TO a fringe meeting at the SNP conference in Aberdeen organised by STV Studios. It’s being chaired by the ever-loquacious Angus Robertson whose sprawling ministerial remit includes Culture. It’s a pleasant, if self-congratulatory event featuring two senior television executives telling a sizeable audience how “vibrant” Scotland’s film and television production industry is.
We learn, for instance, that STV itself has nine “returning dramas” on the slate, by which I think they mean productions that are given the nod for a second series. Scotland, it seems, has many independent production companies all of them providing jobs and ensuring that we retain the expertise of many talented people in the industry.
It was all going swimmingly until one audience member introduced the topic of elitism and nepotism in the sector. There is vigorous nodding and, it seems, a commitment to “broaden our recruitment net”.
Glasgow’s Royal Conservatoire is mentioned. Scotland’s most august drama school used to be called the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama until 2011 when it changed its name to the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland. Overnight it became the proud owner of the elitist and most bumptious name in Scotland. It was already one of the world’s top music and drama schools. Why did it have to change?
At least in its previous incarnation you knew what was happening inside: dancing, singing and acting. Perhaps ‘Music and Drama’ seemed too accessible and didn’t convey a sufficient sense of ‘mystique’ (trans: ‘mystery’). ‘Conservatoire’ (trans: ‘Conservatory’) conveys a heightened sense of ‘grandeur’ (trans: grandeur) ‘n’est ce pas’? (trans: ‘eh’?). Among the important bodies consulted on the name change was the Royal Protocol Unit.
It all seems a bit s’elever soi-meme (trans: Up Yourself).
Try and try again
JUST along from the STV Fringe Meeting was a stall commandeered by Quirky Chocolate. This little Edinburgh-based firm use their wrappers to showcase the work of young Scottish illustrators. One of the directors is Sandra Colamartino who, in a former life, was one of the stars of Scotland’s ground-breaking 1994 international women’s rugby team.
Their story is inspirational. These women had played in Scotland’s first ever international women’s rugby game the previous year and then managed to reach the last eight of the World Cup (won by England). Within four years Sandra and her team mates had defeated the world champions on the way to completing rugby’s Grand Slam.
The women are now in the early stages of having a play written about their exploits to coincide with the 30th anniversary of the World Cup in 2024. I tell her there’s a room full of television types just along the corridor who ought to be forming a queue for the filming rights.
Life is Golden
IT seems that I may have been invited to participate in my first-ever World Championship. This follows my assignment last week covering the Golden Spurtle World Porridge-making Championships in Carrbridge in the heart of Strathspey and Badenoch.
There are community events all around Scotland and then there is The Golden Spurtle. This annual gala occasion is the result of ten months of preparation by the village and has been going since 1994. As the competition has become known all over the world locals have resisted the overtures of food industry titans to be associated with their event. Instead, they have stuck with Hamlyn’s, the Scottish porridge-makers who were in at the beginning.
Hamlyn’s have since reached out to me on Twitter inviting me to compete next year. However this may involve some intense coaching if I’m not to make a horse’s arse of myself. Also, the day-long event features among other attractions, several local people distributing free tots of whisky all day long to visitors. In the West of Scotland hard liquor and oatmeal are not an entirely happy combination.
Many rudimentary wallpaper-hanging jobs have come to a sticky end when the oatmeal has been used as a wallpaper paste substitute. Nevertheless, I shall give this invitation my full consideration.
THE saddest sight at the SNP conference was the little group of women huddled together outside the perimeter railings. They are members of the Aberdeen branch of Women Won’t Wheesht, comprising feminists who refuse to sign up to the fiction that a man can turn into a woman just because he wishes it were so.
The handful with whom I spoke had all been SNP activists until a few years ago. By defending a woman’s right to a safe space they have all been subject to threat, harassment and intimidation by some of the delegates now strutting their stuff and proclaiming diversity just a few yards away.
This year’s SNP conference featured a debate about building a civic campaign based on a code of conduct. Yet several of the most prominent SNP people advocating for this stand accused of the deep misogyny that keeps these Aberdeen feminists excluded on the other side of the barrier.