Tag Archive | Kate Higgins

The Tartan Tights Awards 2015

Hey Readers Welcome to the fourth annual tartan tights awards and every year they seem to get bigger. This is the case again this year with more than ever to give out so forget the golden globes these are the awards to win. Apart from the awards for which I hope you are all dressed up in your virtual finery, this is a time to celebrate those who’ve made my world a better and more entertaining place by simply being in it. So let’s crack on and see whose won what this year and given me moments to cherish and made 2015 a  better year than it might have been.

I start these awards with my politician of the year and though First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has had a brilliant year leading the SNP to the most sensational results in her party’s history, it is a beneficiary of that never to be forgotten night in May who succeeds her party leader  in picking up this award.  In defeating Douglas Alexander she caused one of the biggest political earthquakes on a night which had plenty of them,  she became the youngest MP ever to be elected in the democratic age. Make no mistake this is a young woman with a very big future Indeed her maiden speech  was widely acclaimed as the best heard at Westminster for many years. This however is not a woman who is content to rest on her laurels and in the time since her election she has shown that she is a woman of  passion, power, purpose, and principles. My 2015 tartan tights politician of the year is the brilliant Mhairi Black.

My young politician of the year is like her predecessor Laura Doherty a member of the SNP and is also a member of the Shettleston branch of the party. Since this is my local branch I know this fighting force of nature well and during the successful campaign in Glasgow East she seemed to be everywhere. Not only was this dynamo buzzing all around the East End of Glasgow she was also encouraging others to do the same. I am, I have to say very happy to announce that the thoroughly deserved winner of the young politician of the year is the flame haired genius pictured below, the lovely Morgan Horn.

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My vision of Scotland award goes to that politician or member of the public who by their actions have made Scotland a better and fairer place. This year this award goes to someone who rose to prominence during our independence referendum in which she gave many impassioned speeches in support of a yes vote which she believed would bring about a fairer more inclusive Scotland than would be possible under Westminster a socialist Scotland which she said would be bolder than the version of independence offered by the SNP. This fair but feisty feminist was a great asset to the Yes campaign and was able to connect to voters who for so long were thought to be beyond the reach of traditional nationalists. Now a columnist for the pro independence newspaper The National , her columns are always insightful, thought provoking and a damn good read. So for her commitment to a fairer more inclusive Scotland and presenting alternative vision of independence which I believe  not only needs to be heard but also needs to  articulated my vision of Scotland award goes to Cat Boyd.

My next award is the Unsung Hero/Heroine Award. This award goes to the politician who represents their party quietly and without fuss and often restores people’s faith in politics and political system as they do so, Last year this award was won by Caron Lindsay of the Liberal Democrats but this year it goes to a member of the Green Party A fellow poet she will speak out the issues that concern her, she is after all well versed on such matters. Ladies and gentlemen my  unsung heroine for 2015 is that patron saint of poetic polemics Anna Crow.

Now it’s time for my One To Watch award. As the title suggests, this is someone who I think will go to bigger and better things and become more widely known than they are at the moment as they have the talent and potential to shape to the future of our nation Our winner this year is someone who I think is great asset to their party and yet again their party is my party On election night she defeated one of my least favourite opponents when she removed Jimmy Hood from Lanark And Hamilton East My one to watch award goes to Angela Crawley.

My Impact Award goes to the politician who has made the biggest impact on one or more issues in the past year and like my politician of the year this was a straight fight between two members of the same party Mhairi Black and First Minister Nicola Sturgeon. This time it was Nicola who prevailed though Mhairi ran her a lot closer than any of her political opponents. In what was a memorable year for her she managed something even Alex Salmond couldn’t and working in partnership with Plaid Cymru and The Greens  got the UK General Election debates increased from what the UK press and media like to call the three main political parties Conservative, Labour, and the Liberal Democrats increased not to four as the so-called big three parties in the Westminster village wanted . I  believe they were going to include UKIP probably because every village needs an idiot, but to seven which was a much fairer representation of British democracy.

Not content with winning TV appearances  she then set about winning the debates and with team progress of the SNP, Plaid Cymru, and The Greens set about the Westminster old boys network in spectacular style. A force for change Nicola also launched the first ever SNP woman’s manifesto slaughtered Jim Murphy in the Scottish TV debates and has regularly trounced unionist party leaders in the Scottish Parliament by maintaining her dignity whilst they lose theirs. If that’s not making an impact I don’t know what so the winner of this year’s impact award is Nicola Sturgeon.

My last political blog is for political blogger of the year and despite some brilliant posts by Bella Caledonia, and the ever wonderful Burdz Eye View, in an outstanding year when he published two or is it three volumes of his work he has been yapping, yelping, and biting the hand that patronises more often than ever before my winner for the second year in a row is Paul Kavangh for Wee Ginger Dug.  

Having given out my political awards it’s now time to focus on the community awards and what better place to start than with blogger of the year.  This is never an easy decision but this year I have split this category in to two separate awards  Scottish blogger of the year and International blogger of the year. The later category is for bloggers not resident in Scotland but more of that in a moment, firstly let’s focus on Scotland  It is I think fair to say that Scotland has a number of talented bloggers and last year’s winner Last Year’s Girl is the perfect example of what I like in a blog it has to be informative with content worth reading but it also needs to written in that kind of chatty style that would make me want to read it again and this year’s winner certainly has that style. It is for that reason she beat off challenges from A Life With Frills, Colours And Carousels, and Frankly Ms Shankly and the winner of the Scottish Blogger of the Year is Claire Smith for G Is For Gingers.

2015 is the year that I began to chat more to other bloggers both inside and outside Scotland. This meant joining lots of blogger chat groups and I’ve even hosted a couple of them.  It is with this in mind I have come up with a new award of International blogger of the Year. This is in tribute to all the fantastic bloggers from the other nations in the British And Irish Isles. Most prominent amongst them are  All Things Beautiful , AliCaitrin, Becky Bedbug, Blogs All Beautyy, Cardigan Jezabel, Colours Of A Rose,  Country Pearls, Dorkface Blog,  Dungarees And Donuts, Forever Amber,  Jessica Lauren Hatcher, Mini Mouse Chic,  and  Naturally Beige, As you can imagine trying to pick a winner from that little list wasn’t easy but in the end I had only had one choice to make, and I make it not just for the quality of her blog but for the fact that she isn’t afraid to speak out on the issues that matter to her. She is similar in that respect to the wee ginger dug and her post on challenging the main stream media (the dug will be proud) to use plus size models to advertise woman’s wear was the best I’ve read all all year so my first ever International Blogger of the year is Olivia Jade Thirsten for Dungarees And Donuts.  

