2007 - 2021

Changing Scottish Media

One of the key aims of Bella from day one was to change the landscape of Scottish media by giving space to new and different voices. We’ve not done that as well as we wanted over the years. But now with our funded Many Voices programme that’s going to start changing with a series of Commissioning Editor positions being taken up in the coming week.

We’re taking positive steps to promote equality and represent our modern, diverse Scotland. A new media needs to reflect the change it wants to see not mirror the old forms and patterns. Too often in the past the “new media” has just replicated the mode and style of the old, giving platform to white men to the exclusion of others. Changing this is in line with our commitment (which we’re always banging on about) to means and ends being consistent and aligned. ‘Walking the walk’ I think it’s called.

We also think its entirely consistent with our line of exploring ‘self-determination’ and what that means in all aspects. For those who think Bella is only about the constitution this may be confusing, but it’s not and it never has been.

You can read Anahit Behrooz here and Luke Campbell and Raman Mundair here. Anahit’s project seeks through a series of interviews and personal responses to “establish why Scotland’s historical context demands active decolonisation and to platform the various decolonisation projects that are taking place through the country’s cities and institutions.”

Look out for our new editors in the coming days and weeks: Arusa Qureshi, Anahit Behrooz, Luke Campbell, Raman Mundair, Zozan Yasar, Tomiwa Folorunso, Sean Wai Keung, and Annie George. 

In the meantime enjoy Arusa’s backlog of playlists (put out every Friday night) here.

Arusa’s main project asks:

  1. Why is it important to have voices of diverse backgrounds covering the arts?
  2. What could the Scottish media gain from having more people of colour involved more broadly?
  3. Do people of colour currently feel well represented within the creative industries? Are there enough publications/outlets that highlight their work?
  4. What does our cultural landscape really look like and who do we want to be supporting/funding in the future?
  5. What can be done to get more creatives of colour involved in the arts in Scotland in a way that is genuine and not tokenistic, with attention also given to sustained support?


See also her interviews with …

Artist Sekai Machache.
Reading Communities Manager at Scottish Book Trust, Nyla Ahmad.
Multi-disciplinary organisation Project X.
Artist Nova Scotia, Shaheeda Sinckler.
On the music and poetry of Gillian Katungi aka Paix.
With music industry creative and promoter Aarti Joshi.

Comments (18)

Join the Discussion

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

  1. Iain Miller says:

    Really not interested in this new direction you appear to be taking, sorry!

    1. Great! Thanks for letting us know.

      1. Luke Devlin says:

        Really interested in this new direction you appear to be taking, not sorry!

  2. Gavin says:

    I wonder if Arusa Qureshi’s project will also look at whether people born, raised or long term resident in Scotland, are adequately represented in senior positions within arts organisations in Scotland, regardless of ethnicity?
    For example, as has been previously discussed on these pages, there has never been a Scottish director of the Edinburgh International Festival in its 73 year history.
    It would be ironic if a project investigating equality of representation were to limit itself to looking only at the levels of representation of certain groups!

    1. Anndrais mac Chaluim says:

      Surely, in today’s world of civic nationalism, the director of the Edinburgh Festival will be ‘Scottish’ in virtue of their participation as such in the civic life of that imagined community, regardless of ‘ethnicity’.

      1. Arboreal Agenda says:

        Good luck with that one. Civic nationalism is just a nice term (and laudable concept) to avoid talking about the blood and soil type but when push comes to shove, and people get to really think what it means, you find the same old bigotry as anywhere.

        1. Anndrais mac Chaluim says:

          I don’t think you’ll ever get rid of bigotry, but we can surely work to ensure that it can’t operate through our political institutions (in the widest sense).

          There doesn’t, at first sight, seem to be any reason why a nation based on shared citizenship rather than ethnicity couldn’t produce institutions that are resistant to capture by anyone whose actions are motivated by a stubborn and complete intolerance of any form of life that differs from their own. Indeed, an early civic nationalist – the Breton, Ernest Renan – characterised a ‘nation’ as a daily referendum on the question of whether we’re all still willing to live together despite our differences.

