Category Archives: Features

Public opinion in Edinburgh divided on Trump Petition


By Laurenci Dow

Edinburgh locals show a clear divide in opinion on the petition to ban Donald Trump from the UK, while the petition continues to gain over half a million signatures.

Petitions with more than 100,000 signatures will be considered for debate in parliament and the Petitions Committee is expected to discuss this one on the 5th of January 2016.

Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon and Labour home affairs spokesman Jack Dromey have both backed the petition to ban Trump from entering the country under the ‘unacceptable behaviours or extremism policy.’

However, the petition, which is the most signed currently hosted  on the Parliament website, does not express the opinions of some of the locals from the Scottish capital.

Elijah Jones, an Edinburgh local businessman said he felt that Trump’s comments were ‘bold’ although he did not agree with them.

Mr Jones felt that it was contradictory for the UK to call for a ban on a person who themselves wants to ban people from their own country.

Mr Jones said: ‘I don’t think the petition is the best course of action, in my opinion it’s quite contradictory.’

A local Costa Coffee manager, Casper Van Eeden agreed with opinions expressed by Mr Jones saying he felt that the petition was an infringement on Trump’s freedom of speech.

Mr Van Eeden said: ‘I feel that people should be able to say what they want, I don’t agree with banning people for expressing an opinion.’

Jane Thompson, a student from Edinburgh Napier University said she agreed with Robert Gordon University stripping Trump of his honorary degree as she felt this showed the UK’s stance towards his ‘racist’ comments.

However, she said she would not sign the petition as she felt that it was another way for Trump to gain more attention.

Renay Clerk, a student from Edinburgh Heriot-Watt University said she agreed with the petition as she would not want someone who expresses ‘radical opinions’ in the UK.

She said Trump would have a ‘negative effect on the UK’  if he was to visit the country.

Suzanne Kelly, the Aberdeen woman who started the petition says: ‘The signatories will not show any support for Trump’s unacceptable behaviour.’

A Farewell to Alex Salmond

By Charlotte Barbour

Scottish Labour politicians have said Alex Salmond will be remembered for the negative impact he has had on Scotland during his time as First Minister.

Claire Baker, a Scottish Labour MSP, described Mr Salmond as a “divisive” person and politician:

“While people should recognise his achievement as First Minister, it is time that he went.

He lost the referendum, and during his time in politics we have seen fewer teachers in schools, huge cuts to the college sector and the NHS have been put under enormous financial pressure. These are things that he will be remembered for.

Alex Salmond is a divisive person and a divisive politician and it is time for Scotland to move on.”

Salmond will submit his resignation as First Minister to the Scottish Parliament and to the Queen at 2.30 this afternoon.

Deputy SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon is expected to replace Salmond as leader of the Scottish National Party after his seven and a half years in power.

Salmond began his career in politics in 1973 at the University of St Andrews, when he joined the Federation of Student Nationalists aged 19.

He became SNP leader in 1990, and won the position of First Minister in 2007 after winning more seats than any other party in the Scottish Parliamentary Election.

He led the country into the most dramatic Scottish Independence Referendum in history, achieving a result of 44.7% yes, 55.3% no.

Despite stepping down from his position as First Minister following the ‘no’ vote in the Scottish Independence Referendum, the SNP’s campaign for Scottish Independence is far from over.

A recent poll suggested that nearly half of Scots want a second independence referendum before 2024.

This puts pressure on Ms Sturgeon to promise a re-run after the 2016 Holyrood election, despite 12% of the population being against another independence referendum.

Vinyl Lovers

Record Store Day took place this weekend, and saw musicians, artists and the record-buying public come together to celebrate the unique scene. Set up in 2007 it was established to promote independent music shops by selling exclusive vinyl recordings to fans.

Our reporter, Shiv Das, spoke to Avalanche Records, in Edinburgh, discussing how the weekend went.

Edinburgh is home to five independant record stores-

1.Avalanche, 5 Grassmarket, Edinburgh

2. VoxBox, 21 St Stephen Street, Stockbridge, Edinburgh

3. Elvis Shakespeare, 347 Leith Walk, Edinburgh

4.Underground Solushn, 9 Cockburn Street, Edinburgh

5.Vinyl Villains, 5 Elm Row, Edinburgh

Reflecting on Iraq

To mark the 10th anniversary of the invasion of Iraq, Shiv Das and Jamie Mckenzie spoke to Jabaal Hassan from the Iraq Association on the 10th anniversary of the Iraq War.

The Iraqi Association is a non-profit organization based in the U.K that exists to enable Iraqis to settle and integrate in this country with rights to express their cultural identities.

We also spoke to Baroness Nicholson, who founded the Iraqi Britain Business Council four years ago. She says “the objective is to bring high quality businesses in to Iraq and connect them with high quality Iraqi businesses. The purpose behind that is that there is very high unemployment of young people and I am very keen to get them into jobs and help their futures.”

Iraq War Protests- Ten Years On

Last week marked ten years since U.S and U.K troops led coalition forces into the second invasion of Iraq. It also marked ten years since the anti-war protests were at their height. A time when hundreds of thousands of people were united in opposition to the conflict, where daily rallies were happening across the country. While much of the media focus has been on the anniversary of the conflict itself, and the lessons we can learn from it going forward, perhaps more worthy of attention is the sheer scale of public opposition to the war.

Rarely before, and never since, have we seen so many people marching against a common cause. One of the most striking aspects of the protest movement at the time was how it galvanized young people and schoolchildren into vocal opposition to the conflict. Throughout March 2003 schools up and down the U.K were hit by walkouts, as students and staff decided to make their voices heard.

