The Geiteberg Folk Festival


Just back from an exciting few days at the Geitebrg Folk Festival outside Oslo. I came across to carry the bags for Lesley who was speaking with Øivind Bratberg on the topic of topic of independence.  The first night was conversation between a healthy number of Scottish musicians and Norwegian fans. A couple of stand out points; we don't know much about our own country and Norwegians speak better English in the main. Well, that's my verdict after the cultural 'pub quiz', chaired by a Norwegian and won by a mixed team...which included a Norwegian librarian. Cabin-view

Our humble cabin, along with the members of the band 'As the Crow Flies' was idyllic. Cabins in woods with water, wildlife and unseen neighbours are a staple of Norway's way of living. Second homes like this carry none of the stigma which we might feel. I spent some time walking around the lake and met a young couple laying roof tiles, a cyclist hauling his recycling down to the bins, a lady who giving the garden a goodly hosing down...all had a long history with the area and could remember the huts without electricity and water. Some still had outside toilets. Said with affection in their eyes.


The musical Friday and Saturday were terrific as you would expect. The whole Geiteberg venue is situated on an old farm. The loft acted as storage and stage. The atmosphere was open and rural. In these sorts of settings, the traditional music seems to hang in the air in crisp clear haze. You can read the programme and get the band's names but nothing will prepare you for the experience of hearing a reel across the heat shimmer of a field as you plod up the dusty path to the big barn. Or the shiver of hearing a Gaelic love song in the still warmth of the Norwegian twilight. Or the wry smile of the Ostfolk group as they wind their audience up. In a language you can't understand but a feeling you can share. Moonscape

It was the weekend of the 'super moon', once every 50 years it comes this close. "We'll never see it again' said a lady on the trampoline. Best photograph it, I thought. While the music swirled about midnight, I stood in the field and snapped away. The bows and breath propelled the notes into the light we'll not see again for 50 years.

The next morning we recorded a podcast with Brian O'hEadhra . It was a gentle affair, trying to relate big notions of musicians and music across borders and boundaries. But then again, we had been at it all weekend, really.



FRESh and funky

The hall in preparation mode

Just back from a weekend at Fintry and the FRESh show. It's a two day meeting, discussion pod, awards ceremony and renewable technology show. I always find these type of gatherings interesting for a number of reasons. Because it's community based, you meet participants and audience in a more intimate setting. You have time to talk to and learnt so much from smart people because you have time and the right setting. My account for the weekend was; met 6 very bright people who kicked my thinking about, preordered a great book from some smart young men at Lateral North and reacquainted myself with the chocolate bliss that is Rainbow Organics Chocolates. And the other inspiring reason is how it all starts. Like the photo above. Someone comes into an indoor bowling rink and puts some hardboard down. Someone puts a box of promotional literature down and starts to set out chairs. Gradually piece by piece, it grows.


Werner Frohwitter of Feldheim being interviewed. 

There was another impressive aspect to the whole show. Through the good offices of Fife College and Pat Joyce; there was a set of young journalists covering the whole of the Friday sessions in video, blogs and other online media. The most encouraging aspect of this exercise was the feedback from those they interviewed. “Very professional “, “good questions” and “best press I have dealt with” were some of the comments. It was great to see both a community group willing to invite young people in and also the college for stepping up to support its students. Other community groups, take note. It's a good idea.

Couldn't make the meeting , so I baked a cake

Or made a film. As anyone who knows me will say; 'the man's skiffing crazy'. Scotland's best kept secret is the rise of the community, the Scottish Coastal Rowing Association. Our local club, Newburgh Rowing Club , is having its AGM and I can't make it along to the meeting. However, I did put together some photos and music for a wee tribute to the enormous number of local people who support the rowers; from builders to bakers.

The day after Dundee

Last night I sat in a small Dundee cinema with about 40 people and watched two short films. 'Clavel' by Shona Main and 'Sentinel of the Seas' from Zoe Jordan. We were the second house and the seats were warm. The films were charming and well made. At the end,the young film makers stood awkwardly accepting the audience's appluase. It was well deserved. 

As I sipped my sparkling mineral water, bubbles in water as exciting as it gets for a non drinker, I looked around the room. The cultural great and good were there along with the usual malcontents and fancy footwearers. Everybody had enjoyed hauling out in the cold to support the film, the venue , the film makers; whatever. Should we do this again or could we do this again?

In recent months, I have bumped into film makers who have been frazzled by getting to an audience. An audience which is live, in one place, and preferably in comfy seats in the dark. YouTube and Vimeo deliver hits and comments but not the cinema audience rush of the crowd.

I have also witnessed the community cinema where grown adults forsake their home cinemas to come and sit on cairs or reats of variable squeakiness. The charm of local , from Birks to the Steeple, means a different cinema experience.

So here's the thing. How do we encourage young film makers to slip their precious infants into the spotlight?

