Dovetails – Restoration Home In Partick


Just opposite Velvet Elvis (we miss you Alan Maughn) on Dumbarton Road in Partick is a double-fronted shop with fabulously upholstered chairs and stacks of pulpit bible sized fabric sample books.

It’s been 10 years since I wrote about the women in Dovetails who use their skills as French polishers and upholsterers to love tired pieces of furniture back to life; the velvet striped Parker Knoll in the window being a perfectly executed example.

Back then, Dovetails had a smaller shop a few doors down and self-deprecatingly described their craft as therapy more than anything else; but they were bloody good at what they did.

I wish I still had that Herald magazine piece on file so that I could go into the same intricate detail of their lives and work, but their website states that Dovetails does French polishing, cane work, furniture repair, upholstery, original artworks by Lizzi Lockhart, furniture restoration and traditional upholstery classes

When I was passing this morning, I almost hesitated before going in. Yes our paths had occasionally crossed over the years, but I would probably have to remind them who I was. But not only did they still have The Herald cutting, they even had a framed canvas of the accompanying photo.

I can’t remember which staff photographer took it but they did a cracking job of capturing four women in different variations of denim, smiling and leaning against one another with the tools of their trade.

Today they are busier than ever. When the feature first appeared, they had to close the shop for a day as they were inundated with customers beating a path to their door with tired and emotional pieces of furniture

In between furniture CPR, Lizzi Lockhart is as prolific an artist as ever, and when I was in the shop this morning, I was drawn to a wooded landscape in tailor’s chalk and varnish.

No sooner had I admired it than Lizzi was signing the work and sealing it in envelope. I am delighted with it for so many reasons. At the risk of sounding overly sentimental, there is a special atmosphere in Dovetails where it’s not only the furniture that comes out restored, and it’s no surprise that a dovetail joint is noted for its resistance to being pulled apart.  567 Dumbarton Rd, Glasgow, Lanarkshire G11 6HU

  1. 0141 339 7878
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Jan de Vries – an appreciation


So sorry to hear about the death  of naturopath Jan de Vries, an exceptional healer and human being. I am but one of what must be thousands of patients fortunate enough to have had their lives touched by him.

I can’t begin to imagine the hours he must have worked – he was unsparing of himself, and used his time to the maximum benefit of others.

If he sounds like a saint, then I think that’s not far off the mark. My first consultation with him was brief, to the point yet still caring. As I babbled on about my symptoms, he just nodded sagely like a wise owl who has seen it all; which of course was the case.

He knew just by looking at me what was required (I had a nerve in my neck pressing on a bone – exquisitely painfully but easily remedied).

I came away thinking – is that it (oh and his fees were minimal). Two days later, it dawned on  me that nine months of constant pain had disappeared.

You just had to sit in his always crowded surgeries to see the acute cases that presented themselves to him. His consulting room had several paintings gifted to him by grateful artists/patients.

It was only in recent years when his health was failing, that he told me that as a child he had been shot by the Nazis – and yet there he stood – calm and spiritual with a wisdom that was both innate and hard won.

The world will miss him but I know he is enjoying well deserved and eternal rest.




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New film to tell real life Highland heroine’s story


   Last Footsteps of Home

A new short film set during the Highland Clearances – one of the most turbulent times in Scottish history – is due to be shot in the Scottish Highlands this Autumn. (This is the period that moved designer Alexander McQueen, whose forebears were from Skye, to create the Highland Rape collection which is currently on show at the Savage Beauty exhibition in the V&A.


Flora Macdonald is the most famous Highland heroine, remembered for her courage, tenacity and natural intelligence. Like their Scandinavian sisters, Highland women both past and present, are noted for these particular traits. Catherine McPherson may not be as well known as Flora but she shared the same warrior spirit. Caught up in the Highland Clearances, Catherine was forced to leave her family home and set sail for the New World, a journey that would test this young woman almost beyond endurance, be it nursing the ship’s passengers with typhus, or walking 100 miles in freezing temperatures wearing homemade snowshoes. Given that her son went on to be a Canadian Senator, the young woman from the Highland longhouse clearly used all her native qualities to survive.

Last Footsteps of Home traces the true story of Catherine McPherson, as she is forced to leave her family home in 1813 and board an emigrant ship bound for the New World.

It is a story close to the heart of the film’s creator Robert Aitken’s heart, as the producer/musician was born brought up in Sutherland, a north Highland county ravaged by the Clearances which saw farming tenants brutally evicted from their homes.