My next award is activist of the year and since i think of activism in terms of community empowerment rather than just in it the political sense of the word then it is in the right category 
Explanation over I can now tell you that this was the easiest decisions of the night You see my winner is a fellow blogger who in an effort to empower other girls and indeed some more mature women invented the idea of the girl gang to help us encourage each other to become better bloggers. So to those the blogging world it will come as no surprise that my winner of my Activist of the Year is  Dorkface Blog also to her family and friends by her given name Jemma Humphreys.

My Young activist is of the  Year someone who was has made her mark not just in the world of spoken word but also a fiery campaigner on issues which range from woman’s rights to Scottish Independence and was very active in the campaign to save the Blue Chair Cafe. A regular supporter of Words And Music she was the featured writer who led us in to Christmas my tartantights young activist of the year pictured below enjoying the company of friends is the lovely and highly talented Kirsty Nicolson.

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Now the focus switches from communities to culture and where better to start with the awards for poets and poetry it is after all my art of choice and the one with which I have most direct involvement.

The first poetry award is that for The Best Poetry Performance of the Year. In a year filled with top quality performances I decided that this year’s winner would not be a 50 minute show at the Edinburgh though I ,did see some good ones. Well, I always do you know. However, after much consideration I selected a set from the Christmas Words and Music in the wee back room.  Far giving us a fuzzy festive feeling our winner read a set of three poems on the devastating impact of depression and left those who heard it gobsmacked by the power of what was one of the best sets  heard at Words And Music for many a long year  My winner of the best poetry performance of 2015 is JJ Turner.  

My next show is for the best show at the fringe. As always I saw a lot of quality shows and there were many others I would liked to have seen but of those who did there was a very clear winner.  I say this because with Agnes Torok and Hannah Chutzpah I knew at least to a certain extent what to expect namely top quality poetry of the highest possible calibre and that is exactly what they delivered but knowing how I hated sketch shows it was going to take the mother of all sketch shows to convert me from a deeply entrenched position. There are however exceptions to every rule and when a young London lass handed me a flyer for her show she was so confident I would love her show she even offered to buy me a drink if I didn’t enjoy it.  Needless to say the woman in question  Yes I do mean you Katie Norris was proved right and in the words of a certain Simon Cowell ‘I didn’t like it I loved it and that’s why my choice for the best show at the fringe is the best double act to hit the British and Irish Isles since the days of Wood and Walters and The Two Ronnie’s the brilliant Norris And Parker for All Our Friends Are Dead. Thankfully as you can see  from the picture below where this deadly double act are pictured with yours truly the girls are very much alive.

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Next I turn to the Most Original Show of the year and this year the award goes to a show which had the most multi cultural cast I have ever been involved in. Well when you’ve got South African gospel choirs , and Canadian jazz musician as well as the fantastic Anti-Poets it’s going one of those mights which will live long in the memory.  To organise such a cast takes time and effort of the magnitude which deserves be recognised  and rewarded  and that is why the most original show of 2015 goes to Rose Fraser Ritchie for Fringe Of The Fringe. 

My next award is new award and it is given in memory of the late Sandy Hutchison a well respected poet and traditional musician who passed away at the end of the year. Sandy was a man who loved language be it expressed in the lines of a poem or the lyrics of a song, he also loved both Scotland and the wider world but had a particular passion for the country he called home  To win this award the winner needs to demonstrate both their love of both language and Scotland. Indeed I want them to show their Scotland and make it so real I can imagine being a part of it so strong is the power of  their words and images and this year for showing his Scotland in such an authentic even the BBC/MSM can’t deny the reality of it I award the first Sandy Hutchison Memorial Award to Shaun Moore.

As some of you will no doubt know, I am a big comedy fan so I thought it was time to introduce award which reflected that so this new award is for the Live Comedy Show of the Year. This is the event which had me giggling so much I nearly proved the truth of that tenna lady advert that oops moments happen. I went to this show at Webster’s Theatre in the spring of last year and I’m still smiling and giggling now as I do every time I think of it. With an amazingly talented cast of talented local performers my choice of my comedy of the year is The Graduettes  . 

Next up is an another new award for the most inclusive show of the year. This takes me back to a windswept Evening in February when as part of LGBTI History Month I along with many others including  the excellent  A J McKenna, and the magnificent Dave Lee Morgan was privileged to play my part in a truly amazing night of poetry, stories, and song this was a show in which everyone felt valued and proud to be a part of. The winner of the most inclusive show of the year is Colin McGuire for Talking Heids.  

Talking of the LGBTI community brings me on to the topic of equality and it’s now time to name my Equality Champion and this year this award is a very easy choice.
It goes to someone who when just a party activist came up with the innovative idea of holding the biggest LGBTI event Scotland has ever seen. Thanks to his determination  the event took place and was held in early February to great acclaim from not only from participants and received favourable coverage from press and media. It was I have to say  one of my few regrets of the last year that I was unable to attend what I heard from all I knew who attended a truly inspiring day.  In May this talented and determined young man was elected to Westminster to represent his local area and the people he grew up amongst as he won Glasgow South East for the SNP as he played his party in the party’s landslide victory. In his acceptance speech he said he had done ‘no bad for a boy from Castlemilk ‘ and how he right he was  It is fair to say that  I think we will hearing a lot more from this year’s equality champion Stewart MacDonald.

The award for Quote of the Year comes from the maiden speech of yet another newly elected MP. This time Ian Blackford takes the title for warning the Westminster establishment that  they are in for a big disappointment if they think we are going to play the game by their rules with little gem  as he told them ‘We are not here to settle down, we are here to settle up’.

