Edinburgh International Book Festival
During his time as a professional footballer, Clark Carlisle was considered to be Britain’s brainiest footballer, even knocking a reigning champion off his perch on Countdown in 2010. Writing a full length book, however, was a different kettle of fish, as Clarke readily admitted during his amenable chit-chat with fellow former footballer, Pat Nevin, at the Edinburgh Book Fest His book,. ‘You Don’t Know Me, But,‘ is an auobiographical confessional piece, in which Carlisle takes us from his multi-racial beginnings in Preston, to his recent position as chairman of the Professional Footballers Association.
Clarke Carlisle is a lovely chap, a well-spoken & family man who finds himself these fays with the plumb job of commentating at premier league football matches. His talk touched a number of interesting places, such as his addiction problems & handling of the John Terry/Anton Ferdinand racial case. The best moment for me, however, came during the Q&A session, when an audience member asked Carlisle what was his favorite moment on the pitch. I was at Wembley myself in 2009, when Burnley triumphed over Sheffield United in the Championship play-offs. But this was only his second favorite moment. The first was scoring the last-minute winner for Blackpool against Carlisle, with his mum attending one of his football matches for the very first time. That moment, he said, is when he fell in love with football, & his animated demeanor as he told the story showed very much how that love is still there.
Edinburgh International Book Festival
After a week of remembering the brutality of the last 100 years, A celebration of the fallen victims, the young men that had no choice but to meet an untimely fate. From the war film footage of Beyond Zero (1914-1918). Which was harrowing in an insightful way and beautiful in a musical way. To this hour long presentation by The British War Museum employee Hilary Roberts. A pictorial history (with Mark Holborn) of how photography was developed as an art of propaganda, to show people back home.how effective the armed forces were being in there campaign to slaughter,before being slaughtered them selves. It was brutal. Stories of photographers who’s soul purpose it was to photograph men killing each other. Hillary explained that the photographers ended up going mad with trauma of such experience. Post Traumatic Stress Disorder was only coined in the 90’s. These guys really did suffer for there art.
The rain hammered down on the Book Festival marquee as the disturbing images were projected on to a screen. For some reason I thought that this was going to be a book festival gig about the poetry of Ladies longing for the safe return of loves, who were fighting in this horrible horrible war. But it wasn’t, it was to promote the disturbing pictures of death and destruction that occurred in the Great War. Why anyone would want to purchase such a thing is beyond me. Never mind get one autographed. The reason that I don’t have a telly, radio or buy newspapers is because imagery such as this disturbs the joy out of me. And disturb me it did, I wandered home through the rain with a cloud of doom, looming precariously and hanging heavy in my heart. A Stormy Emotional Evening.
Mark ‘Divine’ Calvert
So why didn’t I go to school? I really regret not doing so now. But what choice did I have. Every lesson of everyday I was bullied and scorned for being a soft feminine young man. I was living with the full blown experience of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder where the fear would grip me and push me into submission, I would experience the most horrific of visions. Not knowing why or how this was happening to me. I was too scared to talk about it. when your dealing with that kind of shit Algebra and Dickens kind of takes a back seat. I couldn’t wait to see the back of that Hell Hole. So PTSD and Grange Upper left me with a learning difficulty. The effects of which continued well into my late twenties. I never thought that I would lead a normal life.
Now in my late Forties, all that pain has healed and been understood, it took the best part of twenty years in which to do so. And after all of that. I realize my shortcomings in the academic nature of English.
But my appreciation of Art remains. Do I need to go back to school at 47?
From the sacred fire of Eden.
To the sacred healing of the Solstice In The Glen.
With the Grace Of Angels to the Healing Fields Of Glastonbury.
To the new site of Audio Soup.
To Reviewing the Edinburgh Festivals of Performance Arts and Literature,
For The Mumble.
A journey of renewal to balance the experience of loss.
With the moment.
Because the wealth of such experience cannot be measured.
In pounds and pence.
Because Grace is priceless.
It cannae be bought.
Mother of the muse’s come to me.
Aum Sarasvati Aum!