A couple of thoughts. First thing, let's get the community folks to start to take short films into their programmes...I will start with my guys, if you start with yours. As my good friend and Previously...History Festival' supremo Susan Morrison says 'show stuff at a festival'. And maybe start getting the buzz around the regional colleges, lots of bright people there, and suggesting short film nights for new audiences.

And finally, the warmth around the Hannah Maclure Centre was positve and prompted these thoughts. All this on the day after Dundee lost its bid. But not its' self confidence.



The future of 'Podcasting'

Over the last few months, I have become the 'River man '. Between rowing with the Newburgh Rowing Club and the self build skiff, I have started to collect stories and other people's experiences about the Tay. In the next wee while, I will be developing a programme of oral histories with our local primary school. This will include collecting photos and voices. There are a couple elements which the youngsters want to try; QR Codes and geo-caching. Sounds like it could be fun. In the meanwhile, here's a local historian doing what he does best; explaining.

Williamston Primary, Radio and Cake

Williamston cake
Hand crafted chocolate.

Lesley and I were invited down to Williamston Primary to meet the Radio Williamston crew. That was the pupils, teachers and helpers. They'd set up and broadcast a radio programme to their entire school using their tannoy. 

So, we felt right at home with the newshounds, the technical guys and gals, the features posse and the marketing maestros. So much talent in one place and the energy was great. The staff were so positive as well. We had a fabulous afternoon.

It was also Lesley's birthday and Gillian baked a cake. No, strike that. Gillian, the queen of cake baking, piping and icing produced some chocolate magic which you can see in the photo.It tasted as good as it looks.

I will be working with thisschool over the coming months...I feel sure.

Filming in Dundee

A while ago, I did a small piece about the Derby Rd 'multis' in Dundee. As ever, opinions were divided amongst the audience. "Ice boxes, best torn down." or "happy memories, you don't get communities like that anymore" were the type of things people said to me. It is strange how a set of high rise buildings can have such a wide range of reaction. And, it being Dundee, the opinions were offered with broad grins and a suitable amount of good humour.

But after a few months and a convoluted set of circumstances, I am working with some young film-makers on a community based film featuring, you guessed it, the multis. It is the sequel to an award winning film they made last year, "Our Multi Story" which was " a film charting the rebirth of community spirit in a Dundee neighbourhood."

My role is primarily to 'exec produce' the film. With a multi national film crew and a challenging set of 'actors', the biggest challenge is to develop the narrative, think through the script and plan the shooting. So far, it's looking good.

The Big Tent

Jane Davidson and a pensive Lesley Riddoch

Just back from a very engaging Big Tent Festival and a few thoughts from a thought provoking weekend. The Big Tent is now in its 7th year and manages to combine interesting talks, a wide range of exhibitors and activities and music. Everything is aligned around the theme of stewardship. I hope we captured a sense of the event in this week's Lesley Riddoch podcast - Lesley was panelist, chair and reporter throughout the busy weekend.

I sat in on a couple of sessions, packed to the rafters, and learnt a lot.

Jane Davidson, pictured left, produced an interesting revelation en passant. Jane entered politics in Wales, worked hard to become the Minister for Sustainability and Environment and then left politics to become a small holder. As she explained in her panel contributions, there were things she wanted to achieve, notably, in the area of recycling. Wales was first to charge for plastic bags and lead the UK in recycling. In other words, she got in and then got out. Over simplification, I am sure but it was an interesting contrast to so many politicians who outstay their welcome and usefulness. 

Walking around the festival, it was great to bump into different people from communities. It was good to be able to link people up. For example, Polly from the Auchtermuchty Common is the star of an apple pressing video we made together and, for the weekend, was the next door neighbour to Amparo from the Forth Valley Orchards Group. Amparo was demonstrating apple pressing and I was able to pass on the YouTube link for our video. Job done, two groups now helping each other.

 Equally, there were a series of conversations with active enthusiastic people. But the trick is turning these earnest words in the beautiful Fife sunshine into action! If there were two themes I would take away. Community led change is growing. Very few people are waiting for the council or government to swoop in and solve devlopment issues. Second point and one, I would like to explore; banks are not trusted. The 'squeezed middle' distrust banks and want an alternative. Richard Branson isn't an option and the credit union movement is largely invisible. I think there are things that can be done and the job is to find the right posse. I will be investigating a little more.   Watch this space.

Finally, the Big Tent is a fine relaxed atmosphere - thanks to Ninian and the team and the general good humour of everyone in wellies. Come next year.

What have you be doing lately?

It's all happening here!

The community over at Fintry Stirlingshire, are amazing. They have been pioneers in lots of different aspects of community energy projects. You can ask them about wind turbines, insulation, air source, ground source heat pumps and the list seems to go on forever. They have secured some funding from the Climate Change Fund to press ahead with some carbon reduction projects with ambitious targets; like reducing by 80% within the community. Only 80% - easy eh?

Continue reading "What have you be doing lately?" »