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GLASGOW UNIVERSITY MAGAZINE
| WINTER 2009 |FREE
SCOTLAND’S OLDEST AND BEST STUDENT MAGAZINE
Editors: Franck Martin & Jim Wilson Deputy Editor: Catriona Matheson Web Editor: Aidan Cook Content: Franck Martin Design: Jim Wilson Contributors: Liam Arnold, George Binning, Laura Doherty, Katy Dycus, Scott McGinlay, Gerry McKeever, Stefan Sealey, Suzanne Smith, Michelle Williams, Luke Winter. Cover Image: Recoat Gallery 323, North Woodside Road, Glasgow. Special Thanks: Zoe, Bob, Lucy, Amy & Ali, Jo & Neil, Rachel, Kimberley, Guardian, Malmaison Glasgow, American Apparel, Urban Outfitters. All works © their authors 2009.
Contact GUM Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Phone: 0141-339-8541 Glasgow University Magazine John MacIntyre Building University Avenue Glasgow G12 8QQ
Alright pal! Sorry about the wait but it’s been a busy few months, no? What with wars breaking out left, right and centre and that lovely Mr. Obama moving in it’s hard to believe it’s been just three months since GUM last hit the streets. We can only apologise that you haven’t had a trusty new edition to hold during these extra cold winter nights. No doubt you bored a hole in your mattress with all that sleepless tossing and turning as you writhed around in the throes of expectation. Well put the Horlicks away and get ready to run a marathon with the sandman because my friend ... GUM IS BACK!! Like a fine wine we only get better with age and this Winter Edition is quite literally going to change not just your life but the lives of your family and your children’s children – at GUM we like to aim high. The photos from our Glasgow photo shoot and Fashion section are so good that employers should be salivating at the prospect of graduation day. Our interview with the award-winning journalist Nick Davies should stimulate your noggin but if it doesn’t then our exploration of the science/hoax of crop circles most certainly will. If travel is more your bag then check out GUM’s pick of three of the world’s lesser known destinations. We also have interviews with Idlewild and The Bays, with a rundown of some of Glasgow’s best underground music labels and with a cheeky bit of Parkour thrown in .... what more could you want? Once again those despicably lovely people from the Recoat Gallery have designed us a cover that is so good it can make grown men cry at twenty paces, honest. If you do not take the time to check them out your deathbed will be haunted by the nagging feeling that your life was incomplete. So make sure you are sitting comfortably and oh – DON’T MENTION THE CREDIT CRUNCH!!
Rep oRt ing the Rep oRt eRs
GUM speaks with Nick Davies, awarD wiNNiNG joUrNalist aND aUthor of flat earth News, aboUt why the news Media isn’t doinG its job
News is a window on the world, so the saying goes. It allows us to make sense of things we can never experience for ourselves: the war we will never see, the explosion we will never hear or the fire we will never smell. Journalists organise the who, what and where of events to produce an accessible news story, and the media machine ensures that it gets to you, its highly coveted reader. So unless you, or someone you know, experienced an event first hand or you have a detailed prior knowledge of the topic this is how you stay informed and make your decisions, form your opinions. Were the Israelis right to invade Gaza? Should the bankers be made to give up their bonuses? How real is global warming? All of these issues are presented to you through the window of the media – but the glass is cracking. Yet, because it is the media who report, who will be there to report on the reporters’ failings? This is the question that Nick Davies addresses in ‘Flat Earth News’, a term he coined to describe the media’s unquestioning acceptance of lies, distortions and propaganda produced by the media machine. Davies argues that corporate greed is creating an ever growing deficit between the ‘who, what and where’ of news events and you as a reader. Unsurprisingly the book has been met with hostility within certain sections of the media so GUM spoke with the author and asked why he thinks the news has gone 2D.
If you were a doctor assessing the health of the media what would be your diagnosis? News media are extremely ill. They may well be dying. But, like some people with dangerous conditions, they prefer not to admit it, which means it’s even less likely they will recover. What treatment would you prescribe? The best treatment would be to escape from the mass media corporations who have taken over so many news organisations and to find non-commercial, non-profit sources of funding for ‘mini media’, i.e. small, lean, low-cost groups of journos, probably working from home, filing to a website, focussing on one very specific patch (geographical or subject). That would work journalistically. Financially, it will work only if it is subsidised - by grants from foundations, by donations from readers, by public money, by any other lawful source we can think of. Why has there been such a drastic decline , and who is to blame? The decline in standards has been driven by the profit-seeking corporations. It’s not simply that the Internet and the credit crisis have stolen our income and forced us to lower our standards. Flat Earth News is about the good years, when the corporations ransacked our newsrooms for profits, inflicting terrible damage on the quality of the news we produce while siphoning off mighty profits for the owners and for the executives’ pay packets. Now things are tight - and the corporations continue to treat journalists as an optional extra, to be cut at will. They are now in the process of causing such profound damage that the essential processes of
news gathering are in jeopardy. In practical terms, what this means is that if we can find some new sources of funding for journalism it is vital that it is not given to the corporations. They would use it as the banks have used their bail-out money, for the benefit of the same greedy owners. How concerned should readers be about this decline? This is not just about journalists losing their jobs. We all are losing our primary source of reliable information about the world. This is happening just as globalisation increases our need for reliable information- as pressure on governments increases their tendency to lie and to manipulate. If we don’t change track, we are going to enter an age of information chaos precisely when we most need the exact opposite. Do you see this trend continuing, and if so what sort of changes can the public expect from the media over the next 10 years. The decline will accelerate unless we rescue news organisations from the corporate owners and run it for a profit rather than its orignial purpose, informing the public. As a dog eating other dogs, did any bite back? A small group of people were hysterically hostile to the book - some of the individuals who come off badly in what I wrote and some very senior Fleet Street people who just can’t stomach being the subject of the kind of scrutiny which they purport to bring to bear on others. But their voices were long ago drowned out by of journalists who gave their full support to the book.
