Adele Patrick – interview

Adele Patrick is the Lifelong Learning and Creative Development Manager at Glasgow Women’s Library. She is a guest curator at the Edinburgh International Book Festival 2018 with Revolting Women.

Adele Patrick is a charming advocate for girl power! She speaks carefully and eloquently, amazing quotes encapsulated in almost every sentence, and with her striking style, keen gaze and enthusiastic smile, she’s an easy person to talk to. It was also a pleasant surprise to get a warm hug on parting.

She explains that she is from “a working class background of bouffanted, formidable, feisty, matriarchal women”, and the word revolutionary appears and reappears throughout the conversation, not least in what she calls “my role as an older woman in the movement”. None of her passion for women’s equality has flagged since she started to foment Women in Profile in 1987/88 which aimed “to re-brand Glasgow away from a masculinised culture to be more inclusive for European City of the Year in 1990.”

Glasgow Women’s Library (GWL) where she works today, has just been pipped to the post as Art Fund Museum of the Year by the Tate’s St Ives branch. Just now off the London train, she speaks creatively and eloquently in response: “We realised how monolithic the establishment is and were really pleased to be the grit in the oyster. There we were, sitting in the V&A (Victoria and Albert Museum where the awards took place) in the belly of the beast surrounded by the Rubens  (whose God the Father hangs there) and in the company of the guardians of culture, the old boys’ and girls’ clubs, proud to have rattled cages, but it is also sobering. It would have been a brave decision to give us it.” She went on to explain that they are preparing to unleash their collective response. “We are the first equalities organisation to be in the final, so it is apt to share our experience. Someone told my colleague, ‘well, it is a sexist organisation isn’t it?’ referring to the Women’s Library. There is certainly no place for complacency!” she said wryly.

She is reading Helen Pankhurst’s Deeds Not Words, which is part of the Pioneers and Provocateurs event at the Edinburgh International Book Festival with Fern Riddle. She explains that it reminds her both of what the struggle for equality has achieved and how far there is still to go. “The book contextualises the route of change from the first-wave (feminism) through politics, reproductive health and women’s representation. The gestation period for change is so incredibly long; the tenacity of resistance to relinquish power is unbelievable.” This year, 100 since the Representation of the People Act, is “a critical one to do something brave.”

Patrick is one of the Book Festival curators and her theme’s title is the delicious and courageous Revolting Women. She chose Pankhurst (great-granddaughter of Emmeline) alongside luminaries such as Hilary Clinton, and there are any number of other delights to choose from, the most lauded of which are the Herland (say her-land) Salon and the Take-Over Tents. The former were pioneered by the GWL in the Scottish west, so are coming to Edinburgh for the first time. With characteristic excitement she states, “I am absolutely thrilled, it’s going to be utterly brilliant, especially the pay-what-you-can fact of it. It will be a crucible for showcasing what women do, in a safe space and to a mixed audience, because still these types of spaces are few and far between when showing more diverse work.” Heir of the Cursed will be there (aka Kenyan Beldina Odenyo Onassis described as “a caulbearer born of an apparition, a primordial memory, a penny drop in the wee hours” by Sofar Sounds (secret gigs and intimate concerts) giving us her own songs and doing feminist lullaby workshops; and there will also be militant T-shirt printing inspired by the pop-up library titles. (Incidentally if you have any spare white ones, please send them to the GWL).

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This year, young women have again been involved in the planning of the programme and taken a leadership role. In the past, those who had done that followed up with a trip to the festival where they met published authors whose backgrounds were not necessarily different from theirs, who had also survived depression or who had experienced similar poverty. It is vital to Patrick that such budding lasses have these opportunities, because “you never know what they will do with them. In meetings with politicians I’ve spoken a lot about how diminished women’s dreams and ambitions can be, the criminal lack of aspiration, the narrowness of expectation for women (also in the education system). I have a vision of a different future because I have seen how remarkable the results can be given a tiny bit of encouragement.”

