I was looking forward to this show for a long time. A national anthem sing off! There was a lot of flying by the seat of the pants in the preparation of the show. I knew the general idea was to have an advocate for and a performance of each song. I also knew I wanted to have a ‘cut up’ or improvised national anthem to throw into the mix. It was meant to be a bit of fun but in the end – from the first haunting shivery performance of ‘Freedom Come All Ye’ by Drew Wright up to the audience sing along that close the show – it turned out to be surprisingly moving. I loved every minute of it but I urge you to look out for Janice Galloway’s wonderful advocacy for ’Suffering From Scottishness’ and don’t miss Bram Gieben’s beautiful poem which took the audience’s breath away. A wonderful way to end the run. Not a few tears in the audience at the end.
This was one of my favourite All Back To Bowie’s. It was deeply personal, passionate, angry, hopeful and the best kind of political, the personal kind.
David and I were co-hosting and we weren’t sure what to expect. We were interested in talking about fighting for independence on a personal level, interdependence and dependence and having to fight for your own space and your own autonomy. That word, autonomy, proved to be the key theme for the show in the end.
We kicked off with a beautiful Bowie cover from Gerry Campbell and then a provocation from the great actor and director Alison Peebles. Alison talked us through her own experience of discovering she had MS and having to adapt her life, her career, her identify, her wardrobe to adapt to the change. She was then joined by the brilliant actor and theatre maker Robert Softley Gale, recently returned from a European tour of his show If These Spasms Could Speak about living with cerebral palsy and ever-inspiring playwright, performer, father and grandmother, Jo Clifford. The panel discussion was deeply personal, as I suspected it would be, but I hadn’t anticipated it becoming so passionate about Scottish independence – which, for me anyway, was bloody brilliant!
There was one member of the audience for whom it wasn’t brilliant and there was an amusing moment when Jo Clifford was talking about the abuse she suffers on a daily basis as a trans woman and who Scotland has experienced abuse for generations and the disgruntled member of the audience shouted “Bollocks.” After the show, Jo said she wished she’d shouted back “I don’t have any anymore”.
It was a shame, though, that the gentleman was so unwilling to hear the discussion that was being had about Scottish independence he wasn’t able to engage positively with the more personal and wider reaching discussion about autonomy and independence on a personal level. I hope he has found some happiness since that day.
After the panel we had some rip roaring poetry from the fantastic Nancy Somerville and a final beautiful number from Gerry full of hope. The grumpy gent left before the end and consequently there was a most wonderful feeling of hope and strength and possibility in the Bowie yurt. What an incredible summer it’s been.
In today’s session, hosted by David Greig and Peter Arnott, we investigated The Common Weal, with Robin McAlpine (director of The Common Weal), music from Hector MacInnes calling for land reform and 1000 huts in the wilderness, a storming poem by Jenny Lindsay about the realities of life in the UK called ‘England, We Need to Talk About Britain’, and a polemic from myself explores the fallacy of the liberalist economic narrative.
A world-first, The Common Weal is a project which takes over fifty independent reports by leading academics and professional leaders to form an evidence-based, big-picture proposal for a future Scotland which places All of Us First. Only tried and tested approaches and policies are included in this book, so it is a pragmatic plan for a social democratic society which exists in the real world. Robin McAlpine explains how the Common Weal approach works within a liberalist market by maximising the wealth of our society by focusing on mutual efforts for 90% and market competition for the remaining 10%.
It’s an extraordinary body of work, and prompts the question ‘If these policies are successful why do we not already have the infrastructure proposed by the Common Weal?’ In today’s provocation, I explain that ‘We could have universal economic measures such as a citizen’s income that would value all the invisible work of women, the disabled, the underemployed, so why don’t we? Ask the tories. Thatcher’s government researched the possibility in the 70s and discovered it is cheaper than the current benefits system. It’s more efficient, so why don’t we have it? Perhaps it’s because it would show that the conservative mindset is based on a myth, and who knows where that might lead … real change? But surely animal spirits, competition and higher financial reward for higher performance makes us all stronger, makes us all strive more, yes? They don’t.
The facts on the biggest myth of our times: financial incentives don’t motivate us to perform better, in fact, financial reward makes us perform more badly.
