By Kevin Brown
‘We shouldn’t be too afraid of using identity, and we shouldn’t be too afraid in this campaign of emotion […]. We are social animals, and loyalty to group and place is a basic part of who and what we are. […] Nationalism, broadly speaking, is a core part of what it is to be a human being […] but it is morally neutral, and can be used in either positive or negative ways [to affirm social solidarity, or to advance empires and militarism]. Myths are stories that we tell ourselves […]. Our national myths include Robert Burns, the highland clearances and the Red Clydesiders, and these can be made to help us embrace ideals of social solidarity and equality. […] By working with the grain of our national mythos in Scotland, we can use sentiment and emotion to advance our goal of winning in September.’
This is a partial and very inadequate gloss of a wonderful Aye Talk given by Isobel Lindsay, a member of the board of the Scottish Left Review, and recently posted on Bella Caledonia. Isobel’s talk provides the perfect theoretical foundation for the ‘Songs for Scotland Project’, which was announced but not explained in detail in another Bella Caledonia post of May 30th.
At the time we were still putting the finishing touches to the project, which is ready to go. Now it is moving forward from the theory so elegantly presented by Isobel towards the praxis she advocates: using our national identity and shared mythos to bring more of the Scottish electorate into the ‘Yes’ camp.
Praxis: the Festival
The project consists of two related and mutually reinforcing sub projects: the Songs for Scotland Festival, which will be held in the beautiful upstairs venue of Oran Mor, in Glasgow’s west end, on the evening of September 3rd; and ‘Bella Caledonia: the Songs for Scotland Album’ (downloadable) which will be ready for download by August 15th (more below).
The Songs for Scotland Festival will present performances by some of Scotland’s finest singers and musicians. Artists from folk/trad to hip hop, with songs ranging across the full spectrum of Scottish music, from Emily Smith to Adam Ross of Randolph’s Leap. They will perform on September 3rd in a shared celebration of Scotland and to affirm their support for ‘Yes’, singing variously in Scots, Gaelic and English.
‘We call on Scotland’s singers and musicians to become fully engaged in the referendum debate, and to bring song and musical repertoire into prominent play’, I wrote previously. Our singers and musicians have risen magnificently to the occasion. Some have rearranged busy schedules to perform at the festival; and all are freely contributing their time and their artistry to the cause of good governance, social solidarity and Scottish independence.
The Festival will be hosted by author and playwright Alan Bissett . Award winning movie production designer Mike Gunn (‘Sunshine on Leith’, ‘Filth’) will be designing the event, to make the Oran Mor venue, if possible, even more lovely than it presently is. The Festival will be a first class event and a shared affirmation of Scotland: a truly national concert in which Scottish musicians will sing and perform their support for a ‘Yes’ vote on September 18th.
Crucially, the event will also be professionally filmed by Mark Hirst, the film-maker behind Bellavision which has been webcasting recently on Bella Caledonia. Why crucially?
A well-designed festival with fine musicians is a beautiful but a fleeting thing: here today, gone tomorrow. The Songs for Scotland Festival will be staged only two weeks before the referendum. Mark and his crew will be both filming performances and interviewing artists (those willing) about their personal roads to ‘Yes’. They will cut this material into short episodes of five minutes each, one per artist or band and each to include a song; and these episodes will then be webcast on Vimeo and YouTube as the ‘Artists for Indy Interview Series’.
By thus bringing to mind certain core elements of our national mythos, we believe we can bring more voters onside with us during those final, critical weeks before the vote. We expect the ‘Artists for Indy Interview Series’ to be widely viewed across Scotland (with a little help from social media); and moreover, we think the series will inevitably cause our splendidly egalitarian national mythos to well up in many a mind just in the nick of time.
‘Then let us pray that come it may,
(As come it will for a’ that,)
That Sense and Worth, o’er a’ the earth,
Shall bear the gree, an’ a’ that.
For a’ that, an’ a’ that,
It’s comin yet for a’ that
That man to man, the world o’er,
Shall brithers be for a’ that.
Praxis: Bella Caledonia, the Songs for Scotland Album
Many of the artists performing on September 3rd, and others too, have consented to the use of some of their recorded performances to create a downloadable album of ‘aspirational’ songs about Scotland: ‘Bella Caledonia: the Songs for Scotland Album’. Album downloads will help us to fund the festival in the first instance, and will continue to be available through Bella Caledonia after the concert.
‘I had an odd thought in a flash as I soaked in a cold bath
In an economic construct where arguable law is more important than math
Why are schools teaching us to use stones to plug the hole in the raft?
It’s a new world order innit
Where you can’t heat your home but you can buy a yoghurt, with chocolate in it
Eh, work for your dole? Give me a break
If there’s work to be done call it a job and pay a living wage
Ma life is where theory and practice collide
Supporting the project: buying tickets and albums
We are using Indiegogo to fund the project (basically as a sales platform for tickets and albums). To see the complete festival lineup at the time of writing, please go to Indiegogo, here.
While the lineup is eighty percent complete, there are still artists seeking to adjust their schedules so they can join us on September 3rd. We will continue to announce artists as they confirm, both on Bella Caledonia and on Twitter @songs4scotland. Certain special guest artists will also be performing who have asked to remain anonymous until the day of the Festival.
The Oran Mor upstairs venue will accommodate 400 (with seating for only 350), and we expect tickets to sell out fast. Pledging your support soon will guarantee your place at the Festival.
Finally, Mike Small and I would like to thank the artists who will be taking centre stage on September 3rd to create a great event; as well as the many other talented and energetic people who are pooling their efforts to put thegither the Songs for Scotland Project.
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Follow us on Twitter @songs4scotland