Boston, March 24. Her voice breaking and shaking with anger, a survivor of the massacre at Florida’s Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School addressed the crowd on Boston Common; “We are not special, we are not particularly articulate”. Leonor Munoz’ message was that she was an ordinary teenager at an ordinary school on an ordinary day and that what happened to her could happen in any high school on any main street in any town in America. The fun and anticipation of a teenage Valentine’s Day – she said a little about that – ended when she went outside in response to a fire alarm to be told “Code Red: Run”. Leonor’s older sister Beca, a student at Northeastern University spoke too – she received a text from her sister that day saying “Active Shooter on Campus – Do Not Call”. For the crowd of thousands on a grey end-of-winter afternoon clustered around the Common, straining to hear the speeches, that is the text, as one mother’s handmade sign said, that nobody ever wants to receive. Everyone can relate to what is becoming an all-too-ordinary story. Teacher and former Marine Graciela Mohamedi told the crowd: “The opposition will call you snowflakes. But do you know what in Massachusetts we call thousands upon thousands of snowflakes rising on a wind of change? We call that a blizzard!’
Like other cities, Boston has many fewer independent bookshops than it once did. But there is one still standing among the boutiques of Newbury St, the smartest shopping street in town. Trident Booksellers has been there since 1984 and it seems to be still going strong.
Paul Wiessmeyer, who I wrote about this week on my “Boson Blog” contacted me about this family of refugees who are hoping to be reunited Monday. On DECEMBER 18, a Turkish Airlines flight 1525 that originated in the Sudan, will land in Dusseldorf, Germany at 13.05 PM. Among the passengers will be an Eritrean mother and her four young sons, recently granted permission to leave a Sudanese refugee camp to be reunited with their father Asmerom in Germany. This will be the first time they see each other in four years.
There is a point in Mairi Campbell’s one-woman coming of age show Pulse where in an attempt to convey inarticulable emotion she writhes on the ground speaking gibberish. As she plays wild notes on her viola, animated scribbles light up the backdrop. Struggling with unrequited love for a priest, travelling alone in Mexico, in a culture she doesn’t understand, she has lost her way.
A middle-aged man stands at a street corner waiting for his customers, wrapped up against the December chill. Master violinmaker Paul Wiessmeyer, along with several others, has been summarily evicted from a Harry-Potter-ish building in Boston’s music quarter.
The place, 295 Huntington Ave was easy to miss – you could walk past the unprepossessing entrance without guessing what was inside up the narrow staircase. Built as a hotel a century or so ago, it became a cultural ecosystem about 60 years ago. There was a symbiosis in its corridors where music students, performers and media types rubbed shoulders.
This month marks 50 years since the death of the playwright Robert Kemp. To commemorate this, I have created a memoir which is downloadable here as a PDF, readable on Kindle or any other device. This is a work in progress – a corrected and finalised version will appear soon. Comments and contributions welcome via Facebook or Twitter @jackiekemp.
Earlier this year when writing for the Guardian about the ongoing political row around Scotland’s performance in the international comparison table known as PISA, I visited Currie High School on the outskirts of Edinburgh and spoke to a group of young people who were gathered in the lab to discuss their experience of science at school with me. After the chat, where the students were generally enthusiastic and complimentary about their science lessons, I asked if anyone would consider becoming a High School Science teacher. Silence. Why not? “I just can’t stand children, Miss” answered one bright spark. After a pause, another offered the reason that it would be just “too much hard work” – and there was a chorus of agreement with this sentiment.(some students from Currie)
Scots musical artist Mairi Campbell is in Boston to perform in WGBH Celtic Sojourn at the Cutler Majestic and touring. On Dec 2 at the Shea Theater in Turner Falls she will perform ‘Pulse’, a musical drawn from her own life which she performed throughout the 2017 Edinburgh Fringe, gaining some five star reviews.
Not many musicians could hope to fill a theatre with a one-woman experimental musical about their own lives. But Mairi Campbell’s ‘Pulse’ in which she acts, sings, plays the fiddle and dances the story of her own musical coming of age has been touring Scotland for the last two years, showcasing the best of modern Scots culture at Celtic Connections in 2016 and at the Edinburgh Fringe in 2017. Mairi is an old friend of mine and below is a piece I wrote about the show at its inception in 2015.
The theme of the 70th Edinburgh International Festival this year is remembering the ‘Spirit of 47’. Among the audience is at least one faithful festival-goer who was there at the start – my uncle David Kemp. Here are some of David’s reminiscences of his many Festivals, stretching back to those post-war years when the colour and beauty of art returned to a traumatised world.
David Kemp outside the Usher Hall, Edinburgh before the Mariinsky/ RSNO concert on 23/08/2017
A poem about encountering Rembrandt’s work on different occasions, in London, Amsterdam and Boston
The summer after leaving for Uni They all came back, trailing clouds Of crazy hair and bad tattoos. The brought us new words: “Heteronormative”, “Post-democracy” Changing all, like snowflakes, which, When…
Back in Scotland, on a visit to a friend in her 70s, She talked about two girls from Barra Who were caught up in the Manchester bombing She thought of…
Real newspapers can be used for many things that their digital counterparts never could – from lining the veg box to making paper boats and beyond. Artist Jane Couroussopoulos finds a novel use for the pile of old Guardians she keeps in her studio, turning them into works of art.
Jane and Poppy in the studio.
The week that ‘Article 30’ was triggered by Nicola Sturgeon and ‘Article 50’ was triggered by Theresa May’s letter, I was in France and over a cafe creme each morning, read about it all in Le Monde. This great European newspaper with its painstaking reportage and thoughtful opinion; sophisticated use of photography, and broad agenda of international news, illuminated the situation and it is always interesting to see oursels as ithers see us, as the poet said.
At their meeting in Glasgow, May said to Sturgeon about the referendum call: “Ce n’est pas le bon moment.” Some things just sound better in French. In English her: “Now is not the time,” has a rather nanny-ish ring, it’s one of those circular phrases that May likes. I can imagine a character saying this in Alice In Wonderland and the White Rabbit replying, irritated, looking at his watch: “The time is always now, don’t you know anything?” But “Ce n’est pas le bon moment,” sounds faintly desperate. It reminds me of the Jacques Brel classic “Ne me quitte pas,” with its lines “Oublier le temps..et le temps perdu” (Forget the time and the time that’s past). This song, of course, would also do as a soundtrack for Brexit.
By Jackie Kemp, Published in the Guardian, March 21, 2017.
From James Watt’s steam engine to Dolly the sheep, Scotland is proud of its strong science tradition, so a recent fall in the international rankings of Scottish pupils in science is causing a degree of national soul-searching.
Children’s Parliament Imagineers show off their mural.
On a recent afternoon, as a weak Spring sun shone over Edinburgh’s Charlotte Square picking out crocuses in the square’s central garden, the door of Bute House – official residence of Scotland’s First Minister – opened and a group emerged from a lengthy consultation with the Scottish Cabinet. They huddled together on the steps, reporting to an accompanying cameraman about the event. But as they did so they began to hop around and skip up and down the steps in a manner most unusual for the dignitaries who generally emerge from discussing affairs of state there.
These delegates were all primary school children – a small group from the Children’s Parliament (CP) which had come to talk to Nicola Sturgeon and Education Minister John Swinney, as well as other members of the Cabinet and Scottish Government officials about what is important to children in Scotland today.