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Issue 55 - October 2015
Page visits:
Arran’s mountains: Cir Mhor from Caisteal Abhail


One issue has dominated our news media over recent weeks; the movement of tens of thousands of people towards, into, and across Europe – the Migrant Crisis. We have seen heart-breaking pictures and heard harrowing stories of conditions in Syria and other countries, and of the perilous journeys undertaken in search of a safe and better life.

Arran residents have responded with a collection of warm winter clothing and with offers of help and hospitality. Fiona Laing emailed friends for some assistance and the first collection took place over the weekend of 12th and 13th September at Jim Lees storeroom in Corrie. Lucy Urquhart Dixon then asked if she could set a collection up at the school for the week and then Emma Campbell offered the Memory walk fundraiser as a drop off point on the 20th.

During the 10 days more than 2 full transit van loads were donated. Fiona then approached Stevie McGill to ask if he would take it to the mainland and he kindly did so for free. Fiona wanted to find a really reputable charity to give the donations to and saw that Glasgow the Caring City was asking for donations of clothes and footwear. They already have links in the Balkans so all the items are being sorted in Glasgow and then will be trucked there. As Fiona says, “Sadly I think there are many refugees in for a long cold winter in the area, but as usual the Arran folk came up trumps. Thanks go to everyone who donated, Jim Lees for offering his storeroom, all the people who offered to be there to accept the donations, Lucy and all the pupils, staff and parents at the High school, Emma Campbell and especially to Stevie McGill.”

The Voice waits to see whether the elected governments across Europe will show similar basic human kindness.

A vanload of clothes heading for the Balkans
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!McLellan Arts Festival – What next?

The first McLellan Arts Festival happened in 2004. At that time it was to raise awareness of a Scottish writer who had been, and to an extent still is, neglected by and unknown to many Scots. Indeed, he is taught in more North American universities than in his native country and hardly at all in Scottish schools. It can be argued that without Robert McLellan we would not have a generation who think it is perfectly respectable to write in living Scots – Liz Lochhead and Irvine Welsh for example or a National Theatre of Scotland. He is simply one of the great makars who deserves to be recognised as such.

The desire to give such recognition and celebrate Scottish culture is what stirred Arran Theatre and Arts Trust to work towards celebrating McLellan’s legacy by working towards a festival in 2007 which would celebrate the centenary of his birth. In order to pave the way for this event, 3 small festivals were held which lasted a few days and focussed on McLellan’s short plays, stories and life. Then in 2007 the Centenary Festival saw a full length community production of McLellan’s most famous play, Jamie the Saxt in collaboration with Borderline Theatre Company who supplied a professional director and actor for the main role whilst Arran provided all the other actors and a chorus of 40 (and a performance space in Auchrannie Games Hall!). In addition the McLellan Poetry Competition was launched, judged by Kathleen Jamie, a play competition in living Scots established, a commission to John Maxwell Geddes, a major art exhibition, as well as various youth events including a documentary made by 3 Arran young people, Calum Johnston, Paul Tinto and Liam Turbett. As a permanent memorial, a stone was laid in Makar’s court, designed by Tim Pomeroy and a centenary edition of The Linmill Stories was published by Luath Press. Plans were also made to publish the collected works of McLellan – a sad omission from the Scottish corpus.

That was to be the culmination of 4 years work but there seemed to be a demand for the continuation of such a festival and here we are in 2015 having just finished the most diverse festival yet with work from Scotland and beyond as well as the most successful poetry competition to date.

So what next? Arran Theatre and Arts Trust would like to know what you would like to see at a festival which celebrates Scottish culture and make Arran an important part of the arts in Scotland. Any contributions welcome!