As a fourteen year old schoolkid in Glasgow at the time, I recall clearly the excitement of March 19th. At a time where all of us were angry about the prospect of the war we felt powerless. Staging a mass walk-out that afternoon was a small act of rebellion, but for us it felt like the most significant act in the world. We had the silent support of many of our teachers, a quiet nod here and there to let us know that they didn’t expect us back in the afternoon. Many of them would be joining us at the rally in the city centre.


As handfuls of us left together to start our noisy journey to the march, we fell in with other crowds. Students from Glasgow University draped in banners, handing us signs and teaching us slogans to shout. Other teenagers from local schools looking as nervous as we felt. When the crowds came together in George Square we brought the city centre to a standstill. There was a tremendous feeling of solidarity and power. It felt like what we were doing mattered, that it would have an effect.

One thing that angered all of us was the perception, both in the media and from any adult you cared to ask, that it was nothing but an excuse to skive. That we weren’t interested in the protest, only in the prospect of an afternoon off school. Teachers unions dismissed our protests as truancy. An attitude like that is an insult to the very real feeling of anger we all felt about the war. Schoolchildren were just as opposed to the conflict as any adult or student activist, but without the luxury of freedom to make our voices heard.

The Stop the War movement politicized many of us for the first time. It gave us our first steps into political protesting, and made us feel like a part of something important. Crucially, it was our first real experience of vocalizing our anger and frustration to the world. And ten years on that is as worth remembering as any aspect of the conflict.

“Staying up in the premier league is not as easy as people think”

Dunfermline face Dundee United tomorrow. Propping up the premiere league, every game counts. Jim Leishman, ex-player and director of football at Dunfermline, talks relegation, Rangers and a rough year.

“With football you’ve got to get results. We’re bottom of the league. A lot of times its not just the manager’s fault. It would be totally unfair to say were bottom of the league because Jim MacIntyre’s not a good manager. Just eight months before, he won the first division championship and it was great. I was part of the celebrations, I saw the delight in the families, I saw the delight of the players.

“Loads of things determine what league position you are. If you’ve got 3 million pounds to spend on players and you’re still at the bottom of the league you can get judged, it’s your fault.

“In Jim MacIntyre’s case he had loads of injuries. He brought players in and some of the top players were getting injured within two games. Now that is just real hard luck. But the public judge on league positions, and results and unfortunately Jim paid the price for that.”

Is there still time for Jim Jefferies to save Dunfermline from relegation?

“When I took over we had three games to go and we were bottom and we managed to stay up. Jim’s got seven chances to keep us up. So we’ve just got to start winning and believing this week.

“Hopefully he’s better than me. That’s the objective; try to give the players a lift, a new voice a new idea. Hopefully it works in a positive way.”

“Would you have liked to be the manager?”

“No, dinnae! I’ve worn that t-shirt, been there, seen it, done it, and you know – no.”

Because the blame’s laid at the manager’s door?

“I get the blame for everything anyway. It doesn’t bother me now! No, it does. It upsets you. No, I’ve been a manager since twenty-nine, I’ve done loads of things. So I’m content with what I’ve done. I’m fine with the director role. Would I like to be in charge of real Madrid?” a dubious pause and Jim starts laughing. “No as big as the pars. I’m with the big team.”

Has Rangers paid off its full debt to Dunfermline?

“We’re due 83 thousand pounds, and we’ve received 40 thousand pounds. The other moneys on its way in April sometime. The (Pars) players have been paid their basic salary. There’s still due some money for bonus and appearance money which were hoping to get that paid as soon as we can.”

Does he think the future of Scottish football is in trouble?

“It’s been a strange year, talking about league reconstruction, going down to ten, going up to sixteen, staying at twelve. I think that started to become a negative, chatting about that all the time. I don’t think that helps.

“When you do your budgets at the start, you estimate how many supporters are gonna come through the gate. For different reasons this year, we haven’t achieved those figures.

Our first game we expected seven or eight thousand people. Then they changed it from the Saturday to the Monday evening. And we get five and a half. Then Hibbs, estimated 6000, but averaged 4100. So that was harsh. We lost that revenue, we had a postponed game, storm damage and them the Rangers thing hit. So these are things that you don’t plan for.”

Was scoring the last winning goal at Ibrox one of your career highlights?

“That was great. That was forty years ago, April 72, thats the last time they won at Ibrox.”

“But it does mean that if Dunfermline win now against Rangers, your record is broken.”

“They better not! No, of course you want them to win, but, I just milk it, I’ve had some good fun with it. Everybody expects me to say that now, but it was a great achievement. I was only young at the time, eh? We won four-three, I scored the first goal it was great,. Loads of things. I was a Dunfermline supporter, and signing for the club was an amazing feature. Promotion as a player. Promotion as a manager. Nowadays, staying up in the premiere league is a major feature. Its not as easy as people think.”

Five Sisters Zoo appeals for donations for rescued bears

Wojtek the soldier bear knew many tricks as it was claimed he was tame. Picture by Imperial War Museum

The West Lothian zoo is appealing for £60,000 to be raised for three former circus bears.

Carmen, Suzi and Peggy are currently in a holding pen in Belgium where they have been held in cages barely bigger then themselves.

For the last 20 years they have been transported around Europe as part of a circus act. The small zoo hopes to raise enough money to bring the bears to Scotland so they can live out their lives in space and peace.

This brings new debates over the laws of circus animals in the UK. While no animal circuses can be based in the UK, it does not stop others touring. There is a fear that tighter laws will come into force in England and encouraging some of them to also come to Scotland.

