Saturday 14 September 2013 should be a busy day. Glasgow’s East End will see an open day for its first, women-only gym. In a pink painted building once used as douce offices on Gallowgate near the Forge cinema, Gill’s gym is set to spin, work-out and dance for a long time to come.
On Glasgow Green, a different crowd will gather to work out how to Bin the Bedroom Tax. The United Nations rapporteur, Raquel Rolnik, who spent two weeks in the UK gathering evidence on how the global financial crisis has affected housing, found that Bedroom Tax issues dominated her interviews with people who were having to cope with the ’spare room supplement,’ as it is formally called. She said the policy should be abolished as it was affecting human rights. Introduced by the Westminster government, the tax reduces housing benefit where the person has more bedrooms than it is judged they need.
So Saturday’s protesters will assemble on Glasgow Green for a rally and then head for the SECC where the Liberal Democrat Conference will be in process. The protesters have been curtailed by Glasgow City Council on how they may march. And police have curtailed how many may protest at the SECC. The erosion of these human rights is clouded by the fact that the protesters are seriously split among themselves. One wing is led by Tommy Sheridan and the other wing is bitterly opposed to the disgraced politician.
In the middle are the ordinary folk who are suffering to the point – in some cases - of contemplating suicide.
It is a little solace that the Scottish Government has allocated £20 million in its budget this week to provide help to people affected by this iniquitous Tax. But this same Government has also allocated £20 million to boost cycling as a form of transport.
Much more energy and visionary leadership has to be found to work out how to Say No 2 the Bedroom Tax and how to protect human rights to protest, to march and to speak out.
Maybe, just maybe, if more women get together to socialise in pink gyms, a new spin could be found on strategies to save desperate people from self-destruction.
The Glasgow meeting about secret police in Britain was interesting from several points of view. It was well-attended for a start. Enough people were concerned at the idea to give up their evening to hear some detail.
It had a powerful top table of speakers. They related from their own experience what they believe is happening. This provided several pieces of the jigsaw puzzle of human rights in this country. What surfaced was how fragile those human rights are.
Not only the guest speakers but also members of the audience were able to give first hand testimony of violation of their rights by police, courts and official bodies.
When an advocate says Europe does more to promote and safeguard human rights than we do in this country, we should take notice. But more than that, we need to waken up, do our homework and dig to find the facts. After that, we can take collective action to improve the situation.
Dire warnings were given of worse violations to come if the present laws are not sustained and law enforcement agencies are not held to account.
Those who take the time to read up on the law in Scotland will be better placed to decide whether the lobby outside Glasgow Sheriff Court on Tuesday 1 October from 9am till 10am is for them.
If they are in any doubt, they could read the report on this website of the meeting held on Monday 19 August in the CCA in Glasgow. It isn’t secret!
There is nothing like a funeral to bring out the best in people. Folk from a wide spectrum of politics and from across the country, paid genuine tributes to the late Allison Hunter, SNP National Organiser for many years and latterly Councillor for Glasgow Govan. Simply by coming together and sitting side by side in a religious setting many would be unfamiliar with, they were showing common cause. For the hour or less of the service and the time drinking tea afterwards, they were able to meet and chat in an empathic way and show respect for the loss of a much loved lady.
Differences were set aside as irrelevant at that moment in time. Scoring points over adversaries was unnecessary. Instead, happy and humourous stories of times spent during campaigns, long election nights and in the corridors of power were shared and chuckled over.
It would be naïve to think this bonhomie could be sustained for much longer than the public farewell required.
But one has to live in hope that it IS possible!
The ability to win over opposition can be revealed in unexpected, human, ways. Politicians of different hues can be excited by the challenge of strongly voiced opinions different from their own. While that might end in the same plight as the moth attracted to the flame, it is possible it could lead to a strong alliance. Only time will tell and frequent gatherings of all kinds – even sad ones – can explore the options.
Jazz – slow ‘n’ easy- ushers in the Fashion Fiesta to the Merchant City Festival repertoire. Starting on Wednesday 24 July and running till Sunday 28 July, the Festival already has comedy, family events, theatre, film, visual art and design all awaiting the return of last year’s record breaking crowds of 95,000 people intent on enjoying themselves.
So almost a dozen of the culture quarter’s high-end retailers on Ingram Street have pitched in with even more high-end styled fun and called it Fashion Fiesta. They will extend their opening hours and will offer exclusive in-store events such as music, fashion and beauty demonstrations and consultations as well as food and drink.
With a cool dip into what’s to come, Nova Scotia Jazz Band clarinettist John Burgess and trumpeter Lorne Cowieson provided the mood music in Cruise yesterday (Wednesday 17 July).
This gave customers the chance to sip champagne and get a heads up on the Fashion Fiesta while viewing the store’s stock.
