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.

The Alasdair Gray Archive – Off Topic

Lately the blog has been really focussed on Simple Minds and in particular the 40th Anniversary of Sons And Fascination/Sister Feelings Call, Rightly so. I do run this blog primarily as a Simple Minds (ie: Jim Kerr ogling) blog, with broader music topics – general album reviews, gigs reviews and interviews, etc.

Anyone who has spent time here in the past – even in the fairly recent past, knows I love art as well – photography, painting, drawing. And I love books too, though I don’t read much these days (more due to suffering narcolepsy when I read and also being a very slow reader. It makes for an awful combination!).

One of the last books I managed to read in its entirety was Lanark by Alasdair Gray. I even went on and bought a Kindle copy of 1982 Janine and still haven’t read it!

I initially caught the Gray bug due to His Kerrness referring to Lanark in an interview he had with Muriel Gray (no relation, as far as I am aware) in 1984. An interview that I only saw for the first time in early 2020. I looked into Alasdair Gray and sought out a copy of Lanark to read. I decided to go “old school” and bought a copy from a seller on eBay. The book made its way to me from the Isle of Lewis – but the way I held it to read it, the adhesive wore away from the spine and the book fell apart. In the end I borrowed a digital copy from the library to finish reading it. I had to keep borrowing it week and week after week.

Needless to say, not only did I fall in love with Lanark, I fell in love with Alasdair too. And not just his writing. Lanark is still the only thing of his I’ve read so far – apart from an open letter he sent to The Scotsman newspaper about how perhaps we are too hasty to tear down, demolish and rebuild, but perhaps there should be more consideration given to restoration. He talked about Sighthill in particular. I can’t help but wonder what he would make of all the redevelopment work that has gone on and continues to go on around Sighthill right now. And even what he’d make of the housing estate that has been given approval to be built upon the old Ruchill Hospital grounds. Right now, when I look out my bedroom and living room windows, I see a living Alasdair Gray painting. That view is going to change in its appearance in years to come.

And so, yes, I love his paintings, murals and illustrations as much as his writing. I particularly love getting out at Hillhead subway station to view the spectacular mural that spans the wall of the subway’s entrance. If you search my blog you’ll find photos and video of the mural at Hillhead. I’ve still yet to go to the Ubiquitous Chip and the last time I was at Oran Mor, I was not even aware of Alasdair, or his amazing work there.

Sadly, Alasdair passed away at the end of 2019, but he has left such an amazing legacy.

Yesterday I had the privilege of visiting the Alasdair Gray Archive, located at The Whisky Bond, just off Possil Road, overlooking the Forth and Clyde canal between Speirs Wharf and Applecross. It really was a wonderful hour I had spent there. I had the space to myself with the curator of the archive, Sorcha, as my personal guide. It is only a small space – not much larger than our living room (if any larger at all) and was arranged to show Alasdair’s office/writing space at one end, his art space at the opposite end of the wall, as well as a display of his bookshelf and illustrations, artworks and prints on the wall opposite.

I was allowed to view certain things and could view the massive “work-in-progress” folio in the top drawer of his artist’s bureau, which was incredible. One hour just was not enough.

I hope to return sometime in the near future to get lost again. I look forward to future “Gray Days”.

You can learn more about the Alasdair Gray Archive by visiting: thealasdairgrayarchive.org

I’m thinking this is a dungeon where all the naughty boys of Glasgow get put.
Below is the layout of archive, showing how Alasdair’s workspaces were laid out in his Hillhead home. Click on the photos to get enlarged viewing options.

Minds Music Monday – Fitba Toons

In light of His Nibs’s post about the bloody fitba on Saturday, I decided this MMM should highlight tracks representing the nations.

And seeing that in said post he declared his love for the English team, then we have both Jerusalem and When Spirits Rise to represent both England and Scotland.

In fact, Scotland play at Hampden Park this afternoon. And that, my friends, is the extent of my knowledge of the (reputed) “beautiful game”.