COAST news


COAST reports that the proposed management plans announced in early June for our MPAs are in real danger of being diluted or possibly abolished completely. As COAST explains “The Cabinet Secretary for the Environment, Richard Lochhead, has a public duty to be ‘ambitious’ for Scotland’s coastal communities and marine environment. Yet interests promoting the controversial practices of scallop dredging and bottom trawling are attacking him for using this word in relation to what are actually very modest Marine Protected Area (MPA) management proposals. The Government’s proposals will only effect 1.6% of scallop dredging gross turnover and 1.3% of bottom trawling, and even this assumes the vessels wont simply fish elsewhere (the mobile sector has emphasized repeatedly that this will happen as an argument against MPAs - so they can’t have it both ways). In addition, many MPAs including the South Arran MPA will still allow some dredging or bottom trawling to continue (36% of the  South Arran MPA will still be available to bottom trawlers). Despite this, an often hysterical sounding mobile sector is scaremongering coastal communities by declaring the MPA network will end life as we know it on the West coast. Let’s be clear, it will not. While Lochhead’s measures may well be ‘ambitious’ in the face of this blinkered opposition, they can only be accurately described as ‘modest’ by any reasonable standards.”Thousands of constituents were not invited to submit evidence or even asked to write evidence to the RACCE committee who are holding a meeting with only commercial fishing interests.Thousands of constituents were not invited to submit evidence or even asked to write evidence to the RACCE committee who are holding a meeting with only commercial fishing interests.

!Meanwhile COAST’s new Communications and Administration Officer, Manuela de los Rios, has recently taken up post, replacing the much-loved Andy Telford. The Voice asked her to tell us something about her background.

As a marine scientist specialised in ICZM and environmental education, Manuela has worked for the past 13 years in coastal management, environmental awareness and local sustainable development initiatives for coastal communities across Europe.

Can you tell our readers something about yourself - where were you born, where did you grow up and study?

I was born in London, and grew up in Muswell Hill with my mother (from Portsmouth), father (from Malaga), brother and sister. We moved to Spain when I was nine years old but I came back every summer and did my MSc in Coastal Management in Bournemouth.

How did you become involved in marine conservation?

I have always been attracted to the sea because of its power. Power to make you feel, create, learn, change and finally jump in! So I decided to study marine sciences but personally focusing on our relationship with the sea as human beings. This is what led me to specialise in Integrated Coastal Management, Environmental Education and Communications while getting involved in a few coastal community initiatives.

What were you doing before coming to Arran? Can you tell us about the work you were involved in.

Local sustainability initiatives in various European countries and for EU projects (such as IMCORE or ENCORA) as well as teaching for organisations such as the University of Cadiz and evaluating environmental projects.

I have become more and more interested in using creative arts and communications in my social and environmental projects. In Cadiz, where I lived before moving to Arran with my French partner and three children, I was coordinating an experiential learning project. Ten women from different nationalities discovered and learnt about their local coastal environment, involving their neighbourhood. They created photography, stories, a video and mixed media art that was used for street performances to raise awareness.

What made you want to take up this post with COAST?

On the one hand I thought Arran was a fantastic place to be: nature, heritage, arts, ticks all the boxes! On the other hand I sensed COAST was the kind of organisation that I want to work for; people who are passionate about what they are doing, real community involvement and a commitment to making things happen.

Are there particular things you would like to focus on or achieve with COAST?

I’m really looking forward to the management measures for the MPA to be passed so that I can help develop further our innovative marine interpretation, community outreach and research. The people and businesses of Arran will be playing a very important role in seizing this grand opportunity of having an MPA on their doorsteps and the challenge of taking care of it.

And finally, how has the move here with your family gone, so far?

I must say it has been very positive, I’d like to thank all the people who have been so kind in helping us settle in, find accommodation and make us feel we are already part of this great Arran community.

Thank you Manuela, and welcome to Arran!


Swing 2015

!Jim Henderson writes for the Voice:

Brodick Hall was packed to capacity on Saturday September 19th, an eager audience waiting to hear the famous jazz group that changes its name with each successive year. More tables and chairs had to be set up, and by the time the group launched into its first number, there were about 130 people present.

All members of the group were on return visits to the Island, having appeared with other bands or line-ups. Roy Percy on double bass, Stephen Coutts on lead guitar, John Russell on acoustic guitar are all well known to Arran audiences, and Seonaid Aitken, fabulous as both violinist and singer, was last on the island in Whiting Bay hall, with Rose Room and Jimmy Moon.

The music ranged through many styles, from Romany Gypsy through French, Italian and American traditional jazz. Most of the numbers were well known and loved, and the enthusiastic audience was eager to applaud solo breaks. Stephen Coutts, a student of Django Reinhart, turned in some brilliantly assured solos, backed by John Russell, a fine exponent of acoustic rhythm guitar. Roy’s bass solos were described as ‘electrifying’ and Seonaid sang and played with her usual superb assurance. A night to remember.


