Monday, 26 August 2013

The last song

IT was an explosive encore from Africa Entsha. We got a great deal of audience participation, too. And  the boys ended up with tartan scarves.

This is the 'sedate' bit at the beginning... We'll see if we can run out another couple of clips a bit later.


Another great turn-out in Edinburgh

JUST Festival 2013 has exceeded expectations in terms of ticket sales once more, and we are extremely grateful for all who have turned up at our shows, talks, performances and events.

It's wonderful once more to have a packed house for the Festival swansong from the acclaimed Africa Entsha - who, you may remember, previously went under the name Soweto Entsha. The change represents a homage to the wider influences on their continent, as well as love of their homeland, South Africa.


The rhythm of life...

A SHORT video clip of Africa Entsha stamping out the beat from the side behind the stage... a view you won't normally get.




Africa Entsha... a grand finale for Just Festival!

IT'S been a long journey, but we are almost at the end of Just Festival 2013. 

Hundreds of performances, hours and hours of art and conversation, 70,000 tickets sold. And what better way to end  than with the globally-renowned ensemble who have almost become our 'house band'.

Acting and thinking in good faith

THE final conversation of Just Festival 2013 is looking at what it means to be inter-faith in the modern world, and particularly in Scotland at the moment. 

The speakers are Sister Isabel Smyth (Interfaith Scotland), Bashir Malik and Iain Stewart (Edinburgh Interfaith Association), and the chair will be the Rev Markus Dunzkofer (Church of St John the Evangelist).

"Dialogue is all about identity, who we are... our story," said Markus Dunzkofer, kicking off tonight's exchange.

Iain Stewart talked about his own engagement arising from his upbringing in Glasgow, as a Presbyterian aware of the conflict between people that used religion as one of its conduits.

Later, he ended up in ministry in the Church of Scotland, and then working for the Edinburgh Interfaith Assosication. "When you come to dialogue, you come as who you are... you don't leave that behind, you have to be true to who you are," he declared.

Some 1,300 racist incidents have been reported in Glasgow, and 1,240 in Edinburgh, in the past year. This indicates that "fear of the unknown" and of the other still exist. Perhaps in a more secular society there is less understanding of the beliefs of others.

Sister Isabel Smyth spoke of her experience of jobs and social opportunities being effectively closed to Catholics. "We felt not wanted... but the Catholic school system have us opportunities to become teachers, and so on."

On the other hand, the stereotypes of people of other backgrounds and faiths was very unhelpful, she said. "I hardly knew a Protestant, let alone others",  Isabel said to laughter. "It seemed that they never smiled and never took their religion that seriously" was the caricature that she inherited.

Becoming a nun in Blackburn, she ended up studying at Lancaster, examining world religions, meeting people of other faith, and living for the first time in a secular community. "It was rewarding and nourishing, but also quite closed," she said of her Catholic upbringing. "I had a strong Catholic identity, but it was a closed Catholic identity... Lancaster changed me," Isabel explained.

"I discovered a spiritual wealth that belonged to us no matter what religion we belonged to... even Protestantism!"

She continued: "Like Iain, I do not fear a secular society. I don't want to live in a religious dominated society."  However, she added, there is a difficulty that people of faith fear a certain kind of secularism, one that is closed or antagonistic.

"I went to a Catholic school, as well as an Islamic one," Bashir Malik explained. "I have been very blessed. My father was an army officer, and I lived most of my life in a large city... that eventually became part of Islamabad."

"But even the officers were not paid so much, and his saving were not enough to send me to college. But I learned Persian, Arabic and English at school... I used to go to factories and mills about 200 miles around Islamabad, and I was advised to do advanced knowledge in textiles. I did an apprenticeship in Yorkshire. It took me two years to get my passport."

Bashir found himself assisting interfaith understanding at the request of a doctor, and as part of his study in Britain, before returning to Pakistan. Then he returned and got a job at Lucas, experiencing segregation for the first time - but subsequently found himself accepted personally by a number of people. In 1974 he moved to Morningside in Edinburgh.

"When I was in Birmingham there was no mosque... when my father came, he was disappointed."  But the reality was that it took time for people to get the time and money together.

"When you listen to these stories, you realise that going back some time ago, what we are doing here is something we couldn't have done then."

For Sister Isabel, it became a matter of practical need to understand those she was talking about. "Now I see it as a justice issue," she said, part of the quest for a society where people of different beliefs and backgrounds learn to live together creatively.

For Iain Stewart, the important thing is what we can learn from one another, "for example, from Sikhs in regard to equality and hospitality."  He acknowledged that religion could be used for ill, but also believed it could be a real force for good.

"Community is one very important aspect of faith," Iain said, referring to the experiment in 'atheist church' in London, which has also featured as part of the Just Festival conversations this year.

What is the greatest joy of being inter-faith? "People", Sister Isabel replied without hesitation. The comment was echoed by the others. "Also, there is a strong sense of God at work in these different communities," added Iain.

The collapsing of boundaries, labels and prejudices is an important reward of seeking to build bridges between different belief communities.

"There is so much good that can come from it," Iain declared. "How can I say 'love your neighbour' on Sunday, and then walk past them," said one Christian of Muslim neighbours.

So what is the next step in the C21st?

Bashir spoke of introducing around 35 Christians and others to a mosque. People who had never been to such a building before, joining the breaking of the fast at Ramadan. Much of what needs to be done in breaking down barriers remains human and basic.

Cooperation between faith groups in the face of poverty and austerity, including food banks, is another vital way forward, said Iain. The threat of the EDL, SDL and BNP also needs to be faced together.

But Isabel warned that "interfaith is a minority sport... it needs to go beyond the enthusiasts." She cited Professor Hans Kung's reminder that "there will be no peace without peace between the religions. There will be no peace between the religions without dialogue between the religions."

However, there is another step: "There will be no dialogue between the religions without dialogue within the religions." The message needs to be developed within each belief community.

"What is happening here at St John's is miles away from what is happening in the national church... for good, I hope," one contributor from the floor said.

Iain Stewart agreed, but spoke of, for example, the positive interfaith training going on within the Church of Scotland among ministers. "This is quite life-changing for some... we need to share the experience."

There was a warning about 'tea and sympathy' inter-faith work. But Sister Isabel responded by pointing out that human contact was actually vital to building understanding. (In England, a mosque disarmed a group of EDL antagonists by making them tea!)

Interfaith Scotland is opening up secular space for conversation between people of faith and non-faith. Conversations about values and social justice offer some fertile territory. This is another dimension of the conversation in the C21st.

Discussions with Humanists and non-religious secularists are important. But so are spaces for discussion among the religions (plural).

Grassroots action is the key, the panel agreed. The failure of part of the ecumenical movement within western Christianity has been that it didn't permeate local parishes and communities enough. It became structurally independent. There are lessons for interfaith action now.

"Ministers feel pressure to run a 'successful church', to keep reorganising, to maintain 'market share'," said the Rev Dr Chris Wigglesworth from the floor. "But actually, because many people are not interested in what we are enthusiastic about, we need to get out into the wider world."

"Sometimes that pressure comes from the laity," responded Markus Dunzkofer. It isn't, he suggested, simply a kind of clericalism that produces ecclesiastical introversion.

"Before you take on things that are a bit difficult, you have to become friends," another audience member stressed.

As in other conversations on religion at Just Festival, the issue of gender and of space, recognition and dignity for women was raised.

"One religious community cannot tell another one how to treat women," Sister Isabel suggested. It was a question of setting and recognising good examples.  The work of Beyond the Veil was mentioned.

Iain Stewart said that this was a serious issue, and spoke of the 'Faith in Women' project, sharing culture and faith, but also working on empowerment and leadership in the community.

Markus Dunzkofer felt it was both possible and important to issue challenges about the place and role of women within the religions.

