In a world increasingly bedevilled by the 'me, me' narcissistic culture, the words of Ian McKay, the founder/editor of the new Scottish print-based quarterly visual arts magazine – Art North – have a special resonance. Ian, who as an art critic has had his work appear in print in more than 30 countries worldwide, is not averse to ruffling a few feathers, declaring:
During that time, the business of art criticism has changed dramatically. Today, the mainstream art press can often be more fixated on the celebrity of the artist rather than their 'work'. It's the work I'm interested in – not an artist's lifestyle. That was one of the reasons why I decided to establish Art North. Here in the far Northern Highlands, increasingly I was becoming aware that the art being made in our urban centres, was getting ever-wider coverage and the art made in more 'remote' locations was barely recognised by the art press, if at all. Artists were telling me that they were effectively working in a 'critical vacuum' and generally neglected by the wider UK art press. Art North has been founded as a magazine that will better represent the art of what many people think of as 'the margins'. The magazine is also about internationalising the work being made by forging stronger links with Scotland's neighbours in the far north.
So Art North, a glossy 52-page full-colour A4 magazine, with a modicum of advertising, hit the news-stands. Ian has been surprised and delighted that in the month leading up to the launch, more than 700 pre-order subscriptions were taken out, plus 300 pre-orders of issue one, and effectively all the print run of 3,000 copies has sold out. With a cover price of £6.50 (with a 10% discount for online subscriptions), the magazine is not inexpensive but seems to prove that quality counts.
The first issue had a special report by Ian and Mel Gooding on North Uist and Berneray, and Matthew Hollett immersed himself in the transatlantic collaborative work of Vivian Ross-Smith in Shetland, and Jane Walker in St John's, Newfoundland, on 'Islandness', and considers what role contemporary art might play in 'bridging the distance between far-flung solitudes'.
There is a very powerful piece by George Gunn, a Caithness-born writer, poet and playwright, on 'The Great Bog of the Winds', which the magazine terms as 'an insight into the challenging and often misunderstood landscape of Caithness and Sutherland that has become a muse for contemporary artists'. Writes George: 'It has always struck me as incomplete and inauthentic to call such a wonderous place "The Flow Country". No native ever used the phrase as I recall'. He explains that while the Sutherland Estates still own 'great swatches of the great bog', there are recent newcomers including the RSPB which owns approximately 52,000 acres of what they call 'the Forsinard Flows'.
How did Ian put his initial thoughts into action? He recalls: 'I personally consulted widely with artists and craftmakers in Scotland – the Highlands, and Northern and Western Isles – throughout last year (about 300 in all), originally with the idea of a book on Scottish contemporary art but the overwhelming response which I received was that what artists wanted, in particular, was a regular arts magazine. As we were already set up for publishing, and I have been publishing books and other media for many years, my partner Boo and I therefore threw all our energies into that. It was 12 months in the planning, and we sold our house in the south to raise sufficient capital to make it happen. One might call it a leap of faith in that regard'.
Ian, who is a publisher, academic, art critic, author and translator, has now added the title of editor to his lengthy and impressive CV, and a small team was set up in Tongue with Boo V Dyer as publishing director, Camilla Paulsen as part-time advertising manager, and Miina Eskola as editorial assistant. Miina is a vital member of the team in the Scandinavian region generally. All other contributors to Art North are employed on a freelance basis, with sub-editors, proof reader and art director working on the magazine at a day-rate leading up to publication. The magazine has a team of writers and critics in 12 countries, with a pool of five contributing editors, 10 correspondents in Scotland and 10 more on the international front.
Adds Ian: 'The magazine has a primary focus on Scotland and the far north. Our principle aim is to build upon and strengthen the connections that exists between Scotland and her Nordic, and Scandinavian neighbours, as well as the island territories of the North Atlantic too. Our team has been assembled to fully represent even the remotest of locations – from Fair Isle to the Faroe Islands, Tromso to Tiree'.
This includes Canada's Maritime Provinces and Northern Territories too, points out Ian, who speaks several European languages and acts as the translator in the team – capable of translating from German, Danish, Norwegian and Polish. Ian adds: 'Our definition of "neighbours" is deliberately broad, whether they be geographically close, or "neighbours of the mind". Make no mistake though, Art North may be committed to promoting the arts of the far north, but our mission is not to be provincial or parochial in outlook. Far from it. Our objective is to facilitate an informed understanding of the visual arts in their truly European context'.