There are many other fantastic ideas: Every woman writer who is taking part in the Book Festival has been asked for a Spotify list of her choice of revolutionary music to form the soundtrack to the Herland Salon; four powerful women of colour will focus on detoxing institutions (such as museums, see above) in Breaking Down Barriers; Queer Africa (the GWL has strong connections with Nigeria) features short stories of feminism and intersectionality in contemporary Africa; and “part of our aim for the Take Over tents is that the names of the Scottish women who got us the vote will roll off the tongue in the future – we have strident spine poems, manifesto workshopping and we hope to fuel your appetite for change. Obviously there will also be tea and buns!”

As I watched Patrick walk away, I noticed the inscription on her bag: Diversity is being asked to the party; Inclusion is being asked to dance. It struck me that her work is all about inclusion – she is not only developing intelligent and ground-breaking projects, but at the same time she has her eye on the deep underlying issues. She is using the knowledge and wit that she has built up through years of experience which in turn has given her an understanding of how to tackle those who still, whether knowingly or unconsciously, oppose genuine equality. “Most people do subscribe to these shared values, but in the work setting in particular there’s a mismatch between individual principles and this lack of alignment that we are seeing.”

For more information about the Revolting Women programme at the Edinburgh International Festival 11 – 25 Aug, see https://www.edbookfest.co.uk/the-festival/whats-on/themes/revolting-women-213

Are you planning to go to the Book Festival? What is the event you most want to attend? I’d love to know, so leave me a comment if you have time.

We Shall Fight Until We Win – book review

Book Review: We Shall Fight Until We Win, A Century of Pioneering Women. The Graphic Anthology.

We Shall Fight Until We Win is an anthology of pioneering women from the past 100 years. It has been published by 404 Ink (last year they produced Nasty Women whose contributors include our very own Becca Inglis), and Glaswegian BHP Comics, whose alphabet book, The Mighty Women of Science came out in 2016.

From Emeline Pankhurst and Nicola Sturgeon, through Noor Inayat Khan  and Shami Chakrabarti, to M. Thatcher and Mhairi Black MP, this wonderfully active and varied book gathers together 100 years of female power. And that’s just the subjects!

Most strips encompassed in the book have a writer and an illustrator, also female: Denise Mina (words) on Betty Boothroyd  (for eight years the Speaker at the UK House of Commons); Shazleen Khan (graphics) on Joan Bakewell  (author, playwright, Humanist of the Year, and appointed ‘a voice of older people’); Letty Wilson  (graphics) on The Vindication of Diane Abbott .

On top of that, Laura Jones (Emerging Publisher of the Year 2017) and Heather McDaid (The Saltire Society Emerging Publisher of the Year) are the Scottish publishing freelancers who started 404 Ink, both under 40 and pioneering ahead in their field, both able to commission seriously skilled young women.

 

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Nicola Sturgeon ilustrated by J Milton.

Strength and determination abound in this publication, and it starts, as you would expect, with Emmeline Pankhurst, Nicola Love’s  text running, “We were willing to break laws…so that we might force men to give us the right to make them”. In one of those happy coincidences, Charlot Kristensen’s  graphic on page 5 depicts the suffragette rally taking place in the same street in London where 250,000 recently marched to register their feelings about (among other things) the misogyny of Donald Trump.

Each chapter is idiosyncratic with a distinct style and quality: realistic (Sophia Alexandra Duleep Singh); caricature (Poison Penmanship, Jessica Mitford); like a traditional comic strip (Jackie Forster); innocent looking drawings (The Radical in the Footnotes, Beatrice Webb); colourful (The 60%) and monochrome (Jeyaben Desai) reflecting both artist and story. “A graphic novel can say more than just words, without cramming it all into text.” states illustrator Maria Stoian.

The contributors involved in this publication specifically depicted women “with multiple sides to them” (Jenny Bloomfield). “It became a project to make it diverse. It’s historical so that was hard” (Heather Palmer, BHP). Above all, We Shall Fight is informative and documents women who have made an astonishing difference: in torture rehabilitation (Helen Bamber), as a WW11 spy (Inayat Kahn), and there is also a group of school kids, The Glasgow Girls, who stood against the policy of detaining children for immigration purposes.

