The Tartan Tights Awards 2016 

Hey Readers. It’s later than its ever been due to the fact I’ve had a very busy January but make no mistake it’s  that time of year again. Yes it’s the time when I hand out the honours  that everyone wants to win and welcome you to the fifth annual tartantights awards These awards celebrate the people who have made the past year such a memorable one for me so let’s get this show on the road and get this party started.

As tradition dictates I start this ceremony by naming my politican of the year. By any standards 2016 was a phenomenal year for the SNP and several of their brightest stars, showed why they are so highly thought of both in political circles and increasingly by the general public. Among those I considered for this awards were First Minister Nicola Sturgeon and two of the the party’s brightest Westminster stars Chris Stephens, and Stewart MacDonald, I also gave careful consideration to the co-convenor of the Scottish Green Party Partick Harvie before eventually making my choice. On doing so, I selected a woman who has shown a commitment to fighting for Scottish Independence but also campaigning for the rights of women everywhere and who played a significant part in the abolition of the tampon tax. It is this passion for equality and fairness which brought her in to politics and I’m proud to say that our winner of this award is someone I have known and trusted for 10 years as a councillor for Glasgow Carlton and since May 2015 as MP for Glasgow Central. My tartantights politician of the year for 2016 is Alison Thewliss.

Next up is my young politician of the year and my choice is someone who has proven that you don’t need to be a member of a member of a political party to do politics properly. Our winner is someone who isn’t afraid to say the word socialism and if necessary write it out loud in blood red letters.and  who since resigning from the SNP in October  has if it’s possible been even more active than ever before and is as committed as she’s always been to the fairer more equal Scotland she believes in. My young politician of the year is Saffron Dickson.

My vision of Scotland award goes to the politician or member of the public who by their actions has made Scotland a fairer and more inclusive place to live. This year my choice is a woman who organised her party’s first all day equalities conference and by doing so gave both a platform and a voice to members of the BME, Disabled, and LGBTIQ  members which can only be beneficial to the party’s aim of creating a more diverse and inclusive Scotland which encompasses and embraces all of the people who make our country home. My Vision Of Scotland award goes to Tasmina Ahmed-Sheik.

Moving on it’s time for my Unsung Hero/Heroine Award This award is given to the man or woman who represents their party without fuss and quietly and effectively gets on with the jobs that need done.This year it goes to a man without whose considerable presence the Shettleston SNP would not be the fighting force of winners we have become. Not only did he  serve as convenor for a number of years he also until recently organised that well known cultural institution that is the Shettleston SNP Burns Supper.My unsung hero for 2016 is Lachie McNeil.

From unsung heroes I move on to future stars as I name my One To Watch. This award is for someone who though they may not be known to the wider public at the moment I have no doubt will become so due to their undoubted talent Among those who merit a mention are Liberal Democrat MSP Alex Cole-Hamilton  Green MSP Andy Wightman, and SNP councillor Rosa Zambonnini but our winner made history when at the age of just 21 he gained a  seat for the Green Party  on the West Of Scotland list and became the youngest member ever to be elected to the Scottish Parliament. So it gives me great pleasure to say that my tartantights one to watch award goes to Ross Grier.

My penultimate political award is for the politician who has made the greatest impact in the last twelve months  There were a number of candidates for this award, as First Minister Nicola Sturgeon , The Green Party’s Patrick Harvie , Mhairi Black, and her SNP colleges Chris Stephens,and Stewart MacDonald all had excellent years but in the end I decided to give this award to someone who has provided leadership to the SNP group Westminster and the only real credible opposition to the most vicious UK government in decades   Our winner  was rewarded by the membership of his party by  being elected as Depute Leader of the SNP at the autumn conference.The winner, of the Impact Award  is Angus Robertson.

My last award in this section is i think  the most appropriate way to conclud it as I name my best political blogger of the year. For the last two, years this has been won by the most yappy blog on the blogosphere namely Paul Kavanagh and the wee ginger dug. This year however there is new winner which has taken blogging to the next level This innovative multi media outlet uses both traditional blogs as well as the occasional video blog or vlog to bring you the stories that other mainstream tend not to cover. It is for this groundbreaking way of making news accessible that my politicial blogger of the year goes to Angela, Haggerty and the team at the Common Space.

