Tag Archive | Politics

The North British Cringe 

Four years ago to the day I marched with 30,000 others  through the streets of Edinburgh in support of my country’s independence . Alas when the vote was held we were defeated by the forces of apathy and fear and our nation remains what the author John Steinbeck described in a conversation with President Kennedy as an unwon cause. It is my opinion that one of the key reasons for this is what some people refer as the Scottish cringe. You know the idea, that we alone of the nations on earth are too wee, too poor , and too stupid to run our own affairs. It is my considered opinion that this is a form of cultural oppression and this cringe is anything but Scottish. Indeed I believe it was in fact born in Westminster by those who are absolutely terrified to see Scotland become an independent nation namely the British establishment whose vested interests in our country be they economic or political make them and their all too willing servants  overtly hostile to our independence. It is for this reason that I have written this poem and given it the title The North British Cringe . I hope you enjoy the read. 

The North British Cringe 

We are told by the establishment and their friends in the press

Scotland is not oppressed 

Well if that the case 

why is Scotland’s population

which was a 1/3 of England’s at the formation of the United Kingdom 

now less than a 1/10 

they cringe when I tell them 

 there pro union argument makes no sense 

yet when we contest this notion we are scorned 

told we are idealistic but ill informed

but it’s our accusers who are deluded

the idea of not being oppressed because we’re Scots is misguided 

If you don’t believe me let’s look at the evidence 

we’ll start with the rough wooing in the period leading up to union 

When The Ailen Act was passed by a Westminster government 

determined to secure their unity at all costs

even their anthem talks about crushing rebellious Scots

then there was the banning of the Gaelic, the pipes, and the tartan after the 45

this is a ban unionists choose to ignore 

preferring to bang on empty drums about the sashes their fathers wore 

whilst never mentioning the privileges it brought them 

too many in Scotland are ignorant of our history 

so I’ll start by informing them 

that much to our disgrace 

this prohibition of our language, culture , and tradition did take place 

and wasn’t lifted until 1782

almost 40 years after Culloden 

if that wasn’t an attempt to keep us downtrodden I don’t know what is 

It was a deliberate attempt to show resistance was futile 

and the beginning of a campaign to keep Scotland in our place

the more fanatical sycophants

even tried have our country’s name wiped from existence

and replaced by North Britain 

I still believe this to be your career unionist’s wet dream 

but this girl from the schemes 

is wise to Westminster and there never never ending lies

whilst the truth cries tears at the endless myths and misconceptions 

their parties will use to gain votes at election time 

these practioners of the dark arts 

are well versed when it comes to the crimes of  deception and duplicity 

as we can see when they use their carefully worded propaganda

they fraudulently call British history 

this has been manufactured in the interests of the elite 

by their friendly Oxbridge historians

I afford them no credibility especially the Tory ones 

the hope and glory brigade

 who will claim we played a part in shaping the new world and the politics of empire 

