Thursday, July 03, 2014

Why I will be voting Yes in the Referendum on Scottish Independence

I grew up in Dunoon on the West Coast of Scotland in a standard middle class household.  
We were very fortunate, our house was, and is filled with love.  
Both of my parents worked hard to provide for a comfortable home life.  
Politics were not something that we talked about at all.  
It was the 1980’s and Margaret Thatcher was in power.  
All was well.  
Margaret was in power, I didn’t have to think about politics, she would look after us.  
How could she not be looking after our best interests?   

Spitting Image came in to my consciousness.  Sunday nights were nights I looked forward to with great excitement to see what those rubber horrors would spew out next.  
I loved it.
Here was a rebellious, take no prisoners view of politics.      
This was a world apart from Nicholas Witchell and the BBC  6 o’clock news.
As a young boy I came to know the names and characters of the cabinet, and opposition in Westminster. 
The dribbling Roy Hattersley, Gerald Kaufmann lurking in the shadows, Leon Britain’s wobbly countenance, and eventually John Major’s fondness for petit pois.

The immediacy of the satire of Spitting Image brought the distant political figures in to view, I started to engage with them.  Not thinking critically about whether what they were doing was right or wrong by me, but I acknowledged their existence and that they were doing ‘stuff’. 

Spitting Image stopped in the 90’s and politics began to slip from my mind and I slipped back in to Thatcher’s legacy of “Don’t you worry your little head about that, we’ll take care of it for you.”  
After all, how could the politicians not be looking after our best interests…    

My student days in Edinburgh came, and I was entitled to vote for the first time. 
It was the late ’90’s and New Labour were in power.  It did genuinely seem like an exciting time.  

Then we were entitled to vote for the devolved Scottish parliament.  Politics was coming closer to home.

Informed by the perspectives of my left leaning arts degree I veered further and further in to the left as a student.  
I started to engage with a delicious tincture of Marxism, then, as I grew older, slowly headed further back to the centre left.      
The ecstatic dreams of a Trotskyite utopia still linger in my mind to this day, ironically occupying the same space as my hope for having a large house and a wide variety of vehicles for uses practical and recreational.

As I stepped further in to thinking about politics I began to question my assumptions as a younger man.  
It struck me that we were never invited to question our politics growing up in the 80’s and ’90’s.  If you watched the BBC it was just “Here is the news”  and we all knew news was true.  How could it not be?
And the received notion I swallowed was that  the BBC was the only news worth watching, with the exception of a bit of Trevor at 10. 

You didn’t question things, you just kept on going, plodding along, trusting that your best interests were looked after by those that you elected in that big house down the road.  Quite far down the road.

And then came Tony Blair’s glory years.  It was at this point I entered in to a political discourse with myself on a more profound level.   
To this day every time his name is mentioned I feel my blood boil. 
I can not think about him before bed time, or I will not be able to sleep with unbridled rage.
To put it simply here was a politician not listening to the massed will of the people, not even acknowledging it and forging ahead in to a conflict that was clearly founded on spurious grounds.  Never before in my conscious experience had the interests of big business been so clearly laid out on the table.
I think it irrefutable that the people of Iraq needed freedom from tyranny, but the means by which the western powers engaged it was not appropriate.  The legacy of this conflict and all of the following conflicts both sicken and terrify me in equal measure. 
The second Iraq war was also a remarkably marketable war.  I remember sitting late at night watching the news just waiting to see explosions.  I, like many others, bought in to it in a sick, voyeuristic way.  
I had to stop and think, hold on, this isn’t a film.  
This is real life, these are people’s lives.
The marketability of fear and the control that it offers is not a new thing.  Not a new thing at all.  
My favourite take on fear as means of control remains GK Chesterton’s The Man Who Was Thursday.  
It’s an almost timeless piece of work.         

From Iraq onwards Blair seemed to loose perspective and lost contact with interests of the vast majority of people I knew.  We were impotent.  There was nothing that we could do to change his disgusting course of action.  
I will never forget Robin Cook stepping down as an MP.  I’ll come back to my thoughts on politicians in a moment or two, but that was a genuine, sincere act that I will never forget.    

