Living Proof – Review – Glasgow Film Theatre – 23/9/2021

I ventured out on Thursday evening to see the second “World Premiere” (Edinburgh actually pipped us to the post the night before) of the documentary Living Proof.

It dealt with looking at Scotland’s growth under Capitalism over the past 150 years, but concentrated on the rate of growth from post-WWII. Also the way Scotland has dealt with its climate, in good and bad, for the past 150 years and the ramifications of tapping into its apparently abundant natural resources – but at what ultimate cost?

The presentation of the film started with a short introduction from the film’s director, Emily Monro, about what the film’s main objective was. 

The film starts with a broad outline and visual run-through of what the film will be exploring in closer detail. A rush through the past 100+ years of Scotland’s environmental history – with a musical backdrop from the wonderful Louise Connell. Louise was there herself to watch the film. She had also been there to see it the previous night in Edinburgh. 

We start with a look at post-war Scotland and the richness of treasures that industrial juggernauts see in it. All for the good on the surface, with the talk of capitalising on those natural resources with hydroelectricity implemented in the Highlands. 

We continue on from there, looking at things from the farming of peat from bogs to coal mining, to North Sea oil drilling and gas harvesting. 

It quickly feels like we are just plundering something that we should have realised much earlier on is only finite! We as humans have somewhat blighted Scotland’s landscape by being swept up into the kind of “corporate greed” model of “improving” our lives. Some things done with the initial view of being better for everyone, for example, the hydroelectric schemes in the Highlands, have actually had negative repercussions. And we can’t escape the fact that the mining industry and the drilling of North Sea oil has had a massive impact environmentally. 

The film also looks into the decline of the shipbuilding industry. The shipbuilding docks try to move themselves forward by becoming the construction areas for the North Sea oil rigs. That was the most eye-opening and jaw-dropping aspect of the film for me. As one of the oil rigs had completed its first part of construction – its base, the foundation platform that will be plunged into the sea bed, just what a feat of engineering that it is. It’s hard to reconcile being marvalled by all that. To see this human constructed metal monolith making its way out of the Clyde firth in outrageously stormy seas to be slowly upended from its side to start being (weather permitting!) slowly, painstakingly, millimetre by millimetre hammered into the sea bed. It was both astonishing and gut-wrenching in equal measure. 

Conoco was the company in question building the massive offshore oil rigs, taking advantage of the docks left empty from the Clyde shipbuilding that went asunder. Watching that footage with a genuine mix of awe and lament. 

The film also takes a look into selling Scotland as an “attractive” prospect for investment and having some American firms come over and set up bases here – like the big Digital Equipment factory in Ayr. I remember as we made our way down the west coast towards Girvan a few months back being struck by how many huge factories there were along that part of the Ayrshire coast between Ayr and Girvan – particularly from Turnburry to Girvan. But then, why should I be surprised? Turnberry just for starters has a Trump stamp all over it!

Towards the end of the film we look at the take up of wind turbines and wind farms. Earlier in the film there is a bit about how ubiquitous and reliant upon metal we are for things. Like, it is in our lives EVERYWHERE. And you can’t help but in the end see the irony of the wind turbines being these monstrous metal contraptions and it all just cycles round. And that was the crux of the film’s point (well it was for me personally, anyway) – how do we get out of this loop? How do we get out of the capitalist “hamster wheel” (for want of better terminology)? Can we actually even do it? Are we too far down the line with things? Are we far too reliant on it all to not see any other way out? How do we really make REAL CHANGE?

The film finished with a Q and A with a panel of guests including the film’s director Emily Monro. One question asked of Emily was how she thought the film would be received by non-Scots? Emily found it not an easy question to respond to, but if I had responded to it (as I will do now) – I think it’s a universal problem and dilemma. Although the things within the film are entirely Scotland based, all the world’s countries are going through these same problems and going through the same questions. For some countries in the world, the crisis is a lot more profound than what Scotland is going through. So I think it can resonate and speak to people whether they live here or not. It really isn’t a thing that affects Scotland exclusively, the broader aspects of the climate crisis. 

It was pieced together so well by Emily and the final beach scene and dialogue ends on a really harrowing, pondering note. And the soundtrack used within it featured music wonderfully chosen. I will link to the tracks used through the film below. 

It was sobering viewing and I’m not sure I have any answers for it myself. Let us see what COP26 brings to us in November. Let’s just see how Glasgow copes with hosting such a summit, for one.

