Festival of Cliché

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The whole country is divided like never before. Households are split. Relationships bitterly at peril. No, not the indyref but the Commonwealth Games opening ceremony. Maybe we should have blown up the Red Road flats after all?

Was it a hackneyed orgy of cliché – a massive camp panto with C list slebs projecting an awful backward vision of ourselves to the world? Or was it a clever cheeky upbeat celebration?

Whatever the travesty of the opening – the feel-good factor of the Glasgow crowd and the buzzing athletes won over this cynic.

The opening was truly execrable. Like a giant gooey Tunnock’s cake. But it got much better.

Remember all that chat about how the games mustn’t be allowed to be political?

We’ve had months of tirade from angry Unionist journalists that ‘mad Salmond would hijack the games’ ad nauseam. But with Union Jacks, the Red Arrows, God Save the Queen and Hew Edwards ill-informed running commentary on the referendum and the decision to give a star role to a leading No campaigner, there was no competition as to who got their message out there. I’d be interested to know about allegations that BBC Scotland 2014 ‘co-operated’ with Better Together to ensure union flags appeared during the opening ceremony.

But who cares?

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I don’t think this will be remembered as a successful hijack of our event. When Scottish Gold medals come in and the event runs smoothly and Glasgow’s buzzy vibe spreads, it’s all good for Yes.

There were some good bits. Amy Macdonald has scrubbed up well, Pumeza Matshikiza, a soprano from South Africa, singing ‘Freedom Come All Ye’ was breathtaking, as was the Proclaimers ballet and the Andy Stewart / Calvin Harris mash-up. But SuBo’s deeply embarrassing and so is Rod. There’s a bigger question here about how we portray ourselves and what we think our top talent is.

Now back to work, let’s Move Any Mountain.



Categories: Commentary

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47 replies

  1. Smeòrach Chlann Dòmhnaill was also sung by Julie Fowlis but it seems that like in the article above it wasn’t really deemed worthy of much mention. At least it was mentioned by the BBC (unlike in the article above) even if they did just use it as background music while the show moved on, talked all over it and we saw Julie Fowlis for literally a split second.

    • Missed that, sorry. Not sure as Bella’s the only blog in Scotland to have a dedicated gaelic column the suggestion that ‘it wasn’t really deemed worthy of much mention’ stands though?

      • You are not sure my comment (about Bella ignoring this Gaelic element in a piece about culture and how we protray ourselves as a nation) entirely stands because you have a dedicated Gaelic column??? I think my comment stands because you didn’t mention the Gaelic element or even notice it (though to be fair that may be more to do with the fact it was spoken over and generally used as a bit of backing). Nothing to do with whether you have a Gaelic column or not. Or, do you think because you have a Gaelic column all Gaidheals should just shut up and not criticise when our culture is so obviously overlooked/ignored??

        If you missed it fair enough but why the appeal to your Gaelic column as an excuse?

        That said I love Bella keep up the great work!

    • Don, I agree. Smeòrach Chlann Dòmhnaill deserves a much bigger mention. For me it was the best piece played last night. It was breathtaking, even if it was talked over.

      The commentators were very often patronising about our ability to ‘pull it off’ and not being able to compete with London etc. And then we had that arse, Cameron, on quite a few occasions saying he wasn’t going to politicise the games going straight on to criticise them.

      The dearth of Scottish commentators was appallingly lacking and I felt like I was in a foreign country, being presented as outsiders to our games, and it was us who were the disembodied voices. And I see it’s still the same this morning on BBC. We have some great Scottish presenters, where were/are they?

      However, I will say, the stadium and Glasgow looked wonderful. I was so immensely proud watching the scenes from around the city and from the stadium. You’ll do a wonderful job Glasgow.

    • If you had blinked you would have missed Julie Fowlis thanks to the political manipulation of the event by the BBC .

      • I did. One of the most telling moments was Gary Lineker at the beginning talking about Scots and Scotland as “they”. The event was IN Scotland. So its funny even as they go on about how we’re all totally indistinguishable and united they still view us as extremly ‘other’.

  2. It’s Huw, not Hew, Edwards.

  3. I thought that the opening ceremony was much better after a faltering start than I feared with truly top line contributions from Nicola Bennedetti, Julie Fowlis, Amy Macdonald and the superb rendition of Hamish Henderson’s Freedom Come All Ye from a lassie” from beyond Nyangi.” The pleasure and enthusiasim of the teams at their reception was inspiring.
    I confess that with some sleight of hand I managed to miss both Barrowman and Subo. I cannot “get” the attraction that BBC Scotland has for the truly creepy Barrowman with his oleaginous manner and phoney and variable Scattish accent. I treasure the review of his recent Glasgow Dick Whittington panto where he shared the stage with fellow exiles The Krankies and the reviewer concluded that “Barrowman’s Dick was everywhere”
    So again last night it appeared to be!