Blair’s legacy of impotency still haunts me.  It is from this frustration, this anger, that I’ve come to engage more with politics on a day to day basis.  
My politics are, I guess, centre left.  It’s difficult to know how to define it when all points of reference in the UK parliament are really rather right.  What with there being minimal centre representation there these days.

My engagement with politics is a personal one.  
I’m certain of what I believe as just and fair, but I’m not so sure of my politics that I can enter in to massive political debates without a degree of thought.  
My perspectives are slow forming, and in discussions where point scoring against the opposite number is important, my mind is not fast enough to do my arguments justice, whilst respecting, listening to and trying to understand my opposite number’s perspective.  

I think that’s a reality that most people acknowledge for themselves, and perhaps in response to that some decide that they’re not a political person.  

Rather than talking politics to a great length I’ve tried to engage with politics on a practical level.  
It is for that, amongst other reasons that I took a job working with a fabulous team as a local development officer here in an area close to where I’ve lived for the last 7 years on the Isle of Mull.  

My work is normally in the arts world, between theatre, film and education.  
My currency there is trying to increase people’s stock in happiness.  
In working as a local development officer I was trying achieve the same aims.
Here was a chance for me to address some of the key issues that I felt strongly about, whilst being able to be near to my family.  
The work of local development officers is part of a framework of government initiatives, trying to roll out the Scottish Government’s economic strategy in to rural areas.    
Working with Cally, my job share partner, under the direction of a steering group of people representing our area and the island’s community trust we were able to listen to the people, and find out what their priorities for a better, more sustainable life in the area were.
In my time in the job we set up projects to allow the development of the community in ways that they saw fit.  
These projects have been carried on and developed yet further by a superb team since my time with the community.  

The notion of community having a high degree of self-determination seemed totally right to me.  
I was delighted to work with that community to allow them the means to face the inequalities of landownership amongst other issues.

As the referendum machine started up a couple of years ago I’d never really given thought to the question of independence for the Scottish nation.  
We are part of the UK, why would I bother to think about that?  
It wasn’t a real question for me.

Growing up in Dunoon I’d only ever really encountered bombastic nationalists who would only broadcast, not receive.
Their perspectives were off-putting by the sheer dogmatism of their engagement with the world around them.
If that’s Scottish Nationalism, I want nothing to do with it.

The few politicians I’ve ever met are very much about their own power and aims.  
They’ve all been from the Scottish Parliament.
Occasionally their aims cross over with my own interests, and they’re happy to engage with you. 
That’s politics.
But these people are accessible, they are there to talk to.  You bump in to them on the street.  They will stop and talk to you.  They may even listen, if you’re lucky. 

Our first minister is not a man I like.  I’ve never met him, nor have any desire to do so. 
His pride, his lack of hubris, I can not stand.  
He can be patronising and arrogant. 
Saying this, I do respect the unique calibre of his political mind.  There are few thinkers as fast and deep in any of the UK political institutions.
But he’s one man from a political party, with a finite time in politics, he’s not a representation of our nation.
I feel much more strongly about the vile prime minister currently in residence in 10 Downing St and all that his coalition is pushing through.  

The machine behind politics is not something I admire at all.  It’s cynical and manipulative.  
We deserve the incisive, overt genius of a Malcolm Tucker and all I see, particularly from the No side of the debate, is a level of engagement worthy of pocket melted chocolate bar that’s stained your best trousers.

The media have not given me the information I’ve needed to inform my choice with regards to the referendum.  
I’ve stopped engaging with BBC programmes regarding the debate, as I’ve been so put off by their hideously biased perspectives to date.  
For someone brought up by the BBC I feel sick to the pit of my stomach by their approach to this and other important news items.  From this I’ve developed a healthy questioning relationship with ‘news’ regardless of its source. 

My perspectives on the independence debate have come from talking to people, listening to their arguments and thinking about them slowly. 
I’ve read around the argument to a good degree, although the world of economics is beyond my immediate comprehension, I’m afraid. 

I think that this is an incredibly positive time in the life of the Scottish nation, and also that of the United Kingdom.
Never before have I known the Scottish nation so engaged in political discourse.  
I travel a lot, and, more often than not someone will start talking to you about the referendum.  
People are engaging with this debate.
People are stopping and thinking about what it means to them, and asking themselves what they want to vote.
We are really questioning ourselves, asking ourselves who we are.