Robert Aitken

Robert Aitken with replica of ‘The Hector’, the ship that took the settlers to Pictou in Nova Scotia in 1773. Similar to the ship that would have taken the Selkirk settlers around 50 years later. 

Explains Robert: “The film follows Kate McPherson at the precise point when she is leaving her home, her way of life and her country and we will quite literally follow her ‘last footsteps of home’. While the Clearances are well documented, what happened to the displaced Highlanders following the evictions and the impact they made on the world is not so well known.”

Both Robert and is co-producer, double Emmy award-winner Guy Perrotta, were greatly moved by Catherine’s courage, faith and endurance in the face of countless hardships where just to survive was a miracle.

They hope that Kate’s story will resonate with the audience on the topical and often controversial issue of migration in general. Mass movements of people, land grabs and forced evictions are still happening in many countries around the globe and Aitken and Perotta believe their film can give some indication of the true significance of never being able to see your homeland again.

Kate Mcpherson’s story

Along with around 80 other passengers including Alexander her younger brother, the young teenager set out from Sutherland to the Red River settlement (now known as Winnipeg) in Canada. They were paving the way for their parents to follow as passengers on the creaking timber vessel, The Prince of Wales.

Her possessions were few, apart from her mother’s spinning wheel, but Kate was no ordinary young woman. Conditions aboard were appalling during the two-month crossing, with typhoid fever raging, and following the death of the ship’s doctor, Kate nursed the sick, with everyone looking to her for guidance.

The ship was eventually forced ashore at Churchill River and not York Factory as the planned; it was too late in the year to make the journey to the Red River. Food was scarce and the settlers were ill-prepared for the brutal conditions which saw the mercury dip to 40°C.

Again fever and death followed, but the spirited Kate refused to give in. Wearing handmade snowshoes, the depleted group eventually traversed the freezing 100 miles to York Factory with Kate’s courage strengthening those falling by the wayside.

Her tenacity and resilience to keep going and help others underline Kate’s powerful resolve. Kate eventually settled in Point Douglas where she built a new home. Given that her son went on to be a Canadian Senator, the young woman from the Highland longhouse clearly used all her native qualities to survive.

photo 7

Shooting Last Footsteps of Home

Robert Aitken describes the film as a tone-poem to the people of the Highland Clearances. “We’ve deliberately kept it free from dialogue, instead, syncing the visuals to the rhythm and tempo of the music. We’re also using early cinematic techniques such as montage and jump-cuts, as pioneered in the 1920s.

For delivery, we will be employing the very latest in film technology; from small but highly dynamic film cameras, various related add-ons and post production editing software. It’s interesting to note that only a couple of decades ago, the equipment needed to make film like this would have cost well over £250,000, a sum way beyond our reach. All the methods and tools available today will help create a musical narrative that carries the audience on a rollercoaster of emotions.”

The Music

The music used in Last Footsteps of Home was composed by Robert Aitken and takes a new approach to interpreting the Highland Clearances. It has already been chosen to back Oxfam’s Enough Food for Everyone IF international campaign and is also being used in a major new US documentary on the Highland Clearances and Scottish diaspora entitled Voices Over the Water which is being produced by Guy Perrotta who says: “We are very excited to be working with Robert Aitken. Robert has shown enormous dedication to his crafts, music and education, which is exemplified in the way he is helping us to ‘give voice’ to those who are no longer among the living.

“Robert is unique in that he almost seems to have a direct connection to the plight of the Scottish Highland people who were cleared. His work illustrates not only the emotional residue left over from the tragic Highland Clearances, but also the way in which a professional ‘does his homework, in that Robert seeks to drop the listener into a particular point in time in history and experience the life-story of a situation.”


Symbolising the New World

Robert has deliberately left the exact location of Kate’s Highland home ambiguous as he explains: “The story of the Highland Clearancesis so deeply rooted that to this day it can still evoke heartfelt emotion in descendents at home and abroad. The people who left the Highlands, either voluntarily or by force, ventured to Australia, New Zealand, Canada, and America. Many went on to become leading figures in shaping these countries in the modern world. As such, we decided to end our film with a symbol of the impact that emigrants from all over Scotland have made on the New World

The film-makers intend to make a second and final instalment of the story, namely the crossing on the emigrant ship and arrival in Red River. Robert concludes: “For over 5,000 years, townships were thriving all over the Highlands. That basically came to an end overnight in the mid-19th Century. Most journeys begin with a single step – but in our film a period of human existence ended with a single step.”