Four Famous bears:

Sooty has been making children laugh for generations and is a household name. Presenting his own TV show, along with Sweep, and performing magic the small bear has appeared in both children’s and adult’s programmes alike.

Tian Tian and Yang Guang the Giant Pandas who found fame in Scotland as they are the only Giant Pandas in the UK. They still have a waiting list at Edinburgh Zoo.

Paddington Bear is perhaps the oldest bear on our list and is famous for his love of marmalade. Paddington has become a cultural symbol for Britain and can be found in many tourist shops.

Wojtek the Soldier Bear – While the Polish army were travelling to Iran the soldiers came across a bear cub in the mountains. The soldiers took the cub in and he became part of the 4th Platoon where he developed a taste for beer and cigarettes. He often wrestled many of the soldiers, though few dared take him on. After the war in 1945 many of the soldiers settled in Europe, Wojtek moved into Edinburgh Zoo where his picture can still be found on the reception wall.

Tian Tian the panda is in the mood for love

Image supplied by Royal Zoological Society of Scotland

Tian Tian the panda, also known as Sweetie, may be ready to mate with Yang Guang as early as next week on Tuesday 3rd or Wednesday 4th April.

Edinburgh Zoo and their team of experts have identified an increase in Tian Tian’s oestrogen and a decrease in her progesterone. Female pandas only ovulate once a year, and there is only a 36 hour period in which a female panda can fall pregnant. The two pandas at Edinburgh Zoo will be introduced to each other on Tuesday for 15 minutes at at time. They will probably be put together three times on the first date of Tian Tian being in oestrus. If natural mating does not occur on the first day of oestrus, the zoo may consider the option of artificial insemination.

However, expert keepers will be keeping an eye on the two, as pandas often tend to fight after mating or instead of mating.

A spokesperson for Edinburgh Zoo said has said: “We understand that the whole country is in a state of heightened anticipation, but whatever the outcome of next week, we as animal conervationists and scientists have learnt a huge amount in such a short time about this captivating species. We are just delighted to be playing our part in the essential long term worldwide panda breeding programme.”

Image supplied by Royal Zoological Society of Scotland

Panda Mating Facts:

 Panda mating season is from March to May.

A female panda may be in heat from two to seven days.

Pandas reach reproductive maturity at the age of seven years which lasts until they are 20 years old.

A female panda attracts a mate by rubbing against trees and urinating which leaves a scent which grabs the attention of male pandas, as well as by bleating calls.

The male panda leaves the female panda after mating and has nothing to do with the raising of the cub.

Pandas can have between one to two cubs at a time, but because newborn pandas require a high amount of care the mother will usually reject one of the cubs.

What’s in the Queen’s handbag?

Queen Elizabeth II enjoyng the sun. Picture by Bill Ingalls

Although it may be a challenge to guess what is in any woman’s handbag, it is safe to assume we all carry the basic essentials; phone, purse and keys. But what if we didn’t need to carry money, there was no need for us to own a phone or even house keys? That is the everyday life of HRH Queen Elizabeth. So what exactly does Her Majesty carry in her handbag?

The Diamond Jubilee will celebrate 60 years of the Queen’s reign. Although it will not be officially celebrated until June, there have already been some occasions, competitions and discussions over the event.

Her Majesty earned approval with the locals by restoringPerth to city status earlier this month, but there has still been much debate over her keynote speech. Given last week to a large audience including the current and two previous prime ministers, the Queen avoided the topic of Scottish independence. Speaking instead on the “spirit of neighbourliness and celebration of own communities” and of the “resilience, ingenuity and tolerance” of the British people. HRH went on to state she would remain as head of state and joked of her dealings with the past 12 prime ministers.

In the run up and during the Diamond Jubilee, Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip will be touring the UK, along with her infamous handbag.

There have been plenty of guesses over time, and even a book, which pieces together many clues and hints over the contents of the bag. ‘What’s in the Queen’s handbag and other royal secrets’ by Phil Dampier and Ashley Walton claims the Queen carries everything with her from good luck charms given to her by her children to family photographs.  It even goes on to claim there is a secret language conveyed for the Queen to comminute with her staff.  If the Queen places her handbag on the table at dinner it signifies she wishes the event to finish for example. One of the most popular claims, both inside the book and out, is a hook the Queen carries especially for her handbag; this is designed to keep her bag from ever touching the floor.

From the mouths of babes:

To help investigate this mystery I ask primary school pupils aged between seven and eight what they think is in the Queen’s handbag. The most popular answers were money, make-up and an iphone2. However, others believe HRH carries; a spare hat, a shiny crown and even her favourite corgi, while one boy believes the Queen “doesn’t need any money in her purse cause she can have anything she wants.”

Top Five Facts you didn’t know about the Queen:

  1. The Queen has owned more than 30 corgis during her reign, starting with Susan who was a present for her 18th birthday in 1944. Her Majesty currently has three corgis – Monty,Willowand Holly.
  2. In 60 years, The Queen has undertaken 261 official overseas visits, to 116 different countries.
  3. The Queen and The Duke of Edinburgh have sent approximately 45,000 Christmas cards during The Queen’s reign.
  4. Over the reign, Her Majesty has given regular audiences to 12 Prime Ministers. Ranging from Winston Churchill to the present David Cameron.
  5. Unusual live gifts given to The Queen on foreign tours include: two tortoises given to The Queen in the Seychelles in 1972; a seven-year-old bull elephant called “Jumbo” given by the President of Cameroon in 1972 to mark The Queen’s Silver Wedding, and two black beavers given after a Royal visit to Canada.