Review: Caezar – The Old Court, Windsor – July 21st, 2018

On a personal note, pre-gig logistics meant we ran the risk of turning up late. We were waylaid getting out the door on time and then our pre-gig meal ran later than we thought. It all came good though and we arrived at the venue in plenty of time for the show. Phew!

I was first introduced to Caezar in late 2016 by a post mentioning their music on the Simple Minds Official Facebook page. I listened to The Prayer at that time and thought the music held much promise.

I kept my eye (and ear) out for them, eager to hear more. Earlier this year came the news that an album would be released in the summer and some live dates would ensue. News came out in April, and as of that time, I could see a few Dutch dates, and then a single UK date for Oran Mor in Glasgow. So, I booked my ticket to see them up there, complete with red-eye coach travel up overnight from London to Glasgow and back again. If it was the only time I would see them, I was willing to make the journey.

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It wasn’t until the subsequent announcement of the release of their debut album, Time, did I see there was a gig taking place in Windsor. Strange! “Why Windsor?”, I wondered. Well, it is now the hometown of Joe Donnelly (also the hometown of the band’s record label boss) and so served as the perfect album launch location. I quietly spat chips, having gone through the logistics and expense (having to really try and do things on a shoe string) of going to Glasgow for the Oran Mor gig, Windsor was much closer to home and would have been much more convenient.

But I thought “Hey, Glasgow is booked. Can’t change it now. But we might as well do BOTH gigs! Let’s go to Windsor too!”

I’m really glad I learned about the Windsor gig and decided to go. The Old Court is a lovely intimate venue…but in the current state of the UK weather, an absolute sweatbox! The auditorium itself had little ventilation. No windows in the room and after a three week run of temps in the constant mid 20s, it really was quite stifling in there. And that was just for the spectators….can’t imagine how it felt being on that stage last night. *fans self with cold flannel*

Louise Connell

Support came from young singer/songwriter Louise Connell. Very folky, sweet sounding music. She has a lovely voice and a rather nervous and shy delivery, but seems rather gregarious between songs with her audience interactions. She was accompanied by Stuart McLeod. I had a feeling he was a relation, perhaps? But, maybe not. Perhaps just a great help and mentor.

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There was an uplifting melancholia to her sound. I liked her set, the highlight for me being her cover of Talking Heads’ This Must Be The Place. I’m unsure if she is Caezar’s support at Oran Mor next week, but if she is, I look forward to seeing her again.

Caezar

Welcomed very warmly to the stage. Joe’s family were in to watch, so there was already a groundswell of love and support in the room. Jinky’s banter was typical Weegie – full of machismo and bravado, but funny as f***.

There were “ghosts in the machine” initially which meant the drum track dropped out half way through set opener, Time. A slight adjustment to the set (rotating songs Into The Night and The Presence Of Love) meant things soon got sorted out.

The songs are wonderfully atmospheric and JJ has the voice of an angel. Honestly. I’m not sure I have ever experienced such an amazing live male vocal performance. The man is incredible. Powerfully emotive and nuanced. A true “tour de force”.

After the initial sniggers at the song title, Motherfucker, you find yourself suddenly no longer sniggering with each utterance of the word, as Jinky just puts so much heart into every song, it just becomes an emotional expression. The shock value quickly evaporates.

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Up next was a Silencers song called Bullets And Blue Eyes…compounding that I must also dip my toe into The Silencers back catalogue.

The set then truly takes off (after one further drum track loss…quickly ironed out again) with incredible renditions of The Prayer, Love Is A Reason and I Am Not Afraid.

There is an incredible encore of David Bowie’s I Can’t Give Everything Away and the small crowd erupts into rapturous applause for a fantastic album launch and live set.

What little niggles that happened last night I am confident will be fully ironed out for Oran Mor next week. For one, the boys will be accompanied by a drummer on Friday, so no fear of the loss of the drum track midway through a song.

These niggles detracted none from the overall enjoyment of the music and power of the songs. Joe and JJ really have made some wonderful music together. I would highly recommend if you can get to the gig in Glasgow on Friday, that to go! You will NOT be disappointed.

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I met Joe and Jinky briefly after the gig. Both lovely men. Both happy to mingle and chat and pose for a photo op. Jinky was also gracious enough to sign a copy of the setlist for me.

Thank you, Joe and Jinky for such a wonderful night out. I am really looking forward to seeing you once again on Friday.

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