Parliament announces Festival of Politics 2009 programme


The full line-up of speakers for the award-winning Festival of Politics was announced today by the Scottish Parliament.

Last year’s critically acclaimed event proved so popular that the programme has been extended to five days running from 18-22 August. The Festival presents a diverse programme of events bringing together politics, media and the arts through performance, discussion and debate.

Presiding Officer Alex Fergusson MSP said: “With the Festival of Politics now in its fifth year and with more than 110,000 visitors so far, it is safe to say that it is truly becoming a festival of politics for the people.

"2009 marks the anniversaries of two events that have undoubtedly been important in shaping modern Scotland: the 250th anniversary of the birth of our national Bard, Robert Burns and the 10th anniversary of the establishment of the Scottish Parliament.

"In recognition of these historic events, the 2009 Festival of Politics will follow a central theme of Examining Our Past – Shaping Our Future.”

The Festival will host a series of events examining the life and work of Burns and consider the importance of Scotland’s Diaspora, both home and abroad.

Turning its attention to more recent history, one session will see the Presiding Officer and two former presiding officers scrutinise the challenges and achievements of the first ten years of the Scottish Parliament, and discuss the path devolution may take.

Annie Lennox will also make an appearance this year, now fully recovered from the injury which stopped her attending last year. Annie will discuss her personal experience of witnessing the HIV/AIDS disease in Africa and the action we can all take in fighting the pandemic.

On their way to and from events, visitors will be able to view one of the largest and most prestigious photographic exhibitions – the 52nd World Press Photo exhibition. Striking images taken by the world’s leading photojournalists and depicting dramatic, life-changing worlds events in 2008, will line the public entrance. Photographic events will take place alongside this year’s Festival sessions.

Some of the highlights of this year’s Festival include:

Capturing The President
World Press Photo 2009 winner and Time magazine photographer Callie Shell provides an insight to the time she has spent cataloguing Barack Obama’s campaign to become President and his first months in the White House. Join her to discover the challenges involved with photographing possibly the most important politician of a generation. Chaired by Dr Tom Normand, author of Scottish Photography: A History.

Annie Lennox and The SING Campaign
The HIV/AIDS pandemic is probably the greatest health threat faced by the world today. Nowhere is the impact of the disease more pronounced than in Southern Africa, where in countries such as South Africa it is estimated that more than 10% of the population is living with HIV and one in three pregnant women carry the virus. Annie Lennox is internationally renowned as a singer-songwriter but, through her SING project and work with Nelson Mandela's 46664 Foundation, she has also become a leading activist in the fight against HIV/AIDS. Join her as she talks about her personal experience of the disease in Africa, and the action that we can all take in fighting the pandemic. Chaired by Alex Fergusson MSP, Presiding Officer.

The Scottish Parliament – Past, Present and Future
To mark the 10th anniversary of the Scottish Parliament, the current Presiding Officer, Alex Fergusson MSP, will be joined by former presiding officers, Sir David Steel and George Reid, to discuss the Parliament’s achievements, the challenges it has faced during its first 10 years, and the path devolution may take in the future. Chaired by BBC Scotland’s Political Editor, Brian Taylor.

A Life in Politics – Clare Short
With a Parliamentary career spanning 26 years – which ultimately saw her appointed as the UK’s first Secretary of State for International Development – the now Independent MP for Birmingham Ladywood, Clare Short, discusses her life in politics and the issues that are important to her, including the war in Iraq, international development, climate change, and the need to make "politics fit for purpose”. Chaired by Alasdair Morgan MSP, Deputy Presiding Officer.

Included amongst the varied events of the Festival of Politics are:

Tuesday 18 August

Moving Images: Photography continues to be a hugely important journalistic medium. Yet with considerable changes in the technology of taking photos, and the shift from print to online news media, what are the challenges faced by photojournalists today? 2008 World Press Photo winner, Lana Slezic, and renowned Magnum photographer, Donovan Wylie, discuss the issues facing photojournalists today, and the challenges of working in war-zones across the globe. Chaired by Stephen Mayes, Secretary to the World press Photo Judging Panel.

Photography Masterclass – Sports Photography: Award-winning Scotsman photographers Ian Rutherford and Alan MacDonald share stories from their long experience as sports photographers, discussing the shots they captured and the ones they missed. Photographers are invited to bring examples of work for discussion and review.

