The one you’ve been waiting for. Full colour loveliness.
It’s a sleepy Thursday afternoon, and I roll out of bed at approximately 1330 hours and on to Facebook to discover that not only is the University holding an open day, but Pronto Mama, Fatherson and Washington Irving are playing a free afternoon show in Qudos in roughly an hour. Being a generally good citizen, loyal QMUite and fan of at least one of these bands I promptly proceed to the shower and onwards to what looks to be a promising afternoon.
I arrive late, but not too late to catch the first act, Pronto Mama, in action. The room is sparsely populated, but the band are excellent. They masterfully blend solid, heavy indie rock with glitchy rhythms and fairly mad progressive passages that become near jazz-like in places, if still dominated by guitar. Their banter may be slightly directionless and circular but their music certainly isn’t; a really refreshing blend of rhythms and textures and definitely something to keep an eye on in future.
They clear the stage to make way for Fatherson, and the first sight to catch the eye is that of a cello being set up onstage alongside the more traditional combination of guitars, bass, drums and synth. The set opens with a fat bass drone that builds up into the first of many soaring, triumphant sound pieces. Theirs is a slightly more straightforward brand of alternative rock than that of Pronto Mama, but their energy is great and they build some impressive crescendos, their bass player looking positively joyful at the thunder his distortion brings. More importantly, the cello does not play the one bit part (a la Twin Atlantic) that might be expected. It makes a welcome textural addition to upbeat and heavy songs as well as the slower ones, although the cellist’s backing vocals are sadly inaudible. The songs are well articulated and go down well with those punters in attendance, although the room is still near empty.
The third and final act is Washington Irving. Until fairly recently the band were characterised by their celtic brand of folk pop, embellished with the fine flute playing of Roslyn Potter. Having now parted ways with the flautist however, I’m interested to see how their sound has evolved, and to hear new material. To begin with, the result appears mixed. The folk feel is certainly still there, but some of the instrumental passages on the older songs feel empty without those soaring flute melodies. However, a couple of songs into the set sees them find their stride, and a darker and heavier side to the group begins to unfold. Unsurprisingly, it is the newest material that works best with the new line-up, and breathless, moody passages balance well with powerful, chant-like celtic choruses on which frontman Joe Black’s voice is often joined by the rest of the band. In places, distortion adds a gritty but beautiful extra texture; in others, a couple of deft, folky lead guitar arpeggios make a welcome throwback to the days of yore. By the end of the set, the band have well and truly won the audience over. The room is now shockingly empty, but those remaining work hard to let the band know they are appreciated. Their forthcoming album will tell for sure how well their new sound has been established, but this appears to be a taste of great things to come from Washington Irving.
As for the open day – was anybody convinced to come to Glasgow University by this gig? Who knows, but if prospective students were in attendance then they were certainly treated to an excellent slice of current Glasgow music for no money at all – and who can argue with that?
Dictatorships across North Africa and the Middle East have been rocked by the waves of revolution, coming under the catch-all term of ‘The Arab Spring’. Although it’s been represented as a single body of rebellion, the reasons behind these uprisings couldn’t be more different.
The first country to start revolting was Tunisia. The catalyst was an unemployed Tunisian national setting himself alight to protest against joblessness in Sidi Bouzid, southern Tunisia. This kick-started similar incidents, widespread protests and a social movement demanding change and better job opportunities. Eventually President Ben Ali was overthrown, ending his 23 years in power. This was the starting pistol for peoples across the world to band together and rebel against their respective governments. Despite the dissolution of the government, the country is still rocked by protest in the south, with crime rates skyrocketing. This has sparked fears that sources of Western influence, such as embassies, will come under attack from a growing Islamist presence in the country.
Inspired by the people of Tunisia, many began to protest in Egypt. They demanded political reforms and in particular the removal of their dictator, President Hosni Mubarak, who had ruled over them for nearly three decades. Notable in the Egyptian protests was the newly adopted method of using social networking sites such as Facebook to arrange mass protests. The focus of the protests became the famous Tahrir (Liberation) Square, where, after 18 days, protestors heard President Mubarak had reluctantly resigned. Since the fall of Mubarak the country has been trying to form a new government. An election timetable has been created, but candidates’ declarations are met with protests, as well as regular protests after prayers on a Friday. Egypt is still awaiting a successful end to their revolution.
Protests in Libya started in the East and the suburbs around the capital, Tripoli. Colonel Muammar Gaddafi had ruled since 1969 and had not improved the lives of Libyans despite the country’s oil wealth. As the weeks turned into months it became clear that Gaddafi was not going to back down with ease and the UN initiated discussions for him to step down peacefully. He also had a loyal police force and army who defended their fearless leader. Gaddafi, insistent that his people still adored him, released questionable footage of his supporters protesting for him. Eventually Gaddafi loyalists started to either abandon their posts or change sides altogether. The protests ended with Gaddafi’s assassination by opposition forces before a trial could take place. Today Libya remains very dangerous. Tribes have become very powerful in the power vacuum and weapons from the conflict have fallen into the hands of criminals. The only people in Libya who are not allowed to have weapons are foreign security officials. Further violence is possible and could erupt with little warning. Libya has ground to a halt, with infrastructure ineffective after the government’s collapse. The Libyan people are no longer afraid of an oppressive dictator but they now have to contend with armed criminals in a lawless country.