Having given out my political prizes it’s now time to focus on the community  awards and where better to start than the blogging community. Only two years this section had only one award but tonight it has three. These are, Scottish Blogger of the Year, International Blogger of the year, and for the first time the new award of Vlogger of the year. So as you can see I have a lot to get through so let’s crack on with the Scottish Blogger of the year. This is always a very hotly contested catagory and this year was no different with Colours And Carousels , Frankly Ms Shankly, G Is For Gingers, and  Last Year’s Girl all given serious consideration but I have to say that for, writing the best post Brexit post I’ve seen so far and several other posts which have made me both think and smile simultaneously my winner of the Scottish Blogger of the year award is Lucie L Dhog for Tetris And Cheesecakes

Now I move on from national to international and when it came to  my choice of  International  Blogger of the year though there were plenty of quality candidates such as Mini Mouse Chic ,  The Curvaceous Vegan , last year’s winner Dungarees And Donuts, Petticoats And Patriarchy , and The Real Supermum all of which are brilliant, there was one blog which stood head and shoulders above all contenders purely because of the amount of times it made me get all emotional so my international blogger of the year goes to Samantha Smethurst for the brilliant Little Fickle.

Now it’s time for a new award and I  brought in Vlogger of the Year in recognition of the amount of bloggers who regularly or occasionally post video blogs. Regular video bloggers include Beauty Creep , Blog About Nothing, Colours And Carousels,  Princess Attitude, and Jessica Lauren Hatcher. All of these  vloggers produce enjoyable and entertaining content which can on occasion be both informative and educational so selecting a winner from such a talented shortlist was not easy. In the end however I selected a vlogger who proved that oops moments can and do happen you’re  watching YouTube videos and they happen because she is so hillirious with her tales on what it means to be Scottish and female in the early 21st century. So just in case you hadn’t guessed by now  the first ever tartantights Vlogger of the Year is Beauty Creep.

Now, it’s time to name my Activist of the Year and this year this award goes to a fellow poet who just like last year’s winner Dorkface Blog starred a social movement but this one came about by accident when she was asked by the incoming director of the Scottish Poetry Library to create a piece of poetry based art. This led to our winner coming up with the idea of Fierce Words which was originally open to all poets who wanted to attend the event and were willing to hold up a word which made us proud of who we are,  but since only female poets turned up on the day it then became women with fierce words and now known  at least by some of us as fierce women. This incredible and and awe inspirational day showed the power of women at our brilliant best, It was a day on which existing friendships were enhanced and new ones made. I know that I’ve made friends because of that day that I simply couldn’t imagine not being in my life and I’m not the only one who feels that way about an event that changed lives by empowering women of words and created the fiercest tribe I can ever remember in all my years of being involved in the history of  Scottish spoken word poetry. My Activist of the Year is that one woman force of nature Lesley Traynor.

My Young Activist of the Year is someone who is passionate about poetry and equality. This is someone who is focused on creating a better world and will stop at nothing to achieve it. I first met our winner at a spoken word event for Rise Women’s Network and since then we have become close friends I think it’s the fact we’re both ranting, raving , radicals which has created this strong bond of sisterhood , however it might be the fact that we’re just a couple of  chatty wee rebels with opinions on everything which has forged our friendship. I know that the crowd at Castlemilk Against Austerity are very grateful for all the work she does for them and believe me Scotland needs a lot more active citizens like our Young Activist of the Year the amazing Keira MacLean.

From community I now move on to culture and I start with poetry and poets. Well having been on the spoken word scene for almost quarter of a century and around it for even longer it’s something I think I might just know a wee bit about.  As I start this section I do so my award for the Best Poetry Performance of the Year.

