Monday, 10 December 2012

Festival team 'porridge sale' to tackle homelessness

THE team behind the annual Festival of Spirituality and Peace in Edinburgh are organising a 'Street Porridge Sale' on 12 December 2012 in support of Streetwork, a hands-on group struggling against homelessness, its causes and consequences.

They will be handing out bowls of porridge to passers-by on the terrace outside St John’s Church, at the corner of Princes Street and Lothian Road, between 8am and 1pm on Wednesday. Donations for Streetwork will be very welcome.

As well as enjoying some hearty porridge on a cold day, this will be chance for people to learn more about Streetwork’s projects and to contribute to their work. Winter is the time when homeless people are most at need and risk.

Streetwork, whose activities are supported by the Scottish Government and the City of Edinburgh Council, among others, works 24 hours, seven days a week with people in housing crisis or who are sleeping rough. It is able to advise, support and refer people for assistance, with the aim of enabling them to find a life off the streets.

“Events like the Street Porridge Sale are so important for raising awareness and support for the vital work that Streetwork does in Edinburgh,” said Jackie Brown, the charity’s Fundraising Manager.

“We are delighted to have the opportunity to join the Festival of Spirituality and Peace at St John’s Church on 12th December, to chat to people, and to tell them more about how we help the most vulnerable people on the streets of the city,” Ms Brown added.

The Festival of Spirituality and Peace, founded in 2001, is one of Edinburgh's most exciting and diverse Festivals. It features over 400 activities across 21 venues each year in August. It involves top-quality speakers, conversations, performances, film, food, exhibitions, family activities, workshops, art, culture and more.

The Festival’s sponsors and team are also looking to extend their work beyond the traditional Edinburgh festival season, and are delighted to be able to support a truly worthwhile cause like Streetwork through the Street Porridge Sale on Wednesday 12 December.

For more information about this event, contact Annika Wolf, St John’s Church, Edinburgh, EH2 4BJ. Email: info@festivalofspirituality.org.uk Phone: 0131 2284249

Monday, 26 November 2012

Thinking ahead... towards 2013

THE 2012 Festival of Spirituality and Peace was a huge success... and now the coordinating group and staff are busily working on plans for 2013.

It's very important to learn from the past as we look to the future, and a good deal of time and effort has been put into looking at the large number of evaluation forms we received (thanks to all who submitted theirs) in order to see what worked best, why, and what can be adjusted for the future.

If you have any further comments, ideas or feedback to leave for FoSP, please feel free to post here.

Monday, 8 October 2012

CLiC launches with a song

THE Festival of Spirituality and Peace has a new neighbour at St John's Church in Edinburgh, where it has been based for twelve years.

The Centre for Living Christianity (CLic for short) was launched on 7 October 2012 at Henderson's Cafe to provide fresh ways of exploring belief and hope for a diverse world. As well as hearing about the new venture and enjoying some good food and wine at a 'First Supper', the 50+ guests also had a good sing, as you can see (and hear - just about!) in this clip!

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Thursday, 30 August 2012

A vintage year for the Festival

THE 2012 Festival of Spirituality and Peace has been described as a “resounding success” by audiences, participants, sponsors - and by the Scottish Government's cabinet secretary for justice, Kenny MacAskill MSP, speaking at the official closing event, held at St John’s Episcopal Church in Edinburgh at the beginning of the week.

Media Coordinator Simon Barrow, who is also co-director of the beliefs and values thinktank Ekklesia, said that it had been "a vintage year" for the Festival, when other Edinburgh events have suffered as a result of competing attractions like the Olympics and the dampening impact of the recession.

Among the many highlights of the Festival of Spirituality and Peace this year have been acclaimed South African a capella group Soweto Entsha; the Grand Mufti of Bosnia and Hertzogovina talking about the Bosnian war 20 years on; a ‘Scottish Six’ series on the past, present and future of Scotland (featuring broadcaster Lesley Riddoch and author Andy Wightman), and ‘Poetry in the Persian Tent’ (which has included headliners Liz Lochhead, Jackie Kay and Marie Howe).

More here

Tuesday, 28 August 2012

Levity and gravity at play

LIGHT and dark, passion and humour - all four met, sang and danced together in Soweto Entsha's final, stirring performance at the Festival of Spirituality and Peace last night.

"It's not all over until the  five guys sing", people were saying. And they were right. A rousing, standing ovation saw off the acclaimed South African a capella ensemble after a show that spanned everything from township, to Gospel, to jive and beyond... even taking in a sassy version of 'Amazing Grace' (if you can imagine that!) and a complicatedly synpocated, joyously tongue-in-cheek take on the Spice Girls' 'Wannabe' as part of the encore.

The backdrop to this all-singing, all-dancing treat was the glorious symmetry of St John's Church, Edinburgh, where much of the Festival has been based for the past month. Tradition and innovation embraced in a sumptuous, gleeful African swansong.

It looked and sounded for all the world as if they were made for one another.

A sound connection

WHERE would we have been without Alex and Wessy?  Without decent sound and dedicated, patient, persistent stage management, that's where.

With several hundred performances across 24 days, the amount of work, adjustment, plugging, unplugging, refitting, wiring, checking, testing and adapting (plus all the complicated technical stuff that goes way over our heads) seems an endless task. 

But it all has to be done. And it makes a huge difference, as you can hear with your own ears.

Here at the Festival of Spirituality and Peace we've been served well by a fantastic team.

They've all been sound. But some of them know what that means more than most!

Festival of Spirituality and Peace: definitely a hit

SCOTTISH cabinet secretary for justice, Kenny MacAskill MSP, has described the 2012 Festival of Spirituality and Peace as a “resounding success”.