Credit unions

Alison Prince gives some useful advice:

Fed up with your bank? Credit unions are a practical alternative. They work as a co-operative fund, helping people who need a hand and providing a very secure home for any funds you don’t immediately need. The good thing about them is that they are local and give real help to people. Any spare cash you have will be in absolutely safe hands, accessible whenever you want it – they provide a pre-paid envelope – and none of it gets mopped up as anyone’s profit.! You won’t get dividend, but you will have the satisfaction of knowing that you are helping in a small way to alleviate poverty and give people the chance of a new start. You’ll never know who benefits, of course, since confidentiality is scrupulously respected, but you’ll belong to a big group of people who are not fixed on the idea of private gain. A credit union is not a charity. It’s a properly regulated business, but the difference is, it exists for the benefit of its members.

Arran’s nearest credit union is at 147 Main Street, Kilwinning KA13 6EQ. Have a look at their website or give them a call on 01294 557123. You’ll find them a friendly lot.


Land Matters!

Last month The Voice highlighted the disproportionate size of local authority areas in Scotland, leading to a democratic disconnect and disempowerment of local communities. This is mirrored by the huge landholdings of a small number of individuals and lack of transparency about land ownership. The Scottish Government has promised to address this, and is consulting on a Land Reform Bill.

There has recently been an exchange of emails and a submission to the Rural Affairs, Climate Change and Environment Committee by Charles Fforde. The documents can be read via this link. Readers of the Voice will no doubt be able to draw their own conclusions about the views of Arran’s major private landowner on land reform from this.

!Scotland has the most concentrated land ownership in the developed world. Just 432 people own half of the private land. Land prices are far too high - this is why rents are extortionate, and why young people are leaving when they can’t even get a scrap of land for housing.

For Scotland to flourish and every community to have a say over their resources and their future, we need a strong land reform bill that really tackles all these issues. We’re up against a wealthy landowning lobby who want to water down the Scottish government’s proposals - so we must make our voice heard! We can tell our MSPs to back the five demands of the #OurLand campaign and make sure we get a bill that can change Scotland for the better.

The Our Land Campaign was set up by Common Weal, Women for Independence, the Scottish Land Action Movement and campaigners Andy Wightman and Lesley Riddoch to highlight the way unavailable and unaffordable land blights development in the countryside and cities. Click this link to find out more.

On the 25th of September Lesley Riddoch generously came over to Arran to meet with local people at an event organised by ACLI, the Arran Community Land Initiative. Lesley gave a short presentation about what was happening with the Land Reform Bill (a continual process of watering-down its contents) and what other areas of the country are facing (and achieving!) There was then an impassioned debate about the problems here on Arran, such as the foreshore issues at Brodick beach and Lamlash green, the lack of affordable housing for young people, and the difficulties faced by tenant farmers and smallholders. There was a certain amount of resignation, as well as anger, evident as people described their attempts over the years to improve land and housing matters on the island for residents, in the face of the different interests of landowners and a remote county council. Lesley attempted to inspire those present with examples of progress in other parts of Scotland (Eigg was one example), but there was also a sense of disappointment with the SNP over its land reform promises. Perhaps the clearest message was that our politics are broken, and that we cannot rely on politicians, whose main concern is re-election, to make the changes ordinary folk need to improve their lives – we have to organise and do it for ourselves!


!Corrie Film Club

The October film is Boyhood, the 2014 American independent coming-of-age drama film, written and directed by Richard Linklater, and starring Patricia Arquette, Ellar Coltrane, Lorelei Linklater, and Ethan Hawke. Shot intermittently from 2002 to 2013, Boyhood depicts the childhood and adolescence of Mason Evans, Jr. (Coltrane) from ages six to eighteen as he grows up in Texas with divorced parents (Arquette and Hawke). Richard Linklater’s daughter Lorelei plays Mason’s sister, Samantha.

The New York Review of Books reviewer said “This is a great film, the greatest American movie I have ever seen in a theater. It is great for what we see, but it is even greater for its way of making real what we cannot see, or for suggesting that what we cannot yet see we might one day see.” The critical consensus on Rotten Tomatoes was “Epic in technical scale but breathlessly intimate in narrative scope, Boyhood is a sprawling investigation of the human condition.”

Boyhood will be shown at Corrie and Sannox Hall on Sunday 11th October at 8pm. Everyone is welcome.