I had compiled a completely different post and wanted it to be my MMM post, but it is awaiting approval, so it may just be a bonus post later on today, or will be posted some time during the week (fingers crossed). But I promise that the normal Sons And Fascination/Sister Feelings Call track-by-track celebration Minds Music Mondays WILL RETURN next week!

Until then…Yes, Sir – you *can* indeed boogie! (I miss your dad dancing!)

Scenic Scotland

Oh, at long last! After nine months in the tightest restrictions in all of the UK, Glasgow came out of Level 3 lockdown last Saturday, June 5th. I was happy to let a few days pass by at least until we tried to get out and see anything. Just bide time a little longer.

We hired a car from Tuesday evening to Wednesday evening for a 24 hour period. I was hoping for a splendid west coast sunset followed by a day in the east but…mother nature had other plans! Although conditions were dry on Tuesday night, it was quite overcast so the glorious sunset I was hoping to see wasn’t really going to happen.

A change of plan. We broke up what was the rest of the plan into two parts – which was probably a good thing in hindsight as it would have been a bit of a stretch to have tried to cram it all in on one day.

On Tuesday night we went to Falkirk to the wheel and to the Kelpies. The Falkirk Wheel really is an engineering marvel! And that part of the country is just beautiful! It was a stunning thing to behold – all of it! The wheel itself, the scenery around it. Just beautiful! And even more glorious to behold as the sun is setting. I wanted to try and get to the Kelpies at sunset so we could see them lit up. But we are so close to summer solstice and the days are ssooo long at this time of year that true nightfall doesn’t happen until after 11pm. The Kelpies were lit up but it was still a bit too bright to truly experience seeing them in the dark. They are incredible also. And the park around them is gorgeous.

Wednesday the weather was going to be dreich in Glasgow but the east promised to be brighter. So over to South Queensferry and to Portobello Beach near Edinburgh. We travelled north and crossed the Clackmannanshire bridge over the Forth and then headed south skirting near Dunfermline before crossing the Forth Road Bridge and stopping at a charging station for car electric car charging. Great views back over to the north of both the road bridge and the rail bridge from a little observation point at the charging station. Took a stroll into the town while the car charged up. Walked past a hoose. Took some snaps. Watched trains go over the rail bridge. Grappled over which of the million ice cream parlours there were in the town which to buy from (you must have been spoiled for choice when you wanted an ice cream when you lived there, Jim! Lol) – then decided on none in the end. Bought sandwiches and carrot cake slices and went back to the viewing point and ate while taking in the view back from there.

Car charged up and onto Portobello Beach. Tried to work out which groyn – and YES, those things are called “groyns”….those wooden things that look like broken piers – the Minds were stood at for their early Zoom photoshoot. Asked the OH to take a photo of me by the one I thought it was. Inadvertently looked as despondent as Jim did in said shoot. Lol

The Edinburgh bypass by that time in the afternoon was a joy [sarcasm] and the only real crappy point to a really lovely day, The sunshine was on Leith as we left and it got increasingly dreich as we headed back west. By the time we got to Glasgow though it wasn’t as gloomy as it had looked when we had set out.

A lovely day.

All that remains is to ask – who did it better? Looking despondent – me or him?

UPDATE: Seeing as you asked, Scott 😁

Always Destined To Be The … Next Big Thing

I posted this onto SMOG earlier this afternoon – but I get the feeling it is going to be somewhat overshadowed by a wonderful post about Jim, which I am sure he will love (who can blame him?). Anyway, I thought I’d also post it here as well. (I haven’t altered the words I posted.)


Back a few years ago, I posted something on the Simple Minds visitor wall. I think it was a review of a gig. It came from an independent fanzine. Jim replied to my post, saying he had fond memories of some of the guys who set up these kind of publications, recalling the names of Johnny Waller and Lindsay Hutton, particularly, on this occasion. Hutton had started a fanzine called “Next Big Thing”.