Interestingly, one woman said, women's involvement in interreligious dialogue was one way that they got recognised within their own communities, and in Scotland more widely.

The danger of Christians (or post-Christians) criticising others in an imperialistic way was noted. "You can only judge from within the terms of reference of that community," it was suggested. Female Genital Mutilation has been opposed most effectively from within religious communities, for example.

This is a developing live blog...


THIS EVENING Young peaceworkers at work

PEACE. It's a great idea. But what does it mean in practice, and how do you actually do it, on the the ground, in day-to-day realistic situations?

Young Peaceworkers at work is an interactive workshop presented by two young Quakers who will not only tell you, but show you and involve you too.

Rhiannon Redpath is placed with Gender Action for Peace and Security, working on the issue of women in Afghanistan.

Owen Everett is placed jointly with War Resisters' International and Forces Watch, working on countering the militarisation of young people.

They are part of the one-year popular Peaceworker scheme run by Quaker Peace and Social Witness for the last 20 years.

Hear about their experiences, share their enthusiasm. Inspiration is guaranteed!

The talk and workshop runs on Monday 26th August 2013, from 7.30-9.00pm, at the central Quaker Meeting House in Victoria Street, Edinburgh, EH1 2JL. Tickets can be bought at the venue and cost £5.

This is part of the joint Just Festival, Edinburgh Peace Initiative and Quaker lecture series.

More here.

LAST DAY Persian Tent

THE Persian Tent at St John's has been a place of solace, relaxation, aromatic tea and fine food for the duration of Just Festival, and for many people passing St John's as part of a busy day. 

It will be in operation for the last time today, and we hope that people will enjoy the space and the refreshment as the take in the last few shows and talks for Just 2013.

Of course, there are some fine Persian crafts on sale to - and we do mean SALE!  Come along and see what treasures are available for you.

The team will also be happy to point you in the direction of the Persian Rug Village in Morningside, which is their 'day job'.

LAST PERFORMANCE Creepie Stool

CREEPIE Stool has enjoyed a spectacular run in the hall at St John's Church, as part of Just Festival 2013. You can catch the final performance at 8.30pm tonight, Monday 26th August. 

"A flair for irony, subtle provocation, detailed observation and wry wit," says EdinburghSpotlight of Scottish playwright Jen McGregor. This is her new play.

The scene is set in Edinburgh, 24 July 1637. Jenny Geddes flings a stool at a minister and starts a riot in St Giles, a three-day brawl and, indirectly, the Covenanters’ War.

While Calvinists and Catholics clash violently on the city’s streets, Jenny’s employer demands an explanation – leading to unwelcome discoveries behind closed doors.

Creepie Stool is a story of secrets, lies, inept leadership, early Scottish sectarianism and the uncontrollable consequences of a single act of defiance.

It is also inspired by a true story, and it has strong resonances with the current debate about sectarianism and how to handle it in Scotand and elsewhere.

Booking details here

LAST PERFORMANCE TODAY Africa Entsha

FOR another year, Africa Entsha have thrilled and delighted at Just Festival, with a heady mix of township, gospel, blues, jazz and more. 

Plus, they have all the moves!  They gave a further taster of what they are capable of at the official closing celebration for Just 2013 at St John's Church last night.

Don't miss them today, 8pm, again at St John's.

Tickets, which are available from the cash-only box office at the venue, can be purchased for £10, £8 concessions. Bring friends!

LAST PERFORMANCE TODAY Sacred Earth

SACRED Earth explores the interconnectedness between human emotions and the environments that shape them.

Inspired by the philosophies behind the ephemeral arts of Kolam and Warli and the Tamil Sangam literature of India, the captivating performance is accompanied by evocative live music.

The Ragamala company's artistic directors Ranee and Aparna Ramaswamy, who are mother and daughter, create visceral, universally recognisable experiences that use Indian art forms to express their contemporary point of view.

"We can't wait to have Ragamala Dance back at Just," says director Katherine Newbigging, who is enjoying another record-breaking year with Edinburgh's most innovative festival.

And indeed it is an image from this production which has been used for the front of the 2013 Just Festival programme catalogue.

Sacred Earth offers a singular vision of the beautiful, fragile relationship between nature and humanity - one that is under pressure or even threat in many parts of the globe at the moment.

The emphasis on relations rather than things or products is spiritual at its core, but appreciation of Sacred Earth does not depend upon any one religious or non-religious outlook.

The show has drawn deep appreciation from Christians, humanists and people from a variety of Western and Easter belief backgrounds.

The music, an important part of the performance, is provided by Alison Kirwin (nattuvangam), Resmi Kunjun Saraswathy (vocals), Rajna Swaminathan (mridangam, south Indian drum), and Anjna Swaminathan (violin).

Sacred earth runs from 19-24 August, and again on 26th, running from 18:00 – 19:15. On 25th August it is two hours earlier, 16:00 – 17:15. Prices are £12 (£10 concessions).

Full details and booking here.

TONIGHT: "More tea, imam?"

JUST Festival and its predecessor, the Festival of Spirituality and Peace, has been concerned over the years to strike up a genuine personal, artistic, spiritual and cultural conversation among the different religions and beliefs that make up our country.

Once mainly Christian, Scotland, like other parts of the British Isles, has greater diversity of outlook - religious and non-religious - than ever before. So what are the obstacles and challenges in interfaith work today? How does school and home education affect the dialogue between believers?

In the light of a greater secular feel to the state and society, to what extent do interfaith activities support religious life and spirituality? Can they build bridges between those for whom faith is central and vital to their lives, and those for whom it is peripheral and unimportant.

Is it a matter of 'the religious' versus the 'non-religious', or can we enjoy a richer exchange than one organised along battle lines favoured by zealots in various camps?

These and other issues will be considered at the Just conversation starting at 6pm in the hall at St John's (corner of Princes Street and Lothian Road, venue 127), Edinburgh, tonight. We will continue until 7.30pm, and the cost is £5.

The speakers will be Sister Isabel Smyth (Interfaith Scotland), Bashir Malik and Iain Stewart Edinburgh (Interfaith Assosication), and the chair will be the Rev Markus Dunzkofer (Church of St John the Evangelist).

More here.

LAST PERFORMANCE TODAY Tejas Verdes

ON 11th September 1973, General Pinochet seized power in a vicious coup that led to the death of democratically elected President Salvadore Allende and resulted in the death and torture of many thousands of people.

This is one of the 'other' 9/11s - a set of events with a great deal to teach us and remind us of, but one which is all-too-easily lost in the sands of history.

The scars of the US backed coup, sponsored by large corporations and shadowy right-wing networks inside and outside the country, have lasted well into the era of renewed democracy in the populous Latin American nation.

Tejas Verdes, once an idyllic seaside resort for the rich, beautiful and fortunate, became a torture and death camp under Pinochet's dictatorship. The torture was carried out in the old music room.

The critically acclaimed play Tejas Verdes remembers, with poetic beauty, overwhelming love and humanity, the story of a woman who was tortured and disappeared.

It is also the story of those who encountered her and were part of what happened to her.

Praised by Guardian critic Michael Billington ("Eloquently translated … impossible to forget"), Scottish broadcaster and journalist Jim Naughtie ("Warm, rich, even poetic") and actor Robbie Coltrane ("It really is the right time"), Tejas Verdes is showing throughout August as part of Just Festival. 

The final performances are Sunday 25th August and Monday 26th August (both 2pm), with tickets £14 and £11. 

Full details and booking here.

LAST CHANCE Come and be bewitched...

"COME and be bewitched by Martin AElred and Sandy Moffat in Canto del Paradiso at 2pm today," writes Yvonne Smith on the Just Festival Facebook page. We're happy to agree!

