Glasgow University

21st January 2009 Scottish Student Newspaper of the Year

On the road again
Kate Winslet goes for gold in the latest offering from Sam Mendes

Friday, bloody Friday
Ninety years on, is the Clyde still a hotbed of communism?

Graduate staff fight for fair pay
Sarah Smith Exclusive
UNIVERSITY OF GLASGOW employees are campaigning for better working conditions, having received no rise in pay for seven years. Graduate teaching assistants (GTAs), many of whom are still studying as post-graduate students, have not received a pay increase since 2002 and, in some instances, are effectively earning less than the national minimum wage. A letter and petition with 76 signatures, including those of senior members of staff, was submitted on December 17 to the Principal, the Secretary of Court, the Head of Human Resources, and to each Faculty Dean. The letter claims that an increase in the hourly rates for graduate teaching assistants is long

Rob Miller

SNP “betray” students over grants pledge

Ross Mathers

Uni rugby club suspended for rest of year
THE FUTURE OF ONE OF GLASGOW University’s oldest sports clubs is in jeopardy following a decision by the University Court last month. Glasgow University Rugby Football Club (GURFC), founded in 1869, has been prohibited from using the University’s name and facilities as of January 1. The drastic action, advocated by Glasgow University Sports Association (GUSA) and unanimously approved at the last meeting of the Court, comes after an array of controversial incidents over the last three years.

overdue, given that the last pay rise was made in October 2002 and consisted of an extra fifty-five pence per hour. Guardian spoke to one of the campaign’s original activists about the situation many teaching assistants currently find themselves in. The spokesperson for the campaign, who asked not to be named, explained: “Graduate teaching assistants are casual workers, meaning that they are hired without a contract. “This is unusual because many other UK universities do provide a contract for teaching assistants, along with holiday and sick pay. “Glasgow University claims that it is one of the top universities in the country for its outstanding teaching quality, however, a large proportion of its teaching staff are given only £17.85 per contact hour.” (Continued on page 6)

Tony Benn outlines his latest political vision >> page 7

THE HIGHER EDUCATION funding system in Scotland looks set to face considerable changes in the coming years. The Scottish Government have announced various plans to update the student support structure in line with the idea that people should have access to learning on the basis of their academic merits, not on their ability to pay. A 41-page consultation, launched in December by the Secretary for Education and Lifelong Learning, Fiona Hyslop, will examine the different options available to tackle the financial problems currently faced by students. The consultation has been set up in order to consider the possible replacement of student loans with grants - as was pledged by the SNP in its 2007 Election Manifesto. However, despite this manifesto pledge, two further options have been laid out in the paper: to increase the minimum level of overall income available; or a combination that would see increasing income and a reduction in debt. (Continued on page 4)

Colin Daniels
On two occasions, club members were found to be consuming alcohol on a GUSA minibus, following which all travelling privileges were suspended. In a separate incident, the club returned an external hire vehicle containing vomit. More recently, the club’s annual dinner was shut down after details of inappropriate behaviour were published in the Scotsman in March last year. Gavin Lee, President of the Students’

Representative Council (SRC), felt the punishment was justified because it protects the interests of the wider student body. He said: “The reputation of GURFC and the behaviour of some of its members were detrimental to the University and its students. “The SRC supported GUSA in its decision as they were in the best position to decide on the appropriate action to be taken.” The final straw for GURFC appears to have been the club's banning from the Glasgow University Union (GUU) last October. This step was taken following reports of

continued misconduct within the Union, with the Principal, Sir Muir Russell, received a letter of complaint over members’ actions accompanied by photographic evidence. GUU President Chris Birrell explained: "At the beginning of last semester, we sat down with the rugby club and highlighted the trouble there had been in recent years. “We set out a clear path of disciplinary measures that would be taken if these circumstances continued; unfortunately, they did, so we had to take the last resort of banning all resident members of the club.” (Cont. on page 2)


Scientists to build a bigger picture

IN BRIEF Graduate wins £15,000 award
Amy McGregor
UNIVERSITY OF GLASGOW ALUMNUS, Jen Hadfield, has become the youngest ever recipient of the T.S. Eliot Prize for her second collection of poems, Nigh-No-Place. The prize is awarded annually to the best collection of new verse in English by the Poetry Book Society. It is regarded as one of the most prestigious awards, and also carries the largest cash prize, in British poetry. Past recipients of the award include Seamus Heaney, Carol Ann Duffy and Ted Hughes. The creative writing graduate was announced winner of the prize on January 12 and was presented with her award by Poet Laureate, Andrew Motion. While introducing Hadfield, Motion described her as “a remarkably original poet

21st January 2009

Scientists at the University of Glasgow have received £500,000 in funding to discover how to improve the quality of digital camera images through the manipulation of tiny particles. The aim of the three-year project, which is being funded by the Engineering & Physical Sciences Research Council, is to create small nanostructures or patterns in the metal film on the complementary metaloxide semiconductor (CMOS) in digital cameras which detect light waves and convert them into digital signals. The team at Glasgow University will also be working with representatives from Sharp Laboratories Europe and Oxford University to develop the new technology. Professor David Cumming and Dr. Tim Drysdale, from the Department of Electronics and Engineering are leading the team and are excited about the possible discoveries that may be made. Professor Cumming said: “This technology has a wide range of potential applications, for example cameras, televisions, spectrometers and medical sensors.” “Digital imaging has come a long way in recent years and this project aims to further improve the ability of digital devices to produce high-quality pictures.”

Researchers at the Centre for Cultural Policy Research at the University of Glasgow are to begin a two-year investigative project to try to understand how business and entrepreneurship are presented on television. The project, entitled ‘Public understanding of Business: Television, Representation and Entrepreneurship’, is funded with a £158,000 grant from the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC). The project will try to identify how television programmes such as ‘Dragon’s Den’ and ‘The Apprentice’ are shaping the public’s knowledge and understanding of the cultural and economic position of entrepreneurship in contemporary British society. Project leader Dr Raymond Boyle explained why this research had particular significance in Britain today. He said: “During this time of massive financial and economic upheaval, the research is interested in looking at the role that television plays in influencing public opinion about what is meant by entrepreneurship and the role that business gurus and entrepreneurs play in our society and economy.” Key television programmes studied will also include Channel 4’s ‘Ramsays’s Kitchen Nightmares’ and ‘Property Ladder’.

£158,000 grant for CCPR research

(Continued from front page) Ian Watkinson, GURFC’s captain, admitted that the behaviour of some past members of the team had been unreasonable. He told Guardian: “Rugby clubs have always had controversy surrounding their conduct off the pitch and one could probably argue that, in years gone by, the club has had issues with discipline. “However, we have now produced a disciplinary package to help the club solve any behavioural issues and this should prevent future problems. “I think that to ban the entire club for incidents involving a very small percentage of members is an overreaction. Recently the club, as a whole, has been on better behaviour.

Future of GURFC in doubt
“We apologise, not only to the University, but also to any other institution or member of the public that we have offended or upset at any point.” Watkinson’s claim that the University’s actions are too harsh was rejected by Lee. He said: “Significant evidence was provided to the Court detailing the actions of GURFC and some of its members over recent years and subsequent action taken by GUSA and the University. “There was no evidence that their behaviour had improved, and it was on this basis that the Court made its decision.” Birrell added: “Although the GUU was not involved in the decision to ban the club as a whole, we can back the actions

Bloodaxe Books

near the beginning of what is obviously going to be a distinguished career.” Tom Leonard, Professor of English Literature, tutored Hadfield during her study at Glasgow University. He explained the significance of the accolade and the effect that it would have upon the poet’s career. He said: “It’s an important award. Besides significantly increasing the sales of her work, it will make Jen Hadfield a sought-after reader at poetry festivals and literary events. “Funding the business of writing is always a problem for poets, who are usually not to be found amongst society's high earners. “Jen likes to travel in exploration for material for some of her work. The £15,000 will be most welcome I'm sure.” “She has great poetic talent and a total commitment to her art.”

James Porteous

of the Court and GUSA because we were working with them at each stage of the disciplinary process.” On the pitch, GURFC has been one of the University’s most successful clubs in recent times. The first team currently sit top of the BUCS Scottish Conference Men’s 2A League, having won every game of the season so far. GURFC’s suspension will remain enforced until the club implements changes to satisfy the University Court that it can operate as an inclusive group. Watkinson explained that this suspension effectively prevented GURFC from functioning as a sports team. He said: “The club can’t work without the use of the University’s name or facilities. At present, there is no GURFC on the pitch.” Despite accepting that the behaviour of his team members was unacceptable, Watkinson told Guardian that, in some respects, he felt that his team had been unfairly treated. He explained: “We were initially under the impression that the suspension was a shortterm process as we were given the chance to appeal. “However, after attending a meeting with the Secretary of Court and some higher members of the GUSA/SRS Council, we have heard that the University Court has cancelled our fixtures for the rest of the year. “The decision to suspend us and take away our fixtures was made and acted upon before we were given the chance to appeal. “Something that I feel is even more important is that GUSA made the decision to suspend us indefinitely on November 4 and the final decision by the University Court was made on December 10. “The club did not find out officially until January 6 by email, giving us no chance to appeal properly.” Euan Millar, President of GUSA, was reluctant to make a full statement on behalf of the student sports body until the suspension process had been completed.

21st January 2009

The thyme of your life Ishbel Begg


RECENT RESEARCH BY A TEAM OF Glasgow University scientists into the circadian ‘clocks’ in plants could have significant implications for the way we live our lives. The results of the study, led by Professor Hugh Nimmo, have overturned the earlier theory that plant cells contain identical, independent circadian clocks. On the premise that most, if not all, organisms have evolved to possess circadian clocks, the findings could further research looking into how both crop and human clock patterns can be manipulated. The behaviour of organisms is informed by circadian clocks as they allow living cells to ‘tell the time’, anticipate and respond to environmental changes. Professor Nimmo explained that these findings could have an impact on the way the horticultural industry works. He said: “Although we had worked on circadian rhythms of CO2 fixation for many years, we had not previously addressed the mechanism of the central circadian clock, which is a fiercely competitive area. “In plants the circadian clock contributes in several ways to optimal growth, and often controls flowering time, which is vital for crop yield and the horticulture industry, for example, getting chrysanthemums to flower shortly before Mother’s Day. “Developing a better understanding of the molecular mechanism of the circadian clock is of great importance both in human biology and for agriculture as the underlying ‘design principles’ seem to be the same in all higher organisms.” Humans experience the circadian clock in many ways, such as disturbed sleep, sleep problems associated with shift-work, and jetlag.

Stefan Sealey

Glasgow’s research is “world-leading”
Craig MacLellan
ACADEMIC RESEARCH AT THE GLASGOW UNIVERSITY has received excellent results in the 2008 Research Assessment Exercise (RAE). The RAE, which is undertaken every seven years, examines the quality of research carried out by universities across the UK and is an internationally recognised standard. Almost 70% of the research submitted by the University has been classified as either world-leading or internationally excellent. These results build significantly on the University of Glasgow's performance in the 2001 assessment. Principle of Glasgow University, Sir Muir Russell, welcomed the results and believes that they reinforce Glasgow’s position as an internationally recognised institution. He said: “The 2008 RAE results reflect the strength of research at this university. “The University of Glasgow is one of the top 100 universities in the world and has an international research profile. “These results match our international standing and underline our reputation across the world.” Sir Muir also noted how well Scottish universities had performed overall in terms of research quality. He said: “These results from around the country show the strength of research activity in Scotland as a whole and proves, yet again, that Scotland punches above its weight when it comes to world-class research.” Professor Steve Beaumont, Vice-Principal for Research and Enterprise, believes the results prove that the university is meeting its aim of producing world class research. He said: “One of the university’s key strategic objectives is for our research to be recognised as world-leading. The RAE 2008 results show that we are achieving this.” Professor Beaumont also noted how the University had achieved high marks in a wide-range of subject areas. He explained: “Our cancer and cardiovascular research are both rated in the top five in the UK. “Our submissions from Accounting and Finance, English Language and Literature, and Theatre, Film and Television Studies have also made the top five in their fields. “The University’s History of Art department is the most highly rated of any university in the UK and our Vet School has been rated joint best in the country.”

Developing ways to advance or delay the clock’s phase is relevant for producing light regimes and treatments that can help treat these problems, such as helping airline passengers to adapt more rapidly to changes in time zone. Professor Nimmo is also planning to build on this horticultural research to find out what

further implications the study could have for the future. He explained: “The results of our first experiment showed a difference in the machinery of the clock between shoots and roots. “We had not really predicted this in advance but we realised within a couple of days of

getting the results just how important the data might be. “Since then we have also discovered that shoots and roots communicate timing information. The next task will be to study the implication for crop species, for example the formation and growth of potato tubers.”

Courtesy of The Donkey Sanctuary Jim Wilson


Muscatelli announced as new Principal Amy McGregor
IT HAS BEEN ANNOUNCED THAT PROFESSOR ANTON Muscatelli will be the the next Principal of the University of Glasgow. The unanimous decision of the University Court to appoint Muscatelli has been warmly received. Following the appointment, Joy Travers, Chancellor’s Assessor and Chair of the University’s Selection Committee, expressed her satisfaction with the selection. She said: “I am delighted that the University of Glasgow has secured someone of the calibre of Anton Muscatelli to be our next Principal. In addition to being a distinguished economist, Anton brings exceptional strategic leadership and understanding of the issues facing universities at this time. “I feel confident that, with Anton at its head, this world-class university will continue to grow from strength to strength.” Professor Muscatelli, a University of Glasgow graduate, will begin his new role on October 1 2009, after the current Principal, Sir Muir Russell, leaves in September. Professor Muscatelli, who currently holds the post of Principal at Edinburgh’s Heriot-Watt University, expressed his enthusiasm and hopes for the role. He said: “Glasgow is one of the very best universities in the UK. Throughout its history it has had a major impact on the world stage, and in recent years it has significantly grown in its influence. I am excited and honoured to have been asked to succeed Muir Russell as Principal. “As well as continuing to work towards the ambitious targets set out in the University’s plan ‘Building on Excellence’, I look forward to working with all colleagues to develop a strategic plan beyond 2010 which will maintain our momentum and further enhance our reputation as a world-class university.” Principal Sir Muir Russell welcomed the appointment of his successor, emphasising the qualities that Muscatelli will bring to the University. He said: “I am very pleased that Professor Anton Muscatelli will succeed me next session. He brings great academic authority plus the experience of heading a strong, research-led university which, during his tenure as Principal, has developed new, imaginative and convincing strategies. “His successful leadership at Universities Scotland reflects the high regard in which he is held by his colleagues in the higher education community.” President of the SRC, Gavin Lee, expressed his hope that the new Principal would continue to help improve Glasgow University for its students. He told Guardian: “The SRC are delighted to welcome Professor Anton Muscatelli as incoming Principal. We have worked closely with Sir Muir Russell during his tenure and look forward to continuing a productive relationship with Anton. “Professor Muscatelli has proven very popular with student representatives in his role at Heriot Watt and the SRC is looking forward to working with him to continue to improve the student experience at Glasgow.”

