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Posts Tagged ‘scotland’

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Photo: Crown Office Communications/PA
These Bronze Age objects were found buried underground by a Scotsman with a metal detector who was obliged to work near home during the pandemic.

And speaking of discoveries made when plague regulations keep folks close to home … how about this significant find by a Scotsman with a metal detector!

As Amy Walker reports at the Guardian, “Metal detectorists, it’s fair to say, have had a good lockdown. Last month it emerged that amateur treasure hunters had unearthed dozens of rare finds in their back gardens while restrictions kept them at home.

“Now a detectorist in the Scottish Borders has uncovered a haul of bronze age artefacts – including a complete horse harness and preserved leather and wood – in what is described as a ‘nationally significant’ discovery.

“Among items also pulled from the ground after Mariusz Stepien’s initial find in a field near Peebles was a sword dated from 1000 to 900BC.

“Stepien had been metal detecting with friends on 21 June when he came across a bronze object buried half a metre underground. As he received such strong signals from the earth around the object, he reported the find to the Treasure Trove unit.

“The moment of the find was emotional.

‘I felt from the very beginning that this might be something spectacular and I’ve just discovered a big part of Scottish history. I was over the moon, shaking with happiness,’ he said.

“Archeologists spent 22 days investigating the site, during which Stepien and his friends camped in the field. ‘We wanted to be a part of the excavation from the beginning to the end,’ he said. ‘Every day there were new objects coming out which changed the context of the find, every day we learned something new. I’m so pleased that the earth revealed to me something that was hidden for more than 3,000 years.’

“The archeologists found the sword, still in its scabbard, which had been adorned with straps, buckles and chariot-wheel axle caps, alongside remnants of a decorative ‘rattle pendant’ that would have hung off the horse’s harness – the first to be found in Scotland and only the third in the UK.

“Treasure Trove, which is overseeing the recovery and assessment of the find, said the soil had preserved the leather and wood found among the items, allowing experts to trace the straps that connected the rings and buckles together to make the harness, something that has ‘never been seen before in Britain.’ …

“With detecting in the open off limits between March and May, many amateurs looked closer to home during lockdown … Peter Reavill, a finds liaison officer from Shropshire, said: ‘With so many people spending so much more time in their gardens, there have been some really interesting finds. …’

“Simon Maslin, a finds liaison officer in Surrey and Hampshire, [said], “It’s the stuff that appears more humdrum that actually tends to be more archeologically important.’ ”

More at the Guardian, here.

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5760-2Photo: Murdo MacLeod/The Guardian
A music and performance space in Springburn Park, Glasgow, Scotland, was created inside a steel hut by repurposing old pianos.

We had a parlor grand for many years, and I took lessons on it. It had belonged to my mother-in-law, who was much more musical than I. After I stopped playing, the piano sat forlorn a long time, drawing the attention only of toddler grandchildren. My husband decided maybe we could use the space. The piano did need work, and no one was buying a fixer-upper at the time, so he gave it away to a guy who would remove it.

What do you think that guy wanted a piano for? He planned to rent it to companies staging high-end houses before they went on the market. Ugh. What a sorry end for that piano! I like the idea in today’s article much better for an instrument that had once been loved.

Libby Brooks writes at the Guardian, “Inside a cavernous steel hut in the middle of Glasgow’s Springburn Park, the sweeping arc of keyboards, lids and carved panels has been taking shape, creating the UK’s first permanent auditorium made entirely of recycled pianos.

“Using mainly upright instruments, with a baby grand artfully sliced in half to make a corner balcony, about 40 pianos have been expertly disarticulated to create the tiered seating.

“ ‘When you dismantle a piano you end up with a kit of different parts, from the ornate front pieces to the strong planks normally hidden beneath the key,’ explains Tom Binns, who founded the Glasgow Piano City project in 2013, finding new uses for unwanted instruments in public places from hospitals to bookshops.

“It was Binns who brought together a Glasgow community activist with big plans and the Edinburgh-based instrumental innovators Pianodrome in what he says is a testament to the collaborative potential of social enterprise.

“Two years ago, Alex Docherty, a hip-hop artist and chair of Friends of Springburn Park, countered plans to demolish the site where the massive hut stands with a proposal for a community village with an event space, cafe and outdoor classroom.

“ ‘When I talk to my gran who grew up in Springburn, it used to have cinemas and places to go,’ Docherty says. ‘But since the decline in industry and the motorway demolitions [creating the unpopular dual carriageways and flyovers that bisect Springburn] they disappeared. We really need a community space in the area.’

