On first meeting Lynn Kennedy, you wouldn’t guess she is an actress. Softly spoken and reticent, it is hard to imagine her dominating a stage. But Kennedy is an actress. And, apparently, a good one.
Part of the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland’s class of 2011, she has already secured named roles in no less than three productions at that paragon of Glasgow’s theatre-scape, the Citizens Theatre. She can also boast of being the only actor in residence there, currently holding the prestigious title of Actor Intern.
But regardless of her credentials to date – including Citz productions Hansel and Gretel, Gothic and one-woman play Limbo – the East Kilbride-born performer is soon to face an undeniable challenge for any actor. She is cast as youngest daughter Cordelia in Shakespearian tragedy King Lear.
Famously portrayed on screen by some of Britain’s best young actresses, including Romola Garai and Keira Knightley, Kennedy admits her task is tricky.
“I think in years to come I’ll still look back on King Lear as being such an important part of my career,” she says. “I’ve done Shakespeare at uni, but nothing like this. I’m looking forward to it. There are so many people that have said they’re going to come and see it, and already it’s selling really well.”
And there is no denying the cast she gets to perform with is one of which any actor, however established, would be envious.
Starring David Hayman – who began his career at the Citz in the 1970s and has since performed on screen alongside Kevin Spacey, Bruce Willis and Pierce Brosnan – as King Lear, as well as Cal Macaninch of TV’s Wild at Heart and Holby Blue – and most recently the Citz’s Betrayal – Lynn agrees that her present company’s back catalogue is “a little bit scary.”
“At the King Lear read-through I was sat at this table with all these named people thinking, ‘Oh my goodness, look at all these brilliant actors and then me!” she says. “But it’s nice to get that opportunity to work with these people, and they’re all lovely. They don’t act like divas and they don’t make you feel like the least experienced person in the room at all,” she adds. “They’re all very supportive, so it’s not too daunting.”
But despite her breezy, collected attitude, one is conscious from a slight nervousness in her voice and the subtle tensening in her brow that Lynn is fully aware of the scale of this production. The second of new Artistic Director Dominic Hill’s three inaugural plays – March’s Betrayal being the first and a double-bill of Samuel Beckett’s Krapp’s Last Tale and Footfalls rounding off the season in June – King Lear is arguably the Citz’s biggest production of 2012.
But it is not just Hill’s reputation for which she is feeling the weight, but her own future career. After failing to secure an agent at her class’s graduation showcase last year, King Lear is an opportunity to secure vital representation. And with Betrayal attracting critics from the national press, it is Lynn’s best chance yet to shine.
The number of letters and e-mails she has already sent out number in their hundreds, with many agencies simply not able to take on more actors in the current financial climate. “It is hard,” she says. “It’s really tough to try and get somewhere.
“Leaving drama school is a tough year because it’s so easy to never work, for it to never happen,” she says. “I think particularly when you don’t have an agent that’s a quite a big worry. I was actually convinced after my second audition for the internship that I hadn’t got it, and I remember walking across the bridge and thinking, ‘Oh God, I don’t have it. What am I going to do?” she reveals. “I was quite surprised but very happy when I found out.”
In that sense, it seems taking the Actor Internship was a decidedly sensible decision; an impression that describing her time there as “almost like an extension of university” far from dilutes.
“Because I’ve got the label of Actor Intern people appreciate that I’m just out and still learning,” Lynn says. It’s quite nice in some ways for it to be acknowledged that I’m just taking my first steps in the industry, although I certainly wouldn’t expect anyone to go easy on me!”
But sense aside, the end of her internship in August could easily be a major spring-board for Kennedy’s career. Reluctant to tempt fate by talking about what’s next, she is characteristically modest. “I think it has set me up with a good variety of experience that might help me get past some other people in the audition process,” is her best brag – and even that she admits apologetically.
But judging by her own reception and the Citz’ reputation – it begot stars including Celia Imrie and Gary Oldman – Lynn Kennedy’s is a name that will only grow in prevalence. She could have had no surer start, and clearly has not hesitated to make the most of it.
This article was published in issue 12 (May 10 2012) of the Glasgow Journal. The 2012 local elections took place on Thursday May 3, and votes were counted on Friday May 4.
Labour has regained overall control of Glasgow City Council amid rising speculation the SNP were set to steal the party’s Scottish stronghold.
After a fractious budget meeting in February which ultimately saw Labour lose its majority as a total of nine councillors transferred their allegiance to rebel outfit Glasgow First, speculation that Labour’s days in power were numbered was rife.
However Labour put pay to SNP hopes of snatching control of Scotland’s largest council, emerging with 44 of 79 seats available in Friday’s election compared to their rivals’ 27.
The battle between the two largest parties was more or less head-to-head for more than half of the count, with no more than three votes separating the two by the twelfth of 21 wards called.
It was when the result of the vote in Drumchapel and Anniesland was announced that Labour really began to make headway however, securing three councillors to the SNPs one.
Former council leader, Labour’s Gordon Matheson said: “This is a stunning result for Labour in Glasgow.
“Only days ago the SNP were declaring victory before a single vote had been counted and now we have the most sensational result in the history of Glasgow City Council.”
While the SNP did manage to gain an extra seven seats from the 20 they had previously held, it was not enough to take Glasgow.
In a dismal result for the Liberal Democrats their six seats were reduced to just one, with Margot Clarke for Linn ward now the only Lib Dem on the council. She joins Conservative David Meikle, who was re-elected for Pollokshields ward, as a solo party representative.
Meanwhile, the Greens held on to their five seats and Glasgow First returned one councillor – founding member Stephen Dornan – out of the 19 that stood.
With last Thursday’s ballot the first since devolution that local government elections were not held on the same day as the Holyrood vote, concerns had been raised that voter turn-out would suffer.