In a fitting epitaph to the Highland Clearances, just five years after Catherine McPherson left her home in Helmsdale, the Rev. Donald Sage, circa 1818, wrote these words: ‘The townships in every strath and glen, and on every hill, which teemed with life, are now desolate and silent; and the only traces of the vanished, happy population are here and there, a half-buried hearthstone or a moss-grown graveyard’.

  • The music used in ‘Last Footsteps of home’ is from the soundtrack KILDONAN and is now available from itunes, amazon mp3 and spotify etc. and most other online music stores.

Robert Aitken Biog

Born and bred in East Sutherland, Robert Aitken is a composer and independent new media producer and director of cultural projects at home and abroad. He specialises in communicating the unknown or lost social stories of peoples and their plight over the years to present day. He has worked with Emmy® Award winning director, Guy Perrotta, on his planned US national TV broadcast of  Voices Over The Water and is composer on Working Life to War Life, featuring The Tent. His soundtrack to the Highland Clearances, Kildonan, features newly composed and arranged pieces inspired by the launch of Scotland’s Clearances Trail. Robert also is developing a series of short filmic, sonic and musically scored episodes relating to the Scottish Diaspora.








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Adam E (2)

See Adam in action on

From Loch Lomond to Loch Ness, professional wakeboarder, Adam Errington, has set himself the 7-day challenge of taking this dynamic sport to some of Scotland’s most breathtaking locations.

This is a homecoming for Inverness born Adam (26) who spent his childhood in Ullapool before emigrating with his family to Orlando in Florida. Over the next few days, he will wakeboard in front of backdrops that will include Eilean Donan Castle, Urquhart Castle in Loch Ness and on lochs close to his home village of Ullapool.

The world’s fastest growing board sport, wakeboarding is similar to snowboarding or skateboarding on water and has become the cool alternative to water-skiing.

Explains Adam who has also appeared in wakeboarding movies and is a cast member of MTV’s WakeBrothers: “When I was nine years old, my family moved to Orlando which just happens to be the wakeboard capital of the world so it wasn’t long before I was competing and loving it. I excelled pretty fast and turned pro by the age of 18.

“We came up with the idea of this ‘coming home’ trip where, with me bringing a few riders and photographers back to my homeland and doing a week-long tour from Glasgow up to Ullapool stopping at stunning lochs and iconic locations along the way, documenting it all and wakeboarding in some really cool places where there isn’t much wakeboarding going on at present.”

Adam still has relatives in Ullapool where is grandmother, Margaret Errington, ran The Four Seasons Hotel in the coastal town; his parents are Sylvia and Simon Errington.

The week-long trips culminates with the key event in the wakeboarding calendar, the Loch Stock festival (3-5 July) on the shores of Loch Lomond at Scotland’s first wakeboard and wakesurf school – Loch Lomond Wakeboard (

Concludes Adam: “I could not have done this without Raymond Colquhoun and his team from Loch Lomond Wakeboard who are towing the boat and generally getting me around. This trip has long been my dream and I’m so excited about the idea of wakeboarding in such idyllic locations that also hold such meaning for me.”

Adam’s loch & castle schedule

Sun 28 thJune  Early morning ride at Loch Lomond. Head to Eilean Donan castle.

Mon 29th  Early morning ride at Eilean Donan Castle, then to Urquhart Castle, Loch Ness late afternoon/early evening ride. Spend night in Drumnadrochit.

Tues 30th.Early morning shoot Urquhart Castle then to Ullapool.

Wed 1st July Ullapool with rides at Loch Broom.

Thurs 2nd Ullapool

Fri 3rd  Leave for Loch Lomond. Shoot there for the rest of day.

Sat 4th & Sun 5th  Loch Stock wakeboarding festival at Loch Lomond

Adam Errington takes his role as one of wakeboarding’s fastest-rising stars in stride. Adam’s riding style mirrors his overall take on life: relaxed and smooth. Whether he’s taking the podium at Wake Games or the Australian Pro Tour, his ability to get good pop off the wake and his love of spinning keeps him high in the contest standings. Outside of the contest arena, Adam has been featured in films, including Red Bull’s Blackout and Drive by Sean Kilgus. He travelled to Australia in 2007, where he took part in Chris O’Shea’s Pressure Cooker comp, an invite-only freeride-style contest. Adam tapped into his superior ability to link big tricks together and walked away with the Best Line Master title

Loch Lomond Wakeboard is Scotland’s first purpose-built wakeboard and wakesurf school based on the shores of Loch Lomond.