Have there been any examples of major ‘flat earth’ stories since the publication of your book? There is a torrent of Flat Earth News running through our media. As a single example, look at our total failure to ask tough questions about Barack Obama. It is an example of the rule of production which I call Moral Panic - there is a heightened emotion out there (in this case, hope) and, largely for commercial reasons, in order to avoid alienating readers, we write stories which fit within that emotion. What on earth are we doing producing ‘souvenir editions’ after inauguration day, when we should be asking difficult questions? We’re selling papers and making money, that’s what we’re doing. The Obama PR campaign, which is one of the best and best resourced in the planet, feeds into that. Is he really a radical (this is a man who believes in religion, patriotism and capitalism)? How will he escape the electoral pressure to run the country from the right of centre in order to hang on to the few Republicans who switched sides in November (49% of the electorate still voted Republican)? How will he escape the enormously powerful lobbying pressure in Washington? Why does he need a year to close Guantanamo if he really is going to stick to lawful principles and either release or try all the detainees? Why is he still allowing US forces to bomb Pakistan, killing innocent civilians (and how would he react if, for example, the Mexicans chased a group of their insurgents across the Rio Grande and bombed innocent US civilians?) Lots and lots of difficult questions are out there - sadly none are being asked.
field of excellence
worDs: GeorGe BiNNiNG photoGraphY: lUcY priNGle illUstratioNs: Michael GlickMaN
Every year strange and beautiful formations appear in the fields, if you want to know what creates them do not skip on to the end of this article. GUM unexplains the phenomenon of the crop circles.
Every year strange and beautiful formations appear in the fields. If you want to know what creates them don’t skip on to the end of this article – you will only be disappointed. GUM unexplains the phenomenon of the crop circles. Every British summertime, year in year out, the paper reading public can rely on a number of stories to become the subject of media comment. The weather, obviously, is big news, hottest summer ever/wettest summer ever, either way we are all doomed. Wimbledon, again, every single year. Can they not just give it a break for one summer? But one feature I always look forward to is the staple article with big pictures of the year’s crop circles. In fact my interest extends some way beyond that; I’ve visited a few circle seasons and seen them up both close and from the air. Even so I would be flattering myself to say I was a bone fide ‘croppie’. There are various theories that try to explain these formations: aliens, electromagnetism, earthly spirits, freak weather, and of course people. In 1991 Doug Bower and Dave Chorley announced to the media that they had created every one of the 2000 odd circles that had appeared since 1978, starting a trend in circle making in the South of England. However they later retracted a number of their claims when their ability to make a ‘good’ crop circle for the media was called into question and they could not prove their claims. The fact is no one can prove how a great number of the most impressive circles were made or by whom, and their perfection in design and execution is mystifying.
I spoke to two authorities on the subject, first Michael Glickman, a geometrician and commentator, author and lecturer on the phenomenon, and also John Michell, a writer on topics as diverse as crop circles, sacred geometry, Plato, and the authorship of Shakespeare. Both Michael and John strongly believe that a great many crop circles are not man-made. When I asked how I might go about introducing the mystery of crop circles, John had some sound but esoteric advice. He told me: “When you don’t know you can’t say you do know, the only approach you can take is to look at their features.” Therefore, it seems that the only reasonable approach would be to examine what was visible to all, namely their design and construction. It has been shown on numerous occasions that it would be possible to make a crop circle with a small team of people. The simplest method would be to flatten the crop with a device wound around a pole in the centre of the circle. Nonetheless, being in a fresh circle and seeing how it has been made is very exciting as one will find that the stalks of the folded wheat flow through the formation in a specific direction and that the folds are certainly folds, rather than breaks, as if untouched by human hands. It is also often impossible to see the whole formation from the ground as the fields tend to cover uneven land. John pointed out an interesting anomaly in the theory of human circle construction, explaining that it would be impossible for a group of people to make circles such as those which have been found where only the circumference is flattened. “You can’t
make a circle without a centre. If the centre is undisturbed it is hard to explain how the circle is created, it’s not possible.” Michael, on the other hand, is of the view that the secret of the phenomenon lies much more in the design than the construction. “I’ve been looking at this assiduously for 20 years and I can spot a man-made circle in three million. I look at aerial photographs; from these you can study the quality and geometry of the design. The actual construction is very impressive but the truth is that the hoaxers have got very good over the years at faking the detail, but they’d need to be prodigious geniuses to replicate the profound geological and numeric construction of the design. “It’s a question of what you put onto the drawing board. The intuition, the inspiration, the inventiveness that comes year after year after year is beyond human ability. The plan is too long term and the enterprise is too long-term.” One such example of truly original design was “the Ratchet” at Barbury castle in 2008. Michael was one of the first to crack the code, realising that the formation was a pictorial representation of pi. As he described it to me I wondered whether he was also the first to condense the explanation into such neat terms. “It was one of the most breathtaking moments of my existence. I’d been looking at this formation for a week and I suddenly twigged what was going on and worked it all out. My colleague Karen Douglas called me up and said, ‘Perhaps that dot
near the middle of the field is a decimal point?’ and I realised that you could turn it into a decimal point and give a numerical value to each of the arcs. The way it works is very interesting because radially it has tenfold geometry, like a pizza divided into ten pieces, and concentrically it is tenfold, like a pebble dropped into a pond. “They use this tenfold geometry like a grid, on which they could outline their stepped spiral, and each arc of that spiral takes in a specific number of 36 degree pizza slices. So the first arc is three, then there’s the dot, then the second arc is one, then four and then one and five and I followed it all the way round and understood it was pi.” John Michell was equally fascinated by the Ratchet, and the self-evident validity of circle geometry: “I think its one of the most interesting ones I’ve seen. These expressions of mathematical truths have never thought of before. They are all original puzzles that have truth in them. All truths are geometric or numerical in nature. Number is the nearest thing we have to eternal truth.” Having investigated the geometry of the circles for so long, I realised both John and Michael are remarkably disinterested in who actually made the circles, though both agree there is an element of the miraculous in many of them. When asked about aliens and spirits Michael politely remarked that it is not his area of expertise. John also warned me of the pseudoscience that is used to explain (or enrich) the mystery of crop circles saying, “no one really makes any scientific attempt to investigate these things. People already know what they want to discover. They get obsessed with who’s doing it and the hoax aspect of it, then they get confused then they lose the subject.” I wholeheartedly agree with John on this point, and endeavour not to try ascribing some mundane solution to such a huge and picturesque mystery. Looking for the type of evidence that would stand up in court seems pointless – it’s not a question of ‘whodunit?’ but of what message it contains. My love of circles comes not from knowing who or how, but from trying to unravel the codes and from a simple enjoyment of beauty and symmetry. Any explanation I have heard for the phenomenon has required a good deal of speculation, even from the cynics and ‘hoaxers’, and at the end of the day I’m not that desperate to know anyway.
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Q: What do you get when you give a bunch of photographers a few letters of the alphabet, a camera and a few days in the city to illustrate their letters? A: Turn the page to find out!
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GUM gets under the covers of the comic world.
