Tag Archives: History

Threads That Connect Us⤴

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In my post about my Open World femedtech quilt square I explained why I chose to make my square out of Harris Tweed, a protected fabric that is only made in the Outer Hebrides where I was born and brought up. In many ways the fabric is emblematic of both the islands and the islanders; the wool is shorn from the local black face sheep, the colours, traditionally from natural dyes, reflect the colours of the landscape, and the cloth is woven by hand to produce a fabric that is unique, beautiful and hard wearing.  As with many traditional fabrics, tweed production was originally a communal activity, and much of the work was undertaken by women; from dyeing and spinning the wool, to weaving the tweed, to waulking and finishing the cloth.  Waulking involved soaking and beating the tweed to remove dirt and impurities, and soften and shrink the cloth. Before tweed mills were built in the islands to process the hand-woven cloth, finishing a tweed was a social activity as much as a collective task.

This following account of the importance of waulking as a women’s social activity, comes from a Gaelic radio programme called Tigh Mo Sheanair (My Grandfather’s House) which was recorded in the early 1970s and the speaker is my grandmother, Anne Campbell, who was born in 1909 and lived in Harris all her life.  Her words were translated from the Gaelic by her daughter, my aunt.

Anne Campbell & Sybil McInnes

“The entertainment whilst waulking the tweed was better than a wedding, for us anyway when we were young, especially if the waulking took place in the evening.  If the waulking was in the morning we had to come home afterwards and stay in in the evening.  Waulking was sometimes our only entertainment.  We were always delighted when we got news that someone in the village was about to complete a tweed.  In those days it was the women who wove the tweed on the “little loom”.  A tweed would take three weeks to complete – today a tweed is completed in one day using an automatic loom.

To waulk the tweed a long table was set out with seating for four women on each side.  There was a tub at either end of the table. The tweed was cut into two pieces and a piece dropped in each tub.  One side worked left the right and the other right to left.

For a bit of fun the loose coloured threads at the end of the tweed were cut and each woman would put her thread outside the door. If your thread was the first one then the first man who came to the house had to see you home that evening.  It did not matter if you had a steady boyfriend, it was who ever found your thread that had to take you home.  There was often good-natured bantering outside the house especially if your own boyfriend turned up expecting to walk you home. We didn’t think anything of being up all night if there was a waulking.”

Although my granny wasn’t a weaver, she did spin and dye her own wool, which she used to knit socks, jerseys and other garments.  When I was a child, there was a huge cast iron cauldron wedged in the rocks outside the house, which had been used for dying wool before modern conveniences came along.  The remains are still there today.

This communal aspect of fabric production, sewing, embroidering, and quilting has always been important.  It provides women with a space where, to some extent, they are in control of their own labour. A space where they can come together to share their skill, pass on their craft, tell their stories, and enjoy each other’s company.  These spaces sometimes seem to stand outside the strictures and expectations of “normal” society, and provide women with a space where they set their own rules.   To my mind this has been the most powerful aspect of the femedtech quilt project, which has given so many women from all over the world, a space to collaborate, to share their skills, their stories, their inspiration and their creativity.

I’m writing this post with Frances and Suzanne in mind who will be coming together this weekend to sew the femedtechquilt, and although all those of us who sent in squares won’t be able to join them in person, I hope they’ll feel the strength of the threads that bind this amazing community together.

Gray and Glasgow – Living Imaginatively⤴

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I was deeply saddened this morning to hear of the death of the author and artist Alasdair Gray, undoubtedly one of the most significant English-language authors of the last century. I have a strong personal connection to Gray’s writing as in some obscure way it’s bound up with my decision to come to study and live in Glasgow.

I first came across Gray’s writing in one of Penguin’s Firebird anthologies in the early 1980s, when I was about 14, then the following year my partner’s brother, who was studying Scottish Literature at Edinburgh University, came home with a copy of Lanark and gave it to me to read it. I was completely captivated by everything about the book and pestered my friends to read it, most of them did and were equally enthralled. (Dragonhide was a condition we recognised well.) After Lanark, I went on to Unlikely Stories Mostly and 1982 Janine. I know 1982 Janine is a divisive book, and I certainly read it at an impressionable age, but I still think it’s an incredibly powerful work, and one that comes frighteningly close to capturing the disorienting reality of mental breakdown in words and typography.

