North Edinburgh Arts launches Autumn programme

Summer’s almost over, but cheer up – North Edinburgh Arts have just launched their exciting Autumn programme!

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The holidays are over but the fun doesn’t have to be!

North Edinburgh Arts can’t wait to see you all back again to enjoy our packed Autumn programme.

Activities for Children

Join Alice in Zoo Arts every Wednesday from 4.00 – 5.30pm. These visual art sessions are for local young artists (9-14 years) who would like to be inspired, improve their creative skills and get involved with exciting visual art projects that run on a 2-4 week basis. Sessions are 50p per child which includes a healthy snack. Follow them onFacebook here.

Thursday and Saturday mornings see the return of Create, our very popular creative, messy play project for 0-5 year olds and their parents/carers. The sessions demonstrate resourceful and inspiring ways to actively learn with your wee ones. These drop-in sessions run from 10am -12noon and are are 50p per child per session. ‘Like’ them on Facebook here.

Eco Kidz is back with more ideas to turn recylcing into crafty, sellable items. Learn a variety of skills in these fun sessions including art, design, craft, marketing and retailing. The group will eventually go on to sell items made in these weekly sessions. Eco-Kidz is on Friday, 1.45 – 3.15pm and all sessions are free. ‘Like’ them on Facebook here.

If you’re looking for a way to burn off some energy and get creative on a Saturday morning, NEA has everything you need . Along with our Create sessions, we also runart and dance workshops for children aged 5-12 years. Between 10am – 12noon, the two age groups (5-8 and 9-12years) alternate between high energy dance sessions and colourful art and craft workshops. A healthy snack is provided half way through and it only costs 50p. Arrive in plenty of time as these popular drop in sessions are always busy!

Programme for Adults

The North Edinburgh Theatre Project is working on a very exciting project, 1d Tenement Opera project for production in January 2015 and you are very welcome to join.

Join in if you are interested in singing, dancing, making costumes, lighting & sound, making sets, drawing and designing, writing for the blog and doing stories, photography, social history, making sure the people of North Edinbrugh tell the stories… and spreading more whispers and rumours about the project.

If you are interested in some of the activities and you would like to find out more, please contact box office on 0131 315 2151.

United We Stand, 17th October, 7.30pm
Townsend Productions presents a powerful new play by Neil Gore based on the true story of one of the most turbulent industrial battles – the 1972 Builders’ Strike.
Tickets: £8, £5 concession, £3.00 good neighbours.
townsendproductions.org.uk

The Scottish Mental Health Arts and Film Festival
24th October,
7.00 – 8.00pm
The SMHAFF is one of Scotland’s most diverse cultural events. North Edinburgh Timebank Temptation singers showcase the transforming power of communal singing in their performance of various rock, folk, pop and world music titled ‘Lean on Me’.
Tickets are free. Booking is advised.
www.mhfestival.com

Lockerbie: Lost Voices, 31st October, 7.30pm
Lee Geshuny’s new play follows six passengers onto Pam Am Flight 103 destroyed over Lockerbie by a bomb in 1988. Tribute to those who tried to uncover the truth about the tragedy.
Tickets: £8, £5 concession, £3.50 good neighbours.
www.sacc.org.uk/articles/2013/lockerbie-lost-voices

Luminate Festival  1st – 31st october
If Luminate has one message, it’s that creativity has no age. Luminate includes new work, collaborations and international projects specially planned and programmed for the festival, as well as independently-run projects led by a wide range of cultural and community organisations.
www.luminatescotland.org

To book tickets for any of the above events, call box office on 0131 315 2151 or emailadmin@northedinburgharts.co.uk.

Pop-In Cafe

Our Pop-In Cafe is open Monday – Friday, 10am – 2pm and Saturday 10am – 12noon. We use ingredients grown in our very own garden and Michele cooks up delicious specials every day to make lunch time a real treat. We also serve delicous freshly ground coffee and home made cakes everyday. See full menu here.

NEA Garden

The NEA garden run Tuesday afternoon drop-in sessions, 1-5pm for families and 16+ years (children must be accompanied). Learn how to grow your own vegetables, herbs and other useful gardening skills in these free sessions run by Valla, outr community gardener. If you would like to be involved in the garden outside of these sessons, please contact Valla directly at northedinburghgrows@gmail.com. Keep up to date on their blog here.

autumn-2014WEB
Full Autumn Programme here.

NEA

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Scotland ‘stands ready’ to support refugees

children cryingAs the situation in Gaza deteriorates, the Scottish Government has confirmed that the country ‘stands ready’ to accept Palestinian refugees.