!Arran Artist of the Month

Our second Arran Artist of the Month is Vivienne Sillar, who although only a part-time island resident has a connection to Arran going back to childhood.

How would you describe your work and the philosophy behind it?

I work with clay and use hand building techniques. Each piece is unique, I don’t make production ware. The subject matter is inspired by watching seals and birds. Like most people on Arran I find the wildlife completely beguiling. The streamlined shapes of marine life suit my interest in form and shapes. Favourite subjects are seals, gannets, curlews, heron and also garden birds.

The aim behind the work is that it must feel beautiful as well as look beautiful. It should make you want to touch it and sooth you as you hold it. The work can have a meditative quality as well as an aesthetic.

Where did you grow up, go to school and college?

I grew up in Glasgow. We lived north of the city in Bearsden. I went to Laurel Bank School and then I attended Grays School of Art in Aberdeen. I was there for 5 years until 1981. While I was there I specialised in Sculpture and Ceramics. Tim Pomeroy was in my class in first year!

What other jobs have you done?

My first real job was as a ‘Craft Exhibition Organiser’ in Sunderland Arts Centre (now known as Northern Centre for Contemporary Art). I was there for 3 years and originated and toured exhibitions of contemporary craft-people / makers. Then I moved to West Cumbria and worked as an ‘Art Education Worker’. My job was to organise artists (visual, performing and literature) to work in schools and the community. I was there for 3 years.

I then moved to Sheffield where, for 10 years, I was an Education Officer in the Art Galleries. I worked with schools and curators of the exhibitions to make the art collections more accessible. More recently (for the past 15 years) I have been teaching ceramics and Art and Design Theory in Chesterfield College.

In addition to these jobs I have been an assistant in an infant school and also a school dinner lady!

I recently took redundancy from teaching to focus on my ceramics full time. I have been making and selling my work for about 4 years now and decided to take the leap. Nothing is certain but then again I’ll never know unless I give it a go. I’m lucky to be able to do it after 31years of working. Nothing ventured....

Tell us something about your journey in art – how is it that you are here now, on Arran, and doing what you do?

My journey in art is more or less told in the last answer. I’m very lucky to have been working in the arts one way or another all my working life. I make a point of telling my students that there is work in the arts world out there if you are prepared to travel and learn new skills, although it just may not be exactly what you originally planned to do. To find work I have had to leave my native Scotland but I am always drawn back to Arran, like a salmon going back upstream.

Like very many Glaswegians I was brought here on holiday to Arran, more specifically Kildonan, as a baby and continued to visit annually until I was 17. There were a few years break while I rebelled and went travelling with friends in the summer. Then when my own children were born, annual trips to Kildonan were once again the pattern. My parents adored Kildonan and so when they died and left me some money, the obvious choice was to buy a house there. Unable to afford it outright, we have let it out as a holiday let and we book ourselves in at regular intervals during the year. A fixture for the past 2 years has been The Arran Open Studios which has been a privilege to take part in. I have met more artists on the island and have been welcomed into their community. My work is directly inspired by the wildlife I have watched all my life from the shore and it feels right to have it seen and sold on the island

Who or what have been the greatest influences in your work? Which other artists do you admire?

As I said, the sea life and shore life on Arran remains a great source of ideas and influence. Other artists that I admire...When I was a student I worked for a summer (1979) at Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum, Glasgow and helped to catalogue their ceramic collection. I worked on an exhibition of new work by Elizabeth Fritch and was lucky to have direct contact with it and saw how she presented her work. That was an inspiring moment for me. Other ceramicists: Magdelene Odundo, Carolyn Genders, Emma Rodgers, Jennifer Lee, Christie Brown, Jane Perryman. Painters are Joan Eardley, Sean Scully, Barbara Hepworth (painting and sculpture), Elizabeth Blackadder and James Audubon. Sculptors: Henry Moore, Picasso (ceramics), Boyle Family, Chris Drury and Andy Goldsworthy. This list is not complete; they are just the ones that come to mind at the moment.

Describe your workspace or studio for us?

I have a small space at the back of our garage which is about 6ft x 30ft. I have put some shelves up and work benches and that is where the electric kiln is. However, when it’s cold I also work at the kitchen table and when I’m smoke firing I work in the garden. When I’m on Arran I work at the kitchen table and in the garden.

Now that our youngest has gone to university I’m beginning to eye up her bedroom as a potential indoor studio....