Jenny Bloomfield is right,”it is amazing what you can get across in a small physical space.”

A Graphic Novel of Women, Equality Is Not Won, is an event at the Edinburgh International Book Festival on Sat 11 Aug 13:45 – 14:45

Do you often read graphic fiction or non-fiction? I’d love to know, so leave me a comment and we can have a chat.

Heroines From Abroad – poetry review

Heroines From Abroad by Christine Marendon translated from the German by Ken Cockburn

Scottish launch 13.7.18

Heroines From Abroad is Christine Marendon’s first collection, and published by Carcanet Press, it is half-and-half English/German, translated by Edinburgh based poet Ken Cockburn. Launched at Lighthouse, Edinburgh’s Radical Bookshop (formerly Word Power Books) in the capital’s Causewayside area, the pair were introduced by Annie Rutherford who leads the Women in Translation fiction reading group there. Alternating, Christine and Ken read the poems in both languages and an illuminating Q & A followed.

Marendon was raised in Bavaria and currently lives in Hamburg. She has a personal and individual approach: “I meditate and try to think of nothing. I don’t read other poets when I am writing. In this act of forgetting, you find things you usually do not find, hear something you otherwise won’t hear.” With a distinctively female voice, there is indeed a dreamy, Dali-esque quality, where apparently unconnected images circle around each other and leave the reader to make connections, to recognise something deep inside themselves. “I am only following my own logic”, Marendon intertwines her hands delicately, “not to hold, grasp it, but watch it and surround it with my words”.

Cockburn initially translated six of Marendon’s poems 13 years ago, saying it was the “wonderful coming together of images” which attracted him. “It was intriguing rather than frustrating that there were aspects which I didn’t get the gist of, that the poems created their own worlds with a kind of dream logic to them.” As if, on waking, there is a tumble of words related to half-remembered visions, or middle-of-the-night thoughts, all co-existing, some of which are too painful to bear scrutiny in the cold light of day, but these Marendon has committed to paper. “we snarl and dig our bared teeth into each / others’ flesh…torn skins hang / sideways to the floor,” (from Fifty Ways).

The poems make new associations, fresh meanings emerge from juxtapositions of words you previously thought you could rely on. Cockburn quotes from Rotunda and Breath, “Your warm handshake has you kneeling / to the saints of motorway slip-roads and service-stations..” and, “My dearest is a / missing feather, a snapped-off star”. (The latter referring to the automotive emblem of a Mercedes which a friend stole.)

Christine Marendon
Christine Marendon, poet.

There are many recurring natural images – water, air, wind and stone for example. In Bahamut, “I am the fish who, coming for air / kisses the water’s surface: / you see the disturbance, the circles it creates, but, me, the fish, / you don’t see.” Memory features strongly: “My memory is a darkroom / into which only blood-red light is admitted.” (from Negative). However when asked, Marendon stated, “I wrote these at different times of my life, they stand alone. But I am almost the same person so there might be connections.”

The book title Heroines From Abroad is a phrase from Rotunda referring to her family matriachs. She explains, “Men are responsible for most translocations and women have to solve the problems and hold the family together when they get there.”

On the page the poems often have the appearance of prose with short, succinct phrases of 2 or 3 words. “The day, / forgotten. There at the edge. Where the darkness / lives.” The first few silent readings in your own head do not reveal a recognisable tempo, but hearing them aloud made more metrical sense. Cockburn stated, “there was a rhythm I was trying to recreate in English.”

Letting her ‘found’ voice be concretised was brave, and ultimately successful. This is an intrinsically creative first poetry collection, and I am guessing that you will find that wisps of fascinating thoughts will be ribboning through your mind long after reading it.

The Guardian’s Poem of the Week

Christine Marendon, No Man’s Land

New Books in German

Info about Christine Marendon in German

They say that the readership for poetry is really low, especially in translation. Do you think that’s right? Leave me a comment and we’ll do our own poll!