          If a nation is such a daily referendum, then civic nationalism would seem to be completely inhospitable to bigotry.

          1. Arboreal Agenda says:

            Maybe. I am a bit unusual (or perhaps not?) in that I have come to support Scottish independence but would not call myself a nationalist of any hue and never will.

            [deleted a load of guff as to why that might be but I think it pretty obvious anyway given some recent comments on here]

            Is there a space for those who support political self-determination without nationalism, any nationalism?

          2. SleepingDog says:

            @Arboreal Agenda, perhaps instead of ‘Scotland’ we could call ourselves Sector 194, the latest addition to the UN member roster…

          3. Yes there is. Many people in the independence movement are just democrats, or republicans or pragmatists.

          4. Arboreal Agenda says:

            @SleepingDog: ‘Bella Sector 194’

          5. Anndrais mac Chaluim says:

            Aye, there are spaces.

            Nationalists characteristically hold that the state (an organised political community in which members pool their sovereignty under a single government) should coincide with the nation; though what constitutes a ‘nation’ is a moot point. Ethnic nationalists identify it with some shared heritage (nativity, bloodline, language, history, culture); civic nationalists identify it with a shared citizenship, irrespective of ethnicity.

            Non-nationalists, on the other hand, hold that the state should coincide with communities other than the nation. Some hold that it should coincide with larger, more abstract communities (e.g. the UK, or even the EU), others that it should coincide with smaller, less abstract geographical communities and/or communities of interest, syndicated (or not) in accordance with the principle of subsidiarity.

            So, basically, the alternative to nationalism is some form of unionism on the one hand or some degree of anarchism on the other. Depends how distant you want government to be from your actual life.

      2. Gavin says:

        Anndrais, I suppose at least they would (probably) become a resident of Scotland!
        There’s another issue in the arts – that it seems prestigious and lucrative Scottish national titles are often awarded to non-residents.
        Looking at the SAY winners, it seems that at least 2 (Anna Meredith and Auntie Flo) are based outwith Scotland (both in London, I think).
        Our current Makar is Jackie Kay, who lives in Manchester.
        I wish them all well, but surely residence should be the first requirement for such awards? The Makar should live in Scotland!

        It’s not always easy to determine whether representation is proportional, because:
        – the focus is usually on ethnicity, rather than birthplace / nationality / where you grew up
        – white ethnicities (White: Scottish, White: Other British, etc) are collected in the census, but seem often rolled up in stats elsewhere into the single category ‘White’.
        If not Arusa, I hope somebody will do the work to find out! If discrimination is taking place, then it needs to be addressed.

        1. Anndrais mac Chaluim says:

          Yes, I’d probably go along with this to a certain extent: if you don’t participate in the civic life of a nation, then you don’t qualify as a citizen of that nation.

          I had this argument with a number of ‘ex-pats’, who complained about not having a vote in the 2014 referendum. Denying them Scottish citizenship was something the SNP government got right.

          Whether or not access to such positions and prizes as you mention should be restricted to Scottish citizens is a moot point, however. There’s a lot to be said for keeping our culture open to cultivation; continually ‘deepening the meme pool’, as it were.

    2. It’s an interesting question Gavin – one that Bella has explored many times before. The issues about colonisation and decolonisation within Scotland are complex but I think ts quite right and appropriate for people of colour to explore this withing their own lived experiences and within the terms they set. This doesn’t preclude Bella exploring the issue from another perspective as we have done and will do. Scotland has a history and a culture and has been under the influence of forms of cultural domination, but it is not a colony and we are not a race.

      Exploring how we can map out creating a diverse and equal society for all is, in my mind, a key – and essential – aspect of creating a new Scotland.

