“You can do both!” Thoughts on art, politics + cultural policy

Screen Shot 2016-02-29 at 19.42.44“Don’t think of art and politics as separate parts of your life – you can do both”. These were the simple words of Katharine from The Stove in Dumfries that, in a few seconds, managed to make disparate bits of my life make sense. Our conversation took place at a thoroughly inspiring event – Art_Inbetween – at the newly refurbished Stove on Dumfries high street last week. Luckily for me, it was just one of a whole day full of provocative, compelling and exciting conversations with artists, performers, community workers and more.  Continue reading

Campaign Diary – Week #7

  • Best bit: Going back to my old High School (via some stunning bits of the Borders) for a tear-jerking LGBT History Month performance from Loud and Proud Choir
  • Worst bit: Meeting a ridiculously cute collie puppy and not being able to take him home
  • Folk of note: Jamie Szymkowiak from the One in Five campaign + Ollie and Tabitha from Peebles High School LGBT+ group
  • Miles travelled: 621
  • Things I learned: There’s 78 hectares of vacant and derelict land in the Borders. That’s the equivalent of 175 football fields which, if laid end to end would stretch from Kelso to Jedburgh.

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Campaign Diary – Week #6

  • Best bit: Doing three events in a day, in the snow and meeting fantastic folk trying to change the world
  • Worst bit: Giving up coffee this week and having a terrible headache ever since
  • Folk of note: Lesley Morrison, brilliant Tweed Green activist in Peebles + Abbie Marland from Aberlady who’s been really supportive
  • Miles travelled: 628
  • Things I learned: 7 million chickens are wasted in Scotland each year; Peebles is the only major town in the Borders whose population has increased in the last few years; renewable generation accounted for 49.7% of Scotland’s electricity last year.

From snowy travels to sunny tales of mining, it’s been a really busy and varied week with travels to Peebles, North Berwick, Glasgow and Newtongrange.  Continue reading

Campaign Diary – Week #5

  • Best bit: Helping to launch the national campaign
  • Worst bit: Seeing Hawick and Jedburgh getting flooded *again*
  • Folk of note: Isla Aitken, fabulous North Berwick campaigner, Green and co-founder of Sustaining North Berwick
  • Miles travelled: 259
  • Things I learned: People are amazingly generous! We smashed our South of Scotland fundraising target by over £300 with a week to go. Want to help us get to £2000? Chuck in what you can here. Thanks!
Launching our 2016 campaign with a brilliant team of candidates in Oran Mor
Launching our 2016 campaign with a brilliant team of candidates in Oran Mor in Glasgow’s West End

This week was a combination of campaign, community and climate change with the launch of our national campaign, pondering the community buy out in Moffat and taking part in a community meeting on climate resilience in North Berwick. I managed a bit of downtime as well, catching up with three of my best mates. I’ve even got to spend some time with my partner at a history and culture talk in Edinburgh. Here are the best bits… Continue reading

On power, responsibility and community

The community meeting in Moffat to hear about plans for a community buyout of woodland
The community meeting in Moffat to hear about plans for a community buyout of woodland

In January, I got to listen in to a hugely inspiring community meeting. The people of Wanlockhead near the north eastern border of Dumfries and Galloway were taking the first steps towards owning the land around them. The mood of the meeting was hopeful, upbeat and empowered.

It was with that meeting in mind that I enthusiastically went to another community meeting this week, this time in Moffat, slap bang in the centre of the South. Andy Wightman and I ventured down to hear about the potential purpose of the Gallow Hill from the landowner, Lord Johnstone. He had volunteered to sell the formerly wooded hill to the community and a group had been formed, a feasibility study produced and a valuation undertaken. This meeting was to formalise the group of local supporters and form an organisation that could apply for funding. Continue reading

Campaign Diary – Week #4

  • Best bit: Looking around the room at our candidate training session and realising I get to work with these amazing people, hopefully in Parliament too.
  • Worst bit: Still being really sore nearly three weeks after fracturing my arm
  • Folk of note: Claire Gillies from Penicuik Y; Esther Carmen who’s running a climate resilience project in the Borders; and the Moffat Community Woodlands team who are trying to gather support for a community buyout
  • Miles travelled: 675
  • Things I learned: The Environmental Cooperation Action Fund is supporting natural flood management amongst lots of other great things; 57% of rural Scots have broadband speeds of less than 10mbps; The Cobbles in Kelso does an astonishingly good pie.

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Building on the green belt

Broomfield Playing Fields and Running Track
Broomfield Playing Fields and Running Track

In East Ayrshire a debate is raging. The Council is proposing to build a new 2500 pupil “super school” on a site which is currently playing fields and a running track and which is susceptible to flooding. Much of the community is opposed on a variety of different grounds. For Greens, this debate feels unsettlingly familiar. For me, parallels can be drawn with North Kelvin Meadows in Glasgow and with the controversy about Portobello High School in Edinburgh. Continue reading

Campaign Diary – Week #3

  • Best bit: Becoming part of the fantastic Dunbar Sings!
  • Worst bit: The compound awfulness of Hawick Cashmere joining Hawick Knitwear in its troubles; and of already flood hit parts of the South being dealt another blow.
  • Folk of note: Gordon from South Lanarkshire Greens who has an astonishingly good singing voice
  • Miles travelled: 447
  • Things I learned: 350,000 people travelled on the reopened Waverley Line in the first three months from September; the South of Scotland can lay claim to some phenomenal women poets from the same time as Burns; and Stranraer (which will be home to a politics festival in March) may well derive its name from the Gaelic for “the fat nose”.

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