He was speaking at the official closing event for the Festival, held at St John’s Episcopal Church in Edinburgh last night (Sunday 26 August).

Mr MacAskill praised the way the Festival of Spirituality and Peace, which is backed by the Scottish Government along with a range of civic, faith and educational groups, brings together people from a wide variety of backgrounds to look at cultural and political issues from a fresh angle. It offers both a Scottish and a global outlook.

Life is about “more than money and material wellbeing”, Mr MacAskill affirmed, and the Festival of Spirituality and Peace – which has featured 400 events across 21 venues this year – is an important example of how to develop a broader perspective.

Among the many highlights of the Festival this year have been acclaimed South African a capella group Soweto Entsha; the Grand Mufti of Bosnia and Hertzogovina talking about the Bosnian war 20 years on; a ‘Scottish Six’ series on the past, present and future of Scotland (featuring broadcaster Lesley Riddoch and author Andy Wightman), and ‘Poetry in the Persian Tent’ (which has included headliners Liz Lochhead, Jackie Kay and Marie Howe).

Also present for the evening was Edinburgh City councillor, Melanie Main, who helped present the second Edinburgh Peace Award to former Dalry Primary School head teacher, David Fleming, for his outstanding contribution to community relations.

Kenny MacAskill MSP and Councillor Melanie Main stayed for the reception after the celebrations in the Church in order to greet the large number of people who have made the Festival of Spirituality and Peace 2012 possible, including chair Raymond Baudon, former director and founder the Rev Donald Reid, and newly announced director Katherine Newbigging.

The Festival of Spirituality and Peace is sponsored and supported by the Church of Scotland, Christian Aid, Edinburgh City Centre Churches, Edinburgh City Council, Edinburgh Inter-Faith Association, Ekklesia think-tank, the Iona Community, the Scottish Government, St John’s Episcopal Church Edinburgh, and the University of Edinburgh.

From AllMediaScotland

Grand finale from Africa

PREDICTABLY, it was a stellar performance from Soweto Entsha (now Africa Entsha) to warp up the Festival of Spirituality 2012 in style. Here's a little taster...

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Persian Tent farewell from Duo Hyperborea

THE Persian Tent at St John's has been an indispensible meeting point throughout the Festival of Spirituality and Peace this year.

It has been an oasis of calm, good food, reviving tea, conversation, spontaneous dance, meeting, gorgeous rugs and ornaments, intense debate, tranquility, music and culture.

So it was fitting that the penultimate performance of the Festival was down to Duo Hyperborea, at 7pm on 27 August. They have now performed on nine occasions across six days at the Persian Tent in the latter part of August.

To Yousef, Richard and all the Persian Tent team goes our most heartfelt thanks and best wishes. Go and visit them in the Persian Rug Village shop in Morningside Road!

Monday, 27 August 2012

Last call for the amazing Soweto Entsha

TONIGHT at 8pm is the last chance to see the amazing Soweto Entsha (now Africa Entsha) at the Festival of Spirituality and Peace.

The gig will take place, as usual, at St John's Church (Venue 127) on the corner of Princes Street and Lothian Road. The guys have also set up their own twitter account, which you can follow @AfricaEntsha.

The five-man ensemble first came to global attention for their grandstanding role in opening the 2010 World Cup in South Africa. They also made acclaimed appearances on the Edinburgh Fringe in 2011. This year they have accompanied us every step of the way with the Festival of Spirituality and Peace.

The boys also gave a fine workshop with volunteers and FoSP staff last Wednesday. You might see some of the fruits of that tonight...

Tickets on the door. Don't miss out!

What a team!

JUST some of the volunteers and staff from the Festival of Spirituality and Peace, at the end of the closing celebrations last night (26 August). 

Thanks to one and all for keeping us in the picture and on the road from 3-27 August.


Diary of a volunteer

AS well as doing an incredible amount of work to make the Festival of Spirituality and Peace the fabulous success it's been, some of our volunteers have also been sharing the experience on social media.

One of these is Kate Foggo, who has bravely forgone her alleged TV addiction (well, that's what the blog claims!) in order to chart three weeks of life on the road, in the Tent, in the kitchen... and, well, wherever needed to keep the show on the road.

Thanks, Kate. And thanks to all the volunteers and people behind the scenes who have worked very hard indeed over the past few weeks. Kate's blog can be found here.

Peace award stresses local alongside global

THE local is as important as the global in terms of peacebuilding and developing understanding across cultures and communities.

That was the message sent out yesterday by the Festival of Spirituality and Peace, the Edinburgh Inter-Faith Association and Edinburgh City Council in giving the second Edinburgh Peace Award to retired local head teacher David Fleming - who is pictured here on the right, along with Councillor Melanie Main.

Raymond Baudon, chair of the Board for the Festival of Spirituality and Peace, commented: "As last year was an international recipient we were wanting to honour a local recipient his year. The award is in its early years, but is an important way to honour others who share our vision of a peaceful world and who do extraordinary things to achieve that. We were delighted to honour David Fleming last night."

Magic Monday brings the Festival to a close

IT is with a heavy but happy heart that we welcome in the very last day of the Festival of Spirituality and Peace 2012.

There will be one last Sacred Space with Japanese harpist Mio Shapley at 12:30pm on Monday, followed by Worship at One and an afternoon of music and dance.

Mairi Campbell will be returning once more with Soundings and Songs at 2pm, a concert of improvised viola and voice drawing on her immediate surroundings and songs from her new album. Mairi is one of Scotland's finest and most respected musicians and has won awards such as Scots Singer of the Year and Female Musician of the Year.