21st January 2009

SNP funding proposals not enough, says SRC
(Continued from front page) The Government has already set aside £30 million to be used in accordance with the outcome of the ongoing consultation. A spokesperson for Fiona Hyslop expressed the SNP’s wish to see a shift towards a grantsbased system. He said: “We would like to move from loans to grants but we are responding to a specific request from parliament and allowing a range of stakeholders, including students, to have their views heard through the consultation and therefore we are open-minded about the final decision.” The possibility that loans will not be replaced with grants has led to serious criticism from opposition parties. They claim that the consultation fails to uphold the SNP’s manifesto pledge to scrap students loans altogether. Speaking to Guardian, Murdo Fraser, the Shadow Cabinet Secretary for Education and Lifelong Learning, made clear the Conservative Party’s view that the SNP has let down Scottish students. He said: “The reality is that the SNP have betrayed the students of Scotland. It was entirely clear that this was a dishonest pledge as money was never going to be available within the Scottish Budget to fund such an ambitious program.” The Labour MSP for Glasgow Kelvin, Pauline McNeill, told Guardian that she too believes the SNP had no intention of fulfilling their pledge. She said: “This is a promise that they never intended to deliver on. They have never actually made any proposals and it’s such a costly thing to do.” In response to such criticism, the Scottish Government has claimed its ability to make financial changes is being heavily restricted by both the current financial crisis and the policies of the Labour Government in Westminster. A Scottish Government spokesperson told Guardian of this difficulty. He explained: “Despite student support policy being fully devolved, student loans are funded directly by HM Treasury and not through the Scottish Government’s budget. We therefore have no control over a large proportion of this budget and must work within the restrictions placed upon us.” Murdo Fraser has, however, rejected this as an excuse. He said: “This situation has nothing whatsoever to do with the financial settlement from introduction of a £38 million package to benefit part-time students as examples. The recent consultation is seen as a further step towards a fairer system. In addition Fiona Hyslop has recently announced advancement in financial support of postgraduate students to include part-time as well as full-time students. As part of the student funding consultation process, Gavin Lee, SRC President, has met with MSPs to discuss the options available and the impact on Glasgow University students. He too has expressed concerns about the value of the three options set out in the consultation. He said: “None of the proposals actually achieve what the SNP said they would in 2007 that made a lot of students vote for them. I don’t think any of the options are a step forward, they all have some significant drawback.” Instead he proposes that all students should have access to £7000 per year, through a combination of both loans and grants.

“This is a promise the SNP never intended to deliver on”

Westminster but everything to do with the fact that the SNP over-promised in advance of the election in order to attract votes and then found when coming into office that their sums did not add up.” MSP Margaret Smith, the Liberal Democrat Education spokesperson, has also refused to accept the Government’s explanations. She told Guardian: “The recession is not an excuse for the SNP Government to break their promise to move from a loans system to a grants system. Nor can they blame Westminster for preventing them keeping this promise. “The simple fact is that the SNP’s back-ofa-fag-packet maths has let them down and the £30 million in their budget for this is a long way short of what they promised students.” Despite such claims, the SNP argues that it has been successful in achieving its higher education promises, citing its abolition of the Graduate Endowment fee last year and the

He said: “The stance that we are going to be taking is that support for living is more important than decreasing debt. Our suggestion is that those who need it most get the biggest increase and get the £7000 figure. So those with the lowest family incomes get £7000 and incrementally it will decrease, so everyone’s funding will increase.” However, the Government’s £30 million will not cover such a proposal which will then lead, Lee argues, to students being underfunded, resulting in the use of other forms of funding such as commercial loans which have much higher interest rates. While no conclusion has yet been reached, Lee said that the SRC will persist in its attempts to achieve a better deal. He explained: “We are continuing to argue for the students who need the most help, and to ensure that across the board everyone’s support is increased.”

Scottish Parliamentary Body

21st January 2009

Imitation: sincerest form of strategy?
George Binning
AN EDINBURGH UNIVERSITY became the centre of controversy when it emerged that their strategic plan had been plagiarised from the University of Glasgow Students’ Representative Council’s own strategic plan. The 34-page document dictates the policy of Queen Margaret University Student Union (QMUSU) for the next four years, outlining the Union’s structure and aims, along with its implementation, monitoring and reviewing methodology. However the entire document appears to have been copied from the SRC’s own strategy almost word for word. The first paragraph from the introduction to the SRC’s strategic plan reads: “We are delighted to present you with our first ever strategic plan. This document represents a lot of hard work, effort and dedication from all the students and staff involved in the University of Glasgow Students Representative Council (GUSRC) as well as reflecting input from a host of our external partners.” The first paragraph of the QMUSU’s plan, which is signed by both Rio Floreza and Saul Bertoletti, Student President and General Manager respectively, reads: “The Students’ Union is delighted to present you with our new strategic plan. This document has been compiled with a considerable amount of effort and dedication from all the students and staff involved in the Students’ Union, Queen Margaret University Edinburgh, as well as reflecting input from a host of our external partners.” The QMUSU’s plan also falsifies research that was actually conducted by the SRC. A SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats) analysis of the Union’s present situation claims to have been carried out in conjunction with “various stakeholders” in student life. Only four of the 21 points raised do not appear in the SRC’s SWOT analysis. Upon discovering the similarity between the two documents, Gavin Lee, President of the SRC, confronted the QMUSU demanding a written apology and a retraction of the strategic plan, threatening court action if the QMUSU failed to comply. Lee expressed outrage at the forgery saying: “Everyone at the SRC was extremely distressed, angry and concerned that our strategic plan had been copied so extensively. “We take great pride and ownership in such a significant document that was the culmination of a huge amount of work from all staff and sabbaticals.” Drawing up the strategic plan took the SRC roughly a year and a half and was partly informed by feedback from a variety of university stakeholders. Having brought the dispute to light, Lee confirmed that the SRC’s demands had been fulfilled: “We received a public, written apology, and all copies of the Queen Margaret University Student Union's document have been recalled. We are satisfied with these actions.” Andrew McClean, Vice President of QMUSU, confirmed that disciplinary action had been taken, successfully appeasing the SRC. He said: “The matter has been resolved by our President Rio Floreza and the Glasgow SRC President Gavin Lee. Rio Floreza has taken appropriate internal action. Both Students’ Unions are satisfied with the action taken.”

Stefan Sealey

Glasgow students demonstrate against Israel’s attack on Gaza
Pete Ramand
GLASGOW AND STRATHCLYDE students have joined a series of demonstrations condemning Israeli aggression in the Gaza Strip. The demonstrations, organised by the Stop the War Coalition, and supported by various other groups, have resulted in thousands of people turning out to protest all over the country. Saturday January 3 saw an estimated 4000 people march through Glasgow’s city centre in support of the Palestinian people. The rally was addressed by speakers from all of the main political parties with the exception of the Conservatives. Barrie Levine, a member of ‘Scottish Jews for a Just Peace’, described his reasons for protesting. He said: “The collective punishment of the Palestinian population, first through the siege of Gaza and now through large-scale military attack in dense urban areas, is a brutal action that flies in the face of international humanitarian law — and of Jewish law.” Glasgow students joined mass demonstrations in both London and Edinburgh on January 10, when 10,000 protesters marched through the streets of the Scottish capital and threw shoes at the US consulate building, chanting “George Bush we hate you. We will hit you with our shoes.” In London rioting broke out after demonstrators marched from Hyde Park to the Israeli embassy building. Shops were vandalised and protesters threw projectiles at police lines. According to Julie Sherry, a Glasgow University student who was at the demonstration, the police behaved violently towards some of the protestors. She said: “The police were aggressive and very heavy-handed. They repeatedly charged at us with batons.

Graduate employment drops by 17%
Struan Campbell
A RECENT REPORT SUGGESTS that students graduating in 2009 may face difficulties gaining degreeworthy employment. The report, conducted into Britain’s one hundred leading employers by High Fliers Research, shows that there has been a 17% drop in the intake of new graduates, due to the recent economic downturn. Also highlighted within the findings was the fact that many employers started cutting down on their intake a year ago, resulting in a higher proportion of last year’s graduates still seeking employment. Martin Birchall, Managing Director of High Fliers Research, explained the reality that graduates now face. He said: “There is understandable panic on campus that this is shaping up to be one of the worst years of the last two decades to be graduating from university. “Many top employers have already received a record number of applications for their 2009 graduate vacancies and most have either filled their remaining places or have closed off the application process. “For those who have yet to begin job hunting, the chances of landing a last-minute place on a graduate programme now seem very slim.” The sectors most severely affected include: accountancy and professional services; retail; engineering and industrial employers; and investment banking. Vacancies in the public sector and armed forces, however, have increased since last year. The research also suggested that there have been increases of up to 6% on graduate starting salaries in the past year. Gavin Lee, President of the SRC, understands the anxiety that the findings may provoke and advises that students act to make sure that they stand out from the crowd. He told Guardian: “It’s extremely concerning that graduate employment prospects are being affected by the recession. “With recruitment down by 17%, competition is going to be fierce. There are services available within

“I saw one old man hit over the head with a baton several times and then the police started kicking him when he was on the ground.” Lindsay German, National Convenor of the Stop the War Coalition, explained that, despite opposition, protests against the Israeli Government would continue. She said: “As long as there is violence in Gaza, we will continue to protest outside the Israeli embassy.” A spokesman for the Metropolitan Police Service said that the police had not received any formal allegations of police brutality and that their response was appropriate. Twenty-four arrests were made during the London demonstration, where five police officers and numerous protestors were injured. On January 17, Israel declared a unilateral ceasefire and, the following day, Hamas agreed to a ceasefire on the condition that all Israeli soldiers leave Gaza over the next week.

the SRC and the University to give students the best chance of finding suitable employment. “There are a huge range of volunteering opportunities through the SRC and others on campus that can boost CVs — and employment opportunities — significantly. “The adage that you need ‘more than a degree’ to succeed in finding fulfilling employment has never been truer. Students can get involved in clubs and societies, student media, or stand as a representative in our upcoming March election.”


Teaching assistants demand pay rise
(Continued from front page) The rates at which graduate teaching assistants are paid for marking can lead to their effectively earning less than the national minimum wage. For each essay of up to 2000 words, the GTAs are paid £3.05; for each exam script they are paid £2.05. In order to earn at least the current minimum wage of £5.77, a teaching assistant must mark two essays, or three exam scripts, per hour. This works out to half an hour spent marking each essay and only twenty minutes for every exam script. The teaching assistant Guardian spoke to admitted that this was not enough time to mark a piece of work properly: “Sometimes, to read an essay of 2000 words takes forty-five minutes and for that you are paid £3.05. Then you might have to go back to it again later and over an hour you might only manage to mark one paper. Obviously, this The campaign was established at the beginning of November 2008, when three graduate teaching assistants decided that they should be taking action to improve their situation. The student who spoke to Guardian described how, after organising the letter and petition, they made sure to include the senior members of staff as well as other teaching assistants. “We asked the help of senior members of staff to make them aware of what we were doing. It was important to us not to create an ‘us and them’ situation, so we made sure to involve them and asked for feedback on the letter.” Despite the campaign being met with much support, its organisers felt that they were hampered by difficulties in communicating with the graduate teaching assistants as an entire group. “The most difficult part was contacting other GTAs. We’re not registered or listed on the University website as staff, meaning that there is no way to communicate amongst ourselves. This had an effect on the turnout at some of the events we organised. “We had great support from the academic staff and many of them signed the petition - even a few heads of departments. We believe that if we had had a better way of communicating then we would have had even more signatures.” The campaign activist Guardian spoke to went on to explain that the situation at Glasgow University compared poorly with other higher education institutions. “At, for example, Strathclyde University, the GTAs sign a contract every year which lasts from September until June. The pay there is £30 per contact hour, rather than £17.85. That does include marking but only the marking for the amount of students you teach so it’s a bit more balanced. “At Glasgow, we don’t really exist. We don’t have a phone number and sometimes we just have our personal email addresses. Some of us don’t have access to the library because, if you are neither a student nor a member of staff, you cannot apply for a library card. It can be quite problematic.” The campaign also hopes to achieve more in the way of standardisation across the University’s different departments. The spokesperson for the campaign told Guardian: “Each department is different and there is no consistency as to whether you are paid for preparation and if so, how much you are paid. It also depends on the budget of the department. “With a contract, we would hopefully have some sort of standardisation and some form of equality. At the moment, there is no acknowledgement for experience or for how many years you have done the job, or whether or not you have a PhD.” A spokesman for the University told Guardian that the issues raised by the petition would be investigated thoroughly. He explained: “The Director of Human Resources, Ian Black — on behalf of the Principal and Deans — has responded directly (on December 23, 2008) to the group of staff

21st January 2009

“If, one day, we stopped teaching, the University would come to a standstill”
works out at less than the minimum hourly rate recommended by the Government. Also, the minimum wage is increased every year, in line with inflation, but we haven’t had that.” The low rate of pay means that many GTAs struggle to earn enough money to properly focus on their own studies. Sarah Honeychurch, a graduate teaching assistant for the Department of Philosophy, explained to Guardian how she has had to take on other jobs in addition to studying for a PhD. She said: “Last semester, each tutorial group I taught earned me £240 across a tenweek period, once I take into account the ten hours of tutoring and marking the essays and exam scripts. “I do find the financial situation really stressful, particularly at the moment because I’m not getting enough teaching work from Glasgow to live on. “I also teach at Aberdeen, Strathclyde and other colleges of further education. Between those four jobs I still don’t really have enough to live on.” The campaign’s spokesperson believes that the teaching assistants are treated unfairly considering what an important part of the University’s staff they are: “Most of the undergraduate teaching is carried out by GTAs, especially in the Faculty of Arts. If, one day, we stopped teaching, the University would come to a standstill. Many of us are the ones who have regular contact time with students. “Most of us aren’t given a place to work from and we’re not really treated like members of staff. We are not paid for seeing students outside of our contact hour with that group. Every time a student asks for advice, we’re not paid for the time spent helping them. “We are only paid for the tutorial hour, but it may be that an entire morning is spent answering emails or preparing for the class.”

Jim Wilson

and graduate teaching assistants who submitted a letter and petition. “This is a complex area and Human Resources will convene a group early this year to look in depth at these issues and develop appropriate ways forward.” President of the SRC, Gavin Lee, supports the campaign and told Guardian that he hoped that the University would recognise the importance of its graduate teaching assistants. He said: “Graduate teaching is an excellent developmental opportunity for senior and postgraduate students, and fulfils an essential role for the University. It is important that

“If it were required, we might have to strike”
across the University it is treated as such. We’re looking forward to the outcome of the ongoing review.” David Anderson, President of the University and College Union at Glasgow (UCUG), explained to Guardian how the UCUG have supported the graduate teaching assistants in their efforts to secure better working rights. He said: “UCUG fully support the campaign run by the graduate teaching assistants at Glasgow University and, in fact, have attended a meeting to talk to the students. “UCUG is very encouraged to see the GTAs organise themselves to put pressure on

Glasgow University to negotiate with UCU these rates of pay.” Anderson went on to explain that the issue of casual workers is a national problem. He said: “Casual working is one of higher education’s biggest issues. It is well documented how this casual basis creates stress and anxiety, as well as causing difficulties in getting mortgages and creating long-term careers. “UCU has spent many years fighting this and our latest campaign — Stamp Out Casual Contracts — has been very well supported, both locally and nationally. We hope that the pressure put on Glasgow University by the graduate teaching assistants will help move this process on and result in the GTAs being paid a fair rate for the very valuable work they do.” The campaign’s spokesperson admitted that, if nothing was done to address the problems outlined in the letter, then further action would be considered. “If it were required, we might have to strike, although the current lack of communication means that organising such a thing would be extremely difficult.” Whilst prepared to take such steps if necessary, the campaign’s organisers hope that the University will respond to the petition and improve the working lives of its employees. At the time of going to press, there has been no other response to the campaign’s petition since that sent by Mr. Black on December 23.