Moving on from words to music It is time for Musician of the year This has yet again
been a difficult choice to make as every year I seem to find more and more top quality musicians from which to choose to add to those I already know Those considered include Bob Leslie, Pauline Bradley, and the lovely Chrissy Barnacle, but my winner is a lass from
Montrose that I had the privilege of seeing at the Royal Concert Hall at the Danny Kyle Open Stage and she warmed my heart on a cold winter’s Sunday with a lovely easy listening voice. The fact that she writes her own songs is also something that gave her an edge as did the fact that is was only 17 at the time of that performance So my musician of the year for 2015 is Rona MacFarlane.

Next up is my event of the year and believe me there was only ever going to be one winner. As a trans woman no words can describe  how happy I was to attend this event and to do so as a VIP guest was beyond my wildest dreams. From the moment I boarded the train to the SECC to when I reluctantly had to make the journey home, I don’t think I’ve ever felt happier or more empowered and that’s why  my event of the year  for 2015 is The Girls Day Out Show.  (see deliberately placed promotional photograph) Well I can’t wait till this year’s show and I want to tell the girls of all ages to attend and enjoy a great day)

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The Girls Day Out is for the future but it’s time to get back to present and get on with the awards and whilst the X-Factor may claim it’s time to face the music I prefer to celebrate it and what better way to so than by naming my Best New Band and this year my choice proved that just like my football team the glorious Glasgow Celtic I can also score last minute winners. I say this I saw this band at the December edition of Rally And Broad and they blew all other competitors completely out of the water with a set I can only describe as sensational.  My best new band of 2015 pictured below are the amazing Teen Canteen.

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Next up is the Campaign of the Year and my winner demonstrated spirit and guts in taking on Glasgow City Council and winning the right to stay open . A  community cafe which has become a haven for poets and performers with weekly Wednesday night spoken word events, it was a campaign in which I was proud to play a small part, though so many people did so much more. My campaign of the year goes to Save The Blue Chair.

From campaigns I move on to songs and my song of the year was heard back in the cold dark days of January on yet another night at the Danny Kyle. This was one of those songs which was so catchy you just couldn’t help wanting to sing along. A comedy song it not only made me want to sing it gave me a doze of the giggles My song of the year for 2015 is Martha Healy and Too Many Vodka’s In My Cranberry Juice.

Now on to my venue of the year. and this year of all years and Words And Music celebrated 25 years at Sammy Dow’s before continuing our story at the Stag’s Head which is the same place under a new name, my venue of has to be the wee back room in the place we call home.

As you know I always get a buzz from seeing new talent on the performance scene and I have to say that the standard
of poets, musicians, and performance artists both in Scotland and the UK has never been higher. Amongst those considered for this award were Anna Crow , Kirsty Nicolson, and Peter Russell, who as regular readers of this blog will know are all top quality poets, From the world of music Rona MacFarlane was also carefully considered and to show that age is no barrier to talent Russell Wilson was another I thought of in this category. However this year’s winner comes from the world of comedy. No it isn’t Gordon Brown seeking a new career, comedians are supposed to be funny so my award goes to yet another member of the Blue Chair family. Our winner describes himself as the Alice Cooper of Stand Up Comedy his style is educational, edgy, and entertaining. My discovery of the year is Gabriel Featherstone

As for my comeback of the year I would normally give this to a poet who returned to the performance scene after a long absence. This year it is slightly different and I give my award not to an individual but a group. This is a group I was proud to be a part of back in the day but in 1995 the group disbanded as we all went our separate ways and got on with what we had to get on with. 20 years later, the group had not only re-formed with many of the original members and put on their first show in two decades. Under the direction of Neil Shackleton their production of The Hired Man led to one of my most emotional nights of the year and my comeback of the year award goes to GAP Community Theatre Group.

My best sporting moment of the year is dedicated to the voters in the BBC Sports Personality of the Year for selecting Andy Murray as the well deserved winner of the award for his decisive role in winning Britain their first Davis Cup Win since 1936.

My Team of the Year is the British Davis Cup Tennis Team also known as Dunblane Tennis Club. Well where would British tennis be without Andy And Jamie Murray? I’ll tell you exactly where it would be playing Division Z matches and losing to Luxembourg that’s where and I won’t hear blinkered fools attempt to tell me otherwise.

From sport I move on to one of my favourite awards The I Think I Must Be Mad Award. This is given for friendship which goes above and beyond the call of duty. In other words this award is for the friend who not only puts up with my bad days but as and when required steps in to sort them out and as I’m sure last year’s winner Audrey Marshall would be only too willing to testify this is not an easy task. I have to say however in this year’s winner Audrey has a very worthy successor. You see our winner is a woman of faith who by her gentle kindness, keeps my feet on the ground, my head out the clouds, and my heart in the book. It was she who selected the passage on which I based my entry for the Faith and Unbelief poetry competition, she is to me at least Scotland’s Hidden Treasure, and the well deserved winner of the I Think I Must Be Mad Award is Samantha Hands.

Now I move on to The Lifetime Achievement Award This award is not given lightly and recipient has to have served their community, culture, or organisation, for at least 20 years. Like all of previous winners this year’s choice has served this time and more. Our winner is from the world of traditional music and has taught generations of young musicians at the Comalthas Irish Minstrels over the last 40 plus years Inducted in to Scottish Traditional Music Hall Of Fame at the recent Traditional Music Awards, former BBC Young Musician of the Year Paddy Callaghan said of this year’s winner that he doubted he would be the same performer without the help he received from him, and in a chat at St Patrick’s family fun day my friend Maryanne Hartness said on seeing one his daughters playing with St Roch’s Celi Band that he had done so much for our Celtic community and deserved to recognised for his contribution to our culture. These are sentiments with which I wholeheartedly agree and I pay my small tribute by awarding the 2015 tartan tights Lifetime Achievement Award to Frank McArdle.