After this at 4pm will be Submerge (left), a duet by Kelly McCartney and Neil Price, two of the principal dancers from Indepen-dance. Choreographed by StopGap, the UK's leading integrated dance company, this promises to be a filmic, shimmering and enchanting performance.

Finally, at 8pm, Soweto Entsha will be doing their final show at the Festival of Spirituality and Peace, giving you once last chance to experience their unique, dynamic and all-around incredible music. It's rumoured that some staff and volunteers will join them on stage... we'll have to wait and see!

Sunday, 26 August 2012

New Festival director welcomed

KATHERINE Newbigging, who stepped in as interim director of the Festival of Spirituality and Peace when Andrew Newman had to return to South Africa due to family bereavement, has been introduced as its new permanent director.

The announcement was made this evening by Raymond Baudon, chair of the Festival Board, speaking at the closing celebrations at St Paul's Church, Edinburgh. 

Katherine is believed to be the youngest woman director of a major Festival of this kind in Britain. She has worked for the Festival of Spirituality and Peace for five years, most recently as its coordinator.

She in turn thanked the two recent directors, the staff teams and managers, the volunteers and the Board for making the 2012 Festival such a huge success - and was received with huge claim

That includes raising over £2,500 for charity from a 50p ticket levy.

Edinburgh Peace Prize winner announced

DAVID Fleming, recently retired head teacher of Dalry Primary School in Edinburgh, has been acclaimed as the second recipient of the Edinburgh Peace Award.

The award, which is co-sponsored by the Festival of Spirituality and Peace, Edinburgh City Council and the Edinburgh Inter-faith Association, marks a particular contribution each year to international understanding.

Mr Fleming's school has had as its slogan "one nation, many clans" and has over 100 flags from across the globe flying on its premises.

The Rev Donald Reid, former director of the Festival of Spirituality and Peace, who helped inaugurate the prize last year, said that Mr Fleming was a "shining example" of someone who had helped to build community understanding and peaceful engagement at a local level with international resonances.

Edinburgh City Council representative, Councillor Melanie Main (pictured), also paid warm tribute to the recipient of the Award, and his dedicated work in the local community. 

David Fleming said that he was very grateful for the award, and wished to receive it not just for himself but for all he had worked with at Dalry Primary School. 

Kenny MacAskill greets Festival of Spirituality and Peace

THE Scottish government's justice secretary, Kenny MacAskill MSP, brought his administration's special greetings to the Festival of Spirituality and Peace this evening.

Speaking at the closing celebration, Mr MacAskill described the Festival, which is now in its twelfth year, as a "resounding success", and thanked all who have been involved in running it.

The Scottish government, along with civic, faith and educational partners - and not least St John's Church in Edinburgh - have been major partners and funders in the venture.

The justice secretary said that it was important to realise that humankind cannot live on money and goods alone, but needed to pay attention to the feeding of the human spirit and wellbeing. This is why the Scottish government has put an emphasis on culture.

Mr MacAskill also noted that although there was considerable attention to the major International Festival of Fringe, there were other aspects of festival season which needed supporting -- including the Festival of Spirituality and Peace.

FoSP director Katherine Newbigging thanked him for his words of encouragement and support for the Festival, which has broken records with sales this year and proved popular across a wide section of the population.

Uniting across divisions

A QUICK clip from the young performers in the stage version of Divided City - which is about youth, passion, football and sectarianism in Scotland.

It was the subject of a productive conversation and dialogue at the Festival of Spirituality and Peace.

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Life's a rehearsal... and more

SOWETO Entsha, the sensational a capella vocal ensemble from South Africa, have been the life and soul of this year's Festival of Spirituality and Peace.

Here they are getting ready for what will be their penultimate performance - the closing celebration tonight. Actually, this isn't quite the end of the Festival. It continues into tomorrow.

Soweto Entasha, appropriately enough, will round it off at 8pm on Monday 27 August.

Gathering to celebrate

People arrive in good time for the closing ceremony of the 2012 Festival of Spirituality and Peace at St John's Church, Edinburgh

Behind the scenes

PUTTING on the Festival of Spirituality and Peace is a mighty undertaking, and wouldn't be possible without a whole host of volunteers and helpers. We'll get a chance to name and honour them in the next few days.

Mention should also be made of the FoSP Board, whose role in overseeing the Festival is crucial. Chair Raymond Baudon is shown here, talking to guests before the closing celebration at St John's Church on Sunday evening.

The other Board members are Frances Cooper, Mark Hoskyns-Abrahall, Janet Rennie, David Palmer and Tom Lea. Appreciation to one and all. 

Your invitation...


Football, politics and religion: beyond division

YESTERDAY'S final Festival of Spirituality conversation and Civic Cafe, The Power of Youth and Football to heal a Divided City, proved extremely rewarding, with opinions and perspectives contributed from everyone from teenage actors to Scottish schoolteachers to Italian migrants.

As was said several times over the course of the afternoon, football and sectarianism is a topic which often prompts even the most reluctant of people to open up about their opinions and emotions.

Author Theresa Breslin, playwright Martin Travers and Jenny Marra MSP were joined by actors Liam and Kieran in opening up the discussion.

Ms Breslin emphasised that Divided City, the book upon which a successful community theatre production was based, is about friendship as much as it is about division, and this ultimately set the tone for the rest of the conversation.

Though there were a few dissenting voices, suggesting that whenever religion is involved there can never truly be any hope, it was concluded that the younger generation is in fact very open to change and education as younger people can often see more clearly. It was even suggested that children have a natural sense of 'justice' that adults often lack.