Wakeboarding is a surface water sport involving riding a wakeboard over the surface of a body of water. It was developed from a combination of water skiingsnowboarding, and surfing techniques, with rider is usually towed behind a motorboat.



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Lead Belly was not an influence, he was the influence. If it wasn’t for him, I may never have been here. I don’t think he’s really dead. A lot of people’s bodies die but I don’t think their spirits die with them.”  Van Morrison

Last Monday 15 June at the Royal Albert Hall saw the newly knighted Van Morrison and former Animals’ frontman Eric Burdon locked in an embrace, and blues guitarist Walter Trout triumphantly road testing his new liver, while the image of legendary folk and blues musician Huddie Leadbetter smiled down on them.


That the Lead Belly Fest, a four-hour tribute to the supernaturally gifted songwriter and 12-string guitar virtuoso attracted such an illustrious line-up, is testament to the influence of Huddie Leadbetter (1888-1949) on a generation of musicians including  The Beatles – ‘no Lead Belly, no Beatles’ as George Harrison’s once said.

Now I’m not a dyed-in-the-wool blues aficionado – I wouldn’t know Blind Lemon Jefferson from Incontinent Willie McPhee – it is simply that I can trace all my favourite songs back Lead Belly.

From my parents singing Irene Goodnight to me as a toddler, then Lonnie Donegan’s  Rock Island Line, Led Zeppelin’s Gallow’s Floor, Ry Cooder and the Bourgeois Blues and Nirvana’ s Where Did You Sleep last night, to this day I’m still discovering that a songs such The House of the Rising Sun were written by this musical polymath.

What was to be a riveting evening kicked off sedately with the National Anthem as Sophie Countess of Wessex was in attendance – the festival was a charity event with The Shooting Star Chase Childrens’ Hospice Care and the Lead Belly Estate and Foundation as beneficiaries.

Among the line-up paying musical homage were veteran jazz man Chris Barber, Ruby Turner, Rose Royce’s Gwen Dicky, Blues Inc, Gemma Ray, Slim Chance, Robert Plant look and sound alike Dana Fuchs, as well as Josh White Jnr and Tom Paley both of whom had met Lead Belly; at 87, Paley can  still play and sings a mean On A Monday.

Meanwhile, 23-year-old blues rock guitarist Laurence Jones carried the Lead Belly baton for a younger demographic and proved why he was voted Young Artist of the Year at the British Blues Awards 2014. At times, it was like watching a young Rory Gallagher.

In between sets, Lead Belly’s turbulent life story unfolded on large screens which took us through his hardscrabble childhood in Louisiana, prison chain gangs and time spent serving a murder sentence, all the while writing songs, singing and entertaining inmates and visitors. Huddie was eventually released, going on to record and tour, with life rollercoasting on until his death in 1949.

Opening the second half was Billy Bragg, who like Lead Belly is not one to shy away from difficult issues, and then the never less than brilliant Eric Bibb who has just recorded a Lead Belly album, gave us an acoustic version of Bourgeois Blues, which as he explained was a brave stance on racism for Lead Belly to take given the times, and still sadly relevant.

The reincarnation of Walter Trout, who was introduced by his wife Marie saw the guitarist in rip roaring form. As this was the first time he’d played in public since his liver transplant two years ago, he was like child prodigy in a sweetie shop. He will be touring the UK, including Glasgow, later in the year.

All the while, Paul Jones was either standing in the wings smiling, or giving it laldy with the harmonica. He seemed almost surprised when Van Morrison asked him to join in his set. Both as a musician and broadcaster on his Radio 2 Blues Show, the former Manfred Mann vocalist is a force of nature when it comes to promoting the blues.

Eric Burdon proved similarly untouched by age and was in fine voice for The House of the Rising Sun and a Where Did You Sleep Last Night as chilling as the original; was clearly having a ball and looked like he wanted to sing all night.

Then shortly before midnight, on came Van Morrison, sharp of suit and tender of voice, and yes he was singing Astral Weeks, accompanying himself on 12-string guitar, with Jools Holland on piano.