and maybe we did but not in the way they would have you believe

you see there was no voluntary migration to Canada in 1773

In the real world this has another name

It was called the clearances 

as tens of thousands of families were evicted from their land 

to make way for sheep 

yet you dare to tell me we are not oppressed 

I weep when I think of the martyrs of Tolpuddle 

or the massacre at Peterloo 

but I do so in an international context

 as I ask with respect 

why I was taught about these events at school

rather than the Paisley mill girls 

or the fact that Scottish radicals 

were executed by cold hearted killers 

for demanding independence in 1820

these facts are hidden from our young 

just in case knowing them, might turn them against this precious union

the myth that took centuries to build

by those skilled in the art of the cringe 

the 90 minute patriots who claim we can’t possibly be oppressed 

as we are allowed to wear kilts

and support our national football team 

though when I remind them we can’t watch Scotland games on TV

I am told I am fanatical SNP

and unpatriotic to Britain

they make fools of themselves 

by going on about British highlands , whisky, and bridges

and saying that by being allowed to vote 

we can’t possibly be undermined in a way 

this is the garbage spouted by those Proud Scots 

 who read The Daily Mail , watch EastEnders and Match of the Day 

the ignorance of these people astounds me and suggests 

they know nothing of the place they are ashamed to call home 

and that’s the way they need it to stay 

they ignore the fact that their Westminster masters can’t stand them 

or even tolerate them 

they’ve never been informed about the Scottish potato famine 

which though nowhere near the genocide 

faced by our Irish kin 

still happened nonetheless 

our oppression was and remains more covert in nature

the press and media used as tools to surpress 

any feelings of national identity 

and cover up any events the Brits would rather hide 

like the Govan rent strikes or the socialists of Red Clydeside

and why not because we are oppressed 

by the British is best brigade 

who make sure this history 

our real history is never taught in schools

it would undermine their right to rule 

to which they believe their entitled 

reality however paints a different picture to the one they want to see 

through the prism of their union jack blinkers 

these not so liberal thinkers 

who think narrow minds are prized possessions 

would still deny our oppression 

or while part of this United Kingdom 

some Scots oppressed those in other lands and their own 

In the name of empire crown and glory 

working class Protestants encouraged to vote Tory 

and many still do 

In fear of an imaginary Irish Catholic takeover 

wrapping themselves in the red, white, and blue of union

believing themselves to be the true blue Scots 

yet boasting that they are Brits

from an early age these hypocrites were and still are 

indoctrinated in to hating the Highlander,  the Irish , the French , and Jew

with Muslims now perceived to be enemy 

the Irish and the others used to be 

as Voltaire once said it is difficult to free fools 

from the chains they revere 

on teaching our history 

we must make it clear 

Scotland’s story is not an easy read 

but read it we must 

if we are ever to conquer the cringe 

that of all nations only we 

are too wee, too poor , and too stupid to be free

this is complete drivel 

and the perpetrators must be called out as liars

as a nation we have to aim higher 

but first we must come to terms with our past and our  present 

and facing up to our continued oppression 

this can only end with independence 

and becoming the authors of our destiny 

only then can we look the world in the eye 

as no longer conditioned to be shy 

we will say to every nation 

we are equal to you

the cringe has been conquered at last 

© Gayle Smith 2017 

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The Cultural Manifesto Of A  Man Who Speaks For Fairness ( A Review Of Freedom By Matt Panesh)

In the comfort of the cinema room in my favourite Edinburgh bar on a busy festival Friday I did something I’ve been doing for the last eight years and I allowed myself to be entertained by the cheeky chappie of the Edinburgh fringe Matt Panesh. Matt aka Monkey Poet is always on my must see list and this year’s show was no different. In fact the fact  that Matt made it known that this would be his last full run after nine successive years of entertaining the crowds at the fringe eight of them at the Banshee Labyrinth often with two full snows made it if anything all the more important to see a man who over the years has become a valued member of my fringe family. 

For this year’s show Matt (pictured below) departed from his usual monkey poet style ramblings I’ve come to know and enjoy and instead was just Matt Panesh. However I should perhaps explain that there is no such thing as just Matt Panesh. Trust me, this guy is a consummate performer and an excellent storyteller who knows how to engage his audience right from the get go. 

Picture (Matt Panesh on stage in the Cinema Room of The Banshee Labyrinth)

The topic for this show entitled Freedom, was the fringe and what the idea of fringe theatre means to him .  In his opening line which marked the start of an hour of top quality entertainment Matt reminded us that the Edinburgh festival wás celebrating its 70th birthday this year as it was born from the rubble of the Second World War when the people of Britain and Europe needed something to cheer them up after the horrors of the most brutal conflict in human history in which 60 million people died. Matt however had a reason to be grateful for the war as his Polish and Russian grandparents who  met in an Austrian refugee camp and married in Italy and had to cross the alpes twice before eventually settling in Britain  would never have got together otherwise. It is due to the story I’ve just related that Matt has never told told his grandmother it’s a long way to the shops. 

Having given the audience an insight in to his own background Matt then went to inform us of the reason that the festival came to Edinburgh rather any other British or European city. The reasoning was simple Edinburgh wás the only one which hadn’t been blown to bits by the ravages of war and so the biggest arts festival wás born.

Matt then gave us his unique take on how he started doing fringes and he started in not in Edinburgh but in Canada, and Canadian fringes are a wee bit different to Scottish or UK festivals. You see in Canada the fringes aren’t held in big cities like Toronto, Ottawa, or Montreal, but in small towns  like Winnipeg where the culture comes to visit for two weeks a year and then disappears again for the rest of the year. It was during this time of doing festivals in Canada and the USA Matt began to realise the benefits of having what the locals would call an exotic accent but also saw for himself the benefits of what culture can do for the economy of particular geographic locations. 