How do you tend to work – in concentrated bursts, sporadically or in a regular daily pattern?

I make sure I do some work every day, including weekends. However, it can range from a couple of hours to about 6 hours depending on a variety of factors. Now for the first time I don’t need to fit my ‘making’ around another job and so I’m looking forward to being in the studio for longer periods. I’m usually very organised and have a list of tasks and goals for each day. I’m quite a target driven person and keep going until I achieve the task for each day. However, when I need to smoke fire I have to make sure that it isn’t a wet day. So in that respect it’s quite weather dependent.

What are you working on at the present?

Having just returned from Arran and Arran Open Studios, most of my body of work was either sold or left with Arran Art Gallery. I’m now frantically trying to make more work. My most immediate events are a Christmas show at Haddon Hall (near Bakewell, Derbyshire) and a big trade fair in London (CRAFT London) in January. Having just left teaching I’m going to be focussing on trying to get in to some more galleries. I have a lot of work to do to make sure I can make a living. Previously I had the cushion of a teaching salary. Now that safety net has been removed and I need to put some time in to promoting my work.

Is there anything else you would like to add?

I suppose it’s strange that I should be writing this for ‘The Voice of Arran’ when I really am only on the island part time. That is something that makes me feel a bit uncomfortable, although Arran is not a place that has ever made me feel I shouldn’t be there if I’m not there full time. Its people have a very welcoming and open minded attitude in my experience and they are not judgemental. It is true that I have always felt I belong on Arran and specifically in Kildonan, even if I am not there constantly. My art work is inspired by the wildlife, my friends are there, my history is there and I always feel like I’m coming home.


A Plastic Bag Story

!On a recent trip to Rwanda, a Guardian reporter found that their luggage was searched at the border, and the authorities confiscated some belongings. No, they were not trying to smuggle drugs or weapons. The offenders? Three plastic bags used to carry shampoo and dirty laundry.

You see, non-biodegradable polythene bags are illegal in Rwanda. In 2008, while the rest of the world was barely starting to consider a tax on single-use plastic bags, the small East African nation decided to ban them completely.

At Kigali International Airport, a sign warns visitors that plastic bags will be confiscated. Agents from the Rwanda Environment Management Authority (REMA) cut the plastic wrapping off negligent travellers’ suitcases. Throughout the country, businesses have been forced to replace plastic carrier bags with paper ones.

The ban was a bold move. It paid off. As soon as you set foot in Rwanda from neighbouring Uganda, it strikes you that it is clean. Looking out the window of the bus to Kigali, the capital, you see none of the mountains of rubbish seen in other African countries. No plastic carrier bags floating in the wind or stranded on a tree branch.

Upon arrival in Kigali the contrast is even more evident. With its lovely green squares and wide boulevards, the Rwandan capital is one of the most beautiful cities in Africa. And it’s immaculate. Enough to teach a lesson to scruffy – albeit beloved – Western metropolises like New York or London. And the ban on plastic bags is just the start for Rwanda. Eventually, the country is looking to ban other types of plastic and is even hinting at the possibility of becoming the world’s first plastic-free nation. Its constitution recognizes that “every citizen is entitled to a healthy and satisfying environment.” It also underlines each citizen’s responsibility to “protect, safeguard and promote the environment”.

Throughout the world, many initiatives to reduce or ban the use of non-biodegradable plastic bags have been halted because of economic concerns. In England, for example, there is ongoing concern that a 5p levy on single-use carrier bags could harm small businesses.

Still reeling from a horrific genocide which resulted in the deaths of over 800,000 people in 1994, Rwanda could have dismissed the plastic ban as an unnecessary hindrance for its developing economy. It could have opted for a simple levy on plastic carrier bags. But the authorities’ main concern was the way in which plastic bags were being disposed of after use. Most were being burned, releasing toxic pollutants into the air, or left to clog drainage systems.

Knowing it lacked the basic facilities to sustainably manage plastic waste, Rwanda devised a clever strategy to turn the ban into a boost to its economy. The authorities encouraged companies that used to manufacture plastic bags to start recycling them instead by providing tax incentives. The policy also created a market for environmentally friendly bags, which were virtually non-existent in the country before the ban.