When I had left school, I had hoped to go to Edinburgh to the School of Scottish Studies, but although I was successful in securing a place, the university didn’t offer me a place in halls, and, as I couldn’t afford to travel to Edinburgh to find a flat, I had to turn the place down. Instead I went to Glasgow, which offered me accommodation and a place to study Scottish Literature and Archaeology. I wasn’t exactly keen on going to Glasgow at first, but in an odd way it was through the writing of Alasdair Gray and Edwin Morgan, and an anthology of Glasgow poetry called Noise and Smoky Breath, that features Gray’s artwork of Cowcaddens on the cover, that I warmed to the idea of moving to the city. I say odd, because Gray’s vision of Glasgow in Lanark is very much a dystopian one, but it’s a very human dystopia.  

When I first read Lanark in Stornoway as a teen, I had no real experience of Glasgow, it was a city I’d visited only once as a child, so re-reading the book at university while I was living in the city was a real eye-opener for me.   I saw Gray reading several times while I was a student, most notably at Felt Tipped Hosannas, a Mayfest event in 1990 to commemorate Edwin Morgan’s 70th birthday. He read an excerpt of McGrotty and Ludmilla and he was hilarious.

I couldn’t tell you how many times I’ve read Lanark since then, at least a dozen probably. It’s a book I go back to time and time again and every time I read it, it becomes more relevant.

It goes without saying that I love Gray’s art as much as his writing, as it’s really impossible to separate the two. For a short time, while I worked at Strathclyde University in the early 2000’s, we were privileged to share our Cetis office with some original prints of the Lanark illustrations from the University’s art collection.

I’ve lived in Glasgow for over 30 years now and somehow my experience of the city is still inextricably bound up with Gray’s work, whether it’s his artwork in Hillhead, Oran Mor, or The Chip, or his words that are woven into the fabric of the city.

“Glasgow is a magnificent city,” said McAlpin. “Why do we hardly ever notice that?”

“Because nobody imagines living here…think of Florence, Paris, London, New York. Nobody visiting them for the first time is a stranger because he’s already visited them in paintings, novels, history books and films. But if a city hasn’t been used by an artist not even the inhabitants live there imaginatively.”

Lanark ~ Alasdair Gray

As an eighteen year old teenager from the Outer Hebrides, I was able to imagine living in Glasgow because I had already visited it through Gray’s art, and never once have I felt like a stranger here.

Dunfermline College of Physical Education: A personal connection⤴

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While I was off on strike I was able to spend some time finishing a project I’ve been working on for a couple of months; editing the Wikipedia page for Dunfermline College of Physical Education.  I was inspired to update the existing page by the recent Body Language exhibition at the University of Edinburgh Library which delved into the archives of Dunfermline College and the influential dance pioneer Margaret Morris, to explore Scotland’s significant contributions to movement and dance education. And the reason I was so keen to improve this page, which was little more than a stub when I started editing, is that my mother was a student at Dunfermline College from 1953 – 1956, and when she died in 2011 my sister and I inherited her old college photograph album.  

My mother was not a typical Dunfermline student. Unlike many of her fellow students, who were privately educated and went straight to the college on leaving school, my mother was educated at the Nicolson Institute in Stornoway, and after leaving school she took an office job while working her way through the Civil Service exams.  She’d been working a year or so when the college came to the island to interview prospective students, and her father suggested she apply.  Her interview was successful, and she was awarded a place and a bursary to attend the college, which at that time was in Aberdeen.  Having experienced a degree of independence before going to Dunfermline, my mother chaffed at the rigid discipline of the residential college, which expected certain standards of decorum from its “girls”.  She didn’t take too kindly to the arbitrary rules, and it’s perhaps no surprise that her motto in the college year book was “Laws were made to be broken”.  She did however make many life-long friends at college and she went on to have a long and active teaching career.