As an established regular performer  on the Edinburgh scene Matt spoke with passion on what we have come to know as the free fringe which celebrated its 22nd birthday and without which he and countless other performers couldn’t afford to bring their shows to be part of the festival. Gradually Matt became more involved with the free fringe and along with Fay Roberts programs the spoken word section of it. This as he told us is rewarding but not without potential hazards but as he rightly says it saves performers a fortune as they get the venues for free and any money they make from public donations is their own and with all the premises for the free fringe given free by local Edinburgh businesses it brings a host of performers to the city who would not otherwise be able to attend the event.

In being so directly involved with the free fringe Matt has seen for himself the benefits that it can bring to the area in terms of both tourism and finance and is therefore a staunch supporter of this kind of festival and the platform it can provide for the creative arts. Having relocated from Manchester to the coastal town of Morecambe after last year’s fringe Matt found that opportunities for potential nights out were a wee bit limited as the place he now called home didn’t have any spoken word venue and there wasn’t a single comedy club anywhere in the town. However,  those of you who know Matt will also know he is if nothing else a man brimming with ideas and after thinking about this cultural dilemma he faced he started sounding out local venues and businesses about the idea of a fringe festival in Morecambe. After an initially cautious reaction Matt told us how he won them round to the idea by persuading them of the economic advantages both for the town and the wider geographic area. 

Initially this year’s  Morecambe fringe which started tonight will be a weekend affair with it expanding to a week  long event next year. Being the cheeky and persuasive  chappie I know he  can be , it came as no surprise to me that  he even managed to convince Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn,( on whom by  his own admission he has an enormous man crush) of the merits of his brainchild which he says will be run on a small scale version of the Edinburgh model. 

At the end of a journey through time, culture, and history Matt said he  might as well finish with a poem and asked the audience which poem he should do. Knowing his work better than most people in attendance I suggested Understanding, which Matt said he has since retitled How To Be Patriotic Without Sounding  Like A White Supremasist in response to the rise of far right parties like The BNP and UKIP. This uplifting poem sets out Matt’s vision of a Britain for everyone and more than any other poem sums up the cultural manifesto of a man who speaks for fairness  

Till next time.

Gayle X

A Triumph For Humanity In Spite Of The Greatest Of Obstacles As A Poet Asks The Questions On The Topics That Won’t Go Away (A Review Of The Other Side Of The Flood By David Lee Morgan) 

As regular readers will no doubt be aware due to my lack of posts on the topic, my Edinburgh fringe was a wee bit late in kicking off this year. This was due to the after effects of a leg injury taking longer than expected to sod off and so it wasn’t until the Tuesday of week three that  I finally got off and running but when I did I hit it with a vengeance As I got to the Banshee which is and ever shall be my Edinburgh local I settled in , having my first of many Diet Coke’s before going to see my  first show of Edinburgh 2017. 

The show of choice was The Other Side Of The Flood by David Lee Morgan (pictured below) This play in six voices set in the year 2035 was a beautifully constructed piece of theatre in which Morgan an accomplished poet , and musician narrates the story of a world on the brink of a global socialist revolution. Fighting has broken all out all over the world and all communication has stopped. To add to this the American government has used nuclear weapons on it’s own people most noticeably the Los Angeles Socialist Revolutionary Commune which has been decimated by this attack. 

Picture David Lee Morgan rocks the Banshee Banqueting Hall 

During an action packed 50 minutes Morgan explores the themes of socialism, internationalism, love,  cross cultural boundaries, death, hopes, fears, and mental health through Jesse a young Mexican-American , and his lover Sultana who comes from a traditional Pakistani Muslim background.

 As our story begins the world is on the eve of the revolution but this development is not welcomed by everyone and is being  fiercely opposed by those forces who have most to lose. The Los Angeles commune has been attacked and many of the revolutionaries killed whilst Jesse lies on a life support machine. There is only one way to save humanity from an impending Armageddon and that is to place the brain of a fighter for peace in to the computer drone which could change everything and Jesse is the perfect candidate for the task. Through still alive, he has no chance of making what we would call a full recovery and is living out his last days determined to do what he can for the cause he believes in with every fibre of his being

During this time a void is needing to be filled as people lose faith in organised religions and the old order is on the verge of collapse. This depending on your viewpoint can be seen as crisis or opportunity and the global socialist movement view it as an opportunity to create a new belief system to benefit humanity. The old order however will not go quietly in the night and resistance to change will be sharply defended.