Another world is possible
21st January 2009
s Margaret Thatcher’s pit-closure policy intensified, Tony Benn stood in solidarity with the trade unionists on the picket lines, demanding a fair deal for miners. When Nelson Mandela was denounced as a terrorist and sentenced to spend the rest of his life in the custody of South Africa’s racist government, Tony Benn took to Trafalgar Square, condemning Mandela’s conviction and the white-minority government which had pursued it. And when America and Britain invaded Afghanistan and then Iraq, life-long pacifist and Labour Party member Benn again took to the streets, demanding the immediate withdrawal of all occupying troops from the two countries. Whether campaigning for the closure of the Trident nuclear missile base on the Scottish coastland, or arguing for the abolition of the monarchy in the Houses of Parliament, Tony Benn has dedicated his long political life to challenging the worst excesses of corporate and governmental power. Moments after we meet, a security guard informs Mr. Benn that he can’t smoke his beloved pipe in the courtyard where we plan to conduct the interview, due to its being “classified as an enclosed-area by smoking legislation.” Benn — one of the longest-serving and eminent members of the party that coined this very law — offers a characteristically recalcitrant response. “An enclosed-area? It’s a courtyard! It doesn’t have a roof!” Indignant at the technicalities of the smoking ban, he continues, “To hell with it, you’ll just have to do a Nelson”; an invitation



Scott Lavery talks to socialist activist and former Labour MP Tony Benn about politics and his lifelong battle for justice
and I’ll solve your problems.’ It’s never been that way.” He insists that the solutions lie very much in the hands of ordinary people — solidarity and most importantly collective action are the weapons we have at our disposal. He confidently asserts, “Things can change, but it depends on what we do and not just what we say.” Benn has been politely attacking the establishment since the 1960s. In an increasingly globalized world, Benn remains committed to the importance of dissent. “I have given up protesting, because when you protest you say ‘I’ve lost the battle and I don’t like it.’ We should be demanding, and there’s a hell of a difference. The suffragettes didn’t protest that they didn’t have the vote, they demanded the vote. Mandela didn’t protest that he wasn’t properly treated, he demanded equality.” In this spirit, Benn has consciously become the proverbial thorn-inthe-side of big business lobbyists and conservative politicians, inspiring hundreds of thousands of people to, as he puts it, “demand” justice from those in power. At 83 years of age, and after a half century of trying to change British politics from the inside-out, Benn has very visibly aged. Periodically, our conversation is suspended by onsets of pipe-induced coughing, and more than once his hearing fails him. I wonder if this old man, after fighting for a fairer society so passionately and for so long, ever gets despondent about the durability of his progressive values. After all, the miners were defeated, inequalities in wealth continue to widen, blood still flows in the Middle East, and the remnants of a once-potent left-wing alternative have been considerably marginalised. The perennially hopeful Benn, with a youthful optimism I have not yet seen in people a quarter of his age, replies, “I think of Mandela who was sentenced to life imprisonment and who Mrs. Thatcher called a terrorist. I went to speak for him in Trafalgar square when he was sentenced and I was denounced in the tabloids — but last year I was in Parliament Square and they put up a statue to him.” Benn is tenacious in his conviction that the weak and disenfranchised can prevail, that justice can be fought for and achieved, that positive change can, and does, occur. With discernible pride, he adds, “and I do think that the advance of democracy, the welfare state and the NHS were real advances. You can brush them aside but they were real and they were fought for.” The socialist project, he insists, goes on. “It’s all very daring, but is it any more daring than saying in 1832 that the working class should have the vote? ‘The poor? The ignorant poor should have the vote? You must be mad,’ they said to them. ‘Women have the vote? Don’t be ridiculous!’ But it happened.” From the achievements of mass movements in the past, Benn evidently draws great inspiration. His undertaking now is to ensure their continuation in the future. A little over three weeks after I met Tony Benn, Israel had begun its bombing campaign on the Gaza strip. When 20,000 people took to the streets in London, Benn led the demonstration to the Israeli embassy to demand an immediate ceasefire.As I watched him march sideby-side with the ordinary people in whom he has vested so much hope, I thought back to some words he had said at the end of our short

encounter in the capital. “You have to have a vision in order to proceed. ‘Another world is possible’ is a very powerful argument because it encourages people to do something.” Throughout his fifty-one years as an MP, in government and in opposition, and on the mossy bench where we had talked that December afternoon, Tony Benn has fostered the conviction that ‘another world is possible’. The world he has fought so energetically to bring about will not, however, be realised in his, or perhaps even our, lifetime. But if people unite and pursue the vision of a better society with even half the vitality and enthusiasm with which Tony Benn has, then perhaps the possibility of a world free from poverty and injustice will become not only the imaginings of an aged idealist, but a reality.

“We have actually had Thatcherism in some shape or form since ’97. This isn’t just the end of New Labour; it’s the end of Thatcherism too.”
for the security guard to follow the example set by the one-eyed sea admiral who ‘turned a blind eye’. As it happens, the guard does not take Mr. Benn up on his offer. Instead, we leave the building and sit down on a frozen bench opposite London’s Euston Station. The Chairman of the Stop the War Coalition, now within the limits of law, lights up his tattered pipe. Three miles down the road from where we sit, share prices continue to plummet at The London Stock Exchange. The spectacular sight of capitalism in freefall — the job losses, repossessions, and falling value of the pound — has led to widespread disillusionment with the free market philosophy which has dominated discource since the eighties. I ask Mr. Benn whether he believes this climate represents an opportunity for a real move to the left in British politics. He is unhesitant in his response. “I think it has given everybody the opportunity to think. All the things they’ve been told before — that the country is being run by the trade unions, that government should ‘keep-out’, rely on the market — all that’s changed … you see, we have actually had Thatcherism in some shape or form since ’97. This isn’t just the end of New Labour; it’s the end of Thatcherism too.” With the self-assurance of a practised statesman and the sanguinity of a young radical, he concludes, “people have lost confidence in the system. This is their weakness and our opportunity.” When Benn left Parliament in 2001, he wryly claimed that he would now ‘spend more time in politics’. Today, he is no less insistent on the importance of grassroots campaigning. “All progress is made from underneath, when people say ‘here’s an injustice, let’s get together, let’s raise it, let’s campaign’. When you do that you find that all the campaigns are the same: they’re all about justice. Justice for pensioners, justice for students, justice for Iraqis, justice for Afghans. It’s a process of do-ityourself politics.” In his old-age, Benn sees his role as offering encouragement and support to less experienced activists, and in galvanising resistance from the bottom-up. For young people and students in particular, he has the following advice. “Have confidence in yourself and not in leaders. Don’t imagine that some leader will gallop on the stage on a white horse and say ‘vote for me

The world’s oldest co

21st Janu


As fragile ceasefires are announced by both Israel and Hamas, James Foley repo
return to their homes. Palestinians are now the largest refugee population in the world, numbering over six million. The Israelis are recent immigrants to the area. Many are the descendents of European Jews fleeing persecution; the paradoxical consequence of Jewish Emancipation in the 19th century was that the ruling classes used anti-Semitism as a diversion from the social malaise caused by early capitalist development. The leaders of the Jewish émigré population signed a covert deal with the

ony Blair asked a disgruntled electorate to let history judge the value of the War on Terror. Already, history’s verdict is damning. Barack Obama assumes office on January 20th on a wave of popular acclaim, but he inherits an America whose international legitimacy has never been lower. After eight years of Bush’s failed presidential policy, Obama will need to prioritise emergency repairs to America’s sinking economic foundations — bombarding “damn terrorist” villagers from 5,000 feet is a luxury America can’t afford in lean times. Despite sabre rattling on the Iranian front, the exposed masses of the Middle East might expect to rest easier for the next four years. British diplomats quietly expelled the “War on Terror” from their vocabulary in 2006. Now, the worm truly has turned. Cabinet “boffin” David Miliband – allegedly, Blair’s real successor — admitted last week that the concept was “misleading and mistaken” and may have “done more harm than good”. “Terrorism,” Miliband has conceded, “is a deadly tactic, not an institution or an ideology.” It might have taken eight years but finally – finally! – our rulers have reached a truly Dickensian moment of realisation. We cannot kill our way out of our many occupations in the Middle East. Or so you might have thought. Except that every night more Palestinians are killed by Israel in its relentless attempt to kill its way out of its own contradictions. Even the dead are not safe from Israel’s “War on Terror”. As I write, Israel has unleashed its bombardment on the Sheikh Radwan cemetery in Gaza City, sending body parts and entrails from the recently deceased into surrounding Palestinian homes. Palestinians are collecting the arms, legs, and severed heads of their loved ones — in part, the remains of more than 350 children killed in the Gaza assault — and returning them to a smouldering crater in the ground. “Gaza is all a graveyard”, observed the local gravedigger. It is a graveyard that our rulers created. The Middle East crisis is a war between two nationalisms. The Palestinians are the indigenous inhabitants of both Israel and Palestine. Most of the Arab inhabitants of Israel were expelled in 1948 and they have never been allowed to

“Palestinians are now the largest refugee population in the world, numbering over six million”
British to allow gradual colonisation of Palestine with the intention of creating a Jewish state of Israel in that territory. Ronald Storrs, the British governor of Jerusalem, spoke for many in the British Colonial Office when he said Israel would be “a little Jewish Ulster in a sea of potentially hostile Arabism”. To put it another way, an Israeli state would help the British Empire control the oil rich Middle East against the wishes of the native population. Eventually, Britain succumbed to imperial overstretch, and was forced to abandon the role of colonial overlord in the Middle East to America. At the same time, it quietly dropped its overt support for Israeli domination in Palestine; the issue had become something of a nuisance. Britain had sponsored one nationalism (Jewish) in Palestine, and in the process awakened another (Arab). The result was a civil war, in which the Israelis used vicious terrorist tactics (bombing hotels, civilian homes, etc) to drive out British colonialism and, incidentally, upwards of 750,000 Palestinian civilians. Israel, like many countries subject to European colonial domination, was founded on terrorism. To maintain its rule in a hostile environment, it has become the servant of one colonial master after another: Britain, then France, then America after 1967. The ideology that established Israel treats every Arab as a potential toxin. This establishes the true parameters of the crisis: a terrorist nationalism with quasi-messianic tendencies that will not rest until it expels every last racial poison from its territory … versus Hamas.

In the latest phase of fighting, Israel while thirteen Israelis have perished. H and, yes, now even graveyards are legiti be used to shield Hamas’s “terrorist app all of Gaza supports Hamas against Isra Still, many find it hard to stomach partly due to its Islamic ideology, partly objection is painfully absurd and yet re Yes, Hamas — the democratically ele Muslim organisation. The liberators of cally speaking, soft Stalinists. The same FLN in Algeria; part of the Spanish resis Castro; and the liberators of much of the etc). Does anyone today wish to revers return them to their former fascist/colon have another go at establishing their lib Hamas’s Islamic ideology found fe of secular nationalism, associated with (PLO), failed to bring political and socia under Israeli occupation. If limiting the was not proof enough of the PLO’s ban clear by the First Intifada (1987-92) w engaged the Israeli army in an open-end The Intifada was led by grassroots leadership looked on, exiled in Tunisia, opportunity, they used the international Intifada to negotiate, for the first time Treaty of Oslo was described by the late Versailles”. PLO leaders agreed to con their families but did nothing to ease th fought in the Intifada. Not surprisingly, after the Oslo agreement.

onflict: Gaza’s ruins
It should be emphasised over and over again that the Islamic committees that formed Hamas were clandestinely sponsored by Israel in an effort to break Palestinian support for the PLO. Israel did not create Hamas, but they did feed them all the nourishment they required to grow. Another key factor, which is rarely considered, is that Palestinians were under Israeli occupation for 26 years before the first suicide bomber emerged. Hamas, like the founders of almost every post-colonial state including Israel, uses terrorist tactics to achieve its aim. The effect of these attacks on ordinary families in Israel is doubtless severe. However, the impact should not

uary 2009


orts upon the history and geopolitical dynamics of the Middle East conflict

has killed more than 1,000 Palestinians, Hospitals, schools, the United Nations, imate targets for Israel, because they can paratus”. This logic really has no limit; ael, and thus everything is a target. h support for the Palestinian resistance, due to its terrorist methods. The former epeated so often as to become a mantra. ected government of Palestine — is a Greece from Nazi rule were, ideologie can be said of the NLF/Vietcong; the stance to Franco; Che Guevara and Fidel e African continent (FRELIMO, PAIGC, se the liberation of these countries and nial masters so the deluded masses can beration by the “way of Gandhi”? ertile soil in Gaza because the project h the Palestine Liberation Organisation al advancement to the Palestinians living eir tactics to botched airplane hijackings nkruptcy, it must have been abundantly when millions of ordinary Palestinians ded, largely non-violent rebellion. s popular committees; the entire PLO playing no discernable role. Sensing an l legitimacy created by the non-violent e, directly with Israel. The subsequent Professor Edward Said as a “Palestinian ncessions that enriched themselves and he suffering of the Palestinians who had , the first suicide bombers arrived soon

“More Israelis die in road traffic accidents each year than the combined total fatalities of all suicide bombings in Israeli history”
be overemphasised. More Israelis die in road traffic accidents each year than the combined total fatalities of all suicide bombings in Israeli history. Hamas rockets have killed fifteen people since 2000; by contrast, more than 1,000 Palestinians have died in a month of this latest siege. The Palestinians have very limited means of self-defence. Qassam rockets, their primary artillery, have a mortality rate of less than 0.4%. They are regarded by the Israeli Defence Ministry as “more of a psychological than a physical threat”. By contrast, Israel’s arsenal, buttressed by billions in military aid from America, is among the most sophisticated in the world. Israel spends $13.3 billion per year on the military; over the past few decades, America has provided $53.3 billion to support the occupation. Hamas and the Israeli military are not comparable foes. The former is a guerrilla organisation with a negligible military budget whose strength resides in the faithful support of the Palestinian people. The latter is the fifth largest military power in the world. In the classic 1966 film Battle of Algiers, an insurgent leader is asked, “Isn’t it a bit cowardly to use women's baskets and handbags to carry explosive devices that kill so many innocent people?” He responds, “Doesn't it seem to you even more cowardly to drop napalm bombs on defenceless villages, so that

there are a thousand times more innocent victims? Of course, if we had your airplanes it would be a lot easier for us. Give us your bombers, and you can have our baskets.” The message of this scene is that terrorism is a tactic of the weak against the strong. Terrorism is not, as David Miliband correctly points out, an institution or an ideology. It cannot be “attacked” any more than you can “attack” kamikaze warfare. Palestinians use terrorist methods because they have no state, no sovereignty, and no regular army. All they have to resist the Israeli occupation is their own ingenuity. Israel was one of the first countries to jump aboard the “War on Terror” bandwagon in 2001. They argued that they faced a terrorist foe who commanded a legion of hysterical fanatics hellbent on driving the Jews into the sea. That foe was Yasser Arafat, leader of Fatah, the largest party in the PLO. Fast forward eight years, and Arafat’s successor as Commander of the Legion of Terror, Mahmoud Abbas, is a key Israeli and American ally. He also rules the West Bank as an effective dictator, excluding Hamas, the elected government, from influence. With even David Miliband signalling the end of the “War on Terror”, it is time we talked about accountability. Open support for the Palestinian resistance is now socially acceptable: hundreds of leading academics and intellectuals signed a Guardian petition stating “Israel must lose…We must do what we can to stop Israel from winning its war”. It is increasingly recognised that opposing the atrocities in Gaza means supporting a Palestinian victory. The Labour Party has backed and facilitated two occupations in the Middle East. To draw a line under this noxious legacy, it must be forced to take action to prevent Israel’s free reign in Gaza. Students at SOAS in London have occupied their university in support of the Palestinians. We should back their campaign. But we need to link this to a broader campaign: to follow Venezuela in expelling the Israeli ambassador and to promote a campaign of boycott, divestment, and sanctions against Israel to prevent new rounds of ethnic cleansing. These are the demands we should unite around to restore Britain’s shattered international legitimacy.