  4. As this was the BBC, it’s probably safe to assume that Huw Edwards’ ill-informed commentary on the referendum was deliberate. We mustn’t have the people of this kingdom, especially those in Scotland, exposed to any facts or objective comment, must we?

  5. Here’s how Hugh MacDonald described the opening ceremony today in The Herald, the country’s leading newspaper…

    “The city of Benny Lynch, the haven of the eternal Wee Man, has always punched above its weight. Glasgow last night took a small budget and came up with a big idea.
    It is what Scots do. The land that brought the world penicillin, television, the square sausage, the enlightenment, slagging as a way of declaring love, the novel, ships that sailed the world, quips that nailed the moment, modern engineering, the carry-oot and the philosophy of economics toyed with the idea of a conventional opening ceremony in the way that Jim Baxter once played with an English midfield.”

    This appalling piece of journalism, factually incorrect, badly written, sentimental, false, self-aggrandizing is typical of a moment in which the levels of national self-satisfaction, self-congratulation and whae’s like us-ism have reached a new crescendo. It’s reminiscent of the build up of Argentina 78….

    If there is one thing that I cannot stand about Scotland it is this plucky, cheap, culturally illiterate, cheery-chappy, happy go lucky Scotsman who spends his life wallowing in the privileged ether of the “Scottish national identity”, who believes that the cultural symbols and trappings of our cultural subjugation are in fact something to be celebrated and paraded at every occasion, and who never fails to take advantage and bask in the glory of the achievements of a handful of dead white men from centuries ago while completely ignoring the complexity and challenging nature of the thinking which led to their successes.,

    Somebody should set up the Scottish National Gloaters Party, it could rival the SNP over the next few weeks.

  6. You may not like Barrowman, but the fact that the start of the opening ceremony prominently featured an openly gay man and a lesbian sent a clear message to the 40+ nations of the Commonwealth where human rights aren’t about pension rights and marriage certificates but are literally about life and death.

    Incidentally, I wonder whether there’s a medical term for being hyper-sensitive to any sighting of the Union Flag?

    • Yes the pro-equality message was good, I’ll give you that.

      Apronitis?

    • There was no place for the Union flag as Britain/United Kingdom didn’t have a team.

      • Nigh on all the times I saw the Union flag, it was as part of various Commonwealth nation’s own flags. I suggest you take the matter up with them.

      • I suspect the ‘Union’ flag was there just to remind us that all the Commonwealth nations (including England) are subject to Westminster in some form or another. It’s just a slightly modified form of the old British Empire. Why governments whose countries were not colonised by London want to join the Commonwealth is beyond me. Haven’t they noticed that some countries had to go to war in order to get away from Westminster rule?

  7. I had to go out of the room after five minutes of Barrowman et al. Terrible anxiety about the awful kitch and who on earth thought it up? But then, as has been said, there was Julie Fowlis and Nicola Benedetti …. and lovely music. (I managed skilfully to miss SuBo – but you know, people in all sorts of places like her, and it was an international audience).

    In spite of Huw Edwards blatant reference to the Referendum, it was interesting how many countries were listed as having ‘voted for independence’. And let’s not be too judgmental about the Yes and No supporters. It was a masterstroke to have Billy Connolly talk about freedom and introduce “Freedom Come All Ye”. That was the point I would have cheered.

    Don’t you think it made a point that Scotland cares about fairness and equality and people in need?

    • Yes it did succeed in making a point about social justice and equal rights, that was good.

    • Yes! I thought there were a few moments that would have been seen as dangerously subversive, talking about Freedom for all, etc. I was extremely surprised by that. There was an occasion later on towards the end of the night and there was something similar and I remember thinking, ‘how did that get past the Beeb?’

      I, for one, did cheer.

    • Most people don’t care or at least don’t think about it. The slogan ‘ a fairer Scotland’ is one which, unfortunately, does not bear much resonance amoungst most folk.

  8. Huw was remarkably well briefed on small island territories that had rejected independence in referendums. ‘Full marks for that!

    • And he was just as well briefed on all the small islands which had voted for their independence. I was keeping count 😉 In fact, independence was a thread running through his commentary.