The Canto concerts, which continue today, are featuring “live art” created during the performance in “real time” by special guest artist, Alexander Moffat - who is former Head of Painting at Glasgow School of Art and co-author of Arts of Resistance: Poets, Portraits and Landscapes of Modern Scotland.​

​Martin Aelred is a renowned Scottish tenor and classical guitarist. Motivated by a desire to make our world a better place by uniting people through music, he compares himself to “a 17th Century monk in a 21st Century body”.

Martin’s recent audiences have included the Dalai Lama, where he sang at The Usher and Caird Halls on the Scottish portion of the tour by Prince Charles, accompanied by a choir of Alzheimer sufferers.​

Canto del Paradiso has made a great impression at the opening event for Just, at St John's Church on 4th August. Come and see the last performance today, Monday 26th August, 4pm in the church. 

Full details and booking

LAST DAY Peacing it all together

HOPEFULLY you've had a chance to see the In Sight of Peace exhibition on South Africa at St John's, Edinburgh (the hall, free).

If not, so try to take a look before the Just Festival ends today (Monday 26th August).

You can pop along today, or between 10am and 2pm Monday.

Meanwhile, here are a few inspirational quotes which set the context for Ian Berry's remarkable and moving images from the apartheid era and beyond...
More about the exhibition here.


THIS AFTERNOON Living Our Values

AT 2pm in St John's Church there will be a presentation and workshop based on the newly launched, empowering and inspiring book Living Our Values

The book, by Brahma Kumaris, presents what the author calls "an inside-out approach to changing your world for the better."

It is is based on the wisdom of some of those considered to be among the world’s leading spiritual coaches and provides a comprehensive range of activities and possibilities.

Entry is by donation.

Sunday, 25 August 2013

Time to celebrate!

SO the Just Festival closing celebration has ended here at St John's... but the work is still far from over. There's a full day's festivaling tomorrow, for a start.

Then there's equipment to be packed away, accounts to be done, reports to be written, stats to be processed, farewells to be made... and ideas and lessons stored and digested for 2014. The logistics are considerable.

But right now, people are gathering in the Church hall to relax, chat and celebrate. Everyone deserves a little time out!






"An amazing three weeks..."

"AN amazing three weeks" - that is how chair of the Just Festival board chair Raymond Baudon summed up his experience of 2013. 

He gave a brief outline of the extraordinary range of events - art, drama, music, conversation, photography, talks and performances - which have gone to make up Just this year.

"It all began with a flamenco flashmob in front of hundreds of people... and since then around 10,000 people have passed through St John's for various events," he noted.

Just has also utilised a range of further venues and cooperated with the Quakers and other civic organisations in putting on the festival.

Raymond extended a particular thanks to all the sponsors, to director Katherine Newbigging, to Beata, Annika and the whole staff team, to the board, and to the team of volunteers.

Before the singing of Auld Lang Syne, led by Scotpipe, Tom Lea (Alwaleed Cantre, University of Edinburgh) from the board made a small presentation to Raymond Baudon, who has handled the kind of challenging issues that accompany any such event with professionalism and good humour.

Katherine ended by inviting people into the hall for refreshments - and reminding us that there is still one full day's worth of Just events on Monday 26th August!

A poem from the volunteers

THE message to and from Just Festival 2013 on behalf of the volunteers was a prose-poem summing up their experience over three extraordinary weeks.

Here's a snippet. We will try to upload the whole presentation shortly...


Hands of friendship from Poland

POLISH communities make up a rich and important part of the life of Edinburgh, as well as other places in Scotland and across these islands.

Kapela Dudziarska from Poznan, Poland and BARKA presented and played some evocative and emotionally charged music from their homeland, to rapturous applause at the closing event and celebration for Just Festival 2013.

"The common resonance of the string sound and a distinctive Polish bagpipes with the pipes known and loved in Scotland was very noticeable," one audience member noted.

The band played five different short tunes and have been collaborating with Scotpipe on a charity concert.

BARKA is a Polish homeless group, and has been raising money across Edinburgh in festival season, collecting £310 so far.

The aim is help to rehabilitate people of who have become homeless while in the UK, and it has been going for some 20 years now. "Thank you for supporting us," was the message to Just.  The Polish Centre for Culture and Education also brought a message of greeting this evening.

Beata Skobodzinska, the coordinator of Just Festival, who has done another remarkable job this year, hails from Poland herself.

"Since she joined the festival in 2012 as the Festival Administrator, the office has been a very happy place full of laughter and an occassional Polish song," commented colleague Annika Wolf.

The Polish community has been established in Scotland for many years, since at the end of the Second World War many veterans settled after being posted here. When Poland joined the EU in 2001, an opportunity arrived for a new generation of Polish immigrants to work and study in the UK.

Polish immigrants are currently the largest group of immigrant workers in the city, with the health, further education and tourism sectors accounting for the majority of employers. The City of Edinburgh Council estimates that Edinburgh’s Polish community consists of 8,000 residents.

Many have formed their own community networks and have settled in areas such as Leith, London Road and Marchmont. A variety of Polish shops, services and cafes are available throughout the city region, especially in Edinburgh.

Caring for all at Just

JUST Festival has been delighted to support Waverley Care as one of its sponsored charities in 2013, backed by a percentage of each ticket sold throughout August.

A brief presentation of the impact and importance of that support was offered as part of Just Together, the official closing event for Just 2013. 

Waverley Care is Scotland's leading charity providing care and support to people living with HIV or Hepatitis C.

A diagnosis of HIV or Hepatitis C brings with it not only issues of poor health and a lifetime of medication and hospital visits, but individuals also face social exclusion, stigma and discrimination. 

Waverley Care believes that every person has a right to be cared for, loved and respected, whether they are HIV/Hepatitis C positive or not.

From facilitating peer support, to pastoral and spiritual care and help with job applications, it challenges stigma and discrimination so that everyone can work towards reaching their full potential in life.

Lighting candles throughout the year

RABBI David Rose has been involved with Just festival and its predecessors for several years. As part of the closing event this evening, he gave a greeting, summarising the message and impact of Just. 

Citing Jewish and other traditions, he described it as "an opportunity to bring people together to use drama, comedy, music and so on to talk about the things that matter to us."

"People from all over the world have joined us... in a spirit of friendship and of amity, to bring the world together," he declared, noting that Edinburgh is a vital centre of inter-faith and inter-cultural activity.

"This festival is not just for three weeks, but has an influence throughout the year, with events and conversations going on... Just Festival provides is with the opportunity to light candles throughout year, to illuminate the world," concluded Rabbi Rose.

Appointed to his current post in Edinburgh in May 2003, Rabbi Rose represents the Jewish community in several civic forums, is currently the Jewish representative on the executive of Interfaith Scotland, member of the Conference of Scottish Religious leaders and is honorary Prersident of the Edinburgh Interfaith Association.

Another great turnout...

ONE of the many encouraging features of Just Festival 2013 has been the attendances. The Just Together closing event and celebration at St John's was no different. 


Piping hot start

TONIGHT'S closing event and celebration of Just Festival 2013 has begun with a stirring rendition from the Scotpipe band in front of a packed gathering at St John's Church here in Edinburgh. 

Among the several themes of the festival this year has been thinking about the future of Scotland and its relations with the rest of these islands, with Europe and with the world in the run up to what will be a historic referendum on independence in 2014.


Getting ready to roll...

THE lights are on, the sound is plugged in, the performers and speakers are ready, the audience are gathered outside awaiting... and the final bits of rehearsal have been done - as you can see here. "All you need is love", they were singing. Well, that and a bit of hard work!


Katherine leads the way

JUST Festival director Katherine Newbigging made time, as usual, to talk to people and make sure everything was in order for tonight's official closing event and celebration at St John's Church in Edinburgh.