Bahrain’s Shi’a Muslim population saw what had happened in Tunisia and Egypt and rose up against the ruling Sunni elite, protesting a corrupt regime as well as their religious differences. A focus for protesters’ anger is the prominent al-Khalifa family, who hold most of the governmental and ministerial positions (including President). Saudi Arabia sent troops to Bahrain to quell protests, raising further anger. This is reportedly due to the Saudi Royal family also being Sunni Muslims, crushing the revolution in Bahrain would keep their influence strong within the region. Saudi had also been having their own small areas of unrest in the Eastern region which is heavily populated by Shi’a Muslims; they used this opportunity to show the protesters in their own country how much force would be used against them if they tried to revolt. There are still many anti-government demonstrations in Bahrain and an on-going crackdown on opposition activists. The smaller Shi’a tribes around the capital, Manama, are still continuing to protest however it is unlikely that large scale unrest will be seen in the near future.
In Yemen the main protests took place in the capital, Sana’a, in a place called Change Square in January 2011. The initial protests were against government corruption, unemployment and distressing economic conditions. The protests were fuelled by the fall of the Tunisian President and the revolution increased in popularity but protestors met with a more heavy-handed approach to crushing the revolt. As protests against the regime increased President Saleh eventually signed a deal to transfer his office and all his power to his Vice-President Abd Rabbuh Mansur al-Hadi in November 2011. The transfer took place on February 27th. Yemen is still in political turmoil; supporters of the old President still remain and they strive to destabilise the new government. An increasing problem is Al-Qaeda linked fighters infiltrating the lawless southern region of Yemen. They continue to blow up oil pipelines and cause major disruption for the country and its economy. I think it’s doubtful that Yemen will reach a state of peace in the near future.
There have also been protests in Oman. I lived in its capital, Muscat, for five years and have seen first-hand the changes that the ruler, Sultan Qaboos has made. He repeatedly raised the minimum wage and created a program called ‘Omanisation’, which required companies to employ a quota of Omani citizens. Protests sprung up across the country, demanding the abolition of taxes and the reduction of foreign workers in private companies, in order to create jobs for Omanis. Protesters set a police station on fire in Sohar, one of the smaller cities in Oman. Four protesters have been killed by Oman’s security forces during a crackdown on protests.
Protests in Kuwait began when Kuwaiti citizens were given a cash hand out and food grant to commemorate 20 years since its liberation from Iraq. However, this wasn’t extended to Kuwait’s semi-nomadic Bedouin population, causing them to protest demanding their right to full citizenship. What followed was many anti-government riots and calls for the Prime Minister to step down. Kuwait has experienced political troubles over the past six years with the resignation of seven different governments and the dissolving of parliament on four occasions. On November 28th the Emir of Kuwait accepted the Prime Minister and his cabinet’s resignations and elections were planned for February. There were still riots leading up to the election and the day before the election, tribes stormed a news station which was hosting one of the pro-government candidates. The election saw many opposition candidates win seats in the National Assembly and there have not been any major riots or protests since.
The protests in Syria began as public demonstrations around the country. The demands were the resignation of President Bashar al-Assad, the dissolution of his government and an end to nearly five decades of the party’s rule. The Syrian government deployed its army to quell the uprising, but this only fuelled the protests more. The situation has come to a deadlock, with both sides vehemently refusing to back down. In contrast to the situation in Bahrain, the ruling elite in Syria are mainly Shi’a Muslims and the opposition are Sunni Muslims. This means the opposition are supported by Bahrain and Saudi Arabia, while the government is supported by Iran and Hezbollah. The aim of this collaboration with the government is to create a corridor of Shi’a Islam stretching from Lebanon to Iran across the top of the Arabian Peninsula. The protests in Syria are still very much in the public eye; the UK media reports on it more regularly than other countries mentioned in this article.
The UN had demanded that Syria cease all armed violence, however neither side has backed down. Therefore the UN has unanimously decided to send military observers to Syria in order to keep an eye on the ceasefire. There are still many issues and protests gutting the Middle East even now, and they aren’t being called to our attention by the media. The ‘grouping together’ of all the revolts led to them being assumed to be a homogenous, pan-Arab movement, which simply isn’t the case. Yes, they were all spurred on by the initial protests in Tunisia but the reasons behind the protests had varied from religion to economic reasons. This brings me back to my main issue with the catch-all term ‘Arab Spring’; it insinuates that there was a fixed period of time and reason that these protests took place. This isn’t true and the media shouldn’t forget about the people who are still suffering. In future we should make sure we take the time to really find out more about what is going on and don’t just trust the media.