Ranked second only to London in the shopping stakes, Glasgow has a stash of big-name retailers located in the Merchant City. Councillor Gordon Matheson, Leader of Glasgow City Council and Chair of the Merchant City Festival as well as the City’s Marketing Buereau, said: ‘I am so pleased they are embracing the buzz of Merchant City Festival by programming their own in-store events. We’ll be adding to those with top-tapping music on Ingram Street and around the Festival.’
Retailers involved in the Fashion Fiesta are: Agent Provocateur, Armani, Cruise, Gant, Harvey Jones, Jaeger, Jigsaw, Mulberry, Pretty Green, Ralph Lauren and Replay.
At Mulberry, visitors will see a skilled craftsman make one of the Mulberry iconic bags. Clothing label Pretty Green, founded and designed by musician Liam Gallagher, will have – appropriately – live music on Saturday 27 July and resident DJ Dan South promoting up-coming bands.
The Fashion Fiesta compliments Vintage Glasgow which makes its Scottish debut at the Merchant City Festival this year.
The emphasis throughout will be on glamour and the very best of British fashion creativity across the decades and across the genres.
Frasers of Glasgow will curate a catwalk show dedicated to the 1920s Great Gatsby era. This will take place on Sunday 28 July at 2pm in the Grand Hall of the City Halls in Merchant City. Jazz singer Lou Hickey’s live performance will open the show which has a £10 ticket entry.
For anyone who fancies a make over to see how they’d look in the 1940s, Vintage Hair and Beauty Salon offer to do the job for £10 throughout the weekend.
All weekend the Vintage Marketplace will be free to browse. Fashionista and other festival-goers can expect five days of fun
Check out the website for full details: www.merchantcityfestival.com or follow @MerchCityFest on Twitter.
Wonder where the excitement of the past few days will take us? Naturally, Andy Murray’s marvellous win at Wimbledon gave everyone a great high. There’s even a competition to write a new pipe tune to mark his success. The Prime Minister, the First Minister and many others, managed to get kudos from his years of hard work and total dedication.
The sun, appearing in the sky for several consecutive days, is giving lots of folk a rosy hue if not a blistered skin.
The schools, stopping for summer holidays, colleges moving into mergers and the Universities solemnly conducting graduation ceremonies with Latin prayers, all highlight the state of flux and the wide gaps in education.
But, hey, lets be happy! Bring on another city festival – free family fun day in Toryglen’s Geoff Shaw Centre on Saturday 15 July, for example. A truly great local community gathering, not to be missed. Or the Merchant City Festival which starts on Wednesday 24 July and runs till Sunday 28 July. It’s a much posher affair: much bigger, better funded and has unique events such as a singalong bus tour, slavery and abolition walking tour and a Commonwealth family fun day to get us into the mood for next year’s Games.
The thread that runs through each occasion is : this is an opportunity for people to come together and be happy. That can’t be bad. It allows a few folk for a short time to unplug from their own introverted world, of course. And it enables others to meet their neighbours or old friends, get acquainted with passing strangers who could be potential new friends and laugh together.
Through such social gatherings and casual meetings many a new idea could develop. Who knows? someone might come up with a way to find potential Parliamentary candidates in Falkirk without major organisations tearing each other to shreds. It only needs 10 Falkirk residents with a vote and £500 to put up their own candidate. There’s a fun challenge on a long hot summer!
It’s Carnival time in Glasgow! The West End Festival is in full swing till Sunday 30 June. Refugee Week Scotland starts on Monday 17 June. The Merchant City showcase events are gearing up for July.
And – as with the Mela opening day on Saturday 15 June and the Southside Festival last month – rain, even heavy rain, does not spoil the fun.
Glaswegians certainly know how to have a good time. The opening Mardi Gras parade in the West End was a splendid, colourful and fascinating sight. Tribute has to be paid to those who walked and danced the distance from the Botanic Gardens down Byres Road, along in front of the Kelvingrove Art Gallery and into the Kelvingrove Park – especially if they were wearing killer heels, pushing friends in wheelchairs or making music on some of the heavy drums.
But if you’ve missed that, don’t worry. There is a multitude of events still to enjoy. Everything from classical music to jazz and latest techno mix; theatrical performances to attract children or critical Thespians; and community shows and gatherings in abundance including sports events.
And not all occasions of interest are attached to formal festivals. Look out for a formal Druid ceremony at the Sighthill Stone Circle on Friday 21 June; or Govanhill Baths Community Trust’s annual general meeting on Wednesday 26 June; the Gambians in Scotland event on Saturday 29 June or the Crypt Ceilidh that same night with music from the world renowned John Carmichael ceilidh band.
But of course, don’t let such hedonistic delights deflect from the serious business of lodging protests against different planning issues!
Glasgow City Council needs to take a long hard look at itself. Each person elected to serve this great city is duty bound to honour its motto: Let Glasgow Flourish.