Now in its sixth year, the policy has proved efficient, if not perfect. Rwanda is starting to struggle with a lucrative black market for the shunned plastic bags. The excessive use of paper bags is also starting to raise concerns. But the mere fact that a developing country facing tremendous challenges has managed to enforce such groundbreaking legislation should make us wonder what the western world could achieve if the political will really existed.


!Kirsty’s Blog

The Voice is following Kirsty Crawford’s blog from India. Here is Kirsty’s latest posting. (Please note that Kirsty’s photographs are subject to copyright)

Way back in July, Lisa and I took a trip to Mcleodganj, home of the Dalai Lama. Landing at the tiny Dharamshala Airport, which is actually in Gaggal, we drove through the beautiful Kangra valley on a sunny Saturday afternoon.

We first stopped at Tatwani hot spring. Unfortunately I can’t locate the cable for my camera, so can’t share a picture, but suffice to say it’s a picturesque little place, the spring is indeed hot, and its home to insects that I’ve never seen the size of before! We had a warm welcome from a drunk / drugged / deranged local, who reminded me a little of Tosh, which was a bit bizarre, and even the taxi driver was nonplussed.

!We made our escape, and our next stop was the Masroor Rock Temple.

It’s simply stunning, even though large pieces fell off it during the 1905 earthquake. Built in the 8th century, it is supposed to be carved out of a single rock by the Pandavas. Must have taken them a while…

The carvings that have remained, and haven’t been worn down by the weather are amazing. Again, the lack of camera cable means I don’t have much to show you here, but if you’re in this part of the world, it is well worth a visit.

Then we were off to Mcleodganj. Climbing up the Dhauldhar mountains, through Dharamsala, past St John in the Wilderness (a gothic church, and one of the few indications that the town was ever a “British” hill station), we arrived into a square full of Punjabi tourists, noisier than Delhi!

Thankfully our hotel was an oasis of calm just yards away, which would have had amazing views down the valley had the mist not rolled in and more or less refused to budge.

On a very wet Sunday, we walked down the hill a little to visit the Dalai Lama’s temple. They were getting ready for his birthday celebrations, so the whole place was being decked out in marigolds and bunting.

It seems however, that even the Dalai Lama’s temple has a problem with thieves:

Later on, we braved the monsoon to take a tour of Kangra Fort marvelling at the medieval drainage, and sheltering from the rain with other foreigners crazy enough to be out in it.

Mcleod as a town isn’t much to look at, but there are some nice cafes and restaurants, and it’s home to so many Tibetans it doesn’t really feel like India at all. I would like to return, but not in the rainy season…


!Westminster – Back to the Future

Patricia Gibson, MP for North Ayrshire & Arran, writes about her initial experiences of Westminster for the Voice:

Since my election in May, many friends and constituents have been keen to find out what Westminster is really like.

I have observed that when some people talk about the House of Commons, they seem to talk not as if it were their national parliament, but a mythical place they have only ever read about.

Perhaps this is down to the grandeur of the buildings itself and its domineering role in the history of the UK. Equally, it may be due to the elitism and detachment too often associated with those who have been elected over the centuries and the rituals and traditions in which they become immersed. Whatever the reason, ‘Westminster’ is certainly a behemoth that many struggle to comprehend.

In all honesty, I must admit that I too fall firmly into that category.

To say that Westminster is out of touch is an understatement. Indeed, the whole place makes Downtown Abbey appear like an ikea furnished flat, inhabited by easy going students.

Despite there being 650 constituencies in the UK, the House of Commons chamber only has 467 seats. This means that, should an MP wish to secure themselves a seat on the green benches, they can only guarantee this by slotting a prayer card in to a small brass frame behind their chosen seat.

Acquiring a prayer card is (quite literally) a ritual in itself and involves queuing before 8am, then prayers are observed at 11:30am in the chamber, whilst facing the nearest wall. I have since learned that this practice developed as Members of old found it impossible to kneel whilst wearing a sword.

If you are lucky and organised enough to gain a seat on days of particular occasion, you then wait until 2:30pm before any business is heard in the chamber. This is to allow some MPs to attend board meetings in the City or the law courts before having to attend their ‘lowly’ job in the House of Commons.

After passing the snuff box at the chamber entrance, MPs may wait hours before being called to speak in a debate – although there is no guarantee that you will be. During the long hours of waiting, MPs are required to ask permission to leave the chamber to go to the toilet reminiscent of pupils in a primary school.

