From Band Aid to Basic Space. Mark Ellis presents The List’s review of the year.
Is it too much to hope that 1985 will be remembered less for the human sufferings and empty summits than for Geldof’s blend of directness and selﬂessness? Probably. But already Band Aid is reminding us that famine has not become someone else’s problem since Live Aid raised £50 million.
Strange that some things which happened over a year ago, like Michael Buerk’s Ethiopia reports, should feel so recent, while others which dragged on well into this year, like the miners’ strike, seem so distant. Distant for everyone, that is. except the miners and their families, still facing the debts and the struggle for re-instatement.
Mayfest In Time Of Strife
Groups like the Redskins raised cash and spirits, but the triumphant artistic offspring of the miners’ defeat was undoubtedly 7:84’s revival of In Time of Strife during Glasgow’s third Mayfest. Another gem of Feri Lean’s festival was the Wisdom Bridge Theatre (Chicago) production of In the Belly of the Beast.
Both the Mayfest and the Hungarian Arts Festival demonstrated the strong working relationship between Glasgow’s galleries large and small, charitable and commercial. The ‘18 artists’ exhibition of Hungarian work hung in six separate venues — notably the Third Eye Centre, which scored in the summer with the ‘New Image Glasgow’ show. Brave new ventures are Glasgow’s Metro Gallery, the 369 in Edinburgh’s Cowgate and Richard Demarco’s Blackfriars’ Church.
Feri Lean was one of a number of names conjured out of thin air by Allen Wright in instant speculation on the possible successor to Michael Dale, departing the Fringe Office for the 1988 Glasgow Garden Festival. Another was Jenny Brown, Director of the 2nd Edinburgh Book Festival and Book Person of the Year. £108,000 worth of books sold to 51,000 visitors, who made it safely across the road to meet James Baldwin, Andre Brink, Doris Lessing, Salman Rushdie, Angela Carter, Beryl Bainbridge and many others. A daunting array of articulate writers, so Russell Harty did an in-depth interview wit Fungus the Bogeyman instead. Postman Pat was pretty put out.
Death and poetry were inextricably linked, as ever, only more so by the publication of Douglas Dunn’s Elegies and, in another sense, by the synchronised departures of Larkin, Grigson and Graves.
Jock Stein’s death was too high a price for qualification for the World Cup Finals, and as Scottish Football tears itself apart, the glaring mediocrity of the men on the pitches and in the boardrooms makes one wish for the impartial wisdom of a man of his authority. Away from the major sports, Scots achieved international recognition in badminton (Billy Gilliland), fencing (Donnie MacKenzie) and cycling (Bobby Melrose). Scotland provided the backbone of the Ryder Cup team and track winners included Tom McKean, Linsey Macdonald and Yvonne Murray. Early political and financial doubts over the Commonwealth games have been dispelled and already the preparations and ticket sales are looking good.
Zola Budd made £90,000 finishing a bad fourth to Mary Decker at Crystal Palace — a lot more than she made for winning the mile at the Dairy Crest Games at Meadowbank. but the sponsors were still spitting mad at the withdrawal of the cameras after the district council took the opportunity to remind the world that Edinburgh Opposes Apartheid (or, to put it another way, Zola Go Home). TV sporting low point of the year was not so much Scotland’s performance in Melbourne as the funereal drone which accompanied Jock Brown’s usual excellent commentary. Whoever let Hugh McIlvaney near the microphone should be shot (or made to listen to it again).
THE YEAR REVIEW
parallel between the two processions: run a marathon and well-intentioned people chuck wet sponges at you; if you queued to see the terracotta soldiers yobs on North Bridge dropped hot pics on your granny.
Another marathon, but this time a lot more entertaining, was Glasgow poet and playwright Liz Lochhead’s Dracula at the Lyceum.
Edinburgh Festival brinkmanship
Adrian Mole: the harsh reality
The other great moment of televised tripe was STV’s coverage of the opening of the Scottish Exhibition Centre by the Queen, with a commentary along the lines of Archie’s famous ‘and there’s a man eating a pie’. A few of the programmes that did seem worth switching on for were a somewhat different portrayal of royalty on Spitting Image, baffled Bob Peck in Edge of Darkness, Max Headroom and the harsh reality of life for the youth of Thatcher’s Britain as revealed by Adrian Mole. EastEnders may be fiction, but the writers have a firmer grip on reality than Victoria Gillick, and between them the BBC and C4 have the Fairy Liquids of the British soaps.
