Vettriano not for the snobbish


Though ridiculed by critics, artist’s work is honest, with an authentic, working-class sensibility, writes Jackie Kemp

 From The Scotsman, October 25.

WHAT on earth is happening at Kelvingrove Art Gallery in Glasgow? It is mid-morning on a weekday but the car parks are overflowing. Cars are jinking about, competing for any vacated space. The art gallery itself is hotching. There are actual traffic jams in front of certain pictures and there is a queue at the till in the exhibition shop. The postcard rack is half empty and the limited edition prints are flying off the shelves.

The public response to Jack Vettriano’s first major retrospective is a marked contrast to the funereal atmosphere of the big empty rooms at this year’s Edinburgh International Festival exhibition of the recent work of Peter Doig, a commercially successful painter whose massive and anodyne, though slapdash, landscapes would be a safe bet for decorating the foyer of any corporate headquarters in Zurich.


The Great Tapestry of Scotland

A slightly shortened version of this arrticle appeared in the Herald magazine on Saturday, August 24,2013. Photos are available to view on the website Edinburgh Festival Panel group portrait for the Great Tapestry of Scotland project. Photographed at the Usher Hall in Edinburgh to mark the connection between festival and venue.<br /> <br /> pictures by Alex Hewitt


Cycling along the Canal du Midi

From the Herald Saturday Magazine, May 11 2013. Just as ‘slow food’ generally tastes better than fast food, slow transport – at least on holiday – is a more enjoyable way to travel. Better still when the travelling is done in the sunny south of France, in the shade of plane trees and with frequent pit stops. Whether by bike or by barge, the journey along one of France’s grandest feats of pre-revolutionary engineering, the Canal du Midi, is increasingly popular.

Scots students get their Higher results

Scots students get their Higher results

Published in the Education Guardian, August 6 2013

Their exam system may differ from the one in England, but Scottish students face the same anxious wait for their results. Jackie Kemp takes a closer look at Highers and university entrance north of the border
The new Scottish national curriculum will emphasis research and thinking skills

Today, across Scotland, young people will be whooping or groaning as the results of their endof – school exams, the Highers and Advanced Highers, are revealed. “The people who do really well will post them on Facebook,” says student Ellie Small, “and some of those who do really badly might post them for comedy value, but I don’t think I will be posting mine. I’m really nervous. The closer it gets, the more I feel I won’t have got what I need.”

Propaganda war: who will win Scottish teenage hearts and minds?

Jackie Kemp -The Guardian, Monday 20 May 2013 19.30 BST

Pupils at Glasgow’s Douglas Academy debate Scotland’s independence ahead of next year’s vote. Photograph: Martin Hunter
Rosie Duthie and Euan MacIntosh, both 15, have made up their minds on how they plan to vote in next year’s referendum on Scottish independence. For Euan the answer is a clear “yes” because he believes it will be his best guarantee of a free university education. Rosie is a “no”. She says: “We should be arguing that what we think is better for the future of young people in Scotland is better for England too and for the European Union.”

“Worrying” dip in language learning in Scots schools

Published in The Scotsman newspaper on 29/04/2013 00:00

FOREIGN language learning in Scotland’s schools has dipped to “worrying” new levels, education experts warned last night. The warning that the decline will have an negative impact on Scotland’s standing in the world came after it emerged that only about one in ten S5 pupils is taking foreign language courses.

 An analysis of education statistics by The Scotsman has found the number of Higher course entrants for modern languages has fallen by nearly a quarter over the past 20 years, from 10,179 to just under 7,887 in 2011.

Mandarin blossoms among Scots language pupils

It’s difficult, unfamiliar, and far from a traditional educational choice. So why are more Scottish pupils bucking the UK trend and venturing out of their comfort zone to study Mandarin? Jackie Kemp speaks to some of the people involved in the pursuit of oriental excellence. From The Scotsman April 29 2013

A group of girls in brightly coloured silk costumes are conversing animatedly in Mandarin – performing a short play for visitors to their school, Leith Academy, Edinburgh. The city comprehensive’s staff are clearly proud of this high-achieving group of six girls, all the children of immigrants from Africa, Asia and diverse parts of Europe, who earlier this year beat stiff competition to make it to the finals of the British Council’s Chinese-speaking competition, for the second time in a row.