From Petition to Action: Yesterday’s Children: There exists a generation of adults in Scotland who have experienced childhood sexual abuse, and are living with the long term consequences. A petition to the Parliament led, in 2001, to the formation of the Cross Party Group on Survivors of Childhood Sexual Abuse. Its members successfully lobbied government to produce the National Strategy for Adult Survivors of Childhood Sexual Abuse – SurvivorScotland. This journey demonstrates how the public can influence the political process in Scotland and improve the lives of its citizens. Join the Cross Party Group’s former Vice Convener, Kenneth Gibson MSP, and Vice Convener and Petitioner Anne Macdonald as they discuss the group’s success. Chaired by Margaret Mitchell MSP, Vice Convener.

From Darwin to Dolly – and Beyond!: Scotland is renowned as an innovative nation. Charles Darwin was introduced to evolutionary ideas here – and now it is home to thriving life sciences research and industry. But what has happened since the demise of Dolly the sheep? What are the exciting developments now? And what will the future hold? This event will examine the past, present, and future of cutting-edge life science research in Scotland and look at how it compares to other countries.

Scotland: A Co-operative Past and a Co-operative Future: Scotland has a long history of co-operatives – dating back to the Fenwick Weavers or the work of Robert Owen – and still has a vibrant co-operative sector, ranging from large retailers to rural workers' co-operatives. This event explores the Scottish co-operative movement’s history and examines the modern-day prospects for co-operatives, including their potential for offering an alternative economic model in the face of the credit crunch.

Wednesday 19 August

Scotland, Diaspora and Empire: Exploring the Impact
Recent research has confirmed the remarkable extent of Scottish impact upon the world’s greatest territorial empire at all levels of trade, administration, education, culture, religion and much else. Join celebrated historian and author, Professor Tom Devine, in a lecture that will describe how our small country helped to mould several new nations across the globe, before then exploring why the Scots have had such a remarkable influence on world development. Chaired by Alasdair Morgan MSP, Deputy Presiding Officer.

Thursday 20 August

A Life in Politics – Dennis Canavan: Formerly a long-serving Labour MP, he was elected as an Independent Member of the Scottish Parliament from 1999-2007. A long-time supporter of devolution, Dennis Canavan has championed many issues, such as the abolition of corporal punishment, the promotion of sport, and the designation of St Andrew’s Day as a national holiday in Scotland. Join him as he reflects on his life in politics, and the issues he holds dear. Chaired by Trish Godman MSP, Deputy Presiding Officer.

Friday 21 August

The Future Scotland Debates – Sustainable Places: The six Future Scotland Debates offer a public platform for discussing the future of Scotland ’s built environment. In this debate, writer and academic Germaine Greer, director of The Design Museum Deyan Sudjic, and eco-architect Peter Clegg address the question: “What do we mean by ‘sustainable places’ and how can these best be delivered?”. Chaired by Lesley Riddoch.

Young People’s Question Time: Are young people today interested in politics? The tens of thousands of young visitors to the Scottish Parliament, during its first 10 years, and the campaign undertaken by The Glasgow Girls against dawn raids on asylum seekers, suggests they are. In the first event of its kind at the Festival of Politics, join young people from across Scotland as they pose questions and comments on the issues that affect them to a panel of politicians and renowned social commentators – both young and not so young! Chaired by Channel 4 and Off the Ball’s Stuart Cosgrove.

The Obama Presidency – Can We Believe in Change: The first six months of the Obama Presidency has been marked by a radically different approach to that of the previous administration. Yet as global issues such the economy, climate change, and national security, dominate the US and global agenda, can the new President deliver the promised sea change in US politics? Expert in US international relations – and granddaughter of the former President – Susan Eisenhower, Democratic and Republican representatives from the US Congress, and Glasgow university’s Martin Steven discuss President Obama’s achievements and potential challenges. Chaired by Trish Godman MSP, Deputy Presiding Officer.

Saturday 22 August

A Life in Politics – David Owen: He became one of the UK ’s youngest Foreign Secretaries, under the Premiership of James Callaghan, and played an instrumental roll in bringing independence to Zimbabwe. He left the Labour Party in the early 80s, and became one of the breakaway “Gang of Four” founding members of the SDP.

Scottish Youth Theatre – ‘Love But Her’: To mark the Year of Homecoming, Scottish Youth Theatre perform a revival of Lara Jane Bunting’s play ‘Love But Her’, which tells the story of Jean Armour – the wife of Robert Burns – from her early days, to life and death in Dumfries.  Featuring Burns’ songs and poems, the piece charts their great love and turbulent relationship, his infidelities, and their grief for the deaths of their children, together with the challenges faced by Jean as she changed from being the wife of a farmer to that of a celebrity poet.

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