External Affairs Minister Humza Yousaf said: “The start of a ground offensive is a serious and worrying development. The lives lost in this conflict are individual human tragedies and the killing of innocent civilians, be they Palestinian or Israeli, is to be utterly condemned. The rocket attacks on Israel are unacceptable and should stop, as should the Israeli offensive in Gaza, which is heavily disproportionate, as demonstrated by the mounting civilian death toll.

“As a Government we continue to call for a complete cessation to all violence and add our voice to those in the international community for an immediate, longer term ceasefire, and that both sides in this conflict put an end to the violence that is causing so many civilian deaths and injuries.

“The worsening humanitarian situation in Gaza has been well documented and the UN now estimates that over 18,000 people have been internally displaced. I have today written to the Home Secretary and told her that Scotland would be willing to accept Palestinian refugees and urged the UK to also play a part in easing the refugee crisis in Gaza and the Occupied Palestinian Territories.

“It is essential that the UN should be allowed to independently investigate all civilian deaths to determine whether there has been any violation of international law.

“Our offer of medical assistance to help the humanitarian situation still stands and we are currently in dialogue with the appropriate Governments and agencies to assess whether Scotland can give specialist medical help to civilians caught up in the conflict should should this prove possible.

“The Scottish Government also believes that the continuation of the blockade in Gaza is exacerbating the suffering experienced by the people there and tantamount to collective punishment. For that reason I recently wrote to the UK Government to exert further pressure on the Israeli Government to bring that blockade to an end.”

The UK Ambassador to the United Nations Sir Mark Lyall Grant outlined the UK’s government’s position on the conflict during a UN Security Council briefing yesterday.

The diplomat said: “The United Kingdom has three objectives: to secure a ceasefire; to alleviate humanitarian suffering; and to keep alive the prospects for peace negotiations, which are the only hope of breaking this cycle of violence and devastation once and for all.

“My Government’s position remains clear. We want to see immediate de-escalation, and agreement on a durable ceasefire. The people of Israel have the right to live without constant fear for their security; the people of Gaza have the right to live safely in peace. Steps must be taken now to address the underlying causes of the conflict.

“We welcomed the Egyptian–proposed ceasefire, we welcomed Israel’s acceptance in principle of the terms of the proposed ceasefire agreement, and we welcomed the Palestinian Authority’s endorsement of the Egyptian initiative. We also welcomed the UN facilitated humanitarian pause on 17 July.

“We call on Hamas, and all militant factions in Gaza, to cease hostilities, ending all rocket fire into Israel. We utterly condemn the firing of rockets into civilian areas.

“Let me reiterate our support for Israel’s right to self-defence. Israel faces a tough dilemma in responding to unacceptable rocket fire from Gaza. But in exercising its right to self-defence Israel must act proportionately, and take all necessary steps to minimise civilian casualties. As we have heard this afternoon, many innocent civilians are being killed.

“Mr President, On our second objective, we are deeply concerned by the dire humanitarian situation. There are hundreds of thousands of extremely vulnerable civilians in Gaza, who are suffering acutely from this crisis. Access to clean water, power and medicines is becoming critically difficult.

“We urge all parties to continue to enable unhindered access throughout Gaza. The United Kingdom support has enabled UNRWA to respond to the crisis by continuing to provide crucial health services.

“On the third objective, any ceasefire needs to be genuinely sustainable. It is important to tackle the underlying causes of instability in the Gaza strip, without which the long-term security of both Israel and Gaza cannot be secured.

“As part of a ceasefire, we need to consider establishing a viable verification and monitoring mission to ensure the implementation of any ceasefire agreement by all sides, learning lessons from the past.

“Implementation of a ceasefire agreement however must only be part of a wider effort to improve conditions in Gaza. Without that, we are likely to see further such cycles of violence. This should include the restoration of Palestinian Authority control in Gaza, the opening up of legitimate movement and access and a permanent end to the unacceptable threat of rocket attacks and other forms of violence from Gazan militants against Israel.

“Mr President,

The responsibility lies with both sides to make progress toward a permanent peace, enshrined in a two-state solution. No other alternative option exists which guarantees peace and sustainable security for both Israelis and Palestinians.”

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Democracy in danger

Last week, two out of three people didn’t bother voting in the Cowdenbeath by-election. Maybe this explains why …

Whatever your political views, this is a very important year. The commentators, the politicians and the so-called experts will all be heard ad nauseam – but ultimately it’s you and me, the ‘ordinary’ people of Scotland, who will decide our nation’s future.