WORDS: LAURA DOHERTY ILLUSTRATION: RACHEL CAUNT
Later this year the film version of one of the best known comic books of our time will be hitting the big screen. Until that time, the gaze has turned to the comic book world in anticipation of this year’s celluloid smash. Not only is Watchmen probably the most respected within the comic book genre but it is also recognised outwith its peers. Featuring in Time Magazine’s top 100 novels of the 20th century, the Alan Moore/David Gibbons masterpiece is the only graphic novel among the ‘real’ books. But is the comic book genre being overlooked by literary critics? Who should we be watching, other than The Watchmen? GUM enlisted Montreal resident (North America’s hub of alternative comics) and lecturer in comics, Nicolas Carrier, to help us find out. First of all Nicolas wants to clarify his stance on the term ‘graphic novel’ as commonly bandied about the world of comics: “I’m kind of ambivalent about the term. I think it’s important to acknowledge that comics as a medium is now used to tell long, complex narratives akin to those found in novels, but calling them ‘graphic novels’ sounds a bit condescending. It valorises some comics, in a patronising way, all the while implying that the rest of the medium is shit. It’s also an oversimplification: a long-format comic is not just a novel told through graphics; it
functions in a very different way, in terms of structure and how it’s read. Will Eisner coined the term ‘graphic novel’ in order to woo a publisher in a time when no publisher of literature would have taken a mere comic seriously. I think we’re well past that now, so let’s get to using the word ‘comics’ with a straight face and elevate the medium as a whole in the public eye.” A common delusion with comics, one propagated even by Watchmen, is that they are about following the exploits of superheroes and crime fighters, but as Moore’s work has proven there is a massive amount of psychological depth to be found within these spheres and even more worth meriting outside of the superhero realm. The comic form has become a recurrently popular mode for representing the real world: Joe Sacco for instance – a war correspondent who utilises the comic form in his reports. His depictions of war, such as found within Palestine, offer a powerful insight into the frontline experience – the combination of pictures and prose connect the reality of living in conflict in a direct, firstperson manner. Nicolas acknowledges this phenomenon: “Beyond Sacco there are also a lot of fiction comics interested in journalism set in a near-future context, for example; Transmetropolitan by Warren Ellis, DMZ by Brian Wood, Shooting War by Anthony
Lappé and The Nightly News by Jonathan Hickman. Having a journalist for a protagonist also makes it easier to introduce a new setting or context.” Of course, framing an avid reporter in the comic book’s action is a tried and tested concept – even those unfamiliar with the world of comics will be aware of Peter Parker and Clark Kent’s respective roles in the newspaper world. Nicolas ponders the connection between journalism and comics: “The first American comics were newspaper comic strips, and some of the most famous superheroes ever have been reporters to pay the bills. Comic creators way back in the early days must’ve been very aware of journalism, as their product was always surrounded by it: maybe the effect of that still lingers, albeit in a severely displaced sort of way. ” As well as comic book writers making their protagonists dabble in shorthand and deadlines for fiction-based fodder, they have used the stark realism of their own life story as the driving force for comics. Art Spiegelman is probably the most obvious example, with his Pulitzer award winning Maus. This comic – depicting the Holocaust as told through animal figures – was revolutionary for the comic book format. Nicolas explains the effect of autobiography within comics: “For writers like R Crumb, Harvey Pekar and Spiegelman autobiography was the
best way they could see to rebel against established mainstream comic conventions, which were then obsessed exclusively with power fantasies. They also earned a bit of clout for the medium in this process as autobiography is a perfectly respectable literary genre.” Other writers have since followed suit, presenting witty, stark, true-life accounts of adolescent experience, such as Fun Home by Alison Bechdel and Chester Brown’s I Never Liked You. These intelligent works build a very nuanced picture of youth by utilising pop culture and literary references into the work to direct them to new purpose. The comic form, being the correlation of word and image as it is, seems unafraid to look to other cultural pulse-points outwith itself with which to engage, often providing a refreshing focus in parallel with its own creativity. Hopefully, in time, comic book work will be recognised by the culture it opens its arms to and held in the same regard as the canonical literature and art with which it so readily engages. It may only be a matter of time the wake of Watchmen before the intellectual, the real-life stories and the important narratives lying dormant beneath the suited, comic exterior will explode to the surface in a flurry of brightly coloured lycra and metallic breastplates: BIFF! POW! PULITZER!
White men can jump
LiaM aRnoLd eXPLoRes PaRKoUR’s LeaP into the MainstReaM
Parkour has undergone massive changes since Mike Christie’s Jump London documentary first introduced the French sport to Britain. With an increasing number of practicing traceurs, structures have developed to support the teaching of parkour, and stunt parkour is now fairly commonplace in films. Glasgow University is a popular training ground for local traceurs; stopping by the Adam Smith building one evening, I saw one traceur launching gracefully from bollard to bollard, another scrabbling with simian ease up a tree, and a third casually balanced on a steel rail about as wide as a pencil. When Parkour first began to emerge in Britain, it was traceurs inspired by Mike Christie’s documentaries who descended on campus to scale the walls, vault the rails and challenge themselves with the obstacles provided. Now, the groups ducking, climbing and moving with effortless grace are students and Glasgow has one of the most advanced coaching bodies in Britain. danger and explosive strength. With successes not seen elsewhere in the country, I ask why Parkour coaching has proved so successful in Glasgow. “Pretty simply, the money’s there” he replies. “There’s a lot of funding from the council, from things like culture, sport and leisure. Glasgow’s really good for getting kids involved in physical activity. And Parkour’s got that cool factor. The Active Schools Group are responsible for getting kids more involved in sports, and there’s a great structure of funding and support in Glasgow.” This is, however, somewhat overly-modest, as the adult classes are privately funded. The ‘cool factor’ is an obvious draw for kids, and Parkour has saturated the media for the past few years, often with little regard to actual relevance. Traceurs have performed in adverts for shoes, mobile phones and TV stations; in films like Casino Royale, Live Free or Die Hard; and in music videos for the likes of Madonna and David Guetta. Even Glasgow’s traceurs have lent themselves to related products like K-Swiss trainers, Prodigal Theatre co, and, er, Sailor Jerry. Tellingly, one of GPKC’s first classes to be endorsed by local authorities and police groups was in Unit 21, the Dumbarton skate park. Many of the traceurs I speak to come from skate/snowboard/bmx backgrounds, and were drawn in by the aesthetic appeal. However, Grant points out that the adult classes he and Mick run have attracted everyone from students, to martial artists, to professional coaches. Parkour has repeatedly been sold quite literally as an ‘urban’ sport. Banlieue 13, probably the most notable parkour feature film, was set in a hyper-ghettoised Paris of the future, whilst Jump London and Jump Britain explored the unique architecture of The Tate Modern, The Globe and the Millennium Stadium. Even in Casino Royale, the chase sequence was very deliberately set in a construction site, using the rigidity and solidity of scaffoldings as a contrast to the lithe movements of French traceur Sebastian Foucan. I ask Grant whether Glasgow’s architecture might be responsible for inspiring such a following, expecting a commentary on the urban decay and the ability to transcend the cities boundaries. “I think maybe the architecture of the city lends itself to it,” he says, “but that’s not why it grow.” As if to underline the diversity of the sport he tells me that Glasgow’s traceurs often make trips to Goat Fell on the Isle of Arran to train and that “there’s an established community group in the forests in Elgin.” That said, there’s something about the contrast between the rigidity of the concrete and steel of the university fluidity and freedom of movement exhibited by talented traceurs.