One question that came up several times was whether football is part of the problem or part of the solution. It was suggested that football is, in many ways, 'war by another name', and there was some disagreement over whether or not competitive sports are inherently damaging.

One response was that the difference between winning by being the best and winning by undermining your opponent is vital. Football also includes collaborative and community elements.

There was a strong feeling that it is attitudes to football that are the problem, in particular rampant commercialisation, rather than football itself.

Sectarian attitudes can exist independently of both football and religion. It was suggested that oftentimes it is football getting wrapped up in alcohol and violence, rather than vice versa, that is the real challenge.

Many suggested that 'demonising' football is definitely not the answer and that providing better opportunities and facilities for football among the young could and should help to prevent violence.

Above all, it was agreed that education is key. Sometimes that means even the most minimal learning about the history and culture of the opposing team - including, but certainly not restricted to, Celtic and Rangers.

Ultimately, we all have a responsibility to help tackle sectarianism and other forms of bigotry and hatred in Scotland today. Passing the buck will not do.

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(c) Katie MacFadyen is a media intern with the Festival of Spirituality and Peace. She is studying Classics at the University of Edinburgh, and also reviewing on the Fringe.

Fitting finale for Poetry in the Persian Tent

POETRY in the Persian Tent ended on a high note this morning with a beautiful variety of poetry and music, including one surprise performer who had come all the way from New York.

Eunice Buchanan started off the morning's poetry with poems on subjects ranging from Noah's wife to the process of cremation, in a mix of Scots and English, in a dynamic and diverse reading.

She was followed by Mandy Haggith, poet and environmental activist, described as 'acutely observant of the natural world' with a series of poems on trees and other woodland flora, often personified: 'honeysuckle', she said, 'is a geisha girl'.

After this came the surprise poet of the morning, Marie Howe of New York, with observational poems on love, marriage and children with quotations from fourteenth century writers and Janis Joplin.

Finally, Stewart Conn, one of Edinburgh's best-known poets, shared some poems and anecdotes about tents, followed by some works with his characteristic dramatic edge.

Interspersed with the poetry was songs by Carole Clarke, accompanied by George Wilson, with a huge range of songs and styles, with lyricists ranging from Robbie Burns to Emily Dickinson.

M.C. Stephanie Green concluded the morning by giving thanks to all who contributed to and attended Poetry in the Persian Tent for helping with a great cause.

You can find more information about Old MacDonald had a Farm for Africa and donate here.


Saturday, 25 August 2012

Sunday treats at the Festival

THE penultimate day of the Festival of Spirituality and Peace 2012 will open with the last Poetry in the Persian Tent at 11am.

Closing off our series of charity poetry readings will be acclaimed poet Stephen Conn, Scots language writer Eunice Buchanan and  environmental activist-poet Mandy Haggith. They will be accompanied by singer Carole Clarke and pianist George Wilson.

On Sunday afternoon at 2pm Celtic band The Outside Track will be performing. Its five members hail from Scotland, Ireland, Cape Breton and Vancouver and are united by a love of traditional music and a commitment to creating new music on its foundation - using fiddle, accordion, harp, guitar, flute, step-dance and vocals.

Later in the afternoon at 4pm will be the Intercake Great Pudding Party - come along to enjoy a range of cakes from around the world in this interfaith pudding party along with a family quiz. It promises to be a 'strictly savoury-free zone'.

Finally, at 8pm, there is the Festival of Spirituality closing event, Living in Hope, with words, music, dance and story from a range of festival performers and guests to represent our hopes for the world and commitment to working for peace. Ending with a rendition of Auld Lang Syne and followed by a reception in the hall until 10:30pm, this is an evening of community, diversity, and, of course, hope.

There will be few final events on Monday, so stay tuned.

Report: Bosnia twenty years on

IN the second of the Feature conversations at this year's Festival of Spirituality and Peace, two especially distinguished speakers came together to discuss the situation in Bosnia-Herzegovina.

They were Dr Mustafa Ceric, the Grand Mufti of Bosnia and Herzegovina and religious leader of the Bosnian Muslim community, and the Rev Donald Reeves, Director of the Soul of Europe, who has been awarded an MBE for his work in the Balkans.

After a brief historical run-down, Mustafa Ceric gave an impassioned introduction, urging the European community to recognise Bosnia as the 'issue and problem' of Europe, and arguing that denying genocide can lead to its repetition and that 'to deny genocide is to commit genocide'.

However, on a more positive note, he said that many Bosnians are for 'peace and reconciliation' and that interfaith work is being carried out in Bosnia-Herzegovina, often with more success than here in Britain

Donald Reeves also discussed interfaith work, and his role in rebuilding a Bosnian mosque that had been destroyed by Christians. He argued that Christians, as perpetrators, have a duty to carry out such acts of reconciliation.

He also argued in favour of a more positive view of the Bosnian situation: while there is a lot of poverty and mistrust of politicians, there is also a strong desire for reconciliation.

The ensuing discussion proved challenging. Some audience members accused Mustafa Ceric of 'demonising' the Serbs by presenting them as sole perpetrators of the violence and ethnic cleansing. However,  he continued to argue that the facts supported his view that this is not a case of equal responsibility.

The impact of the Bosnian civil war on Britain, particularly on British Muslims, was discussed, with audience members sharing their own recollections and frustration of the failure of the Anglican church to take action - though, as Rev Reeves pointed out, the Anglican church in these islands is not necessarily a homogenous group.

Overall, it was a fascinating discussion, and a great insight into the human capacity to love and to hate, to build and to destroy.