      1. Gavin says:

        Mike, maybe you’re right. But one of Arusa’s questions above was ‘What can be done to get more creatives of colour involved in the arts in Scotland in a way that is genuine and not tokenistic, with attention also given to sustained support?’
        This presupposes that creatives of colour are under-represented, and this may not be borne out by the evidence.
        I hope Arusa will proceed with an open mind, and publish her results even if they’re not what she expected.

        As far as I can see (apologies if I’ve misjudged anyone’s ethnicity), in the 9 years of the Scottish Album of the Year Award, it’s been won:
        – twice outright by people of colour (Auntie Flo and Nova)
        – twice by a trio with a majority of members who are people of colour (Young Fathers)
        – once by a duo composed of a white person and a person of colour (Scared Paws).
        In other words, people of colour have won nearly half of these yearly awards.

        The last census recorded 4% of Scotland’s population as being of minority ethnic groups (https://www.scotlandscensus.gov.uk/ethnicity-identity-language-and-religion).

        So people of colour are massively overrepresented on the list of SAY award winners, winning perhaps more than 10 times as often as you might expect if the playing field was truly level. This looks like structural bias, no doubt of the unconscious variety.

  3. SleepingDog says:

    BBC Click recently showcased Stormzy’s appearance in a dystopian-London (that is, pretty realistic) computer game:
    which sounds interesting (I think the plot involves starting a revolution or something). The artist seemed really happy with the way the game (Watch Dogs: Legion) represents him and his music, and he had a lot of control via motion capture down to facial expression. Perhaps we will see the Scottish games industry support artists here in similar or inventive new ways, and make sure that people of colour are represented in ways that suit them.

  4. Anndrais mac Chaluim says:

    My defence of decolonisation (and, by extension, the Many Voices programme), as an emancipatory project that has the potential to liberate Scotland from the blight of its colonial heritage (which has met with some opposition in what began as a marginal discussion of a screening of Mara Menzies’ and Apphia Campbell’s production of ‘Nanny of the Maroons’ at this year’s Scottish International Storytelling Festival, as advertised in Bella Caledonia just over a week ago), has led me to revisit the writing of Frantz Fanon and his precursors, whose work enacts what has become known in the francophone world as ‘négritude’.

    ‘Négritude’ is the francophone near-equivalent of ‘decolonisation’; so, it’s pertinent to what it appears to me that Bella’s trying to contribute to via its Many Voices programme. (Apologies in advance, Bella, if my perception is mistaken.)

    Négritude is a framework of critique that was developed mainly by black francophone writers during the 1930s, which was aimed at raising and cultivating black consciousness across Africa and its diaspora. One of the most important of those writers was the Martiniquais poet, playwright, and politician, Aimé Césaire.

    On the wave of Jamaican national hero Marcus Garvey’s African Redemption movement, négritude was a rejection of and a riposte to disabling white mythologies. Négritude sought, in its own words, to ‘decolonise the mind’; in the words of the anglophone African Redemption movement, to ‘emancipate ourselves from mental slavery’.

    Césaire’s literary and political work is the work of cultural resistance and resurrection, founded on Africa rather than an imposed western culture. It’s animism, together with the African and creole rites and rituals it enacts, sublates the degrading legacies of colonialism and offers an escape route for the oppressed.

    In a world where ethnic fears and hatred, degradation and domination, and the general abuse of power endure, Césaire’s négritude is still relevant today. It led the struggle in the francophone world against white oppression and the amnesia, silence, and erasure of black culture, seeking to supplant hegemony and hierarchy with solidarity and equality.

    Supplanting hegemony and hierarchy with solidarity and equality… Now, there’s a vision for a pluralistic, cosmopolitan, polyphonic (many-voiced) Scotland.

    Decolonisation might be the making of us.

Help keep our journalism independent

We don’t take any advertising, we don’t hide behind a pay wall and we don’t keep harassing you for crowd-funding. We’re entirely dependent on our readers to support us.

Subscribe to regular bella in your inbox

Don’t miss a single article. Enter your email address on our subscribe page by clicking the button below. It is completely free and you can easily unsubscribe at any time.