“Glasgow’s really good for getting kids involved in physical activity. and Parkour’s got that cool factor.” - Chris Grant
Founded by Chris Grant just over a year ago, along with fellow traceurs Mick, BJ and Gavin, Glasgow Parkour Coaching currently runs classes for schools in Lenzie and Castlemilk, a youth group in Bellshill, and a regular workshop at The Tramway, as well as providing independent adult classes. “We’re running classes in schools,” Chris tells me, “and the sessions are being fully booked within hours. There’s only so many people I can actually coach at once!”. I’m surprised to find that, whilst a number of groups in London offer workshops and coaching, there are few other cities with licensed and insured parkour coaches. “As far as being organised and being in schools and being established, we’re second to London. It’s a different scale, we’ve only a handful of coaches, but I’ve not seen anywhere else in the country where there’s such a strong presence” says Chris. Glasgow Parkour Coaching is also the only coaching organisation to offer a weekly women’s class, which Chris runs on a Wednesday night. These are apparently “exactly the same as the guys, it’s just meant to give people the space. I think it can be quite difficult to break into something that looks male-dominated.” The idea of Parkour as a boy’s sport is not hard to fathom; it’s generally presented as full of
photoGraphY: scott McGiNlaY hair & Make-Up: sUZaNNe sMith stYlist: Michelle williaMs MoDel: kiMBerleY thoMsoN
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Urban Outfitters American Apparel New Look Stylist’s own
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worDs: sUZaNNe sMith Make-Up artist: sUZaNNe sMith photoGraphY: stefaN sealeY
In Autumn 2008, the Christian Dior runway offered what John Galliano named the “optimism and opulence” of the sixties – lashings of palette embroidery, revved up to the max with bright colours and Western hats. However, it was the ‘Valley of the Dolls’ inspired eye make-up that stole the show rather than Dior’s outfits on this occasion. In true Galliano style the makeup was hugely flamboyant, yet there is something undeniably fantastic about a bright injection of colour on the eyelids.Even Bobbi Brown – usually standing for every-day, natural makeup – have brought out a limited edition eye palette called ‘Bobbi Brights’, including bright, vibrant shades such as Electric Pink, Ultra Violet and Blue Iris. Spring 2009’s bold make-up trend is catching on and the striking metalics, tropical hues and popping neons ensure this is one trend that doesn’t go unnoticed. If you don’t have Pat McGrath on-call, consider creating your own bright eyes at home. It’s not a look to be left on the catwalk – colour is a great way to bring attention to the eyes. People focus on bright colours and where better to draw that focus to but your eyes? Opt for a playful shade of liner such as Urban Decay’s waterproof 24/7 Glide-on eye pencil or a coloured mascara such as Barry M’s Electric Purple for daytime. Apply more colour for a full artistic effect, painting strong blocks or shapes or choose a multi-hued effect for eyes that will stand out in a club. If you want to push the look to the limit and opt for neon colours, use a high pigment cream such as MAC’s Paint Pot. Keep your skin and lips natural and wear neutral colours to create edge and strong contrast. If it’s romance you’re looking for, lilac is the best call for creating a flirty and playful look this Spring. Lilac eye shadow is a winning trend for the year, and you can complete it with a flash of silver or white eyeliner for a complimentary twist. For irresistible bohemian smoulder, try greens. Another strong catwalk favourite, Chanel used a shimmering green across the eyes, teamed with porcelain skin and nude lips and cheeks. But beware – do not try to match eyes to your outfit! Instead make greens work alone so they make your eyes pop. With metallics, you have more liberty – they take on different hues depending on the light. Most people usually treat blue with caution since the 80s – there are some looks that are best not revisited – but in 2009 electric blues are making a comeback in bold and interesting ways. Again, the rest of your face should be left nude – toned down lips and cheekbones – to let your eyes do the talking and avoid the ‘clown’ look. It takes next to no effort to stick to your usual everyday makeup routine but why would you want that if you could paint from lash to brow in hot pink or acid green?
wooMBliNG free worDs: crYstal chesters photoGraphY: Neil MiltoN GUM speaks with Roddy Woomble, Idlewild’s folk rocking front man, to wax literary about the ‘Ballad of the Book’ and find out how the band have matured, moved on and found their new groove.
I first came across Idlewild in fourth year of school. I borrowed their first album ‘Hope is Important’ from a boy at my bench who was caught between disapproval and intrigue at my apparent interest in a band he had considered his ‘thing’. The snappy hard-edged punkpop appealed to my short attention span and adolescent angst. The following year I listened to the slightly more grown up ‘100 Broken Windows’ over and over until I knew every tingle of the triangle. Then it was a happy coincidence that in harmony with my aging sensibilities, Roddy’s music took a melodic folk-rock swerve in his 2006 debut solo release, ‘My Secret is my Silence.’ I’d go as far as to say that if a line of best fit were to be drawn up on a graph illustrating Roddy’s musical development, next to one representing my mental flowering, strong parallels would be revealed. I decided it was time to delve into this hypothesis by questioning the man whose voice has been whirling around my head all these years. Roddy explains his musical progression as a growing need to describe himself as honestly as possible. “The more places you go, the more music you hear and books you read contributes to expanding musical horizons. I think Idlewild is a much better band now although the early records were exciting and loud.” The band’s development was showcased in December during five successive sell-out gigs at King Tuts. “The idea was originally a Christmas gig, and then it got out of hand. It turned into us playing every song we had ever written.” Despite Idlewild’s long-lasting success, Roddy freely admits that “you get in to a groove, so to speak,” which perhaps explains his move towards solo projects. In a collaborative 2008 release, ‘Before the Ruin,’ Roddy worked alongside Orkney-born folk guitarist singersongwriter, Kris Drever, and Scottish fiddler and critically acclaimed folk-producer, John McCusker. “I think it contains some of my best lyrics and playing with Kris and John was an absolute pleasure. They’ve both got a bit of genius about them, in the field of traditional music certainly.” With regards to future collaborations, Roddy mentions Gaelic folk singer Julie Fowlis, winner of ‘Folk Singer of the Year’ at the 2008 BBC 2 Folk Awards and Kris Drever’s band Lau, hailed as one of Scotland’s most sought-after acts in the traditional scene. Roddy also worked alongside a number of Scottish writers in his ‘Ballads of the Book’ project. It started when Glasgow poet Edwin Morgan sent lyrics to Roddy wondering if they could be of use in Idlewild songs. The initiative was a success at concerts and slowly it grew until a group of writers and musicians, including Aiden Moffat, Ian Rankin and Alasdair Gray, were assembled for the album. Roddy claims his interest in literature is central to his music, naming Robert Frost, and George Mackay Brown among his favourites. “Reading is what I do in my spare time. I incorporate it into my lyrics in that I don’t want them to sound daft. I think the words are important if you can hear them, which doesn’t happen so often in loud rock songs. A rock song doesn’t have to be profound though. In fact, what’s profound about many of them is that they are not trying to be!” After thirteen years on the scene, Roddy is still moving forward with a new Idlewild release set for this summer. Having settled down with Sons & Daughters bassist Ailidh Lennon and a new baby, I can’t see his music taking the creepy howling electronic turn I was expecting to reflect my exam-induced cabin fever. It crosses my mind to show him the graph. I think better of it and let him tell me what to expect from the new record. “It’s an album full of very good songs that are both melodic and interesting. People are a bit obsessed with everything being ‘new’ or ‘original’ these days, when nothing really is. Idlewild just do what we do.” I breathe a sigh of relief that Roddy has scrubbed experiment and innovation from the graph’s axis. It would have been exciting back in fourth year but now I’m too old now. Instead I mark the point where our lines meet with an x.