  9. Intrigued by “I’d be interested to know about allegations that BBC Scotland 2014 ‘co-operated’ with Better Together to ensure union flags appeared during the opening ceremony”. So would I.

  10. Thought the Scottish teams rig-oot was just fine, big mistake showing it before the event & the ensuing vilification of the designer by auld wimmen of both sexes! 🙂

  11. Of course the BBC handed out the two sided flags. It’s pretty desperate of them. As said before the union flag was not relevent to Team Scotland or Scotland’s Commonwealths. Who won the bid? It was Glasgow Scotland not Glasgow UK. As for the show absolutely everything I hate about Scotland for the first 20 minutes. Subo is a national embarassment and not that great a singer. Barrowman is just a pantomime dame. You would have learned more about Scotland watching Brigadoon! Cultural imperialism at it’s worst.

  12. The Yankee Games
    So why was I embarrassed by the opening ceremony? There were bits I liked because they connected. Andy Coogan handing over the baton to Chris Hoy, but made cute just because he was 97, and no mention of the fact that he represents the backbone of sport: the volunteers who run clubs year in year out, and he is a war hero. ( read “Tommorow you Die” Andy Coogan : Mainstream, for the full remarkable story)
    I liked the Scottish costumes when I saw them moving exuberantly with the team who seemed so comfortable. Julie Fowlis, “Freedom come all ye”, colorful volunteers with the chairs making folk welcome. Connected.
    Then there was folk with little or no connected ness except by limited ethnicity.
    John Barrowman? A populist American entertainer who lived in Scotland till he was 8 “
    He has several homes including a house/maisonette in the Chelsea neighborhood of London, England, UK and a home near Cardiff, Wales. and Palm Springs, CA. He does not feel connected to anything I know as Scottish civic life.
    Rod Stewart got to sing twice!!! Who he? Well he lives in Epping ,his dad was Scottish he has never lived here, and makes no contribution to Scottish life. Then we get a song written by Paul McCartney about the Mull of Kintrye, which he has occasionally visited. Again no connectedness. The question is, are there no entertainers living and working in Scotland using local material who could have done the job. The answer is of course there is? The better question is why not?
    Dr Bridget McConnell, Director of Ceremonies, Culture and the Queen’s Baton Relay at Glasgow 2014, said:
    “Glasgow and Scotland have the pride, passion, commitment and talent to produce Opening and Closing Ceremonies which showcase the very best of both city and nation to the world.
    “What we are charged with delivering is a vision of both Glasgow and Scotland which reflects not only our outstanding cultural legacy, but the creative talent which, today, is recognised as being among the finest on a global stage.
    So of course Bridget what have you and the Glasgow committee done? Ignore that talent and import it.
    “Showcase the very best of both city and nation to the world” Not showcase banal Americanized global culture.
    How did that happen
    Well firstly you appoint an imported CEO David Grevemberg
    Glasgow 2014 Chairman Lord Smith said:
    “We started our global search to look for a dynamic leader who would inspire and motivate the Organising Committee with an in-depth knowledge of what we are about and we are delighted to have found the best person for the job.”
    Why “a global search for a Dynamic Leader” this reveals a belief system that is inferiorist. The Committee had no confidence that a Dynamic leader could be found who also lived and worked in Scotland and was connected with it’s culture and life. “an in-depth knowledge of what we are about” I don’t think so.
    Then you import an events team, Jack Morton Worldwide, again from America, which you revere as the seat of all cultural power. Of course you believe America is best because you have been told that. It also helps if the American CEO is a personal friend of members of the events team and has worked with them on a number of occasions. No need to look around Scotland to see if there is anyone who could do the job.
    The events team, knowing nothing of Scotland looks around for people who it recognizes as having something, anything that connects them, so they come up with a team of entertainers who have swallowed the dollar. John Barrowman, Rod Stewart, Billy Connolly, Susan Boyle
    Apart from Billy’s nice intro to the Freedom come all ye, it’s is all imported.
    I have thought about this. Perhaps its true no one in Scotland could have produced such a high quality celebration of the games and a welcome to Glasgow and Scotland, so the committee was forced to look abroad. Then I thought about it for another 30 seconds and came up with a dream organizing team comprising folk from Celtic Connections, National theatre of Scotland, T in the park and Grand Theft Auto. Given 30 seconds a lot of folk would come up with another list of folk who would have done a grand job.
    We were in Glasgow. Where were the Glasgow Irish, Italians and Asians??? Shame on you!