“The area has its problems, including widespread unemployment and a high rate of drug deaths, but ‘there’s been an energy of change in Springburn over the last few years,’ Docherty says. …

“The plan to use old pianos for the seating came through Binns. He visited the team at Pianodrome, whose mobile amphitheatre has impressed audiences at previous Edinburgh festivals as a creative response to consumer culture, to see their initial constructions. ‘I thought: “This could work,” ‘ he says.

‘We were hired to design a permanent theatre space,’ says Matt Wright, a co-founder of Pianodrome. ‘It breaks down the division between audience and performer. You’re sitting on an instrument while you watch and listen to someone play.’ …

“Wright says the arrangement of benches rather than having separate seats is more appropriate to social distancing: ‘You can space people out but it doesn’t look so stark as having empty seats.’

“For Binns, the project has grown out of a respect for people’s deep connection to their individual instruments and the hopes they have when they pass them on. ‘People have an extraordinary emotional attachment to their instruments and would be heartbroken to see them go in a [dumpster]. We’re giving pianos a new life.’ ”

More here.

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Photo: Murdo MacLeod/Guardian 
Helped by volunteers, Trees for Life planted nearly 2 million native trees on its Scottish projects.

Sometimes a tree has to be cut down because it’s rotting. But if it’s your tree, you can offset the loss for the planet by donating to an organization that plants lots of trees. Planting a lot of trees is important because it takes a long time before a bunch of little trees has the climate-saving benefits of one big tree.

I gave to the the Arbor Day Foundation last year after sadly saying good-bye to an old, old maple. Then the New York Times suggested Eden Reforestration Projects, which sounded excellent. The Times also provided names of organizations working on other climate-saving activities, including the Coalition for Rainforest Nations and a group providing fuel-efficient stoves in Kenya.

Patrick Barkham, reporting for the Guardian from Scotland, shows what can be done with a dedicated group of volunteers.

“The bracken-clad hills are marked ‘Dundreggan forest’ on the map but this Scottish glen is mostly stark Highland scenery: open, beautiful, and almost totally devoid of trees.

“On a steep-sided little gully, 40 years ago, a few baby silver birches escaped relentless browsing by red deer and grew tall. Now, the nearby path through the bracken is dusted with thousands of brown specks: birch seeds.

‘Each year, this “forest” produces trillions of birch seed,’ says Doug Gilbert, the operations manager for the charity Trees for Life at Dundreggan. ‘Until we reduce the deer pressure, not a single one has grown into a tree. Once we get the deer population right, this forest will absolutely take off. It’s starting to do that now.’

“The charity purchased the Dundreggan hunting estate 11 years ago. Slowly – ‘at tree speed,’ smiles Gilbert – it is rewilding 4,000 hectares (10,000 acres) of this degraded Highland landscape, restoring a diversity of native trees, scrub and associated life, from the dark bordered beauty moth to black grouse and, yes, red deer. …

“During the general election campaign, politicians desperately tried to outbid each other with tree-planting pledges. Who doesn’t love a tree? More trees can tackle the climate crisis – absorbing carbon dioxide – and the biodiversity crisis. But Trees for Life’s efforts reveal it is not quite so simple.

“Since Victorian times, when the sheep estates that followed the Highland clearances were replaced by more lucrative deer hunting estates, the landscape, and economic model, has been shaped by red deer. Around Dundreggan there are also non-native sika and roe deer. …

“The first step at Dundreggan has been to increase deer culling. Ecologists calculate that a red deer population of five per sq km in the wider landscape will allow natural regeneration; in many Highland regions it is 20. But culling deer is controversial because the value of stalking that estates base on deer numbers.

“Trees for Life has proceeded slowly with culling, seeking positive dialogue with neighbouring stalking estates. They’ve also tried non-lethal methods such as bagpipe-playing volunteers acting as nocturnal deer scarers. Trees and deer can coexist and Dundreggan’s deer population is now at a level where some young birches, pines, rowans and junipers will grow tall. …

“All the trees come from Scottish seeds – meaning they are suited to Highland climates and species, as well as being free of novel diseases. Half have been grown from seeds collected around Dundreggan. Its on-site nursery bristles with 94,000 saplings.

“Seed-collecting is not as simple as it sounds. Seed must come from a wide variety of individual trees to ensure genetic diversity. Cones from Scots pines have to be harvested before they drop to the ground, so specialist tree-climbers are employed. Trees for Life specialises in growing non-commercial high-mountain species such as woolly willow and dwarf birch. Surviving specimens are often only found on cliffs and crevices – with seeds or cuttings only retrievable by specialist climbers.