The simple beauty of the vote going to only those who can vote in Scotland is an incredibly powerful statement.  
It is the Scottish nation as it at this moment in time that will decide its future.
It’s not a question of race, it’s a question of the nation at that moment in time, asking itself what course of action will offer it the best future it can possibly have.

So.  Down to the brass tacks.
I believe strongly in democratic representation.    
To my mind the people of Scotland do not have fair representation in the politics of the United Kingdom. 
The government of the United Kingdom is, I feel, biased to the needs of the City of London and the South East of England.  In a way this is understandable, the population there vastly out numbers the rest of the UK, and the majority of financial trade comes through London itself. 
I feel that Scotland and other parts of the UK have lost out to this bias, and the representation of their needs and interests have suffered as a result of this.
We in Scotland are being offered a chance to change this. 
We are being offered a chance to represent the needs and interests of a nation of people whose votes have not been reflected in the government and parliament at Westminster for a long time.

A constitution, defining the principals, conduct and governance of an independent Scotland are of vital importance to me.  
When Iceland had its financial crash it was the laughing stock of the world.  I believe the nation of Iceland then used its constitution to put the bankers who created the bubble in jail and sacked the government, and is now back on its feet, forging its way once more in the world.

The current UK coalition government sicken me.  Theirs is a government of self interest and greed.  To my mind they are looking after the interests of one section of society to the detriment of the vast majority of the rest of the population.  Their cuts and schemes are brutal, calas and inflicted with a cruel joy.  
This is not a government I voted for.
Politicians and governments come and go and we have short political memories, but I feel that the disgusting nature of this government’s work will have a significant legacy for many years to come.  
I don’t want the legacy of their work to affect my family any more than it has to.

I believe in a more democratic society.  As Lesley Riddoch explores in her book, Blossom, democratic reform following Scandinavian models could allow a reform of council administration, to facilitate more powers at a local level, allowing a greater degree of response on matters that are important to people in the places where they live.

I hope, and this is possibly naivety, that such reforms would lead to the development of a more able, more engaged level of political debate with every day people, leading to the growth and development of more able politicians.  
Yourself or myself included. 

The economic arguments are up in the air for me.  I don’t have the solution on that front.  I can engage with them to a certain critical level, but the simple fact is neither side’s argument is entirely proven for me yet. 
I trust that minds greater and faster than mine will look after my nation’s best interests.  
I fail to see how anyone would want the nation’s finances to fold on starting out.  
Businesses threatened to leave Scotland on the advent of devolution, but yet they stayed.

There are many any other nations that work with financial bodies hosted from outside of their nation state which help to fuel their economy and do very well out of it. 

The currency and EU arguments are just tawdry political spin to my mind, and will be solved in time.

There is a fundamental matter of respect that I feel has to be observed in this debate.  We all have to live together, no matter what the result of the referendum.  
I have talked to and listened to people who intend to vote No. 
Their arguments are valid for them, and, believing in democracy I have to respect that.  Challenge it, where appropriate, yes, but respect someone else's viewpoint.  
What an incredibly dull and yet terrifying place it would be if we all agreed to think the same way.

The level of engagement offered from both sides of the debate has been at times inspirational, at times shocking. 
Some of the debate has lowered the bar so considerably that it fails to see the people it addresses as free thinking individuals.  It projects fear, and a fearful population is a population easy to control and manipulate.  
At a worse level it just creates greasy slander.    Slander, if proven, in fact, to be truth is something that the individual has to hold them self and their actions accountable for.   But unproven it just sticks to the person who throws it and leaves a nasty stain on the other.  There has been much slanderous debate in the arguments so far, and it has done no one any favours, least of all the voter.

Should we become independent, the next ten or so years will undoubtedly be difficult.  We will have to agree to and adjust to becoming the nation that many of us aspire to be.  There’s no two ways to my mind that it will be difficult.  But it will be our difficult, following the lead of a government elected by the people of Scotland, looking after the needs of our population and industries.  Not the needs of a distant government filled with self interest and cronyism.  And should the need come to remove our government, through gross misadventure, with a constitution we, the people, will have the power to remove and remodel them.