All Pictures: International Solidarity Movement Photos courtesy of Hossam el Hamalawy and Nasser Nouri


alking through George Square today, with its Christmas decorations, fairground rides and ice rink, it is hard to believe that this festival of consumerism was the site of a bloody confrontation between radical workers and the state. On 31st of January 1919, Bloody Friday, the red flag was raised above 35000 striking workers. Shipbuilding and engineering workers were demanding a forty hour week to improve conditions and absorb some of the rising number of the unemployed. Miners were also launching a campaign for a 30% pay increase. Under secret government orders, mounted police launched a baton charge on the crowd. The strikers fought back but after the Riot Act was read, the leading strikers were arrested and the crowd was dispersed. The next day it became clear just how dangerous the government considered the workers movement in Glasgow to be. Soldiers were shipped in from England to keep the peace and tanks were deployed on the streets. As one eyewitness put it ‘the whole city bristled with tanks and machine guns’. The government locked Glaswegian soldiers in their Maryhill barracks as they feared the soldiers would follow the example of their Russian counterparts and side with the workers, turning their guns on the officers. How did this situation come about? Prior to the Red Clyde movement, Glasgow was quite solidly Liberal at elections and did not have a significant history of workers’


The battle of George Square
government. Throughout the city today, brand new cheaply built but expensively priced ‘luxury’ flats sit empty because people can’t afford to live in them, while at the same time thousands of people live on the streets. Like the soldiers who came back from fighting in the trenches after being sent off with the promise of glory, many soldiers 90 years later return from current wars in the Middle East, equally traumatised The battle of George Square 1919 is an important part of Scottish history to be aware of. The events of Bloody Friday, and the period preceding it, can offer some valuable lessons for those who are starting to feel the effects of today’s economic crisis. For many students it is becoming increasingly difficult to remain in full-time education. With rising prices of necessities and huge debts, more and more find it impossible not to work long hours in low paid insecure employment, while also trying to balance studies. The result of this is that 10,000 students drop out of full-time education every year because they cannot afford it. In 1919, Lloyd George argued in a memorandum “there is a deep sense not only of discontent, but of anger and revolt amongst the workmen… existing order in its political, social and economic aspects is questioned… by the population from one end of Europe to another”. This statement is as poignant today as ever. The most famous and arguably the most influential activist of the Red Clydeside movement, Govan schoolteacher and one time Glasgow University student, John Maclean remains one of Glasgow’s best loved sons. In May 1918 he was imprisoned for five years for his anti-war and revolutionary activity. In the docks he articulated his most famous speech. It resonates today as much as ever: ‘No government is going to take from me my right to protest against wrong… I am not here as the accused, I am here as the accuser of capitalism, dripping with blood from head to foot’.

21st January 2009

On the 90th anniversary of Bloody Friday, Julie Sherry and Gareth Beynon analyse the significance of Red Clydeside

"Under secret government orders mounted police launched a baton charge on the crowd."

militancy. The city was by no means free from the jingoistic wave which swept Britain at the outbreak of the First World War. Thousands signed up for the armed forces of their own volition in Glasgow alone. The Trade Unions, supported by the overwhelming support of their members, agreed not to call any strikes and didn’t bat an eyelid at repressive pieces of legislation such as the Defence of the Realm Act (DORA). However, it was significant that in Glasgow anti-war activists, overwhelmingly socialists, were able to organise while in other cities they were attacked by angry patriotic crowds. However, this situation changed swiftly, and radically. As the war dragged on, a disenchantment with politicians, who had claimed the war would be over by Christmas, grew as those in power were exposed as liars. Glasgow was a huge industrial city at this time with a population several times larger than today, spread over a far smaller area, making overcrowding a major issue. With the city becoming a major centre of arms manuafacture during the war, it was necessary to bring in workers from outside the city, which only added to the overcrowding problem and pushed up rent. Many working class women were outraged; while their husbands were off fighting and dying for King and country they and their children lived

in worse conditions and with less money. Was the war really worth it? Was it really being fought in the interests of all sections of British society? News from the front of the horrific conditions faced by the soldiers also led the public to question their support for the war, meaning anti-war activists could get a fair hearing. With a sharp anti-imperialist and proworking class analysis, they were particularly influential amongst engineers in Glasgow. As rent rose it was becoming impossible for workers to live reasonably on their wages, meaning the trade unions found it impossible to constrain the workers — as a result, the first unofficial strike occurred in February 1915 over pay. That year also saw the founding of the Clyde Workers’ Committee (CWC), a body used to coordinate workers struggle, based on workplace democracy; in many ways it resembled the Russian Workers’ Councils or Soviets. There were a series of strikes over pay and conditions at engineering plants and shipyards. Another cause of anger was the employers strategy of dilution. This meant introducing unskilled, and therefore lower paid, workers to do the work of skilled engineers. This strike was not just about pay. Dilution was a calculated move by the state and employers to free up engineers, to fight and die for imperialism in the fields of France and Belgium, while simultaneously liquidating the most radical group of anti-imperialist workers in the country. The engineers were also key in supporting the 1915 rent strike, which was coordinated primarily by women. By October of that year, some 30,000 tenants were withholding rent and huge demonstrations were called whenever bailiffs dared to attempt an eviction. When three engineers were arrested for non-payment of rent, some 10,000 workers in Govan downed tools and marched to the court to demonstrate. Many in the anti-war movement were keen to make links between workers struggle and the war. If the state had money for war why was there none for decent pay? Their arguments were so successful, that on 1st May 1918, International Workers’ day, 100,000 went on strike against the war.

Looking at George square today, it’s a scene that initially seems worlds apart from what happened in that exact space ninety years ago. Some would have you believe that the days of mass strikes and militant trade unionism are features of a bygone period of history. Some would argue that the story of Bloody Friday is no longer relevant to our experiences in 21st century British society. Yet there are significant parallels to be drawn. Many of the circumstances that led to the situation in Glasgow in 1919 still exist in society today. Our government, much like that of 1919, prioritises spending on wars while imposing cuts in education and the NHS. While £500 billion of taxpayers’ money was taken to bailout the banks, the number of repossessions and redundancies rocketed, hitting ordinary people hard. The Rent Strike of 1915 came as a response to landlords raising rents, exploiting the fact that there was an influx of people looking for work in the industrial areas of Glasgow. This became untenable for tenants who were already struggling with their partners away fighting for their country, and the initial failure of the government to restrict the raising of rents revealed that the interests of working people in Glasgow were not the real priority of the

Glasgow Digital Library

21st January 2009


The Pinter of our discontent

James Porteous


Following the death of Harold Pinter, James Maxwell pauses for thought on the life of the Noble prize-winning playwright
he poet, polemicist and playwright Harold Pinter, who died last year on the 24th of December, was one of the dominant figures of Britain’s post-war cultural landscape. Despite the critical savaging his first work, ‘The Room’, received when it debuted in 1957, he would eventually earn comparisons with Irish literary titans James Joyce and Samuel Beckett. In 2005 he was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature. Pinter was born in East London in 1930 to a lower-middle class Jewish family (his father was a tailor, his mother a housewife), schooled at Hackney Downs Grammar and studied acting at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, although he claims to have spent much of his time there “wandering the streets like a tramp”. From an early age it was clear Pinter possessed a tendency for contrary behaviour; a tendency that would manifest itself consistently throughout both his private and professional life. It was also evident that he harboured an intense natural antipathy toward authority. For instance, in 1948 — aged just eighteen — he was twice brought to trial for refusing to complete compulsory national service; an act of obstinace and defiance that temporarily ostracised him from a community which had suffered excessively during the Second World War. His formal education ended when he graduated from RADA. He avoided university — which would have presented him with the unwelcome disciplines and pressures of an academic routine — and in the mid-1950s began work on stage. Acting was not Pinter’s primary talent (although he had been conventionally trained and was as such equipped with the basic elements of the craft) and he quickly came to realise that writing provided greater scope for expressing his creative impulses. After the publication of a number of his poems in some minor university journals, Pinter succeeded in persuading a small Bristol-based production company to put on a performance of ‘The Room’. There was just one dissenting voice from the scores of drama critics who lined up to eviscerate his first official authorial and directorial outing. Only Harold Hobson of The Sunday Times recognised the potential of the young playwright, noting that Pinter was perhaps “the most original, disturbing and arresting talent in London”. Hobson congratulated Pinter for having successfully combined the disconcerting surrealism of Beckett with the domestic realism of dramatists like John Osborne, and for having introduced such a novel style into a theatrical environment that had grown self-referencing and over-familiar. Pinter’s dialogue is characterised by the use of casual, colloquial language and punctuated with extended, menacing pauses that draw our attention to the sinister and discomforting features of ordinary speech that usually remain hidden. His best plays (generally those written between the late 50s and mid 70s) are preoccupied with investigating and exposing the fundamentally coercive nature of all human relationships. Pinter appeared to believe that power, with its multitude of disguises, defines how people interact with one another on every level, from familial to political and institutional. For example, in ‘The Birthday Party’ (1957), we are presented with a couple — Stan and Meg — who seem to habitually exploit and persecute one another, and in ‘The Homecoming’ (1959), Pinter explores what he perceived as the inevitably violent and masochistic heart of contemporary sexual discourse. The play abruptly climaxes with three brothers and their father grovelling at the feet of the only female on stage. Although, Pinter’s characters are frequently subjected to dark and humiliating settings and experiences, Professor Robert Grant of Glasgow University’s English Literature Department suggests that Pinter felt drawn to examine the unspoken brutality of everyday associations because “he empathised to an extreme degree with human suffering.”

“Your language is forbidden. It is dead. No one is allowed to speak your language. Your language no longer exists…Any Questions?”
Toward the latter half of his career, Pinter came to exercise this empathy in plays that focus on the oppression and subjugation of minority ethnic groups. ‘Mountain Language’, for instance, attempts to display the full effects of state-sanctioned censorship when it is applied to an entire culture. The play’s most desperate and ironic moment comes when a soldier and soon-to-be torturer announces to his prisoners, “Your language is forbidden. It is dead. No one is allowed to speak your language. Your language no longer exists…Any Questions?” By the 1980s, it seemed Pinter had become increasingly obsessed with politics — an obsession that many commentators agree worked to the irreversible detriment of writing. In 1987 he briefly formed a left-leaning discussion group that included novelist Salman Rushdie (among other prominent figures from London’s liberal artistic elite), but it swiftly collapsed under the combined weight of the contending egos. In 1995, he refused a knighthood from the Major adminis-

tration, stating plainly and frankly that he was “unable to accept such an honour from a Conservative government.” In the late nineties he committed what was perhaps his most shameful and diminishing act when he joined an international committee dedicated to the defence of Serbian ultra-nationalist and serial ethnic-cleanser Slobodan Milosevic. Pinter’s decision to side with Milosevic was indicative of his approach to global politics, which was dependent on and constructed around the belief that the United States is responsible for all the world’s ills — an attitude that confirmed the suspicions of critics and admirers alike that he had developed an obsessive personality. He responded with fury to the actions of the Bush administration, but reacted to Tony Blair — a man he considered an obsequious and moralising war criminal — with something resembling pathological loathing. Opinion is divided on Pinter the activist and ideologue. When he was made a Nobel Laureate, the judges said that they had “taken his political activities into consideration.” Dr. Simon Murray, a lecturer on Theatre Studies at Glasgow University, argues that: “As a highly political playwright he challenged the conventions of the most banal forms of realism … He was also that increasingly rare animal, the ‘public intellectual’, who spoke cogently, fearlessly and often controversially about the moral, ethical and political inequities of capitalism and imperialism.” In contrast, Professor Grant offers this observation: “I don’t think he was in any way politically important, despite his high profile … even to those who were half-sympathetic to his politics, and certainly to admirers of his work, he was an embarrassment … I was very pleased, however, that we gave him an honorary degree, and I’m told that he was, too.” There is a great deal less controversy about the extent of Pinter’s talent as a writer and dramatist. So distinct is Pinter’s style and so constant and engaging are his themes that it is not in the least surprising that he is one of the few playwrights of the modern era who can claim to have given rise to their own adjective. The term ‘Pinteresque’ has come to be used to describe the highly concentrated, often excruciating silences that mark conversation not just in his plays, but in real life. Of those famous silences Professor Grant says, “I think what Pinter is trying to do is illustrate emotions and intentions in, so to speak, their ‘pure’ state, uncontaminated by any questions of the object of that emotion. People in Pinter are not afraid of something; they are just afraid, period, and the actual object of their fear is left blank.”


Glasgow University

21st January 2009
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Whose fault is it anyway?
Let us not forget that, given these hard times, it is Westminster that has been responsible for bailing out both HBOS and the Royal Bank of Scotland, for the second time, to the tune of £200bn. This is the sort of twelve figure (twelve figure!) sum, the SNP can only dream of. Whilst Alistair Darling sweats over the economy as a whole, John Swinney is sitting relatively pretty. To blame Westminster for squeezing the Scottish Government’s budget is totally unfair. With student loans, the SNP’s other route of defence is to say that a large part of these loans are funded directly by HM Treasury, and therefore once again they have "no control over a large part of the Budget and must work within the restrictions imposed upon [them]". This begs the very obvious question: Why make a election pledge which was constitutionally impossible to fulfil in the first place? Who are they trying to fool? When it suits them, it is very easy for the SNP to just throw their hands in the air and deny any responsibility, whilst criticising and nit-picking from their position of relative political impotence.

The current financial climate has become a universal get out of jail free card, flaunted with abandon by all and sundry and allowed to pass, on the whole, unquestioned. With regard to the SNP’s proposal to replace student loans with grants, it seems to fit the bill perfectly, especially when compounded with a bit of characteristic muck throwing at Westminster. It seems that the Scottish Government has been waiting for the right moment to announce that, due to circumstances entirely beyond its control, they will be forced to fall short on this excellent vote winning strategy. But it has taken a year and a half of procrastination to come up with what is at best a half-hearted proposal. The SNP have blown a large part of their budget on higher priority projects such as their pledge to freeze council tax (borne from another compromised election pledge to abolish it entirely), cut business rates, allocate £3.5m a year in special funding to the city of Edinburgh and phase out prescription charges. All these projects, though worthy in their cause, are very expensive. Once the budget has run out, it is allegedly Westminster’s fault that they have not provided for projects lower down the list.

The inexperience of a lifetime
The news of a sharp fall in the level of graduate recruitment for the coming year, while worrying, is certainly far from surprising in the current financial climate. Following on from previous warnings that students graduating this year would face the worst employment prospects in decades, the release of this report simply confirms what most will have realised on their own — with massive job losses in most industries, and many companies shutting down altogether, it will be harder to find a job upon leaving education, especially for those with no experience of anything other than lectures and exams. Of course, thanks to the Labour government’s misplaced determination to drive schoolleavers into university (and subsequently into the wonderful world of student debt), graduate numbers are the highest they’ve ever been, at exactly the time when ex-students are least likely to be able to get a job with their degree. This chronic situation is something of a perfect storm, and luckily there are major organisations apparently capable of bucking the trend. The ever-reliable civil service has seen a massive rise in graduate opportunities, and if you’re happy to risk taking a bullet, the armed services are always recruiting. Oddly, another organisation going against the tide is Aldi; while Woolworths was busy selling the shelving off the walls and the microwaves from the staffrooms, the discount supermarket has been offering graduates a starting salary of £40k and an Audi. If you’re still there after three years, they’ll give you £20k more per annum — of course, you’ll be competing against another 2000 applicants for the position. Beyond the employers themselves, the Government has been busy attracting big names to their idea of a solution to the problem. A new internship scheme, giving graduates the chance to spend three months working at the likes of Microsoft, Price Waterhouse Cooper, and Barclays is currently being drawn up. While this will obviously help CV building, it’s questionable how much difference three months at a firm will make to a graduate’s skillset, especially if it just becomes another hoop through which students are expected to jump on the way to employment. More important is what happens after three months: are the companies involved going to soak up the slightly less inexperienced graduates, or are they going to be placed back at square one, looking for the same graduate jobs that are still in decline? Essentially, if it purely means everyone has the same government-prescription experience, in addition to a degree, student debt and no job, what progress has been made?