“Because of the deer grazing, every sapling is planted within a fenced enclosure (costing £10 [$12.79] per metre). Fencing is ‘a little bit of an admission of failure,’ says Gilbert. In the long term, when reducing deer numbers becomes less controversial, trees won’t need fences. Gilbert hopes the fences will last 30 years, when the well-established trees and scrub will survive browsing deer.” More.

(By the way, does anyone remember deer stalking in the children’s classic Wee Gillis?)

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Photo: Katherine Anne Rose
On the south side of Glasgow every year the residents of Strathbungo decorate their windows with weird and wonderful displays for other locals to enjoy.

Here’s a grand idea to light up winter in a city. It reminds me a little of the mega jack o’lantern displays that Providence’s Roger Williams Park puts on at Halloween. Any city could do this.

Peter Ross writes at the Guardian, “Window Wanderland is a festival of lights that sees people transform their neighbourhood into a colourful playground using paper cutouts in their windows. In the streets of Strathbungo, Glasgow, the result is a night-time explosion of pop culture: Mary Poppins, the Moomins, Peter Pan, Paddington.

“The festival was founded in Bristol in 2015 by Lucy Reeves Khan, a set designer who had developed mobility problems, chronic pain and feelings of isolation following a car accident. As part of her rehabilitation, she took short walks in the streets around her home – at night, so few would see her struggling. Lonely, she glanced in lit windows at the people inside, and one evening the idea struck.

“Khan set about trying to articulate her concept to her neighbours. That wasn’t easy. ‘Nobody could understand what I was on about,’ she recalls. It wasn’t quite like Halloween, it wasn’t quite like Christmas. So she created a number of displays in her own windows as examples – and it took off from there, and has now spread to around 20 UK locations. …

“One home in Strathbungo is an angry lament for the Glasgow School of Art, which burned down recently for the second time; the windows of the home are bright with painted flame. On nearby Queen Square, Bernie Hunter, who is 24 and has cerebral palsy, has created a fond tribute to Still Game, the beloved Scottish sitcom, on the eve of its farewell series. …

“The politics of the event tend instead towards the environmental. On Regent Park Square, Emily Munro has decorated an upstairs window with the hourglass logo of Extinction Rebellion, the direct action campaigners. Her other windows show cutouts of insects, which Munro removes as the night wears on, symbolising their catastrophic decline, leaving just one – a bee.

“One home has been tricked out like a giant jukebox, with a real seven-piece band playing on the upper floor through an open window. …

“ ‘It’s beautiful, unplanned, chaotic,’ says Sarah Reid, who started this Scottish leg of the event. ‘Such a simple idea, but when people come together it creates something beautiful and powerful.’ ”

More here.

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Photos: Charles Jencks
Landscape artist Charles Jencks has turned a Scottish coal mine into a work of art reminiscent of Stonehenge.

It’s not news that to save the plant we need to move away from using coal. Every few days, it seems, someone else is getting on board. Yesterday, for example, I saw that a big Italian insurance company decided to stop insuring coal plants. (Story at Reuters, here.) And remember this post about a German coal town turning an old mine into a giant, water-powered battery?

Well, human ingenuity continues to work at the problem of coal mines present and past. In this story, a Scottish mine was turned into artwork.

Writes Contemporist, “Landscape artist Charles Jencks has completed the transformation of Crawick Multiverse, a former coal mine that has now become a 55-acre artland, visitor attraction and public amenity. …

“Crawick Multiverse is a major land restoration and art project in Dumfries & Galloway, utilising landscape art to transform a former open cast coal mine into an outdoor space that can be enjoyed by future generations.

“Privately funded by the Duke of Buccleuch and designed by globally-renowned landscape artist Charles Jencks, Crawick Multiverse … links the themes of space, astronomy and cosmology, creating a truly inspiring landmark that will appeal to everyone from art enthusiasts and scientists to the wider community. …

“The site is managed by the Crawick Artland Trust which includes trustees from the local communities surrounding the site.”

The BBC adds that the project “follows on from other works by Mr Jencks including the likes of Northumberlandia in north east England, the Garden of Cosmic Speculation north of Dumfries and the Beijing Olympic Park’s Black Hole Terrace.

“He said: ‘This former open cast coal site, nestled in a bowl of large rolling hills, never did produce enough black gold to keep digging. But it did, accidentally, create the bones of a marvellous ecology.

” ‘The landscape had to be healed, it had to welcome the nearby communities of Sanquhar, Kelloholm and Kirkconnel, and help restore the locality both economically and ecologically.’ ” More.