Read the Queen’s complete keynote speech here

See all the pictures of the Queen and her audience during her speech here

Comment: George Watson’s College’s MUN Conference

George Watson's College hosted their annual MUN this weekend
Image: Alexandra Wingate

If there’s one group we like to blame society’s problems on, it’s young people. These binge drinking hoody wearers are disaffected, uncaring and couldn’t spell “politics” if their entire Spelling Bee credibility depended on it, right?

Wrong. While some of us continue to bury years of repressed memories of endless evenings spent crying over boys and loudly hating our parents, there is one place guaranteed to restore a long lost faith in teenagers: a Model United Nations conference.

This weekend’s MUN at George Watson’s College is the largest school-based conference of its kind in Scotland. Attracting over 600 secondary school pupils from across Britain, Europe and even North Africa, ages range from as young as 12 right up to 18 – and all of them with a keen interest in international relations.

The three-day conference is spent debating a wide variety of issues, ranging from designer babies and women’s pay, to the justification of torture and overcoming poverty. Sometimes the discussions wander into satire (take, for example, Germany’s proposal that a hotline between a selection of UN member states have Britney Spears’ “Hit Me Baby One More Time” as its holding tune), but usually they’re serious, well researched and impressively thorough.

There’s a wide range of abilities here, from the seasoned MUN veteran to the nervous first timer, but for all of them it’s cool to be clever. This is helped by the overwhelming feature at George Watson’s being the feeling of inclusion; nobody can be found sitting awkwardly on their own or left red faced in the aftermath of a “stupid” suggestion.

“We pride ourselves on being a friendly conference,” explains chair of one of the political committees, Lily Taylor. “So if it’s anyone’s first conference we really encourage them to speak.”

Being young, these kids take everything in their stride. Full of modesty and sheltered from the harsh realities of a competitive job market, they don’t seem to grasp quite how astonishing what they’re doing is. One boy cringes at his mum’s public yet withheld expressions of pride, while another talks down his achievements, instead joking about accepting bribes in the form of bags of Haribo, a selection of lollipops and even a cabbage.

As well as having the confidence to stand up and present their argument in front of an entire hall full of their peers, they all clearly know their stuff – and if they don’t, they’re quickly pulled up by someone else who does. The enthusiasm is infectious; they might be role playing, but each speech is passionate without exception, with the debates becoming more and more colourful as the weekend progresses.

If there’s one criticism of the MUN scene, it’s that it’s still dominated by private schools. As an extra curricular activity, it’s perhaps little wonder that only a handful of state schools have the resources to establish and nurture any kind of MUN club. That said, a good number of the Scottish schools at George Watson’s conference are state schools, including James Gillespie’s High School which held its first one-day conference at the end of last year.

But the most profound outcome of an MUN has got to be the effect it has on the minds and attitudes of young people. Not only do participants have to understand and defend the policies and beliefs of a nation often very different to their own, but the conference physically allows them to meet and socialise with people from all walks of life from cultures and countries across the world. Even within the first break, rooms full of people who had never set eyes on each other an hour earlier are a buzz of chatter and laughter in a true demonstration of the unprejudiced openness of youth.

So take heed, ye of little faith: if there’s ever a way to promote cultural understanding and tolerance, a Model United Nations is surely it – and it’s our young people at the helm. We should be proud.

Podcast: Final Harry Potter named best film at Empire Awards

The final film in the British fantasy film franchise took the top prize at the Empire Film Awards 2012 in London last night.

Along with Best Film, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 scooped the award for Best Director, for David Yates. Accepting the award he commented, “It’s a real treat to get this from people who love movies,” referencing the fact that the awards are decided entirely by the public.

Harry Potter was not the only British film to emerge victorious, with Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy winning the awards for Best British Film, Best Thriller, and Best Actor, which went to self-proclaimed ‘veteran’ actor Gary Oldman. Oldman, who received his first Oscar nomination this year after 32 years in the industry, commented that he was delighted to be receiving an award voted for by movie-goers, “This is a very special award, because it isn’t political. There’s no agenda, it’s just movie fans and I will cherish this.”

Best Actress went to Olivia Colman for her harrowing portrayal of a battered house-wife in Paddy Consedine’s Tyrannosaur. “Although it doesn’t seem it, it was the most enjoyable experience I’ve ever had on set,” said Colman on accepting her award.

Another British film, The Inbetweeners, beat out raunchy comedy Bridesmaids to win the Best Comedy prize.

Listen to Katrina Conaglen and Kirsten Waller’s discussion of the awards in an Edinburgh Napier News podcast extra:

Listen here:

Continue reading Podcast: Final Harry Potter named best film at Empire Awards

New Olympic torch route illuminates games’ diverse history

Boris Johnson with torchbearers in new uniforms.
Photo credit: London 2012 Olympics

The Olympic torch will start its 8.000 miles journey on May 19th and will visit every British nation and over 1.000 communities, as well as stunning landmarks like Stonehenge or Isle of Lewis in Scotland. It will need an average of 115 people each day to carry the torch to its final destination in the Olympic Stadium in London July 27

In total 8.000 people will carry the flame along the decided route. 7,300 people were nominees from the public, with a story of achievement or involved in local communities.

The rest are athletes and celebrities. Every torchbearer will wear a white Adidas uniform with gold shards representing the flame.


In Ancient Greek people believed that fire had sacred qualities. They used torches in front of temples as well as for cultural festivals. During the Olympic games the torch and relay were important elements to celebrate the event. During the Games, a sacred flame burned continually on the altar of the goddess, Hera, while heralds traveled throughout Greece to announce the Games.