On the eve of what would surely be the war to end them all, a young couple think of the coming days as the great battle for a better world. Though from very different backgrounds Mexican-American and Pakistani Asian there is no doubting the strength of their beliefs or indeed their love 

With her passion running as deep as her principles Sultana calls her mother to tell her of her plans to stay in America with Jesse as something wonderful was going to happen but the fight will begin soon. Her mother reminds her that is there is  also fighting in her homeland and pleads with her to return home. Sultana however is headstrong and in love and has no intention of leaving Jesse behind for her mother or anyone else. This causes tension between Sultana and her mother though the familial bonds of love and loyalty remain strong across both cultures and generations. 

At this point Sultana reminds her mother that though she lives in the west she still attends mosque and prays five tines a day and that Jesse understands the importance of her faith. Her mother however reminds her that she cannot  marry outside the faith. Frustrated by rules and regulations Sultana reminds her mother that it was fine for her brother to marry a non Muslim and asks why her it’s different for girls Meanwhile Jesse’s condition is deteriorating as we hear flashbacks from his past conflicts and computerised voices telling young men to man up whilst other voices relate the tragic tale  of a soldier having a break down and this forces upon on us the grim realisation that for some former combatants the war never ends and the permanent potential threat of post traumatic stress disorder stalks them like shadows in the middle of the darkest time of night. 

 Tackling these issues with the sensitivity they deserve David Lee Morgan asks much needed questions about both conflict and the role of masculinity within it. These are questions which need asking and cannot be ducked. These are questions which it a brave writer and performer to ask. Luckily David Lee Morgan is exactly that type of  artist. He is an outstanding poet and musician who relishes challenging convention and saying the kind of topics I talk about are real and will not go away. He enjoys holding authority to account not by shouting  or stamping his feet but opening your eyes to new possibilities such as the potential for a real global socialism to take root and as he showed with the ending of this play where he presents us with two roads and leaves the decision to us as to which will be the destination of our choice.

In this show as in all of Morgan’s work he shows the  human spirit is capable of overcoming even the greatest of the obstacles as it triumphs in spite of itself and the barriers it so often puts in place to hinder the path to progress . That to me is the true mark of an artist of genuine substance and David Lee Morgan  is such an artist.

Till next time. 

Gayle X

Active Citizens 

As a spoken word poet I am rightly proud of our tradition of activism on just about every topic you could name. From Apartheid to Women’s rights poets have opinions on everything and not afraid to voice them. This is something we share with all performers, but in this poem I take a look at musicians both folk and pop, and in particular the protest songs written over the years to express support of causes and campaigns to document an important part of social history . Whilst some of the songs, I’ve incorporated in to this poem may be very obviously political others may initially at least  strike you as slightly less so but when you look closely at the lyrics you’ll see they may be more radical than you think . I’ve given it the title Active Citizens as I have  long held the belief that the creative community are often a government’s more effective critics. I hope you enjoy the read. 
Active Citizens
My journey started with McGinn of The Calton 

who sang of  a may day for the ordinary people

and women pining for the pill .

Glen Daly told the story

of a wild colonial boy 

whose spirit will always live 

in the hearts of rebels with or without causes

the Corries took me over the sea to Skye 

while the hills of Donegal 

and the fields of Anthery 

showed the other side of my family tree 

both sides displaced in the name of the great white sheep 

and generations later the Proclaimers 

lamented the industrial clearances 

when they sent a letter from America

and narrated Scotland’s story 

as a  land of migrants 

throughout our history 

our so-called masters have ignored us 

attempted to silence our voices 

in the name of their false unity 

but our community remains strong

writing and  singing  the protest songs 

that expose them and their cruel deeds

carried out in the name of greed and personal gain 

meanwhile though she took a train to Leeds Central in 1989.  