More great pictures at Contemporist, here.

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Photo: Elliott Simpson
“Two Piece Reclining Figure No.1,” by Henry Moore, Glenkiln Sculpture Park in southwest Scotland. Scotland’s government has proposed a policy that, among other things, would give ordinary Scots a greater say in shaping the cultural life of their communities.

What I remember about a trip to Scotland decades ago is Loch Ness, the glowing quality of sunlight in Inverness, how Edinburgh’s castle looms over the city, sheep on the hills, sheep crossing narrow highland roads.

But there is more to Scotland, and now the government is working to give communities a greater say in how the country’s culture is presented to the world.

Christy Romer writes at Arts Professional, “Ensuring culture is fundamental to Scotland’s social and economic prosperity is a core aim of the country’s first culture strategy in over ten years. …

“The draft document outlines plans for a new Government cultural adviser and new funding models for the sector. In addition, it aims to give people a ‘greater say’ in shaping the cultural life of their communities through participatory models of decision-making and community ownership.

“ [The draft strategy says Scotland] ‘places culture as of equal importance alongside other areas such as the economy, education, environment, health and tackling inequality, and values culture for the unique perspectives it can bring.’ …

“One of the major initiatives announced is a new cultural leadership post within Scottish Government, which would be supported by strategic thinkers from the culture sector and beyond.

“This figure would be responsible for joining up thinking across Government and with major stakeholders. They would aim to respond to big societal issues and make culture central to progress in areas such as health, the economy and education.

“Other initiatives include developing a national partnership for culture, which would see the sector work with academics to develop new approaches to measuring and articulating the value of culture.

“Partnership working with businesses, schools and care homes is also seen as key to creating opportunities for more people to take part in culture. The document …  suggests using Scottish Government powers to generate a collective responsibility to support culture in the long term.’ This could involve the National Investment Bank or devolved tax and legislative powers.”

Oh, dear. Already I see trouble ahead. The intentions are good, but that wonky document suggests to me that artists were not involved in the writing and may not be helping much to carry out the policy. Hmmm. I’m wondering if government’s role in a country’s culture should be limited to funding it.

For example, consider what Claire Selvin reported in October at ArtNews about New York City: “With largest-ever allotment for department of cultural affairs, New York City Grants $43.9 million to arts programs.” That’s putting your money where your mouth is. I realize some of the funds may get lost in the bureaucracies of the various recipient arts organizations, but I think I’d rather have them working on the ultimate allocations than a government entity.

More on Scotland at Arts Professional, here.

One of Scotland’s historical highlights is the Antonine Wall, built by the Romans across what is now the Central Belt of Scotland. These ruins mark the northernmost frontier barrier of the Roman Empire.

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Photo: James Glossop
Scottish Ballet expands Dance for Parkinson’s classes to cities across the country.

The class that comes right before my Essentrics stretch class on Thursdays is for people with Parkinson’s. The participants seem to enjoy it. One man, who is said to be over 100, routinely leaves the class with a smile on his face.

Exercise classes for people with Parkinson’s are not new, but there are always new locations offering them and new techniques to help people keep moving. Consider, for example, this report from Scotland, where the Scottish Ballet has a program.

Jeremy Watson writes at the Times, “Research has shown that dance can help people with the degenerative disease physically, mentally and socially. [At the Scottish Ballet,] staff and volunteers help participants develop movement skills with particular emphasis on fluidity, balance, co-ordination and posture. The sessions include activities focused on problem solving, improvisation, vocal skills, memory and multi-tasking.”

The Scottish Ballet website adds background. “Established in 2016, the Dance for Parkinson’s Scotland programme supports those with Parkinson’s to experience the benefits of dance and creativity — improving balance, spatial awareness, confidence and fluidity in movement. Every week, around 75 participants take part in sessions delivered by Scottish Ballet in Glasgow and Dance Base in Edinburgh. …

“The warm and informal Dance for Parkinson’s Scotland classes feature elements of ballet and contemporary dance with a focus on Scottish Ballet’s repertoire. Using the themes and movement from current productions, specially trained Scottish Ballet and Dance Base Dance Artists lead participants to develop movement skills with particular focus on fluidity of movement, balance, coordination, expression, posture and rhythm.”