Everyone joined Morrison on stage for what else but Goodnight Irene, a moving coda to a belter of an evening. The work that must have gone into to making it happen was monumental, but the good news is that it’s going to be reprised at the Carnegie Hall in December.






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Sports minister launches Scotland’s first urban wakepark

An invite to tv, radio, print press & photographers – wakeboard demos offer action images and footage – even more dramatic given the wakepark is slap dab in the centre of Glasgow. Members of public most welcome.


                      PRESS CALL…..PRESS CALL…..PRESS CALL


Press & photographers are warmly invited to the official opening of Scotland’s first urban wakepark by Minister for Sport, Health Improvement and Mental Health, Jamie Hepburn MSP, on Friday 5 June at 10.30am at Pinkston Paddle Centre, Port Dundas Canal, Glasgow.

The event runs from 10.30 till 11.30am and those attending include: representatives from Sportscotland who provided the park with funding through the Active Places Legacy Fund 2014; Scottish Canals; Alan Murray from Waterski
Scotland; and Active Schools Manager Sally Tait.

Wake boarding is one of the world’s fastest growing watersport and action shots guaranteed along with FREE sessions for the press and their families!


10.45 – Sportscotland plaque hand over at our reception –
A few words from Alan Murray (Waterski and Wakeboard Scotland)
A few words from Jamie Hepburn MSP
11.00 – Demo Riding
11.15 – Demo beginners lesson

Wakeboarding is very similar to snowboarding or skateboarding on water and has become the cool and youthful alternative to water-skiing. The cable system allows the wakeboarder to ride continuously by turning at each end of the basin. We have 4 obstacles floating in the water that allow the rider to perform varying levels of tricks.

Says Neil McKenzie of GWP: “Glasgow Wake Park is very excited to get officially underway. Our new Wake Park in the heart of Glasgow will provide a fantastic opportunity to introduce wakeboarding to thousands of new participants. We aim to grow the sport and provide an alternative way to get people active right in the middle of the city.”


Glasgow Wake Park is a System 2.0 wakeboard park based in the City Centre at the Port Dundas Canal. We operate out of the Pinkston Paddle Centre and share all of their first class facilities.

It is a very easy sport to learn on the cable and riders can progress amazingly quickly. We aim to have 100% success rate with our beginners and our qualified coaches will do everything it takes to get you out the water and riding.

This is definitely an awesome way to make use of the Forth & Clyde Canal so come along and carve up the canal!

Glasgow Wake Park is based at the Pinkston Watersports Centre, 75 North Canal Bank St, Glasgow, G4 9XP




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The artist, the studio & the cat


  Jenny with Rosie the Ragdoll cat – a frequent visitor to her studio

                                            To See The Summer Sky                                 

                    Leading Scottish watercolourist’s solo show at Smithy Gallery

Fresh from winning the Exhibitions Award at this year’s Royal Watercolour Society’s annual exhibition in London, artist Jenny Matthews, has a new solo exhibition at Blanefield’s Smithy Gallery in Stirlingshire.

Running from 31 May until 28 June, To See the Summer Sky, features works inspired by Jenny’s Edinburgh garden including tulips expressly planted for the exhibition. Jenny’s frequent visits to her mother-in-law’s garden in St Yrieix-sous-Aixe in France is another source of inspiration.

Jen's tulip bulbs

Jenny planted these tulip bulbs last autumn so that she could paint them for the solo show

Small wonder that Jenny’s work is often mentioned in the same breath as Dame Elizabeth Blackadder who taught Jenny when she was studying Drawing and Painting at Edinburgh College of Art.

Jenny has continued to use predominantly watercolour since graduating in 1986, and her name is now strongly associated with botanical subjects. It is interesting to note that Scottish crime writer Ian Rankin who tends to focus on dark material, is an admirer and collector of Jenny’s life affirming work.

Known mainly for her flower paintings, Jenny’s love of the subject was ignited during childhood holidays in the Highlands, and she continues to seek out flowers and plants wherever she goes, be they cultivated or wild.

Yellow s

“Butterflies are another passion and I enjoy exploring the countryside with a sketchbook searching for them,” explains Jenny. “There is something magical about discovering an exquisite insect or flower in a landscape: the painting is already there and I am attempting to record my wonder at the creation on paper.

“The medium of watercolour is central to my work. The texture of the support, the pigment, the water and the effects these can produce in combination, all inspire me in themselves. I think of my paintings as paint on paper and therefore simultaneously figurative and abstract.”