White Out With Nuns

T his poem is one of the best-read things on my site.  A poem. White out with nuns.You coming?Swirling snowfall makes the world go blankUnnavigable nothingnessAnd through it, the silent…

Father ‘Ted’ McSherry

Father ‘Ted’ McSherry

Published in The Scotsman  Tuesday 22 January 2013 

Born: 29 September, 1934, in Liverpool. Died: 26 December, 2012, in Edinburgh, aged 78

Father Edward McSherry – known to everyone as “Father Ted” – was parish priest of St Mary’s Star of the Sea in Leith, Edinburgh. At the time of his death he was working and leading a full life, having recently returned from a visit to South America.

At his funeral, the church was packed with mourners, many of whom had travelled for long distances to mark the passing of this popular priest and to give thanks for what was described as a “simple life – and in the end he died as he lived – very simply”

Literature doesn’t need more cheerleaders

Rosemary Goring’s take on the Creative Scotland debate from the Herald Saturday arts section September 22, 2012

“There is no such thing as art. There are only artists,” said E H Gombrich in The Story of Art.  It’s a dictum that the architects of Creative Scotland should have noted. Much of the firestorm that has engulfed that beleaguered institution of late might have been averted if its apparatchiks had had the wisdom and humility to appreciate that the state’s function in funding the arts is solely to disburse money to artists in the most effective and simple manner possible.


A Fair Trade Holiday

House swapping in Franche Comte, from the Herald Saturday magazine on September 1, 2012

When I opened an email on a grim winter’s day offering a holiday house swap for a cottage in the mountains near the border of France and Switzerland, it didn’t take me too long to reply “ooh, quelle bonne idee”. We hadn’t planned a foreign holiday but free accommodation in beautiful surroundings seemed too good to turn down.

Holidays in Scotland and France

From a Scottish Review special on memorable Scottish holidays. Perhaps the most memorable Scottish holiday I know of was not mine but someone else’s. Once, I took a taxi in Coatbridge driven by a man with a fund of stories. A couple have stuck in my mind. Once he was booked to take an elderly resident to Asda. He waited for her in the car park on a sunny day and when she emerged, hot and laden with bags, she said to him: ‘Take me to Largs, son, take me to Largs’.

Holidaying with teens in Sutherland

Herald, Saturday magazine 30 May 2011

To say our teenagers were not keen on a week in a cottage in the far north of Scotland would be like saying Ryan Giggs is not a fan of Twitter. It was not, apparently, their idea of a holiday. The word they used in fact was “nightmare”. But I closed my ears to their girning – second nature now – and insisted they pack plenty of warm clothes and borrow some holiday reading from the school library.

Of course, I told myself, no self-respecting teenager would welcome a week in the Highlands with their parents. I am sure I made the same kind of extravagant complaints myself – but I did enjoy it once I was there.

Tiny school wants one for the roll

Tiny school wants one for the roll

  • “One more pupil please!” reads the appeal sent out by Rebecca Ridgway, desperate to find a young family prepared to move to one of the emptiest places in Europe to stop the school roll falling below 20 at her children’s primary.

    Ridgway – who runs the adventure holiday company founded by her father, the yachtsman John Ridgway – takes her two children, Hughie, eight, and Molly, 10, to school each morning in an open boat with an outboard motor from their home in Ardmore, in Sutherland.

i for ingenious

JACKIE KEMP from online publication “Journalist’s Handbook” April 4 2011.
The i – a concise version of the Independent newspaper priced at a very reasonable 20 pence a day or £35 a year – appears to be doing rather well. ABC sales figures at the start of this year were around 130,000 and are reportedly heading for 160,000 now. That is double the number of people who subscribe to the Times website and, at a time when in many newspaper groups resources have been migrating from print to online editions, it presents an interesting idea.
Could it be that there is still some mileage in the hoary old newspaper? Could there be something too in this new, sexy concept of concision?