When the modern Olympic games started in 1896 the torch relay didn’t play a role. The first modern relay happened in1936 during the Games in Hitler’s Berlin. Back then 3.3000 torchbearers carried the flame from Olympia, over eastern Europe to Germany. After that the relay became ritual in opening the Games.

Every four years the flame is lit from the sun’s rays at the Temple of Hera in Olympia, in a traditional ceremony among the ruins of the home of the ancient Games.
After short stops in Greece the torch is handed over to the new Host City in a ceremony in the Panathenaiko stadium in Athens.
Then the announced Torchbearers spread the message of peace, unity and friendship in their journey through the Host Country. Although today the actual meaning and spirit of the torch relay might have gotten lost in a commercialised society, it is still a huge honor for the chosen people to be part of this international mega event.

Finally the Flame is extinguished on the final day of the Games, at the Closing Ceremony.


For every new game the design of the torch changes. From 1936 until now no torch compares to another. This year it was designed by east Londoners Edward Barber and Jay Osgerby, who won a contest run by the 2012 Organising Committee and the Design Council. The golden Torch reflects the 8.000 miles and its equal number runners by an inner and an outer aluminium alloy skin, held in place by a cast top piece and base, perforated by 8,000 circles. Since a lot of the runners will be quite young the torch was designed to be as light as possible and weighs only 8.00 grams.

Jeremy Hunt, Secretary of State for Culture, Olympics, Media and Sport said: ‘This is a big day in the Olympic preparations – the Torch Relay will now come to life for millions of people. The excitement will be increasingly infectious as people all over the UK now start to plan where they’re going to go to see the Olympic Flame and cheer on local Torchbearers.’

Tea grown in panda poo most expensive worldwide

Green tea grown solely in panda excrement will command high prices worldwide.  An entrepreneur in the southwest Chinese city of Chengdu plans to charge up to £2,000 per 500 grams for his product, which he claims says will make it the world’s “most expensive tea.”

An Yanshi says he chose to grow tea in panda poo after learning of its high nutritional value. “The digestive and absorption abilities of the panda are not good. . .They are like a machine that is churning out organic fertilizer. Also, they absorb less than 30 percent of the nutrition from the food and that means more than 70 percent of the nutrients are passed out in their faeces,” he said.

Because pandas only eat wild vegetation, An also claims tea grown from panda feces is truly organic.

He also says using his unique fertilizer eliminates environmental damages caused by chemical fertilizer. He hopes to promote use of animal dung by other farmers throughout China.

Some locals have expressed cynicism at An’s high prices. “It’s sold at such a sky-high price, perhaps this is just hype. I don’t think the most expensive tea in the country is sold at such a price” said 49-year-old Li Ximing.

An defended his decision to charge high prices for his tea, saying that a portion of his profits would be set up a fund used to support environmental projects.

Mother’s Day

By Silvia Montes and Sam Khan-McIntyre

Mother’s Day


Mother’s day has it its origins deep in history, falling on the middle Sunday of Lent, the Christian time of has been celebrated on this day since the 16th century.This day was chosen because the fasting rules were relaxed, due to the biblical story of feeding the five thousand.

It is believed the celebration is influenced by the Roman Spring Festival of Cybele, the Mother Goddess.The date for this was chosen by Christians as the religion spread.

400 years ago, this was the day when people visited their mother church, it was said they had gone ‘a mothering’.This was the largest church in the area, and where they had been baptised.

Click on this link for Simnel cake, a traditional British cake with young servants baked and took home to their mothers on this day, the only day of the year they were allowed to visit their families.

This may be a special present to bake this year to show your mother how much you love her and make her feel special with something personal

Scotland’s first Festival of Erotic Arts smothers the smut

With Edinburgh International Festival’s much-anticipated summer programme being launched on Wednesday and the first Fringe tickets already on sale, March is the time when the buzz of Edinburgh’s summer festivals really kicks off.

But there’s a new festival in town which is getting the tongues of arts enthusiasts wagging: the Festival of Erotic Arts (FEA).

Running for three days in June, FEA is the first of its kind in Scotland and follows a growing number of cities who have begun hosting such festivals in recent years; Seattle’s Festival of Erotic Art is now in its tenth year, and attracts over 10,000 visitors, while similar events take place annually in Paris, Berlin and New York among others.

As with any new and controversial event, FEA’s programme announcement sparked furore over the weekend, with both the city council and the Church of Scotland voicing concerns over the potential risks posed to vulnerable women and the impact advertising could have on children.

But rather than reinforcing and perpetuating clichés, the festival’s organisers, Itsy Live Events, promise to give a platform to erotic art in all its forms, as well as creating a place for art and performances not otherwise seen in mainstream venues.

Events are typical of any other arts festival; exhibitions and talks include Erotic: Surreal and Abstract and A Spoken History of the Erotic Arts. The innocently named Arts & Crafts Fair is being plugged as “a one-of-a-kind sexy fair” with everything from books to accessories to clothes being sold by craftmakers and artists alike.

For those keen to dip their toe into the erotic water, there’s a beginner’s workshop in Japanese style bondage, which involves decorative ties with ropes. Run by a bondage professional, the ticket price includes a goody bag with lesson sheets, 15 metres of rope, and an all-important pair of safety scissors.