Democracy is flawed. It is imperfect.  It can be manipulated.  But it is the only system we have in place.   

What ever you chose to vote, please stop first and question yourself.  Think about it.  If you’re a No voter, ask yourself why you would vote Yes.  If you’re a Yes voter, think about why you would vote No.  Challenge yourself.

We’re all sick of the debate now.  We’ve got a couple of months to go to see it through and we’re all saturated with the arguments.  Don’t let that sway you.  
Ask everyone you know to think about their position, and to get out there an vote - it’s your chance to shape the nation you aspire to be, one way or the other.

The only argument to vote No that I’ve heard that holds up any stead for me is one that a friend who has been a Labour activist voiced.  
We are part of the UK at present.  
If we leave the UK other areas of the nation will be left without us, where our financial contribution to the UK treasury would provide for their needs as it does at present.
This I have no answer for.  I empathise with that position greatly.  In some respects it feels very brutal to leave those in the UK with us to weather the bitter winds of Westminster.  
But, I’ve come to the conclusion that I don’t think we’re better together. 

On the 18th of September we will have the opportunity to vote to chose a future for Scotland.  
For reasons of democratic reform and the opportunities and future that such a reform offers I will be voting Yes in the Scottish referendum.

Thank you for taking the time to read this.

Alasdair Satchel
Isle of Mull


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Thursday, April 08, 2010

Auld Lang Syne Choral Text

A friend here on the island asked me to render Burn's poem Auld Lang Syne as a beat style poem for an event at which she and three others are performing.

This odd little number is my variation on that theme...

Auld Lang Syne

A Choral Text For 4 Voices

Key: Bold = Indicates stress
- = Mark the beat
/ = Follow on immediately, almost overlapping.
[p] = Softly

Notes: I think it likely that standing still in a particular configuration, perhaps like pins in a bowling alley, may help the audience’s interpretation of this piece. The final part of the last section, H, should possibly be said in a very straight way, as if returning to normality.


1: Forgot.

2: Forgot.

All 4: Forgot.

2: Wandered

3: Wandered

4: Forgot.

4: Forgot

1: Forgot

All 4: - - - Seas.

2: Acquaintance

1: Wandered

3: - - - Forgot.


1: Should old acquaintance

2: Be for-got

3: And

4: Never

All 4: Brought- to- mind

2: Should

1&4: Auld – Acquaintance

3: Be - - - forgot

4: And - - -

1: Auld/

2: Lang/

3: Syne.


1&3: Tak a cup o’/ Tak a cup o’/ Tak a cup’o/ Tak a cup o’

2: For auld lang syne,
my jo,

4: For auld- lang -syne,

All 4: Tak a cup o’ kindness - yet

1: - - - For

2: Auld/

3: Lang/

1: Syne - - -


2: We twa hae run/

1 & 3: Aboot the braes

4: And pu’d the gowans/

1 & 3: Fine

2: But - - -

3: We’ve wander’d mony a weary/

1: Foot,

4: - - - Sin auld lang syne - - -


2&3: Tak a cup o’/

1&4: Kind

2&3: Tak a cup o’/

1&4: Kind

2&3: Tak a cup o’/

1&4: Kind

2&3: Tak a cup o’/

1&4: Kind

1: For auld lang syne,
my jo,

2&3: For auld- lang -syne,

4: We’ll

All 4: Tak a cup o’ – kindness - yet

3: For

1: Auld/

2: Lang/

3: Syne.


4: We twa hae paidl’d

1&3: I' the burn,

2: Frae morning sun

2&4: Till dine

3: But seas between us braid

1: Hae

All4: Roar’d

1 & 3: [p] - - - Sin auld lang syne.


2&3: Tak a cup o’/

1&4: Kind/

2&3: Ness/

1&4: Tak a cup o’/

2&3: Kind/

1&4: Ness/

2&3: Tak a cup o’/

1&4: Kind/

2&3: Ness/

1&3&4: For auld lang syne,

2: My jo,

1&3: For auld- lang -syne,

2: We’ll

All 4: Tak a cup o’ – kindness – yet

3: For

1&2: Auld Lang/

4: Syne.


3: And there’s a hand, my trusty fiere!

1&2&4: And gie's a hand o’ thine !

