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Ottawa

wpplogoBy Graeme Murdoch

“To collect photographs is to collect the world. Movies and television programs light up walls, flicker, and go out; but with still photographs the image is also an object, lightweight, cheap to produce, easy to carry about, accumulate, store.”

Wise words from Susan Sontag. And so to Kazan, New York, Osaka, Ottawa, Seoul, Wellington … and Edinburgh? The photographic image travels well thanks to digital technology, and the world’s most impressive photo show is currently in each of these cities this month, (and travels to over 40 others during 2011).

The World Press Photo exhibition once more resides, for the sixth year, in the Scottish parliament building until 27 August. As our national icon Sir Sean might have said: it will stir and shake you. 5,691 photographers from 125 countries have submitted 108,059 photographs for judgement by 21 jury members to win the ultimate of 54 prizes from 2010: World Press Photo of the Year.

Some of the images in the Holyrood show will disturb, and hopefully prompt and cajole you into seeing the world as seen by storytellers with cameras. Many are important moments in history taken by photojournalists who, ceaselessly, put themselves in danger in some of the most hazardous places on earth. They add to our greater understanding and illuminate the unfolding events of our sometimes troubled world.

The Scottish parliament is to be commended for keeping faith with the World Press competition, as it is displayed in the public foyer at Holyrood, now surely one of the best event venues in the city.

“The exhibition is always extraordinary and we are honoured to be hosting this collection once again,” said presiding officer Tricia Marwick MSP. “It is estimated over 160,000 visitors have visited this captivating exhibition since it first opened at Holyrood.

“We hold the World Press Photo exhibition in conjunction with our Festival of Politics programme each year. This is a great opportunity for visitors to the parliament to view the exhibition as well as take part in topical debates and political discussions.”

As someone who has spent a career in news print media and been privileged to work with some of the world’s finest photographers, I predict every year that there will be a surge of interest in photography. Yes, there will be, again, at a space near you.

<em>Picture: Institute for Artist Management/Goodman Gallery for Time magazine</em>

Picture: Institute for Artist Management/Goodman Gallery for Time magazine

Winner – Kabul, Afghanistan
Photographer: Jodi Bieber, World Press photographer of the year, South Africa

Jodi Bieber is a South African who was given her father’s old camera which she used as a diary of “very bad photographs.”

Bibi Aisha, 18, was disfigured as retribution for fleeing her husband’s house in Oruzgan province, in the center of Afghanistan. At the age of 12, Aisha and her younger sister had been given to the family of a Taliban fighter under a Pashtun tribal custom for settling disputes.

When she reached puberty she was married to him, but she later returned to her parents’ home, complaining of violent treatment by her in-laws. Men arrived there one night demanding that she be handed over to be punished for running away. Aisha was taken to a mountain clearing, where, at the orders of a Taliban commander, she was held down and had first her ears sliced off, then her nose. In local culture, a man who has been shamed by his wife is said to have lost his nose, and this is seen as punishment in return.

Aisha was abandoned, but later rescued and taken to a shelter in Kabul run by the aid organisation Women for Afghan Women, where she was given treatment and psychological help. After time in the refuge, she was taken to America to receive further counseling and reconstructive surgery.

<em>Picture: Andrew McConnell</em>

Picture: Andrew McConnell

2 – Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo
Photographer: Andrew McConnell, Ireland

Joséphine Nsimba Mpongo, 37, practices the cello in the Kimbanguiste neighborhood of Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo. She is a member of the Orchestre Symphonique Kimbanguiste (OSK), Central Africa’s only symphony orchestra. During the day, Joséphine sells eggs in Kinshasa’s main market, and rehearses with the orchestra most evenings during the week.

The OSK was founded by its current conductor Armand Diangienda in 1994. Initially, just a few dozen musicians shared the small number of instruments they had at their disposal. Today, the OSK can muster 200 players for a concert. Most are self-taught amateurs who hold down day jobs all over the city.

<em>Picture: Guillem Valle</em>

Picture: Guillem Valle

3 – South Sudan
Photographer: Guillem Valle, Spain

A Dinka man stands in front of his house in Akkach, South Sudan. The Dinka, the largest ethnic group in region, are an agro-pastoral people who migrate according to season. At the onset of the rainy season in May or June, they move to settlements of huts built from mud and thatch above the flood level, where they plant crops. During the dry months, beginning around December, they leave for better grazing grounds in the lowlands, living in semi-permanent shelters.

Between 1983 and 2005, the people of South Sudan were embroiled in a bitter civil war with the largely Muslim government in the north, which cost some 1.5 million lives. In January 2011, a referendum among southerners, promised as part of a peace deal, resulted in a near-unanimous vote for independence.