Despite being a short, weekend festival, many of the names involved in the FEA are the crème de la crème of the UK’s fetish scene. London-based Torture Garden’s fetish, burlesque and body art club nights for “alternative arty weirdos” are the biggest in the world, with previous visitors including Marilyn Manson, Dita Von Teese and Jean Paul Gaultier. A debate on the nature of human sexuality will be hosted by award nominated cabaret act, ArtWank, while internationally bestselling author and blogger extraordinaire, Zoe Margolis, will be giving a Q&A on the art of sex blogging.

With Margolis a regular contributor to The Guardian and The Observer, the FEA is going out of its way to make sure this festival is taken seriously. Describing it as “a sleaze-free celebration of a thriving art form”, there’s an undeniable absence of smut in the way it’s being marketed – and if nothing else, it’s good advertising for Itsy Live Events’ other specialist service, “reputation management”.

Finland says farewell to the Markka

"The Euro: what 'value' a currency?"

Before leaving Scotland a friend handed over some old Finnish markka,
challenging me to see if I could “still use them.”

In truth the Finnish markka ceased to be legal tender in 2002. Finland adopted the euro when entering the Eurozone in 1999, and is still the only Scandinavian country to have embraced the single currency.

My only option, then, is to get them changed.  On a day when the euro crisis has deepened, and Nokia Siemens Networks has been forced to announce cutting a quarter of its workforce,  I show the 240 Finnish markaas, including two big green notes depicting the composer Sibelius to Jenni, the teller at Forex Bank.  She looks surprised to see them. “You want to get rid of them,” she advises, adding that from next year nowhere will take them, even the Finnish National Bank.  “Are the Finns sad about that?” I ask.  “No” she says instantly.

“With everything that’s been going on in the Eurozone, do Finnish people want their old currency back?” I ask, adding, “are you fed up of the euro?” Jenni’s smile falters.  She looks at me as if I am stupid.  “No, why?” she asks.

Her reaction will be a disappointment to Timo Soini, the outspoken leader of the far-right party True Finns, who made surprising gains in last year’s election.  Soini is an outspoken critic of the EU, and has since voiced his desire to run for the presidency.  He takes credit as attempts to derail the bailouts of Portugal and Greece.

Every Finn I speak to seems embarrassed by the True Finns.  “Finland is a Social Democratic country, like the rest of Scandinavia,” Taisto Oksanen, 47, a well-known Finnish actor tells me. “But in the last ten years we’ve seen that erode.  We didn’t have too much of a class divide before, but since the Euro some people have got very rich, and a few hundred thousand people have just dropped into poverty. Our education and social welfare has been damaged.   The old parties were seen as corrupt and in with business, so I think people voted for the True Finns for change.  But it’s happening all over Europe – people are voting for those that blame the immigrants.  Look at Spain.  It is history repeating.”

“True Finns are very conservative, want the Finnish markka back and to kind of isolate Finland from the rest of Europe.  I don’t know how the support packages will actually help the citizens and I think that the banks should also take some responsibility for all of this.” says International Business student Milka Tanskanen, 21. “ I was ten years old when we started to use Euro in Finland, so I don’t actually have any real experience of the Finnish mark.”

“The old notes were nice,” Oksanen tells me.  “The euro, the note, doesn’t mean anything to me.  It has less ‘value’.”


Edinburgh Napier’s Christmas gift guide

Vintage box sets £10 each

The Christmas season is upon us and the inevitable Christmas shop is sure to bamboozle even the most organised shopper. Enter Napier News‘ essential Christmas gift guide: a selection of unique gift ideas all available locally with personal recommendations and top tips from those in the know.

For the health conscious…

Head to Napiers herbalists on Bristo Place where you will find pampering treats with their excellent range of his and her skin care products. Made using only the finest natural ingredients, we’re recommending the facial box sets that include a facial wash, toner and moisturising cream, guaranteed to give you that winter glow. Coming in at £45 each, these beautifully packaged sets are sure to be a hit on Christmas morning.

Also available are Napier’s vintage gift sets based on traditional remedies that include a hot toddy and ginger cordial mix perfect for warming up even the coldest winter evening.  After the decadence of the festive season, refresh and replenish with the Weekend Off detox box, a herbel supplement that helps to balance the body and keep you healthy.

10% student discount available. |  Find out more at:

Pocket hot water bottles only £5 each!

For the perfect stocking filler…

Available at Halibut and Herring, keep your hands cosy on those long winter walks with a range of pocket hot water bottles in a wide range of designs. At only £5 each, these wooly winter warmers are a steal!

Or how about a handmade selection of Christmas charms from Rosie Brown? From snowflakes to Christmas puddings, these individually crafted charms are perfect for updating bracelets and necklaces. An engraving service is also available to add the personal touch. Give that special someone the perfect Christmas gift with a love letter charm. These delicate silver discs can be engraved with a personal message as the ultimate token of love.

Pop in store:  Both Rosie Brown and Halibut and Herring are located on Bruntsfield Place  |    15% off available at Rosie Brown’s Christmas evening with mulled wine and mine pies on 30th November. 6-9pm. |  Find out more at: and

Pig out with this festive feast at £10.99

For the chocolate lover…

The Harvest Garden is a chocaholic’s haven of indulgent and original edible treats. Play a game of chocolate draughts after Christmas dinner or for an alternative take out, feast upon gourmet chocolate pizza made from Belgian milk chocolate, creamy vanilla fudge pieces, chunky pieces of chocolate brownie biscuit and topped with white chocolate curls.

Pop in store: 58- 60 Morningside Road |  Find out more at: |

Average is sexy

Many people have always believed that guys have to be not only handsome and smart but also tall to be successful in reproduction.