But however Scotland votes in September, what is even more important is that the people of this country seize this opportunity to take our democracy back. For whether we’re governed from Westminster or Holyrood is almost irrelevant unless democracy – real democracy – is reawakened.

I’ll lay my cards on the table. I’m an Old Labour man – real Labour as I like to see it. I’ve never really bought into New Labour – or, more recently, One Nation Labour. I joined the Labour Party thirty years ago – the year of the Miners Strike – when Labour was a movement, not a commodity to be renamed, rebranded and repackaged.

It’s a long time ago now, but back then politics seemed a simple, straightforward affair. Labour was left wing, the Tories were right wing and you knew on which side of the barricade you stood. Public ownership, a strong welfare state and supporting the most vulnerable – or rampant capitalism, greed and let the poorest take care of themselves.

The working classes versus the toffs: that’s simplifying it too much, of course – working class people queued in their tens of thousands to snap up their council houses at bargain basement rates, and some were delighted to fill their boots with shares in the big utilities too – but you get my point. The Poll Tax, Wapping, the Miners Strike – you knew which side you were on. The Tories, if not your sworn enemies, were at least your opponents. Party members on both sides believed in things.

Politics today is different, though – where once party politics was driven by core beliefs and ideology, now everything’s seemingly expendable, disposable. Politics is a business, a career choice. Forget manifestos written in blood on tablets of stone, there’s now no policy that can’t be ‘un-ditched’ or quietly dropped in the quest for power. Fearful of UKIP, the Tories lurch to the right, Labour clings desperately to the middle ground while the Lib Dems shuffle uncomfortably between the two, ready to answer the call after the next election – and any call will do. We are left with three identikit centrist parties that sometimes appear indistinguishable. The rosettes are different colours but the policies are much the same.

What do they believe in? ‘Social Justice’. ‘Fairness’. ‘Supporting hard-working families,’ they all earnestly reply in unison. Yes, quite, and of course they all salute ‘our brave troops’ and praise ‘our wonderful nurses’.

And now, with a referendum just months away, we have Labour, Conservative and Lib Dem uniting to ‘save the Union’. Grown-up politics, they call it, but it’s not that at all: this is a marriage of convenience, an arranged marriage and the sight of Cameron, Darling and Carmichael all singing from the same hymn sheet makes me feel decidedly uncomfortable.

Labour vilifies the Tories for introducing the ‘bedroom tax’ and other punitive welfare reforms, the Tories lambast Labour for lax immigration policies and financial mismanagement on a massive scale, and yet … and yet both are content to ‘put their differences aside’ and unite with these very same people in a titanic struggle against the new enemy within, the new baddies – the Nationalists – to heroically save the precious union. But this referendum ‘transcends’ party politics, we’re told.

I agree the referendum transcends party politics – something as important as this simply can’t be left to politicians – but is this really about saving the union? Perhaps it’s really more about preserving the status quo? Better Together? Certainly, better for career politicians, if not necessarily for democracy.

Career politicians are by nature conservative; they don’t want major change or anything that may upset the established order – particularly one that might lose them their seat.

At present we have Westminster elections every four or five years. Elections will be won by party A, who these days may have to form a coalition with Party B to take power. Party C will have a spell in opposition. A few years down the line, another election. Party B wins this time, and perhaps governs with the help of Party C while Party A take their turn in opposition. Cosy, comfortable – why change something that works so well? The voting public gets to have their say every five years or so; surely everybody’s happy?

Well, no. In the 1950s, one person in ten was a member of a political party. Today, it’s fewer than one in a hundred. People are disillusioned with party politics and sickened by career politicians who seem more interested in self-service than public service. People don’t trust politicians, so they disengage from politics and so from democracy. Look at the turnouts at elections – people are ‘scunnered’ by today’s party politics.

The nation’s top ‘doers and thinkers’, the men and women with ideas who would naturally lead our country instead choose a life in commerce, the arts, academia or science other than the grubby world of politics, and as a result we are left with an ever-decreasing group of political ‘leaders’ to shape our nation’s future.

Today, with a handful of exceptions, we are hardly blessed with a generation of political giants. With such a dearth of talent and lack of credible opposition Alex Salmond bestrides Scotland’s political stage like a colossus, ably supported by Nicola Sturgeon. Had Salmond not been at the helm of the SNP do you think we would have been voting to determine Scotland’s future in September?

