Where to start on this one? We didn’t even get on to talking about the financial crash, or the use of Ireland as an example of the dangers and virtues of independence from both sides of the debate. You could curate a Fringe long-season on Ireland and the Irish in relation to Scotland’s referendum. David Greig read us a brilliant provocation sent in from Lynda Radley, we had poetry from the frankly outstanding Rachel McCrum, who was then joined in discussion by Nicola McCartney, Peter McGeoghan and Cormac Quinn. Thankfully I resisted the urge to get sentimental and starry-eyed and quote James Connolly at length, and let our much more able panel to the talking, which they did brilliantly. A real favourite of mine this one, it was rounded off perfectly when Camille O’Sullivan showed up at the end and blew the roof off.
This was a wee beauty, this one. We hadn’t been sure whether to expect Josie Long, after some confusion over whether or not she was confirmed, so we were all delighted to walk into the Yurt and find her patiently sitting in the front row, waiting for us to explain what was going on. The brilliant Chris Thorpe and the wonderful Clare Duffy completed our panel, discussing solidarity, hope, and whether national identity is a thing that should even exist. Leo Glaister brought the poems, and Loki kicked us off in the music slot with some a capella rhymes and some vital musings on materialism and idealism. We also had a really lovely video-letter from Dan Rebellato.
This was possibly our most on-message session yet. The official Yes Campaign were out in force, with chief strategist Stephen Noon on the panel and Brian Cox stopping by the yurt, and a wealth of journalists and broadcast crews in the audience. The provocation from Kate Higgins and ensuing discussion was more about the nature of the work still to be done than the various forms the campaign itself has taken, but what we come back to a lot, as you’ll hear, is the idea of fear. The manipulation of fear, discussed in the panel; the rejection of fear in Cora Bissett’s gorgeous, full-throated songs from Glasgow Girls and Sam Small’s brief, rallying call to arms; and finally, the fear that keeps people going, mentioned in Brian Cox’s moving, quiet tribute to his late friend Robin Williams.
Like so many of our panel discussions at Bowie’s Yurt, as this one approached the big question was how on earth we were going to cover all the issues in the short amount of time that we have. Poppy and Lou from the anarcho-feminist anti-militarism group the White Feather Collective kicked things off with a provocation about a demilitarised future Scotland. We were then delighted to be joined by Jean Urquhart and Iain Macwhirter, for a conversation which demonstrated that you don’t need to set up a Yes versus No binary to find interesting political difference when we get down to the detail. Harry Giles and Gav Prentice both brought their usual brilliance in poetry and music respectively and it was hosted by Sara Shaarawi, with the discussion chaired, in a loose sense, by me. It was a lively one this. Ramshackle, energetic and full of big and difficult political thinking. Which is, I think, exactly what we came for.
This show BLEW the roof off. That’s partly because a storm that was raging outside which – as Kid Canaveral pointed out – was so loud it was ‘analogue percussion.’ But the rain and the storm had the effect of coorying us all in together as we listened to a breathtaking line up of songs and voices. Particular highlights for me were the songs from the Basque Country & Frances Thorburn’s astonishing a capella rendering of The Proclaimers. A treat!
I enjoyed this show enormously! Three top-notch political commentators, Alex Massie, David Torrance and Lindsay Macintosh. After a lot of rich and fattening ‘Yes’ voices in the Yurt it was excellent to hear some bracing ‘No’ for a change. Ewan Morrison was in good form too – proposing an entrepreneurial centre right vision for Scotland. There’s a fantastic moment at the end when Stuart Braithwaite sings ‘Heroes’ and, to me & him, it’s about Indy. But to Bowie, and I suspect for our panel, it’s a song about individuals escaping a rotten communist state. Either way we all sat spellbound. It was a very Yurty moment.
Today’s show is a bit of a special in that the discussion section is one of the few straight interviews we’re doing. To say I’m thrilled to be talking to Jim Sillars is to submit to cliche, but it’s true. His journey over the last fifty years of Scottish politics is our journey. His voice was one of the voices I first heard as a teenager that told me people who sound Scottish don’t have to sound like they’re selling shortbread … and here he is talking to us.
The sun was shining and the crowds were out for this show. I think I saw a number of financial types on their lunch break, RBS lanyards peeking out from the summery shirts. Walking along George Street, seeing the name plates on the cafes and bars which were once banks, and I realised just how much money and finance sit at the heart of Edinburgh’s identity. Currency is a central part of the independence debate and a day or so after The Debate, it was on all our minds. Ricky Ross reminded us, in song, of how money, aspiration and hope are all bound up together. Ben Dyson posited a new, Positive money. Ian Fraser & Laura discussed Scotland’s options, and Nicola McCartney brought home the human consequences of austerity. And all the while, the RBS flags flapped in the summer sun on the East side of St Andrew Sq.
Yep. We really did go there: we talked about Braveheart…
Whether Braveheart makes you wince, weep, rejoice or want to explore yer clan history, it is the indyref film that just never goes away. So, Kieran Hurley and myself hosted a lively panel discussion with Rachael Clerke, Linda McLean, Fiona Watson and Alan Bissett, aiming to unearth why this is.
Following a great provocation by Linda, the panel opened with discussion on the Braveheart myth and masculinity in Scottish culture, before widening out to explore the importance of seeing Scotland on film, and whether it is a lack of Scottish representation in film in general that makes Braveheart such a ubiquitous cultural reference point for yes and no voters alike.
An interesting, wide-ranging discussion concluded with the audience assisting in the creation of a performance poem, writing one sentence each, beginning with the words “Braveheart Is…”. Much hilarity ensued. We finished up with a song from Seafieldroad, with the reminder that “This Road Won’t Build Itself“. True that – and if our discussion unearthed anything conclusive about the Braveheart myth, it’s that there are many factors building our definitions of ‘Scottishness’ too.
When planning co-hosting Bevan Tried To Change The Nation – Whatever Happened To The Idea of Britain? with the playwright Peter Arnott, Peter expressed his concerns of becoming a bit of a Jeremy Paxman when confronted with welcoming an audience. So we decided to utilise his Paxman potential in the interview section and I would explore any Kirsty Wark potential I might have.
Bowie’s guest yurt on the top of his Manhattan penthouse apartment was packed out with folk seemingly from all sides of the discussion around what has happened to Britain. We kicked things off with the phenomenal Wounded Knee singing Hamish Henderson’s The Flyting of Life And Death. For those of you who don’t know, a flyting is a fast, poetic exchange of insults or disagreements.
The provocation for the day was brought to us courtesy of the, until recently anyway, on-the-fence indy skeptic David Torrance who I declined to introduce as ‘good-looking and available’ as he suggested I do, opting instead to leave it to the audience to decide for themselves if this was relevant information.
David’s provocation was indeed provocative laying the ground extremely well for a heated and rigorous debate between Torrance and a fantastic panel of James Robertson, Isobel Lindsay, Neal Ascherson and Andrew Tickell hosted by Peter Arnott – without even a whiff of Paxo.
Jim Monaghan kicked us into a different gear with two of his brilliant poems followed by Sara Shaarawi‘s uncompromisingly honest letter from Cairo. The show rounded off with Wounded Knee’s rendition of Hamish Henderson’s Freedom Come All Ye set to the reggae tune of Augustus Pablo’s Eastman Sound which sent us all out into the sunshine in hope that ‘all ye at hame wi freedom never heed whit the hoodies croak for doom’.