My mother worked as a PE teaching on the Isle of Lewis, first as a travelling teacher working in tiny rural schools across the island, and later in the Nicolson Institute.  She passionately believed that all children should be able to enjoy physical education, regardless of aptitude or ability, and she vehemently opposed the idea that the primary role of PE teachers was to spot and nurture “talent”.  Her real interest was movement and dance and many of the children she taught in the small rural schools where convinced she was really just a big playmate who came to play with them once a week.  Sporting facilities were pretty much non-existent in rural schools in the Western Isles the 1970s. Few schools had a gyms or playing field, so she often organised games and sports days on the machair by the beaches. The first swimming pool in the islands didn’t open until the mid 1970s and prior to that she taught children to swim in the sea, on the rare occasions it was sufficiently calm and warm.  None of the schools she taught in had AV facilities of any kind and I vividly remember the little portable tape recorded that she carried around with her for music and movement lessons.  She retired from teaching in 1987, not long after the acrimonious national teachers pay dispute.  Despite being rather scunnered with the education system by the time she retired, it’s clear that the years she spent at Dunfermline played a formative role in shaping not just in her career, but also her personal relationships and her approach to teaching. Typically, she was proud to be known as the rule breaker of her “set” and I think she’d appreciate the irony of her old pictures appearing on the college Wikipedia page. 

[See image gallery at lornamcampbell.org] In order to add these images to Commons, I’m having to go through the rather baroque OTRS procedure, and I’d like to thank Michael Maggs, former Chair of Board of Wikimedia UK, for his invaluable support in guiding me through the process.  Thanks are also due to colleagues at the Centre for Research Collections, which holds the college archive, for helping me access some of the sources I’ve cited. 

One last thing….when I was producing our OER Service Autumn newsletter I made this GIF to illustrate a short news item about the Body Language exhibition. 

Garden Dance GIF

Garden Dance, CC BY, University of Edinburgh.

The gif is part of a beautiful 1950s film featuring students from Dunfermline College called Garden Dance, which was released under open licence by the Centre of Research Collections.  The film is described as “Dance set in unidentified garden grounds, possibly in Dunfermline” however when I was looking through my mother’s college album I found this picture of the very same garden, so it appears it was filmed in Aberdeen. If you click through to the film, you can clearly see the same monkey puzzle tree in the background. It was obviously something of a landmark!  I wonder if my mother is one of the dancers? 

 

Society for Nautical Research – Stepping down⤴

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In a couple of week’s time I’ll be formally stepping down as Member of Council and Chair of the Society for Nautical Research’s Publications & Membership Committee, a role I’ve held for five years. I was approached by SNR, following a couple of conference presentations my colleague Heather and I gave while we were researching and writing our book about the midshipmen of HMS Indefatigable, Hornblower’s Historical Shipmates.  At the time, the Society was in the process of redeveloping their website and launching new social media channels and they were looking for a committee chair with experience of both nautical history and digital media. 

I’m glad to say that the SNR’s new website, snr.org.uk, and social media presence, curated by the Society’s web editor Dr Sam Willis, have been a huge success and have helped the SNR to connect with it’s wide international membership in new ways.

Charing the committee has been an enjoyable and enlightening experience for me, though as one of the few female Members of Council it hasn’t always been plain sailing.   It’s been a privilege to meet so many highly respected scholars and historians through the Society and I’d like to thank everyone who has worked so hard for the Committee over the last five years, particularly our secretary Dr Cathryn Pearce, Nigel Blanchford, who was single handedly responsible for revitalising Topmasts newsletter, and Dr Chris Holt who has kindly agreed to replace me as chair.  It’s great to know  that the Committee will be in such good hands, and I’ll also be staying on as a regular committee member to ease the transition. Although the chair hasn’t previously rotated on a fixed term basis, we strongly believe that this will help to ensure that the Committee remains fresh and is able to attract new members. 