People may not like Alex Salmond, but they do respect him – however grudging that respect may be. A respected politician is a rare thing these days, and perhaps it’s little wonder. Remember the furore over MPs expenses? We put them there to represent us, but instead they stole from us, cheated and lie to us. Some have gone on to the House of Lords to continue to fill their boots, clocking in and out again for £300 a day. Nice work if you can get it. As the noble Baron Prescott of Kingston-upon-Hull succinctly put it: ‘it’s better than working’.

When the scale of expenses scandal was exposed you might have thought that furious citizens would have taken to the streets to protest, as they would in other countries and as we ourselves have done in the past. But not us, not these days: some short-lived indignation, a few sacrificial lambs, some smacked wrists and it’s back to business as usual. Somewhere along the way we seem to have lost the will to fight, to question, to challenge. And now they talk about a wage rise for MPs – to stop them stealing from us again.

We meekly accept pensioners dying from cold while the big energy companies continue to make obscene profits.

We accept the sell off to the few of national assets like Royal Mail – assets that should belong to all of us – and at bargain basement rates too. You might expect it from the Tories, but Labour’s complaint? Not that they sold it off, but that they sold it off too cheaply!

When Mandela died, we saw the old film footage once again of snaking queues of people that seemed to stretch forever, waiting patiently and joyously to cast their first ever vote in a free election. Democracy should be such a precious thing, but for too many of us it now seems that even turning up once every few years to put a cross in a box is just too much to ask. ‘What’s the point? They’re all the same. It changes nothing’. And, increasingly, it’s difficult to argue against that attitude.

Only recently, a substantial number of Labour MPs ‘paired’ with Tories and absented themselves from an important debate on welfare reforms and the ‘bedroom tax’. Important? Maybe, but clearly not as important as upholding the noble traditions and fine conventions of the Palace of Westminster. All in it together? You bet!

But while political parties carry much of the blame for this breakdown in democracy, we have to share that blame too. We have allowed this to happen. We get the politicians we deserve.

This year’s Referendum – the debate that precede it and the negotiations that will follow it – offers an opportunity to reinvigorate our democracy; an opportunity to take democracy – something precious that belongs to all of us – back into public ownership. We all have a responsibility to future generations to bring about that change – for the career party politicians can’t be trusted to do it.

The challenge will be to engage many, many more people in the discussion – not only the politicians, the commentators, the ‘experts’. The party political establishment has a stranglehold on democracy and that has got to change. For without wider public debate and discussion, and a fundamental change to the way our political system works (or doesn’t), real democracy will continue to wither and die.

For me, Westminster is now totally discredited; the ‘Honourable Members’ corrupt practices aside, it’s anachronistic customs and procedures have no place in a modern democracy. The establishment parliamentarians’ unwillingness to reform even the House of Lords prove that even minimal modernisation is unlikely, so more radical change is unthinkable – the current setup suits too many ‘insiders’ very nicely, thank you.

So in September, Scotland does have an opportunity to radically change the way we ‘do politics’ and if we really value our democracy we must vote YES in the referendum. Holyrood isn’t perfect, but it has done well to avoid the worst excesses of Westminster. By choosing self-government we would at least have the opportunity to shape our parliamentary democracy to be inclusive, working for the benefit of all of the people, not just a privileged few. Like democracy is supposed to be. And by taking responsibility for our own future, we’d have no-one to blame but ourselves if it didn’t work. Just the way it should be.

Whatever way Scotland votes, if nothing else the referendum should stimulate a level of public debate we haven’t seen in this country for generations. And surely that can only be good for the health of our nation’s democracy?

Power to the people? Now there’s a thought!

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STV Appeal support for Fresh Start

Local homeless resettlement charity Fresh Start has received £2,000 from the STV Appeal 2013.

Ferry Road Drive based Fresh Start works in partnership with churches, local communities and volunteers in Edinburgh to create, develop and provide services that support the resettlement of people who have been homeless. The charity helps them get a fresh start by providing essential household goods, practical and social support and training opportunities.

The STV Appeal funding will be used to help expand the charity’s flagship Starter Pack service, which provides the basics for new households. Last year, Fresh Start made up and distributed nearly 8,800 Starter Packs, helping families and individuals turn their empty houses into a home. This year the charity hopes to distribute 10,000, including the newly launched Food Packs.

The STV Appeal was set up in 2011 by STV and The Hunter Foundation and in 2013 the Wood Family Trust pledged its support to the Appeal. Now in its third year, the STV Appeal has raised a total of £5.8million which has been invested in 163 big and small community projects across all 32 local authority areas in Scotland, helping over 18,000 children. Every penny raised stays in Scotland and goes directly towards helping the children who need it most.