MUsic iN the MoMeNt worDs: fraNck MartiN photoGraphY: thebays.CoM/PRess The Bays live in the musical moment, free from the constraints of playing the big songs. GUM spoke with band member Simon Richmond to learn how they have been working to make performance their product.
Are the Bays a reaction to the music industry or an experiment within it? We are a traditional and conventional band in the sense of the history of music but also a reaction to the phenomena of music becoming a commodity to be sold and marketed as a type of currency. What does improvisation mean to you as a performer? Shitting myself, largely. It’s about not being complacent and relying on tried and tested sounds and compositions. I’m not against the principle of writing but my experiences as a musician within the industry have shown me that the most interesting part of the process is the moment of the day. What we like to do is try and take the excitement of the moment and present it as part of the performance. Its not like jazz improvisation in the sense that we do not go off on a mad noodle of selfexpression while the other band members sit back and the next person starts over. We do not do solos in the Bays. It’s more about a collective voice and the grooves, a series of phases of repetition and making people jump around in a slightly more club-environment. Are there any discussions about what will be played before the band goes on stage and does the band have any idea what it will be playing as the gig ends? We have been playing together for a long time, the best part of seven years. You kind of just know what will work. If you’re headlining a massive festival on a Saturday night you know that you have to go out and do some big things. On the other hand, when we were doing the Heritage Orchestra sets in arts venues we knew that there was no point trying to get a rave going in Warwick Arts Centre at 3pm on a Wednesday afternoon. Sometimes during sound checks I think that we’ve come up with something special and when we try to replicate what we had it doesn’t work, so planning something is all very well but until you get out and see what is happening Do you think it is important to give the crowd what they want? Well it is interesting, at a recent gig we were playing some very laid back tunes in a club full of very up for it people and after twenty minutes the set went into a more subtle kind of understated style of playing. It was apparent after a very short time that it was not going to go down well and we realised that we had to bang out the big guns. It’s not always that you have to give people what they want but we like to play in places that are sympathetic to what we do. I mean, we would not turn up at the British Legion and expect a good reaction for the punters. As a group that refuse to record or release any produced material, can you explain what impact you think this process has upon a song? It is not so much that we refuse to, but I don’t think that is relevant to what we do and what we are about. The Bays are about the energy of the moment and creating kind of feeling that does not lend itself to being listened to repeatedly. We put up live shows on our web site but they are missing something, the honesty of the moment. It’s really refreshing because we do not have to trawl over the recordings over and over looking for the perfect song - what will be played on the radio, what will get signed. We only have to worry about what it sounds like live so every set is different. I think that is a real strength. How did the band come to collaborate with the Heritage Orchestra? Every now and again Andy [Andy Gangadeen, the drumming driving force behind the band] and I cook up various harebrained schemes during all-day drinking sessions and on this occasion we were talking about how to incorporate more people into the improvisation process. After about three years of planning we were able to get the funding required from the Arts Council. We used notational software where the score was written live on stage in real-time appearing on flat screen TVs in front of the Orchestra. What about Herbie Hancock? That was amazing. We had been asked to play at a show he was curetting at the Barbican and we had been told that there was a small chance that he might come out had jam with us. When the crowd started to arrive it became clear that there had been some mix up with the tickets because people thought that they were going to see him play, we nearly had a middle class riot on our hands. The organizers then asked us if we could go on earlier with Herbie as the fifth Bay. It was a real honour. Any plans for a return to Glasgow? We’ve been approached about playing Kelburn Castle in June as part of a graffiti project and we are trying to rustle up something like the Arches and the Sub Club to coincide with that gig, if it happens. Yea, we love playing Glasgow, shame it’s such a long drive.
alwaYs check the laBel
Glasgow is famous for the quality and quantity of its musical output. GUM presents a selection of Glasgow based record labels, showcasing some of the most exciting and progressive labels working behind the scenes to keep the hordes of Glasgow musically satisfied.