It was a special treat to get Rona Munro and Stephen Greenhorn for this show. Both are old friends of Linda and mine from the playwriting world but in the last year both have also re-defined great chunks of Scottish identity and popular culture. Stephen with the film of Sunshine on Leith whose optimism and charm captured the imagination last summer, and Rona with the James Plays which were the hit of the festival. You can feel the warmth of the audience towards them. This episode also features some fabulous intervention essays – two letters from Kevin MacNeill in London and David Morgan in Manchester, and Adam Ramsay’s wonderful provocation. Someone teased me that I always said, after every show, that it was the best on yet. But this show was definitely the best one yet!
Three of the most prominent female voices in the Yes Campaign – Tasmina Sheikh, Kate Higgins and Elaine C Smith – join us for a frank discussion of the frustrations of being a woman in (and out of) politics right now. There’s also some heady emotional stuff, with Laura Lewis’ heartfelt songs, and her battle cry for invisible women. Poet Tracey Rosenberg imagines what Scottish ten year olds of the future will write in their history essays, the podcast listeners get an audio-described tour of David Bowie’s Manhattan penthouse yurt, and it all finishes up with a glorious cover of Life on Mars. Who knew it was a feminist anthem?
Well, it’s hard to beat the Bowie’s shows so far but having my dad on the panel today pretty much did the job (oh as did discovering during the show that I had a great uncle called David Bowie, a butcher in Alloa, whose confirmed surname pronunciation has now pushed me firmly in the ‘rhymes with cow’ camp – Alloa Bowie beats Manhattan Bowie especially when wielding a butcher’s knife). We were delighted to have Josephine Sillars back with her beautiful songs (and ironing board), plus Miko Berry from Loud Poets reading a brand new poem and a polemic from Gerry Hassan about dads and men and the way in which football suffocates other sports in Scotland. The panel – David Greig, Gerry Hassan, Ruth Wishart, Allan Bissett, Ron Ferguson, Susan Egelstaff and Michael Stewart – talked about sport and identity, the Commonwealth Games and ach yeh, ok there was a fair bit of football chat because we just cannae help ourselves.
It’s such a treat to do some hosting for these shows, largely as I get to hear the musicians, poets, polemicists and panel guests from the front row. For free, yass. After the Bowie (rhymes with cow)/Bowie (rhymes with no) test – I’m firmly in the rhymes with no camp – we heard music from Playing Politics and a brilliant polemic from Derek Bateman, then got stuck into the debate exploring the media in Scotland. There are many things I’ve been left with after this discussion, most importantly where are all the women in our media?! We had a fantastic line up for our panel with Iain Macwhirter, Derek Bateman, Peter Arnott and Ross Colquhoun brilliantly questioned by the loveliest of co-hosts, Kirstin Innes. We learned about ‘erasure’ poetry from Rob Mackenzie before hearing a Letter From Belfast where Martin Lynch told us in no uncertain terms about his views of Scottish independence!
This was another Sunday session but unfortunately Karine was not able to join us for it. Nevertheless it was a warm audience and some cracking acts. I’m not quite sure how Adie’s incredible Ghanaian dancing will translate to the podcast. Adie, dreadlocked and in bright yellow African print clothes danced a beautifully contained, rhythmic traditional dance on the narrow stage. I had to hold onto the piano to stop it falling off the stage as Adie’s feet made a slow patient beat on the stage. He had the yurt enthralled and delighted. You’ll have to imagine that bit.
I was looking forward to this show as I have a bit of a thing for Wales. So much of the music and poetry I like is Welsh and yet I feel I know so little about it. It was pure luck that the show ‘Hiraeth’ was on the fringe and both Byddug and Sarah Jane were available to come on but I think their contribution centres the show. The idea of Hiraeth, despite my multiple attempts at pronunciation, runs through the show; from Neil Murray’s memories of his parents’ home to Buddug’s memories of the farm she grew up on. It’s an idea that seems to capture something terribly important about all of our relationships to place. Whatever ‘Hiraeth’ is, I was feeling something like it when I listened to A New International sing their spine-tingling songs. This was a very special Bowie’s for me. Warm and sad.
I was a bit giddy with the thrill of meeting Lesley Riddoch. I’ve been a fan of her since her BBC Radio Scotland days and followed her writing about the Eigg buyout with fascination. But since the referendum and her book Blossom she has become a central figure in the debate about exactly how we can shape a new Scotland. Her husband Chris Smith is also a stalwart of the coastal rowing world so I could have chatted to the pair of them for ages. My particular highlight in this interview is Lesley countering my new word coinage ‘Riddochian’ with a new one of her own… look out for it.