Katherine has been involved with Just and its predecessor, the Festival of Spirituality and Peace, in various capacities since 2008, latterly as coordinator and - since last year - director.

She is among the youngest major festival directors in Britain, but has built up a great body of experience and excellent relations with the whole range of people (artists, agents, technicians, staff, volunteers and other specialists) needed to put a demanding event like Just on.

Just is now an established part of the Edinburgh scene, and as soon as this one is wrapped, planning will start for 2014. As was the case this year, the festival will also take on a number of events across the calendar.

The Just festival has broken box office records in 2013, with some 145 events, 450 performances and around 30,000 people coming along.

TONIGHT AT 8pm: Just together... a celebration!

TONIGHT at 8pm, we celebrate what has been another extraordinary and record-breaking Just Festival (formerly the Festival of Spirituality and Peace) with a 'wrap event' at St John's Church.

Scots pipers will welcome us in and see us out. There will be a swansong or two for Just from the amazing Africa Entsha - of course - along with dance from Ragmala, Polish music, a cameo from Creepie Stool, a reflection from Rabbi Rosen, the Just Festival volunteers bursting into song, and more...

We also look forward to hearing from festival director Katherine Newbigging and chair of the hard-working board, Raymond Baudon.  There will be refreshments in the church hall afterwards.

But don't get the idea that this is the end of Just for 2013!

We will still have a full day left, Monday 26th August. That will be your last chance to see the moving Tejas Verdes, to reflect on Living Our Values, to meet Young Peacemakers, to hear the Canto del Paradiso, to be moved by Sacred Earth, to hear Africa Entsha, to see Creepie Stool... and to answer the question (in a multi-ethnic, multicultural, multi-belief society), "More Tea Imam?"

Also, of course, you can have a final peak at the remarkable In Sight of Peace photo-exhibition: Ian Berry of Magnum offers a unique view of South Africa, past and present, in its quest to leave apartheid behind - without forgetting the torment, and while learning the lessons.

Further previews of all of those events coming up soon here on Just Festival News...

Meantime, Just Together, the official closing event - tonight, 8pm, St John's Church Edinburgh (corner of Princes Street and Lothian Road, venue 127).

It's free, but donations to our charities, Mary's Meals and Waverley Care, and to the ongoing work of Just, will be welcome.

Tonight's Just Together will be live blogged...

IF you are not able to be at the Just Together celebrations of Just Festival 2013 at St John's Church this evening, starting at 8pm, we will try to keep you up to speed with what is happening with some live blogs, tweets and photos.

A full report will then follow. Thanks in anticipation for all who will be taking part....


And remember: we will still have a full day left, Monday 26th August. That will be your last chance to see the moving Tejas Verdes, to reflect on Living Our Values, to meet Young Peacemakers, to hear the Canto del Paradiso, to be moved by Sacred Earth, to hear Africa Entsha, to see Creepie Stool... and to answer the question (in a multi-ethnic, multicultural, multi-belief society), "More Tea Imam?"

Also, of course, you can have a final peak at the remarkable In Sight of Peace photo-exhibition (10m-2pm Monday): Ian Berry of Magnum offers a unique view of South Africa, past and present, in its quest to leave apartheid behind - without forgetting the torment, but while learning the lessons about how to build a peaceful future.

Just Festival Volunteers Ensemble... yay!

YEP, you're going to get their world premier tonight... the Just Festival volunteers have kept the whole show on the road, and now they're going to sing about it, just for you. And a few hundred other people.

Just Festival News has not enjoyed an exclusive preview ahead of the Just Together event (tonight, Sunday 25th August, 8pm at St John's Church Edinburgh, refreshments at 9pm)... but those who have tell us that X-factor can eat it's heart out. Welcome to Just-Factor!

Not much more to say, other than BE THERE!  But thanks to Adam Millerchip for this little video of the percussion section tuning up over supper. It's going to be awesome, folks...

Getting stuck in to the future

WELL, no, we don't mean in an aggressive way - but not just talking, finding a new way of putting together our views so that we can make a difference!

That was what happened at Just Festival the other evening, as part of the session looking at citizenship and identity in Scotland, whichever way the referendum goes in September 2014 (and as part of the public exchange in the build-up to it).

Perry Walker of the inspirational New Economics Foundation (nef) brought along with him an abbreviated version of a word game which enables people to express themselves and hear one another in fresh ways. It involves choosing and linking words and phrases.

You can see people busy getting stuck in to the exchange (in the nicest way possible!) in our picture, with Perry supervising proceedings.

The Church of Scotland (with Imagining Scotland's Future) and So Say Scotland, who also held a Just workshop,  are among those rolling out cafe-style civic conversations and we think about the future direction of our country, these islands. Europe and beyond.

The full live blog from the Just conversation about Scottish identity and citizenship can also be found here.

The cost of peace

HERE'S a trailer for the touching and profound film Two-Sided Story, on the quest for reconciliation with justice in Israel and Palestine today.

It shows at 4pm, Sunday 25th August, St John's Church Hall, £6.

Showing our true colours

"WE had a great time at the Just Festival. We met some really inspirational people!"

That was the comment made by TRUE (Tackling Racism, Uniting Everyone), founded by young people in Edinburgh.

We at Just were delighted to have them here, too.

TRUE write: "We aim to challenge racism, not only within our schools and communities but also globally. Follow us on twitter here. Email us@: truecolours_group@hotmail.co.uk. Link to our facebook page. Suscribe to our youtube channel."

Here's the picture they took...

Israel, Palestine... Two-sided story

ON Sunday afternoon, Just Festival has a special screening of the moving, insightful and thoughtful film Two-Sided Story.

It is a narrative involving 27 Palestinians and Israelis meeting for a unique project called ‘History through the Human Eye’.

Bereaved Palestinian families, Orthodox Jews and religious Muslims, settlers, ex-soldiers and ex-security prisoners, and citizens of the Gaza strip; each holds their own historical truth and shares their own emotional baggage with each other.

As Archbishop Elias Chacour, a Palestinian and citizen of Israel who has struggled tirelessly and nonviolently for a just peace in the land has observed: a settlement in Israel-Palestine, which must offer security and recognition for all people, is not just about politics. It is about disarmed truth, and recognising in each other a wounded bother and sister, not an enemy or a threat.

Tor Ben-Mayor • Israel Palestine 2010 • 1h15m • Hebrew, Arabic/English subtitles Rated 18.

The hall at St John's Church (corner of Princes Street and Lothian Road, venue 127). Tickets are £6 and can be purchased at the cash-only box office at the venue.

Sponsored by Parents Circle - Families Forum (PCFF), which is a grassroots organization of bereaved Palestinians and Israelis. The PCFF promotes reconciliation as an alternative to hatred and revenge.

Life is not all scripted

AS festival season illustrates, life is a balance between planning and sheer spontaneity... and sometimes you just have to let the spontaneity take over!

The Unbelievable Beauty of Being Human is an unscripted event "to re-ignite hope for humankind," say the performers. And that means human beings being kind...

"Passionate, funny, honest, affirming of real people and real living, it creates music, song, dance and story all on the spot."

The performers this afternoon elevate both the miracles and struggles of everyday folk in a daring, unpredictable and fresh way.

The show is directed by InterPlay's founders, Cynthia Winton-Henry and Phil Porter, who are based in California, USA.

InterPlay is a method that explores creativity for anyone, and offers a powerful way to connect to your story, sound and movement.

The Unbelievable Beauty of Being Human's format was first performed in San Francisco in 1997 and has debuted in Seattle, Minneapolis Chicago, Raleigh, and Sydney, Australia. Now it takes its rightful place in Edinburgh.

This is a UK and Scottish premier, and features renowned Scottish singer Mairi Campbell, among others.

