Scottish comedy’s plight is no laughing matter

Amid the coronavirus crisis, grassroots comedy in Scotland faces potential ‘extinction’ without a lifeline from the government, writes Brian Ferguson.

Can you remember the first time you saw yourself reflected back from a television screen or at the cinema?

It’s quite vivid in my memory as an awkward, hapless schoolboy, watching Gregory’s Girl at home in the mid-1980s. I was agog at not how achingly funny it was, from almost the first frame to the last, but also how true to life it felt to the harsh realities of teenage years when almost everything feels like a total mystery.

I’ve been thinking a lot about Gregory’s Girl recently, partly because it is 40 years old next year. It is undoubtedly a touchstone for my generation, but is still seen as one of the greatest Scottish films of all-time. Director Bill Forsyth is revered as one of the nation’s leading filmmakers, not just for Gregory’s Girl, which was famously honoured in the opening ceremony for the London Olympics in 2012, but for his two other best-known movies, Local Hero and Comfort and Joy. All three comfortably fit into the category of comedy.

Yet 40 years on, the current crop of Scottish comics have had to go into battle to try to secure official recognition for their art form for the first time and a share of the £107m lifeline funding to secure the future of arts and culture north of the border. I’ve come across some bizarre scenarios, but the sight of Scottish stand-ups pleading for fair treatment from the government of a country of Billy Connolly, Frankie Boyle, Still Game, Chewin’ the Fat, Elaine C Smith and Karen Dunbar is right up there.

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Scottish pop princess Clare Grogan brings Altered Images to Edinburgh for first headline gig in 13 years

Clare Grogan

THEY’LL be singing Happy Birthday at the Liquid Room this week, but not that Happy Birthday, rather the 1981 Top 10 hit for Altered Images when Scotland’s very own pop princess Clare Grogan returns to the Capital with her band.

The summer she left school, Grogan not only landed a role in Bill Forsyth’s award-winning film Gregory’s Girl but also secured a deal for her band with Sony Records.

 
 

Altered Images quickly achieved worldwide success, selling millions of records and topping the charts in several countries, including three Top 10 albums and six Top 40 hits in the UK. Voted Best New Group at the NME Awards that same year, they played at The Royal Command Performance and Grogan recently received a Special Recognition Award at the Scottish Music Awards.

A woman of many talents, Grogan, who brings Altered Images to the the Liquid Room on Thursday 20 February, is also an accomplished actor and novelist. Her TV credits include Skins, which she also wrote songs for, Waterloo Road, EastEnders, Doctors, Red Dwarf and Father Ted.

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