One of the paintings featured in the exhibition is  La Roche (The Rock), a small, still-inhabited village in Limousin, France, where the living rock is visible at ground level and incorporated into some of the walls of its ancient buildings.

La Roche s

La Roche, Limousin, France’ 80 x 100 cm (unframed dimensions), watercolour on paper.

Continues Jenny: “I loved these two ancient doors with the Fennel plant growing between them, its pale yellow flowers standing out against the dark stained wooden door.

“I was attracted by the texture and detail of the scene during a summer walk last year. The warm stillness of the evening and the history of the area seemed to permeate the walls.”

cat in progressJenny’s cat Rosie in the studio with a work in progress

To See The Summer Sky (an Emily Dickinson quote) is part of a year-long celebration to mark the Smithy Gallery’s 10th anniversary. Gallery owner Natalie Harrison, who restored the original blacksmith’s into a unique space for showcasing contemporary art says:

“Jenny’s paintings take my breath away.  Her love of the delicacy and beauty of nature, particularly the fleeting nature of flowers, is captured in her exquisite watercolour paintings.

“The idea of her warm paintings filling the 300 year old cool stone walls of the gallery is exciting to me and I am delighted that she has agreed to a solo exhibition. Everything this year has been picked with particular relevance because of our ten year landmark.”

Smithy Gallery 74 Glasgow Rd, Blanefield  Tel:01360 770551  Gallery opening times: Tues-Sat, 11-5 and Sun 1-5

Scarce Swallowtails s

Scarce Swallowtails





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Be it Nairn or Newton Mearns – put your home in a New York state of mind  

This is from my Herald mag interiors page 14th March 2015

NY 2 Manhattan_211-61 (2)

Lush Life  

IN A NEW YORK MINUTE   With evocative names such as Manhattan, Madison, SoHo, Chelsea and Brooklyn, the New York Stories wallpaper collection from the Sandberg Studio is inspired by the city that never sleeps. Featuring 11 diverse designs, the collection reflects the city’s contrasts and contradictions – magnificent yet cosy, rough yet chic, concrete yet green and leafy (Manhattan, £84.00/roll,


NY 1 Madison_212-29 (2)

The Madison design from the New York Stories collection was created by Carl Hammoud whose interpretation of an anonymous but typical facade captures the essence of the city and its architectural heritage. You can almost hear the soundtrack of crackling vinyl playing straight-ahead jazz (£84.00/roll,

Natural Elements Flooring Night Sky close up
Walk across the Manhattan skyline with the deeply intense and distinctive Night Sky carpet collection from Natural Elements Flooring which showcases the sky’s shimmery hues from dusk until dawn. Super tough yet luxe, the carpet is made from 95% wool in dark moody colours, but it’s the 5% Lurex that gives each design that alluring starry glow (£96.50 per metre,

Barker and Stonehouse Sand Black Finish Floor Lamp £179

Go monochromatic in Manhattan by teaming this Sand Black Floor Lamp with gold leafed shade (£179, Mix it up with white table or pendant lamps. The key to this look is to major on muted tones, saving an injection of colour or pattern for selected focal points.


I’ve just come across ChouChou Chateau, a vintage shop run by Jo Murray which stocks one-off finds and painted furniture. As well as selling colourful pieces and Autentico vintage chalk paint, Jo also runs courses where you can learn to use chalk paint and techniques for decorating furniture. Find it on 27 Old Dumbarton Road G3 8RD


Debenhams_58711510995500 (2)


It’s Mother’s Day tomorrow and breakfast in bed is non-negotiable, so serve it in style with this hand painted stoneware set from J by Jasper Conran whose own mother once wisely opined that ‘life is too short to stuff a mushroom’ (

Emerald Green Pantone 569 coffee maker (2)


Perk up St Patrick’s Day this Tuesday with a cup of Irish coffee made in a classic Italian coffee maker updated with lashings of glossy on-trend colour based on the Pantone Shade Emerald Green 569. Just add some cream and a measure of Bushmills (

Debenhams_58711510995500 (2) Max bathtub sofa cut out


Handcrafted from an original vintage cast iron bath, the sofa is upholstered in a fabric of your choice by Reestore which takes everyday waste objects and playfully upcycles them into furniture and accessories. The company has developed its range thanks to investment from Deborah Meaden and Theo Paphitis of Dragons’ Den (



Posted in Interior Design | 1 Comment

All made up in Helmsdale

ARTIST IS UFO SPOTTING IN HELMSDALE’S  Crofts, kitchens, armchairs & sheds    DSC_0998

 The last time artist Deirdre Nelson visited Helmsdale, she inspired local school children to make shoals of fish from recycled sweaters and socks during a Fish Festival.