The performance is free (donations welcome) and runs from 1-2.30pm in the church at St John's, corner of Princes Street and Lothian Road (venue 127).

Just... turn up!

Saturday, 24 August 2013

Singing 'I'm no a Billy, He's a Tim'

IT'S the day of the big game. One Rangers fan, one Celtic fan, in a single jail cell. The match isn't the only thing that will kick off.

The 'Old Firm' may play two divisions apart at the moment, but the rivalries and hatreds that get projected on them are just as strong.

Acclaimed writer Des Dillon's humorous take on the age-old issues of sectarianism and bigotry is one of a trio of plays on sectarianism in Scotland commissioned by Just Festival, formerly the Festival of Spirituality and Peace, from Edinburgh's Black Dingo Productions.

"McFarlane’s production does [the issue] justice, in every way that matters," writes critic and commentator Joyce McMillan in The Scotsman newspaper.

Tickets are £12, or £10 concessions. Web links to purchase here, or the cash box office at the venue (number 27), St John's Church (corner of Princes Street and Lothian Road), Edinburgh. The play runs has been on for the past few days and runs for one more night at Just, Saturday 24th August, from 20:30 – 21:50.

Black Dingo Productions is a not-for-profit organisation with a DIY ethic, established to help the development of grassroots and off the beaten track theatre in Edinburgh. For more information on the company, visit www.blackdingoproductions.co.uk.


Learn to be a world-changer

SITTING around pontificating about the state of the world. Moaning about how the world needs to head in a different direction. Actually doing something to change it.

Which of those three options is best?  How do we move from theorising and complaining to acting?

One way is to hear the stories and experiences of people who have taken the difficulty and challenge of change into their hands and done something with it.

In what is certain to be an encouraging conversation at St John's Church at 2pm on Saturday 24th August, you will have the chance to meet inspiring young people who balance homework with changing the world.

They have had a positive effect on those they set out to help and their friends and families. What motivated them to be the change they wanted to see in the world (Gandhi) and what we can learn from them?

The interviews with our panellists will be followed by an open discussion. ​ 

The speakers will be representatives of Mary’s Meals, Fast Forward,  Eczema Outreach Scotland,   TRUE Colours, and Stonelaw High Fair Traders.

The chair will be Sean Lewis from Edinburgh and Lothians Regional Equality Council.

Tickets cost £5 and are available online or from the cash-only box office at the venue.

More information here

An energising journey with Bach

THE first performance of Bach's famous Cello Suites at St John's Church, as part of Just Festival, on Sunday 18th August, has been very warmly welcomed.

Bronwen Naish's delivery of six preludes and suite no. 1 was described by one audience member as "simply gorgeous". And the good news is that she will continue to perform them on Monday 19th, Tuesday 20th and Wednesday 21st, with a break on 22nd and two final performances on 23rd and 24th August.

The six suites for unaccompanied cello by Johann Sebastian Bach are some of the most frequently performed and recognizable solo compositions ever written for cello. They were most likely composed during the period 1717–1723, when Bach served as a Kapellmeister in Köthen.

The suites have been transcribed for a whole variety of instruments. They have been performed and recorded by many renowned cellists, including Pablo Casals, János Starker, Pierre Fournier, Paul Tortelier, Mstislav Rostropovich, Yo-Yo Ma, Mischa Maisky and Daniil Shafran, among others.

The Cello Suites are normally performed as single suites, travelling through the prelude and dances in their conventional order.

But what happens when all the Preludes are played in sequence, all the Allemandes in sequence and so on through all the six works?

Their extraordinary inventiveness and variety is suddenly highlighted in a new way. The key changes present a different experience for the listener as do the resulting changes of mood.

Because this is Festival time, Bronwen will finish each appearance with a number on the musical saw, (but not by Bach!)

Full Performance information:

18th: 6 Preludes + Suite no 1
19th: 6 Allemandes + Suite no 2
20th: 6 Courantes + Suite no 3
21st: 6 Sarabandes + Suite no 4
23rd: 4 Minuets, 4 Bourrees 4 Gavottes + Suite no 5
24th: 6 Gigues + Suite no 6

Venue: St John's Church (venue 27), corner of Princes Street and Lothian Road, Edinburgh. Price: £5. There is a cash box office at the venue.

Full details and booking here.

Friday, 23 August 2013

Farm animals: just food or fellow creatures?

AN eager audience has arrived for tonight's conversation at St John's Just Festival conversation on animal ethics, farming and more.

The speakers are Peter Stevenson (Compassion in World Farming) and Dr Fritha Langford (University of Edinburgh and the Scottish Rural College), along with chair Michael Appleby (The World Society for the Protection of Animals).

The picture (not the panel!) indicates that there is a slight technical problem with transmitting photos right now, but as it happens we are starting with some pictures of the creatures being discussed and the conditions in which they are reared.

Overcrowded, barren and filthy conditions are sadly all too frequent, said Peter Stevenson, having shown some evidence for this. Treating animals simply as food means that we may adopt harm reduction and ensure some basic standards of safety, but developing a real sense of respect for the world and its creatures is a larger and more significant matter.

He quoted both St Basil of Caesarea: "May we recognise that they exist not for us alone, but for us and thee..." and from Lyle Watson, in The Whole Hog.

Fritha Langford, from an academic point of view, wants to ask about the researched needs of animals and what they, in themselves, 'bring to the table' in terms of the debate about treatment and ethics. What matters to a cow? How can one know?

So how can we feed the world sustainably, while also treating farm animals humanely?  It's 9 billion people by 2050 we are talking about. The real issue is sustainability, says Peter. "factory farming is very inefficient" - the calories we get back are minimal, compared to the grain inputs.

Could there be a different food source for pigs and sheep, say, sake Fritha? Grass and connective materials, replied Peter, converting something we can't eat into something we can. "The very systems that are so flawed are the ones that are inhumane."

In the developed world we should be eating fewer animal products more sustainably and humanely produced. In the developing world, the issues are different, and the two should not be confused.

We need to look at the life cycle, system measurements and particular needs, suggested Fritha, also factoring in the carbon footprint.

An organic chicken takes more carbon to produce, but if you eat less it balances it out, commented Michael Appleby.

Food waste, changes in consumption patterns and changes in distribution are key to feeding the world, Peter and Michael.  2.75 billion people could be fed by halving waste and grain feed, Peter said. The idea that we need 70% more production per se misses these issues of policy and responsibility.

The issue of fish farming and welfare was one that needed much greater attention, the panel agreed. There was also a need for more data and knowledge.

Breeding units in Scotland feature millions of fish in a unit the size of a small hall. The ethical question, said Peter, was about the distinction between natural and farmed behaviour. "The science cannot yet tell us, 'does the fish mind'," but that does not remove responsibility and judgement.

'Cheap food' is the real culprit, Peter suggests. It is only cheap because real costs are not factored in - health, environment, and so on. We in the west are eating poor food, and it is the taxpayer, the health service and future generations who are paying.

Professor Tim Lang has said that the current factory-based system is a crazy use of resources, crazy economics and crazy for health.

Supermarkets say "we are simply giving customers what we want", as if they and their advertising had no part in shaping a culture of expectation among consumers.

"We are not being helped as a society to be grown up and mature about food and animals", Peter Stevenson declared.

What of the horsemeat scandal?  Has it changed anything? "I don't think it has made us as a society say that we want to rethink how we derive meat and dairy products," Peter responded. "The way we treat animals in factory farming is awful. The pictures I showed you earlier are illegal, but there is a major problem with enforcement..."

How do we know where our food comes from and by what means? This is another major issue, along with who controls and disseminates such information.

Retailers and supermarkets are also often "hiding the truth from consumers". The internet can be a help, but it is not a substitute for good, pro-active communication and dialogue.

