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Signature

It’s no secret that as someone who is actively involved in politics and has been for over 30 years I have signed my share of petitions on a number of different issues. My signature has supported campaigns on everything from demanding the end of apartheid in South Africa to the right to equal marriage, and the end of period poverty. So when someone asked me if I thought signing petitions mattered and could be viewed as political activism I had no hesitation in saying that it could and I wrote this poem entitled Signature to illustrate the point. I hope you find it an enjoyable and thought provoking read. 

Signature 

Someone once asked me

does signing a petition count as activism 

I told them it did 

they seemed happy with my answer

if slightly confused  

on realising this  I explained why our signature matters

I shared stories I had heard of injustice in South Africa 

when Nelson Mandela was labelled a terrorist 

by Margaret Thatcher

when all he wanted was  his people to have the right to rule their land 

I said that signing petitions was 

a way of raising awareness to make people understand

why things needed to change 

but would stay the same 

If we didn’t sign up to express our discontent .

I explained that this is direct democracy in action

and without this kind of participation 

it’s no exaggeration to  say 

Palestine would still be ignored

the lion rampant would never have roared for democracy 

governments could neglect child poverty 

and remain  inactive on tackling the gig economy.

equal marriage would have remained a distant dream 

and no it’s not the preserve of smaller parties like the greens 

It’s a valuable way of bringing issues from  the fringe to the mainstream 

of changing attitudes over time 

at street stalls or online 

authority knows

the power of your signature.

© Gayle Smith 2017 

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Poetry Politics And Protests Were Part Of My Journey Through June

Hey Readers

This post will take you to all the places I’ve been to and introduce you the friends I’ve seen during what was a busier than usual June for yours truly. Well as regular readers will know in involved in both political and spoken words scenes so im always kept reasonably well occupied though there was a time when these particular parts of my life would be taking a sort of semi break at this time of year with politics taking a post election hiatus till after the summer recess and the spken word scene kind of resting for a wee while apart from one or two staple events to allow poets time to prepare themselves for Edinburgh and the madness on the mile taht is was and ever shall be the fringe. This however is simply not the case anymore and as the selection of photographs illustrates this blogger has had a very busy month

Picture 1 features one of Scotland’s best young poets in the inimitable Molly McLachlan at Gordon Street Coffee House . This is a fairly recent addition to the west of Scotland cultural calendar and is run by the gifted young musician Caitlin Buchanan who just happens to be Molly’s flatmate. This was my first visit to this event and Caitlin created a relaxing atmosphere where everyone was made to feel welcome , included, and valued. I have to say though Molly was in my opinion the star of the show and when your sharing a stage with other rising stars such as Jade Mitchell, featured in Picture 2 and Liam McCormick the cool guy in Picture 3 that is no mean feat.
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Picture 2 Jade Mitchell at Gordon Street Coffee House
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Picture 3 Liam McCormick Rocking The Mic at Gordon Street Coffee House.

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The next night was the first Tuesday of the month and finally after a four month break forced upon on us by circumstances it was great to Words and Music back on the road as we moved in to our new home. The next few pictures in the collection show some happy and contented regulars as we settle in to our new surroundings at the Pollok Ex Servicemen’s Club hereby known as The Tin Hut.

Picture 4 Features our first featured writer at our new venue and a happy Carla Woodburn certainly was enjoying herself in the spotlight when this shot was taken.

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Picture 5 features two words and music stalwarts Alex Cuthbert (left) and 2012 Words and Music championship winner Steve Allan (right). As well as being top quality poets and storytellers they are good and valued friends to both myself and our community.

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Picture 6 Shows the company who gathered for our first night in our new home. As you can see there are lots of happy smiling faces as befits such a momentous occasion.

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Picture 7 Shows me and my mentor the first lady of Words and Music Pamela Duncan standing side by side in our lovely new cultural home. My debt to this remarkable lady is such I can never repay it, but for Pamela’s sterling efforts over more than two decades we wouldn’t have the legacy we posses. Put simply but for Pamela and her determination to keep the flame there would be no words and music.
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Picture 8 was taken at the Parkhead Forge as Team SNP campaigned to remain in Europe. However I feel I must quash two rumours about this photograph

(1) We are not The Spice Girls

(2) We were not campaigning to be Scotland’s entry in the Eurovision song contest.