[Mhairi Elaine Bruce]
As you may or may not be aware, Thursday (the 3rd of May) is Local Council Election day. While this might not exactly thrill you into a state of excited frenzy, the council (or cooncil, as we say it where I come from) is important for students, controlling as it does vital aspects of student life, particularly housing. As such, the QMU held a hustings for the candidates for the Hillhead ward on Monday night, in an attempt to get them to answer the questions that students need answered.
Candidates from the five of the parties standing attended, from the Lib Dems (Kenneth Elder), the SNP (Ken Andrews), the Greens (Martha Wardrop), Labour (Pauline McKeevie) and the Conservatives (Richard Sullivan, actually standing in Shettlestone, not Hillhead). They were an eclectic bunch, for Pauline McKeevie, it was her first ever hustings, but some of the others were clearly old hands.
The hustings began with opening statements, during which the candidates made clear that they felt that the 30 year Labour stranglehold on Glasgow councils had to come to an end. Change was the word of the day, with even the Labour candidate acknowledging that it’s time for new blood, pointing out that both herself and the other Labour candidate running had never held a position before. That rang a little hollow though.
There was a worrying moment early on when the Labour candidate’s inexperience showed, and it seemed (to general dismay) that she may well just read from the manifesto all night. Thankfully, she realised that this would have been unpopular, and began to move away from prepared statements. However, it must be said that none of the candidates were particularly charismatic on stage(‘as a used hanky’ was one viewer’s comment).
The councillors were asked many questions, ranging from their views on renewable energy in an independent Scotland (which is a tad beyond the remit of a Glasgow councillor) to sectarianism in Scottish football. The candidates handled the questions with varying aplomb, although some of their comments (particularly those about renewable energy) drew increasing disbelief from an engineering student I was with.
The question of the day, however, was student housing. It’s no great secret that student housing in Glasgow is fraught with problems. One story recounted at the hustings was about someone’s kitchen ceiling falling in and the landlord taking no action to fix it in over six months. All of the candidates agreed that enforcement was the major problem, with existing legislation underutilised or not enforced to an appropriate degree. The SNP candidate was the most vocal in blaming Labour, who took fire from everyone. The candidate for the Greens, interestingly, took up the question with students who’d asked it, and arranged meetings with them after the hustings.
Something that was clear was that while Labour may talk big about change and their ‘100 point manifesto’, they’ve had thirty years in which to effect change, and they have, but rarely in a good way.
Interviewing candidates after the hustings, they seemed to have been happy with the event. A comparatively low turnout could be blamed on a lack of PR for the event, and frankly, we’ve all got exams to be studying for, but it ensured that those students who actually came along were interested in the election. I’ll admit I was surprised at the lack of animosity between the candidates, particularly the Tory candidate, who was far from the baby-murdering monster that Tories are often portrayed as in the West of Scotland. He was actually pretty sound, although admittedly, knowing he’s going to get gubbed might do that. Fatalism can have a wonderfully calming effect on people.
The comparative friendliness between candidates comes from the essentially co-operative nature of council politics. It also seemed like the candidates understood and responded to student’s issues, particularly the Green Party candidate.
Overall, the candidates felt the evening was a success. The students attending might still not be sure who to vote for, but the QMU provided us with a look at the candidates up close, as it were. The potential councillors in general lacked charisma on stage, but off were pretty much nice people. The Lib Dem guy was almost nice enough to make me forget Nick “Spineless Bastard” Clegg’s U-turn on student fees.
Anyways, vote for who you want. Just, please, do go out and vote.
After all, as a famous preacher once said, “I don’t care what you believe in, just believe in it.”
All photographs by Tom Kelly
Queen Margaret’s new event series Versus, a fresh take on the battle of the bands style competition had it’s first heat Thursday 26th of January in Jim’ bar. The heat was hotly contested by four bands fighting it out to become our esteemed champions and win the tantalising prize of time in Carlton Recording Studios. The bands were compared based upon audience members votes and the ratings of three judges; QMU President Kirsty, regular QMU DJ Corrie Gillies and qmunicate’s own hot-shot music writer and soon to be online columnist Jake Casson. The categories the judges rated the bands on were song writing, performance and musicality. One winner from each heat AND the highest scoring non-winner of ALL the heats will be in the final.
The hotly anticipated Second Heat of the QM’s shiny new Battle of the Bands is mere days away! We got the qmunicate team to give you lucky lot a quick run down of what to expect and hopefully some more encouragement to come down on the night. The first heat was rammed with talent and if you missed it, you missed out. Tickets are £2 for QM members, £3 for everyone else and there’s nowhere we’d rather be on a Thursday. Have a listen to everyone below and get down nice and early to get some decent dancing room. The four bands you lucky lot are getting are below… Continue reading
All photos taken by Brian Magennis