Returning to the chamber, MPs often have to wait until 1am whilst votes are held and divisions called. Each division (necessary when there is no clear result in a vote) takes approximately 45 minutes and involves members shuffling into a lobby where someone will mark their name with a pen on paper.

Knowing the next morning’s prayers are only a few short hours’ sleep away, it is often at this point that I consider requesting divine intervention in the form of a less shambolic and archaic working day.


Shell announces that they will stop drilling for oil in the Arctic

This is from Greenpeace:

The Guardian reported on Monday that on top of rising costs, “Shell has privately made clear it is taken aback by the public protests against the drilling which are threatening to seriously damage its reputation.”

Three long years of campaigning, one incredible summer of action, and 7 million of us around the world in a rising global movement for the Arctic. Shell have said they have abandoned drilling in the Arctic for the “foreseeable future”. And the Financial Times reported “Exit, pursued by a polar bear... A decade-long escapade on ice is over”.

It’s the climax to an amazing three years. Around the world, millions have signed our petition, thousands have sent emails to Shell and have called on President Obama to intervene.”

The Voice congratulates Greenpeace. The Arctic is safer for now. But there’s more to do - until we can be sure that until the Arctic is safe from all oil companies.

! !

Poem of the month

Selected by David Underdown who also writes the commentary.


This darksome burn, horseback brown,
His rollrock highroad roaring down,
In coop and in comb the fleece of his foam
Flutes and low to the lake falls home.

A windpuff-bonnet of fáwn fróth
Turns and twindles over the broth
Of a pool so pitchblack, féll-frówning,
It rounds and rounds Despair to drowning.

Degged with dew, dappled with dew
Are the groins of the braes that the brook treads through,
Wiry heathpacks, flitches of fern,
and the beadbonny ash that sits over the burn.

What would the world be, once bereft
Of wet and wilderness? Let them be left,
O let them be left, wildness and wet;
Long live the weeds and the wilderness yet.

Gerard Manley Hopkins

The Victorian poet Gerard Manley Hopkins (1844-89) only gained fame and recognition after his death. The strength of his imagery and relish for words was well ahead of his time as was his use of ‘sprung rhythm’ drawing on the traditions of Anglo-Saxon poetry. His work can be seen as anticipating the free verse that was not to become an established form for modern poetry until the 20th century. Although his poems can sound mannered today and the overtly Christian references that run through many of them have become unfashionable, he was a true original. And the subject matter of this poem seems very topical in the context of the modern debate about ‘re-wilding’.


Bridge Challenge

South to make Six Hearts. West leads the ♦3.


Why some scientists are worried about a cold ‘blob’ in the North Atlantic Ocean …

… and should we be bothered here on Arran?

Sally Campbell writes for the Voice:

The first eight months of 2015 were the hottest such stretch yet recorded for the globe’s surface land and oceans, based on temperature records going back to 1880. It is just the latest evidence that we are, indeed, on course for a record-breaking warm year in 2015.

Yet, if you look closely, there’s one part of the planet that is bucking the trend. In the North Atlantic Ocean south of Greenland and Iceland, the ocean surface has seen very cold temperatures for the past eight months:

They had their coldest Jan-Aug on record, based on more than 80 years of Jan-Aug observations. Those grid boxes encompass the region from “20W to 40W and from 55N to 60N”. Arran is on latitude 55N.


There is a much larger surrounding area that, although not absolutely the coldest it has been on record, is also unusually cold, suggesting that the gigantic ocean current known as the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation, or AMOC, is weakening. This is sometimes confused with the “Gulf Stream,” but, in fact, that is just a southern branch of it. The current is driven by differences in the temperature and salinity of ocean water. This means cold salty water in the North Atlantic sinks because it is denser, and warmer water from farther south moves northward to take its place, carrying tremendous heat energy along the way. But a large injection of cold, fresh water can, theoretically, cause disturbance — preventing the sinking that would otherwise occur and, thus, weakening the circulation. Researchers suggest this source of freshwater is the melting of Greenland, which is now losing more than a hundred billion tons of ice each year.

Researchers Mann and Rahmstorf report “We were formerly somewhat sceptical about the notion that the ocean “conveyor belt” circulation pattern could weaken abruptly in response to global warming. Yet this now appears to be underway, as we showed in a recent article in Nature Climate Change and as we now appear to be witnessing before our very eyes in the form of an anomalous blob of cold water out there in the sub-polar North Atlantic”.