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Picture 9 Was taken at a night I’d sooner not have needed to attend as I would sooner those who were Dancing In Orlando were still able to do so. However a madman with a gun had other ideas but I was proud of my city my rainbow and my fellow Glaswegians for the way we conducted ourselves at the vigil. Here you can see the Rainbow flag fly at half mast over our city chambers.
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Picture 10 is another from the vigil which sends Glasgow’s message to Orlando in one word.
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Picture 11 Is my last from the vigil where though Glasgow couldn’t quite get Kylie we got a damn lookalike and she spoke with the same accent having lived most of her life in Australia despite the fact she actually a Glasgow girl who has come home to the city of her birth for the love of another Glasgow girl.
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Picture 12 was taken at one of the best spoken word nights I have ever attended in 23_years on the spoken word scene. The night was Sonnet Youth which is run by the force of nature that is Kevin Gilday and the genius that is Cat Hepburn. This night had so many of my favourite people it was like the perfect family party.

The first picture in this collection is Picture 13 shows Katie Ailes in reflective mood as Alan Bisset , Michelle Fischer, and Liam McCormick chat in the background. This is what I mean I talk about the perfect family party what a collection of talented writers to be in the same place at the same time.
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Picture 14 Shows one of the hosts of this amazing evening Kevin Gilday ready to address the audience. You can always tell when a host has their serious face on and make no mistake this is the face of a man who means business.
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Picture 15 captured one of my favourite ever spoken word poets
and that is Jenny Lindsay. I’ve known Jenny for a number of years and like good wine her poetry just seems to get better every time I hear it and before anyone says anything I am not biased in any way, shape, or form.
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Picture 16 is of the other half of the hosting team for this event Cat Hepburn. Cat is one of a number of young, strong , female voices in the current Scottish spoken word scene and that is exactly what the Spoken word scene has been needing for a very long time. It is women like Cat Hepburn, Michelle Fischer, and Jenny Lindsay who will inspire the next generation of girls to become the new voices who speak their truths to power and for that the spoken word scene and Scotland will owe them a very significant debt.

Picture 17 was taken at the Extra Second event at the Blue Chair and features two amazing spoken word artists in Bram E Gieban and Bibi June. This picture sums up the old and the new at least it does in terms of the poetry as I’ve known Bram for more than a decade but have only got to know Bibi this year. How long I’ve known matters only on a personal level but in terms of talent and for the people I know them to be I am very proud that we in Scotland have such amazing talents whether they were born here or landed here by design or happy accident matters not one jot. Are you listening kippers?
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Picture 17 takes us to Seeds Of Thought and my third spoken word event in three nights. Run by Zimbabwean Scot Tawona Sithole this was my first appearance at the multi cultural feast that is Seeds for four years and it was as if I’d never been away and it didn’t take me long to realise what I’d been missing like the Spanish flamenco dancers.

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Picture 18 Shows a politician congratulating his constituents as SNP MP for Glasgow North Patrick Grady says a big well done to Maryhill Integration Network on winning a Britain wide award for one of the best integration projects in the UK
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Picture 19 Shows Tawona and Biggie playing Zimbabwean traditional music which so much a part of both seeds and the culture of the Glasgow creative community.

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My final stop on this tour is at the home of Irene and Colin Storrie whose annual McGonagall supper is always one of the highlights of this time of year. The event held in honour of the self styled worst poet in the world Scotland’s very own William Topaz McGonagall is always a celebration of all that’s good about the spoken word community. Though it does have to be said that deliberately trying to write a poem in the style of McGonagall is not the easiest job a poet could ever undertake. The final few photographs in this celebration not just of this event which has now been running for 11 years but of the friendships which bind us together.

Picture 20 Jim Ewing reads from the emergency stage.
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Picture 21 Poets keep a watchful eye on the proceedings from left to right Jim Monaghan, Derek Read , and Alex Frew.
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Picture 22 Andy Fleming reads from the work of the bard.
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Picture 23 The Host or should I say the Poetic half of the host couple Colin Storrie reads his McGonagall tribute poem.
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Picture 24 Three Wise Poets from left to right Lesley Traynor, Colin Storrie and Derek Read
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Picture 25 Alex Frew performs his epic McGonagall masterpiece McGonagall Wouldnae Die

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Picture 26 As the weather had improved we were able to back in to the garden and Andy Fleming looks very happy as he strums his guitar in the company of his new girlfriend.
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Picture 27 Sees Jane Overton in a relaxed kinda mood. Well it’s what the McGonagall supper is all about
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Picture 28 Sees Jim Monaghan get ready to launch in to his set on what we seasoned McGonagall devotees call the real stage.
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Picture 29 Have done their own turns earlier in the day Alex And Andy get ready to form Ayrshire’s most lethal double act and entertain the company with a few songs.