Education must play a major role in changing attitudes, sustainability and healthy food production.  Dr Fritha Langford said that there was growing interest in animal welfare in schools in Scotland, some of it government backed. That includes companion animals. Taking children to farms is important, too, though there can be obstacles.

"If you can run a farm on which you are perfectly happy to have school trips and visitors, then you are probably doing something right," said Michael. "If you are ashamed, there's a problem."

Talking of choices consumers may make: schemes like the RSPCA Freedom Food scheme, though not perfect, are better in what they recommend than the factory system, it was suggested. Free range and organic approaches have a number of advantages overall.

The question of 'fellow creatures' suggests that we are not just using animals, but we are in some sense entering a contract with them, working with them.

"We need to move way from overuse of human edible grain as a major source of food, eating less meat and making it better... It is also a matter of ethics, of spirituality, of rebalancing... and recognising ourselves as creatures," concluded Peter, questioning the dominant 'consumer society' paradigm.

This has been an evolving blog... do add your own comments or corrections. 

Thinking about citizenship and identity

"CITIZENSHIP - it's what we do," said Moira Tasker of Citizens Advice Edinburgh, introducing tonight's conversation at St John's on identity, citizenship and the 2014 independence referendum.

Moira is chairing the discussion, and the speakers are Iain G. Mitchell QC (in a personal capacity) and Perry Walker (New Economics Foundation, and a leading proponent of citizens' democracy).

Iain Mitchell started by talking about the debate of the head and the heart, and the very different feelings which people have about Scottish, British and European identities, individually and collectively.

"If we conduct the debate on independence without mutual respect from each others' identities, it will be very sterile," he declared.

Perry Walker began to look at the different 'narratives' involved. The pro-independence one might be, for example, "it's time to grow up". The counter-narrative would be about constraints from London and the EU, in terms of ownership.

On the pro-UK side the narrative may be about "the family of Britain". Again, the counter-argument might be about the suppression of the Scottish part of that identity as part of empire.

"Identity is about where we are comfortable being at home," Iain Mitchell responded. "But yer ain folk might be  the whole world, or a significant part of it."  History has a part to play. "I do have difficulty with the quasi-mysticism of identity with the land... because at its worst it can become exclusive."

At present, people born here or with the right of citizenship actually have two such legal citizenships - British and European - though many are not aware of this. Independence might, Mitchell suggested, challenge that. But to what extent is the sense of being a citizen a legal or a participation one?

He added that, with the possible exception of the EU, where he suggested that the broad legal consensus is that Scotland would be a new member and the other parts of what is now the UK would be a continuing member, Scottish membership of other international treaties and organisations would not be especially problematic under independence.

However, Mitchell said, what was needed was to define the debate better - again, both at the heart and head level.

Perry Walker explained that, as someone based in England, his interest was in citizens' participation and engagement, and that the card game he has brought along this evening is based on trying to listen to a variety of views across the political spectrum.

"For every expert there is an equal and opposite expert, it has been said," he added. "The decision we take is partly going to be about choosing narratives."

On the economic front, there are choices, but also assessments about the political probability of moving one way or another, Perry suggested. Iain felt there was little real room for manoeuvre.

An audience member said that she felt, however, that decisions for public ownership and industrial/social support would be both significant and possible.

After engaging with the card game, people said that they wanted a less politically charged debate, more information, and an acknowledgement that the decisions involved confidence (or not) in those who would have to negotiate and decide at the governmental level - but with influence and participation of people and communities.

The aim of the evening was not to have a partisan argument, but to deepen understanding and the ability to engage. The sense was that those taking part were grateful for that.

[Image: Focus Scotland].

This is an evolving live blog...

Last chance to see Soweto Melodic Voices!

TODAY at 4pm is the last chance to see five-star ★★★★★ rated Soweto Melodic Voices at the Just Festival. Don't miss out!

The ensemble, backed on their tour by Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu, who sent a special video message to the Festival at the beginning of the month, have been described as "an amazing burst of energy, talent and joy each and every day."

Soweto Melodic Voices offer a vibrant, life-affirming, celebration of traditional and contemporary African music, dance and song.  Reviews for them have been outstanding.

Their members are young adults who have grown up amidst the poverty of Soweto and have experienced first-hand hardships and bereavement through HIV/AIDS.

Transcending these hardships by friendship, mutual support and the joys for performing, the group raises funds for the prevention, treatment and orphans of HIV/AIDS.

The performance is at 4pm in the hall at St John's Church (venue 127, corner of Princes Street and Lothian Road), Edinburgh. Tickets are £12 (£10 concessions), and are available from the cash-only box office at the venue.

More details here.

Seeds of bitterness, milk of kindness...

THE recent revelations about direct CIA involvement in the 1953 Iranian coup d'état (known in Iran as the 28 Mordad coup) bring back very personal memories for Yousef Ahadi, who heads up the operation at the Persian Tent.

The overthrow of the democratically elected government of Iran, and of Prime Minister Mohammad Mosaddegh, took place on 19 August 1953, orchestrated by the UK (under the name 'Operation Boot') and the United States (under the name TPAJAX Project).

Yousef's mother was taking part in a protest against the dictatorship, with Yousef alongside her... the outcome of which is that he reckons the CIA owe him at least a bottle of milk!

Much more seriously, though, he explains in this interview with Just Festival News why the latest revelations need to bring about a real change of heart in the West - and in the world as a whole - away from violence and injustice, and towards a better way of living together.

The legacy of the bitterness between Iran and the West can be found in part in the tragic events which unfolded 60 years ago this month. You can also find out more about Yousef's mother's story here.

Listen to the full podcast here.

Are animals more than just food?

MANY believe that the way we treat the most vulnerable is the moral litmus of our humanity. But does this extend beyond humankind to other creatures, and if so in what ways?

The debate about how we treat animals is particularly intense around modern farming methods, intensive rearing and the sheer scale of local, regional and global food industries.

Pragmatically and ethically, is treating animals well a luxury we can’t afford or a feature of our spiritual journey through the world which we cannot be without?

The reality is that the majority of the animals who provide our meat, milk and eggs for us (whether we are carnivores herbivores, ovo-lacto vegetarians or pescatarians) are factory farmed.

What is done to them is done in the name of efficiency and cheap food. But is it really cheap or efficient? Can we eat well and behave towards animals with humanity?

The speakers at an important conversation on all this today, as part of Just Festival, will be Peter Stevenson (Compassion in World Farming), Dr Fritha Langford (Scotland's Rural College), along with chair Michael Appleby (The World Society for the Protection of Animals).

The discussion runs from 6-7.30pm in the hall at St John's Church (venue 127), Friday 23rd August, priced £5. Tickets can be purchased online, or at the cash-only ticket office at the venue.  Organised in association with Compassion in World Farming.

Scottish identity and citizenship

THE Scottish Independence Referendum has opened up serious discussions about Scotland’s identity and citizenship.

How might Scotland’s sense of self be defined after centuries of Union and immigration? Will this affect the voting in September 2014, and if so how?

Equally, what should be taken into account while revisiting legal aspects of granting citizenship? How will the Referendum shape intra-British and European relations?

These and other issues will be considered today in a conversation on Citizenship and Identity as part of Just Festival 2013, co-sponsored by the European Movement in Scotland.

The Speakers will be Iain G. Mitchell QC (Murray Stable) and Perry Walker (New Economics Foundation, and a leading proponent of citizens' democracy). The chair will be Moira Tasker (Citizen Advice Edinburgh).

The conversation runs from 4-5.30pm, Friday 23rd August, in the hall at St John's Church (venue 127).

Full details and booking here.

Tickets, which are £5, can also be purchased on the day at the venue's cash-only ticket office.