Rahmstorf also commented, “The fact that a record-hot planet Earth coincides with a record-cold northern Atlantic is quite stunning. There is strong evidence — not just from our study — that this is a consequence of the long-term decline of the Gulf Stream System, i.e. the Atlantic ocean’s overturning circulation AMOC (Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation), in response to global warming. The short term variations will at some point also go the other way again, so there is no expectation that the sub-polar Atlantic will remain at record cold permanently. But there is an expectation that the AMOC will decline further in the coming decades. The accelerated melting of the Greenland ice sheet will continue to contribute to this decline by diluting the ocean waters.”

The North Atlantic between Newfoundland and Ireland is practically the only region of the world that has defied global warming and even cooled. If the trend continues, there could be many consequences, including rising seas for the US East Coast and, possibly, a difference in temperature overall in the North Atlantic and Europe.

Will it get colder here on Arran? The answer appears to be no for the moment because on balance other global warming trends will compensate.

Sally Campbell

Click here for more information.


Brilliant young musicians to visit Arran

A treat awaits music fans in Brodick Hall on Saturday, 17th October. The Sinopia Quartet comprises four of Scotland’s leading young professional string players. Graduates of the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, Cambridge University and The Guildhall School of Music, they have gained several prizes, and have performed in various countries including Germany, Italy, France, Norway and Mauritius. Here in Scotland they have appeared at festivals including the St Magnus Festival, Mendelssohn on Mull, and the Edinburgh International Festival. The line-up for their visit to Arran is:


Gabi Maas, violin (a former member of the National Youth Orchestra of Great Britain and European Union Youth Orchestra); Daniel Paterson, violin (recently Daniel has enjoyed playing live to 40 million listeners on BBC World Radio. He also freelances with Scottish Ballet); Daniel Meszoly, viola (he has also played with the Scottish Ensemble, BBC SSO, RSNO and Scottish Opera); and Laura Sergeant on cello, who currently works with groups such as Scottish Opera, Scottish Ballet, The Halle, Live Music Now and Northern Ballet. The quartet’s programme in Brodick will include works by Haydn and Schubert, as well as the English composer Frank Bridge. Praise for Sinopia from previous audiences: “freshness and spontaneity” and “pretty damn fine” (Strathearn); “the quality of the performance was excellent and the audience really enjoyed the programme” (Dumfries).

The concert begins at 7:30pm. Tickets are available on the door, at Inspirations of Arran in Brodick or from the Arran Events website. Parents might like to note that children plus an accompanying adult are admitted free, as are students.


!The future of the BBC is in your hands

Government plans to rip out the heart of the BBC are taking shape. Imagine a BBC where newsnight is riddled with adverts. Or a BBC so underfunded that independent news becomes a thing of the past and the airwaves are dominated by Rupert Murdoch’s media. This is what the Government wants - we need to stop them.

Just before the summer break, the government snuck out a ‘public consultation’ on the future of the BBC. It’s full of gobbledegook questions - they were obviously hoping that nobody would respond! So the 38 Degrees staff team has ‘translated’ the questions into plain English, and the time’s come to make sure they hear our voices.

Without our voices, the government can claim that people don’t care about the future of the BBC, opening the doors to Murdoch. So can you add your voice and stand up for the BBC? Just click this link to fill out the survey now.


!Recipe spot

Lentil and Aubergine Curry

We first tried this dish at a vegetarian café in a small town in Derbyshire. After a bit of experimentation I settled on this recipe.

The quantities given will easily feed four people and it should be served topped with plain yoghurt and with Naan bread.

Please click on the “Print” icon below to download a pdf copy of the recipe.


!NHS Ayrshire & Arran Archive Project

by Debbie Adele Cooper

I’m an artist working with NHS Ayrshire & Arran on a photo archive project. I’m calling out to whole of Ayrshire for old photos to scan for use as artworks on the hospital walls. Research has found that photographs which show positive nostalgia and a local sense of place help people get better more quickly, and I’d really like Arran to be a part of this project. I’m hoping your readers may have old photographs I can scan to use for the project and that there might be a local event or busy venue I could come along to do a photo scanning activity at.

If you have any suitable photographs, please contact Debbie directly, visit her website or contact us at the Voice.