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Picture 30 Rosie Mappleback gets ready to read to the gathering.

Picture 31 The Traditional McGonagall fire which helps us conclude this annual Mid Summer event in the only way we know how. By gathering round it for poetry music and chat with good friends and kind hosts.

So that was my journey through June. It was a journey which as you would expect with took in moments of poetry, politics, and protest and made some wonderful memories I am happy to share with you.

Love And Best Wishes
Gayle X

Billy Boys And Bully Boys Are Running Out Of Options As Nicola Was Scotland’s Choice To Play A Better Game

Hey Readers  There are times in this life when you see posts on Facebook, tweets on Twitter, or articles in The Daily Mail and you begin to wonder if the person concerned is actually living in the same world as the sane members of the human race.  Earlier this  week had one of those moments as I viewed a post on my Facebook timeline which was so stupid  it was truly breathtaking.

The post came in the form of a petition from change.org . Now before I proceed I have to say that I have no problem with the site itself and have signed a number of petitions from them myself  on topics from supporting Scotland’s independence , lowering the voting age to 16 I have also supported  LGBT equality and voiced my opposition to fracking and cuts in disability benefit by putting my name on a petition . So as you can see petitions when used wisely can be a force for good.

There is however a flip side to online petitions which is that they can give to deluded self important fools who have far too high an opinion of themselves which no-one who has ever been connected to reality is even remotely likely to share.

Such was the case when I saw a petition demanding the resignation of Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon for the crime of congratulating Hibernian Football Club for their victory in the Scottish Cup Final over the petitioner’s team Rangers and taking the trophy back to Leith for the first time in more than a century.  By any standards this is an achievement worthy of recognition from the premier politician in the country and Nicola Sturgeon was only doing her civic duty by giving the players and staff of Hibernian the credit they deserve for it.

Unfortunately this is Scotland 2016 and bigots don’t recognise fair play preferring to wallow in hate filled self pity and blame everyone else for the simple fact there team weren’t good enough to win on the day.  Also to deliberately lie and say that the First Minister didn’t condemn the violence which occurred in the aftermath of the game shows the deliberate  see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil policy the most feral of this club’s support have always had towards any view they don’t like. Believe me when it comes to wearing their union jack blinkers with regards to their own club and the contempt they just can’t disguise towards all other clubs  and their supporters and indeed anyone who doesn’t share their ridiculous right wing views, these extremists have no equals.

Make no mistake Rangers have always been a club with an agenda (though a substantial minority of their more erudite fans choose not follow it). Now however subtle or obvious that agenda may be it certainty does exist. and it is the maintainance of the union of the United Kingdom at all costs even if that results in the abject misery of many of their more working class supporters. Now I have no problem  with genuine unionists who want to keep the union because they believe wrongly in my opinion that Scotland will be a better country inside the UK than out of it. I do however have a problem and a major problem with people whose only reason for wanting to be British is to keep Scotland White, Anglo Saxon, (which it has never actually been), and Protestant and wish to do this by promoting this exclusionary view of our supposedly shared nation and that what so many supporters of this club actively seek to do. It is therefore no great surprise that Rangers have a significant following in the unionist enclaves of working class Ulster

It is perhaps due to this last fact that i believe it is reasonably fair to say that this is a club who are famous for a sectarian song  book the shortened version of which would comfortably stretch from Bridgeton in Glasgow to Bridgeton Barbados, that there a strong sense of social and cultural conservatism amongst their supporters and that the idea of liberal minded  reasoning with those who oppose them has never been one of their strongest suits. Indeed such is their capacity for hatred of those they see as other that they have even managed to turn the Tina Turner song Simply The Best in to anti Catholic diatribe so much so in fact that a song which was pop classic its day is now reviled by half of Glasgow. It should also be stated that  for most of its history this  ‘football institution ‘ avoided signing any players of Roman Catholic faith. The fact that this form of blatant employment discrimination was allowed to continue unchallenged by Scotland’s unionist political classes speaks volumes for the lack of fairness of the so-called united kingdom we are told we are privileged to live in. 

The arrogance of the hard-line unionist supporters has to be seen to be believed and the fact they are allowed to spout vicious, and vindictive anti Irish insults without ever facing the charge of racism is my view a wrong that needs corrected. We are or at lest to my knowledge living in a century where every other country outside Scotland and the manufactured six county state which calls itself Northern Ireland but is in reality the partitioned  province of occupied Ulster would see Catholics and Protestants as fellow Christians. The fact that some people make a choice to ignore this reality is to me at least abhorrent and it is attitudes like those of the unthinking and unhinged amongst the Rangers fans which cause shame and embarrassment not only to my country but to the intelligent supporters amongst their number who don’t subscribe to this narrow minded view of Scotland and their fellow country folk and believe me there are  a lot more of them than the diehards would like to admit.