Average is the new Sexy

However, a new study from the Netherlands shows that it is not the tallest men that have the most children, but rather men who have an average height of about 177 cm (5 feet 9).

Gert Stulp and his team from the University of Groningen examined data from highschool-graduates from Wisconsin in the US. All people in the study had finished their ‘reproductive career’ and had graduated from school in the 1950s. They found that “average height men attained the highest reproductive success as measured by the number of children ever born”.

“Sounds right.”, says David, a 23-year old worker who wishes not to give his full name. “It’s probably due to natural selection. Women probably choose the guys on a subconscious level and like average height more.”

“Average is beautiful. I mean, most people like average faces because they have a bit of everything  and everyone in them and why should it be different for height?”, says Chris P.  a Phd student in biomedical sciences.

But it’s not just a black and white story. Tall and short men shouldn’t worry about their lack of future children just because those of average height seem to be the most reproductively successful. Education and money also influence the number of children men have and at what age they have them, say Stulp and his collegues. The more educated men are, the later they marry and have children and the fewer children they are likely to have. But the greater the income, the earlier they tend to marry and reproduce.

“Taking education into account makes it slightly more believable. I mean, I’m 28 and I’m neither married nor do I have kids and I think I’m average height. But I’m in full education and obviously don’t have an income.  That’s perhaps why.”, says Tom B. an engineering student.

But inevitably, who knows what makes women and men tick. So, don’t worry too much about finding someone to reproduce with: there’s a suitable partner out there for everyone.

Freddie certainly gave us Somebody to Love

A scene from the musical 'We Will Rock You'

Hit West End show, We Will Rock You, comes to Edinburgh
to commemorate the 20th anniversary of Freddie Mercury’s death.

The Queen frontman died an untimely death 20 years ago today. His death came one day after publicly announcing that he had Aids and asking fans to join him in his fight against the deadly virus. His anniversary coincides with the opening of ‘We Will Rock You’ at the Edinburgh Playhouse on Monday, November 29, 2011. The sell-out production will rock Edinburgh for six weeks. The performance is directed by Ben Elton with Brian May and Roger Taylor supervising music. On the opening of the production, Brian May said: “People will definitely come out of the theatre feeling that in a strange way they now know us, Queen, our struggle and our journey.”

Based on a fantastical story, Ben Elton explained: “We take the legend of Queen and create our own fantastical story of young kids battling the mighty corporations who want to suppress their individuality and their love of music. They need a hero who can help them in their struggle, and we have two – the dreamer Galileo and the sassy rock chick Scaramouche. Guess who ends up winning?”

One of Mercury’s most famous quotes, “I’m not going to be a rock star, I’m going to be a legend” certainly rings true today.  His music with Queen is still considered to be some of the greatest ever made, earning him his coveted legend status. His flamboyant routines and outrageous costumes entertained fans for decades. Mercury undoubtedly proved his dedication to his fans when he continued to entertain them, worldwide, while battling his illness. Belting out well known hits such as Bohemian Rhapsody, Another one Bites the Dust and Don’t stop me now, he carved his name into the heart of the music industry.

To celebrate the opening, a Gala event will be held on December 1, 2011 in the Edinburgh Playhouse. Held to raise funds for the Mercury Phoenix Trust, it will feature a special appearance from Queen legend Brain May. The Trust was founded in 1992 by Brian May and Roger Taylor, together with Queen manager Jim Beach. Since the establishment of the trust, it has raised over $15 million to contribute more than 750 grants to Aids charities worldwide.

December 1, will also mark World Aids day. It helps people living with the disease and commemorates those whose lives it took.  Brain May said: “I am really excited to be taking part in the show in Edinburgh, it’s always so much fun and a fantastic atmosphere and to know we are raising money for the Mercury Phoenix Trust is the icing on the cake.”

Tickets are still available for ‘We Will Rock You’ playing in Edinburgh Playhouse. For more information visit

Stirling Castle inspires new exhibition

Exterior view of Stirling Castle © Crown Copyright reproduced courtesy of Historic Scotland

Scottish artist, Iona Leishman, is preparing to launch an exhibition
based around Stirling Castle’s turbulent history.

The exhibition, entitled Sense of Place, will open on December 2 and celebrates works inspired by the site’s tempestuous history and outstanding built heritage. The colourful mix of real and imagined subject material stretches to around 80 canvases, many created with light to the dramatic physical outlines and sheer power of the castle’s crag-top location.

Many Scottish kings and queens have been crowned at Stirling, including Mary Queen of Scots in 1543. There have been at least eight sieges of the castle including several during the Scottish Wars of Independence.

Leishman, originally from Perth, has used her broad spectrum of styles to appeal to a wide range of tastes and ages. Her portfolio conjures historical moments inspired by the Royal Court at Stirling, where the intrigues of kings and queens ultimately forged the political legacy of modern Scotland.

“As well as the celebration of the built heritage and history,” she explained, “I’ve created a third category, crossing point, which forms a bridge between the castle and imagination. I’ve painted at different times of the day to capture the contrasts as the light moves around the castle. But when I’m painting figures, I’m trying to bring something out from inside, using impressions I’ve gained of the castle and what I know of its history”.

The potential of this rich source material has allowed Leishman to develop a huge body of work that has attracted interest from thousands of castle visitors. The residency has proved so successful that Historic Scotland, the organisation supporting the exhibition, is now preparing to expand the programme to include other sites.

“This has been an exceptionally productive project, well received not only by visitors and education groups but also by our staff,” said Historic Scotland’s Head of Learning Services, Sue Mitchell.