When Heather and I started our research six years ago, I would never have envisaged that what started off as a fun, informal project would end up with me joining such an august society. I’m grateful for having had the opportunity to work with the SNR and I’m honoured to have been made a Fellow of the Society.  I don’t generally use post nominals, but if I did, I would now be Lorna M. Campbell  MA (Hons), CMALT, FSNR.  I remain, as always, Ms 😉

Other Voices⤴

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This piece was originally posted on femedtech.net

I’m not entirely sure where I’m going with this post, tbh I’m not even sure what it is I’m trying to say, but I have a gut feeling that something needs to be said about the historiography of the open movement. Who is it that writes that history? Whose voices do we choose to amplify? Whose contributions do we remember and celebrate? Whose are forgotten and silenced? How do we acknowledge the contribution of individuals whose personal ethics and politics are often at odds with our open feminist practice? I’m talking about the saints and messiahs, the ideologues and homesteaders, the founding fathers and benevolent dictators. Men who have played an undeniable role in shaping concepts of openness in the domain of technology, but whose personal ethics may be wildly out of tune with many of the values we hold dear in the open education community; equality, diversity, inclusion, social justice.

As a sometime-historian, this is a dilemma, and I realise that even by writing this post I’m perpetuating the narrative that certain individuals are central to any understanding and history of open. I also realise that much more thoughtful writers than me have examined the history of openness and technology through a nuanced and critical lens. Audrey Watters has written extensively about our collective amnesia when it comes to the history of ed tech, and Mar Hicks has published widely about how women suffered the double ignominy of first being discarded by the UK computer industry and then being written out of its history all together.

Of course it’s possible acknowledge the importance of ideas, while purposefully “forgetting” where they came from, to retain the ideas, but write their authors out of history. But I’m really uneasy about separating the message from the messenger like this, because I think our beliefs are, to a greater or lesser degree, codified in our ideas. Our ideas are shaped by who we are, by our personal ethics and belief systems, by our view of the world around us.   If we purposefully forget where some of the ideas that have shaped our concepts of openness have come from and how they have been formed, we run the risk of sleep walking into a future where open education is for the few not the many, and where openness simply reinforces real world injustices and inequalities.

Following the lead of writers like Audrey and Mar we need to construct our own diverse and inclusive narrative and historiography of openness. We need to understand how people’s views are reflected in their work and we need to approach them critically and reflectively. We can’t write people out of history, and nor should we attempt to do so, but we can choose whose voices we amplify, whose we listen to, whose we hear. And we also need to learn to listen to the silences, to identify whose voices have been elided and excluded from narratives of open.   We need to be thoughtful and critical and open minded. We need to listen to other voices.


Some comments on this blog post from twitter:

LGBT History Month – with emphasis on the B⤴

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This month is LGBT History Month and it’s inspired me to share a little bit of my own LGBT history, with emphasis on the B. Actually I’ve been meaning to copy some of this material for ages now and I even bought a blog domain a couple of years ago to share it, but I’ve never got round to doing anything with it! 

All this material is from the mid to late 1990’s when I was a member of the fabulous Edinburgh Bisexual Group which ran from 1984 – 2000. There was no bisexual group in Glasgow at the time but Glasgow was blessed with some really innovative arts programming featuring performances from Ron Athey, Annie Sprinkle, Penny Arcade, and Leigh Bowery among others, and the club scene was second to none.  

This is the kind of bisexual ephemera that tends to escape the attention of archives, so I was encouraged to recently discover the Bi History Archive project based at Glasgow Zine Library.  I should really to to get round to sorting through the rest of the material I’ve got stashed around the house to share some of it with them. 

[See image gallery at lornamcampbell.org]

You are getting older – combining history with numeracy in the classroom⤴

from @ ICT for Learning & Teaching in Falkirk Schools

You’re getting old! This a an online tool where you enter a date, such as a birthdate, and the site presents a whole range of calculations related to that day by comparison to the current date and time.