Picture of the Week: The Fraser building quickly becomes a new hub of activity at lunchtime. Photo: Jim Wilson
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To the Editors…
21st January 2009
Dear Sir/Madam, My attention has been drawn to the Glasgow University Guardian article ‘Voices unite in plea for peace” (3 December 2008), a report by Ross Mathers on a recent public meeting held by One Voice (10 November 2008). According to Mathers: “A member of an opposing movement interrupted a recent rally held by the Glasgow chapter of One Voice.” Hailing One Voice and its adherents, Mathers contends: “The evening was disrupted, however, by a member of the Scottish Palestinian Solidarity Campaign [sic] accusing One Voice of diluting the reality of the conflict and of backing the Israeli occupation. The situation in Israel and Palestine was also compared to the apartheid seen in South Africa.” Mathers also reports One Voice supporters telling the GU Guardian that “they expected such a reaction” after their leafleting campaign was “disturbed by similar protestors.” The words “interrupted”, “disrupted” and “disturbed” are highly revealing of how One Voice and its coterie view criticism of their message. There’s also the curious anomaly of how an invited opinion aired from the floor of an open public meeting constitutes an interruption or disruption to such proceedings. As with One Voice’s own evasions on the key issues of Palestine/Israel, one can only presume, from the absence of any contrary opinion in this piece, a similar kind of closure. Mathers’s sanitised reportage complements One Voice’s own aversion to critical examination. There’s not a word of serious discussion on the actual issues in his gushing article. Instead, we’re treated to a generalised lauding of One Voice's ‘higher’ peace agenda, its lofty supporters — notably Charles Kennedy (who, at the OV meeting, lavished praise on Blair's Middle East ‘peace’ efforts) - and this Israeli One Voicer’s anguish over the external hatred she believes is being directed at her country: “It’s hard, because sometimes we feel alone when the world seems to hate us so much. The media shows what it wants to show.” Thus speaks the ‘suffering Zionist’, a default defence of Israel which finds ready welcome inside One Voice. It’s a denialist mindset which helps insulate Ms Lipnik from the core causes and staggering scale of Palestinian oppression. It also protects One Voicers from the truth of what the BBC and other Western media do show, which amounts to daily distortion, omission and a servile apologetics for Israeli conduct. Support for this ‘persecution complex’ is apparent in Mathers’s own intimation of contempt at my charge of “apartheid”, as though uttered by an extremist interloper falsely impugning Israel. Perhaps Mathers and the selective One Voice respondents in his report should pay a little attention to the growing body of international figures making that very indictment. For example, UN General Assembly President Miguel d’Escoto Brockmann recently denounced Israel's apartheid system, while calling for an intensified boycott, divestment and sanctions to help break the illegal Occupation and siege of Gaza. As the activist writer Phyllis Bennis notes, Brockmann’s use of the ‘A’ word “was really quite extraordinary" coming “from the highest levels of the most democratic part of the United Nations, the General Assembly”. As documented, Desmond Tutu, Jimmy Carter and many other notable peace-makers view Israel as an apartheid state. The Israeli human right group B’Tselem have made similar statements. Even the former US National Security Advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski, a Cold War hawk, acknowledges the apartheid comparison with South Africa. UN Rapporteur Richard Falk, meanwhile, has just been refused entry into Israel for condemning its racist conduct. International campaigns like Coalition Against Israeli Apartheid are also serving to highlight Israel’s state abuses and war crimes. The admirable Action Palestine are doing similar work across UK campuses, providing, contra One Voice, a true picture of the Occupation and Israel's contrived ‘peace agenda’. At a recent AP meeting in Strathclyde


Union, three Palestinian students gave moving testimonies on educational apartheid in the West Bank and Gaza (as part of the Right to Education week). It’s a pity Mr Mathers wasn’t there to report their astute thoughts and harrowing experiences. Again, it seems, that’s an unwelcome “interruption” of One Voice’s select narrative. Unlike One Voice and Mr Mathers who endeavour to shun discussion of international law and Palestinian rights, it’s reassuring to know that one is in the better moral company of Brockmann, Tutu and journalists like Pilger — people prepared to use honest, informed vocabulary in calling Israel to account for its crimes. In contrast, it’s a shameful kind of campus ‘journalism’ that employs terminology like “disrupted” to demonise critics of One Voice while Israel uses its violent disruptions and apartheid powers to break Gaza and the West Bank. John Hilley Glasgow Palestine Human Rights Campaign

Zoe Grams

Struan Campbell, Frank Lifestyle Editors: Michelle Editors: George Binning & Lazarski, Laura Doherty, Amy Williams & David Kirkpatrick James Porteous McGregor, Harry Tattershall Picture Editor: Jim Wilson Deputy Editor: Tom Bonnick Smith, Colin Daniels, Scott Reporters: Ishbel Begg, Craig News Editor: Sarah Smith Lavery, Jamie Maxwell, Oisín MacLellan, Ross Mathers Features Editors: Tara Kealy, Catriona Reilly, Declan Columnists: Richard Hepburn & Pete Ramand Mckay Anderson, James Foley, Gerry Sports Editor: Suzi Higton Photographers: Stefan Sealey, McKeever, Jamie Ross Film Editors: Emily McQueenRob Miller Contributors: Harry Akehurst, Govan & Lewis Porteous The Glasgow University Guardian is editorially independent of the SRC and University. All complaints should be adressed to the editors, who can be reached via the above contact details.

This newspaper is funded through and supported by the Glasgow University Students' Representitive Council. We welcome comments and criticisms; a selection of which are published each issue.

You are likely fed up of hearing about the credit crunch, and the inevitable, over-used jokes about this new type of economic cereal/ chocolate/crisp. Whatever we read, listen to, or watch, we’re bombarded with yet more bad news about our careers, grocery list and unpaid credit card bills. Unfortunately, it looks like a financial state of doom and gloom is here to stay in Britain for the foreseeable future. During this time, the possibility of going on vacation is reduced dramatically. Although there’s some decent offers on the Internet at the moment, sunning oneself for a week or two is still out of the reach of most students. Never fear! The SRC, in conjunction with the International Society and GU One Project, have prepared a cultural festival to take place this Thursday evening (22nd January) in the QM Union that will make you feel like you’ve just purchased a round-the-world ticket. Global Village is a culmination of a wide range of different cultures from throughout the world, presenting food, dance and music to students. You can sample global cuisine from each representative country’s stall while you look at some exquisite dancers performing alongside a variety of different bands and comedians. If, however, you can’t make it, there are still opportunities to take part in the SRC’s Raise and Give Week that’s happening from the 19th-23rd January. Yes everybody, that’s this week! Glasgow Student Dance Company will be performing on Wednesday 21st in the Williams Room of the John McIntyre Building at 7pm and 8pm. There will be dance lessons following each performance. All money raised at Global Village, the Dance Extravaganza, and all other RAG Week events will be donated to the following charities: BLISS, Action Against Hunger Scotland, Barnados Boutique, National Autistic Society, Disability Sports Events, Cancer Research UK, The Red Cross. Simply attend the event that takes your fancy, and make a donation in the nearest bucket. Global Village tickets cost £5 and can be purchased at the QM Union or on the door. Fundraising will take place on Wednesday and Friday evenings at the QM Union, or, if you’re in a hurry, pop into the Sabbatical Office on the first floor of the John McIntyre Building to hand over your pennies. While everyone’s tightening their purse strings, this may just be the perfect week to loosen them a little for what are all extremely worthwhile causes. For more information go to

Wembley’s pitched battle

21st January 2009

Wembley Stadium laps up the power struggle of the motorsport world, Suzi Higton reports
a mix of racing and off-road rally drivers. The tournament is run on the concept of heats, where there are subsequently quarter finals, semi finals, group finals and eventually the super final which is decided over the best of three heats. The ROC Nations Cup has eight teams representing their countries and is also made up of heats. The final consists of a mixture of both rally and racing drivers. Teams competing this year included Ireland, the USA and Australia. The racing circuit which required 2000 tonnes of tarmac to be poured over the pitch at Wembley has two separate tracks that run to parallel to one another and are of exactly the same length. Apart from the two major racing competitions, ROC also incorporates spectacular stunt motorbike displays from the Red Bull X-Fighters, and showcases some of the most technically advanced and fastest concept cars in the world. This year the cars included WRC rally cars, a KTM X-bow, a small, lightweight concept car which weighs less 800kg and David Coulthard’s Red Bull F1 car to the delight of the crowd. The event opened this year with a Celebrity Race which saw boxing stars Amir Kahn and Frank Bruno, as well as television personalities such as Patrick Kielty, chef James Martin and reality pop star Shane Ward get behind the wheel of Fiat 500s. Boxer Khan kept the thousands in the stands entertained by crashing on the first corner of his opening lap. Amongst this year’s drivers were Michael Schumacher, Lewis

The Race of Champions to many is a relatively unknown concept in motorsport, outside of the wider known Formula One seasons and The World Rally Championship (WRC). The event however was first held over twenty years ago in Paris to celebrate the tenth anniversary of the WRC. Initially the gathering was solely comprised of rally drivers racing in identical cars. Held in memory of late rally driver Henri Toivonen, who died whilst racing in 1986, the competition has since expanded to incorporate wider disciplines of motorsports. Previous racers who have taken part have included MotoGP’s Valentino Rossi, eight times Le Mans 24 Hours Winner Tom Kristensen and a host of NASCAR and F1 stars. The brain child of Fredrik Johnsson and the world’s most successful female rally driver, Michele Mouton, ROC’s concept is to find the world’s fastest driver based on talent alone and remains the only opportunity for this unique type of racing in the world. This year was only the second year that Wembley has hosted the event, the Canary Islands and the Stade de France in Paris having previously staged the one off showcase of the world’s most formidable driving talent. The basic rules for the Race of Champions (the individual event) and the ROC Nations Cup are essentially the same and based on knock out tournament formats. For the individual event, drivers are split into two groups, the first consisting of racing drivers and the other with

Andy Hills

Hamilton, David Coulthard, Jenson Button, Andy Priaulx, Troy Bayliss and Mattias Ekstrom. Although the drivers are not paid to take part in the competition and all funds are donated to charity, the competitive element is still a major priority for those taking part. David Coulthard, runner up in the individual event told Guardian how much he had enjoyed taking part: “I think that there was some very exciting and interesting racing

and it was definitely an entertaining afternoon. It’s always a nice moment to come here and meet drivers from all parts of racing, the camaraderie is unique, it’s always a nice weekend.” He added: “You’ve got to give it everything you can, I wanted to do well in the Race of Champions although I didn’t have the same experience as some of the other guys here and it took some confidence. You always just want to do your best.”

After Team Germany’s victory in the Nations Cup, Michael Schumacher echoed Coulthard’s enthusiasm for the event: “We go out there to have fun and that’s what we’ve had so far, I thought this year a lot of people watching would agree that we’ve succeeded in that. In the end, that’s what we’re all here for.” If last year's ROC is anything to go by with its unpredictability, 2009 promises to be another action packed outing for the event at Wembley.

Andy Hills

Andy Hills

Ain’t no mountain high enough
21st January 2009
Harry Tattersall Smith


John Muir, a cult hero to geography teachers nationwide and perhaps our country's most eminent naturalist, once claimed: “the mountains are calling and I must go.” And it is by this mantra that the Glasgow University Mountaineering Club seems to abide. The club, which recently celebrated its 50th anniversary, was formed in the aftermath of the Second World War for like-minded people to escape the drudgery of Glasgow city life and immerse themselves in the wild and stunning scenery Scotland has to offer. Since its humble beginnings the club has enjoyed exponential growth and now boasts a thriving community of over 170 enthusiastic members. Two members of the club's committee; Cathy MacIver, the club's secretary, and Kat Torr, this year’s vice-president, recently spoke to the Guardian about the club. GUMC seems very much like a family affair as MacIver talks about her inspiration to join the club: “My parents were both members at university and they had a big influence on my joining the club. To be fair it wasn’t quite as glamorous then, we’ve got the luxury of minibuses, they were forced to hitchhike instead!” In contrast to MacIver, who grew up with mountains on the mind, Torr as a child disliked hill walking and only became involved through a flat mate and has never looked back since.

Stewart Whiting

Boxing club in fighting spirits
Stef Sealey

MacIver and Torr are in a high spirits on the back of a recent hugely successful trip to Aviemore, staying in the picturesque Nethy Bridge for a weekend. It transpires that my definition of the word 'mountaineering' is comparitively limited. Aside from merely tramping about the hills, I come to realise it’s an all encompassing term for anything on a rock face or steep incline, from the tranquility of a gentle stroll to the adrenaline rush of extreme snow sports, from kayaking and rock climbing to mountainbiking.

The recent trip to Aviemore was centred around the latter, the group taking advantage of some near perfect conditions to get in some skiing down in the idyllic Cairngorm mountain range. MacIvor and Torr begrudgingly accept these ideal elements are a real rarity for those used to experiencing the worst that the highlands can throw at them. The club travels a great deal around the country with trips ranging from the Peak and Lake Districts, the Welsh valleys, and out to the remote islands of the Hebrides. The club rarely

goes abroad and with seemingly good reason: “People are always looking beyond Scotland for that great escape but they don't realise the true wonders and beauty that can be found here. We are lucky enough to have some of the best landscapes in the world, why go search for what is on our doorstep?” Both MacIver and Torr are keen to stress that the club is no way aimed at just the elite: “It’s not about competition, it’s about the individual, achieving personal goals.” In the months when the majority of us are getting bogged down with the trials and tribulations of exam life, Torr empahsises the advantage of the club as offering an opportunity to get away for the weekend and unwind. The club definitely prides itself in focusing on its social aspect consisting of many smaller groups of friends who organise their own meets and weekends away. Members also take advantage of the local climbing centres situated in Ibrox and Kelvinhall. A major part of the society revolves around its website and online forum, which has been running for 18 months and is actively used to organise meets, both in and outside the club. The banter is colourful to say the least. The club has a social every Tuesday at 9pm at The Primary where new members are always welcome, and could very well be the perfect opportunity to keep New Year's resolutions, which may be faltering by this point, intact...

Suzi Higton

Glasgow University Boxing Club had recent unprecedented success at the Scottish University Championships, the club scooping two golds and a silver medal at the nationwide competition. Remaining undefeated at the championships that were held at Strathclyde University at the beginning of December, the club’s success was underlined by the fact that for many members of the club, this was their first competitive fight at university level. Matthew Perkins who secured gold in an all Glasgow final at 64kg, also won another match in under twelve seconds by throwing only two punches Perkins who spoke to the Guardian after the match said: “It was really good and I really enjoyed myself out there. I was nervous stepping out there into the unknown but I think I’ve definitely got a chance in my next competitive matches coming up later this year.” Club captain Jamie Munro was pleased with the club’s performance at the event: “I think that the championships went really really well, its definitely the most successful we’ve had for a number of years. The atmosphere was great, lots of friends and family came along to support us.” It is hard to believe when speaking to Munro who was crowned Scottish University Champion after winning the 57kg event in the first round at the competition that he is a fighter.