Leave No Trace – film review

Debra Granik / USA  / 2018 / 109 mins

At the Edinburgh Filmhouse  from Fri 13 Jul 2018

Leave No Trace opens amongst lush green ferns and sparkling spiders webs. 13 year old Tom and her father Will (played assuredly by Thomasin McKenzie and Ben Foster respectively) hum contentedly while foraging and collecting firewood. Their life outdoors and outside society is gently established, as is their peaceful co-operation and mutually respectful relationship. One night Will wakes in a state – we are unsure if there is a real helicopter or if it is in his nightmares – and she soothes him with a charming conversation about her long absent mother’s favourite colour. In this easy introduction we learn all we need to about their situation, so that the ensuing development makes complete sense.

The film is based on the novel ‘My Abandonment’ (author Peter Rock, 2009), and is not about the system letting people down, indeed the supporting characters are full of kindness and understanding, albeit within limits which are as equally extreme as living the forest life. Leave No Trace clearly establishes our collective standards – group living, state scrutiny, lack of independent decision-making and measurement of sanity through online questionnaires. In reality there is a double desertion: our impotent battle hero forsakes a normal life, and the so-called civilised world cannot embrace him on his required terms.

Throughout, the contrasts are vivid: machinery tears down trees for a flora and fauna information board to be erected; the shopping journey across the Portland bridge is noisy with grinding metal; the organised rows of Xmas trees are a stark pretence for a wilderness; and the quiet of their one-time living room and sofa as they lock the door behind them for the first time, is a deadened sort of silence compared to the vibrant tranquility of the woods.

Without having to spell out the issues at play, Granik and her fellow screenwriter Anne Rosellini with whom she collaborated on Winter’s Bone  which won the Grand Jury Prize for a dramatic film in 2010, allow us to comprehend the subtleties of this insurmountable situation. We fully empathise with Tom, a most mature teen, as she struggles with Will’s needs, and the skilfully crafted conclusion (poignant eye contact, absence of words and a single elegiac violin) allows us to open our hearts to him as well.

Leave No Trace 1

Neither patronising nor sentimental despite many tender moments, the essence of the story is encapsulated in the differentiation between the communal bee hive (“They can kill you if they want to, so it means a lot to have their trust”), and the isolation of the spider in its web. As the requirements of father and daughter diverge despite their love, we leave the cinema better informed about the results of war on families and the reality of the ‘damaged’ veteran. More, we know that its impossible to hide for long.

 

You might have seen on one of my other blogs walkingwithoutadonkey.com that I adore walking! The forests in this film look amazing but I haven’t ever been to the US. Have you walked there? Is it really that beautiful? Leave me a comment and let me know!

Maquia, When the Flowers Bloom – film review

Film Review – Maquia, When the Promised Flower Blooms directed by Mari Okada.

3 stars

This is the first Japanese anime film I have seen so I am coming at it with fresh eyes. The story concerns the maiden of the title, Maquia, voiced by Manaka Iwami, who lives in a sci-fi / fairytale world of two contrasting parts (rural and urban) replete with dragons, and a damsel in a tower. Maquia is an Iorph, a race of blond, slim, feminine-looking beings with only a slight hint of a nose, who never outwardly age beyond their teens.

Opening with a super-colour, blue-green idyll of animated landscape (this style of film pays great heed to the setting), the action moves slickly between this and the cityscape of shiny metal towers and darting sky pods. It is made clear from the start that loneliness will be the result of any couplings between Iorphs and others, and indeed that is what transpires: Maquia finds a human baby, raises him lovingly, he grows up but she does not, and eventually she leaves him to live his own life.

It is a tale of adolescence and motherhood, refugees, and repeated promises by Maquia not to cry (although there is also a warning: “emotions you hold inside, will burn away”. There is a central metaphor of weaving, and much is made of phrases such as “the weft of life” and “the cloth will remember”. I am repeatedly reminded of the older Disney films (Cinderella, Bambi) as Maquia attempts to manipulate the emotions with its grand, orchestral scores and meaningful dialogue. Mari Okada is the screenwriter and director, and she is one of the most prolific people currently working in the anime industry today, winning the 16th Animation Kobe Award for her work.