As always I’ve had no shortage of quality performances to choose from Iona Lee and her magical performance to win the 2016 Scottish Slam Championship, and Molly McLachlan for her amazing debut at September’s  Words And Music, were however the most outstanding in a year filled  with wonderful poetic  jewels and selecting a winner between them was extremely difficult.  On one hand I thought Iona because she performed brilliantly in a real pressure cooker of a situation and on the other I thought Molly because this was the first time words and music had been truly electrified since moving home from Sammy Dow’s to The Tin Hut but in the end I plumped for Iona if only because I believed that her star quality shone on the night she won the title of Scottish Slam Champion and for that alone she deserved to win another so my choice of the Best Poetry Performance of 2016 is Iona Lee.
My next award is for Best Show of the Fringe and in a year when I attended 40 shows I’m actually surprised how easy this decision really was. It was easy not because of the lack of quality in the shows as many of them were absolutely brilliant but because of the variety it offered. You see in the space of one magical hour on a gorgeous Sunday afternoon this show took the audience on journey,through Gaelic Songs, Poems in English about the struggles of Scots women and Welsh princesses not to mention a  physical exercise routine that would put many fitness coaches to shame. It is for those reasons and  many others that the award for Best Show Of The Fringe goes to Home Words by Katharine MacFarlane. (see picture below ) 

Staying in Edinburgh I move on to the most original show at the fringe and in this one Dan Simpson can consider himself very unlucky as can Alain English. Both produced shows of the highest quality which in any other year would have won but this year they were up against a comedy robot called F R A N C  who was invented to produce the perfect comedy routine. Unfortunately a bit like Donald Trump, F R A N C developed an ego which got out of control and the consequences were truly  catastrophic whilst also being hillirious and that’s why the winner of the Most Original Show of the Fringe goes to the creator of  this groundbreaking show John McGlade.

For my next award the focus whilst still focused on entertainment switches to something more Scottish for the Sandy Hutchinson Memorial Award. This award is given to the poet, or musician, that I believe has done most to promote the use of the Scots language in their work and this year I give this award to a man who uses his guid  Scots tongue in his work with both power and authenticity. My choice for the Sandy Hutchinson Memorial Award for 2016 is Jim Ewing.

From celebrating Scottish culture i move on to comedy and before you ask this does not involve either Kezia Dugdale , or Ruth Davidson and their performances at First Minister’s Questions. This involves real  comedians you know who actually know how to make us laugh Last year this award was won by The Graduettes so finding a show as funny as that was not easy.  However I did eventually find a show which was on that level by an American comedian who now lives in Yorkshire by the name of Chella Quint  This bold and talkative funny woman proved that you can find humour in almost every topic as her one woman show on periods Adventures In Menstruation  had woman of all ages in fits of the giggles every night for three  weeks as it played to packed houses every night at the Edinburgh Fringe. Well  any show which challenges stereotypes and negative advertising around this every day reality has to be  commended.  This is especially true when you start your show with a game of twister , end it with a song , and encourage your audience to purchase unique period themed jewelry, and  that’s why my award for the Best Live Comedy Show of 2016 goes to Chella Quint.
Having talked comedy I move on to inclusion and give my award for the Most Inclusive Show of the year. This show has already won one award as it was my choice for Best Show Of The Fringe so you won’t be surprised that it’s another victory for Home Words by Katharine MacFarlane. My reasons for choosing this  show  for a second award were hinted at earlier as Katharine performed stories, songs , and  poems from a variety of tongues and did so in different languages. It was however the fact that she took audience participation to a new whole new level  as she had all the women in the audience participating in the traditional Scottish art of Waulking which is so exhausting that after working at that process for eight hours a day they wouldn’t need to go the gym . Trust me I was exhausted after 10 minutes so how our foremothers could manage it for eight hours  is completely beyond me .

Talking of strong women it’s time to name my Equality Champion for 2016 .  This year i have chosen a bright  articulate young women for whom I once wrote a poem  i will introduce the winner of this award by saying that the title of her poem is Her Father’s Smile. It is i think fair to say she not only has her father  smile,  she also has his principals and those of her mother. A passionate supporter of the LGBTIQ community and a keen advocate for a fairer more equal society. My Equality Champion for 2016 is Roisin Caird.