So at last it’s time for the main choices that of my man and woman of the year and as always I’ll start with my Man of the Year. The past year has been an interesting one for many of the potential candidates I know and a significant number of them rose to the challenge the year provided in innovative ways and around eight or so were viewed before I selected the final three from which to choose my winner. The three candidates who reached the podium places this year were Shaun Moore, Stewart MacDonald, and Chris Young. Of those nominated I will if I may, start with Shaun. My reason for nominating Shaun was for his commitment to both the independence movement and the more importantly the spoken word scene in which he is gaining a deserved reputation as a poet of considerable stature. This reputation was greatly enhanced when he organised the first Paisley spoken word slam the sma shot’s big shot was an outstanding success and showed that Shaun is a man who is as passionate about poetry as he is his political beliefs.

The next candidate to be considered was Stewart MacDonald whose achievements have already well documented in this post and quite rightly so. After all, organising the biggest ever LGBTI political event ever staged in your country is something of which you should be justifiably proud , but Stewart is not one to seek the limelight so I guess I’ll have to trumpet his achievement for him and believe me I am happy to do so.

In the end however both guys were beaten by a man who had a very mixed year and proved the truth of the old saying what you lose on the roundabouts you gain on the swings. You see our man of the year, like so many of us on spoken word scene has an interest in politics his party of choice being the Liberal Democrats so it has to be said whilst he was at long last enjoying success in the world of poetry winning practically everything he entered including the Words and Music championship he had long coveted, his political adventures were somewhat less fruitful failing to save his deposit at both the General Election where he fought the Glasgow Central constituency and the subsequent Carlton by-election caused by the election of the local councillor as the local MP. However it has often been said that you learn more about the character of someone by the way they react to defeat than you do when they celebrate their victories. In this case the man concerned showed humility in his successes and dignity in his defeats, it for this reason and a million others that I am proud to say my tartan tights Man of the Year for 2015 is Chris Young.

Chris pictured below receiving the Hughie Healy Memorial Trophy as Words And Music Champion from myself and Jim King.
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Finally I come to my last award of the evening and that is my Woman of the Year. If selecting a man of the year was a hard task and it was, then choosing my woman of the year was even harder as more women than men play an important role in my life. Among those considered before I made my decision were Agnes Torok, Leanne MacKay, Lesley MacKay, Kirsty Nicolson, Samantha Hands and Victoria Hamilton and believe me when I say all of them had a real chance of winning right until the last half hour before decision time. Eventually however after much procrastination I finally made my choice and that choice was in favour not of a poet, nor a woman of faith, but a kick ass beauty consultant who has been a constant support and encouragement to me in more ways than I can ever list. So my tartan tights Woman Of The Year is the lovely Cheryl McHugh.

So there you have it, we’ve finally reached the end of our tartan tights awards ceremony for 2015. I offer my congratulations to all our winners and all those nominated and thank them for making 2015 an entertaining and enjoyable year for me and as I raise my glass to them all I look forward to 2016 and what ever challenges it may bring us I am sure we will face them with dignity It is with this message I wish you all you wish yourself and hope you’ll continue to read tartan tights throughout the coming year.

Love And Best Wishes
Gayle X

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When A Variety Of Voices Tell The Stories That Matter It Really Is A Cause For Celebration ( My Review Of The National On Its First Birthday )

  Hey everyone  I am sure you will not be too surprised to know that I spent much of  yesterday reading the first birthday edition of my favourite newspaper.  Yes I know it’s hard to believe but is really is a year since the first copies of a new newspaper went on sale to the people of Scotland.

It was a bold new venture which was mocked by many in the mainstream media who boldly forecast that this pro Independence paper would sink without trace as would support for what they scathingly called separation. It was in to this climate of hostility that the new paper to be named The National was born.

With trust in the printed media at an all time low due in no small part to their disastrous  one sided backing of the better together campaign a voice for those who supported  independence was badly needed as of all the 37 papers in Scotland only the Sunday Herald had supported a yes vote so there was no daily outlet where yes supporters could counteract the messages of impending doom coming from unionist headquarters This was needed for two important reasons

(1) To give a sense of balance to the debate
(2) To provide news to a generation of older and/or poorer Scots

This was important because many in these demographic groups may not have access to the internet and therefore were vulnerable to believing that if they had read something in the Daily Record, the Daily Mail or heard it reported on the BBC that it must in fact be true despite evidence to the contrary.

It was therefore critical that in the aftermath of the no vote which by the way was secured by a far smaller margin than many unionists had been predicting that those who voted yes would not have our opinions so easily dismissed and so The National hit the streets of Scotland. 

In the first few weeks there were and it has to said a few problems with distribution and some so-called big supermarkets refused to stock what they saw to be an anti establishment newspaper in the vain and deluded hope that if they didn’t sell it the demand for it would die out and we would go obediently back in the box marked colony and read those quality unionist tabloids that there ministry of truth had so kindly printed for us for so many years.

This and it has to be said was a grave tactical error on the part of the outlets concerned as some of them have went on to find out to their cost recording their lowest profits in decades. It was also the answer to The National’s prayers as simply made a ready and willing readership even more determined to get our hands on a copy of the paper that so proudly supported our cause. 

Right from the start the paper faced criticism that it would be no more than the printed mouthpiece of the Scottish National Party. This criticism which usually came from more unhinged sections of unionist society was both vicious and vacuous and most of all without foundation. If there is one thing The National has put to bed it is that favourite unionist myth that Independence is all about the SNP as no-one else wants it. 

This to be honest has always been contemptuous garbage. There are many people known to this blogger who voted yes last September and will do so again when the opportunity arises who have never and will never vote SNP and I am proud that The National reflects the full range of diverse opinions which made up our vibrant campaign in which I like so many others played my part.

It is this diversity which is the strength of The National. Indeed one only needs to look through its columnists to see the wide variety of views on offer. Contrast this with the Labour and Tory echo chambers that are the unionist  print media.  Yes folks it’s The National who offer the wide range of opinions you won’t find in the mainstream media. s  From SNP MP Tasmina Ahmed-Sheik to socialists such as Carolyn Leckie,  and the brilliantly talented Cat Boyd,  From the vision of a more economically and socially sustainable Scotland presented so eloquently articulated by  Green Party co convenor Patrick Harvie  to the practical business case for Independence from Business for Scotland’s Gordon MacIntyre Kemp The National doesn’t present one case for Independence it presents a variety of cases in support of why our country should govern itself. This is why the unionists were desperate to see it fail and why I knew it wouldn’t.