1: And we’ll tak a right gude-willy waught/

2: And we’ll tak a right gude-willy waught/

3: And we’ll tak a right gude-willy waught/

4: And we’ll tak a right gude-willy waught

1: [p] For auld lang syne.


2&3: Tak a cup o’/

1&4: Kind/

2&3: Ness/

1: Yet

1&4: Tak a cup o’/

2&3: Kind/

1&4: Ness/

3: Yet

2&3: Tak a cup o’/

1&4: Kind/

2&3: Ness/

4: For auld lang syne,

2: My jo,

3: [p] For auld- lang -syne,

1: We’ll

All 4: Tak a cup o’ kindness yet

2: - - - For

All 4: Auld Lang Syne.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Where the Wild Things Are

I'm very, very excited by the prospect of this film.
For me, it's pretty much the best book ever written.

Dave Eggers & Spike Jonze have scriopted it, so it could be very interesting indeed.

Dance in the moonlight Max, and let the wild rumpus begin!

The embedding from youtube hasn't come through, so have a look at the following link.

Monday, March 23, 2009

The Fountain

When I first moved to the island of Mull I started listening to the radio in earnest.

One of the first programmes I remember hearing was something along the lines of Front Row or Saturday Review on Radio 4. In it the reviewers talked about Darren Aronofsky's film, The Fountain.

It seemed to divide the reviewers, some thought it utter tosh, while others thought it well worth a look.

It sounded like a mad conceit – two characters spread out through three eras, on the quest for eternal life.

The only other thing I'd heard that had divided the reviewers in such a way was Jonathon Strange and Mr Norell, by Sussanah Clark. It so happened that I got a hold of said book not long after the programme and fell totally in love with it.

So I thought The Fountain may, perhaps, be worth a gander.

For a couple of years now, while it's been out on DVD, I've heard friends talk about it in shocked tones, not quite knowing what they make of it, loving it or hating it. Some fell for it totally, others were not so keen.

The Fountain finally arrived via my love film account a few days ago, and last night Georgia and I sat down to watch it.

Firstly I must say that it is flawed. There are some moments of it that are just a touch too sentimental, too over played. But it is brilliantly flawed. Those moments pale in to insignificance beside the sweeping majesty and sheer joyful nonsense of the tale.

It feels like a very personal musing on love and obsession to me, much like Soderbergh's superb remake of Solaris (which I much prefer to the original, as it leaves so much to your imagination).

Hugh Jackman is just brilliant as an the threefold man Tom (possibly four fold if you consider what he's revealed to be). He must have had a great, crazy time making this film. He's always good value for money, but boy is he suoperb in this. He completely enters in to the madness and obsession of the character.

Rachel Weisz is ethereal, enigmatic and stunningly beautiful in this. She captures a great tenderness in the threefold character (possibly fourfold too), sparkling as Izzi in the modern day section. It's from her side that you really feel the relationship between the two characters. Where Jackman is focused and obsessed, she floats realistically at his side, driving him on subtly by her wonderful presence.

The music of The Fountain is totally intoxicating. It gives the images so much space to breath, it's quite brilliant. I've listened to the soundtrack twice today already. I bow down before Clint Mansell and doff my cap at his toes.

But what is it about?

God knows.

If you sup of the tree do you become at one through several points of time – and also the others who, too, supped? From the creator of the tree all the way to the end of the star?

Is God, an ecumenical sort, the absent character in the piece?

Or is it there all along?

It quite clearly states there is something bigger than all of us put together going on.

But what?

The images of this film will stay with me for ever. The macro photographed scenes of petri dish based outer space blew my mind.

The ending as the ship arrives at Xibalba and the attending silence made me whoop and cheer.

How that ties in to everything else is quite simply superb.

I'm not going to rant on about this film any more, but bloomin heck, I'm going to be digesting it for a long time to come.


Saturday, February 21, 2009

The Future of Drama Training?

Some rambling thoughts on the future of drama training.

Please excuse me if I'm talking from a performance based perspective, and don't mention the technical and production based sides of the industry in depth, but I think that the broad ideas of what I'm talking about here apply across the board.

It seems that the conservatoire approach to actor training is very much under threat these days. Look at the storm that the RSAMD recently weathered, and the desperately sad path that QM is following.