we are still  looking for Linda 

and when we find her 

she will know she is one of  Jock Tamsons Bairns 

regardless of where she was born 

you see  where you are from can only be the first verse 

the starting point of the protest song

what follows is the journey about where your going to

and  how we help you get there 

by listening to the lyrics 

and the lessons they teach us for the future 

we can’t afford to be seduced and abandoned

by falling for lies and false promises 

or ignoring the 1 in 10 

we need to send the selfish homeward 

make them think again on the consequences of their behaviour 

their attitudes that make me a very angry girl 

I come from the generation who dared to feed the world 

and ask when there would be a harvest for it 

a harvest we could share 

with west end girls and smalltown boys 

we can’t let politicians create 100 000 Allentown’s 

or hold back the years in a vain attempt 

to keep us in what they think is our place 

in the rat trap they’ve created over years and centuries

to preserve what they see as the natural order 

with those McGinn sang of at the bottom 

with independence lies the hope of a better Scotland 

though we will still have our problems 

and protest songs to sing 

in the hope of the finding solutions 

as creatives we have always been political 

critical of our establishment regardless of party colours

and as our future governments will discover

we will always be active citizens

speaking out on the issues that matter. 

.© Gayle Smith 2017 

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 

My Thoughts On The Manchester Terror Attack

​ Last night the people of Manchester were the victims of a cruel and barabic attack as another misguided individual used religion to justify evil. 

I first heard of the attack as I scrolled down my Twitter feed to catch up the events of the night. On doing so I imeadiately switched my television on to the BBC news channel to catch up on the latest developments on this breaking story. As I did so , I was stunned and heartbroken to hear there had been both injuries and unfortunately fatalities. 

Now those who know me well will know I family in Manchester and though my cousins who are a fair bit older than me would be nowhere near the Ariela Grande  concert where the bomb blast took place, there is a possibility that their grandchildren could have been in the crowd. However, strange as it may seem it wasn’t my biological family who were foremost in my thoughts last night It was my blogging family and one member of that family in particular. 

Yes you did hear me correctly I do have a blogging family and that family are a very diverse crowd who come from far and wide. My blogging family is like my poetry, traditional music families,  a family which is both local and global and in that tight knit clan, I know and count as friends, many younger bloggers from the North of England who are shall we say of the age appropriate demographic to be attending the event themselves or taking a younger sibling along to see their favourite pop star. 

Now due to the interactive nature of Twitter blog chats it is possible to form friendships across the miles and I have developed a number of such friendships with a demographic young enough to have been my children had I been able or lucky enough to have any. It was due to one of these friendships that I gave a Twitter shout to one younger blogger who I know to be from the Manchester area and asked her to contact me to let me know she was safe. Naturally I was delighted and relived to receive her tweet telling me she was safe though she told me had been in the area and it was very scary. 

On hearing her news we had a short conversation and she said there was a sadness about the city today. This is I think underestandle in such horrific circumstances but from both mainstream news and my social media feed there seems to be  a determination not to let the terrorists win nor to scapegoat the local Muslim community.

That is as it should be, and I hope during these difficult days people  remember to cherish the diversity for which their city is known and stand proud of the multi cultural melting pot that is modern Manchester. It is by doing this that they can and will defeat the forces of prejudice and hate no matter where they come from or what disguise they wear.  

Till next time

Gayle X

Mirrors Of Time 

​This poem was inspired by my good friend and current tartan tights man of the year Johnny Cypher as he gets ready to vote in his first General Election and has to make a choice between two contrasting visions of the future. In the poem I look back I hope with empathy at the 1983 UK General Election when I was in the same position Johnny is now. I’ve titled the poem Mirrors Of Time I hope you enjoy the read.  
Mirrors Of Time 

An intelligent thoughtful twenty something

contemplates his decision 

as yet unsure as to where he’ll place his cross on election day 

though he does know 

it won’t be for Theresa May 

and her selfish brand of conservatism

hatred and division are not his way 

he seeks to help others 

building bridges rather than barriers and walls 

he is aware of the fact 

his dreams may fall under a pile of ashes 

yet still he clings to them

hoping he might see change 

live in a better society 

than the one he has grown up in

this is someone who does something 

many people don’t 

he listens to opinions

in a way that others won’t 

taking an extra second to think things through 

before deciding what to do 

I understand him 

I respect his point of view 

I look back to 1983

and the women he knows 

can see herself 

through the mirrors of time 
© Gayle Smith 2017