Now Deirdre is back in the village as part of Timespan’s Serendipitous North programme as the Maker-in-Residence, exploring methods of craft in our everyday lives.

This time round she wants to uncover and map the unsung skills and creativity taking place in and around the village and is inviting local people to bring along their ‘UFOs’ to Show & Tell sessions Timespan.

“In this case, UFO stands for ‘unfinished object’, explains Deirdre who is originally from Northern Ireland and studied Embroidery & Textiles at Glasgow Art School.  “Whether it’s a piece of knitting or a wood carving, it will be fascinating to find out what people are making in their free time.

“My time here is not just finding out about local crafts, it is also about discovering   domestic day-to-day making in all its forms – from pots of jam to mending a fence. I know from my rural childhood in Northern Ireland that living in a remote area makes you particularly resourceful when it comes to repairs around the home or croft.

“As I’m also interested in where things are made, I’ll be turning detective and visiting local people and groups to find out if they work at the kitchen table, in a shed or workshop or by their fireside. Then we can pinpoint where all is the activity is taking place on a physical or digital map of Helmsdale.”

As well as being a sociable occasion for people of all ages, the Show & Tell sessions at Timespan will provide people with the opportunity to talk about or indeed finish what they are making. Deirdre will be collecting the stories behind some of the pieces as well as running a repair lab to bring fixers and makers together.

Deirdre is particularly interested in social history past and present as well as people’s stories.  As a creative outcome of her residency in Helmsdale, she plans to create a community tablecloth based on an old map discovered in Timespan’s archive.

“Everyone can add stitches and suggest things that could be added to the design,” explains Deirdre. “The cloth is something long lasting and sustainable rather than a one-off, and the community carry on with it long after I’ve gone.”

For further information on community events connected with Deirdre’s residency visit

e join Deirdre as she maps the makers of Helmsdale and explores the everyday forms of making that have gone on in the village from the past to the present.

Deirdre’s Twitter account for this project:

deirdre nelson mapping

Since graduating from Glasgow School of Art in 1992, Deirdre has pursued a parallel career in creating work for exhibition and commission and in working as an artist facilitator to various groups. Her nomadic nature and interest in communities has allowed Deirdre develop work for exhibition and on residencies both in UK and Australia. Research, humour and craft technique contribute to projects dealing with relevant social and environmental issues whilst engaging communities in the process.

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Scottish filmmaker’s documentary on Kenya’s transgender and intersex community

Sydney & Friends – Scottish Filmmaker launches feature documentary

Sidney and Friends Image 3resized

A guerilla documentary by an award-winning Scottish filmmaker reveals, for the first time, the reality of growing up and living as an intersex or transgender person in one of the most conservative and intolerant regions in the world.

The distance between the homes of filmmaker Tristan Aitchison (on The Black Isle near Inverness) and the subjects of this documentary could not be greater, but in Sidney & Friends: Kenya’s Hidden Transgender and IntersexCommunity, Aitchison has captured some of the most in-depth and personal interviews ever filmed with transgender and intersex Africans.

Gender equality is also the subject of recent Golden Globe-winning US TV series Transparent, which won awards for the show itself and lead actor Jeffrey Tambor. The John Oliver Show also addressed this subject head on during its debut season on HBO, with an interview with Ugandan LGBT activist Pepe Julian Onziema.

Sidney & Friends filmmaker Aitchison, who won an award for his 2014 debut Care (a provocative short film about the elderly, with official selections in 14 international film festivals) explains: “I didn’t set out to make this film when I travelled to Kenya in 2013, but by chance, I met someone.

“What I didn’t know at the time is the inadvertent meeting would change the next two years of my life. I met Guillit, a transboy who wanted to be heard. He told me other members  of the transgender and intersex community, living on the edge of society, wanted to speak out too.

“I was welcomed into the small community where other filmmakers and journalists had been refused access. Over a two-month period, I got to know six members of this community. Despite the risks, all were determined to tell their story.

