First things first: I apologise for the long silence. From about June onwards until November 29th I worked 24/7 on the Songs for Scotland 2 project (album, event and fundraising) — and I was beyond exhausted come St. Andrew’s Day. Add in an eight hour time zone change (I’m in Canada right now for Christmas) and the attendant travel sickness (AKA ‘jet lag’)… it’s been a handful. Anyway, I’m back.
I’m writing this as a final report on Songs for Scotland 2, regarding how the project fared and what it accomplished. I’ll divide my report into three parts.
Native Musicians: Songs for Scotland 2 — the Album
Songs for Scotland 2 has been a true sequel to the first Songs for Scotland project, of 2014, in that a key part of it involved creating a compilation album of pro independence Scottish songs. Done. Copies of the album have been sent out as crowdfunding perks, and were distributed to everyone at the event. It’s out there. I love the album, which includes some simply amazing songs. It is now available on Amazon, here:
An Evening for Alasdair Gray — the Event
All of the work was well worth while: the event came off, it was well attended and undoubtedly successful. Independence Live (hat tip to Kevin Gibney) did a fantastic job of live streaming, which added an additional audience of over 7000 viewers from all over Scotland.
Alasdair enjoyed himself at the event (he told me so during a visit I paid him a couple of days afterwards) as is evident from this photograph taken on the night by Scott Murray.
More on this later, but Pilar Fernandez and Douglas Naismith travelled from Galicia both to enjoy the event and also to record it. They’ve posted a series of videos on YouTube, of which this one is particularly good. If you haven’t seen it, well worth a watch.
That they took this initiative means that the event will live on forever — or for as long as the Internet lasts. This is brilliant!
The Alasdair Gray Musical Scholarship Trust
A £500 bursary was awarded on the night to Jennifer Austin, a promising young Orcadian musician. It’s worth noting that Alasdair wrote Jennifer a wee congratulatory note to go with the award:
In the context of the crowdfunding campaign it was mentioned that applications had gone in to two philanthropic trusts to top up the scholarship fund. I can now tell you that both of these trusts did reply (in mid November); and the answer from both was ‘No’. That was disappointing, but that’s how it goes with grant applications: there are many worthy causes and only limited funds to award. We’ll try again next year.
All of the bills are now in for the project. The good news is that there is one more £500 scholarship to be awarded next year, perhaps in the context of a Songs for Scotland 3 project. This is important. Why?
Because the Alasdair Gray Musical Scholarship Trust is now not just a theoretical construct, but a ‘fact on the ground’. There is a third charitable trust that said to me early on that if we could conjure this new scholarship fund into existence, they would like very much to discuss topping it up. We did it! We have forged the scholarship ‘vehicle’; and as a result we can seek to top it up going forward, and shall.
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Crowd funding perks
These are now in the post. Soon you will be receiving your mugs, bags, postcards, art prints etc., I hope just in time for Christmas.
My thanks to…
Where to start? In no particular order:
- Pilar Fernandez and Douglas Naismith, who bought tickets, travelled from Galicia, and then did an amazing job of recording and publicising the event. None of this was requested by me or expected. They just did it.
- Alan Bissett. If you watch the film posted above, you would swear that Alan prepared for this for weeks. He didn’t. He just walked in on the night, took charge, and was worth the price of admission all by himself.
- Alasdair Gray, for his unflagging help and support. I hear that Alasdair has never yet turned down another artist who asked him to support a project — as in this case
- To the anonymous donor who contributed £1000, thank you! And to everyone else who contributed financially, from £5 up.
- Findlay Napier, who walked in at the last minute, designed the final details of the project, and created as good an ending as one can imagine, leading the artists in quite the rendition of The Freedom Come Aa Ye.
- Morag Neil, who showed up from nowhere and worked absolute magic on the PR front, even including publicity for the project on BBC TV and radio!
- To the artists who performed, were just amazing, and who gave their very best on the night; and to the artists who contributed to the album.
- To Callum Baird and Nan Spowart of The National, who backed the project to the hilt from the beginning. Nan wrote a great series of pro indy artist profiles that published weekly throughout the project.
- Ritchie Feenie, for his superb graphics.
- June Stewart, for her unfailing support.
- Margo McKenzie and the others in my long suffering family, who consented to me taking this on, and who travelled from Canada for the event.
- To Billy Kay, who was just brilliant on the nicht.
And Douglas Eadie, Rebecca Thompson, Simon Thoumire, Alexis Bennett, Erik Sandberg… and so many, many more.
I’ll leave you with the words of Hugh MacDiarmid as quoted by Billy Kay on the night:
‘For we hae faith in Scotland’s hidden po’ers. The present is theirs, but aa the past and future’s oors.’
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The event’s programme notes, for the record:
Walcome * Fàilte * Welcome
On this eve of St Andrews Day, we are here tonight to enjoy a musical celebration of Scotland, and to spend a pleasant evening in the company of Alasdair Gray. It is fitting that we do so in the Oran Mor, surrounded by Alasdair’s iconic murals and dicta. Tonight in this beautiful place we will be enveloped in Scottish music and art and letters: many strands of our culture interwoven into one.
Tonight’s event is a sequel to the Songs for Scotland Festival, staged in this venue just before the independence referendum. That project set out to harness culture in the service of creating political change. By summoning through music the primal force of imagination, it aimed to bring out from the shadows the better angels of our natures. I believe it achieved a measure of success.
As a part of this sequel project, Songs for Scotland has released an album of songs themed, ‘Work as if you live in the early days of a better nation’. Each of you will leave tonight with an album. We hope it will motivate you to strive to do exactly that. And moreover, we hope that the beautiful songs recorded on it will give pleasure and provide inspiration far into the future.
‘A better nation’ will be one in which we give forward to the next generation. It is in this spirit that tonight we will award the first in what we hope will be a series of scholarships to promising young musicians from the Alasdair Gray Musical Scholarship Trust. A better nation will also be one in which we pay tribute to our visionaries, those who have pointed us to the roads that will take us one day to journey’s end.
We hope you enjoy your evening! And thanks to the many who have worked so hard to make it a success.