    What is reveled to me is a committee with zero confidence in the people of Scotland. It is no surprise then that they are all for the union. They believe we are better together because they are too frightened to be themselves Herein lies the root of my embarrassment. The people charged with representing me to the world are embarrassed by themselves and that was reveled in the show they put on.
    “For cultural invasion to succeed, it is essential that those invaded become convinced of their intrinsic inferiority.” Paulo Freire
    After years of “Sustained belittling” (F Fannon) they have become self-depreciating.
    Self-depreciation is another characteristic of the oppressed, which derives from the internalisation of the opinion of the oppressors’ hold of them. So often do they hear that they are good for nothing, know nothing and are incapable of learning anything – that they are sick, lazy and unproductive – that in the end they become convinced of their own unfitness.
    Paulo Freire

    Shame by association is not a nice feeling, and this constant looking beyond ourselves for people to do a job we are perfectly capable of doing ourselves, makes me ashamed. We can run a successful small country.
    Lets just get on with it!!!

    • Well said Stan

    • Dr Bridget McConnell. The absolute cheek of people who use honorary degrees (often given thanks to personal connections) as part of their name.

    • equation: Scottish = Provincial, unsophisticated. feel the cringe. Edinburgh Festival suffers from the same syndrome. Fortunately we are acquainted with the symptoms. The cure may take some time.

    • Excellent comment with a lot of new information for me.

    • Excellent Stan. Hope you don’t mind but I would like to copy and paste to my facebook. I am still raging about BBC England taking the prime presenting jobs of the Games. Couldn’t believe my eyes and ears when I saw Gary Linaker, Clare Balding and some English bloke from a regional programme. Where was John Beattie (an excellent and intelligent presenter). Maybe he let out that he is voting Yes. We have plenty of excellent presenters. Shame on the BBC or should I say EBC.

  13. spoken well, for a whole lot of us Stan.

  14. Haud oan there a minute. Big set piece occasions such as last night’s opening, where £-multi-million budgets have to be spent, is a specialised business.

    You get the Olympics, European, Pan-American, Pan-Pacific, Pan-African and Asian Games, which are multi-sport; then you have individual world championships, from the Big Three – the football and Rugby Union world cups and the Athletics World Championships – not to mention world championships at other sports.

    You have events such as the half-time show at the NBA’s ‘Superbowl’. Get involved in organising/running these and you’re in an on-going industry.

    The Commonwealth Games is one step down from these huge budget events, so, just as you wouldn’t get the wee guy down the road with a JCB to build a new motorway – you go to the guys with a track record to organise your event.

    Certainly,events such as T In The Park, the Edinburgh Tattoo, the Royal Highland Show are very well-run by Scots, but, these events are not quite the same as a major games, not least from the need to know how best to recruit and train the amateur, volunteer performers.

    Then, there is the sad reality, most events which come to this country come through UK-wide organisations, such as the BOA, which have headquarters in LOndon and a Londoncentric way of operating.

    However, in an Independent Scotland, free from London’s influence, we might be able to run our own affairs and we may see Scottish-based and run organisations getting in on the big global games act.

    I would suggest, to those who can think that far back, that, Scotland’s last go at organising an opening ceremony – in 1986, was hardly a success – I still cringe at some of the things they did.

    We might not have had many “Chiefs” involved in last night’s show, but, the “Indians” from Scotland did ok. I didn’t mind Karen Dunbar and John Barrowman – both do gallus rather well and if Glasgow is one thing, it’s gallus.

    Barrowman has spent most of his life in Canada and the USA, so, his accent can be forgiven – rather more than Lulu, who has only ever been 400 mi9les down the road but comes back to Scotland with a parody of a Glasgow accent.

    Re Barrowman, by the way. Last time I was in Canada, I met one exiled Scot, who still sounded as if he had left Glasgow that morning, while another, who hadn’t been there nearly as long, was almost a case of Dick Van Dyk tries a Scottish accent.

    These openings are always a bit of a mixed bag, with some things working and some not. for instance, I cringed at the first sighting of the parade uniforms – on the night, under the TV lights, they worked. I also liked the wee dance with the chairs. I don’t suppose it worked too-well for the fans inside Celtic Park, but, in the aerial shot, you could see they were weaving a tartan, which was a good touch.

    Lots of comments about the lack of Flower of Scotland. There are strict protocol rules covering these big games, and, while FoS is accepted as our “anthem” for sports teams, medal ceremonies and the like – the fact is, we don’t have an “official” national anthem, other than God Save The Queen, the official anthem of the UK.

    Maybe something for Holyrood to tackle in the period between us voting Yes and the lowering of the Union Flag over Edinburgh Castle at the official Independence ceremony.