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Erial is the orphaned baby (Miyu Irino) who she prises from the grip of his mother – this instinct, they spell out, is strong even in death. As Maquia struggles with aspects of her new role: protection, responsibility, whether she can start an adult relationship at the same time as being a mum; we are reminded that this is not a childish story and the characters are not simplistic. She is severely limited, even in danger, by her eternally youthful appearance, and that in itself is a serious theme in this age of body manipulation. Maquia matures in response to both the horrors life throws at her and her ‘son’s’ natural developmental stages, and gains wisdom in the process.

Addressing serious subject matter using a seemingly innocent form, Maquia has the potential to stimulate both the intellect and the feelings.

How does this anime film compare to the others you have seen? Drop me a comment and let me know!

 

 

The Happy Prince

Film, written and directed by Rupert Everett.

‘The Happy Prince’ takes its title from Oscar Wilde’s short story of the same name, about the statue of a selfish prince who solicits the aid of a bird, a swallow, to first understand and then help the poor. He redeems himself through his pity for them and then by giving away his sapphire eyes and the ruby from his hilt. In the movie, this tale is woven artfully through the weft of Wilde’s life: back and forth from the filmic present to the past; as a children’s bedtime treat and as payment to a young boy who is starved as much of fantasy as of sustenance.

Rupert Everett, who directed and wrote this tour de force, also plays Wilde, speaking French and English (with a smattering of Italian). He is jowly and, by turns, jocund and morose. With jaw jutting forward in grim stoicism, he negotiates what is left of his life after being imprisoned for sodomy. Promising and repeatedly failing to resist the much younger Bosie (acted by Colin Morgan) whom he loves unreciprocally, the cocaine, absinthe, champagne and compulsion to take centre stage are secondary aspects of his addictive personality and contributory factors to his grizzly dénouement.

Wilde limply attempts to be reunited with his wife, Constance (a balanced performance by Emily Watson), and grieves his lost sons – after he was incarcerated he never saw the pair again. Replacing them with a little match boy and his inamorato brother from the gutters of Paris, he is, in turn, cared for by his coterie of homosexual friends. Reggie and Robbie, played by, resectfully, Colin Firth and Edwin Thomas (who played John Colville in Churchill) bail Wilde out endlessly, and nurse him ‘to the last’ in a series of touching scenes which avoid the archetypally camp, despite a ‘darling’ here and there.

For once it is appropriate to have such a male-heavy cast, though the female roles are strong: there is an Italian mama (Franca Abategiovanni) who, in an ironic, teasing scene, believes there are ‘loose women’ in the house (despite the number of naked men reclining in her parlour!) and hysterically chastises her son and guests, frantically searches and then delivers an obsequious apology when she discovers she was wrong.

Sumptuous scenes in Naples and belle époque Paris are all about the brocade and ‘black tie’ of the time, but they are interspersed with the sordid. There is no sparing the gory details, gruesome blood and vomit, but although there are references to public toilets and a rambunctious game of strip Musical Chairs, there is little or no sex.

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The album cover of the Bing Crosby / Orson Welles version of ‘The Happy Prince’.

The film lays out the facts before us without judgment: the suffering of the poor, the horror of their depredation, and the abuse of minors. Somehow the audience know it is there, understand why at some level, and can still enjoy the humour and developing relationships. After all, many of us are guilty of turning a blind eye to our own bad habits, or not saving where saving is in our power. Other themes examined in this movie are of the rich and powerful versus the poor and artistic, and of course the persecution of gay men in the 19th century.

Then there’s the religion: Christ as Wilde’s only prison companion; a crippled priest saying his prayers in a simple cliff-top chapel; the last rites with a very funny, Irish-accented Tom Wilkinson. This is the last ditch attempt, of course, to attain redemption, but we nevertheless fear that he will be forever asking forgiveness, even at the pearly gates, in contrast to the Prince of the story whose leaden heart is taken up to heaven.