The calculations presented include (if it’s for a birthdate) exactly how old at that moment in time that person would be in years, months and days, then presents that as a total number of days, as well as the total number since birth for that date of candles on a birthday cake, the approximate number of times that person’s heart would have beaten, total number of breaths, number of times the moon has orbited the earth in that time, and the number of people who were alive on earth on that birthdate compared to the number today.

As a bit of fun it has some entertainment value, but for a classroom it can also help introduce the concept of comparisons of time in history, or other curricular areas related to specific pieces of information (such as science when looking at heartbeats, breaths or moon orbits).

Another calculation included is in making a comparison to the length of time elapsed from the birthdate until today compared to something in history  from that same birthdate but going backwards in time by nearly as far back. Thus as an example for a child in a class whose birthdate might have been 29 January 2010, thus comparison calculation on that date in 2019 would be “When you were born was nearer to the 9/11 terror attacks than today.” This can highlight something that to people who have that earlier event in their own lifetime perhaps reflecting the passage of time between people of different ages and their perceptions of how long ago something happened.

There are links to social subjects when it comes to comparing, for the length of time which has elapsed since the birthdate selected, how far a single location on the planet has travelled as it rotates, the distance travelled as the Earth revolves around the Sun, and more.

Then the site picks out selected historical events from the birth year, from early childhood, later years as appropriate. And it notes the dates on which that child will reach certain milestones – in a classroom context when numbers start to get large when you can no longer actually picture them in your mind, this site can be used to get children to try to guess the number of days until certain landmark dates before revealing the site’s calculations.

For birthdates of adults (you can use those of celebrities known to pupils) there are additional comparison calculations (they won’t appear for children’s ages since it relies on information comparing the ages of two other well-known people) – such as taking an adult’s age and showing it as the sum of two younger people (so that could be an older named actor being the same age as two other named child-actors.

One last comparison displayed is a pie chart showing the number of people born on the same birthdate as that selected and highlighting the number who are still living. This, like many of the other calculations, can provide the starting point for discussions for social studies subjects.

Give it a go http://you.regettingold.com and please do share in the comments below how you’ve used this tool in the classroom,

2018 – It All Adds Up⤴

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A recap of 2018 in numbers…..

3 Keynotes

I was honoured to be invited to present 3 open education keynotes this at the beginning of this year at OER18, the FLOSS UK Spring Conference and CELT18 at NUI Galway.  Each keynote presented different challenges and learning opportunities, particularly FLOSS UK where I had to get up on stage and talk to an all male conference (there were only 3 women in the room including me) about structural discrimination in the open domain. It was pretty terrifying and I couldn’t have done it without the support of the #femedtech community.  Indeed the #femedtech network has been one of of my main influences and inspirations this year and it’s been a real joy to see if go from strength to strength.  My OER18 keynote also resulted in my most impactful tweet ever with 16,592 impressions to date.  Predictably it wasn’t about open eduction, it was about shoes :}

Bessie Watson

To coincide with the centenary of women’s suffrage on the 6th February, I wrote a Wikipedia article about Bessie Watson the 9 year old suffragette from Edinburgh.  Bessie’s story really seemed to capture the imagination and it was great to be able to bring her amazing life to wider notice.

11 Days of Industrial Action

The USS Pension strike had a huge impact on the whole Higher Education sector early in the year.  I was grateful that I was in a position to be able to support the strike, which I know was much more difficult for many, many colleagues across the sector employed on part time and precarious contracts.  Although the strike was nominally about a single issue it really did galvanise action around a whole host of deeply problematic issues including workloads, pay, conditions, equality, precarity and the commercialisation of higher education.  It was a real inspiration to see so many staff and students getting behind the strike and to be able to join the strike rally in George Square in Glasgow.

USS Strike Rally, George Square, Glasgow, CC BY, Lorna M.Campbell

Repeal the 8th Campaign

Once again I was hugely inspired by the people of Ireland and the way they came together to repeal the 8th Amendment of the Irish Constitution, to recognise womens’ right to bodily autonomy and to amend abortion legislation.

