The eminent Irish playwright Brian Friel has been awarded an honorary degree by the University of Glasgow. His contribution to theatre and the arts spans more than five decades and he is lauded as ‘one of the most eminent living dramatists writing in English today,’ and as ‘the Irish Chekov.’
Born in Omagh in 1929, Mr Friel is the author of more than 20 original plays that have been translated into more than 30 languages and performed internationally. He served as a Senator in the Upper House of the Republic of Ireland’s Parliament from 1987-89 and is a member of Aosdana, the state foundation that supports artists in Ireland.
He has won numerous awards, with his most recent play, The Home Place, winning the West End Theatre Society’s ‘Best Play’ in 2005 – the third of his plays to do so.
He is also the recipient of many TONY awards for Broadway productions of his plays. He was the first living playwright to be distinguished by the BBC by broadcasting a season of his works in 1989.
Professor Nigel Leask, Head of the University’s School of Critical Studies, said: ‘Brian Friel is a prime living exemplar whose works feature regularly on course syllabuses in both Glasgow University’s Theatre Studies and in English Literature.
‘Given that Irish Studies is currently blossoming in our University, the award of an Honorary Degree is particularly well aligned with our academic preoccupations.
‘As a writer who has persistently traced imaginative links between the people of Ireland and Scotland, Friel is a highly appropriate figure for us to honour in Glasgow, Scotland’s most Irish city, at a time when harmony and the return to home government in Northern Ireland are the fruit of peace negotiations partly conducted here in Scotland.
The degree was presented to Mr Friel by Sir Kenneth Calman, Chancellor of the University of Glasgow, at a ceremony in the Bute Hall.
Children from Chinese families had an exciting day on Tuesday 4 October, when they were part of the welcome to the Confucius Institute which was officially opened at the University of Glasgow by First Minister Alex Salmond MSP.
The Institute –a partnership with China’s prestigious Nankai University– is part of a network of more than 350 around the world, supported by the Chinese government to spread awareness, understanding and appreciation of Chinese language and culture.
Funded by the Chinese National Office of Chinese Language Council International – known as Hanban – the main purpose of the Confucius Institute is to teach the Chinese language. It will also organise cultural activities, including lectures and exhibitions and provide information and support for businesses in Scotland planning to operating in China.
The ceremony in the University’s Bute Hall was attended by Li Ruiyou, Chinese Consul General of the People’s Republic of China in Scotland, and Xiaogang Tian, Minister Counsellor for Education, Chinese Embassy London.
Mr Salmond said: ‘The promotion of the educational, economic and cultural ties between Scotland and China are further strengthened by the creation of the Confucius Institute at the University of Glasgow. The work being done in partnership with Nankai University will support the Scottish Government’s China Plan through support for Confucius Classroom hubs and for Sino-Scottish business links.
‘During the past two years, I have had the pleasure of visiting China twice to reinforce this bond and I am greatly looking forward to returning later this year. It is vital that the Scottish Government, our agencies and Scotland’s business and education organisations continue to do all they can to advance Scotland’s relationship with mainland China and Hong Kong, particularly as we pursue opportunities to build growth and therefore a stronger Scotland.’
Professor Jane Duckett, Director of the Confucius Institute, said: ‘Our aim is to increase understanding of China, its fascinating language, and its rich culture. China is playing an ever more important role in the world. Within the next decade or so, it will be the world’s biggest economy and it will become an increasingly important trading partner and investor for Scotland and the UK. It is therefore essential to Scotland’s future economic success that we understand China in all its diversity and are able to communicate with its people.
She continued: ‘The Confucius Institute will make a significant contribution to the Scottish Government’s China Plan through support for Confucius Classroom hubs and for Sino-Scottish business links. It is a symbol of Glasgow’s and the West of Scotland’s engagement with China and will be an important source of support for that engagement across education, the arts and business.’
The Confucius Institute builds on long-standing research collaborations focused on social sciences, arts, business and chemistry, between the University of Glasgow and Nankai University in the major northern city of Tianjin.
The focus of the Institute’s programmes will be on contemporary Chinese society and culture, promoting understanding between young people in Scotland and China, and supporting links between the cities of Glasgow and Tianjin.
One of the first events organised by the new Institute is a six-week exhibition of art works by Professor Fan Zeng, one of China’s most famous artists, whose traditional ‘splashed ink’ and figure drawings are hugely popular in China. The exhibition will run until 20 November in the Kelvin Gallery of the Hunterian Museum.
The Confucius Institute is located in the John McIntyre Building on the University’s Gilmorehill Campus. For more information visit www.gla.ac.uk/about/confucius/ and see a video of the children of Glebe Primary School, Irvine who performed an umbrella dance for the opening ceremony on University’s Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/glasgowuniversity
Head teacher Francine MacKenzie of Glebe Primary told this website:’The children had a wonderful day at Glasgow University at the opening of the Confucius Institute. One parent phoned me the next morning to say thank you for giving her son the best opportunity of his life so far. The Chinese families whose children attend this school, consider themselves Scottish and are very pleased that we celebrate their other culture. We take full advantage of every opportunity to learn of the richness of Chinese culture.’ The school has already sent teachers to visit China and is about to send another one to study Mandarin.
The life ofScotland’s National Poet Edwin Morgan, who turned 90 years old last spring, was remembered and celebrated yesterday, Thursday 26 August, diring a poignant service in Bute Hall, Glasgow University. After, his coffin, which had a thistle placed upon it, was taken to Maryhill crematorium for a private ceremony.
Around 400 people gathered inside the hall to celebrate the life of Scotland’s eminent poet, a man who spent muchof his life at Glasgow University, first as an undergraduate and then as professor. He passed away last week, after a 10 year battle with cancer.
‘Today, in this great University of which he was part for so many years, we remember Eddie Morgan with affection and love.’ So began the eulogy of his friend, former Presiding Officer of the Scottish Parliament, the Rt Hon George Reid. Listening were students, work colleagues, friends, and those who loved the ebullient poetry that poured from this man throughout his life.
They heard friends and peers reciting Morgan’s poetry and remembering the often difficult journey he had taken, only public admitting his homosexuality aged 70, before being named Scotland’s national poet in 2004, by the then First Minister Jack McConnell. Already, he had been named as Glasgow’s Poet Laureate. As a young man he had been a conscientious objector, refusing to conscript for WW2. After realising the evil of Nazism, he changed his stance and served in the Middle East with the Ambulance corps.
The jazz musician, Tommy Smith, who colluded with Morgan on many poems, said of his work: ‘He could paint sounds in the air with words.’ Friend Hamish Whyte recited his poem titled Love, written after Morgan had himself fallen love. After, talking about Morgan’s love for the Beat poetry of Ginsberg and Whitman, Whyte described how these joyous influences had seeped into Morgan’s work, saying: ‘He liberated lives.’
The writer Liz Lochhead recited Morgan’s favourite poem, Cinquevalli. It included this line ‘but let me see you forget him, not to be done’. Outside, as the mourners moved toward the University Chapel for Glenmorangie and shortbread, someone commented: ‘ The best tribute to Eddie is that his work will always be read, it is universal.’ Stuart McQuarrie, in welcoming all to the service, said: ‘This quiet gay man loved life. He was not just ours or just Scotland’s, but belonged to a much wider world.’