<em>Picture: Altaf Qadri/Associated Press</em>

Picture: Altaf Qadri/Associated Press

4 – Kashmir intifada
Photographer: Altaf Qadri, Associated Press, India

The sister of Feroz Ahmad Malik wails as she clings to the bed carrying his body, at his funeral in Palhalan, near the city of Srinagar, in Indian-administered Kashmir. Feroz was one of two people killed when Indian police and paramilitary fired at random in the town marketplace on 6 September. The incident led to massive protests in the town, during which a further two people were killed.

Separatist unrest across the region had lasted since July, resulting in more than 60 deaths. Kashmir, which is over 60 percent Muslim, has been disputed by India and Pakistan since the partition of the subcontinent in 1947. From 1989 onwards, a growing Muslim separatist movement against Indian control has led to frequent clashes with government forces.

<em>Picture: Ivo Saglietti</em>

Picture: Ivo Saglietti

5 – Srebrenica massacre – 15th anniversary
Photographer: Ivo Saglietti, Italy

Relatives of victims mourn at the Srebrenica-Potočari Memorial and Cemetery on the 15th anniversary of the Srebrenica massacre. During the 1992–95 Bosnian War, the town of Srebrenica was declared a UN safe zone, to which thousands of Bosnian Muslims fled. The advancing Bosnian Serb Army overran the Dutch peacekeepers there in July 1995, killing more than 8,000 men and boys from in and around the town.

The massacre is considered the worst atrocity in Europe since the second world war and is the only episode from the Bosnian war to be declared an act of genocide by the UN war crimes tribunal. During the anniversary ceremony, 775 bodies newly identified from mass graves using DNA testing were buried at the cemetery, joining the 3,749 already interred there.

<em>Picture: Thomas P Peschak</em>

Picture: Thomas P Peschak

6 – Gannet landing, Malgas Island, South Africa
Photographer: Thomas P Peschak, Germany/South Africa

A Cape gannet comes in to land during the summer nesting season. Malgas Island, off the west coast of South Africa, is an important seabird breeding ground.

The World Press Photo exhibition is part of the Scottish parliament’s Festival of Politics programme. Holyrood public foyer, Monday–Friday 10am–5:30pm, Saturday 11am–5:30pm, Sunday closed.

www.facebook.com/festivalofpolitics

Graeme Murdoch is a photographic consultant and exhibition designer.

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Stephen Harper, prime minister of Canada <em>Picture: Remy Steinegger</em>

Stephen Harper, prime minister of Canada Picture: Remy Steinegger

By Graeme Murdoch

Day 1, Toronto, 26 March. Minus 9C.

Chilly for Perpetual Minority Man premier Stephen Harper – a man with a plan. So here we go as the first blows are landed in the fourth Canadian election in seven years, and the question on most Canadian minds is: how will this change anything?

In 1995, Liberal finance minister Paul Martin confronted the crippling federal deficit by cutting transfer payments to the provinces. This put some space between the provinces and Ottawa.

Now the widely held view is that old, white and male Ottawa is irrelevant and that the low turnout among voters aged under 25 in 2008 is expected to be lower in May. Young Canadians, particularly women and visible minorities, perceive an administration that under-represents them.

So Harper’s election strategy is to set his sights on the voters who have often eluded him: women. Oh, how we guffawed in the bar. The women electorate should reflect on how Margaret Atwood excoriated Harper in 2008 when he stated that “ordinary people” didn’t care about something called “the arts”. Harper’s take on “the arts” is a bunch of rich people gathering in salons and galas whining about their grants, Sound familiar?

Shortly after I arrived from Scotland on Thursday, I picked up a program guide to “celebrate the arts in your community”. All around greater Toronto, events like concerts by youngsters, photo exhibitions, a women’s sound circle, an art alley mural project and an opportunity to design your own environmental bag are getting city and provincial support.

So, Mr Harper, there you have your campaign’s key platforms: the arts, environment and education. Get your sleepy head round that and the women’s vote and others will surely follow.

And here are two other suggestions: dump the grey suits and get to the gym.

Graeme Murdoch is part of Cultural Connect Scotland

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Sshhh. Bands are booking libraries. <em>Picture:Steve Cadman</em>

Sshhh. Bands are booking libraries. Picture:Steve Cadman

Hunter S Thompson famously said: “When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro.”

Bill Drummond is a true pro.

In Echo and the Bunnymen’s imperial phase, their then manager Drummond sent them on tour. Nothing unusual about that.

This is where it gets interesting. Drummond – the man who burnt a million quid on Jura because, well, that’s another story – despatched The Bunnymen at their commercial peak around the village halls of Shetland and Orkney. Legend has it that Drummond wanted to do a tour in the shape of a rabbit’s ears.

That wackiness looks like foresight as acts look away from enormodomes, aircraft hangars, theatres and concert halls to find ways of making their tours stand out in the only marketplace where musicians are really raking in the dosh – the live arena. Like these…

The Cruiseline tour

The Backstreet Boys decided the next step in their plan for world omination is to get on a ship. Fair enough. Catherine the Great had a similar idea.