Founded by Scotland’s biggest ever selling Hip-hop artist, Eastborn, Dropzone Records represents artists who he felt deserved more exposure. Mantis Chapter, Project Mayhem, and Dark Craftsmen are all part of the roster with Loki and Respek BA both set to release EP’s through the label. “The general ethos of the label is not only to support and release good Hip-hop but also to support good causes and charities. Drop Zone Records supports the Dnipro Children’s Orphange (Ukraine), Footsteps (Liberia), and other orphanages around the globe. Not to mention the support they give to War Child, and more recently a relief fund for Gaza, to help the humanitarian crisis in Palestine.” (Riz, Dropzone) Eastborn has also recently been mentioned by Tommy Sheridan in the Celebrity Big Brother house and has been asked to film a “Video Diary” for Tommy to be used alongside Celebrity Big Brother. Eastborn is currently recording his new album “Global Warning - 13 Bloodlines” alongside some of Americans biggest “Revolutionary” Rappers as well as some UK greats. Label newcomer 13th Tribe is set to tour South America with Eastborn this year. This tour will see them play Peru, Columbia, Brazil, Argentina and even possible appearances in Cuba, with the chance of a meeting with Hugo Chavez in Venezula, a mutual hero. www.dropzonerecords.com
NUTS AND SEEDS
little rock recorDs
Little Rock Records was launched at seven minutes past seven, on the 7th of July, 2007. This saw the simultaneous release of seven 7” singles (Lil 1-7). They’ve released full length albums, EPs and singles, and produced a Subcity show, which showcased new music, particularly from the Glasgow area. NO RAVE was their largest project to date, featuring Fox Gut Daata, Hudson Mohawke, Gay Against You, Blood Moon (Manchester) and EYES (Illinois). The brief was to create nondance music, and the diverse tracks across the compilation represent Little Rock’s open-minded philosophy. They’ve put out abstract hiphop from Copyleft, Discofied re-edits of everyone from Hot Chip to the Bonzo Dog (Doo-dah), Band by Disco Beard, and Horror soundtracks from The Evil Eye. “We’re not interested in putting out some easily pigeon-holed music” explains Liam Arnold, head of Little Rock PR. “We strive to collect our favourite artists together and showcase to the world the vast quantities of good music coming out of Glasgow. We began by releasing free downloads and occasional limited edition hard copies, allowing us to put out some seriously experimental stuff without having to negotiate the tricky business of pressing, distribution, and all the other industry bullshit. We’re now looking at distributors, to try and get records and digital copies made available for sale. Art and entertainment become more and more reliant on technology every day, and digital convergence continues at a rapid rate; by involving ourselves in changing mediums such as ‘net labels, we’re looking to the future of the music industry.” Whilst a lot of what Little Rock does has been based around fun and entertainment, they’re also interested in the intellectual questions around art, and 8046 (featured on NO RAVE) are an experiment in anonymity and the ownership of music. “Basically, it’s an anonymous collective – anyone can record a track, or work with others to create an 8046 track, but the ownership of that track is only 8046. People can’t claim works as theirs or reveal their membership; the art is a product of an idea alone.” www.littlerockrecords.com
Nuts and Seeds is a name which will already strike a chord with the avid gig-goers of the city: for the past few years they have been continually bringing some of the most exciting, innovative and fresh line-ups to Glasgow ’s venues. As well as offering an appealing platform for local acts to play on they have attracted some larger touring bands (such as Field Music, ExModels) with their not-for-profit, independent sensibilities. The collective behind the promotion machine will be shifting gears and releasing several split 7” records in 2009. Susan Berridge of the septet explains their transition from promoters to label: “We had a club night called Meowmix in Sleazys once a month; we decided to keep it non-profit and cheap like the gigs so that it was accessible to anybody who wanted to come. We ended up with loads of money and we didn’t really know what to do with it: we didn’t want to take it for ourselves, we wanted to put it back in to music, so that’s when we thought we could bring out the records.” Again, same rules apply with the records; they’re cheap so they’re readily available to those who want to hear them. The main thing is that the music is out there being heard – “any money raised from the records will be put straight back into producing more. It’s good for karma: it’s about trying to keep music fun, inclusive and to make it possible for great bands to visit Glasgow and keep coming back.” The split records that will be emerging this year feature: Tattietoes/7Hertz (crazy bass-lines and rhythms and wonderfully warbling vocals pressed against Leeds jazz improv); Marla Hansen/Wounded Knee (gentle, mesmerising folk from Brooklyn next to gentle, orchestral meanderings from Edinburgh) and Mucky Sailor/Poultergroom (thrilling baroque three-tiered keyboard sounds next to Dalston surf-punk). The records will be available to buy at various Nuts and Seeds shows throughout the year or from Monorail and will be priced at £3 each. www.myspace.com/nutsseeds
shoeshine / sPit & PoLish ReCoRds
Shoeshine Records is the brainchild of Francis McDonald, the current Teenage Fanclub drummer, began in 1996 while he was a member of BMX Bandits. Originally planned as an indie pop-rock 7 inch label, albums followed from a selection of mainly US artists (Major Matt Mason, Ben Vaughn, The Beauty Shop, Michael Shelley). Francis founded Spit & Polish Records in 2000 with the debut album by Laura Cantrell, and the subsequent years saw a host of Country/Americana releases (Amy Allison, Jason Ringenberg, Paul Burch, etc.) Spit and Polish has evolved into more of a Scottish Folk label nowadays, championing some of Scotland’s foremost young artists in that genre, including the likes of Scots Gaelic singer Julie Fowlis and Dumfries & Galloway singer Emily Smith. While Spit & Polish veered into Folk territory, Shoeshine has remained faithful to its indie roots, leading to the management of Emily Smith, Attic Lights and Camera Obscura. www.shoeshine.co.uk www.myspace.com/francismcdonald
The bizarre and deeply entrenched proliferation of Scoticana (Scots playing Americana) that has existed since the 50s is represented in our selection by a small Glasgow label. Buzz Records describes itself as “a niche label focusing on what could be loosely termed as alt. blues.” Since its conception in 1993, the label has hosted a variety of artists purveying “blues, country, folk or cajun-based music that has an insurgent twist and an original angle, dragging old-time sounds kicking and screaming into the 21st century.” Among the artists currently signed to Buzz are Radiotones and Dave Arcari. As both the head of the label and its foremost artist, Dave Arcari represents the heart and soul of Buzz Records. Though only a small outfit, the label has moved to embrace the development of music sales, with tracks available for download through various suppliers on the internet.