“Interest, both internally and externally, in what Iona has achieved, has stimulated an expansion of the artist in residence scheme, and work is now underway to create new programmes at Huntingtower Castle near Perth and Jedburgh Abbey in the Scottish Borders.”

The show is free to all visitors at Stirling Castle, and can be found in the Exhibition Room within the Nether Bailey complex. All paintings are for sale and an exhibition catalogue is also available.

The Quest for Robert Louis Stevenson

A celebration of the life and work of Robert Louis Stevenson kicked off in Edinburgh today.

A literary trail of quotes were written on the ground in various locations connected to the Edinburgh born novelist for admirers of his work to follow. Copies of two of his most iconic books, ‘Kidnapped’ and ‘Jekyll and Hyde’ were also laid out for any lucky passer by to take home. The festival continues tonight at the City Arts Centre where actor Nigel Planner and writer Ian Rankin will pay tribute to one of Edinburgh’s treasured writers.

My quest for Robert Louis Stevenson began on a driech day at the top of Edinburgh's Royal Mile.
Down the Royal Mile to the Heart of Midlothian and I came upon my first Stevenson quotes. No books yet, my journey continues.
Jackpot! Outside the Story Telling Centre was my second quote and my first free (but rather soggy) copy of Kidnapped..
Winding my way down to Edinburgh's Historic Grass Market my quest ended when I came upon some more wise words from Stevenson and more books!

Merchiston students set up shop

Students gather around stalls in Merchiston foyer trying to sell their products to others.

Merchiston campus has been transformed into a retail haven by 3rd year graphic design students this week.

The class project called for students to create a group of original market stalls that were cost effective to run and turned over a profit.

The overarching theme of the project is ‘a market environment’ where students aim to develop a better understanding of what products consumers are most interested in. The individual stalls reflect rooms in student residences, with designs including a sweets room, a ‘lads pad’ and a printed media stall.

The budding entrepreneurs received no money from the university to fund their project and instead relied on the generosity of their fellow students to provide their wares for sale.

The range of gifts available include bags, coasters, sweets and ceramics as well as work and illustrations from students of Glasgow and Edinburgh schools of art.

The stalls will be up and running until closing time today to provide inspiration and temptation for any early Christmas shoppers in the Morningside area.

How a boy I didn’t know helped me choose to become an organ donor

The sticker on the back of Sarah's license lets people know her status as an organ donor.

Sarah Turnbull reflects on her decision to become an organ donor:

“I joined the organ donor register a few years ago but I understand how people can have doubts.

At first I didn’t like the idea. I feared the doctors wouldn’t try as hard if they knew I was part of the organ register; a fear I no longer have after assurances that the doctors wouldn’t ever give up on a patient if they were struggling for their life.

My next concern was my heart. I didn’t like the idea of somebody else having it. They could have anything else, just not my heart.

I know I won’t need it after I’m dead but there was something about the idea of being buried in the ground without a heart that I didn’t like.

But then I read a news story about a seriously ill ten-year-old boy signing up for the donor register. He had a fatal illness and there was no cure. A couple of days later he died and his organs and skin were donated. That one little boy saved 30 people.

That story changed my views. I no longer have any problems with signing the organ donor register. Now I know after I die someone else could be given a new life.”

The New Riverside Museum


courtesy of

Glasgow’s Riverside Museum is the UK’s newest and most exciting visitor attraction, home to the transport, engineering and shipbuilding legacy that made Glasgow great.

The Riverside Museum is an architectural masterpiece, designed by British-Iraqi, Zaha Hadid.  Her company was picked from 140 submissions to build the £74 million Riverside Museum. The 74 million museum is Hadid’s first major public commission to open in Glasgow and 18 months later there will be another great master work will be opening – the new aquatics centre for the 2012 Olympics.

Visitors will be struck by the stunning displays, packed with fascinating exhibits, high-tech and hands-on interactions and inspiring moving stories. You’ll be able to walk down the re-created 1900s street, drive a locomotive and tackle a tenement fire, with more than 3,000 objects on display, there is something for everyone of all ages.

Outside, The Tall Ship Glenlee is moored in front of the museum creating a dramatic and iconic international destination. The Glenlee is one of only five Clyde-built sailing vessels afloat in the world today and the only one in the UK.

Councillor Gordon Matherson, the leader of Glasgow City Council, said “Glasgow’s history as an industrial giant, a global leader in engineering and shipbuilding, is celebrated is am architectural masterpiece which shows that we remain at the cutting edge of design and technology.”

Zaha Hadid said “The history of Glasgow is profoundly interlinked with the history of the Clyde, and together they have informed the museum’s design. I wanted the building to reflect the importance of its location and allow for the innovative and inspirational display of its outstanding collection. The fluid design continues Glasgow’s rich engineering traditions; a true demonstration and celebration of the skills and passion of local engineers and contractors who helped to bring this building to life.”

The museum will open its doors to the public on 21st June 2011. Entry to Riverside Museum is free!

Homophobia in schools: the last taboo

“I’ve been stabbed because of my sexuality.”

This pupil is one of thousands of victims of homophobic bullying in schools across the UK. Almost two thirds of young people, in the gay community, experience bullying in secondary schools. The charitable organisation Stonewall, which lends support to the gay community, found that homophobic bullying, after taunting because of weight, is the most frequent form of abuse in secondary schools. It is three times more prevalent than bullying due to religion or ethnicity. Unfortunately, a culture of homophobia exists in many school environments and this creates problems for young people trying to come to terms with their sexuality.

Previous poster campaign by Stonewall. Image courtesy of

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