Softly spoken with a small stature and perfectly intact nose, it is difficult to imagine that he has risen to become one of the university’s most successful and well known boxers. Taking the club’s recent success into account, Munro feels that Glasgow could have increased their medal count if there had been more people representing the club in at the Scottish Championships: “Our only disadvantage was the lack of fighters we put into the competition.” Although the club has around 60 members, including ten women fighters, the numbers that take part in national competition are comparatively poor. To counteract this, Munro is always keen to encourage new faces at the club: “It’s always good to have people come along and compete. We have a few freshers at the moment and its always good to see them coming to practices to improve their techniques and skills.” He adds: “It’s not necessary for people

“It’s definitely a gentleman’s sport which requires skill and agility”
to have lots of experience or even to understand the principals of the game but to just have the initial interest in the sport. ” Despite its association with the filling of tabloid column inches and horrific injuries,

names such as Scott Harrison and Mike Tyson springing to mind, boxing continues to be universally popular both in Britain and across the Atlantic, the UK producing some of the world’s most renowned fighters of modern times. Joe Calzaghe and Amir Kahn have in their respective categories become household names and role models to many aspiring young boxers all over the world.

Munro who rates the awe-inspiring Muhammed Ali amongst his boxing heroes is keen to dismiss the stereotypes associated with the activity: “It’s definitely a gentleman’s sport which requires skill, agility and lightning quick responses. Speed is definitely important, if you don’t see a punch coming its definitely going to hurt more.” Despite a dubious introduction to competitive boxing at the Scottish Championships in Dundee, Munro has always continues to enjoy taking part in boxing at university. His first fight saw his competitor handed unfair victory, not only in his own eyes but those of the crowd. He puts down the judge’s decision to being biased towards his opponent but accepts that it is just part of the game. This year’s calendar is busy both at Scottish and national level and Munro has high hopes that the club will make an impact at The British and Irish Championships which will be held in Birmingham in February: “I think if we can build on our performance at the Scottish Championships and encourage more of our members to take part we will definitely be able put up a good fight!” The club meets every Monday and Wednesday at 8pm in the Stevenson Building and is looking for new members, no matter what experience of boxing they may have. Both potential fighters and those who just want the fitness training are always welcome.

Inside: Boxing club celebrate the success of Scottish Universities also: Harry Tattersall Smith meets the Mountaineering Society

The Race of Champions

21st January 2009

Andy Hills

London’s Wembley stadium was recently transformed into a giant Scalextric track for the annual televised Race of Champions. In front of almost 50,000 fans, 16 motorsport legends, past and present, including Lewis Hamilton and David Coulthard, took part in the competition which consisted of two major events, the Race of Champions (ROC) Nations Cup, where drivers are paired up into teams based on their nationality to compete for their country, and the individual competition. The ROC is a knockout tournament to pit the world’s racing elite head to head in a competition to find the world’s fastest driver. To make the competition equal, all drivers compete in exactly the same cars. This year’s ROC Nations Cup saw Team Germany, consisting of seven times world champion Michael Schumacher and Formula 1’s youngest ever race winner Sebastian Vettel, retain their crown, pipping Team Scandinavia to a close second. Vettel, speaking at the press conference afterwards, described the difficult conditions on track after the morning

Suzi Higton

deluge on the circuit: “The conditions were really difficult out there with all the oil on the track, it was also difficult to adapt to the different cars but I think we managed it quite well in the end.” The individual event of the day, the Race of Champions proved to be highly unpredictable, Britain’s David Coulthard

“When you are on the start line, you want to win. It’s a very tight track and you have to give everything you can.”
battling through three heats in the final only to be outwitted by five time rally champion and previous ROC winner Sebastien Loeb, who stole the spoils of victory at the last moment. Loeb spoke afterwards of the importance of winning, although the competition is mostly for fun: “For sure, when you are on the start line, you want to win, but with this event there is

not too much pressure. It’s a very tight track and you have to give everything you can. I didn’t get as much experience as some of the others, as I only did one ROC Nations Cup race, but it was a good weekend for me.” The highly publicised “Man vs Machine” British face off between F1’s Lewis Hamilton and Sir Chris Hoy was called off at the last minute due to adverse track conditions, Hamilton instead treating the Bejing triple gold medallist to a parade lap of the Wembley circuit in his silver dream machine, a MacLaren SLR. Hoy, who was later that day crowned Sports Personality of the Year, spoke of the decision to call off the competition. “When I tried out the track on Wednesday, conditions were perfect,” he explained, “But thanks to the heavy rain yesterday, and the oil dropped on the track earlier today, I felt the track was too slippery for me to compete, despite the very best efforts of the ROC organisers.” (Continued on page 14)

Frost/ Nixon | The best bands of 2009 | The Wrestler | The Mill

Mind Over Matter
Guardian sits down with Raimi Gbadamosi


Glasgow University

A clear voice of authority
Tom Bonnick talks to Raimi Gbadamosi about race, language and power

inSIGHT arts


hen I sit down to interview Raimi Gbadamosi, the first thing that he remarks upon is that my Dictaphone looks like a Gameboy. In print, this seems like any other throwaway aside, but in person it is slightly disconcerting, having so mundane and familiar an object reassessed. Undoubtedly, this has a lot to do with Gbadamosi himself; indeed, if I were to compare everyday objects with pieces of anachronistic gaming technology, it would not be with the same air of casual acuity. He speaks in a resoundingly measured tone, creating the impression that every answer is not only a deliberate one, but also the authoritative word on a subject. Born in Manchester and of Nigerian descent, Gbadamosi is one of Britain’s foremost conceptual African artists. A prolific creator, his work has been displayed in exhibitions across the country — including here in Glasgow — as well as throughout much of Europe and scattered elsewhere across the world. The work itself — startling in its range, insight and capacity to provoke discussion — whilst not, at Gbadamosi’s insistence, of an abstract nature, is nonetheless of the sort that has uneducated young journalists struggling to find adequate adjectives with which it can be described. “I’m not what would be described as an abstract artist,” he tells me; “I make things which are quite concrete. But they don’t rely on figuration, for instance; they rely on other forms of expression.” His most elaborately conceived and longrunning project, The Republic, is a self-contained world in which the salient themes of his work are explored, and is expressed entirely in tones of yellow, black and white. When I ask him to explain The Republic, Gbadamosi answers with powerful rhetoric. “The Republic is an independent state. This has to be stressed. It’s a real country, and it functions as a critical space. So, on one hand, it’s a nation state that anyone can become a citizen of. But like any artwork it’s also autobiographical, so it says things about me, and of course it carries out its functions through inviting people to ambassadorial evenings. Every citizen is an ambassador of The Republic.” When I visit The Republic’s website, I find that one can indeed become a citizen, simply by choosing an ethnic classification from gradients of yellow, black or white. The constitution, which Gbadamosi advises all prospective citizens to scrutinise, reads like a discourse on somewhat absurdly bureaucratic, albeit enlightened, society. Considering the self-acknowledged autobiographical nature of Gbadamosi’s opus, I am curious to know the extent to which his pieces are informed by his own identity. “Very much” is his initial emphatic response; “I do actively involve myself in the black arts movement in Britain. My person as an individual and as an artist meshes together unavoidably. I don’t have the pleasure – or the burden – of separating myself, so my political interests inform my artistic ones quite a lot.” So, I ask, given this notion of a singular persona, is the work deliberately motivated by a social agenda? “The best way to put it is this way: my politics permeate everything


I do, from the food I eat to where I choose to live. The work I produce, because it’s not separate from me, embodies these concerns. I remember being an undergraduate and thinking, ‘I need to get my message across,’ but I no longer try to do this — I simply create the things I want to create.” When I ask whether this means his messages are incipient to the conception of a piece, or that — to put it crudely — the art simply is what it is, Gbadamosi replies with an example. “If I describe a film called Invasion, which is just a series of lines going across a screen — I’ll show it to you later — it is only sound and lines moving from left to right. I showed it in Spain at an exhibition, and the curator, who hadn’t spoken to me, said ‘this is about fear, isn’t it? It’s about the fear of the other,’ and she was right. Maybe the title helps, maybe the sound. But I don’t try to make things work or tell a political message, I just try to make things people will enjoy watching.” Once we finish speaking, he shows me Invasion, and possibly it is me projecting what I have been told onto the film, but my initial reaction is a distinct one of fear — or, more specifically, an uncomfortable anticipation — as well. What is perhaps most striking about Gbadamosi’s oeuvre is its diversity; covering a whole array of mediums and ideas — even when it is connected by an overarching theme like The Republic. This means that unlike many contemporary conceptual-

ists, it is often hard tracing links to artistic antecedents from his work, and I want to know what has influenced his thought process. “The three main things that I am interested in — and this is not to do with blackness — are race, language and power. I’m fascinated by arguments about them, because all three are constructs and affected by change. Foucault argues that power is a state, not a possession. One person has power today, but tomorrow they don’t. It vacillates.” But what, I wonder, is the direct impact of these ideas on the art itself? Gbadamosi answers in a manner that perfectly characterises his approach to wider issues. “I don’t necessarily make work about these things. There was a demonstration about the bombing of Gaza recently — that I wasn’t at — and I’m interested in a host of things surround that. For instance, George Bush in his radio address said that Hamas took power in a coup. Now that’s a use of language which is a lie, because Hamas were elected, but if he announces it to the world that it was a coup, then immediately it shifts things. So I started looking at this as a question of power.” In light of these ideas, I am intrigued as to quite how critical of modern society Gbadamosi is. His reply is full of ambiguity, and it is only as we near the end of our time together that I come to appreciate how his answers reveal some aspect of the methodology through which he creates his work:

carefully constructed to examine his subject from multiple perspectives, and with a flair for the left field. “I am quite critical. Not of modernity, which I think is really important — it allows us the freedom to think. But at the same time, I think that a dehumanisation occurs within modernity, because in order to provide space to think, it also has to champion the individual, and so they become the ultimate unit within modernity. Consequently we’ve stopped seeing people as part of a collective, and in that process we also lose responsibility, because my responsibility within modernity is to myself.” The Republic examines the notion of a ‘collective’ in depth, and Gbadamosi seems cautiously optimistic about its truth to life. “I don’t think that it is human nature to be essentially selfish to the destruction of the collective, but I also think that it is possible to encourage this — say, in the USA. I’ve worked there, and people around me didn’t have healthcare, or lived in homes that would have been condemned in Britain. But because the system is such that people have been encouraged that the only way to survive is to achieve everything for yourself, they haven’t invested in the collective. And society starts collapsing as a consequence. And unlike Thatcher, I do believe that there is such a thing as society.” To read the constitution or join The Republic, visit

life Cleanliness is Godliness

Cancerous Capers >> Jamie Ross

Michelle Williams casts doubts aside and investigates the mysterious power of detox.


he very word ‘detox’ sets my cynical sense a’tingling. Firstly, it makes me think of companies profiting from the guilty consciences and good intentions of the weak willed, and second, of pseudo-medical mumbo jumbo creating a false need for something that your body should be able to perform naturally. However, after the assurances of the nice folk of Woodland Herbs, I was enticed into a personalised detox consultation to see if I could feel cleansed and radiant. The session with Anna, Woodland Herbs' resident herbalist, starts with a chat about detox as a concept, in an effort to open my mind to the process. Reassuringly, Anna agrees with me that ‘detox’ is an abused phrase, used to sell inappropriate products to misguided consumers, a practise she dismisses as potentially dangerous, as a detox ought to be a tailored process, not something that can be bought off the shelf. Detox, having no specific medical meaning, is simply an umbrella term relating to the process of aiding the body’s natural mechanisms for ridding the body of toxins. For some people, this may mean a fasting period, or temporarily cutting out sections of your diet that are harder to digest, such as red meat. Whilst

this can be effective, Anna favours the idea of implementing smaller changes, relating to specific areas deemed as troublesome to the patient personally. This more gentle approach allows a patient to make realistic, long term beneficial lifestyle changes. Although Anna is quick to point out that she is not a doctor (but a ‘medical herbalist’), my appointment has the feel of a very personal consultation, asking what I might hope to get from a detox, and running through a comprehensive and rather intimate series of questions relating to my diet, sleeping patterns, digestion and mental wellbeing. After assessing my answers, I'm pleased to find that I am not in need of an extreme detox, and instead she gives me a dry skin brushing brush to aid circulation, and rooibos tea to reduce my caffeine intake. The time around dissertations and exams is certainly a poor time to start an intense detox, which can be a decidedly unpleasant process. Interestingly enough, January — the season of good intentions — is not a particularly suitable time to detox either, as the body is in a semi hibernation during winter and will not respond as well as in springtime. Whilst I still have my doubts about the motives of detox products available in the

shops, I am now more receptive to the idea of this holistic, individual approach for achieving more subtle, longer term results. For now, I’ll stick with my rooibos tea, and will leave the fasting to someone else.

Woodland Herbs is an external partner of the University SRS and offer preferential rates for treatments to its members, from massage to reflexology. See for details.

Jim Wilson

Home is where the health is
David Kirkpatrick suggests ideas to help us all get fit on the cheap this January.
ow that New Year celebrations have come and gone, many of us will be trying to stick to the resolutions we made, and for many that will include attempting to lose weight. But rather than dieting, why not try a bit of exercise every other day and if you think that means joining the gym, you’re wrong. Many people find the environment of a gym stimulating and often addictive. If you have recently joined one it is worth while to persevere as you may soon find yourself making excuses to go rather than to avoid it. However, for those who find communal exercise daunting or don’t have the money to spare there are plenty of inexpensive and effective ways to lose weight without leaving home. Exercise in front of the television or to music using ad breaks and song changes to mark your progress and signal changes and breaks. Or, alternatively, use the five minutes of adverts between shows to work out intensely. It doesn’t seem a lot but


Stefan Sealey

if you watch a few hours of television a day it adds up. Sit-ups and press-ups are a great way to strengthen and tone and if you’re new to exercise there are ways to cheat. When doing sit-ups lie on your back with your knees up and wedge the front of your feet under a couch or bed using it as an anchor until you’re strong enough to complete the exercise unaided. Push-ups can also be simplified by resting on your knees rather than your feet. Once you’ve built up your strength you can attempt the more difficult positions. More than just couches can be incorporated into your home gym and everyday objects such as tins of soup can be utilised as weights to provide the rudimentary beginnings of weight training. If you do have a little money at your disposal why not try an exercise ball. Ranging from models as inexpensive as £4.99 from Argos, to the colourful and branded varieties available not only from sports shops and online but from retailers as unlikely as WHSmith, the ball is a fun way to introduce exercise into your daily routine and works to strengthen your core muscles and tone and firm your body. In the beginning it may not appear to offer a fat burning workout but with instruction and the correct exercises, the ball is able to offer a range of challenging workouts that will leave your body in no doubt that it’s working out. It is important however that users do have a grasp of suitable exercises which can be provided by a training dvd supplied with certain makes, including the Everlast range. One drawback is the space needed to use and store the ball. Although easily deflated, continually inflating the ball when needed is a discouragement and it might be a better idea to convert it into a chair or re-home it when not in use. While the weather remains bleak it is increasingly tempting to remain indoors but on days when it is at least dry it’s a good idea to throw on a pair of trainers and either jog or simply walk. Take the stairs to the ninth floor of the library, get off the bus a stop early and walk the difference. You won’t drop a stone in a week and you won’t see abs breaking our of your shirt but it’s simple, realistic and if you stick with it you should gradually shed the pounds and fulfil your new year’s promise.