WORDS & PHOTOGRAPHY: CATRIONA MATHESON
A hidden jewel in India’s crown, Rajasthan is a place like no other. GUM invites you to explore the extraordinary cities of India’s largest state. Think camels, curries and lots of blue paint…
If India is a feast for the senses, then Rajasthan is the dessert. From the colourful, hectic disorder of city streets to the tranquillity of its serene desert, Rajasthan offers the traveller a culturally rich experience. Steeped in history, its magnificent forts and beautiful architecture tell the story of kings and warriors, tragedy and romance. Jump in head-first and you will fall in love with India’s most majestic state, a hidden jewel in India’s crown. Roughly the size of Germany, Rajasthan is territorially India’s largest state and sits on India’s north-western border with Pakistan. It is relatively easy to get to and travel around with a multitude of sights and activities to keep you entertained. It is home to the vast Thar Desert and the Aravalli Range; one of the world’s oldest mountain ranges. It is also a shopper’s paradise with vibrant textiles, stone and wood carvings, and quality silver jewellery. However, Rajasthan is particularly impressive due to its unique and unforgettable cities. You will feel like you’re dreaming when you first set sight on Jodhpur, Rajasthan’s ‘Blue City’ on the edge of the Thar Desert. Thousands of flat-roofed stone houses are crammed together, all covered in a wash of blue. Apparently, residents of Jodhpur have been painting their houses for decades, believing it to keep their homes cool and repel mosquitoes. You’ve got to wonder why only Jodhpur is in on the secret. Maybe I’m sceptical, but I think somewhere in Jodhpur is a paint-making dynasty, counting their rupees in a big blue mansion. North of Jodhpur and further into the Thar Desert sits the equally intriguing city of Jaisalmer, also known as the ‘Golden City’ due to its sandy roads and grand, sandstone buildings. Known for its magnificent fort, scattered monuments and impressive, majestic architecture, just to be in Jaisalmer is an experience in itself as you feel like you’re living in a giant sandcastle. I overheard a
tourist exclaiming Jaisalmer was like ‘God’s sandpit.’ Indeed, you can sit in a roof-top café overlooking buildings that although are very grand, look like they would crumble if it rained at all. Jodhpur and Jaislamer are just two of many places worthy of a visit in Rajasthan. It is such a vast region that it is wise to spend time planning your trip. You should also research the social norms of the region as like most of Asia, certain caution should be exercised with regard to cultural awareness. Be sensitive to the cultural values, customs and taboos in the places you visit. For instance, as much as you would dislike a ‘farmer tan’, dress modestly and you will get a warmer welcome from the locals. For most westerners, travelling to India for the first time can be quite a culture shock. The heat can be intense, the food incredibly spicy, the cities congested and the people often uninhibited when they see you walk down the street. Even buying a bottle of water can be difficult if it means haggling, dealing with foreign money, a language barrier and making sure the seal of your bottle hasn’t been broken and that you’re actually in fact paying for tap water, which on a sensitive western stomach is likely to give you horrendous diarrhoea, and no one wants that on their holiday. The trials and tribulations are part of the experience. Yes, travelling in India can occasionally be hard work, your time there is largely dependent on the style of trip you’re looking for. In Rajasthan, you can stay in five-star hotels, or you can sleep on overnight trains to save money. You can trek on a camel into the Thar Desert and sleep under the stars, or you can see the dunes from the window of an air-conditioned jeep. You can eat local cuisine from a street vendor with your fingers for 20 pence, or you can enjoy a western dish at a top restaurant, knife and fork included. Your trip to Rajasthan can be tailored to be the trip you want. Just remember to check the seal of your bottled water.
the great ocean road, australia
WORDS: CATRIONA MATHESON PHOTOGRAPHY: CATRIONA MATHESON & JIM WILSON
Music? Check. Sun lotion? Check. Set of wheels? Check. Ready for one of the world’s greatest road-trips? GUM asks you to buckle up for the road-trip in the land down under. Just don’t forget the camera or the shades.
The Great Ocean Road on Australia’s south-eastern coastline is the ultimate road-trip. The 160 mile stretch offers extraordinary views with charming towns and villages to be explored along the way. Wind down your windows, turn up the music, sit back, relax and take in the outstanding scenery and smell the sea air. Despite repeatedly being voted as one of the World’s Greatest Drives, the Great Ocean Road is often overshadowed by Australia’s more popular tourist locations. Every year, Australia welcomes five million tourists with approximately 800,000 arriving from British shores. Enticed by the warmer climate, laid-back lifestyle and white sandy beaches, most arrive in Sydney before trekking north up the east-coast tourist-trail. With many visitors facing time and money constraints, the Great Ocean Road in the southern state of Victoria is often neglected and, as a result, it offers a very different type of holiday. The towns are smaller and the beaches are quieter; there are more campsites than hotels and in some places you won’t be able to get food, or a drink, past 9pm. You’re also more likely to bump into Aussie families and their caravans than you are some fellow British backpackers. The single-lane, winding road clings to cliff-tops providing panoramic views over the Southern Ocean. Built in the 1930s as a memorial to Australia’s fallen war servicemen of World War I, it officially begins near Torquay on Victoria’s southern coast, and ends at the small regional city of Warrnambool. However, it is common for travellers to start their journey in Melbourne, ending in the South Australian capital of Adelaide. For many, the highlight of their trip is the Twelve Apostles; giant rock stacks reaching 70 metres high, created by constant erosion of the limestone cliffs. As the stormy Southern Ocean and blasting winds gradually eroded the softer limestone, caves were formed which eventually became arches. When they collapsed, rock stacks were left isolated from the shore. The views are particularly stunning at sunrise and sunset. If you’re feeling flush, you can take in the awesome sight from a helicopter ride, or alternatively, various viewing platforms have been erected to provide the postcard-perfect picture. You can also walk along the beach to take in these natural wonders. You will definitely not be disappointed. Dotted along the Great Ocean Road are several coastal towns worth exploring. There are interesting locally-owned shops and quaint restaurants, and you can lay your towel on a beautiful deserted beach and soak up the sun’s rays (through your SPF 30, of course). Torquay is famous for Bells Beach on its outskirts which hosts the world’s longest running surfing competition every Easter, attracting top surfers from around the world. Further along, part of the Road passes through the Great Otway National Park where the coastal view is matched with the Otway Ranges providing a spectacular backdrop. There is also Cape Otway Light-station, which you may know as ‘the Round-The-Twist Lighthouse’. Made famous by the popular 1990s children’s TV programme, it is the oldest surviving lighthouse in mainland Australia and has been in continuous operation since 1848. You can drive right to it, singing the theme tune along the way. Public transport to and along the Great Ocean Road is almost non-existent with local buses running irregularly. Several travel operators provide tours making pitstops at major sites and you can take a one day bus trip from Melbourne or a tour which lasts a few days. To truly experience the Great Ocean Road however, you should drive. Renting your own vehicle will allow you to travel at your own pace (and play your own music). Cars and campervans can be rented in either Melbourne or Adelaide from as little as £15 a day with major companies allowing you to drop off the vehicle at your destination, rather than having to make the return trip. The journey is enjoyable all year-round, however, the time of year you travel will determine to your style of holiday. In the summer months (November- February), there are plenty of out-door activities including bushwalking, hand-gliding, abseiling, bird watching and horse riding along the beach. There are also numerous water sports. In winter (May-September), the south-eastern coast of Australia can be deceptively cold and so camping would not be for the faint-hearted. Alternatively you can find solace in cosy cabins with open fires and watch the Southern Right Whales, which only frequent the southern coast in the winter months to bear their young. Regardless of the time of year you visit, your trip will be a memorable one. Get your play-list sorted, and hit the road.