Now we move to what some political journalists would call my soundbyte of the year.  Personally I prefer to call it my Quote Of The Year and this year’s winner comes from Felicity Clifford who said ‘Growing old is compulsory , growing up is optional ‘.  That woman speaks my truth and in doing so is  a totally deserved winner of my 2016 Quote Of  The Year.

From quotes I now move to the music, yes I know I’m beginning to sound like Madonna and your point is what?  Anyway, it’s time to name my musician of the year and in  a year where i made more than a few new musical discoveries Daryl Sperry, and Caitlin Buchanan spring readily to mind, this was a very difficult call. However, in the end I had to call it and i did for the only musician outside the the traditional music community who could ask me to come to a show in Edinburgh during the fringe when I have poetry and comedy events to attend and get me to actually do so. I think those of you from the Blue Chair may know who I’m about to name but for those of you who haven’t guessed my tartantights Musician of the Year is Josephine Sillars.

My Song of the Year was another tough calls between to two fantastic choices  One which gave me. goosebumps and the other which makes sing along every time I hear it. The songs are The Tallest Tree by Caitlin Buchanan (pictured below)  and Problems With Power by Josephine Sillars. I must admit choosing between two such different songs was an extremely difficult task but in the end I went for the one which gave me goosebumps so my Song Of The Year is The Tallest Tree by the mesmerising Caitlin Buchanan.

Next up is my Event of the Year and any other year this would have been won by Jackie The Musical which provided me with a brilliant showstopping walk down memory lane as i re-lived my teenage years as a 1970’s Jackie Girl. Last year however something happened in  Glasgow which eclipsed even that  and that was the Homeless World Cup where the most talented homeless footballers of both sexes battled it out for the honour of being Homeless World Cup winners. At the end of a fantastic week of football both titles were won by Mexico but somehow it didn’t seem to matter. In this World Cup at least it really was all about taking part and being the best you could be and that’s why my Event of the Year for 2016 is The Homeless World Cup. 

As any performer will tell you, we all need venues to play at otherwise we would all be reading our poems and singing our songs with only the bedroom mirror for company.  It was with great sadness that Words and Music lost our traditional home that we’d had for 25 years as Sammy Dow’s which had changed its name and owners in July 2015 decided they no longer wanted a cultural event they had hosted for quarter of century. This was a real body blow for Words And Music but it was the way it was done  which really annoyed me as  I only found out the event had been cancelled less than 24 hours before the February event was due to take place.  Fortunately however we are resolute bunch at Words And Music and thanks to the efforts of the son in law of our founding mother Pamela Duncan we had found a new venue by the beginning of May at the Pollok Ex Servicemen’s Club which become known to us as the Tin Hut  and though it meant a change of night from first Monday of the month to the first Tuesday  we were able to get the show back on the road by June and have been made very welcome in our new home. So my Venue of the Year for 2016 is The Tin Hut.

From venues I move on to my Discovery Of The Year and in a year when  I made loads of new contacts and some new friends this was one of the closest calls of all. Among those considered were Caitlin Buchanan, Catriona Knapman, Iona Lee, Janet Crawford, Malaika Kegode, and. Michelle Fisher. As you can see all are strong women with powerful and intelligent voices, this is in almost total contrast to performance scene I first appeared on more than 20 years ago when the idea of so many female poets and musicians would to some  particularly those of the kid on leftie persuasion would  been enough to frighten the horses So if this talented team were the one who got honourable mentions I’m sure you’re wondering who is my discovery of the year.

Well I’ll introduce her by saying that at this time last year I was just getting to know her and a number of other younger poets at our then weekly open mic nights at the Blue Chair but by spring she had claimed me as her poetry mother and even introduced me to her own mum with the immortal line muma meet poetry muma. Trust me, I don’t think I’ve ever been so proud of any introduction in my life, and as I think many of you will have guessed my Discovery of the Year is the one and only Molly McLachlan.