One in five children across Scotland live in poverty – and for some communities that figure is even worse. In parts of the country every second family is living in poverty meaning that in every community there will be a family struggling to feed its kids, a family struggling to clothe them in the winter, a family struggling just to make ends meet. The STV Appeal works in communities all over Scotland helping those young people and giving them the same opportunity that other children take for granted. Working at a local level, the STV Appeal has helped projects in every local authority.

Keith Robertson, Managing Director of Fresh Start, said: “Moving into a new home, especially after being homeless, can bring many financial burdens. Our Starter Packs aim to reduce this burden and give people the essentials they need to settle in to their new homes. They provide the basics for new households to survive, for example bedding to keep warm at night, curtains to close the world out, crockery to eat your dinner on.”

Rob Woodward, STV CEO and trustee of the STV Appeal, said: “The third year of the STV Appeal has been our most successful yet. With the help of our generous supporters and fantastic fundraising efforts taking place right across Scotland we have now raised over £5.8m. The money donated to the STV Appeal stays right here in Scotland and will help make a real difference to the lives of vulnerable children and young people on our doorstep.”

Sir Tom Hunter, trustee of the STV Appeal, said: “The STV Appeal is for Scotland by Scotland’s people who truly have stepped up to support our work in trying to beat the horror that is child poverty here in Scotland. This is a long haul but at the end of the day we can and we will eradicate the impacts poverty has on Scotland’s young people. Every single penny we raise goes directly to tackling the issue of child poverty across all of Scotland something I’m really proud of.”

Sir Ian Wood, trustee of the STV Appeal, said: “This is the Wood Family Trust’s first year of involvement with the STV Appeal to help tackle the issue of child poverty in Scotland. We are delighted to be part of the fundraising endeavours of so many, which have enabled the distribution of such significant financial support to local projects in our own communities. We are optimistic that with the generous total raised by supporters of the STV Appeal, combined with the on-going hard work and dedication seen in communities across Scotland, the lives of children and young people affected by poverty in Scotland can, and will, be changed for the better.”

STV Appeal Pic Peter DevlinPicture: STV Appeal trustee Lorraine Kelly presenting The Big Live.

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Edinburgh Schools Film Competition 2014 – Launched

Edinburgh Schools Film Competition 2014 – Launched.

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EXCLUSIVE: Residents group shortlisted for top award

EXCLUSIVE: Residents group shortlisted for top award.

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Broughton Seniors on the BBC!

Broughton Seniors on the BBC!.

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Broughton Seniors on the BBC!

Broughton Seniors on the BBC!.

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Woman dies after flat fire in Edinburgh

Woman dies after flat fire in Edinburgh.

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January

January highlights (and lowlights), mostly in pictures:

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First Derby of 2013 – deadly dull. Things can only get better!

Edinburgh seemed to miss all of the serious snow that was constantly being talked about. We eventually found some nice white stuff in Stow in the Borders:

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Doesn’t it just look like a Christmas card?

At last! The Les Miserables feature film hit the cinemas. Being a huge fan of the stage show I’ll admit to some trepidation, but in the main the story transferred well to the silver screen. Some iffy vocal performances maybe, but surely at least a Best Supporting Actress Oscar to come for Anne Hathaway …

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An a really sad story. Much as I love extreme winter weather (usually from the safety of my nice warm living room!) the Scottish hills and mountains can be treacherous places – whatever the time of year the weather can change in an instant. Sadly a party of climbers were caught up in an avalanche in Glencoe and four lost their lives.

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HMV followed Jessops as the latest household name – and the first big retailer on 2013 – to hit the buffers

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Congratulations (if that’s the word!) to my old Edinburgh Thistle teammate (honestly!) Gordon Strachan on his appointment as Scotland’s football manager. Hope he’s able to keep smiling!

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And finally, the great weigh-in! Weighed myself – for the first time in 2013 – on 31 January. Starting weight, you may recall, was 16 stones. The January weigh-in produced conflicting results – on the old mechanical scales I weighed in at a svelte 15 stones – a massive 14lb loss over the month! However using newer, electronic scales I was disappointed to find that I had lost rather less – around 2lb. Given that I spent the month munching my way through the Christmas chocolates I had treated myself to, it seems likely that the second reading is perhaps the more accurate one.

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Undeterred, however, I will battle on. Three stones by Christmas 2013 remains the target – whether that’s loss or gain I will decide in midsummer!

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