WORDS: KATY DYCUS PHOTOGRAPHY: TEXAS TOURISM
There is more to Texas that 10 gallon hats and George Bush. GUM’s native Texan acquaints us with the delights and eccentricities of the Lone Star State.
Everything’s bigger in Texas – the steak, highways, even women’s hair. If you’ve never visited the “Lone Star State,” just take my word for it. As the second largest state in America after Alaska, it’s nearly three times the size of the UK and it’s the only state to have been an independent republic – from 1836 to 1845, and it retains a distinctively patriotic spirit. Austin, the capital city, doesn’t feel like the rest of the state. On the tail-end of many vehicles rests the bumper sticker “Keep Austin Weird.” Deriving its hippy-chic nature from places like San Francisco and L.A. and borrowing elements of funky-outdoorsy style from Vancouver the city embraces, even encourages, an eccentric vibe. After scouring the book shelves of “Book People,” an independent bookstore across the street from the Whole Foods headquarters, I found a roll of George Bush toilet paper for purchase. That’s when I knew Austin was unlike the rest of the state of Texas. Fantastically ironic, when George Bush was governor of Texas, he lived just miles from this store. Nearly every band with a good record label has performed in one of Austin’s street venues, with the city as an accompaniment, buzzing through the day and into all hours of the night. The city has been called the live music capital of the world. It’s a young city, with one of the nation’s most prominent centres of learning – the University of Texas – which produced some famous actors we all know and adore like Matthew McConaughey, Owen and Luke Wilson, and Renee Zellweger. If you’re planning a longish stay, check out the “Driskill,” Austin’s original 1886 grand hotel, on lively 6th Street, home to many thriving restaurants such as the Japanese “Uchi,” an eatery in what used to be someone’s home. Last year, the chef/owner, Tyson Cole, was named one of America’s best new chefs by Food and Wine magazine. Brie, shiitake mushrooms, chiles, and pumpkins are among the items you can order tempura-style, a real Texan treat. After Austin a trip to Houston should be next on your list. It is home to much more than big hats and big oil. From hip-hop to posh museums, and an internationally recognized medical community, Houston has it all. Partly because of the Texas Medical Center, the Health Museum has come into being. It contains an interactive exhibition called the “Amazing Body Pavilion,” where you enter through the mouth and proceed down the digestive tract, learning about various organs as you go. On the other end of the artistic scale, the Museum of Fine Arts boasts of strong holdings in Impressionist and post-Impressionist art, as well as baroque, Renaissance art, and 19th and 20th century art. Maybe art is not your thing – you’d rather soak up a bit of authentic Texas history. If that’s the case, go to San Antonio, an hour’s drive from Austin, in the Hill Country. Here you’ll find the historic mission, “The Alamo,” where a small group of heroic Texans held out for 13 days against columns of Mexican soldiers led by General Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna. Every year, 2.5 million people visit the site. And just around the corner is the famous River Walk, or “Paseo del Rio,” a public hot-spot where you can walk alongside the river or catch a boat ride while being entertained by a jubilant Mariachi band. Instead of perching close to the river though, make reservations at the “Brackenridge House,” San Antonio’s first bed and breakfast, in the historic King William district. Rooms are decked out in countrified Edwardian styles that breathe of times past. After exhausting the adventures to be had in the cities, take a turn into the country – there’s a lot of country to see. If the water is your thing, head to South Padre Island, a thirty mile long barrier island just off the coast of the tip of Texas, or try Galveston Island, Port Aransas, or Surfside, Texas, which is an hour’s drive from Houston. Though temperatures get well above 100 degrees Fahrenheit in the summer months, the airy beach is within grasp. The thousands of species of plants and animals at Big Bend National Park is also a must, if you’re feeling adventurous, trek into the high mountains, where bears and mountain lions roam. After a long day, come “home” to the Gage Hotel in Marathon, Texas, an hour from the park’s entrance. Check out Café Cenizo, the hotel’s restaurant, it serves excellent Southwestern cuisine. In Texas, there’s something for everyone. And just as the state is big, so are the experiences to be had. Crossing the state border, the words “Don’t Mess With Texas” loom above you in bold block letters. The sign is more a state motto than a warning. Did I mention that Texans are proud of where they come from? Don’t Mess With Texas. We like it just the way it is.
NOT SURE WHERE TO START? HEAR IT FROM THE EXPERTS…
WANT TO TRAVEL?
KIM AND BRYAN FROM STA TRAVEL GLASGOW GIVE YOU THEIR THOUGHTS ON THE BEST WAY TO TAKE ON ASIA AND AFRICA
TAKING ON ASIA
Kim Masson My number one tip for Asia? Do as much overland as you can. Not much can be spotted from 32,000 feet! I recently took a tour through Vietnam from Ho Chi Minh to Hanoi, travelling up the coast of Vietnam using the reunification express train. My highlights? My first game drive across main areas and visit monasteries and famous war sights that the other tourists the lush Masai Mara and a welcome by some Masai warriors; a hot air balloon didn’t see. ride over the Serengeti; camping on the edge of the Ngorogoro crater in Tanzania Usually the cheapest way to get to and of course the picture perfect Vietnam is to fly on one of STA Travel’s Blue tickets. It gives you flexibility of destinations, dates and a great price. The tour I did can be booked at STA Travel just £269 plus local payment of US$200.
OUT IN AFRICA
A tour was a great option for me as I had never travelled in Vietnam and I was travelling alone. The trip took 15 days, but I think if I had tried to make the trip independently it would have taken twice that and I would have missed loads too! The best bit? When our guide rented moto taxi’s for us. It meant we could go through remote villages outside of the
Bryan Bradshaw Africa is one of my favourite destinations. This vast continent has such variety, from historical wonders to fascinating cultures, to incredible wildlife and stunning beaches. The people are friendly, the food’s good and it’s pretty cheap too. I’ve recently returned from a four week overland adventure from Nairobi to Livingstone, travelling through Kenya, Tanzania, Zanzibar, Malawi and Zambia with a group of 15 others in a purpose built and self sufficient truck, camping most of the way.
Zanzibar. To top it off we did bareback horse riding through Lake Malawi a microlight flight over Victoria Falls and (possibly one of the best things I’ve ever done) swimming in the Devil’s Pool, literally on the edge of the falls. Africa has so much to offer and something to suit all sorts of budgets, time constraints and interests. I cannot wait to go back. Roll on Cairo to Cape Town!
If you’d like to speak to Kim or Bryan about their trips, or any other trips you’re interested in making Just pop into our Byres Road STA Travel, G12 8SN Call: 0141 338 6000 Email: Byresrd@statravel.co.uk
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