Libraries

Spoken word scamps Dan Le Sac v Scroobius Pip decided on a tour of libraries. It was at night and so they were allowed to perform more than the John Cage classic 4’ 33’’.

Forests

If The Fall played by a tree in the forest, and no-one was around to see them, did it actually happen? Well, it’s a hypothetical question as they never did, but Pulp (touring the We Love Life album), Pet Shop Boys, Paul Weller, Katie Melua, even JLS and this summer Keane are among the acts doing their best not to make like bears in the woods as they tour forests.

Kenwood and castles

It’s hardly keepin’ things gangsta but Will Young, Rod Stewart and Simply Red are among those playing stately homes and castles in the English and Scottish countryside. It used to be the bands, like Pink Floyd and Genesis, that were upper-crust. The venues just got posh, too.

Highlands and Islands

Just as Rick Astley’s tour was once sponsored by Vimto (true fact) previous ones by The Proclaimers, Franz Ferdinand and the upcoming dates by KT Tunstall should be sponsored by Caledonian Macbrayne. Because it’s not every day you get to say “Good evening, Kirkwall!”

Churches

Arcade Fire did a tour of churches around Ottawa. There are plenty of nightclubs from converted churches and Islington Union Chapel has since 2006 played host to MENCAP’s Little Noise Session concerts where Chris Martin, Bono, The Edge and Noel Gallagher have tipped up. Hope they chipped in to the collection box.

Student unions

As well as up and coming bands – some chancers called Nirvana and the Manic Street Preachers tipped up to Glasgow QMU at the turn of the ‘90s – in the early ‘70s, Paul McCartney & Wings turned up to a series of students unions, unannounced. You trust security let Denny Laine and Linda in. The price at the first show in Nottinham was 50p at the door. If the set had included Maxwell’s Silver Hammer, punters would have been asking for their money back.

Football tour

Although Hampden, Parkhead, Ibrox, Wembley and Old Trafford have been rock star haunts for years. Elton John has been picking quirkier choices – Inverness CT’s Tulloch Caledonian Stadium, St Johnstone FC’s McDiarmid Park, Hibs’ Easter Road and Kilmarnock’s Rugby Park, from 2005. What’s the difference between Elton and Kris Boyd? Elton might be playing at some Scottish stadia again next season. Eyethangyew.

James 1990 tour took a night off every time England played a group game. The fixtures were on the poster. They didn’t plan any tours for summer 1994.

Theatrical residencies

The Pet Shop Boys planned “a month of Sundays” at the Savoy Theatre before they decided instead to become the first band to have a residency in the West End for three weeks. Rufus Wainwright did a week at the Old Vic. Sundays at theatres are popular – that was the evening both Morrissey and The Blue Nile, like Brucie and Tarbie before them, played the London Palladium.

A to Z

Ash released an A to Z of singles last year. So how do you follow that? (A: You do an A to Z tour) and to answer the other obvious question, they cheated. It was eXmouth. Who knew there was a placed called Zennor? It’s in Cornwall and not that far from the penultimate night of the tour in Yeovil. Ayrshire’s Trashcan Sinatras’ A to Z tour in 1995 to promote their EP elicited more of a public reaction of ‘zzzz’.

Hillary Clinton

Hillary Clinton

Inuit groups have hailed US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s criticism of Canada for not inviting aboriginal people and three Scandinavian countries to international talks in Ottawa on the future of the Arctic.

In a stinging rebuke to the Canadian government at the opening of the meeting, Mrs Clinton said she regretted that Canada invited Russia, Norway, Denmark and the US, but not Sweden, Finland, Iceland or the Inuit indigenous people.

Mrs Clinton said all those “who have legitimate interests in the region”, including indigenous peoples, should have been invited to the conference. “We need all hands on deck because there is a huge amount to do, and not much time to do it. What happens in the Arctic will have broad consequences for the Earth and its climate”.

Duane Smith of the Inuit Circumpolar Council (ICC) said he was relieved that Mrs Clinton agreed that aboriginal people should be involved in any discussions that affect their homeland.

Mr Smith said the Canadian foreign minister, Lawrence Cannon, had had “a unique opportunity here to invite ICC Canada to be a part of his delegation to, at the very least, observe the meeting to show that Canada is more inclusive by having us there”.

Mr Smith told the Toronto Star that he suspected that the meeting of Arctic coastal states was an attempt to make the group permanent, possibly to rival the Arctic Council, an eight-nation organisation that includes groups representing the Inuit.

Said the Star: “Cannon should have seen the diplomatic iceberg long before it struck Canada’s hull. The first meeting of Arctic coastal states in 2008 was held in Ilulissat, Greenland, and met by a flurry of diplomatic protest that was only dampened when the three countries left out of the talks were assured it would be a ‘one-off’. The Inuit Circumpolar Council was placated by receiving observer status and being asked to make a presentation to the assembled foreign ministers.

“Not this time around.”

Mr Cannon said the meeting did not intend to “to replace or undermine the Arctic Council”, of which Canada was co-founder.