to see that ACTive Inquiry theatre company is taking their latest forum theatre play to St Andrew Square. On 19 November Not for Profit explores alternatives to spending cuts among anti-capitalist campaigners.
And at night (pedal-powered) lights shine on rebellious banners slung round the plinth of that disgraceful old rogue Henry Dundas. Why does Edinburgh celebrate the last person in the UK to be impeached? And for misappropriation of public funds! St Andrew Square has reason to become the revolutionary heart of the city.
PS: Not many people know this but St Andrew Square is also Edinburgh’s Poetry Garden. The founder members nurture dreams of projecting poetry on to the plinth. Thanks to Occupy Edinburgh we can see it would show up nicely after dark. And make good use of old Dundas.
November 9th, 2011