“Some interviews were incredibly difficult. Our contributors have suffered traumatic life events and there were a number of times I had chills at what I was being told. Sidney recalls one occasion he was being beaten by a group with clubs and sticks while his mother just stood and watched.

“He also told me about an incident where he was beaten, stripped, and left for dead in the street by a gang. A kind doctor paid for a motorcycle taxi to take him home. When the driver dropped him off, Sidney’s father turned to the driver and said, ‘If she is not dead, take her away, because I have already started digging her grave.’”

The documentary features a series of revealing interviews with six members of the intersex and transgender community of Nairobi, including Sidney who, 22 years ago, was born as Beatrice to a family in rural western Kenya.

Beatrice didn’t like wearing skirts or doing chores that girls are traditionally supposed to do, preferring herding cattle and playing football. Growing up, Beatrice found that these differences increasingly made her stand out in the community, a source of concern to family members that manifested itself into chastisement, castigation, and hate.

When Beatrice fled and changed his name to Sidney, he was forced from slum to slum, stripped in public and beaten. When he eventually met other intersex and transgender Kenyans, for the first time, Sidney no longer felt isolated.

Sidney & Friends, which to date has been made for around only £700, features striking scenes of everyday life shot with vintage East German and Soviet lenses, as well as black and white analogue stills photography.

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The documentary has attracted a very experienced post-production team including: James Bellamy, winner of a MPSE Golden Reel as music editor of Les Misérables; Paul Dunkley who designed the titles and indents for 2014 BAFTAs;  producer and composer Paul Terry; and vocalist Silas Miami, one of Kenya’s rising stars in the South African and the East African music scenes.

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With this post-production team poised to complete the film, all that remains is to achieve the modest goal of raising less than £10,000 which has been set for a crowd-funding campaign.

To ensure that this vital post-production stage is completed to exacting standards, a 30-day Kickstarter campaign was launched on January 30, 2015. The funding method of Kickstarter means that if the funding goal is not reached they receive nothing and the project will stall. The Kickstarter campaign is now live (weblink lower down).

Aitchison explains, “Backing the film is not a donation. You can receive the competed film, its soundtrack, limited edition darkroom prints of stills from the film, your name in the end credits, and even an Associate Producer title.”

The film is being supported by ScreenHI and XpoNorth. Amanda Millen, Director of XpoNorth enthuses, “We have been working closely with Tristan for the past four years, firstly on his award-winning short film Care, and now with Sidney & Friends. XpoNorth nurtures and showcases emerging talent from across the world.

“We are proud of what Tristan has achieved so far and we are really excited that this internationally important film highlights the creativity we have within the Highlands and Islands of Scotland.”

 Bisi Alimi, the world-renowned LGBTI advocate says Sidney & Friendsis “very powerful and like nothing ever seen before from the African continent.” Willis Austin Chimano from Sauti Sol, winner of MTV Europe’s Best African Act says, “Everyone is on their own journey and no society has the right to deny someone’s destiny. We are all looking for one thing, happiness, and this film is part of that journey.”

Sidney & Friends is also part of the Scottish independent film movement Tartan Features.

• Downloadable images (password: rafiki)

• Kickstarter:


TRISTAN MG AITCHISON (Writer, Director, Editor)

Shortlisted for the John Braborne Big 5 Comedy Award in 2011, Tristan has since worked with BAFTA awardwinning director Marcus DF White developing television series. In 2012, he directed his debut award-winning short Care. Tristan was trained in Social Work and has a post-graduate qualification in screenwriting from Screen Academy Scotland.

 PAUL TERRY (Composer, Executive Producer)

Paul has produced and scored independent films for 15 years, including the 14-time award-winning The Furred Man,and Raindance Festival award-nominated drama Emily, starring Felicity Jones and Christopher Eccleston. His five solo records under the moniker of Cellarscape include the acclaimed The Act of Letting Go.

JAMES BELLAMY (Music Editor)

James won a MPSE Golden Reel as the music editor of Les Misérables. His other 60+ credits include Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, Submarine, The Double, and Filth.

PAUL DUNKLEY (Titles Designer)

Paul designed the titles and indents for 2014 BAFTAs, and has also produced motion graphics and titles for MTV, ESPN, Channel 4, E4, ITN, and Discovery Channel.

SILAS MIAMI (Contributing Vocalist)

Silas Miami is one of Kenya’s rising stars in the South African and the East African music scenes.


Matt is an experienced colourist working for Norwegian television as well as feature films and shorts.

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