The Edinburgh Parkinson’s site says that the aims of the classes “are to

* wake up stiff muscles and improve flexibility,
* encourage mind-body connection,
* improve co-ordination and balance, and
* increase self-awareness and self-esteem
* in a supportive and joyful environment

“The social time at the end of each session is a chance to make connections and feel part of the dance community. … The teachers have a wonderful sense of light-heartedness and fun which they bring to the classes. Live music is an essential ingredient, and we have a talented pianist, Robert Briggs, providing the accompaniment, so the music is used flexibly to encourage movement and development of sequences. …

“The original concept, arising from collaboration between the Mark Morris Dance Group and the Brooklyn Parkinson’s Group in New York, is now increasingly practised worldwide among the Parkinson’s community.”

Patients’ partners and caregivers attend the class that I’ve looked in on, and they are welcome to participate and get some exercise, too. The musical selections are great, but unlike in Scotland, there is not a live accompaniment.

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When I was last in Manhattan, I took a photo of a putative Banksy stencil. It’s one that the gourmet food emporium Zabar’s helped to preserve in 2013, when the British street artist was said to be tagging all five New York City boroughs.

I have written often about Banksy — here, for instance. I get a real kick out of his ideas and the fact that he works by stealth. (Speaking of that, if you search on the word “stealth” at the blog, you will find all kinds of examples.)

Banksy’s art, like other street art, is not necessarily meant to last for the ages, but he has become such a phenomenon that there are now efforts to restore murals that have been painted over.

The BBC reports from Scotland, “Restoration work is under way on three early works by the artist Banksy which were accidentally painted over with grey emulsion in a Glasgow nightclub.

“The murals, which feature a gun-toting monkey in a tutu and a framed Mona Lisa, were created as part of an exhibition at The Arches in 2001. But they were mistakenly covered in 2007 then left after the club went into administration [bankruptcy] in 2015.

“A team of restorers are expected to take five months to uncover the works. … Banksy created the works, which also feature the words ‘Every time I hear the word culture I release the safety on my 9mm’ when he was beginning his career as a graffiti artist.

“They were shown as part of the ‘Peace is Tough‘ exhibition in March 2001, … but six years later, and long after Banksy had established himself as an international artist, the murals were covered with grey emulsion during refurbishment work at the nightclub.

“When the club went into administration in 2015, the then owners had considered restoring the murals and selling them to clear the club’s debts.

“Chris Bull, technical director at Fine Arts Restoration Co (Farco), which is carrying out the restoration, said the murals were the only known works by Banksy in Scotland with any provenance. …

“The new owners of the venue, Argyle Street Arches, say they now want to save the works for the nation. … Once complete the works will be put on permanent display.”

More at the BBC, here.

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Photo: Celeste Noche
Charming Wigtown, Scotland, is famous as a “book town.”

Do you remember reading my post about Alex Johnson’s survey of “book towns,” small locales with numerous emporiums for buying books? Well, here’s another angle from the New York Times. It describes how a book critic got a taste of running a bookstore in one of the better known book towns.

Dwight Garner reports, “Recently, if only for a day, I had a bookstore in Scotland. …

“It is worth getting to Wigtown, population 1,000. [It] is lush and green and smells of the nearby sea. It is Scotland’s national book town, its Hay-on-Wye. With a dozen used bookstores tucked into its small downtown, it is a literary traveler’s Elysium.

“Best of all, Wigtown offers a literary experience unlike any other I’m aware of. In town there is a good used bookstore called the Open Book, with an apartment up above, that’s rentable by the week. Once you move in, the shop is yours to run as you see fit.

“I was handed the keys and a cash box. I was told I could reshelve and redecorate. I could invite Elena Ferrante and Thomas Pynchon to speak, and Sly Stone to play, if I could find them.

“The Open Book is run by a nonprofit group. It has touched a chord with so many people, from every continent, that it’s booked through 2021, which is as far as Airbnb will take reservations. There’s a waiting list after that. I managed to wedge myself in for a single night by begging and whining. …

“My first task as proprietor of the Open Book was one I hadn’t anticipated. What to write on the slate sandwich board that sits out front?

“A favorite exhortation came to mind. With chalk I scrawled: ‘Read at whim! Read at whim! — Randall Jarrell.’ For the opposite side, after a bit of puzzling, and given my physical and mental state, I shakily wrote: ‘Of course it’s all right for librarians to smell of drink. — Barbara Pym.’ I set my board outside.

“It was time to get a look around. The Open Book is not entirely my kind of used bookstore in that its literature section is modest, dwarfed by the sections for miscellaneous subjects like birds and Scotland and garden design. But there was a nice shelf of Penguins under the register. …

“I’ve worked in many bookstores in my life, and I hadn’t realized how much I missed them. It’s surprising what you learn, as if by osmosis, a daily mental steeping, about every possible subject.