Well I stumbled on to a copy of Next Big Thing today, and there within the pages was an advert for Empires And Dance, as well as a glowing review of the album by Lindsay himself. (Albeit if he is somewhat disparaging to Roxy Music and Gary Numan in the process. Oops!)

It took me on my own little nostalgia trip. Of a time that I particularly loved being a Simple Minds fan. Thanks for those wee chit-chats, Jim. They’ll always be super special to me. I loved putting on my “researcher’s hat” for that one as when you replied to me you had said “I wonder what happened to Johnny and Lindsay?”, which had me off and searching for you. A time you made me feel both happy and purposeful.

If it doesn’t come out too clear for reading, then here is a transcript of what is written below.

“The danceable solution to teenage revolution? If Roxy were still any cop they’d be making albums like this. I don’t altogether go along with the belief that synthesisers always ruin things. There’s ample proof of the reverse here, but the fact that idiots like gerbil face Numan seem to represent the genre, mean that there is no media indication that there is life after electronics. ‘Empires’ is the 3rd Minds elpee and places them well up the league. Especially tasty are the opener ‘I Travel’ and the Jeepster style backbeat of ‘Celebrate’. If you’ve been put off by the moderne talk of Morley then think again kiddo, because this sound can co-exist with rock ‘n’ roll because it’s performed from the heart. Can you afford not to own a record by a band whose singer drew Noddy on the Berlin Wall in lime green chalk? Good wee group this.”

Happy Gray Day! 40 Years Of Lanark

Today has been marked as Gray Day – marking the 40th anniversary of the release of Lanark by Alasdair Gray. I read Lanark for the first time last year and fell in love with it and Alasdair.

Last October I went to the Oscar Marzaroli exhibition at the Street Level Photoworks on Trongate and had to take a photo of this photo Oscar took of Alasdair.

Happy Gray Day!

Happy Birthday, Bruce!

The wonderful and loquacious Mr Bruce Findlay is 77 today. Here he is pictured with someone masquerading as a “social butterfly” back in the summer of 2018, after a talk he had (with Ian Rankin and Vic Galloway) at the National Museum of Scotland in Edinburgh as part of the Rip It Up exhibition.

A Welcome Delivery

Received these in the mail this morning from Virginia.

Merry Kerr-istmas 🎄🎄🥰🥰🥰

Photos taken in August, 1981. The three at the top, in preparations for the gig that evening in Edinburgh. The bottom three, waiting around at Heathrow Airport for the flight back to Scotland.

Minds Music Monday – Waterfront Extended Version – Happy St Andrew’s Day

One year ago from today (yesterday) we “moved on up to the Waterfront” and arrived in our new home, and to Scotland, and Glasgow. And on that beautiful, crisp, clear morning – despite feeling so incredibly tired and a little violated, having been robbed for the first time in my life – I already within minutes of arriving had the overwhelming feeling that it was the right move and that this is where I’ll be for the rest of my days.

As tired and drained as I was that morning, I squealed with excitement as we crossed the Clyde, just knowing this place was now going to be home and I could spend time at the banks of this river any time I wanted to.

And I’m sure I’d have had Waterfront playing in my head. Or Speed Your Love To Me…or any plethora of Simple Minds songs.

Today is also St Andrew’s Day and although Waterfront is more specifically about Glasgow, it could easily apply to most of Scotland. It is such an anthemic piece. And it gets the blood pumping.

I do remember being turned on by it back in the day. Oh, the things that could have been had I become a “real” fan of SM back then. I’ll always have regrets.

A few days ago when I had Spotify on in the wee hours, this version of Waterfront played and I lost myself for six minutes…filled with amazement that I actually LIVE in this city now.

Only yesterday was I thinking that had someone told the 13 year old girl listening to that opening bassline in the summer months (in Australia) of early 1984 that, in years to come, she’d be living in the city the song was about. And not only that, but she’d OWN the house she was living in…she’d have scoffed! “No fucking way”!

But…here we are.

Happy St Andrew’s Day, everyone! GIE IT LALDY AND GAUN YERSEL!