AO3 an Inspiration in Open Source

In June I was delighted to listen online to Casey Fiesler’s amazing Open Repositories keynote Growing Their Own: Building an Archive and a Community for Fanfiction.  I’ve long been a fan of AO3 and have been endlessly frustrated, though not surprised, that this phenomenally successful open source initiative run on feminist principles isn’t more widely recognised and celebrated in the domain of open knowledge.  Casey’s brilliant keynote showed us how much we can potentially learn from AO3.

Wikimedia UK Partnership of the Year

In July the University of Edinburgh won Wikimedia UK’s Partnership of the Year Award for the 2nd time, for embedding Wikipedia in teaching and learning and for advocating for the role of Wikimedians in Residence in Higher Education.  None of this would be possible of course without the support of our own tireless Wikimedian in Residence, Ewan McAndrew.

Left to right: Stephanie (Charlie) Farley, Open Education Resources; Lorna Campbell, OER Service; Ewan McAndrew, Wikimedian in Residence; Anne-Marie Scott, Deputy Director of Learnng, Teaching & Web Services. CC BY, University of Edinburgh.

50!

The other significant event in July was my 50th birthday :}  The day itself was lovely, lazy and lowkey and I spent most of the month catching up with friends from all over the world online and in person.  It was wonderful.  My partner bought me glider lessons as a gift but sadly I haven’t taken them yet as I haven’t been able to get to the air field since….

RIP Magic Bus

After 13 fabulous, and admittedly often frustrating, years our VW T25 camper van died a death, though not before taking us on one last holiday to Galloway and then home to the Hebrides where I finally got to visit Traigh Mheilein beach in North Harris.  Traigh Mheilein is often described as the most beautiful beach in the Hebrides and boy does it live up to that reputation.

Traigh Mheilein, Isle of Harris, CC BY, Lorna M. Campbell

ALTC 25th Anniversary

In September I was back in Manchester for the 25th ALT Annual Conference.  As an organisation that truly embodies its core principles of collaboration, participation, independence and openness, ALT continues to be an inspiration right across the sector and I’m honoured to be able to play a small role in supporting the organisation through the ALT Board and the ALTC social media team.  The 25th conference was one of the best yet and my own personal highlights included thought provoking keynotes by Maren Deepwell and Amber Thomas, Melissa Highton‘s unflinchingly honest talk about developing and implementing a lecture recording policy at the height of the USS strikes, and Catherine Cronin and Frances Bell’s personal feminist retrospective of learning technology.  Catherine and Frances’ session also inspired me to take a step back and reflect on my own career as a learning technologist.

Wiki Loves Monuments

September means Wiki Loves Monuments and this year the competition was even more fun than last year, which I wouldn’t have thought possible!  Huge thanks to everyone who participated and who made the competition so much fun, particularly our Wikimedians in Scotland – Ewan, Sara and Delphine.  I uploaded 383 pictures and came 15th overall in the UK.  Most of these pictures were taken during our summer holiday so I really have to thank my parter and daughter for their patience :}

Naval History

I haven’t been writing much Naval History recently and indeed I’ll be stepping down from the Society of Nautical Research‘s Publications & Membership next year after 5 years in the chair.  However my colleague Heather and I did publish one short paper in The Trafalgar Chronicle, the journal of The 1805 Club, which this year focused on the lives of women and families at sea and on shore.  Our paper “I shall be anxious to know…”: Lives of the Indefatigable women, shone a spotlight on the personal lives of some of the women we encountered while researching our book Hornblower’s Historical Shipmates.

Blogging to Build Your Professional Profile

In October I built my 1st ever SPLOT!  As part of the roll out of the University of Edinburgh’s new academic blogging service I was tasked with developing a digital skills training workshop on professional blogging and what better way to do that than by practicing what we preach and building a blog!  Anne-Marie Scott set up the SPLOT template for me and it was all plain sailing from there.  The Blogging to Build Your Professional Profile workshop has already proved to be very popular and all the resources have been shared under Creative Commons licence so they can be reused and adapted. It was great working with LTW colleagues on this project, particularly Karen Howie, who a good friend from early CETIS days and an awesome person to work with.