Flourish now means ‘What’s in it for me?’ There is no sign of the humanity or humbleness established by St Mungo, the City’s ancient Christian founder.
This lack of humanity was never more obvious than in the historic first ever hearing of a petition by the year-old petitions committee on Tuesday 7 May 2013.
A cogent and eloquent request was put forward by New Fossils Grandparents Support Group in Glasgow’s East quarter. These kinship carers – mostly grandparents looking after their own grandchildren – said that their children had exactly the same legal status as children taken into foster homes but were being treated very differently. They were asking for equality and justice for children and not for themselves.
Glasgow City Council’s Social Work department provides each foster child with a sizeable allowance to buy beds, clothes, food and treats or whatever that child needs. No similar supportive funding is provided for the children taken in by their own grandparents or other family members.
The situation was described by the Kinship Carers as ’apartheid’ One carer who has two of her own kin children in her household as well as two children placed with her as foster children, said it was ‘night and day’ the difference in what she was able to provide for each.
But what happened at the petitions committee, was simply party political posturing – especially from the Labour side. Five SNP councillors were heavily outnumbered by the Labour Group councillors – one of whom was out of the meeting room for most of the meeting- but returned in time to vote.
The kinship carers campaign is only one of several groups of people so concerned about the issues affecting them that they have taken to the streets to highlight the problems they face.
It is clear in Glasgow that more groups are having to take direct action to get attention paid to important inequalities. But even with that, where answers might lie in the hands of Glasgow City Council’s elected representatives, these campaigners are fighting a losing battle because of the party political imbalances within the council chambers.
Voters of this troubled city need to recognise that nothing will change for them until the people elected by them are truly of the mind to ‘Let Glasgow Flourish,’ by working together for the good of EVERY citizen, not just the partisan few.
Love her or hate her, Margaret Thatcher has left a big legacy.
Trade Unions no longer hold the power they once had. Which means several generations of citizens have not had the chance to find out how to organise a campaign, how to conduct a meeting or the importance of taking accurate minutes.
But what does that matter? What’s the point of taking minutes when you can tweet?
In a different way the legacy has allowed hundreds of thousands of families to get onto the housing ladder by enabling them to buy their council house. That has depleted the housing stock, of course.
But what does that matter? A mortgage was relatively easy to obtain – until recently – so the essential of a roof over one’s head was a matter of two people working flat out for 40 or more years.
And we can’t blame the unscrupulous bankers on Mrs T – they happened well past her term of office.
But it leaves the unhappy thought that the ethos of ’no such thing as community’ has taken root. Bankers, like trade unionists of past times, have allowed power to corrupt and absolute power to corrupt absolutely.
One suspects she would never have allowed that to happen in her day.
It will be interesting to hear what is said to the 2000 official mourners. And even more interesting to see what might happen around the country on the day of the funeral by way of paying respect.
The children of Thatcher are now grandparents who may take a more mellow view of the legacy. Or they might realise how little a legacy they can leave for their grandchildren.
With clocks going forward, spring is officially here. And with it is the start of the marching season – marching for justice!
When people actually see much their benefits are reduced by the iniquitous ‘bedroom’ tax, they will be shocked. Already thousands realise what the implication is for them. Some fear they’ll face eviction. Others are determined to resist to the end.
The march from Glasgow Green to George Square on Saturday 30 March 2013 showed that Easter is a time of passion. With more than 3000 taking to the streets to protest at the tax – and loudly – it indicates the strength of feeling the issue has raised.
Speaker after speaker spoke about the tax affecting lives dramatically.
But there is sure to be more drama to come as thousands more are likely to take to the streets to make their protest.
Well it’s happened! The date for the Referendum is set – Thursday 18 September 2014. Glasgow City Council has entered a Social Partnership with Enable to chart the future of day centres now that it has been decided three of the seven will be closed. And spring is on its way with hosts of groups and organisations launching new programmes and events.
So everything is ok? OK?
No. Not really. With a date set, can we get on with proper DISCUSSION and considered arguments about the details instead of the shouting matches we’re witnessing. What is best for the people of Scotland is what is at stake – not the public persona of any one politician or political party.
With the die cast for closure of the day centres which are currently used by more than 500 people with complex learning disabilities – Glasgow as a city needs to decide what it is doing. Are our elected representatives really working for the benefit for all their constituents and the well being of the entire community? Or maybe they are blindly following party policy and stoking up the vested interests of organisations.
Those volunteer groups and organisations which are addressing the needs and the interests of real people and fostering a spirit of true community are still alive, thankfully!
When groups such as the South Glasgow Heritage and Environmental Trust (SGHET) can run an all -day conference on Saturday 23 March in Gorbals on the Music, mirth and magic of the Southside; when the campaigners of the Kelvin Meadow can organise an Easter Egg Hunt on Sunday 24 March with Anna Lehr reading Peter Rabbit stories too. Then something is working the way it should.