With the second issue of Art North appearing this month, Ian is crossing his fingers that this time the vehicle taking the magazine from Inverness to Tongue doesn't 'disappear' en route – forcing him to ask his Edinburgh printers – Out of Hand Scotland Ltd – to reprint the entire 3,000 copies. That, however, is a story for another day, and meanwhile I will be keeping an eager eye on how this fledgling publication fares in the future from its base in a most beautiful Highland village – nestling under Ben Loyal and skirted by the Kyle of Tongue. The magazine's web address is: www.artnorth-magazine.com
Back in the days when, among the relatively small number of female television journalists, Selina Scott, Anna Soubry (now an Independent Tory MP), Kirsty Wark and Jane Franchi, were very well projected by their TV stations, it was frequently alleged that these women were only being hired on the strength of their good looks by men who held all the top management posts. Well, as a journalistic contemporary of this quartet, I can vouch for the fact that they most certainly knew their journalistic stuff, and the claim was, of course, utter garbage. Excepting that men still tend to hold most of the top management jobs in television.
However, thankfully, women TV reporters are now the norm in both news and current affairs, and most especially in sport. This is evinced by Eilidh Barbour, who along with Gabby Logan, will be the two main television presenters in the BBC's large team covering the FIFA Women's World Cup which gets underway in Paris on Friday 7 June, and she will be covering the Scotland clash with the England Lionesses in Nice on Sunday 9 June. The two UK teams are in a group with Japan and Argentina.
Eilidh, who hails from Dunkeld, after graduating from Stirling University with a degree in film and media studies, spent a year teaching English in South Korea, but returned home determined to find a job in broadcasting. She joined STV – primarily editing their football and rugby output – became the presenter of 'STV Rugby' in the 2011-12 season which focused on the Scottish teams in the Pro12.
Switching to the BBC, she became a regular reporter for 'Final Score', and when Dan Walker was in Rio de Janeiro covering the Olympics, she presented 'Football Focus', and the following year became the presenter of 'The Women's Football Show'. In 2017 she got a major career break when she was named as the main presenter for BBC TV's golf coverage, replacing Hazel Irvine, who has had a major influence on her career. Last December, she joined the presenting team for 'Match of the Day 2', when she stood in for regular host, Mark Chapman.
You can follow every second of the Women's World Cup games on the BBC, with all 52 matches being show live. And keep an eye out for a stellar line-up of pundits that includes Alex Scott, Rachel Brown-Finnis, Gemma Fay, Rachel Yankey and Casey Stoney. The Radio Times has used a large colour picture of Gemma, Alex, Gabby and Eilidh this week – all dolled up and dressed to the nines.
Eilidh, who is a St Johnstone FC supporter, will move to Sky TV on a one-year contract immediately after her working sojourn in France. She will replace Hayley McQueen – the daughter of Scottish international footballer Gordon McQueen – during her maternity leave. She joins Sky Sports, being promoted as 'the face of Scottish football'. And, as her move to Sky came before it was announced that Sky Sports had landed exclusive rights for coverage of the Scottish game from 2020, she may be based in Scotland for some time. Eilidh, who still lives in Scotland, used to play for and still trains with Partick Thistle Women.
Interesting news on how the Guardian has changed its reporting guidelines on issues facing the environment – encouraging its journalists to use phrases stronger than 'climate change'. Reporters are now expected to refer to climate change as the 'climate emergency, crisis or breakdown'. The Guardian also says that 'global heating' will be preferred to 'global warming', while 'climate science denier' will replace 'climate sceptic'. However, it has been pointed out that none of the original phrases have been banned outright.
The newspaper's style guide also asks for 'wildlife' to be used instead of 'biodiversity' and 'fish populations' over 'fish stocks'. Changes to the Guardian's style guide follow several high-profile warnings about climate change. Interestingly, Lesley Riddoch, in an article in the Scotsman asking whether the BBC's 'Question Time' had gone rogue, used the phrase 'climate emergency'.