Ruth Davidson’s plea that the Tory Party needed to ‘man up’ combined with the Scottish Mental Health Festival to inspire me to speak up about what happened in January when Bella almost closed because I wasn’t doing so well.

Of course the idea that the Conservatives multiple crises could be salvaged by resorting to a reactionary plea to act like a man and ignore whatever mental health problems your facing is bizarre one, but then, they are a strange lot.

In January a number of pressures came together to render me virtually useless. I had a bad year and worse winter and was feeling low. The magazine almost closed eliciting a series of premature obituaries, including this from Martyn McLaughlin:

“At its best, the site seamlessly wedded political coverage to cultural commentary, exploring both with a natural curiosity and fluency. The subject and scope of the articles it commissioned were diverse to the point of being haphazard at times, a necessity borne from its limited means. It also provided a platform for an emerging generation of new voices, many of whom have gone on to forge successful careers in the arts, the third sector, politics, and the media. In keeping with Britain’s centuries old radical press tradition, its band of contributors was a disparate lot. Few had formal journalistic training and they were largely united by a shared background in activism.”

Like Tom Sawyer at my own funeral I watched on as commentators assessed our value over a ten year period and passed judgement.

I was suffering from the stress of online abuse, depression and spiraling self-doubt. The financial precariousness of running Bella with a young family to support as well as the regular problems of being a writer in a highly charged political world became too much for me.

I felt distant and isolated from friends and family and was facing the paradox of being highly ‘networked’ but alone. That’s not a paradox I know.

I was sick of ‘manning up’ and the idea that male strength should be recognised only if it is at the expense of emotion or vulnerability is such a toxic notion it needs to be rejected.

It’s a global phenomena but one to which we add in Scotland an unhealthy dose of machoism with an illiberal dose of Calvinism.

RD Laing said that there was no such thing as breakdown just ‘breakthrough’ and if that sounds better in theory than in practice it was in this case true.

Since then we have stabilised the projects finances launched a monthly print magazine and been shortlisted as one of the top six blogs in the UK, alongside sites which enjoy huge financial backing.

We made this film to try and explain our outlook.

We are launching a series of live events to celebrate our 10th anniversary.

& of course we are appealing for your support to develop and expand the project.

Maybe we won’t get the support we need in which case it will be very difficult to continue. Maybe we will.

But if we don’t we’ll certainly have to close the two large-scale social media platforms we run and the print magazine we publish and the website we created.

It will mean that the public sphere narrows a little bit more and we’ll be facing the reality that the only spaces that get support are hate blogs and those immersed in such tribalism as to shut down any nuance or complexity in political debate. Maybe that’s where we’re at?

Since 2007 we’ve tried to create a fusion of culture and politics and to expand the debate beyond just the constitutional – but crucially also we’ve been trying to reach new audiences and avoid just talking to ourselves.

Over the next few days and weeks we’ll be outlining our plans in more detail. We won’t be ‘manning up.’

Will you support us?





We really need your support to develop and we’d like to ask you to support us by donating to us here.

We’ve got big plans to launch our new site, to launch new publishing and events projects, and to extend our platform of writers – but all of this needs your support.

Bella Caledonia remains free (and ad-free) and takes us hundreds of hours a month to research, write, commission and edit.
If you value what we do, please consider supporting with a recurring monthly donation of your choosing.
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