The powerful scenes which remain with me are many: Vesuvius errupting (not in the sexual, but in the doomsday sense), while Constance’s apparition haunts him; Everett tottering on a nightclub table giving a hearty rendering, to delighted revellers, of ‘The Boy in the Gallery’; the degradation at Clapham Junction, the spit; the unexpected tears when he sees Bosie for the first time after his release, on another station platform. Indeed Wilde mourns that they have been reduced to living on the edges of society, in the in-between places. The awful reality of unrequited love is raw throughout.

As the narrative draws to its elevated conclusion, as his soul is being raised on high, and in contrast to ‘the boys’ left behind fighting at the graveside, the watcher is invited to wonder if the angel (God?) of the original story sees the love in our hearts, even if outwardly we are damned.

Edinburgh Art Festival 2018 – preview

Edinburgh Art Festival (preview)

26 July – 26 Aug 2018

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Kate McMillan’s The Past is Singing in our Teeth.

The Edinburgh Art Festival is a platform for the visual arts at the heart of the jambouree that is August in the capital. Where many may think of ‘the festival’ as being theatre and comedy, this organisation draws together all manner of exhibitions and installations, and places them centre stage.

Vital to the EAF is the Platform which supports artists at the start of their careers. Rae Yen-Song  is at the City Art Centre and the exhibition draws upon her experience as a female, Chinese Scot.

A highlight of the EAF Commissions looks to be Ruth Ewan’s Sympathetic Magick which will bring street magic to various venues around the city. Past festival commissions have resulted in permanent works, including Alison Watt’s Still from 2004 which currently hangs in the Memorial Chapel of Old Saint Paul’s Scottish Episcopal Church.

There is a growing Pop-up Programme which in 2018 involves Bill Viola’s video Three Women at The Parish Church of St Cuthbert. Looking at the topic of transfiguration, his wife and her daughters who star in the work, “briefly enter an illuminated realm”. Viola is always a stimulating view; A second event which stands out from the wide-ranging publicity is The ERRAID RESIDENCY, a stamp collection by 6⁰West in response to the life and works of Robert Louis Stevenson which can be found at The Scottish Arts Club, Rutland Square; Invisible Women give us Consensus  which “forces us to consider how gender and time shape perceptions of worth” and that is at the Urbane art gallery, Jeffrey Street; Finally Warmed Air  is a site-specific performance within the anatomy department of Edinburgh University exploring various levels of perceiving and experiencing the body. It could incorporate cadavers!

There are partner exhibitions with the Arusha Gallery, Rhubaba Gallery, Edinburgh College of Art, Sculpture Workshop, Stills and The Number Shop to name but a few, plus all the biggies, the brightest and best Edinburgh galleries are linked too. In particular check out Tacita Dean’s Woman with a Red Hat at The Fruitmarket Gallery; and the first solo UK show of Indian artist Ravi Agarwal’s Nàdar / Prakriti at The Edinburgh Printmakers.

There are Art Early events (who does not like the sound of activity trails and an outdoor picnic?) for families and children, a brilliant idea for those who rise with the dawn; and three Art Late tours doing the rounds of the collaborating galleries and including music from Jared Celosse , Ross Birrell at theTrinity Apse; and the women and men of Glasgow-based band The Ninth Wave.

As part of the Learning and Engagement aspect, there is an audio described tour with Juliana Capes including a hearing loop; and the Artist Talks incorporates the sparkling Christina Jansen on contemporary jewellery in Scotland.

The delightfully named Mud Oven Afternoons, where you can create edible sculptures, will be at the Johnston Terrace Wildlife Gardens – somewhere many will not have explored before.

Sharpen your eyesight, polish your specs and wander the circuit that is the EAF whether the sun shines or not!

The featured image above is The Impetuous Engine, 2016, film still, Isobel Lutz-Smith.

Mud Oven Afternoons