Another reason for its success is the fact that those involved in the yes campaign were only too aware of the importance of social media in gaining and maintaining support for independence. The new venture was quick to acknowledge this and employed the services albeit for a short time of the woman who inspired me to take up blogging the brilliant Kate Higgins of BurdzEyeView satirical cartoonist Greg Moodie and  the rising star of the Common Space digital media Michael Gray whose weekly columns have become a must read for me as have the weekly musings of the man who gave me my first ever guest post Paul Kavangh at the Wee Ginger Dug and the man who is arguably the most supportive parody account to be found anywhere I refer of course to Angry Salmond whose quest for sexy socialism gathers more fans by the week.

I am also proud to say that The National has right from the first edition been a strong and consistent campaigning voice for those  in support of gender equality,  and land reform, against issues which it and its readership believe would be detrimental to both the people and environment of our nation

This innovative newspaper is not only a voice for Scotland in Scotland it is also international in its outlook with regard to global affairs and over the course of the last year I have been very. Impressed by the coverage of issues such as the independence referendum in Catalonia, The recent tragedy of  the bombings in Paris,  The  Greek debt crisis and of course the humanitarian crisis in Syria. The mark of this coverage has been top quality journalism rather  than the cheap headlines of some of its so called rivals.

Of course me  being me I couldn’t and indeed wouldn’t end without saying something on sport. Just as in most areas The National does it differently. Though it does  report on football  it is not obsessed with what I call the old traditional rivalries and has actually given a greater degree of  coverage to the women’s game than any other paper in Britain. Also, as a lifelong Rugby fan I have to admit I was very impressed by the reporting on the recent world cup in New Zealand.

So there you have my take on the first year of what is now my favourite daily newspaper and I think it is fair to say that the paper they said would never last has cause for celebration as a variety of voices tell the stories that matter.

Love And Best Wishes
Gayle X

I Was 16 In The Days Before Thatcher

Hey everyone Two years ago tonight I decided to try my hand at blogging. Well after reading some bloggers on twitter I thought I might as well give it a go and inspired by the one and only Kate Higgins I signed up to wordpress and created tartantights. Well why not I am as any of my real friends will tell you a gabby wee madam with very definite views and I’m not afraid to express them. As for Kate, many people may be aware and many others may not that just a week before I signed up to start my blog she and I had been chatting on facebook and about when we we’re 16 and used to have toast whilst listening to the tranny before we went to sleep.

Having said this I feel I need to explain to those young enough to be my children that in those far off days a tranny actually meant a transistor radio as opposed to a member of the transgender community. Anyway, it was during this conversation in the early hours of a Saturday morning I said I was 16 in the days before Thatcher and the moment I said it I realised that it would be a good title for a poem about my teenage years and wrote it within 20 minutes as soon as we had finished our chat performing it less than 12 hours later at the March 2012 Bards in the Park. It is with love and more respect than I can put in to words that I dedicate this poem to Kate Higgins the woman without whose inspiration tartantights wouldn’t exist. I hope you enjoy the read

I Was 16 In The Days Before Thatcher (For Kate Higgins)

I was 16 in the days before Thatcher
the queen’s silver jubilee had just about finished
my mother and father had contrasting opinions
on whether or not they were proud to be British
Kenny Dalglish was talk of two rivers
as he changed his location
from the Clyde to the Mersey
Argentina would haunt us later
but as home nations champions
we had pride in the jersey

Jackie to my guy was my summer transfer
white tights and innocence
now black and grown up
the Osmonds and Rollers
now confined to the scrap book
replaced by the Bee Gees and the anger of punk
learning to value the impact of poetry
of music that came from tradition and charts
gaining a knowledge of celtic identity
and believing that all of us must play a part
in shaping the destiny of our nation
I gained inspiration from present and past

Memories have lasted
survived the test of time
better than The Waltons or Little House On The Prairie
it’s scary how fictional families
shape our destiny as Scots
back in the day Garnock way
had characters with no ambitions a bit like unionist politicians
I was an optimist with a head full of dreams
just a lassie from the schemes
no one in the summer of that Borg – Connors classic
could see three witches in the attic
or fore tell they were harbingers of disaster

The blue sky turned gradually to a grimy grey-black
on the day Ally’s Army came back from Argentina
the mention still rips heaven
turning rain in to a crimson river of dashed dreams
Then there was the rigged referendum and Thatcher

The clouds have started to lift
the sky is almost blue again
and soon it will return to its natural state
I can wait
God knows I’ve waited the longest time
since I was 16
I’ve waited but I’ve not given up
when men stop fighting
too tired or too old
a woman holds on
she always holds on
to her dreams

@ Gayle Smith 2012

Poets Patriots And Self Taught Socialists The Women Who Have Shaped My Life

Hey everyone For those who may not know yesterday was International Women’s Day. Now contrary to what some people may think, this is not a day to hate men but to celebrate ourselves and that we are and commemorate women’s achievements in every walk of life.

It is with this in mind I decided to write a post on the many women who have inspired me during the course of my life so far. Some of my choices will be known to you whilst will not, however make no mistake of those named will have earned their place on my list. I hope you find it an interesting and thought provoking read.

The problems with lists like this is where you do you start? Personally I’ve always thought that the beginning was the best place to start a journey so let me start with the first major influence in life, her name was Jessie MacDonald Robertson which would eventually change to Russell and she was my maternal grandmother

Born in 1891 she was 70 three months before I was born. In my gran’s day you left at 12 or whenever you attained the fifth standard which in her case was at the age of 9. Yes seriously my gran was a 9 year old school leaver as she had been taught as much as working class children were allowed to be in late Victorian Britain.

A self taught socialist who valued education and learning it was she who first noted my interest in history, poetry, and traditional music. Indeed she encouraged my interests in all aspects of Scottish and Irish Culture. If I’m honest you could say that she was the single biggest influence in shaping my political beliefs.

A lifelong supporter of Scottish independence she was always keen to stress that this was not because she hated England but because she hated the Westminster system of inherited wealth and privilege which was she said based on patronage and was the beast from which so-called lords and ladies claimed their power to rule over ordinary people. Like me she wanted a socialist Scotland and a country where all people would be treated with fairness and respect.