“Often you learn more than you want to know, when people bring to the register books about hemorrhoid care, loneliness or coping with the death of a child. To this day, when a young person asks me for advice about finding employment in the word business, I say (after telling them to read like lunatics): Work in a bookstore if you can find one, or a library, all through high school and college. …

“A young couple, Beth Porter and Ben Please, arrived with their infant daughter, Molly. They had musical instruments in tow: Beth, a cello; Ben, a ukulele; Molly, a toy glockenspiel.

“Porter and Please are the core members of the Bookshop Band. They write songs inspired by books and play them in bookstores. I’d met them the night before at [large-bookshop proprietor Shaun] Bythell’s apartment, which is above his store. They’d decided to welcome me to Wigtown by performing an impromptu concert.

“The Bookshop Band is not just good but achingly good — listen to its soulful lament ‘Accidents and Pretty Girls,’ based on Ned Beauman’s novel ‘The Teleportation Accident’ — and it played a resonant 20-minute set for me and a few lucky droppers-in.”

More about the band and the temporary-shop-owner experience at the New York Times, here, where you can also enjoy some delightful photos. For an overview of Wigtown shops, check this out, too.

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Photo: James Glossop 
Charlotte Hoather as Uccellina in the “BambinO” production from Scottish Opera, Improbable theater company and the Manchester International Festival.

I know that babies take swimming lessons these days and yoga with Mama. I know they go to music classes (“put your instruments back in the Taster’s Choice bin before we go home”). But opera?

Well, why not? Some babies are so loud everyone says they will be opera stars when they grow up.

Michael Cooper, a reporter for the New York Times, wrote in March at about an opera actually designed for babies. “The average age at the Metropolitan Opera is about to get lower — much lower. Sitting still will not be required: Audience members will be encouraged to crawl around and interact with the singers if they like. The dress code will be so relaxed that many operagoers may opt for onesies.

“No, the barbarians are not at the gate. The Met is presenting a new opera for babies.

“The company will present 10 free performances of ‘BambinO,’ an opera for babies between 6 months old and 18 months old, from April 30 to May 5. …

“The most unusual opera, about a bird, an egg and chick, was written by the composer Lliam Paterson and developed by Scottish Opera, Improbable theater company and the Manchester International Festival. It was directed by Phelim McDermott. …

“ ‘In the Met’s never-ending quest to develop audiences of the future, we’ve decided to start at the very beginning,’ Peter Gelb, the Met’s general manager, said in a statement.

“The opera will be performed for 25 babies, who will be seated on the laps of their caregivers on benches with cushions around the perimeter of the stage area.

Changing tables and stroller parking will be provided.

“The Met’s education team will work with researchers in infant development and early childhood music education from the Rita Gold Early Childhood Center at Teachers College, Columbia University.” More at the New York Times, here.

I apologize for not posting this in time for New York readers to take babies to the opera, but you can read a thoughtful review at Broadway World:

“No one in the audience as on Facebook or Twitter during Lliam Paterson’s opera BAMBINO at the Met’s List Hall — a rare occurrence for the company these days — on Friday May 4. In fact, no one looked at a cell phone at all during the performance. And nobody fell asleep — even though the opera was written for 6-18 month-olds. …

” ‘It’s lovely to see the full range of reactions the show has received,’ says Paterson, ‘and that every little toddler is just a person — and you’re already seeing all of the characteristics that are eventually going to come out.’ ”

Let’s hope operas for babies help build audiences for the future. “Free” is definitely the way to start.

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Photo: Ruairi Gray/Twitter
Students tricked a museum into exhibiting an ordinary pineapple as a piece of art.

They used to say of the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis that the janitorial staff had to be careful not to leave a mop and bucket in a gallery even for a moment or they could come back to find a cluster of museum-goers studying it.

Actually, that can happen.

Recently, Roisin O’Connor wrote at the Independent that students left a pineapple in a gallery of a Scottish museum and someone on the staff thought it was the real thing.

“Students claim they managed to pass off a pineapple they bought for £1 at a supermarket as a work of art, after leaving it in the middle of an exhibition at their university,

“Ruairi Gray, a business information technology student at Robert Gordon University in Scotland, and his friend Lloyd Jack, reportedly left the fruit at the Look Again exhibition at RGU’s Sir Ian Wood building, hoping that it might be mistaken for art.

“When they returned four days later he found that the pineapple had been put inside its own glass display case at the event. …

“Natalie Kerr, a cultural assistant for the festival who organised the display, said she wasn’t the one who included the fruit as an artwork because she is allergic to pineapple.