The problem for Rangers however is in my view a very real one, which is that it is these supporters are by far the most vocal they have and therefore they cannot distance themselves from them even if they want to. On the flip side of that however if they are in any way  seen to endorse this ludicrous petition they could be accused of having  a blatant contempt for democracy. Whether this is true or not it is certainly a charge which can be levied at them.

This  argument is though contentious is nonetheless valid. It is also powerful especially given their shall we say previous form on trying to dictate to the Scotland international team which of their players would be available to play for our country and when. This to me and many other Scots is nothing less than bullying and a form of direct intimidation to try to illustrate that their club is bigger than our country. It isn’t and it never will be but it is this kind of deluded mentality and culture of entitlement which has led to this trumped up petition demanding that the democratically elected First Minister of Scotland should resign. Now I hate to inform them but they can stick their opinions where the sun don’t shine. Our First Minister will not be bullied by the actions of extremists and will remain in her job in which she will always do what is right for our country. Believe me Nicola Sturgeon has work to do to make Scotland the best country we can be and she won’t be distracted from that job just because a few sore losers can’t take their team
getting beat.

I make this statement because as  a church of Scotland adherent I am sick and tired of the more reactionary supporters of Rangers football club trying to hijack the faith I was brought up in. It is insult to all liberal minded church going presbyterians to even to dare to claim as the vocal but extremist wing of this support does with a potent mix of boldness and stupidity that you can’t be a real protestant unless you support Rangers the orange order and the unionist cause.  This is not way to advance a fairer more inclusive Scotland and it certainly isn’t the way to get people back in to the pews quite the reverse if truth be told, indeed I would go as far as to the it is way to drive the liberals the church so badly needs in to the waiting arms of the Roman Catholic church which is, in this current climate, seen to be a bit more active on the social justice agenda of fairness and equality. It is with in this mind, that I call on the leadership of the Church of Scotland to distance themselves from this club with its hard-line unionist support to serve as a reminder to the wider population the church of Scotland is neither Rangers or Better Together at prayer.

I make this call to protect the people of Scotland from the pathetic angry rantings of self deluded fools who use a football club as a mask to hide their bigotry. You see whether these people like it or not three weeks ago Scotland voted in our parliamentary elections to elect a new Scottish Government and Nicola Sturgeon was elected to lead that Government as the SNP
despite unionist delusions were swept back to power receiving over a million votes the largest total of any political party since the current reconvened Scottish parliament came in to being  even with Donald Dewar at the helm in the first election in 1999 Labour still couldn’t achieve this feat and as we all know Dewar was practically a saint if you believe the grovelling sycophants in certain sections of the unionist media. However what Dewar who rather pompously claimed that devolution was the settled will of the people of Scotland failed to do was exactly what the the Nicola Sturgeon led SNP managed to do and the more hard-line unionist you are the more that must be hurting. You see whilst there are many decent unionists who contribute greatly towards what Gerry Hassan would call civic Scotland there are a very significant number who support the union for reasons which have  nothing to do with Scotland  or the economic , social , and cultural benefits it may bring  and everything to do with Glasgow Rangers orange walks and what they see as keeping Ulster British.

 These people are in my opinion
an insult to  football, Scotland and democracy and need to get over themselves and fast . Yes I know the more unbalanced unionists will start to scream that the SNP are a minority government and on a purely technical point they may be right. This however is only a technical point and I believe that  securing a third term in government on an increased share of the constituency vote and an even greater  majority of constituency seats where only the top up list system saved the unionist parties from complete oblivion demonstrates that Billy Boys and Bully Boys are running out of options and Nicola was Scotland’s choice to play a better game.  Now hard as it may be for them to admit it, the day will come sooner rather than later when they will have to move on and face the fact that the unionist cause is a lost cause.

You see the uncomfortable truth for all of us who are involved in politics is that  people can sign all the petitions we like, but they will ultimately be ignored unless the government want to listen and somehow I can’t see anyone in authority taking notice of a group of football fans in a huff. Now it doesn’t matter to me whether or not Rangers most loyal unionist supporters can face it , the union is in injury time and the game will soon be over. It is time for them to realise as the final whistle blows that you’ll never build a future in by living in the past.

Love And Best Wishes
Gayle X