From discovery of the year I now move on to Comeback of the Year. Normally, this award  would be given to someone who has been away from the poetry or music stages for a few years and has decided to make a welcome return. This year however , it  has been made in slightly different circumstances. You see though this year’s winner, was never a long term absentee from our scene he suffered a stroke in the late spring/ early summer of 2015 and we wondered if a stalwart of our community would ever take the stage. Initially his recovery was slow but eventually he began to make greater progress and it’s great to see him back attending and performing at events just as he always did. My Comeback of the Year award for 2016 is Derek Read.

Now from entertainment we move on to sport and I don’t think it would take a brain surgeon to figure out my happiest sporting moment of the last twelve months. It came on a gorgeous sunny September Saturday as Rangers were welcomed back to Paradise after a four year abscene and as usual they believed they only needed turn up to win. By the end of the 90 minutes however it was a very different story as Celtic ran riot and made our oldest rivals wish they hadn’t bothered to turn up as we made sure they know their place by thrashing them 5-1.

My other sporting award is  my Team  of the Year award and that is also given to a team from the world of football. My winners are not only packed with talent they are also history makers as they became the first Scottish football team  to qualify for a major tournament for almost two decades and this summer will see them compete in the European Championships for the first time in their history . Now for those of you who thought the European Championships were last year and Scotland didn’t qualify I should explain that my Team of the Year are The Scotland Ladies Football Team.

My next award is my Lifetime  Achievement Award and following in the footsteps of talents such As Pamela Duncan, Roy Tuton, Alex Salmond, and Frank McArdle, is no easy task. It has to be said  however that this year’s winner fully deserves this award for being one of my earliest political influences and whose passion for a fairer and better Scotland got me out of my armchair and on to the campaign trail to fight to make that Scotland a reality. Our winner started his political career in The Labour Party before resigning on a matter of principal and after co-founding the short lived Scottish Labour Party eventually found his political home in the Scottish National Party where he eventually became Depute Leader and provided one of the party’s most iconic moments when in November 1988 he won the Govan By-Election overturning a Labour majority of over 19,000 to win by a majority of 3,554 and in the process force Devolution back on to. the political agenda for the first time since the rigged referendum of 1979. It is no secret that  the unionist parties especially Labour were panic stricken by a victory they weren’t expecting. In fact the very next morning they announced the setting up of the Scottish Constitutional Convention so it could be said that he did more for the cause of Scottish home rule in nine hours than the all the unionists in Scotland had managed in the previous nine years and for that alone he deserves recognition It is for that and many other reasons that my Lifetime Achievement award goes to a man who I still see as a political mentor the one and only Jim Sillars.

From lifetime achievements I now move on to celebrating the value of friendship with the I Think I Must Be Mad Award. This award is for the friend who has gone beyond the call of duty to support me and this year’s winner has certainly done that over a sustained period of time. It is however in the past year that her star has shone even brighter than ever before  An independent woman with a mind of her own not did she reach a landmark birthday last year this young fashion conscious woman styled me up to such an extent that is responsible for  over half the content of my current wardrobe. A keen reader of this blog and great supporter of my poetry her loyalty has been proven time after time and when she told me she was proud of me and proud of the woman I am, I had one of those moments which made me glad I wasn’t wearing any mascara as it would have ran even faster than Usian Bolt can run 100 Metres. The winner of this award is someone who doesn’t seek headlines but deserves recognition for the quiet difference she makes to my life. My I Think I Must Be Mad Award goes to Stacey McFarlane

 Now it’s time for the main awards of for my man and woman of the year as tradition dictates I’ll start with the men.  This is not because I’m putting them first because as  a woman I believe it is our right to have the last word unless of course you are Kezia Dugdale,  Ruth Davidson, or Theresa May. Joking aside 2016 has been a good year  for the men in my world and I had some outstanding candidates from which to make my choice. Amongst those considered for this award were  Alex Kerr, Peter Russell, Matt Pamesh,   Stewart MacDonald, and  Steven Tierney , but yet again my winner comes from the world of poetry and has with his friend Paul Wardrope achieved more in a year than some will in a lifetime.