My next woman of influence was my high school English teacher Elizabeth Dowling. It was Mrs Dowling who really encouraged my interest in poetry and literature introducing me to the work of Glasgow based poets such as Edwin Morgan, Liz Lochhead, and Tom Leonard, the war poets such as Rupert Brooke, Wilfred Owen, and Siegfried Sassoon and novelists such as Joan Lingaurd and John Steinbeck. It was this magical teacher who really got me to explore my own creativity and start the journey to find my own voice. Well I’ve always been an independent woman with a mind of my own

Talking of independence, as someone who has always the political independence for my nation, some people who view politics like a football match and think you can’t have friends in opposing parties or respect people who believe in the UK may be surprised to learn that one of my earliest political influences has never been in my party or supported an independent Scotland. I have to say however, and let me be very clear about this, I have great admiration for former Liberal Democrat candidate for Maryhill at both parliamentary and local council elections Elspeth Attwool. I learned much from Elspeth during my early years as a community activist and she was far more respected than the local Labour councillor who was living proof that dinosaurs existed far longer than previously thought. A woman who cared and still cares passionately for both her community and her country Elspeth Attwool is thoroughly deserving of her place on this list.

Next up is a woman who taught me to believe in myself and took my interest in creative writing to new heights. A woman who was not only a writing tutor at Govan Writers Group but became a valued friend. Linda McCann was amongst the first people I confided in about my trans identity and not only that she kept that ‘secret’ for as long as she needed to, and one day slipped me a wee surprise present. It was a stunning crimson taffita dress which if memory serves me well was a size 10. Alas it is a long time since I was able to slip in to a size 10 but I did get my wear out of it before it reached the charity shop but I still remember that act of kindness on a wet windy Thursday afternoon in Govan. Linda taught me to have confidence in my words and to remember that the best writing comes from your own personal experience and writing about what you know is always more powerful than writing what you think others want to hear. An authentic voice always comes across better than someone who is trying to be popular she said and you know what,she was right in what she said.

Still on the subject of writing, in 1993 I made a decision to go to a monthly performance poetry night on the First Monday of the month. This would eventually have a dramatic effect on my life as I would eventually end up comparing the night it had taken straight talking former squaddie Jim Craig a year to persuade me to attend. The night I refer to is of course is Words And Music at Sammy Dow’s or as I sometimes call it the poetry family table. It was at this venue that I met a woman who was is and ever shall be like a poetry mum to so many of us the one and only Pamela Duncan. When Pamela decides to grace the stage I often introduce as the first lady of Sammy’s though modesty forbids her from accepting the accolade no matter how well deserved it is. An award winning writer and poet, a freelance journalist, a trophy winning golfer and also a novelist and former chair of Eastwood Writers Pamela Duncan is without doubt one of the most talented women I know and not only that she is a woman who inspires others to be the best they can be.

My next selection is another poet though she comes from more performance based tradition than Pamela. The poet concerned like Pamela has more than one string to her bow and is also a respected comedienne on the Scottish and UK stand up circuits. I first got to know Viv Gee during the late 1990’s when she hosted Sunday Rhymes at Bar Brel. It was during my time at Sunday Rhymes that I started dipping my toe in the water with regards to my trans identity and the support I received from Viv was nothing short of brilliant. Honestly she was totally amazing and could not have been more supportive during what were difficult days for me. Yes I know it may be hard to believe but I wasn’t always the confident self-assured wee madam I am now.
When I talk of inspirational women there is no way I can leave out a woman of courage, stature, and principal. A woman who have always been convinced will one day lead this country and lead it to greatness. She is a woman combines the best elements of both patriotism and pragmatism and sets her vision for our nation on the founding rock of principle I refer to the woman who makes me believe in our country more with every speech she makes.

This is the woman who in my book and I don’t care how biased I am is Scotland’s National Princess. The woman who is Our Deputy First Minister and the most popular politician in the country. The one and only Nicola Sturgeon. I have known Nicola for more years than I care to forget and I know that Scotland is a lucky nation to have someone so dedicated to serving our people with honesty integrity and fairness.

From politics I go back to the world of poetry for my next inspirational woman though I have noticed that Jenny Lindsay is getting just a wee bit political these days and saying yes to imagining a better Scotland free from the chains and constraints of Westminster rule. I first met Jenny ten years ago in 2004 at my first ever poetry slam since when she has been a friend, mentor, and confident who like Viv Gee supported me in every decision I had to make. Articulate intelligent and the voice of a new Scotland Jenny Lindsay will I predict become one of the biggest names in Scottish culture in the years and decades to come. I say this with confidence as Scotland is now finding out what I already know Jenny is a woman of talent and substance who like an already good wine can only get better with age. Well poets do you know, and for someone who is already is so good it is actually frightening it doesn’t take a genius to forecast a brilliant future.

There are other who writers also merit a mention as no list of women writers who have influenced me would be complete without acknowledging the contributions of my chosen wee sister and confidant Catherine Baird and a woman whom I have long regarded as my mentor the amazingly talented Ann Connolly. I also want to thank the excellent Sophia Walker for all her encouragement over a number of years, the new kid on the poetry block the highly lovable Agnes Torok, and the greatest force of nature I have ever seen on any stage the brilliant and breathtaking Sophia Blackwell.

The world of traditional music has many powerful voices at this time in it’s history and many of it’s rising stars are women. One only has to look to at the likes of Anna Meldrum of Kitty The Lion, Karine Polwart and Lori Watson to prove my point. However brilliant though they are the names which inspire me on this scene are Eilidh Grant and Rachel Sermanni.