People react in different ways when you tell them that you have cancer. Most people react in a tactful manner, sending a nice message of support and sympathy. Some people - mostly idiots become upset. Then there are the people who react by laughing, due to my oftcontroversial humour in the past leading them to think that I’m joking, but this is often followed by a certain degree of guilt. However, the worst people by far are those who think that the single thing that I need most at this troubling time is the power of prayer. It’s true to say that there are few graver dangers that cancer patients face than the prospect of becoming some born-again religious type. Evangelists always try to get people when they’re down. If they’re not hassling cancer patients like myself, they’re after the homeless, people just released from prison, or recovering alcoholics. This is why the Vatican is in direct competition with the makers of The Jeremy Kyle Show. Viewers of the show will be familiar with Kyle’s catchphrase ‘wear a condom!‘ which he frequently screams at teenage parents. This is not, however, the sage family planning advice that it appears to be - it is an involuntary outburst of defiance against his main rival, the Catholic Church. Don’t get me wrong. I firmly believe that everyone should have the right to believe in and practice whatever religion they choose to follow. However, a few people have told me that they’ve been praying specifically for me in church. I don‘t quite know what to make of this. While I really do appreciate any form of well-wishing, this created visions of a giant picture of my smiling face at the front of a church being doused with holy water, whilst a bearded man in a colourful jumper sings songs about me, accompanied by his acoustic guitar, which would most likely be plastered with ‘Jesus Rocks!’ stickers. My second name rhymes with cross; the song pretty much writes itself. In my eyes, there appears to be only one beneficiary of these acts - namely God himself. I’m either going to make a full recovery or, by a reassuringly unlikely stroke of spectacularly bad luck, not. In one of these cases people will believe that God has graciously come to my aid and celebrate his amazing healing ability and, in the other, that He has ignored the prayers and let me perish, meaning everyone will sing loads of hymns about what an ace guy he is. Is it just me, or is skullduggery afoot? It appears that this sly God character has placed himself in a win-win situation, and I shan’t stand for it.





inSIGHT film


Dir: Bryan Singer Released 23rd January


>> Emily McQueen-Govan

fter a repeatedly delayed release, problems with casting, and eventually, a whole host of well-known names led by that most famous and ridiculed of all, Tom Cruise, Valkyrie seemed a project that would not make it past the reviews. Set in July of 1944, the story is that of Colonel Claus von Stauffenberg (Cruise), a German army officer who becomes disillusioned by Hitler’s Nazi regime. Seeing how it has destroyed his country, he joins a band of resistance fighters of both senior officers and politicians who plan to kill Hitler. Aside from an opening air attack sequence, during which von Stauffenberg loses an eye, fingers and hand, Valkyrie is ultimately a film about the plotting and behind-the-scenes events leading up to the assassination attempt. There are no big

action scenes; rather, Christopher McQuarrie’s script provides an atmospheric tension that pervades throughout the film. With a palate of mainly grey to work with, the despair of the conspirators and ’40s Germany is beautifully captured. Unsurprisingly, Tom Cruise’s performance is the film’s biggest problem. It is impossible to fully see him as von Stauffenberg — just Tom Cruise, in yet another crusading character role, and it feels as though his main purpose is to bring in box office receipts. Although his ego gets in the way at times, it is still mercifully unable to detract from the other performances, from heavyweights like Tom Wilkinson, Bill Nighy, Kenneth Branagh and Terence Stamp, each of whom make up for Cruise’s showboating. As co-conspirators, the ensemble provides fascinating insight into the lives of the men in situations where cunning and deceit meant the difference between life and death, and their failure, rather than seeming boringly inevitable, raises the interesting question of what would have happened had the plan succeeded.

The revo

The Wrestler
Dir: Darren Aranofsky On general release now


>> Frank Lazarski

n Barry Levinson’s 1982 picture ‘Diner’, there is a scene in which Mickey Rourke, as Boogie, is at the local dance. Against a backdrop of mealymouthed teenagers twisting in a music hall, he talks with a dark haired girl about who she’s leaving with. Quietly, lying with a half-smile, he tells her he can’t take her home: ‘I go to law school now … I only come here ‘cause I appreciate the fine music.’ From 1982 onwards Rourke starred in a number of films that were to cement his status as the disaffected, nonchalant poster boy of the decade. In ‘Rumble Fish’ a year later, he played Matt Dillon’s handsome older brother — the neighbourhood motorcycle tough who could hustle and bust heads better than anyone in town. In 1989 it was rumoured that he had real sex with Jacqueline Bisset in the erotic ‘Wild Orchid’, a film so critically derided that, afterwards, he announced his return to the world of professional boxing. In the 1980s, Rourke was shaped in Brando’s mould: he played Henry Chinaski in ‘Barfly’; he was a brawler, a drifter, a killer. For that one decade, Rourke was the real deal, in demand for the last time before the onset of a long period of wilderness. Between then and now we’ve heard the name only rarely. The current media

flurry which surrounds Darren Aronofsky’s ‘The Wrestler’ has been accompanied by more publicity than Rourke has seen in twenty years. The film is a study in disappointed dreams; an examination of the demise of what Bruce Springsteen — who wrote a new track for the movie — would call ‘glory days’. Rourke plays Randy ‘The Ram’ Robinson, a moribund wrestling star living in a trailer with little to his name. Surrounded by remnants of his departed fame — cut-outs from wrestling magazines, tiny toys in his image — he continues to wrestle in town halls and rec-centres for small change. After suffering a heart attack after a match, he endeavours to retire and make a life for himself on the deli counter of a local supermarket. Set in the grey and oppressive New Jersey suburbs, the plot progresses with all of the accepted trappings of a ‘sports-movie’. Randy’s love-interest, acted subtly and physically by the beautiful Marissa Tomei, is a single mother scared of committing to a life with an ailing wrestler. Ram tries to make things right with his estranged daughter (Evan Rachel Wood), but fails when a post-match coke party keeps him up all night. Aronofsky should be praised for maintaining a tone of severity - tinged with a very black humour — in a film where the wrestling-related absurdity of many of the scenes could easily have blemished any worthwhile insights into the characters themselves. The cinematography is small-scale and cropped, creating an atmosphere of seething claustrophobia. Whereas Aronofsky’s earlier work tends to seem callous and full of misery, ‘The Wrestler’ is a deeply humane portrait of a losing man, played honestly by an accomplished, veteran performer.

Dir: Sam Mendes Released 30th January

>> Tom Bonnick


f all the year’s releases, Revolutionary Road must be the one with which the most inflated set of expectations come attached — and for a number of reasons; some good, and some bad. The one that has received the most attention is, typically, the least gripping: the much prophesied reunion of those ill-fated lovers, Kate and Leo, has finally come to pass, indulging the wishes of fans of Titanic, Money, and Adherents to the School of Overblown Thespianism.

Setting an outstanding example
Dir: David Wain On general release now


>> Lewis Porteous

ole Models opens with a comic set piece in which Stifler from American Pie forces Paul Rudd to smell his index and middle fingers, while alluding to having recently engaged in sexual activity with the hot, subservient babe from whose classic sports car he has just dismounted. With expert timing, and displaying a cat-like agility, Rudd recoils, exclaiming the immortal line “Dude!” His intonation is wonderful and the scene is played out to utter perfection. From Stifler’s bold, almost punk, gesture to the measured ambiguity of Rudd’s response, audiences are swept up in a vital and inventive celebration of cinematic possibility. The film revolves around the characters Danny (Rudd) and Wheeler (Stifler). Danny’s girlfriend, with whom he has been living in sin for years, has just broken up with him for being too cynical and this causes him to go temporarily berserk. He commits a parking offence and the best friends are sentenced to community service. Danny’s ex-girlfriend is a lawyer and provides our heroes with legal representation. Having been assigned places in a ‘Big Brother’ programme, Wheeler and Danny must learn to curb their selfish tendencies so that they may avoid jail, and so that the latter can win back his gal.

With a plot straight from an Adam Sandler movie, Role Models never promised much and, sure enough, director David Wain’s latest effort does little to abate mainstream feature length comedy’s inclination towards crass, unimaginative dispensability. Though terrible production line comedies have been churned out throughout every era of film, it is a sad state of affairs that Judd Apatow is currently seen as one of the noughties’ most credible comedic forces, and that the likes of Wain are willing to ostensibly rip him off. Even the inclusion of Superbad’s Christopher Mintz-Plasse in a one-dimensional supporting role is seen as some kind of casting coup.

From Stifler's bold, almost punk, gesture to the measured ambiguity of Rudd's response, audiences are swept up in a vital and inventive celebration of cinematic possibility
The frustrating thing about Role Models is that it is by no means bad. It’s inconsistently well written and even boasts a ‘classic’ character in Jane Lynch's depiction of Gayle Sweeney, the strung-out head of the Big Brother scheme. Rudd and Wain are clearly capable of writing clever and inventive material, they’re just too content to rely on a tried and tested framework of tiresome knob jokes, sub-Justin Lee Collins pop culture references and predictable, schmaltzy plotlines.

SIGHT film olution will be televised The future’s gloomy
In a sense, this is a remarkably faithful adaptation; elaborately conceived by screenwriter Justin Haythe to reconstruct the small scale of the plot without unnecessary embellishment. What’s more, after twelve years, it is reassuring to see that both Winslet and DiCaprio are on top form. DiCaprio perfectly captures his character’s preposterous pseudo-intellectualism, particularly in the scenes of spousal conflict, in which he wonderfully balances self-righteous egotism with a pitiful lack of depth. Winslet’s performance, which has recently earned the actress a Golden Globe, is equally formidable, possibly single-handedly vindicating the decision to make the film. She endows Alice with so much repressed anxiety, squandered potential and delusion that it is a miracle that the performance never verges into melodrama. For all these successes, however, there are still some rather glaring shortcomings that the lead performances are not quite able to redeem. Fundamentally, this is a story that relies on what is left unspoken: Yates is a master of picking apart the minutiae of everyday life, identifying every last foible with razor-sharp incision, and as much as director Sam Mendes artfully contrives to infer meaning from his cast, even a face as expressive as Kathy Bates’ cannot do justice to pages of inner monologue so acutely realised that they induce flinching recognition — a case, perhaps, of a word being worth a thousand pictures. More problematic is the fact that Mendes — a veteran of this sort of domestic drama — has been so diligent in his reproduction of the original text that he has lost much of the urgency in favour of mere homage. Consequently, for the first two-thirds of the film — until a magnificent breakfast scene between Frank and Alice which feels almost intrusively intimate — it is as if a barrier has been deliberately placed between performance and audience: a device, maybe, but an irritating one. In spite of these — relatively minor — gripes, this is undoubtedly a superlative screen translation that, whilst certainly not transcending Yates’ material, does an admirable job in trying to do it justice.


>> Lewis Porteous

More interestingly is that this represents a move into the mainstream for the film’s source, Richard Yates’ classic 1961 novel; a brilliant, moving study in acute social realism and surely a contender for greatest book of the twentieth century that almost went out of print. It is a story whose admirers have become irrationally proprietorial, reluctant to see it appropriated for the screen and disinclined to share with the plebeian hordes. This reluctance was fuelled — for me, at least — by the film’s January release date. Films that come out in January are typically ones deemed by their distributors to be awards-contenders, and thusly must fulfill the criteria of being Powerful. Unfortu-

nately for cinemagoers, the line between Powerful films and Overblown, Self-important ones is often an indistinct one to studio heads, and I feared that Revolutionary Road would fall into this latter category. DiCaprio and Winslet play Frank and Alice Wheeler, the young, sophisticated couple in ‘50s Connecticut who feel suffocated by their suburban existence. Surrounded by friends and neighbours whom the Wheelers look down upon for what they see as a tiresome parochialism, they finally spring upon the idea of resettling to Frank’s wartime station, Paris. As their plans unravel, the superficiality of their own lives gradually comes to the fore and culminates in terrible, inevitable tragedy.

Frost/ Nixon
Dir: Ron Howard Released 23rd January

>> Laura Doherty


ur generation are probably more familiar with David Frost for peering through celebrities’ keyholes, rather than for coming face to face with one of the more infamous US Presidents in recent history. Enter Frost/ Nixon to help pave the road to enlightenment for us ignorant youths. This stage-to-screen adaptation — written by Peter Morgan, directed by Ron Howard — profiles the famous news interviews between the pair in the mid-70s and the behind the scenes struggle to get them made. The film starts with representations of the media fallout of the Watergate scandal, footage of an outraged America interspliced with vox pops from the producer and researchers of the interviews — a method which gives the movie an immediate documentary-esque edge, helping to contextualise the feelings towards both Frost and Tricky Dick. When we meet Frost we see he’s an international hit, with success in Britain and Australia and past success in the States, and he’s certain his decision to snag the most sought after news interview of the year will pay off, and his American celebrity status will return. Nixon on the other hand, away from the lip-sweat inducing glare of the American media, turns out to be a wry, witty character keen to elevate his Presidency above the series of genial after-dinner anecdotes it has been reduced to. What results is an unlikely relationship between the two

figures in a ruthless political-media world where both are reliant on the other to boost their public image, striving for the love of a nation — but it soon becomes clear that they cannot both win. Michael Sheen pulls off the charismatic playboy fish-out-of-water, but it is in the excellent Frank Langella as Nixon that we find the lumbering, lonely figure demonised by the press, merely looking to give his career the send-off it deserves. Underlying the excitement and guarded tension of the interviews is a hint of a human vulnerability uniting the adversaries in a world where, otherwise, there are no holds barred.

Given the staggeringly low cost of buying DVDs online and the increasing ease with which upcoming films can be illegally downloaded well in advance of their domestic release, one would expect our nation’s cinemas not to torture and alienate their regular patrons. Purists often claim that the experience of going to see a film on the big screen far surpasses that of watching its digital, disc-stored counterpart at home on a tiny TV amidst a sea of unwashed dishes and biscuit crumbs. They may have a point; it is better to go out than to be a lonely recluse. Still, at what price does social reformation come? The Orange cinema ads have been entertaining audiences for years, with their irreverent and predictable brand of humour. In the post-Larry Sanders celebrity world, ‘knowing,’ self-referential, ‘as themselves’ appearances are rightly considered the last refuge of the scoundrel. The Orange ads, however, stand firmly as the one true exception to this rule. After all, through what other medium can heroes mortgage their hard earned reputations while endorsing a telephone service provider? The ads revolve around a group of financial backers, so eager to promote their phone service that they frequently propose drastic changes be made to the scripts celebrities pitch to them. Originally, the joke lay in the fact that these stars were attempting to break type, presenting the board with radical, often ambitious proposals that contrasted markedly with their public personas. In attempting to incorporate product placement into the films, the oblivious backers would reduce the celebrity’s prospects to whatever themes, plotlines and characters they are best known for, and the performers’ artistic impulses would go ‘hilariously’ unsatisfied. It’s frustrating enough that these adverts, none of which are specific to the time period during which they were conceived, aren’t shown on a rotating basis; the most recent one airing solidly for months at a time. Indeed, after I’d the sat through the ad ten or so times, I found myself launching an aggressive letter-bombing campaign on anyone who so much as raised a smile at the “waiter, we'll have a round of hugs for Miss Huston,” line, having purposefully sneezed on those who giggled at the nervous/soul singing dog skit which usually preceded it. What is especially irritating about the adverts in themselves is the fact that they appear to have completely lost touch with their original formula, as celebrities are now shown hawking scripts that are completely plausible, or otherwise simply dreadful ideas. As it stands, audiences, having paid admission, must endure reminders of Hollywood's current dearth of ideas, as well as the fact that the main feature they are about to view has probably been dumbed down by behind the scenes politics and tainted by product placement. So while I wasn't expecting much from Bride Wars, those orange ads certainly killed my buzz.