It was towards the end of 2015 that he and Paul set the Extra Second event at the Blue Chair Cafe where poets and musicians would share their thoughts on the topical issues of the day. The idea behind Extra Second is that if we take an Extra to consider to consider the subject for discussion then we may approach it from a more thoughtful perspective. It says a lot about the type of event Extra Second is that the Blue Chair is filled to bursting every month and that such has been the success of the event that its monthly nights have expanded to both London and more recently Aberdeen where a Blue Chair regular and a member of the first ever Extra Second Cast Molly McLachlan has recently hosted the opening night of Extra Second in her native city. So it is with great pleasure that i announce that our youngest ever  man of the year is  Johnny Cypher.

After naming my man of the year there is only award left to give  and that is of course my Woman of the Year. Now for those of you who think picking my man of year was hard and trust me it was selecting my woman of the year was even more difficult especially when you consider the number of amazing women I am lucky enough to have in my life.  Honestly picking a winner from all those brilliant and talented women was  so tough i thought of taking the easy way out and letting our reigning woman of the year Cheryl McHugh win again. There was however major problem with that idea and that was that i realised if made this choice  Jamie-Lee who is Cheryl’s wee sister may actually kill me. So maybe the safe option may not be quite as safe as I thought.

Bearing this in mind i decided to think about potential winners and get down to the business of making of choice. First up was Stacey McFarlane  and believe me this choice was given very careful consideration. You see not only is Stacey best stylist on earth and selects outfits which show me at the best,  but she is also has the patience of a saint which you sometimes need when your dealing with me.

 Next on the shortlist is the amazing poetic talent Katharine MacFarlane. Believe me this is a poet whose work i admire and am proud to call a friend and for whom i predict a big poetic future.

The same can be said for Janet Crawford whose words of warmth, wit, and wisdom have brightened up many a dark night and let’s be honest 2016 was a year which gave us more than our  fair share of them and presented poets and humanity in general with a number of challenges and difficulties and it’s at times like this I am greatful to have friends like Janet to remind me that there are some really good people in this world.  

Our youngest contender Molly McLachlan is someone I was only just getting to know at this time last year,but she ended 2016 as one of the closest members of my spoken word family. A woman og outstanding talent we are destined to hear much more from Molly in 2017 and beyond and believe me this is a woman of substance with a voice worth listening to.

As for Lesley Traynor  this is a woman for whom I have run out of superlatives after she organised an event which has now turned into a movement which has given a voice to some of the best women writers in the country. The event which was held at the Scottish Poetry Library was one I was proud to be part of, and from which I have gained some amazing and inspiring friendships which only go prove that be it biological or chosen, there is no bond stronger than sistewotld.Now I’ve looked at the contenders it’s time to name the winner of my final award and let you know who I’ve chosen to be tartantights Woman of the Year. Like me, our winner resides in the East End of Glasgow. Like me , she supporters the best football club on the planet the famous Glasgow Celtic, and like me she values her heritage and has a passion for a fairer society.  That however is where the similarities end because to say  our winner has an amazing year would be the understatement to end them all. Her rise to fane in the world of spoken word has been nothing short of stratospheric. When I first got to know her not long after the independence referendum, you couldn’t have got her on a  stage, not even for Henrik Larsson. Now like Molly, she is one of the closest members of my spoken word family and has played stages I’ll never get on. Am I jealous? but I am proud as I reminded both her and Molly, when we along with other friends to McChuills  after the December Extra Second. As I joked with this dynamic duo who I kinda see as see poetry daughters she smiled and whispered you can pick them. This is true, I certainly can pick them,  especially when it comes to winners and that’s why my 2016 tartan tights Woman of the Year (pictured at Words And Music at The Tin Hut) is the brilliant Victoria McNulty

So there it is , we’ve finally reached the end of the tartantights awards ceremony for 2016  If you are among the winners congratulations because there was fierce competition every category. If you weren’t so lucky then remember that the road ahead will have many twists and turns and that 2017 could be the year when it’s your turn to shine. So remember the tartan tights awards are a bit like the lottery , Yes next time it really could be you. 

  In the meantime I wish you all you wish yourself and hope you get what you need in the measure that you need it and of course I hope you continue reading tartan tights.

Love And Best Wishes

Gayle X 

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