” ‘We were moving the exhibition, and came back after 10 minutes and it was in this glass case,’ she told the Press & Journal. …

“The incident recalls a similar prank last year when a 17-year-old placed a pair of glasses on the floor at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art.

“Apparently unimpressed with some of the work on display and wanting to test the theory that people will try to interpret any object provided it is in a gallery setting, TJ Khayatan placed the glasses on the floor and walked away.

“Soon after, visitors to the gallery surrounded them and began taking pictures.”

More at the Independent, here, and at the NY Times, here.

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Photo: SWG3/Facebook
Y
ardworks takes place May 6 and 7
, 2017, in Glasgow, Scotland.

Melita knows I like artistic graffiti. In fact, we are both such fans of Lata_65 (graffiti for old folks) that we intend to try our hand at spray painting if the organization ever comes to the Boston area.

Today Melita shared a link on Facebook about graffiti in Glasgow.

Gregor Kyle wrote at GlasgowLive, “Scotland’s first dedicated graffiti festival will take street art into the heart of the community in Glasgow and open up new opportunities for young people across the city.

“Next weekend (May 6 and 7) in Finnieston, SWG3 will host over 30 of the world’s finest graffiti artists and 50 of Scotland’s street artists at the Yardworks Festival. …

“One of its main aims is to strengthen SWG3’s bond with the local community and the city of Glasgow as a whole.

“School and youth groups have been invited, with the days featuring specialist graffiti workshops and a ‘Creation Station’ for children which will allow everyone the chance to try their hand at painting. …

“ ‘It’s Scotland’s first graffiti festival and the scale of it now, the way it has grown, it’s massive now,’ explained Gaz, who is himself a graffiti artist and part of the management team at SWG3. …

“Most Glaswegians will know SWG3 as a club and concert space but by day it is a thriving hub for artists, filled with studio spaces and workshops. Slowly but steadily it has progressed over the years with the scale and ambitions of its projects growing bigger and bigger.

” ‘The yard is now basically a massive canvas for the artists,’ continued Gaz. ‘We have rendered the walls, wrapped containers in sheet metal – at no small expense – and every surface will be perfect for the artists to paint on. …

” ‘We are trying to build a sense of community in the area, which can be hard sometimes when you have a transient population with some of the students maybe only staying in the flats here for a term and then moving on.

“ ‘Finnieston has this reputation as this hipster area; what people forget is that there is this core population here and in the likes of Partick and Anderston who have lived here a long time. …

“ ‘The Commonwealth Games in Glasgow were fantastic for the city. They drew people together and, through a number of projects, connected me with a lot of other artists and graffiti writers that I didn’t know in the city.

“ ‘We will be looking to run workshops in the summer for young people and will try to play our part in improving the area and bringing the community together.’ ”

More at GlasgowLive, here.

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Photo: SWNS
Annis Lindkvist, right, and her younger sister, Emma Åhlström, with Jimmy Fraser, a homeless Scot they invited for Christmas in Sweden. 

I have never been sure how to react to someone who is homeless, but I have learned smiling is better than walking past, head down.

Mother Teresa said to smile. A woman who runs an excellent Rhode Island homeless agency told me she doesn’t give anyone money but talks to people and tries to see if she can help with a referral or something to eat. A formerly homeless veteran told me he always talks to veterans and tells them where to find veterans services. Once he took in a stranger overnight. Some people will buy a sandwich or a cup of coffee.

Last week as I was talking to an employee of a refugee agency, I became curious about how he was led to his current work. He said, “One day I stopped walking past people.”

He didn’t initially look for refugee work, but he landed there after launching his personal outreach to homeless people and a subsequent stint in Americorps. He used to talk to people on the New York City streets, asked what they needed and delivered food, socks, and as many of their needs as he could.

So many good people out there showing kindness one person at a time!

This Guardian story about a Swedish tourist in Scotland who not only befriended a homeless man but invited him for Christmas with her family (and sent him airfare) is really over the top.

Libby Brooks writes, “A homeless man from Edinburgh has described the ‘incredible act of kindness’ of a tourist who invited him to spend Christmas at her family home in Sweden.

“Jimmy Fraser was begging on George Street in the city centre when Annis Lindkvist and her sister Emma, from Sagmyra in central Sweden, asked him for directions.

“They struck up a friendship and swapped numbers at the end of the trip, staying in touch by text before Lindkvist offered to pay for his flights so he could spend a week with her family over the festive period.

“Fraser, who became homeless following his divorce 13 years ago, said: ‘It’s weird, I know. I was begging on George Street and these two women came up to me and the next thing I knew I was in Sweden. People promise you things all the time on the street but they never materialise.

