Saturday, 28 March 2009

Waste not want not

I'm very excited. I've just come back from a wander round Dennistoun where I live. I went into the Salvation Army charity shop and got a skirt, a top and a going out top and shrug thing for just over a tenner. How good is that? Ever since I've returned from Sri Lanka I've been so aware of our throwaway culture and I hate it.

When I first got back I remember walking round a clothes shop feeling slightly sick remembering my old shopping habits where I'd buy things on a whim whether I need them or not; where I would sometimes buy two of the same thing in different sizes to save me trying them on (and I NEVER took the wrong size back); and where I'd often forget I'd bought something until I discovered it in a drawer 6 months later.

People in Sri Lanka don't lead saintly lives but they do live on very little by not wasting and instead recycling everything. What would happen to the clothes in charity shops here if nobody bought them? They'd be chucked in the bin and replaced with more of the same made God knows where by God knows who earning God knows how many buttons.

I am not cured of this throwaway materialistic sickness, not by a long shot. But I'm still, nearly a year after returning from Sri Lanka, very aware of it, still keeping it under control and still going for improvement. Buying great clothes at excellent prices in charity shops is a start. But I want to find out more about which of our shops are the worst offenders when it comes to using sweat shops. If I'm going to spend money on new stuff I want to make sure my conscience is clear. It's one of those things you know you ought to know already but it's never too late to learn. I'll keep you posted!

Incidentally the photo is not particularly related to this post but I promised these wee girls in Sri Lanka that I'd put them on my blog someday! What I like about the photo is the contrast between the drabness of the house and their beautiful lit up little faces.

Friday, 27 March 2009

Some things you wish you didn't know

Last night I went to see Fugee at my old drama school The Royal Scottish Academy of Music & Drama. It was very special for me because the production was put on by Dramaworks, the evening and weekend drama programme for children and adults and that is headed up by Eona Craig. Eona was in my class at drama school. There were only 20 of us and it was an intensive course to say the least so we all got to know each other pretty well. But I've not seen her for 22 years!! So it was fantastic to meet her, share a few memories (and in jokes) and see how well she's doing with her life which brings me onto the actual production.

First thing to say is that it is a stunning production. The young actors were incredibly good and as a former drama student (and therefore the world's expert on these matters of course) I can be a very harsh critic. Nothing to criticise last night - it was all very impressive stuff. The writing, direction, acting, lighting, costumes, I just can't praise it highly enough.

But it is the story they told that had the greatest effect on me last night. It's hard to describe how deeply moving it was. But perhaps it will help if I tell you I was embarrassed to find myself crying on 3 occasions - embarrassed until I spoke to the RSAMD's Director of Drama Maggie Kinloch and she confessed she, too, had cried. I think the entire audience struggled to hold back the tears.

Fugee is a slang word for a refugee of political oppression or natural disaster. And these young actors last night, told the tale of the arrival of unaccompanied children fleeing from their country and ending up in the UK. The main character is Kojo. The young guy who plays him comes on stage and tells us "my name's Kojo, I'm from the Congo. I don't look like this guy who's playing me, he's just an actor, but he's using my words and he's telling my story". It's very clever and very effective.

The stories are so distressing - Kojo for example, watched his mother, father and little brother being shot. "Kill me too" he begged. But they didn't want him dead. They wanted him as a soldier. And on that day, his 11th birthday, he was recruited as a child soldier expected to murder others in the way he'd just watched them do to his beloved family. It would have been emotional enough were it all fiction but the fact is that all the stories we heard about last night were true or based on truth.
The Dramaworks Team worked closely with the Scottish Refugee Council and the Young Survivors Group which is made up of young people who really did live the lives being portrayed onstage. They are young people who arrived in Glasgow as orphaned children completely on their own in a country where they didn't speak the language and had no-one but us to help them escape and come to terms with their traumatic pasts.

The Young Survivors group were in the audience last night but we all had to leave and give them a few minutes to gather themselves together. I can't begin to imagine what was going through their minds as they watched it. I had heard of unaccompanied minors arriving looking for refugee status of course, but I had no idea that it was anything more than a rare occurrence. I was wrong - only this week several unaccompanied children have arrived on the doorstep of the Scottish Refugee Council.

There are so many issues surrounding these children but as I'm going to be meeting some of them shortly, I'll wait until then to talk about that. For now I'll just say that last night was a perfect example of why we need to support the arts. Drama is a fantastic medium for getting messages across and nobody, not even the hardest of hearts, could watch Fugee and not want to do something for these children. I just wish everyone could see it.

Sunday, 15 March 2009

Indygal goes to Holyrood - the name

Well, I'm back to blogging and very happy to be here. As those of you who read my last blog (or any of my previous blogs all listed on the blogroll) know, on 12 February 2009 I was sworn in as a Member of the Scottish Parliament for the City of Glasgow - representing the Scottish National Party, the party I've been an active member of for 21 plus years. And now, of course, finally, the party of Government.

The reasons for my election halfway through the 4 year term of the Parliament are of course very sad. You can read about them by clicking
here and here. I won't go into it here but suffice to say that I won't forget how I managed to get here.

I've called the blog Indygal Goes to Holyrood. No, it's not a tribute to the famous 80s band of my early youth (I say early as it's not over yet!). Indygal is the blogging name I've always used and when I went to Sri Lanka for a few months last year I wrote a new blog "Indygal in Sri Lanka". When I stood as a European candidate for the SNP I had one called "Indygal in Europe" so it makes sense ...

Blogs develop organically so it's difficult to say how this one will end up but my aim, at the moment, is to give a flavour of the kind of things an elected politician gets up to. And don't worry, I won't be moaning on about the long hours and how nobody likes politicians etc - I'll just tell you what I'm doing, what I'm thinking and what I'm trying to achieve.

It's early days but so far I'm loving it and realising it's very different to what I had thought even working at such close quarters as I did. It's definitely long hours, no doubt about it. But I've always worked long hours. I've never had the opportunity this job seems to give me to really make a difference. I had hoped to do a first week in the job diary but it's proving to be too big a piece of work so I've decided just to get started on what's happening now. I'll no doubt go back to the first week or so at some stage but there's no rush.

The reason I've decided to continue with the blog is because I do think it's important that politicians make an effort to communicate with people, particularly the ones they've been elected to represent and I'll definitely try to make the time for regular updates. Feel free to leave comments. They're now being moderated but the policy is fairly relaxed and I'll only not publish or answer a comment if there's a very good reason for it.