My first year with a Mum in Heaven.
And my first year of being a middle aged orphan.
I found Art to be my comfort blanket.
The nurturer to my soul.
Now I’m rested.
I’ve really been tested.
I left the education system at 14.
An ignorant system that failed me.
Damo left it at 20.
But has what it takes to make the grade.
Alas no valid effort is wasted in Art.
I appreciate the opportunity.
Because this creative Season has stretched me.
And ultimately Healed me.
Aum Namah Shiva Aum!
Edinburgh International Book Festival
August 23rd 2014
I spent an excellent hour of historical nostalgia with Mr Kynaston last Saturday, whose casts his erudite & widely spread academical net over the period October 1959 – June 1962.This follows on from 2007’s Austerity Britain, 1945–1951, (The Sunday Times’ Book of the Decade), Family Britain (2010) & Modernity Britain, covering the years 1957–59 (2013). He began his talk with a ten-part quiz for the audience, which included ‘which two towns won the Football League Championship either side of Spurs’ triumph in 1961.’ Being a Burnley fan, I knew it was Burnley (1960) & Ipswich (1962), when Burnley were runners-up – & I was the only one in the audience who knew, happy days!
Kynaston has an amazing & comprehensive ability to eke out out interesting nuggets from the past, such as the Beatles’ first southern show in December 1961 being played in his home town of Aldershot, the fantastically glamorous introduction of Philadelphia Cream Cheese into the English palate, the introduction of wrestling on TV, & the arrival of Vivienne Nicholson in London, who after her who win on the pools, declares she was ready to, ‘Spend, Spend, Spend!’ I found Kynaston to truly be a sagely seer, shining a powerful light into the murkiness of the past, whose lazar-like mind is a joy to witness
The Edinburgh International Book Festival.
Winner of the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize, Zakes Mda is regarded as one of the most important novelists to have emerged on South Africa’s literary scene since the end of apartheid. The author of more than 20 novels and plays, Mda is now resident in the USA, where he is a professor at Ohio University. He joined us today to discuss his output, including his new mystic-realist epic, The Sculptors of Mapungubwe.
An hour’s audience with an inspiring man who had, as a Black South African, experienced the horror of Apartheid first hand. Zakes Mda cut his craft as a story teller and script writer when white South Africa enforced ridiculous ignorance and brutality upon its own people. Art drawn from a survivor of such extremes displays survival tactics drawn from a humanitarian heart, born from the most inhumane of conditions. Becoming a refugee as Apartheid crumbled in his native South Africa, Mr Mda found solstice in Ohio and discovered that his self-taught skill as playwright could be advanced to a degree standard.
We discovered how this man started his first novel Black Diamond, with the words; ‘There are many ways of dyng.’ Zakes Mda inspired this reviewer with the notion, that if a an unjust system fails you and academia is the least of your problems. A true talent will shine and speak the truth that needs to be heard.Zakes Mda inspired this reviewer with the notion that if a an unjust system fails you, then academia is the least of your problems… but a true talent will shine and speak the truth that needs to be heard.
Zakes Mda touched his audience very deeply today,with an awe inspiring and comforting tale of an artist who became a professor out of folk law.
Awsome! Thankyou,Thankyou, Thankyou.
Mark ‘Divine’ Calvert
Confronting a nation’s history involves confronting its national myths. If the country is our own, that can move us right out of our comfort zone. As we in Scotland get closer to the referendum on independence, the issue of our history seems to take on more importance, and we are reminded of George Orwell’s words, from ‘1984’, “He who controls the past controls the future. He who controls the present controls the past.” Looking at the past, for the purposes of this debate, were historian-authors Michael Fry and Angus Konstam. Their chairman Joseph Farrell described them as ‘heavyweights,’ and although Angus Konstam suggested that if the conversation flagged the two of them might entertain us with a bout of sumo, the chairman was clearly referring to their intellects.