Bands on the brink

inSIGHT music


Oisín Kealy and James Porteous take a look at a smattering of new musical talent in Scotland

Celtic Connections Festival
Throughout January in Glasgow As always, Celtic Connections brings an extraordinary range and quality of talent to Glasgow this January. From African blues to local traditional, a massive spectrum of taste is covered by the star-studded line-up. Be sure not to miss what is genuinely an international musical event Glasgow can be proud of. Highlights this year include: Richard Thompson 21/01/90 Glasgow Royal Concert Hall Fold Rock legend Richard Thompson brings his ‘1000 Years of Popular Music’ show to Celtic Connections, charting the journey of popular music though time, and of course infused with his unique wit and charm. Youssou N’Dour & Old Blind Dogs 23/01/09 Glasgow Royal Concert Hall Senagalese percussionist and vocalist N’Dour is truly one of the godfathers of African music. Performing the Old Blind Dogs, this gig could well be life-changing. Expect a meshing of African traditional with Western influences. Cerys Matthews (Harem Scarem) 25/01/09 ABC Welsh songstress Matthews has managed to retain most of her creative credibility despite her commercial success. Since Catatonia split in ’01, she may have stooped to the level of reality TV, but is still a musical force to be reckoned with. Aly Bain, Ale Moller, & Bruce Molsky with Strung 27/01/09 Glasgow Royal Concert Hall Shetland fiddler Aly Bain teams up with Swedish genius Moller and American banjo/fiddler Molsky to present an evening of what is sure to be worldclass musicianship. This gig really showcases the ability of Celtic Connections to attract the best of international talent. OTHER EVENTS THIS MONTH.... Grace Jones 22/01/09 SECC As the personification of the androgenous ’80s, Grace Jones has inevitably become fashionable due to the recent surge in camp-glam-nonsense pop. Likely to be a lot of fun for those not too fussed about music. Pressure 30/01/09 The Arches Dj Yoda and Dj Sneak are on the bill for this month’s instalment of The Arches’ flagship club night. Glasgow continues its reign as the capital city of hard-tech. Long may this be the case.


n recent times, Scotland has managed to develop an insatiable habit of producing great bands with almost mundane predictability. Last year saw Dalmarnock locals Glasvegas plough into the limelight, attracting the attention of Britpop authority Alan McGee and garnering gushing reviews throughout the music press. The question is, from what corner of the country will the toast of 2009 emerge, and who will they be?

1 Scotland, and their plans for a new album and wider touring this year should hopefully see them grow in public awareness.

Remember Remember
While a collaborative effort on record, Remember Remember is essentially the solo project of one Graeme Ronald. The eponymously titled debut album was unanimously well received when released last November on Mogwai’s Rock Action Records, and was picked by Clash as their album of the week. The year starts well for Ronald, who supported Mogwai during a handful of live dates in Japan, and with luck his intimate cradle songs should be quietly hypnotizing a larger audience over the ensuing twelve months. The music of Remember Remember is lovingly crafted. Minimalist melodies are fleshed out with lush instrumental colouring. Imagining Things 1 sounds like what I imagine Christmas in Iceland to be like, you know, before all the banks collapsed. Along with glockenspiel, woodwinds and the usual instruments, Ronald also utilises found sound, very much like kitchen sink duo Psapp in his sampling of wind-up toys and coins — although remains quintessentially Scottish, looping a recording of a kicked Irn Bru can through the track. Even in this more percussive work, he retains the sense of warmth that bleeds from the rest of the record.

Super Adventure Club

A self-proclaimed “hyper melodic uber-spazz triumvirate”, Super Adventure Club have been steadily gaining recognition over the last year on the strength of solid debut album, Chalk Horror, and a string of successful gigs at home and abroad. The trio peddle just the kind of mischievous, caffeinated pop that teases a smile out of even the most recession-beaten of faces, songs like Pick Up Sticks and Seventeenth Century Ambassador of Strong Swimmers succeeding particularly well at the task. Their songs tend to be charmingly unpredictable, shifting tempo from lazy to frantic suddenly as if they have just realised they left the backdoor unlocked or the hob on. Rather than coming across as willfully obtuse, these impatient kinks vindicate the playfulness suggested by their name. Influences from Pavement to Pixies can be heard in their music, with the living spirit of Frank Black sometimes showing himself through singer Bruce Wallace’s vocals. The new year has got off to a good start for them, landing a live session with Vic Galloway’s show on Radio

Sabbath”. This made them similtaneously the new favourites of Scottish indie-rock and the bane of proof readers the UK over. This year it will be up to them to deliver on the hype, and they are landing on their feet with a supporting slot for the Kaiser Chiefs on an extensive tour of Europe. Their EP “Sissy Hits” captured this dynamism and debut album “Hey Everyone” is scheduled for release April 6th, marked by an album release show at The Arches, the homecoming culmination after a tour of England. Further afield they have their sights set on the famous SXSW festival in the States, which has been instrumental in the past for Scottish bands breaking out of Europe, most recently in the case of Frightened Rabbit. With a busy year ahead of them, we’re sure you can look forward to DJs mispronouncing their name repeatedly in the near future.

Hailing from the windswept west coast of Scotland, Ayr-born five-piece diAgusto (‘A taste of’, loosely translated) have been plugging away for a few years now, and their efforts are beginning to bare fruit. Their first major release in 2007 — entitled “I Know Better” — reached number three in the HMV chart, and the band have subsequently spent more time in the studio of late, recording fresh material for their first album. With their sound unashamedly rooted in pop, the varying vocal work of brother and sister pairing Lawrie and Madison Martin gives the group a serious edge over much of the vocally disappointing indie on the shelves at present. The technical prowess of smooth harmonies combine with exceptionally sharp instrumentals, creating tracks that are at once impressive, light and infuriatingly difficult to pigeon-hole; the marked difference in style, even between the two tracks on their single, gives a glimpse into the band's potential range. Touting their wares to major record labels in 2009, diAgusto are a good bet for industry attention in the near future, and your attention a lot sooner.

Last Year saw Dananananaykroyd earn a handsome amount of publicity, both as support for Foals and The Futureheads and from the music press. As well as gaining encouraging words from a host of publications closer to home, NME took a shine to them, giving them single of the week for the raucous “Pink

Copy Haho
Of late, Copy Haho have become quite popular on the Scottish live circuit on the back of just a handful of released singles, and deservedly so. Playing together in this incarnation since 2006, they have developed a tight sound and shown themselves to be extremely competent musicians as well as architects of some exceedingly catchy tunes. They have shared the stage with Hot Club de Paris and Frightened Rabbit, and will be touring the UK with The Xcerts next month. Their sound is not too far removed from indie-pop bands like Los Campesinos!, but with buckets more sincerity and much less concern for peripheral gilding over central melody. Their EP and first substantial release, Bred for Skills and Magic, is scheduled for release in February. It will contain the excellent track Pulling Push Ups, which typifies their model for the memorable, unpretentious and lyrically engaging pop song, and may just be the song that catches the attention of a wider audience. Copy Haho will be playing King Tut’s at the end of the month as part of Radio 1’s Introducing tour.



music Low frequency delights
ver since I got into drum and bass and properly arrived on the scene, I believed that DnB had something that other electronic music lacked. Its advantage lay in the immense range of music that fell under its category. From soothing liquid sounds to warped technical adventures, through to straight up, jump up, dance floor bangers. The genre encompasses a massive variety of styles and this allows for any layman to locate their other musical tastes somewhere in the swirling spectrum of bass. Punk rock, jazz, funk, reggae, hardstyle, techno, the list goes on. Whatever you like now will be represented somewhere in the body of DnB. This got me thinking; there must be one thing that all DnB heads agree on or adhere to. Tough this. Frequently on SDNB forums there are conflicting opinions between ‘techy’ and ‘jump up’ heads and it seems that in a genre with so much choice it would be impossible for everyone to ever agree. Then I realised, what tool of DnB had I used when trying to ‘get people into’ the music? Liquid: the warm remedying beats of artists like High Contrast, Calibre and Electrosoul System. It seems that this style of beats remains a constant in a genre of music which is forever changing. You have only to consider some of the best new releases to understand my point. High Contrast: Hometown Glory (Adele), a perfect example of the producers’ skill to create soulful DnB from the most unlikely of sources. Adele’s original vocal and piano loops are re-mastered to form a truly breathtaking remix. The Brookes Brothers: Tear You Down, is a vocal-led summers’ daytrip that will remain one of the all time great ‘feel-good’ DnB tunes. These songs have mass appeal to the potential drum and bass fan as well as being celebrated by the veteran drum and bass jungle soldier. Yes, it seems like so long ago that I bought that Hospitality compilation mix and embarked on my own drum and bass campaign. But the fact remains, even with my jump up ravaged brain, I can still return to that compilation and feel it as much as I did back in the day. So I say to you, Mr. or Mrs. potential drum and bass head, maybe its time you spend some money on that CD. Remember anyone can be a Revel: all you may need is a little liquid. (Aron Sidhu) with his feet) were frustratingly tame; the difficulty of genre splicing seemed to have resulted in disappointing harmonic compromises. To permit divergence from their lowest harmonic common denominator, the styles from which Foxface intend to draw still need to be completely integrated, rather than simply juxtaposed; with all the elements in place Foxface may yet achieve this. Heartily decked out in checked shirts and beards, Woodenbox accompanied by most of A Fistful of Fivers displayed a far more coherent vision of how this many instruments should be used. Clear, enthusiastic arrangements gave the music a real purpose, and although the harmonic structures of the tunes were clichéd pop or country progressions, the glee with which they were executed was infectious. A lot of their assertive sound is derived from a solid rhythm section, battering out country and rock beats which relentlessly accumulated momentum while never seeming insensitive to the slow songs or the constant breaks and diminuendos which colour the music. The furious crescendo at the final climax of the performance was their summary: an immense yet familiar demonstration of how much can be done with simplicity and a little care.


>> Gerry McKeever

The Mill at Òran Mór 14/01/2009 >> Harry Akehurst
January 14th saw Òran Mór host the latest Glasgow date of the Mill series of free gigs for the “best of emerging music”. The Glasgow-based three-piece Foxface played a first set slightly scaled down from their recorded material; a large delegation of the compound group Woodenbox with A Fistful of Fivers followed, playing to a well-attended downstairs bar. In pursuit of a simultaneously elusive but identifiably Scottish character, Foxface’s stage presence was intriguing but distant, with fox masks, costumes and a wide range of instrumentations combining to evade a simple single impression. Folk, indie and echoes of several other genres were represented, with vocals shared between Michael Angus and Jenny Bell. While Angus’ earthy baritone had some of Richard Thompson’s stern power, it rather clumsily stifled Bell’s less distinct soprano. Their harmonies were blocky and simple, poorly suited to such different voices, which on more disparate paths

With the advent of the new year, once again everybody and their neighbour is jumping to make predictions as to who and what is going to be big in music this year. The BBC has released it’s ‘Sound of 2009’ list, a format it began back in 2002. Though the nonsense actually featured on the list is far from meriting mention, the rhetoric surrounding the predictions shines a light on the haggard mainstream culture of this century. Apparently, this year will see the return of ’80s-style electro-pop, tipping the guitar bands in the battle for the limelight. Though this perceived movement and dynamism within the music industry may well help people to get excited about the emergence of new acts, in taking this line it appears the mainstream media has run out of ideas. The rebirth of electro-pop seems to have been punted repeatedly

“The rebirth of electro-pop seems to have been punted repeatedly for at least two or three years now.”

Stefan Sealey

might complement each other effectively. Banjo and accordion parts from John Ferguson (who, to his credit, was simultaneously playing the drums

The Animal Collective Merriweather Post Pavillion
Domino - 12/01/09
It’s hard to know where to begin when reviewing this album; very rarely is this avid music vampire left speechless, but this New York/Washington-based three-piece may as well have sewn my lips shut. ‘Merriweather Post Pavilion’, their ninth studio album, is a kaleidoscopic, mesmerising swirl of music and colour, electric, tender and escaping definition. The album’s opener ‘In the flowers’, like most of the record, begins with prolonged atmospherics, setting the level of intimate wonderment and euphoria from this outset. The line “If I could just leave my body for a night” not only brings in a powerful and uplifting techno beat, but gives an apt synopsis of the escapist and surreal sound that Animal Collective have perfected on this record, merging and melding a large number of styles without seeming pretentious, or settling for the easy beat or the catchy hook. The standout track on the album, ‘Summertime Clothes’, is a chirpy, joyful march, and by far the catchiest tune on the record, and avoids the sickening pitfall of alternative electro bands that make music reminiscent of ringtones, à la MGMT. Therefore, if you like the aforementioned New Yorkers, steer clear of this record. If, however, you like modern, genre-bending psychedelic bliss tied into a good, old-fashioned Beach Boys trip out, this album is for you. (Declan Mckay)

Antony & The Johnsons The Crying Light
Rough Trade 19/01/09
Many people may be familiar with Antony Hegarty’s unusual vocals, albeit unwittingly, through Hercules and Love Affair’s indie club favourite ‘Blind’ or perhaps from Bjork’s ‘Dull Flame of Desire’. His musical endeavours, however, extend further than collaborations and ‘The Crying Light’ is Antony and the Johnsons’ third fulllength baroque pop album. The band emerged from total obscurity with 2005’s release of ‘I Am a Bird Now’, a surreal ode to a dying Earth which received a Mercury music prize for its unparalleled originality. This album continues the theme of Earth’s precarious mortality but also incorporates new themes in a magically poetic way. The opening track ‘Her Eyes Are Underneath the Ground’ presents the listener with Antony’s hauntingly beautiful vocals; tender, morose and fragile, perfectly accentuated by a gentle piano and cello arrangements. This spectral style continues throughout the album, having been compared to that of Nina Simone’s but with a darker edge. Tracks such as ‘One Dove’, ‘Another World’ and ‘Dust and Water’ are absorbing for not just the enchanting melancholy melody and the curious, sometimes dramatic vocals but also the lyricism. After an initial listen this album may seem strange and over-complex but given another chance it becomes apparent that it is simply a stunning piece of work. (Catriona Reilly)

for at least two or three years now. Sorry Beeb, but we’ve heard it all before. Simply sighting acts which had a successful 2008 and are not electro-pop is not enough to portray this years’ money-spinners as having come out of nowhere with a ‘wacky’ retro concept. This wave of acts is supposedly taking its cue from the legacy of Madonna, Kate Bush, Prince and David Bowie, a disparate selection of performers with one important thing in common: groundbreaking originality. Sadly, this seems notably absent from the majority of acts the BBC has backed, with the bad smell of production-line music wafting from the direction of the major labels. Hopefully the public will eventually get fed up with being fed these false trends and seek out the genuine wealth of great musical material that’s available. On a more positive note, the Glasgow scene is looking healthier than ever. Aside from the promise presented by the bands we’ve featured, the ever-increasing number of small venues and independent labels is cementing Glasgow’s underground scene as the finest in Britain. As the clubs wake up from the post-festive lull, the Hogmanay hangover is going to be short-lived, when the end of this month sees the full-blooded raving start all over again. Will this year be even messier than last? Almost certainly. In terms of Traditional and World music, this year is kicked off beautifully by the Celtic Connections festival later this month (opened by Bela Fleck with Toumani Diabate), perfectly setting the tone for another fine and diverse year of music in Glasgow. The continued support of live music at all levels in this city is what sets it apart, and long may it continue.



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