Both of these rising stars inspire me for very different reasons. In the case of Eilidh she has such a beautiful lyrical quality to her voice that she is in my opinion our nation’s princess of song. A big title for someone so modest but make no mistake this accolade is richly deserved. Evidence to support my case is provided by Eilidh’s dad the well respected folk musician Eric Grant who told me a story of the daughter he described as the encourager. Eilidh was always kind he said god knows I have personal experience of just how true that statement is but a proud dad told me that when they were younger he would take Eilidh and her younger brother Stephen to folk festivals and competitions all across the country and no matter how well she had done, Eilidh’s first concern was always her wee brother and if he had won in his category there would be no happier or prouder big sister in the world. Now that is what you call the mark of quality and being an inspiration to others by your actions and not just your words.
Rachel Sermanni is another inspiration whose star is on the rise. Rachel is not only a brilliant singer/songwriter whose concerts sell out wherever she appears,she is also is a very talented artist and poet. A multi talented young woman blessed with many fantastic gifts, Rachel inspires me because like Eilidh she manages to keep her feet on the ground and is a very genuine woman, she is I as often say very much the real deal.

On the subject of the real deals you won’t get a better deal than a partnership that really works one of such partnership is local photography business KK Snaps which is co-owned by my current woman of the year Katie Walker. Katie is a highly intelligent and astute young women and her business which she co-owns with her best friend Kirsty Hughes should be an inspiring story to all young women everywhere that if you want something badly enough and have the courage to chase your dreams you can actually achieve them.

Other inspiring woman to me include Liberal Democrat MP Jo Swinson for her work on behalf of women and girls particularly with regards to positive body image. Glasgow SNP councillor Alison Thewliss for showing the world that young women can be politically active whilst also raising a family and that you do not need to put your political career on hold till later. Former SNP MSP Anne McLaughlin for her work with Glasgow’s African and Caribbean communities and her dedication to empowering those communities through her at Glasgow African-Caribbean Centre. Young Liberal Democrat activist Sophie Bridger for her work with Scotland’s LGBT Communities. I also include recent SNP candidate in the Cowdenbeath By-election Natalie McGarry. One of the key voices I the Women for Independence movement Shona McAlpine who resigned from the SNP over the issue of NATO membership. Also the fantastic poet and feminist activist Claire Askew for defending the rights of women everywhere and for ceaselessly campaigning for trans equality not forgetting organising the first and so far only all female poetry slam ever to take place in Scotland and the brilliant Kate Higgins without whose inspiration I would never have started blogging and Caron Lindsay and Ellen Arnison for much valued support and advice in my quest become a better blogger.

Last but not least I have to say a massive thanks to my best friend of the last 14 years and my flatmate for 12 of those years the lovely Janette Marshall. I sometimes wonder my life would have been like had I not met Janette, and whilst I have no doubt I would be a lot saner than is currently the case I think I would not have so many good times or such a rich quality of life and the entertainment value would have been nowhere as much as it has been Janette is without a doubt the wee sister I never had and my life is a better place because she is in it.

So there you have my selection of women who have made my journey through life just a wee bit more interesting than it otherwise would have been. To them and to all of us I say I hope you had a happy international women’s day
As for me I just hope in some way I may just have inspired some girl to believe in herself and her dreams.

Love And Best Wishes
Gayle X

We’ll Score The Winning Goal For Girls On The Day We Get Fair Play

Hey everyone. I bring your attention to a story which would have gone largely unnoticed if Kate Higgins hadn’t retweeted a tweet from Glasgow City Ladies Football Team informing us that Scotland’s Kim Little had won PFA Women’s Player of the Year at the PFA Awards.

This to me is a very important story as well as being another great achievement for one of the best Scotland footballers of her generation and to beat her fellow Scotland International teammate Julie Fleeting and England internationals Kelly Smith Rachel Yankee and so many more genuinely showed the esteem with which she is held by her fellow professionals

Unfortunately I didn’t see too much about this award in the national press. This not only insulting to Kim Little but disrespectful to women’s football. Well let’s be honest if it was coverage by results rather than traditions or habits this would have been the lead story in Scotland on Monday morning. However the coverage of women’s sports in Scotland and indeed the UK is disgraceful especially when you consider the fact that some of the stars who shone brightest during last year’s summer of sport were women.

These female sports stars such as Catherine Grainger, Jessica Ennis, and Victoria Pendleton received excellent coverage when their country needed them but since the Olympics there has been barely a whisper of them or their sport. Of course it should be noted that the women’s football team did pretty well as well, but one thing puzzles me, when Glasgow City reached the last 16 of Champions League where was the TV coverage?

Also I have to ask myself a question When were the Scottish men’s football team last ranked 23rd in the world as the ladies team currently are? It is I think a pretty safe bet to say it hasn’t happened since Glasgow enjoyed the status of European City of Culture in 1990 and that by way is in my opinion a very generous estimate.

The lack of coverage of women’s sport and women’s football in particular really hacks me off. You could say that lack of fair play is a red card offence. I say this both in anger and in the hope that things may change. It won’t be easy but I know it can be done and one of the reasons that I believe its possible is because there are forces at work who want to facilitate a change in attitudes towards sporting equality for women.

You see there are political opponents for whom I have tremendous respect one such opponent is Jo Swinson who in my opinion is one of the best politicians in Scotland and the work she does to promote positive body images for girls and young women in Scotland and throughout the UK will prove to be a valuable asset in years to come.

This is a personal issue for me. A few months ago the daughter of a family who are friends from my local church won player of the year from her football team for the second year in the row. On congratulating her on her award I asked her why she thought there was such negative stereotypes about girls and women’s football and found her attitude was both insightful and revealing.

In a brief chat in the middle of a very busy Sunday our future star said
‘Its like everyone thinks that because you play football you want to be a boy’ she said honestly ‘I’m a girl and I’m happy I’m a girl I don’t want to be a boy but its trying to explain to people that girls can play football too. People need to stop teasing us and just let us play’. At the end of our chat I asked her if she wanted to be the next Julie Fleeting, after Kim Little’s well deserved award it is good to see she has more than one choice of Scottish role model but as she so eloquently makes the point the winning goal for girls will be scored on the day we get fair play.

Love And Best Wishes
Gayle X

As Scots Make Our Own Plans For Nigel Its Time To Raise The Satire

Hey everyone Its been a busy week for events so let’s get down to the serious business of sharing my thoughts on what’s been making the news in the last seven days.