What is the future for the potential drama students of 5 or 10 years time (perhaps less)?

How will they be able to start to learn their craft?

Where can they go to get that first foot in the door, to feel empowered and enabled enough to start to explore their creative selves?

I think that some of the most important aspects of a training environment are space, time, security and exposure.

What I mean by these words, if you'll excuse my slightly esoteric ramblings, is:

Space – An actual space to play in and work, a space to learn how things work, a dedicated space that is for theatre training, not a classroom that the computers have to be moved around to get enough room to do anything.

A great space can be just as valuable to the student as the teacher. A space will ask things of you, talk to you, demand that you justify your presence there.

Time – That you get a set block of time, be that years, months, days or whatever that are specifically dedicated to the growth of your craft. Psychologically that's very important for the student actor. Do what you can to survive outside the hours of training, but when you're in the training environment you're there for that purpose, and you better bloomin' well justify your presence there.

Security – The security to fail. Possibly the most important aspect of this train of thought, for me. If you've got dedicated time and space set out to your training, you can then start to apply yourself to it, and to really learn, and, unless you're some sort of phenomenon, you're going to fail and fail again, for other reasosn as your learning progresses. Building on from those failures in a safe environment can give you such a massive frame of reference for the outside world.

Exposure - Exposure to an audience. It's the very essence of the performer's craft. It's where the greatest amount of learning takes place. In a solid establishment the frameworks that you need in place for a performance to happen are there, the student doesn't have to worry about marketing, front of house or anything like that, they rehearse and then they perform. The lucky things.

Take drama training out of such a secure environment, and the suddenly the pressures on the student surely become much greater, and the likelihood of exposure to an audience lessens considerably.

So what is the future for drama training?

Are there other models out there for how a student actor may start to learn their trade?

Do we go down the route of apprenticeships?

There's a lot of governmental talk about apprenticeships these days, but can that be applied to theatre? That would require a reshaping of the funding environment to see such a thing brought out across the board.

There's the oriental model for such a training, and, broadly similar the medieval route. But what would be a good approach for Scotland, now?

A centralised apprenticeship agency or two, providing groundwork classes and then sending apprentices off to study with companies?

Do we see the rise of private theatre schools, following the Lecoq / Gaulier style model, where the students pay large fees and are worked solidly for half the day, then go off for the rest of the day to earn their crust? Mind you, the paying of large fees seems to be a universal thing these days.

Perhaps a school on wheels? A roving set of foundation and skills workshops that travel the country from town to town, meeting for month long bursts of time in village and town halls?

Do theatre companies create short schools?

Does Berty the Magic Theatre Banana go and tap people on the head an make them in to performers?

The one thing that definitely needs to be in place for what ever the future may be is a system of quality approval. The training needs to be of high quality, and the more fractured that the training environment becomes, the harder it may be to assure such quality.

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Thursday, October 18, 2007

Performance Poyum

Enough is enough, thank you.

No, honestly, I couldn’t.

Not at all.

No, really.



I shouldn’t really…

You know how it is…

But, I can’t say that I haven’t –

Go on then.

Just a wee bit.

Just dip it in the sauce.


Oh that’s good.

Oh that’s very good.

Why didn’t I try that one earlier?

Oh I like that one.

But this one’s my favourite.

Oh, yum.


Yum, yum, yum.

I do like that one.

But, what about that one, the first one.

Oh it’s tasty.

I’ll just try one of these in there, in that first one.

Oh now, that’s just the ticket.

Will it taste the same with one of these in that sauce?




I like that, oh I do like that.

What happens if you mix the two together?

Oh yes, I like that too!


There’s not much of it left, I may as well finish it off.

Ach what harm will it do?

It’s just a wee bitty.


Just like that.

And that.

And… that…



There’s none left.


I don’t feel well.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

A Lively Fellow

I took a trip from Tobermory to Colonsay, and back round the west coast of Mull on the Waverley last weekend.
It was astonishing how beautiful the journey was.

Whilst on the boat I met Alasdair Gray - a genuine all time hero of mine.

After having written quite about about my dead heroes on this page, I think I'll now give some thoughts over to a living one.

I must remember to update this blog soon...

More soon.