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(c) Katie MacFadyen is reading Classics at the University of Edinburgh. She has been a media intern for the Festival of Spirituality and Peace, and a regular contributor to Spirituality & Peace News.

Gaelic-themed Poetry in the Persian Tent

SOME strong and vibrant Gaelic voices were heard in the Persian Tent at St John's this morning, with a Gaelic-themed poetry reading for the Festival of Spirituality and Peace.

Jim Carruth, founder of the Old MacDonald Had a Farm in Africa project, started the session with, true to his roots, a series of farming poems linked by the theme of harvest -- ranging from his own recollection of being forced to help bring in the harvest as a child despite a hay allergy to the imagined experiences of a teenage girl at a harvest dance.

South Uist-born newcomer poet Niall Campbell came next with some poems from his pamphlet After the Creel Fleet and some new poems -- including, following Jim Carruth's example, a harvest poem.

Finally, Aonghas MacNeacail, Scotland's foremost Gaelic poet, changed the tone with a trilingual poetry reading in English, Scots and Gaelic, including a Scots haiku. Aonghas, in his introduction, briefly touched about the overlapping threads that bound the poetry reading together, such as themes of harvest, countryside, and culture-clash.

Also binding the poetry reading together was Patsy Seddon, acclaimed clarsach player, with love songs, dance tunes, and songs about trousers.

The final Poetry in the Persian Tent will be tomorrow morning (Sunday 26th August) at 11am, with your last chance to hear some poetry while supporting a great cause. The price is £10 (£8) on the door.

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(c) Katie MacFadyen is reading Classics at the University of Edinburgh. She has been a media intern for the Festival of Spirituality and Peace, and a regular contributor to Spirituality & Peace News.

Concluding super Saturday at the Festival

THIS Saturday will be the last full day of Festival of Spirituality and Peace events (though the final day is Monday 27th), and as ever there is a full and varied programme planned.

There will be two conversations. The first, at 10am, will be Challenging Islamophobia: the twelve Cities Project.  Islamophobia is rife all across Europe. The Rev Donald Reeves, Director of the Soul of Europe and Shaykh Amer Jamil of the Solas Foundation will be discussing and challenging these issues.

At noon will come our very last conversation and the third in a series on Scottish identity and Sectarianism, The Power of Youth and Football to Heal a Divided City (illustrated). Divided City is a book and musical set in Glasgow: Theresa Breslin, its author, Martin Travers, the playwright, and Jenny Marra MSP will reflect on its success and impact.

On the artistic side, the day will begin at 11am, with Scotland: The Journey Continues in the church. Fife-born songwriter Alan Forrester reflects on his travels around Scotland through songs, readings, photos and painting and on how he became 'even more Scottish'.

At the same time will be the penultimate Poetry in the Persian Tent, this time with a Gaelic flavour as Aonghas MacNeacail, South Uist poet Niall Campbell and Jim Carruth recite their poetry with musical accompaniment from acclaimed Clarsach player and Gaelic singer Patsy Seddon.

A musical afternoon with Rhapsody of Indian Melodies at 2pm. A group of musicians trained under Smt. Chandrima Misra, a Hindustani Classical Vocalist, and Pt. Rajkumar Misra, the Tabla Maestro will blend spirituality and musical excellence with their vocal melodies and rhythmic cycles. Brought to you by the Tagore Centre UK. After this, Soweto Entsha will be performing at 4pm.

Also at 4pm, a unique opportunity to experience poetry in a new way in The Breeze at Dawn - a Rumi Workshop with Duncan Mackintosh. Let Rumi's poems inspire exploration of your own experiences.

Steamer Lane and Stuart McNair will both be performing again in the evening, at 8pm and 10pm. Also at 8pm will be the Glasgow Gospel Choir (right). This choir was established twelve years ago by Jerry Boweh, originally from Liberia, and blends African, Gospel, Motown and Blues. All profits will go to the African Youth Development Action Project.

At 6pm will be the final Japanese Tea Ceremony with Mio Shapley, followed by the first of our closing events, the End of Festival Ceilidh with the Caleerie Buskers at 7pm. This will be great fun for all the family - child under twelve get in free, and instructions and light refreshments will be provided.

Elsewhere in the city, there will be a Breadmaking for Beginners workshop at 9:30am over at the Garvald Bakery. As ever, the Persian Tent village will be open all day, and, as it's Saturday, Wendy Curan will be  doing her Finding your Way Massage Session from 10am to 4pm.

The power of youth and football to heal a divided city


THE final Festival of Spirituality and Peace conversation of the 2012 season, and the third in a series on Scottish identity and Sectarianism, this Saturday sees an event with a different angle on issues of sectarianism, violence and racism in Scotland.

Divided City, a 2011 book by Theresa Breslin, was successfully adapted into a musical play last year. The production was a joint Youth Musical Initiative created and funded by organisations including The Citizens Theatre and Glasgow City Council Education Services and performed by secondary school students from all over Glasgow.

The book and musical tells the story of young football fans who follow opposing teams who get caught up in violence involving Catholics, Protestants and Muslim asylum seekers alike.

This weekend in St John's church, author Theresa Breslin, playwright Martin Travers and Jenny Marra MSP will reflect on the success of Divided City and its impact on local communities.

In partnership with Glasgow Citizens Theatre. The conversation will be followed by an open Civic Cafe discussion.

Saturday 25 August, 12pm-1pm, in the Church at St John's (Venue 127). Free ticketed, reserve tickets here or at the venue box office.