” ‘But I thought I’m going to go for it as it’s once in a lifetime. I couldn’t believe it anyway at first. People tell you “see you tomorrow, I’ll get you a drink” and then nothing happens. But this did happen, actually, so it was really weird.’

“The 54-year-old former security guard, who went to an ice hockey match, Christmas markets and midnight mass with his host’s family and friends, told the BBC News website: ‘It was a beautiful experience.’ …

“Lindkvist described her own doubts about issuing such an open invitation to a stranger. ‘We give money to charity every month but we have never done anything like this before,’ she said. ‘There were friends and family who thought I was really crazy, but I just opened my home to him and said everything that is ours was his too.’

“The 37-year-old, who works with dementia sufferers, said she had invited Fraser back to stay with the family again over the Easter break, and that he was ‘part of the family now.’ ”

More here.

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Today, our anniversary, I’m remembering some of the novelties we encountered as we toured Scotland on our honeymoon.

For example, I found I really loved scotch eggs, having never had them before. I remember making them a few times in the deep-fat fryer when we got home. (FYI: they are hard-boiled eggs wrapped in sausage.)

Here’s a funny article by way of an environmentalist on twitter (@tveitdal) about a “scotch egg company” that “claims to have cracked the problem of eggshell waste.”

Sarah Shearman writes at inkl.com, “Leicester-based egg processing plant Just Egg hard boils and peels 1.5m eggs a week for snacks such as egg mayonnaise and Scotch eggs, creating mountains of shells to dispose of. It’s a dilemma the company’s owner, Pankaj Pancholi, has been keen to crack since he launched the business 14 years ago.

“At home, eggshells can easily be composted or sprinkled on flower beds as a slug deterrent or soil enhancer. But for industrial egg producers, shells have to be disposed of in landfill because the waste egg attached to them rots quickly, causing a smelly by-product.**

“It costs Pancholi around £50,000 a year to dispose of them, a significant sum for a company with [revenue] of £4.2m last year.

“In 2012, Pancholi teamed up with Prof Andy Abbott and scientists at Leicester University to find a cost-effective, sustainable way to recycle the shells.

“Eggshell is made of calcium carbonate, like chalk, with a hard-wearing, crystalline structure. Since chalk is often used as a filler to reinforce plastic, Abbott hatched a plan to do the same with eggshell powder.

“Abbott’s department set to work designing a plant to make this eggshell powder. Because Just Egg has to dispose of eggshells swiftly to avoid the rot, the eggshell processing plant was built as an extension to the existing factory, with the eggshells passing through on a conveyor belt to be processed.

“The eggshells are chopped up with blades and washed and treated with a water-based solution to remove any remaining egg protein. The egg membrane (the clear film lining the eggshell) is also retained, as the Leicester scientists are exploring potential uses for it, such as wound dressings. …

“Each egg produces about 15g of shell and the team has been stockpiling the powder, awaiting the first order. Abbott has been spreading the word about the product and says there has been interest from ‘hundreds’ of plastics companies.”

** Oh, my goodness. Here is where I remind you that in 7th grade I created an amazing egg-breaking machine with Joanna Pousette-Dart and left it in the science classroom, forgetting I needed to take it home. Rot was definitely an issue.

More here.

Photo: Dan Matthews
Just Egg boils and peels 1.5m eggs a week. It used to cost £50,000 a year to dispose of the shells. Now the company pulverizes the shells and expects to sell the powder to plastics companies.
 

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You’ve heard of working vacations to learn about farm life and milking cows or to help Earthwatch study sea lions. A new and unusual vacation offering involves running a bookshop.

‘Literature lovers often dream about owning a bookshop ,” writes Jess Denham at The Independent, “and now, the opportunity is there if you’re willing to fork out £150 for the privilege.

“The Open Book shop in Scotland’s ‘national book town’ of Wigtown has been listed on room-letting website AirBnB offering wordy holidaymakers the chance to work a 40-hour week selling books and customising the store with their ‘own stamp.’ ”

“Local book experts will be on hand to train guests in the seaside town …

“Some ten guests have already hired the bookshop and apartment above, including an elderly couple fulfilling a lifelong ambition, two members of a band that writes and performs songs about books, a librarian from Oregon and a Dutch civil servant. … Guests are encouraged to blog about their experience while carrying out ‘all the normal duties of a bookseller’ …

“Independent authors are invited to sell their own books in the store and set up their own promotional displays.”

More here.

Photo: The Open Book
The Open Book store in Wigtown, Scotland, is opening its doors to holidaymakers.

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