An Englishman pounded the streets to win the Glasgow marathon in 2 hours, 15 minutes and 31 seconds, which was just half a minute longer than the average time 220, 057 citizens took to shufﬂe along the pavement between Waverley and The Scotsman to see the Emperor’s Warriors. Not only the tenuous
Much was made in advance of the Edinburgh Festival of the collision-course of Alex Wood and Frank Dunlop, but they were only displaying their powers of brinkmanship. Both the Festival and the Fringe had an excellent year, with outstanding shows on offer from each. An even-better Thrie Estaites and a Japanese Macbeth, stood out amid an overall theme of the Auld Alliance, which brought Opera de Lyons and Les Arts Florissants. Scottish Ballet, after a tour to Ardnamurchan, played to slightly larger Festival audiences with Carmen and La S ylphide.
The Assembly Rooms packed in 100,000 people , at prices approaching the official Festival’s, and at the Traverse, where Jenny Killick has since succeeded Peter Lichtenfels as artistic director, plays from young Scottish writers shone: Arnott;s White Rose, Scott’s Dead Men, Hannan’s Elizabeth Gordon Quinn and Clifford’s Losing Venice. Finlay Welsh, a Fringe First winner in Howard’s Revenge, re-appeared in October, as Ken, the sympathetic Special Unit ofﬁcer in a memorable, production of Nutcracker Suite, by Jimmy Boyle and Andy Arnold.
Best theatre since the Festival has been at Glasgow’s Citizens’, with Heartbreak House, Arsenic and Old Lace and Faust. In spite of the demise of Basic Space, dance in Edinburgh and Glasgow seemed healthier than ever, especially in the second half of the year: Micha Bergese, London Festival Ballet, Ballet Rambert and the emergence of the Tron as a new dance venue.
The tercentenaries of Bach, Handel and Scarlatti meant little else was heard from orchestras and choirs early in the year, and by offending a lot of opera buffs with its productions of Oberon and Don Giovanni Scottish Opera proved it is alive and well.
The Queen’s Hall established itself in 1985 as the ﬁnest jazz venue outside London. Jan Garborek, Ralph Towner and John Abercromby appeared during the Festival and Art Farmer was seen to allow himself a rare smile in the set arranged by Brian Keddie. Two
appearances by 29th Street Sax Quartet were part of Platform’s best year and if a Glasgow venue can be found to match the Queen’s Hall ’86 will be even finer. Folk music had a leaner year, with the Edinburgh Festival shrinking and the Glasgow event evaporating entirely. But the House Band and Easy Club now have international reputations and the opening of new Glasgow venue Babbity Bowster, in Blackfriars Street, is encouraging.
I read somewhere that Jesus and Mary Chain and Sigue Sigue Sputnik were cults, but this could have been a misprint. All sort of popworld dregs tried to make a comeback in 1985: Adam Ant, Kid Creole, Dusty Springﬁeld, David Cassidy and Sheena Easton.
Another quiet million
Z'I'I’ proved you can fool most of the people most of the time, and Anthony Conduct showed you can forge most of the Peploes one at a time, but the arts farce of the year was surely the ‘Adoration of the Magi’ affair. The cheery men in uniform at the National Gallery (and if you start chatting with one of them make sure you’ve got all day) promptly dubbed the Mantegna ‘the tea tray’, and amid resounding public indifference it seems destined for air-conditioned , earthquake-threatened Malibu. Meanwhile the Burrell quietly chalked up another one million visitors in its second year to show that the answer is the imaginative presentation of what you’ve got, not frantic acquisition of one-offs at lunatic prices.
Vaselined videos heralded The Adoration of Madonna, who gave
rock critics a ﬁeld day until they were ;
forced to admit that in Desperately Seeking Susan she was one of the most entertaining women on the cinema screen. Elsewhere in British ﬁlm Year, Subway earned comparisons with Diva, I 984 gave way to Brazil and Rambo kept the _ box-Office managers happy. Letter to Brezhnev was good low-budget British cinema; Restless Natives was not. The GFI’ accommodated its one millionth burn and Edinburgh established itself as the world’s best non-competitive ﬁlm festival. Madonnas of a different nature, if no less manufactured, caused a stir in Ireland, but the barely perceptible and possibly miraculous movement, of statues is old hat in Scotland. Inter-denominational, too: the Ibrox faithful have been paying to gaze at it for years. Probably the only review of the
year without a single mention of the word Aids. (Oh, blast!)
The List 13 Dec-9Jan 13