To Michael Fry, control of the past, as in the publication of books on Scottish history, has been left too long in academic hands, and has been a one-sided account of social and economic history replete with statistics. His bias was towards culture, society, and politics, in the search for what has kept Scotland Scotland; he has found that when a historian undertakes research he finds things which relate, albeit perhaps as echoes, to today, and that what we recognise are not the products of sudden upheaval but have deep roots. In his book ‘A New Race of Men’ – the title being a phrase taken from observations made in 1845 by the Rev. George Cruden, one of the few kirk ministers to have taken part in the Statistical Accounts of Scotland in both 1794 and 1845 – Fry presents a picture of a nineteenth-century largely at peace, with a conservative constitution (if I can use such a word) that supported that of England, union with the rest of the United Kingdom long since a ‘done deal’. Scottish capitalism was in the hands of men who had served their time as apprentices and shared social roots with the men who worked for them, giving rise to a sense of egalitarianism. In movements such as public health, it was recognised that contagion did not stop at the edge of working-class areas, and that therefore health belonged to all, not simply to the bourgeoisie.
Ideas like this didn’t fail to draw dissent from the floor. A questioner from North East England challenged the assumption that the nineteenth-century Scottish working class was any less exploited than the working class in his own area – and indeed the supposed difference that Michael Fry had suggested between the Scottish and English concepts of class did seem to sit rather awkwardly with a previous statement to the effect that the North East of England, for example, shared much of Scotland’s perceived remoteness from London and Westminster. Another questioner challenged the idea of the ‘done deal’ with its roots going back to the eighteenth century, citing the verse in ‘God Save the King’ about ‘rebellious Scots’; unfortunately her point merely perpetuated the canard that the verse is insulting to the Scots as a whole, when it is actually specifically directed at the Jacobites. Fry made this point in reply, however – that in the ‘age of revolution’, between 1789 and 1848, while the death toll in political causes in other countries was high, there was a total of twenty-three in Scotland. “I counted them’” he said.
Angus Konstam, although principally a maritime historian, has been fascinated by Robert Bruce since reading a ‘Ladybird’ book about him. In his book ‘Bannockburn’, according to the event pre-publicity, Konstam ‘debunks some myths about the legend of Robert the Bruce’. He describes the modern popularity of Bruce as ‘a national talisman… wrapped up in romantic guff’. The definition of Bruce’s wars as ‘Wars of Scottish Independence’ was a later one, as are those of a nationalist or a class war, both of which would have been lost on Bruce himself. The thirteenth- and fourteenth-century conflicts were fought to ‘solve purely medieval problems’, and in them even Bruce himself changed sides more than once. Nevertheless, by the time of Bannockburn there was an unprecedented and unfamiliar wave of specifically Scottish patriotism that must have lent something to the subsequent sense of Scottish identity.
For all that, the presentation did leave me wondering what myths were going to be debunked. It is more than forty years since Nigel Tranter’s ‘Bruce Trilogy’ was published, moving into popular fiction what historical study had long made known – Bruce’s career as a serial turncoat, and his murder of a rival. I listened to the account of Clifford’s unsuccessful charge against the Scottish infantry, and muttered to myself that surely the knowledge that horses will pull up before a solid mass of footsoldiers was known as far back as the Greek phalanx. However, we were brought back to popular myth when Konstam reminded us of the legend of Bruce and the spider – “It’s in the Ladybird book, so it must be true,” he said with a smile – for which there is no evidence beyond its existence in popular folklore.
Of the two books foregrounded, it strikes me that Michael Fry’s is probably the more controversial. However both authors were kept busy signing copies of their books after the event. I have to say I was left wanting more time for public discussion with the two authors – to drill down into some apparent contradictions in what Michael Fry said, to challenge Angus Konstam further about whether the myths about Bruce were actually as powerful as he assumed. Joe Farrell did make the point that the pair seemed to have been drawn together simply because they were historians. This was the first time I had attended an event at the Book Festival when I wondered if either of the authors on stage was thinking to himself “If I were Germaine Greer or George R R Martin I would have this stage to myself. Obviously I’m considered second division!” I am happy to give the Edinburgh International Book festival the benefit of the doubt on this issue, because it does what it must to pack so much into its schedule, and by-and-large gets it just right.