Thinking the future


Review: Poetry in the Persian Tent

Vicki Feaver: image by
Caroline Forbes
VICKI Feaver, described to her amusement as 'domestic gothic', headlined today's Poetry in the Persian Tent with a huge range of her poetry, including poems from her upcoming collection 'Like a fiend hid in a cloud', giving a warm and fierce performance.

She was joined by Patricia Ace with poems from her forthcoming collection 'Fabulous Beast' with works about her family, her daughters, and (of course) frogs and Jane McKie with poems from her latest pamphlet 'Garden of Bedsteads', a tale of love, loss and fishing.

Music was provided by Irene Railley and the Just Voices a capella group with two 'deep and meaningful' songs from the North of England and Bulgaria, and a belated but much welcome performance by Fair Isle,
Shetland folk singer Lise Sinclair, who was sadly unable to attend on Thursday due to the weather.

Poetry in the Persian Tent has been an opportunity to hear some great poetry, new and old, from established artists and up-and-comings, and it will be on at 11am in the Hall at St John's Church (Venue 127) at the Festival of Spirituality and Peace until 26 August 2012.

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(c) Katie MacFadyen is a fourth year student of Classics at the University of Edinburgh, about to start a dissertation in Reception Studies: the study of how classics is and has been used in subsequent cultural contexts. She also writes speculative fiction and theatre, as well as film and book reviews. Her theatre reviews from the Fringe Festival 2011 can be found on http://thenewkid.co.uk and http://somesuchlike.wordpress.com. She is a media intern for the Festival of Spirituality and Peace 2012 and contributes regularly to Spirituality and Peace News.

Friday, 24 August 2012

Reflection...


A fabulous Friday at the Festival


THERE is a focus on political issues viewed in a fresh way this Friday, the final one of the Festival of Spirituality and Peace, starting with Churches Own 8% of the Planet at St John's (Venue 127) at 10am.

This conversation discusses the responsibility of churches as major landowners and issues such as environmentalism, co-operation and collaboration. Featuring Martin Palmer from the Alliance of Religions and Conservation and the Rt Rev Dr John Armes, Diocese of Edinburgh.

Two more conversations come lunchtime: at noon, we ask What is Uprising in Syria?, with Sadarat Kadri, international law barrister, Dr Mounier Atassi, Syrian organiser of a Glasgow protest again the regime, and Dr Thomas Pierret, University of Edinburgh lecturer in Contempotary Islam.

At 2pm, a more unusual conversation, Our Friend Death. Join the writer of sitcom 'Roger and Val', in which death features prominently, Arthur Smith, one of Britain's premier comedians, and John Lanchester, author of 'Capital'. Chaired by Richard Smith, international advocate for a better understanding of death and dying.

The final conversation of the day will be Bosnia Twenty Years On at 6pm, the second of our Feature Conversations. On the twentieth anniversary of the conflict in Bosnia-Herzegovina, Mustafa Ceric, the Grand Mufti of Bosnia and Herzegovina, the Rev Donald Reeves, the Director of the Soul of Europe and Professor Hugh Goddard of the Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal centre for the Study of Islam in the Contemporary World come together to discuss the legacy of the conflict.

Also at 6pm will be the last chance to see The Scottish Six, which has created a really positive stir in Edinburgh. Lesley Riddoch and Andy Wightman discuss land, power, culture and social change in the Scotland of today and tomorrow.

On the literary side of things, there will be another session of Poetry in the Persian Tent at 11am with an all-woman line-up: Vicki Feaver, Jane McKie and Patricia Ace will be sharing their poetry, joined by Irene Railley and her a capella group Just Voices.

After this will come a whole evening of poetry, starting at 8pm with Wolf at the Door – a Collaboration of Eco-Poetry and Soundings between Mairi Campbell and Em Strang. Weaving together word and sound, they will bring a whole new meaning to mouth music.

At 8pm in the Hall will be Duncan Mackintosh's second and final Evening with Rumi, followed by your second chance to see Milosz in Living Pictures.

There will also be two workshops, Henna Workshop for Beginners at 4pm and The Long and Winding Road at 7pm, an informal free session for people in their late teens and early twenties to share their experiences of journeys and travelling.

As ever, a full and diverse day of events and entertainment and one final chance to see some of our great events before the Festival closes.

Duo Hyperborea at the Persian Tent

ACTIVITIES continue right through to the end of the Festival at the Persian Tent Village at St John's Church (Venue 127).

Highlights have included music, poetry, performance and discussion - alongside culture and fabulous food.

The Persian Tent has also been an important place for people to meet across boundaries, a space for relaxation and reconciliation.

Make sure you catch Duo Hyperborea at the Tent before the end of the Festival of Spirituality and Peace. They perform today, Friday (12-1pm and 5-6pm), and then again from 12-1pm and 7-8pm on our last day, Monday 27 August 2012.

Thursday, 23 August 2012

Featured event: Bosnia 20 years on


IN light of the twentieth anniversary of the outbreak of the worst conflict in Europe since the end of World War II, we will be discussing Bosnia's past and future in the second of our Feature Conversations.

The civil war in Bosnia-Herzegovina culminated in the massacre of over eight thousand Bosnian Muslims in Srebrenica in 1995. Territorial, ethnic, political and religious factors all played a part in the conflict, and remain active in the region, and attempts at peacemaking and reconciliation have been made by both political and religious figures.

Mustafa Ceric, the Grand Mufti of Bosnia and Herzegovina, the Rev Donald Reeves, Director of the Soul of Europe and Professor Hugh Goddard, Director of the Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal Centre for the Study of Islam in the Contemporary World at the University of Edinburgh will come together to discuss the legacy of the conflict and the role of faith and community in bringing about healing.