It was in the early hours of Monday morning that I read with interest the views of Kate Higgins who wrote in her blog BurdzEyeView that silence was the best way to remember those who fought in war. This was a timely reminder to both sides in the Independence debate that in her opinion no conflict has primacy over any other. Whilst Yes Scotland and Better Together argue over the events of the Battle of Bannockburn 1314 or the start of the so called Great War1914 have greater impact on today’s Scotland there are no real winners when it comes to War.

I use the words of 1980’s musician Holly Johnston lead singer of Frankie Goes to Hollywood and a poet who grew up listening to his music Sean McBride to give 99% backing to her argument. In his band’s number one hit Two Tribes Johnston reminds us ‘when two tribes go to war points are that you can score’. Meanwhile McBride a former soldier who served for 12 years in the British Army delivers what are perhaps the two most lethal lines of contemporary poetry on the futility of war I have ever heard in his excellent poem Floods of Tears where he states ‘there’s precious little ever gained for precious people dead’.

Having said that I give 99% backing to Kate I feel I have to qualify this by saying that Bannockburn does hold a slight degree of primacy for me, not just because I’m a Scot but because the battle was about winning a nation’s right to independence rather than a glorified fight between two sets of feuding cousins which ended not in victory but in stalemate when the armistice was finally declared.

The fact that the British and their French and American Allies claimed victory in the war to end all wars and the frankly insane restrictions and humiliation they imposed on the German nation at the Treaty of Versailles lead to the rise of Hitler Nazi’s and would prove that the war to end all wars was actually anything but and was merely a dress rehearsal for the horrors that would be facing Britain Europe and the world in only 20 years time.

On to lighter stories next and where better to find one than my local area of Baillieston where there was a UFO sighted in the skies by a pilot as flew over the place I call home but he contacted the control tower nothing could be located. Strange, yes surprising yes but only in the sense that it was found at the beginning of the week rather than a weekend. Well that’s when UFO’s are most commonly seen but these are unidentified fleeing objects as girls run away from guys they don’t fancy and that doesn’t just happen in Baillieston it happens everywhere. As for the spaceships I think we should leave them to Bonnybridge thanks very much.

Later in the week comedian Susan Calman revealed that she had received hate mail and threats to her safety after a recent appearance on the news quiz where she admitted to preferring to remain a part of the UK rather than face the prospect of an Independent Scotland. Now it is fair to say that Susan and I will disagree on this issue but I am a great fan of her comedy and the fact we support different visions for our country’s future will in no way change my opinion of her or her comedy. Indeed I go as far as to say that a nation at ease with itself will value the service of those who provide it with satire, god knows we need our comedians to make us laugh at ourselves no matter their political persuasion.

Thursday night saw the United Kingdom Independence Party make sweeping gains in the English county council elections. This sends out a message that the people of Britain are listening to us says its leader Nigel Farage. No it doesn’t Nigel it sends out a message that the Liberal Democrats are in government in a highly unpopular coalition and have received a mid term lethering because you can’t give a protest vote to a party in power. However Scotland is making plans for you and those plans are called Independence because whilst certain sections of Daily Mail/Express/Telegraph may be salivating at your success in the recent vote, our people want no part of your silly little blame game and will I believe jump aboard the lifeboats to escape the sinking ship UK and make sure we are still part of the European family you are so desperate to leave.

Love And Best Wishes
Gayle X

Blame It On The Burd

Hey everyone. A year ago last night I wrote the words which would change my life to a far greater extent than I thought possible. Those four little words were welcome to tartan tights.

Yes I can hardly believe a year has come & gone since inspired by the legend that is Kate Higgins & her brilliant blog BurdzEyeView I decided to take this leap of faith or was it insanity. I don’t know I’ll leave that to you to decide.

You may ask why tartan tights? Well I believe the name should fit the blogger & tartan tights certainly gives an accurate description of me. Well I’m Scottish by which I mean to say I view Scottish rather than British as my primary identity & support Scottish Independence from the United Kingdom. I am also a transsexual woman & I wanted to use a name which painted an accurate portrait of me so it was tartan tights or bitchy knickers & to be honest I think I made the right choice or at least I hope I did.

Anyway, inspired by reading Kate’s blog which I had been reading for months I thought why not give it a go. I have to say I really respect Kate but I could never compete with her,so it is good we are writing for different audiences. I believe her blog on all things topical & political is of excellent quality & is actually better than certain newspapers. However Kate didn’t inspire to compete with her or anyone else, she inspired me to find my voice.

If BurdzEyeView is like the quality newspaper of the blogging world, tartan tights is I think more of a magazine. A quality magazine of course it combines the socially liberal views of the Guardian the chatty warmth of Women’s Own & the culture of Cosmopolitan all from a pro independence angle.

What do I blog about? Anything & everything that takes my fancy on any given day. From politics to comedy, from spoken world nights to transgender issues I will say it as I see it & always in my traditional straight talking style. Sometimes I may even post a poem on here. You have been warned.

Actually, when I say I have sometimes posted a poem on the blog what I really mean is I have written many poems on the blog. The great thing about writing poems on here is this that I have the chance to edit as I write & this has twin positives of saving at least half of the rain forrest & improving the quality of my work.

I really enjoy writing for my blog & I hope you enjoy reading my rants rhymes & occasional thoughts. If you like what I do then I’m glad but at the end of the day I’m just a wee gabby wee madam with opinions on everything & the guts to tell it like it is. Its just the way I am & I don’t see it changing any time soon. Well that would mean turning sensible & believe me that is most definitely not in my plans.

No that is not for me I am & will always be an ureconstructed Glasgow girl. I shoot from the lip & always know my targets. I also make sure I have a very accurate aim. I am who I am for better or for worse, it is your choice to take it or leave it. I know I have some regular readers & they seem to like my style but that might be because they accept me as I am with all my faults & flaws. in the words of my friend Louise- Anne Geddes I am ‘opinionated, lippy, smart, & hilarious’ Modesty prevents me from commenting on the last of the four words she selected to describe me but I would definitely agree with the first three. Well I am smart & I am definitely opinionated & lippy that is such a fact that it isn’t even up for discussion. As for the fact that I choose to share my opinions in a blog well I’ve got my excuse at the ready. You see I was inspired to do it & I blame it on the burd.

Love & Best Wishes
Gayle X