#QueerArt20

In late November Gary Needham, senior lecturer in film and media at the University of Liverpool tagged me in the #QueerArt20 twitter challenge; one image a day, any medium, no credits or titles.  I’ve loved seeing the images other people have been posting and it really was a challenge to choose just 20 of my own to post. It was also a timely opportunity to reconnect with queer culture.  And talking of which…

120 Beats Per Minute

I didn’t see many memorable films this year but one that I did see, and which will stay with me for a long time was 120 Beats Per Minute a deeply moving and viscerally powerful film about queer activism set against the background of the AIDS crisis in Paris in the late 1980’s /  early 1990’s.  It’s a beautiful, painful and necessary film and I would urge you all to see it.

CETIS – The End of an Era

At the beginning of December I stepped down as a partner of CETIS LLP ending a 17 year association with the organisation in all its various incarnations.  I wouldn’t be where I am today without CETIS and I wish all the partners the very best for the future

….and the lows

Brexit has cast a noxious cloud of reckless xenophobia, bigotry and intolerance over us all, with the only glimmers of hope being a 2nd referendum and the more distant promise of Indy Ref 2.

It’s been equally been horrifying to watch the rise of right wing populist movements across the world.  Fascism might have a new acceptable ALT-Right face but it’s still fucking fascism.

I was heart broken by the death of Scott Hutchison in May.  He was a phenomenally talented writer and his songs uniquely captured the struggles so many face with alienation, depression, isolation and addiction.  Scott faced all these demons in true Scottish style; with scathing wit, self-effacing humour and heartbreaking poetry.  Just a few months before his death, I was packed into the Academy with hundreds of others for 10th anniversary tour of The Midnight Organ Fight.  It’s a night I won’t forget.

Frightened Rabbit, Barrowlands Ballroom, December 2016. CC BY Lorna M. Campbell

On an open education note, one of my frustrations this year is that, due to lack of time and focussing efforts elsewhere,  I had to neglect Open Scotland.  I really hope I’ll have an opportunity to revitalise the initiative next year as we still have a lot of work to do to persuade the Scottish Government of the benefits of open education.  This might seem like a trivial exercise when Scot Gov is facing the catastrophic challenge of Brexit, but surely we need open and equitable access to education and educational resources now more than ever.

I think I’ve exhausted my numbers now and they all add up to quite a year (sorry, that’s terrible) it just remains for me to wish you all the very best for 2019.

Wiki Loves Monuments 2018 – Pipped at the post!⤴

from

Wiki Loves Monuments, Wikimedia’s annual photography competition, came to a close at the end of September.  An astonishing 4,374 images of Scottish scheduled monuments and listed buildings were uploaded to Wikimedia Commons over the course of the month, over double last year’s total of 2,104 and almost a third of the 14,203 images uploaded in the UK.

Competition was fierce towards the end of the month, Ewan McAndrew, our indefatigable Wikimedian in Residence, pipped me at the post on the very last day of the competition with 442 uploads (13th overall) to my 383 (15th) and Anne-Marie’s 213 pictures of graveyards (21st).  In my defence, I was wrestling with an outrageously crap internet connection at home that almost had me weeping with frustration while I waited hours for images to upload. Still, over a thousand uploads is not a bad score for one division of Information Services!

It was great to see so many new people getting involved in the competition this year too through the efforts of Sara Thomas, Wikimedia UK’s Scotland Programme Coordinator and Delphine Dallison, Wikimedian in Residence at SLIC.

Wiki Loves Monuments is so much fun that I’m always a little sad when it’s over, and it’s almost impossible to break the habit of pulling out my phone to snap any likely looking listed building I pass.  I’m already storing up pictures for next year!