Thursday, 22 August 2013

Trailer: Kalinovski Square

SHOWING tonight, 6-8pm at Edinburgh Filmhouse, as part of Just Festival, and with support from the European Parliament...

A documentary exploring the demonstrations on Kalinovski Square after the elections on 19 March 2006 where Lukashenka 'created' his victory with almost 83% of the votes.

With his astonishing footage and ironic discourses, director Yuri Khashchavatski speaks out about resistance and persecution, displaying an overwhelming will for freedom.

Beginning again with religion

RELIGION is a 'hot topic' one way or another. Some love, some loathe, many go meh... but you can't ignore the diverse belief mix that now makes up a modern plural society.

Many of us think we know a lot about one faith or another, but we're also embarrassed by how little we know. What's more, as author Owen Cole once wisely observed: "People who have different beliefs to you don't live in books, they live down your street."

So... Ever wondered what makes food halal? How karma works? Or why Sikh people wear turbans? 

In the series 'A beginner's guide to religion' you will get to find out this and much, much more.

Each evening we will explore a different religion with a speaker from that faith.

Learn the history and teachings of each belief system, and hear personal accounts belonging to a faith tradition in 21st century Scotland and beyond.

The series is being put on by the Edinburgh Inter Faith Association. You can find full details here. Continues 21st  and 22nd • 17:30 – 18:30 each of those evenings.

By donation. Venue: Cornerstone Bookshop, EH2 4BJ (at St John's Church, corner of Princes Street and Lothian Road, Edinburgh).

Resisting dictatorship

Kalinovski Square, which shows as part of Just Festival at the Edinburgh Filmhouse tonight (6-8pm) is an award-winning 2007 documentary film by Belarusian filmmaker Yury Khashchavatski. 

The film takes a critical look at the re-election of Alexander Lukashenko in March 2006, featuring especially the protests that occurred after the election was found to be fraudulent.

These protests had their centre at October Square in downdown Minsk, which was informally renamed on the occasion for Konstanty Kalinowski.

Before its commercial release on DVD in June 2009, the film was distributed under the title The Square.

The Belarussian authorities had already taken exception to the work of director Khashchavatski, following his first movie, An Ordinary President, released in 1996.

As a result, all production for Kalinovski Square was done underground.

With his astonishing footage and ironic discourses, Yuri Khashchavatski speaks out about resistance and persecution, displaying an overwhelming will for freedom.

Full booking details here. Tickets are £8.20 and £6. The showing is sponsored by the European Parliament.

Learning about the culture of Persian rugs

AN established feature of Just Festival and its predecessor, the Festival of Spirituality and Peace, over the past few years has been the Persian Tent - a place of relaxation and refreshment amidst the buzz of Edinburgh in August.

The team that bring you the tea and fine food between, before and after performances at Just are linked to the Persian Rug Village shop, and can also offer expert advice and assistance in that area.

This evening (4-6pm) there is a free 'Introduction to Persian Rugs' session for passers by and those with a developing interest.

First opened in Morningside in 1990, Persian Rug Village has subsequently built a reputation as a leading centre of excellence and expertise in oriental carpets in Scotland.

Providing professional cleaning and repair services for handmade rugs, it also offers a personal service to our customers and organises cultural events within the wider community - like the Tent.

"We specialise in the finest quality traditional rugs, many of which are designed and created in our own workshops in Persia and Turkey.

"Made from natural and sustainable materials, our rugs are hand-crafted using tools and techniques which have been handed down through the generations.

"We enjoy a close relationship with the Süleyman Demirel University, offering classes and work experience to art students involving carpet creation, maintenance, and repair."

More information here.

Exploring the resonance of Lindisfarne

THIS is Edinburgh’s and Just Festival's contribution to the 1300th anniversary celebrations of 'The Lindisfarne Gospels' which contain the earliest surviving translation of the Gospels into English.

Dedicated to St Cuthbert, who established Edinburgh’s first church nearby, it reveals an amazing blend of Scots, Saxon, Roman, Coptic and Muslim influences.

Ray Simpson of Lindisfarne, author and founding guardian of the international Community of Aidan and Hilda, tells the amazing story of the Gospels, discusses how they may inform Scotland’s independence debate and inspire Christian-Muslim interface.

The tale leads into a meditation on the portraits of the Four Gospel writers as archetypes of the Warrior, Magus, Lover and King.

Signed copies of Ray’s new book 'The Lindisfarne Gospels' will be available.

Full details here.

Wednesday, 21 August 2013

Banking on the future

HERE we are at the Quaker Meeting House in central Edinburgh, ready to learn about a different approach to banking and how an enterprise like Triodos can make a real difference.

"Triodos is a global pioneer of sustainable banking. Our mission is to make money work for positive social, environmental and cultural change.

"More specifically, we are in business to help create a society that protects and promotes the quality of life of all its members; to enable individuals, organisations and businesses to use their money in ways that benefit people and the environment and promote sustainable development; and to provide our customers with innovative financial products and high quality service."

 All that sounds very noble. But what does it mean?

Now is not a good time to be a banker. "We may have the liberty to do certain things, but are they morally correct," said Neil Hewitt. "So welcome to sustainable banking." This is about being conscious of the environmental and social impact money, transparency, linking savers and investors, focussing on the needs of future generations as well as our own.

Triodos lends deposits on for social benefit. It originated 30 years ago in the Netherlands, out of a banking crisis. The bank now has over 700 co-workers (as they are called), having grown significantly.  It has been in the UK for 17 years, and five in Scotland. It took over Mercury Provident in Brighton, moving to Bristol (not London).

The aim of the organisation is to help people, both individually and collectively, to become much more aware of how money is generated and used.

The projects Triodos supports have to environmentally and socially beneficial, but also financially sustainable: that the business is there not only for today, but for tomorrow.

"Transparency is our leading way of ensuring that depositors, our customers, know where the money goes," Neil declared. All the information about the projects is published. There is no hidden funding of armaments or other negative industries.

Excellence and credibility is necessary to solidify people's relationship with the bank, because they are not just buying into values but also entrusting their resources. The management of a business that seeks to be on the leading edge has to be entrepreneurial, but also informed: about what political and funding changes are driving things like healthcare, for example.

This means that policies and products can be effective, but also support innovators in the fields where investment is going on.

Changes in the Charities Act have had a positive impact on deposit range, matching the need for a financial return with other aims.

Organic farming and ethical trading businesses (Cafe Direct, River Cottage, etc.) are an important part of what Triodos supports in the agricultural and commercial field.

Hydro, solar and other renewable energy resources are elements of the environment team's engagement, supporting industry and jobs.

The social and cultural team's work varies across housing associations, to health, faith groups, charities and more.

There is a longstanding relationship with the Camp Hill community movement, in Scotland (it started in Aberdeen after the war) and Ireland. That includes green waste and recycling in Edinburgh, as well as small holding elsewhere. "Our money is being used in a very constructive way."

When faith groups are supported, it is because of community involvement (youth, elderly people, food banks), not as a way of endorsing a particular belief system. There should not be obstacles put in the way of service.

Quakers especially, but also evangelical Christians, Buddhists and a Sikh group are among the partners.

Growth in lending, now at £580 million, has extended by 16% in the last year or so. Bad debts, meanwhile, have dwindled and are not a problem - 0.16% of the entire loan book.

But there is an awareness that the financial crisis and cuts are hitting individuals, charities, service providers and others. So Triodos seeks to work closely with them to move forward and address the issues.

So there is no 'big black book', but a determination to manage risk responsibly.

People, planet and profit are the triple 'bottom line'. Triodos declares: "Our approach is based on the fundamental belief that economic activity can and should have a positive impact on society, the environment and culture. We value people, planet and profit - and take all three into account in everything we do.

"We call this sustainable banking. And it explains why we invest only in, or lend only to, organisations that contribute to a more sustainable society."