In partnership with the Alwaleed Centre at the University of Edinburgh, part of a network of centres at prestigious universities around the world dedicated to improving mutual knowledge and tolerance between Islam and the west.

Friday 24 August, 6pm-7pm, in the Church at St John's (Venue 127). Get tickets here or at the venue box office.

No longer hidden from history

THE truth can set Scotland free, says Dr Geoffrey Palmer, who first came to Scotland from the Caribbean in 1965, and is at the forefront of reclaiming the complex and sometimes painful history between his two peoples and backgrounds.

He was speaking in the second of two talks and discussions in the Persian Tent at St John's Church as part of the Festival of Spirituality and Peace. The talk delved into the long, damaging history of slavery and the tangible evidences of it in places like Edinburgh, but also the positive relationships that have been developed as people understand versions of the story that binds us together and commit us to commonality.

Dr Palmer has served on the Executive of Edinburgh and Lothian Racial Equality Councils for over twenty years and believes that better knowledge of the historical links between Britain and the Caribbean will improve community relations, increase harmony and - as he said in tongue-in-cheek mode - help Scots reconsider their sense of victimhood!

Conflict involves deep transformation

PEACE cannot be separated from justice and wisdom, nor politics from relationships, a panel discussion on conflict as a positive source of change suggested. It requires transformation not just resolution. 

The conversation at St John’s Church on 23 August was one of several on conflict, violence and non-violence that have taken place over the past few weeks at the Festival of Spirituality and Peace in Edinburgh.

Introducing the theme of the conversation, the Rev Ewan Aitken a senior figure in the Church of Scotland who has also been an Edinburgh City councillor, drew a connection between the personal and the political in addressing conflict.


Maureen Jack spoke of her work in Israel-Palestine with Christian Peacemaker Teams, which was founded in 1984 after a powerful appeal by Mennonite theologian Ron Sider at a Mennonite conference - challenging Christians to show the same sacrifice for peace as armies show for war.

Malcolm Stern, a practising psychotherapist, former Greenpeace worker and co-founder of Alternatives at St James’ Piccadilly in London, has looked deeply at the nature and stages of human conflict.

More here

Plenty of poetry, much humour

POET and writer Jackie Kay has contributed to one of the most exuberant and popular events in the Festival of Spirituality - Poetry in the Persian Tent.

As well as reading from her work, which links human down-to-earth experience with a joyful approach to life and deep observational skills, Jackie produced gales of alughter with her comments and interludes.

She was performing alongside the makar, Liz Lochhead, poet Stephanie Green, who has curated and organised the series, William Letford and musician John Sampson again.

The picture shows Jackie Kay signing books and talking with people in the audience after the performance. 

Poetry in the Persian Tent continues each day at 11am in the Hall at St John's Church, through to 26 August.

Scots in the Caribbean - Scotland's hidden history

EXPAND your knowledge of Scottish history with this surprising and enlightening lecture by Professor Geoff Palmer.

Did you know that most Jamaicans have family connections with Scotland? Both Edinburgh and Glasgow have strong historical links with Jamaica.

This association went from ordinary houses in Edinburgh to grand landmarks such as the Necropolis and the Gallery of Modern Art in Glasgow.

Dr Geoffrey Palmer, who first came to Scotland in 1965, has served on the Executive of Edinburgh and Lothian Racial Equality Councils for over twenty years and believe that better knowledge of the historical links between Britain and the Caribbean will improve race relations and increase harmony.

Thursday 23 August, 6pm-8pm, in the Persian Tent at St John's (Venue 127). Free ticketed. Reserve tickets here or at the venue box office. (This talk was alos given on 9 August.)

Coming up...


Conflict as a force for change

WHEN we see all conflict as automatically and only ‘bad’ do we miss the opportunity for change arising from facing the other?

The unknown, unfamiliar or different confront us. Do confrontation, polarisation and competition have a place in a peaceful world? How can we work with these to our advantage as peacemakers?

These and related questions will be explored in conversation later today (5.45 - 7pm) at St John's Church, Edinburgh (Venue 127, corner of Princes Street and Lothian Road) as part of the 2012 Festival of Spirituality and Peace.

The panellists are Malcolm Stern, a co-founder of Alternatives at St James’ Church in London; Maureen Jack, Christian Peacemaker Teams; and Simon Keyes, St Ethelburga’s Centre for Reconciliation and Peace in London. Chaired by the Rev Ewan Aitken from the Church of Scotland.

(The illustration is the Tent at St Ethelburga's... which we'll be linking with the Persian Tent at St John's.) 

'Conflict as a force for change': Tickets from the Hub or at the box office from the venue. £6.50 (£4.50) / 0131 221 2273.

Thoughtful Thursday at the Festival


GET a peaceful start to Thursday morning with the last Healing in the Chapel at 10:30am. These sessions are for those of all faiths and none and are run by members of the National Federation of Spiritual Healers.

At 11am comes your second and final chance to see Liz Lochhead perform at St John's in today's Poetry in the Persian Tent. Liz Lochhead will be joined by … more information here.

Elsewhere in the city, Artlink invites you to Visit the Glasshouses at the Royal Edinburgh Hospital. There will be free tours at 11am, 1pm and 3pm and artwork will be on display.

Today's Sacred Space will feature Mairi Campbell, multi-award winning musician, followed by Worship at One.

In the afternoon will be the second performance of African Traditional Songs with Grassroots Zimbabwe at 2pm followed by an hour of family entertainment.

This week's What's the Story will feature Duncan Mackintosh with tales of Africa at 4pm. At the same time in the Hall will be the final All Questions and No Answers workshop for parents.

