:— Pc Plod?

Bridges and Barriers, the 26th annual conference of the Federation of Children’s Book Groups‘, is in Edinburgh this weekend. As authors, translators and publishers gather to discuss kids books, the perennial issue of political correctness is likely to be a talking point.

Once upon a time, political correctness was a way of breaking barriers. Now it’s an overused cliche. cynically sneered at for its dogged idealism. ls it only a matter of time before Spot the Dog is accused of acne- ism? Liz Gibson is the Edinburgh contact for Letterbox Library, specialists in PC children’s books. She hates the tag but believes positive characterisation is important. ‘We‘re looking for non-sexist, multi-cultural books that are a good read.’ she says. ‘A girl can have weaknesses, but she shouldn‘t have weaknesses just because she’s a girl.‘ The library‘s catalogue includes books which deal openly (but sensitively) with sex, AIDS. disablement, race, sex, religion; the children are allowed to deal with these subjects on their own terms.

But do children‘s publishing companies run the risk of ruining a good story. all for the sake of political correctness? Children are perhaps the most discerning of audiences. They owe no loyalty to the canon; ifthey get bored. they‘ll go play. lt’s ironic that originally PC aimed to rid children’s literature ofwhite middle-class stereotypes, only to be charged now

I leaving home The number of young people who leave home before they turn twenty is increasing and women are more likely to have left home as teenagers than men, according to new research by the Scottish Council for Single Homeless. However. teenagers who have left home are now more likely to return. though for many homeless young people, this isn‘t an Option. ‘The ability to return home may be crucial in determining whether or not a young person becomes homeless,‘ the report concludes.

I Venue lacelitt The Tramway is undergoing a £100,000 refurbishment with a grant received from the Foundation for Sport and the Arts. The entrance to the theatre and visual arts space will be transformed with a new glass-fronted cafe. The bulk of the work will be completed for the week- long Sound City series of rock gigs which starts on 4 April.

I Ideal homes Entries to a competition for student architects who were asked to come up with designs for environmentally-friendly houses will be on display in Edinburgh. ‘Green Housing as Urban Infill’ is at the Edinburgh Architecture and Design Centre, 187 Canongate from Sat 9 April-Sat 23 April. A lecture on green houses by Robert and Brenda Vale, Who built their own energy-efficient house, is on Thursday 7 April at 6pm at

the Glasite meeting House, 33 Barony Street.


with promoting stereotypical token characters. The reality is that regardless of any central core message. children‘s books must primarily entertain. What makes a good book is not so much the subject matter as believable characters that readers care about. Whether they are black, disabled or gay is secondary. Robert Leeson‘s book of retold folk tales, Smart Girls. is all about heroines. ‘One ofthe reviewers kindly said that it

I wears its PC lightly,’ he says. ‘lt struck

me then how right-on many folk tales are.‘ But aren‘t Goldilocks and Little Red Riding Hood negative symbols of female sexuality? ‘Those tales were all re-worked by Victorians,’ says Leeson. ‘Goldilocks was probably written by Robert Surrey, a friend of Wordsworth‘s.‘ Theirs was a political correctness for their age. In a way,

today's politically correct folk tales merely reflect our preoccupations in the same way as

Victorians folk adaptations mirrored their own.

‘I remember my father telling me not to smoke,‘ says Leeson. “And he smoked himself. Everything adults do is didactic, and any author worth their salt cares very deeply about what they are conveying to children.’ But most authors agree that political correctness should never get in the way of a good story. ‘If you write a storyjust to be I didactic. it‘ll turn out terribly dull.’

5 says Leeson. (Gabe Stewart)

Bridges and Barriers is at the

Edinburgh Conference Centre, Herint- l Watt University, I’ri 25—5101 27 Mar.

i Details from Alison Dick on 031 449

l 2713.

Australian Opera’s European premiere at A Midsummer iiight’s Dream will be among the highlights of the Edinburgh International Festival, which announces its programme next week. it has only been possible to bring the large scale production to Edinburgh because at the opening at the Festival Theatre. The Mark Morris Dance Company, which last year was billeted at Meadowbank Sports Centre alter a the at the Playhouse, will be staging a _new piece at work at the theatre and Peter Stein, whose stunning Julius censor was a highlight of last year’s progme, also returns to the Festival.

The opening at the new theatre,

liar Opera’s A Millet-Der Night’s Dream

which will host tour major works in all during the Festival, removes most physical limits on the size of production that can be brought to Edinburgh; money will now be the biggest constraint. The Festival plans to spend over twenty per cent more on its progranme this year, mostly as a result of the theatre's opening, but ticket sales are expected to rise correspondingly. According to the Edinburgh Festival Society's newly- published annual report, the 1993 Festival generated £1 .2 million in ticket sales, an increase ol over ten per cent on the previous year. (Eddie Gibb)


I lie VAT on Fuel A march against the imposition of VAT on domestic fuel is being organised on Sat 26 March in Glasgow. The march will assemble in Blytheswood Square at lO.30am to proceed to George Square for noon. l Why You Should Join The Socialists Paul Foot. the former Mirror columnist, will be arguing this point at a public meeting organised by the Edinburgh Socialist Workers‘ Party. The meeting will be at the David Hume Tower, Edinburgh University, George Square. on Mon 29 March at 7.30pm. Entry £1. l Exposing Authoritarian Edinburgh The Campaign Against Militarism is organising a public meeting under the slogan ‘U have no right to protest'. to draw attention to the banning ofa march by the James Connolly Society last year. The Campaign says that this ban and others indicates the authoritarian nature of policing in the capital. Speakers will be Jim Slaven of the James Connolly Society and Ben Atfield of the Embassy Five Campaign. The meeting will be held at the Cafe Royal. l7 West Register Street. Edinburgh on Tue 29 March at 7.30pm. I Glasgow Women’s library A women- only fundraiser for the library will be held on Fri l April at the Glasgow School of Art Assembly Hall in Renfrew Street with Foolproof providing the entertainment. The library provides arts and culture information for women at 50 Hill Street, Glasgow. Tickets to the fundraiser cost £4 (£2 unwaged) and are available by calling the library on 041 353 3312. I CAP and the Scottish Environment Richard Perkins, an agricultural economist with Scottish Natural Heritage, will explain the way in which the European Union‘s Common Agricultural Policy directly affects the environment in Scotland. at a public meeting on Wed 6 April. The meeting is organised by the British Association of Conservationists and will be held in the National Trust for Scotland offices at 5 Charlotte Square, Edinburgh at 7.30pm. Entry £2 . I New SAM Initiative Gay men represent 55 per cent of new HlV infections in Scotland, yet 60 per cent of Scottish Health Boards do not provide funding for preventative work aimed at gay men. In recognition ofthis fact, Scottish Aids Monitor (SAM) has masterminded an ambitious new initiative aimed at gay men. in partnership with Health Boards in Strathclyde and Lothian. ‘SAM was first on the scene ten years ago with education in gay bars that drew a wide response from the Scottish gay community,’ according to SAM Education Manager Dale Webb. ‘The aim of this project is to re-activate that community participation and involve as many gay men as possible. We are looking to recruit 100 volunteers in the first year.’ Anyone interested in getting involved in the initiative in either Lothian or Strathclyde should contact Dale Webb at SAM on 031 555 4850. lltyouhevenewsotanyeventsor courses which you want publicised in this colnn, please torward the. to ‘Action’ at The list, 14 High Street, Edinburgh Elli iTE and Include a day- time phone number.

The List 25 March—7 April 1994 5