Friday, September 26, 2014

Two films about social activism

I came out of today's screening of Everyday Rebellion feeling strangely deflated. It's a film about non-violent resistance across the world, but it gave us snapshots of too many different groups, some of which, including Femen (the Ukrainian feminist activists) weren't really given enough screen time to fully articulate their campaign aims. So we got lots of footage of half naked Femen protesters covered in marker pen slogans and crowds on demonstrations at Occupy Wall Street and across the world. There were some quirky awareness raising ideas (for example writing Freedom on ping pong balls and then lettting them loose in the middle of a city), some great quotes (eg "If you want to defeat a boxer, challenge him to a game of chess) and some impressive cartoons and graffiti. However overall, it felt to me too disjointed and overlong and lacking in real emotional engagement. 
(Having said that the Everyday Rebellion website looks like a great resource for protesting on issues of social justice).

Last night however I had come out of the screening of Pride crying from laughter and emotion and feeling a real sense of the power of solidarity between unlikely groups. This is a drama, based on real events from the 1984 Miners Strike when a group of Lesbian and Gay Activists in London decided to support the a mining community in Wales. Initially there is a lot of distrust between the two groups but gradually they move towards understanding and a shared community spirit, having a lot of fun along the way. It's hilariously funny, emotionally engaging, incredibly moving and ultimately very hopeful and is an example of how drama can often be much more powerful than a documentary.

Everyday Rebellion was showing as part of the Take One Action Festival, which is happening in Edinburgh and Glasgow while Pride is on general release at the moment.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Jutland to Junkyard by S C George

When we last visited one of Crafty Green Boyfriend's aunts, she had just come back from a holiday touring some of the Scottish Islands. While talking about Orkney, she told us how she knew someone who had made his fortune from salvaging the German navy ships drowned  at Scapa Flow. (All of us have seen the remaining ships that stand as memorials in Scapa Flow to this day and our aunt used to live in Rosyth where the metal from the ships was ultimately salvaged).

Later that afternoon, in a second hand shop, I found this book, which is the story of how those very navy ships were salvaged. It seemed such a wonderfully serendipitous finding that I immediately bought the book and will have finished reading it by the next time we see this aunt and I'll give it to her as a gift!

In May 1916 the German Navy surrendered after the battle of Jutland. Their boats were towed all the way to Scapa Flow, in the Orkney Islands, to the north of Scotland, which was the base for the British fleet. On 21 June 1919, the German navy scuttled (deliberately sank) their ships. At first the British Admirality left them there but eventually (due to the ships causing obstructions in the shipping channels and a lack of scrap metals) the ships were brought up from the sea floor and towed to the shipyards at Rosyth, in Fife where the metals were salvaged.

The bulk of the book looks at how each individual ship was salvaged, often with quite a lot of technical detail. There are some fascinating stories woven into the overall narrative

"Next day Hindenburg was beached in Mill Bay. Mrs McKenzie, wife of the salvage officer, found the crow's nest of the ship a delightful place to occupy for her reading and knitting"

The salvage was a long, painstaking process that lasted years and resulted in the loss of several lives.
A fascinating part of history, which I had only been vaguely aware of.

Jutland to Junkyard by S C George published by Birlinn.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Freedom of speech

“I do not agree with what you have to say, but I'll defend to the death your right to say it.” 


Something both sides need to remember in the current debate around the forthcoming Referendum for Scottish Independence.