Concerns over the way Mayfest was run last year appear to have evaporated in Glasgow, as director Paul Bassett artictrlated his vision for an unashamedly populist arts festival. This week Bassctt announced both large-scale productions and community events aimed at widening the audience for the performing arts in Glasgow. The very fact that there was a press launch at all was a departure from last year‘s low profile approach to publicity.

‘We're certainly happy with the way it went for us last year.’ said Hilary McFanon. general manager of Wildcat. ‘A lot of things did have a buzz about them and at the end of the day the problems were not as bad as everyone thought they were going to be.‘

Bassett himself admits there were teething troubles with his first ivlayfest last year. but believes the main problem was with the perception of what he was trying to achieve. ‘We had a successful festival in terms of audiences last year.‘ he said. "fhis year we are being more focused and

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saying exactly what we are doing. Last year I thought people would work it out for themselves and l was absolutely wrong about that.‘ Bassett's approach to Mayfest is largely unchanged from last year. with the emphasis on populist shows which are either exclusive to Glasgow or are produced by city-based companies. This year's highlights include ;\'1aydancc. a glitzy performance which could do for Highland dancing

Swing Hammer Swing: stage adaptation of the Jeff Torrington novel heads for the King’s

what Riverdance did for the Irish jig. Capitalising on another lrish phenomenon is Belfast's Dubbeljoint Productions who do a play about two obsessive Daniel O‘Donnell fans. Antonio Gadcs flamenco version of Carmen. which was turned into film. is being brought to Glasgow for the only UK performances outside London. Mayfest will also be recruiting local electric guitarists for a mass thrash under the banner of l()()

New Mayfest programme shows director’s popular touch

(iuitars. After the success of Scottish ()pera's performance at the Harland 8: Woolf shed in (iovan. the company will be giving a free preview of its season at the Sli('('.

‘We're going beyond the conventional genres and disciplines which I was keen to get away from.‘ said Bassett. "l'he idea of popular entertainment in this country is fixated on it being a cheap. end-of-the-pier thing but we want to do it properly. ()ne of the keys to Mayfest is these big events the festival organises which have been deliberately chosen to reflect that policy.‘

However Hassett stressed that Mayfest would also continue to act as an umbrella festival for anyone who wanted to stage events in (llasgow during May. ‘If it became a purely populist event and the experimental element was lost then that would be unfortunate. but we're taking risks and I think other companies are too,‘ said Andy Arnold of'l'he Arches. which is performing an adaption of a Mayakovsky play called Blunt/Am! llirlr’r. (Eddie (iibb)

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igirl comic bursts out

Mixing Tank Girl attitude with Fat Slags waistlines comes Unskinny, an entertaining comic which recently relocated to Glasgow along with its creator the appropriater named Lucy Sweet. Unskinny is dedicated to girls who want to party but have some difficulty squeezing into the party clothes from high street shops. The girls in this comic shop at Miss Selfishbitch, where they delight in horrifying the skinny shoppers by displaying acres of flesh in the communal changing rooms. Their pet hates are supermodels, diets and Pamela Anderson - but they love chocolate and behaving badly in public. One strip called The 106 Chix is based on Sweet’s former flatmates. ‘We were all quite obnoxious and lardy,’ says Sweet, who is size 16 and proud of it. ‘This is bigger girls getting their own back. We’re pretty and powerful, but not necessarily a size eight. It’s not like I’m a sad broken woman, but it is quite autobiographical. I’m fed up with diets and not being able to get into chainstore clothes.’ (Eddie Gibb) The next issue of Unskinny is due out in March. Send a £2 cheque to 9 Athale Gardens, Glasgow G12 9A2.

Nobel scientist gives anti-nuclear address

Last year’s Nobel peace prize winner Professor Joseph Botblat is to visit Edinburgh as part of the tenth annual Edinburgh Peace Festival in March. Rotblat was a nuclear physisist during World War II, but after becoming disillusioned with the project in 1944 he resigned to devote his energy to campaigning for nuclear disarmament.

With the end of the Cold War, the threat of large scale nuclear war appears to have diminished, but Botblat believes the need for pressure on nations to decommission atomic warheads is as great as ever. Hotblat’s Nobel award was shared with the Pugwash Conferences, an international forum for eminent scientists to campaign for peaceful applications of science.

‘During the Cold War our main objective was to stop the arms race,’ he said. ‘Now we have gone back to our main objective which is the

elimination of nuclear weapons. I believe a nuclear weapon-free world is achievable.’

The Pugwash Conferences, named after the small town in Nova Scotia where the first gathering was held, was born out of a pacifist manifesto signed in 1955 by scientists and philosophers including Albert Einstein and Bertrand Russell. Now aged 88, Polish-born Botblat is the only surviving signatory.

Before the war, Botblat worked on atomic particle research at Liverpool University. After the outbreak of war, the British and American nuclear research effort was combined at a secret laboratory at Los Alomos, where Botblat worked under Robert Oppenheimer.

Botblat was reluctant to be co-opted for the war effort, but was convinced that nuclear weapons in Allied hands was the best way of preventing Hitler dropping the bomb. In 1944, Botblat

resigned from Los Alomos after discovering that the Nazis had halted their nuclear programme some months previously a fact that was kept secret from the researchers.

‘For me it was a very painful thing,’ said Hotblat. ‘l’m a scientist and I don’t think science should include making atom bombs. The reason I did it was that l was afraid Hitler would use it and win the war.’

After the Americans bombed Hiroshima, Botblat and many other scientists involved in the atomic bomb programme realised they had been naive to put their faith in the idea of a nuclear deterent. ‘People who still believe that nuclear deterence works are fooling themselves,’ he said. (Eddie Gibb) The Edinburgh Peace Festival runs from Fri 1—Sun 17 Mar. Joseph Roth/at talks at Managing Nuclear Disarmament on Sat 2 Mar. Call 0131 229 4541 for further details.

Scottish Homes plans first black housing association

Victims of racial harassment could benefit from a change of heart by Scottish Homes after years of campaigning by black organisations. Scottish Homes. which funds housing associations in Scotland. is expected to announce the first ethnic minority-led housing association at a conference next week.

Organisations such as the Scottish Asian Action Committee have welcomed the news. ‘People's lives are made quite miserable in areas of Scotland because harassment is not treated seriously.‘ said SAAC secretary Naren Sud. ‘Scotland lags way behind

what little has been achieved in England where black housing associations are funded and do certainly help. This would be a very welcome decision.‘

Positive Action in Housing claims Scots like to think there is little racism in this country. yet there are 200 incidents of racial harassment a year in Strathclyde alone. ()ne of the main complaints is that ethnic minority families are often housed on estates on the edge of cities. away from supportive communities.

‘Councils which put families on far- llung estates can be guilty of

perpetuating racial harassment because they are doing nothing to stop it.‘ said Robina Qureshi of Positive Action in Housing. She claims housing associations do little to help, because their membership tends to be predominantly white. ‘lt doesn't work. you can‘t get ethnic minorities onto white cornmittees.‘ said Qureshi. ‘They don't want to talk about racism. or if they do it is only fora week and then it is forgotten.‘

In the past. Scottish Homes has said it doesn't see a need for black housing associations. and a Scottish Homes spokeswoman refused to confirm or deny the change of heart. ‘()ur policy is that normal housing associations are taking sufficient action. but we don't entirely rule out black-led housing associations.‘ she said. (Stephen Naysmith)

4 The List 23 Feb-7 Mar 1996