Also at 4pm, Soweto Entsha will be performing. At 5:45pm will be Thursday's conversation, Conflict as a Force for Change. Malcolm Stern, co-founder of Alternatives at St James' Church in London, Maureen Jack from Christian Peacemaker Teams and Simon Keyes of the St Ethelburga's centre will be discussing the place of confrontation, polarisation and competition in a peaceful world. Chaired by the Rev Ewan Aitken from the Church of Scotland.

The Scottish Six is back yet again at 6pm, alongside the second talk from Professor Geoff Palmer, Scots in the Caribbean – Scotland's Hidden History.

A musical evening will follow, with Stuart McNair at 8pm. At 10pm the music of Pawet Odorowitz and the visuals of Robert Motyka come together with the poetry of Polish Nobel Prize Laureate Czeslaw Milosz to make Miliosz in Living Pictures, a unique, unmissable and simply beautiful show.

Over at the Theosophical Society at 7:30pm listen to From the Beatles to Beethoven – The Artist as a Hero, a multimedia talk and presentation by Mike Hall, described as a 'Magical Mystery Tour' back through time.

Don't forget about the Persian Tent Cafe and stay tuned for more tomorrow as the final week of FoSP winds down.

Peace is the Christian way

THAT God is a God of just-peace not violence is the revelation of Christ and the real truth of Christianity, two leading church figures have said.

The comments came as part of a conversation entitled ‘The Spirituality and Practice of Peace in a World of War’, held at St John’s Episcopal Church in Edinburgh on 22 August 2012.

The participants in the Festival of Peace and Spirituality conversation were Fr John Dear, a Catholic priest and Nobel Peace Prize nominee, and the Rev Kathy Galloway, head of Christian Aid Scotland and a former leader of the Iona Community. It was chaired by Brian Larkin, coordinator of the Peace and Justice Centre at St John's.

More here.

Wednesday, 22 August 2012

Rumi: listening to the voice of the heart

THE ancient and hidden truth, for believers and nonbelievers alike, is love. So declared the C13th Muslim Sufi writer and mystic Jalal ad-Din Muhammad Rumi, whose evocative and inspirational work was celebrated this evening.

"Living is firewood", Rumi said. "Let yourself be drawn by what you really are... Gamble everything for love if you are a true human being... There is no companion but love, no starting, no finishing, but a road."

Rumi's work, writing and life was introduced to an audience at the Festival of Spirituality and Peace on Wednesday 22 August by Duncan Macintosh.

The evening of sights, sounds and feelings can be experienced again on Friday 24 August in the Hall at St John's Church (Venue 127) from 8-10pm. £10 (£8) from the Hub or from the box office at the venue.

Powerful message from Catholic Peacemaker

NOBEL Peace Prize nominee and globally recognized advocate for peace and nonviolence, Fr John Dear SJ, is taking part in the Festival of Spirituality and Peace on 22 August.

The Catholic priest will be on the platform alongside the Rev Kathy Galloway, who is the head of Christian Aid in Scotland and a former leader of the Iona Community. The conversation session is entitled 'The Spirituality and Practice of Peace in a World of War'.

The event takes place at St John's Church, Edinburgh (Venue 127), from 6.30pm - 7.30pm on Wednesday evening. The discussion, which will be moderated by Brian Larkin, Coordinator of the Edinburgh Peace and Justice Centre, will explore the resources needed to engage in active peacemaking in a world Fr Dear believes is "addicted to war and weaponry".

More here.

African Traditional Songs with grassroots Zimbabwe

GRASSROOTS Theatre gives you enchanting harmonies and glorious melodies to lift the heart and soul.

Grassroots Theatre Company is based in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe, and specialises in Theatre for Development (TfD), using dance, drama and music to inform and empower local communities in Zimbabwe and overseas. They are very excited to be returning to the 'energy and beauty' of the Edinburgh Festival.

At this special performance, they will be bringing songs from the Ndebele and Shona cultures of Zimbabwe.

Thursday 23 August, 2pm-3pm, in the Church at St John's (Venue 127). Get tickets here or at the venue box office.

John Sampson tunes in

IN between some fine readings from a variety of performers, including makar Liz Lochhead, at Poetry in the Persian Tent this morning, musician John Sampson has been offering some well-received melodic interludes.

Performing on the flute, recorder and crumhorn, he mixed Scottish and other traditional tunes with improvisation - not least on 'Pastime in Good Company', which is supposed to have been written by Henry VIII ("a serial killer also known for being an English king.")

John Glenday, an internationally-known poet, rounded off a thoughtful and uplifting first Poetry at the Persian Tent session at St John's (Venue 127), as part of the Festival of Spirituality and Peace.

The others are each morning at 11am, 22-26 August inclusive. Just £10, with the money going to support development in Africa.

Poetic licenses well on display

THE first of a series entitled 'Poetry in the Persian Tent' has been taking place at St John's Church (Venue 127) as part of the Festival of Spirituality and Peace this morning.

More than 30 people braved a last-minute shower and threatening skies to listen to national poet Liz Lochhead, along with John Glenday, Stephanie Green and Ryan Van Winkle.

John Sampson's pipe music interludes provided an evocative counterpoint to the readings. Spirituality & Peace news has been live-tweeting via @simonbarrow.

We've been waiting for Liz and John G with great anticipation. The makar reads several poems, including one of her earliest ones, 'Revelation'.

Altogether a fabulous occasion, raising money for a farm project in Africa in association with Oxfam. Make sure you don't miss the next four performances, all at 11am at St John's.