Kirkandrews Memorial Chapel, CC BY SA, Lorna M. Campbell

An icon evolves⤴

from @ blethers

A couple of weeks ago, I went on an icon workshop. I spent four nights in one of my most familiar places, the Cathedral of The Isles on Cumbrae, doing something completely new; something that feels as life-changing as that January day in 1973 when I sang at the funeral of a friend who was also a priest and a mentor and came away changed for ever.

The first milestone was choosing my icon. Tatiana, our teacher, had brought some illustrations for those of us who had not already decided what they wanted to copy. I had downloaded a few versions of the Christ Pantocrator icon, as well as a photo of one I'd loved when I saw it but felt unequal to trying - one of the Noli me tangere moment, all facial expressions and sweeping robes. But when I saw the A4 sheet with a totally striking Pantocrator image, I was captured. Tatiana saw my face. "That is your icon," she said.

She explained that it was very old - probably 7th Century - and came from St Catherine's Monastery in Sinai. And right now the less ignorant reader will visualise what I'm talking about, because it's famous. But I didn't know this. I only knew that the face was really two faces - one the stern judge, one empathetic, looking right at ME. I took the sheet away to my room. By the time I went to bed, I was aghast at what I'd taken on.

Work on an icon begins with tracing - at least, that's the way I took. Another person at my table, an artist in a way I could never claim to be, drew hers freehand with her original only for inspiration. Me, I was out with the carbon paper, trying to trace significant lines from an icon that was far more naturalistic than any I'd ever seen. And I didn't make very many lines.


Then we had to etch the lines onto the white surface of the prepared board. Hindsight tells me I didn't etch enough - too few lines, too lightly scored. By the time I'd done the gold leaf halo and bible cover and "puddled" paint onto the garment and the face, I couldn't see any of the facial features. At all. "Leave it to dry,"said Tatiana. It'll probably be clearer in the morning - and the light will be better..."

I spent that evening chatting to an old friend who'd turned up - a musician, from my other life as a singer. I told him how Tatiana had brought 3 eggs in a bowl for us to paint with - she broke them, separated yolk from white, took the whites back to the kitchen and left us the yolk with which to mix our pigment. I told him about the pipettes, the brushes, the feeling of being 14 again. Jonathan took my mind off my impending struggles, made me laugh - and I went to bed much later than I'd intended.

The second full day began with rain, less sunshine than I felt I needed - and only an eye visible on the face of my icon. By some miracle I managed to draw more or less freehand, with a hard pencil, the lines I was going to need to guide me. Then I returned to a more orthodox way of icon-writing, with brush and egg tempera and a plate to mix my pigment on. I felt like a real artist, in a terrified sort of way. But I was on my way, and during that day, and evening - for some of us returned to the studio to continue painting after dinner - I began to see the face of Christ emerging under my hands.

And it was that last realisation that grew throughout the third full day, by the end of which Titus, Tatiana's partner, had sprayed two of the necessary three coats of varnish - outside, in the gathering dusk, because of the fumes - on my icon, and it was almost finished. That day was spent on the background - which further research on YouTube has taught me shows the domes of the monastery of St Catherine, but which I modelled on the honey-coloured stone of an Italian town as I tried to realise what on the original was too blurred to be distinct - and on painting the border, and the sides and back of the board. Every now and then, as I'd been warned I would, I wailed for Tatiana to come and help me with an intransigent line, or the miraculous effect of painting a wash of unadulterated egg yolk over a whole area of my icon and leaving it to dry. And all that time I felt those eyes on me, boring into me as I stroked pigment over the cheeks, highlights on the sleeves, shadows under the palm of the raised hand.


The final morning was busy with varnish, photographs of each other's work, packing, paying - and praying. We took our finished icons into the cathedral, where they they were individually blessed with holy water before we took them up to the altar and left them there during the Eucharist.
One of my fellow-iconographers presided; others served and read; my friend Jonathan played the organ for us. It was over. I have never felt more exhausted, physically and emotionally. I wanted it to go on, but I knew I was too tired to do another brush-stroke.

Now my icon sits in an alcove in my house. I look at it every day. It has become a part of my life. And I can't wait to do another one.