Triodos does not have a counter service, but in Scotland uses RBS as a high street facility for its savings accounts. At present, it doesn't have a current account, but is investigating that possibility.

Questions started off with the assessment of risk, given the difficulty of predicting the return from social enterprises. How does a different lending model operate? By being mobile, intelligent and engaged.

There are no collaterialised securities, inter-bank loans etc. All is done through lending on deposit. Loans and interest are commercially priced. "We are not the cheapest, and we can't be just on price... it's the whole package."

Is liquidity a worry? "No, we're ahead of the game.." A transparent model is commercially successful, as people flee from failing 'orthodox' model.

[Note: Just Festival does not endorse particular financial products and services]

This has been an evolving live blog... please do add comments or corrections. 

Getting down to business, socially

BUSINESS with a conscience and social enterprise to tackle poverty and improve society - these are two themes buzzing around in Scotland and more widely at the moment.

But what do they mean, and is socially driven business sustainable?  If so, how? These were two of the questions posed at the beginning of this lively conversation on 'Business for the other 99%' by the chair, Martin Simes, CEO of the Scottish Council of Voluntary Service (SCVO).

The speakers this evening will be Frank McKillop (ABCUL), Kirsty Burnham (SoLoCo), and Josh Littlejohn (Social Bite). Habib Malik (Islamic Relief Worldwide) was sadly not able to be there.

Credit unions are member-owned cooperatives offering financial services, explained Frank McKillop. There are one hundred plus in Scotland, and another 300 or more elsewhere in these islands. The exception at present is Perth and Kinross, but that gap will be filled soon.

Some 327,000 people (44,000 junior savers) are served by CUs in Scotland, borrowing £24 million with another £335 million saved. This is small by banking standards, but has enormous potential, as Archbishop Justin Welby has pointed out, among others.

Josh Littlejohn (Social Bite) started out setting up an events company business. Inspired by Nobel Prize winner Muhammad Yunus and his 'social business' vision, he then set up a sandwich shop which not only offers good food but involves homeless people in running it. It has been so successful that another will be following.

At the same tim, Josh kept one event, the Scottish Business Awards, going (former US president Bill Clinton has been involved) and has also helped set up the Scottish Social Business Fund.

Kirsty Burnham's SoLoCo supports people involved in crowd-funding ventures. This helps people to build and market the business while raising funds for it - in Kirsty's instance, involving selling chocolate bricks!

Globally, 40% of the world's population exists on just 6% of its resources, Josh pointed out. Many are excluded from the business world. Charities depend on a few generous individuals. Social enterprise combines the self-propelling and self-running features of business, but with social benefit built in at every level. This is a much better way forward.

What about Credit Unions?  Are they social enterprises?  Yes, says Frank. The aim of the DWP and the movement is to double itself by 2019, with an emphasis on developing a technological advantage. In places like Kenya, CU's are ahead of the game by using mobile phones. There is great potential in Eutope. 200 million people use them in 100 countries, including a quarter of the populations in the US and Canada.

But will Crddit Unions's end up simply being privatised? We must guard against this. At present, they cannot be de-mutualised by law, only dissolved, and that is a great protection. It is important to keep the cherry-pickers and carpet-baggers away.

The important thing is that these bodies are built by users, not investors. They have a potential to address the major problem of financial institutions recently, which is that they are driven by shareholders with narrow interests.

There are also businesses that are somewhat 'in between', like John Lewis, which is employee owned but does not have a particular social mission.

'Community owned' has a stigma attached to it in some quarters - the idea that the quality will somehow be lower quality, This needs to be challenged. Likewise, Credit Unions should not be seen as a "poor person's bank" in the negative sense.

The dominant assumptions of business since the 1980s have been that 'private' is good and efficient, whereas 'social' or 'public' is inefficient. But the financial crash and the emergence of different models of business are questioning this profoundly.

GDP, for example, offers a money measure of 'success', but not an environmental or social impact one. In the US, sociologists and entrepreneurs are beginning to talk about the 'caring economy'.

"There is still a whole world that doesn't yet get this," observed Kirsty. "Entering our world is like entering Narnia for them, a wholly different universe."

Oxfam's Human Kind Index is one of the developing alternatives to narrow GDP growth models, indicated Martin Simes, pointing out that the social sector was in many respects outperforming the traditional private sector.

Given global developments in recent years, the first question we should ask is about the sustainability of the current system.

"The biggest problem when I came out of university was that social business was just not in my consciousness," observed Josh. Visibility is the key. Social enterprise needs its brands, and people need to get that it is something for them, not just something for someone else to do and think about.

"We need to change the language, we need to be normal," declared Martin.

"If we become a brilliant sandwich shop, then we have the edge," said Josh of Social Bite. "Because no one can compete with our story, with the involvement of homeless people, and with the other things we do."

So is there a marketing edge to all this?  There is for those involved, said Martin Simes. "We get people queuing up to work in our sector. It's a significant motivator. People want to be able to do something useful with their lives."

Big investment and funding is also crucial, and it is beginning to take off in Scotland and elsewhere, he added.

"Leadership is such a key aspect in any Credit Union or social enterprise," said Frank McKillop. "Someone who can take it to the next step, but then also help to replicate and develop models and best practice. There are enthusiasts who can be trained and mentored. We have to work together to achieve succession planning - one of the most important courses we offer, though not enough people go on it!"

Education is another key. People leaving school need to know that social business is an option for them. Also, people need to see the tangible difference it makes, locally and globally. It is a question of tapping into, and broadening, the enthusasism.

At present you can do an MA in social enterprise at the University of Bangalore in India, but not in Scotland. That needs to change.

"A passionate workforce who want to bring change" is a crucial resource, Kirsty said.

What of the Co-operative movement and ideal which has deep historical roots going back to the nineteenth century?  It can and does play a major role in enabling community ownership, for example of wind farms. But the Co-op Bank has run into problems, not being member-owned and  being dragged in a commercially top-heavy direction.

"Being a social entrepreneur is an expensive hobby," one audience  member observed. "Being an entrepreneur, full stop!",  replied Kirsty. Resources for start-ups can be tough. Vision and passion can remain the same, how you get to it may change.

Where can you find information? Well, all of the supporting organisations for this conversation, and Social Enterprise Scotland, can provide support, ideas and info. Also the Yunnus Centre.

And what about governance and regulation?  Frank said that he felt it was very important that good quality standards and rules were maintained in the social sector. There are, said Martin, some fraudsters out there and we need to be wary of them.

Where does social enterprise government meet social entrepreneurship? Changing the culture of government to a 'can do' one from a risk-averse or bureaucratic mentality is important. Mechanisms like Community Enterprise Companies (CiCs) can be very helpful mediating structures.

Large amounts of transparency are one of the benefits of social business. There is also a need to have support to scale up new organisations.

Just Festival director Katherine Newbigging asked about the dilution of Fairtrade and social enterprise by large corporations.

This is an issue that needs to be faced, commented Josh. "Social business needs to be a major block within the economy, which it isn't yet. We need good regulation, tax incentives, and so on."

"We shouldn't be too precious towards categorizing social enterprise. But we do have to be quite protective of what isn't social enterprise," declared Frank McKillop. "There is a present danger in our sector from those coming in to extract a profit for a small group of investors. If most of the benefit is going into private hands, it isn't really social."

So does social business need an overarching brand?  There were mixed views. Different models are important. It is about spreading the socialising idea far and wide.

"A lot depends on getting the message out and getting people involved," Frank added. "Remember the Halifax - it was demutualized and then became a privately owned bank that cheated its customers and became involved in the downward spiral that led to the crash."

Social enterprise is about reversing that negative spiral. It needs to be a big part of a better future.

This has been a developing live blog... please do add comments or corrections below.