    (As an aside – pleased to see England using ‘Jerusalem’) at medal ceremonies, but, already, less than six hours into competition, I am afraid the BBC has reverted to their default position on CG coverage, roughly explained as: “Engerlund, Engerlund, Engerlund”.

    Not a lot to get annoyed about, but, we really have to get it right post 18 September. Mind you, we’re Scots, our default position is somewhere between: “That was shite and Aye – no bad”. We’re never happy.

  15. You might like tom know that Huw Edwards father Hywel Teifi Edwards wasa prominent Welsh nationalist

    He stood twice for Plaid Cymru as a parliamentary candidate, in Llanelli in 1983 and Carmarthen in 1987. He represented Llangennech on Dyfed County Council for 12 years from 1977, and served for over 30 years as a Plaid Cymru member of Llangennech Community Council.’
    Can’t expect out children to follow our beliefs but Jywel Tefi would have been squirming to listen to his son.

  16. Can’t agree with the comment about the SA opera singer. ‘Freedom Come All Ye’ wasn’t written as an operatic aria – it was very much a ”people’s song” – and opera is still elitist.
    Henderson would have been disgusted.
    I’ve sung the song many times, and heard it sung in almost every Scot’s dialect – but those who haven’t won’t have understood a word of it – or the message.
    Why not Chris Drever ? Or Fowlis (or ‘Foster’ as she was called on ‘Morning Call’ today) ? How about Karine Polwart, Fiona Hunter, or Dick Gaughan.
    Oh – I forgot – they’re Scottish. Some are Yes supporters. And the English-speaking part of the 1 billion (a BBC figure – so very dodgy) would be able to understand the lyrics !

  17. Watching it on telly in Cardiff, I’d say don’t worry yourselves too much over the opening. It was another of those openings, as Socrates (above) said. Just worry about getting enough people to vote YES on 18th! By the way, we’ll be in Islay on the 18th – what flag/s should we bring?

  18. I was cringing at the start but reckon Glasgow pulled it off in the end. I agree that poor Julie Fowlis got barely a mention, Karen Matheson went unmentioned at all and why in the name of the wee man was that auld guy doing karaoke with rythym of my heart when his voice is well past its prime?

    Huw Eddwards was gleefully pointing out that “they had a referendum on independence which failed” and that started to grate after a while. I’ve only caught a glimpse of the port so far, I was admiring the grit of the English ladies in the triathlon when the BBC commentator started dribbling on about “English girls running on home soil” at which point I found myself hoping the Canadian would win it to wipe the smug grins off their faces. Yet again the English media drive the “anybody but england” feelings.

    • It isn’t just you Scots who get pissed off by remarks like, “English girls running on home soil” (not to mention swimming and cycling). It gets up a few English noses as well (certainly this Englishman’s nose). There I was, thinking that all the Scotland-England games at Hampden or Murrayfield I’ve watched on TV over the years were home games for Scotland. Shows how ignorant I am.

  19. Paul F what part of culture does Subo fit into? It’s populist nonsense. She is an average singer and would not have this platform if she didn’t look the way she did. You have lost me? I find it sad that people fall into the cultural vacum of Saturday night TV. We have professional singers in Scotland who have spent their lives studying the art and are far superior yet we overlook them because someone was famous on a TV show.

  20. This was the comedic Scotland of Better Together. In spirit it was what was known as, before African Americans reclaimed their identity, a “coon show”. This was the tartan face version. So, two fingers down the throat; a fitting salute to monarchy and its ex-colonial “family of nations”.

  21. You have hit the nail on the head Abulhaq.Know your place Scotland drunks ,pub singers and dime store comedians.Dreadfull!

  22. Nobody appears to have made the connection between what most seem to think was the poorest part of the opening ceremony -the first section- and the none too subtle Product Placement that was taking place in that section with official sponsors of the CG like Tunnocks and Irn Bru. Doubtless there were others involved.

  23. I liked the Scottie dugs. As for the rest, well to quote Sara Smith ‘a bit kitsche, wasn’t it’ . Use the Glesca spelling ‘keech’ and I have to agree !

  24. I am 69 and have lived in Glasgow all my life. I studied music at GU and am well acquainted with most genres of Scottish music. I recognised none of the trashy music played (and I must surely speak for most of Scotland and the C’wealth). Wait a moment though. I did recognise the Notional Anthem, tho I prefer the Britten arrangement. Was it really booed or am I hallucinating?

  25. Aye the dogs stole the show for me, mon the terriers! gggrrrrrrrr!!

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