Prior to the polls opening last week, the Journal spoke to John Curtice, professor of politics at Strathclyde University.
He hoped the independence debate in Scotland would boost turn-out by getting people talking about politics, but admitted: “The problem for a lot of people is that they’re not quite sure that their local council is that important.
“The less important people think an institution is, the less likely they are to turn out and vote for it.”
Turn-out in Glasgow was the lowest of all of Scotland’s 32 local authorities on Thursday, at only 32.4 percent. Some individual wards experienced much lower figures however, with Anderston and City ward returning only 23.6 percent of its nearly 30,000-strong population.
Electors in Glasgow were divided on the matter. Julie Price (25) from Dennistoun said: “I don’t really know much about the constituency but I’ve always voted in the past so I feel it’s important that I use my democratic right.”
Calton’s Nadine Stott (24) said: “I think all politics happens at local level and with all the cuts and austerity it’s really important to have an impact on what happens.”
Jan McInnes (51) from the West End said she would not be voting however. She said: “I can’t vote today because of time. I would have voted if I’d known you could do a postal vote.”
Dumbarton’s Brendan O’ Sullivan (also 51) said: “I can understand why people don’t vote because people have lost respect for politicians. A lot of bad things have happened with money – like cash for questions and the expenses scandal.”
30-year-old Paul McGettigan from West Kilbride had no idea there were even elections on. He said: “Maybe if I’d known about them I might have looked into who I wanted to vote for.”
Across the UK the Liberal Democrats and Conservatives lost a number of key councils with the Lib Dems losing their status as the largest party on Edinburgh City Council as leader Jenny Dawe failed to be re-elected in her Meadows/Morningside ward.
This article appeared in issue 12 (May 10 2012) of the Glasgow Journal. Malawi May 2012 was launched on April 30 2012.
Diners-out in Glasgow can do their bit for charity this month as a new partnership aims to raise over £10,000 for education in Africa.
Throughout the month of May every meal booked through Glasgow Restaurant Association’s website, Glasgow Dinearound, will contribute money towards Malawian children’s education.
The Association’s members, together with online restaurant booking and deals website 5pm.co.uk, have pledged their support to Malawi Leaders of Learning.
This collaboration between Glasgow City Council’s education services and Malawi’s south west educational division – where the city of Blantyre is located – aims to improve education and teaching in the south-east African country.
Despite primary education in Malawi being well-attended, only 35 percent of children progress to secondary education.
Glasgow has been associated with Malawi for a number of years, and many of the city’s schools are twinned with Malawian counterparts.
Nearly 50 Glasgow eateries including Ashton Lane’s Ubiquitous Chip, Di Maggio’s in both the city centre and West Nile Street, and Merchant City’s Dhabba are all participating in this year’s scheme.
It is hoped the project will raise £12,000 to buy a motorbike and first year’s salary for a new project manager to work between schools in the south west region of Malawi.
Chairman of Glasgow Restaurant Association Ryan James said: “It makes perfect sense for Glasgow restaurateurs not to give money to Glasgow, but to a very Glasgow-based charity which is doing such fine work in Malawi.”
Maureen McKenna, Executive Director of Education at Glasgow City Council, said: “Our project is about sharing Glasgow’s vast experience and knowledge to improve the education of children and young people in Malawi.
“This is not about us providing food or replacing something that they have in Malawi. This is about helping Malawian people to help themselves.”
Introduced to Glasgow City Council by Councillor Nina Baker in 2008, the Stalled Spaces programme will have its fourth birthday this autumn. This short film, created in April 2012, looks at one of the city’s ‘stalled spaces’ success stories, Brechin Street’s ‘Back Garden’.
To find out more about the G3 Growers see http://g3growers.blogspot.co.uk/.
This article was published on the Glasgow Journal website on April 18 2012.
Students at Glasgow Caledonian University could soon be the first in the city to face a fee for re-sitting their exams.
Discussions are currently underway to impose a £40 fee per examination re-sit at undergraduate level, which would apply to each exam attempted for the third time or more from September.
The university website also declares an increase in the fee for retaking a 60-credit module from £30 to £300, but Principal Pamela Gillies has claimed this figure is incorrect.
The new £40 re-sit fee would place Glasgow Caledonian second highest in Scotland in terms of fees charged, beaten only by Edinburgh, whose fee is to go up to £80 next academic session.
Glasgow, Strathclyde and West of Scotland universities currently charge no fee, and representatives say there are currently no plans to introduce one next year.
A campaign against the proposed charges was launched by GCU’s Students’ Association last week.
The Stop the Re-sit Rip-off campaign argues that students likely to find themselves liable for the fees are those least able to pay them, and may feel pressured to drop out of their studies.
The campaign saw over a hundred students pledge their support in only its first 24 hours, and that number has since grown to more than 200.
Fourth year Mechanical Engineering student Omar Aldulemy said: “For international student friends of mine it is very bad because of how much they already have to pay. I do not see why we should pay extra fees.”
Kayleigh Adams, a part-time Electrical Power Engineering student added: “Imagine if that happened in your first year. People that fail will just decide to stop.”
Alumni Gemma Ross, who graduated from Caledonian’s Entertainment and Events Management course in 2009, said she could see both sides though.
“You could say it’ll weed out those who aren’t serious about uni, but at the same time most students struggle to pay their way as it is,” she said.
She said she would support the new policy if it were to free up resources for extra revision classes and drop-in sessions.
GCU Student Officers Matte Andrews and Simon Ward held an open meeting with Professor Gillies today (Wednesday) to discuss the fees.
She said that by charging students for re-sits the university hopes to reduce the number of people waiting until their fourth and last attempt to complete; a trend she said is not healthy.
“It does not give our staff the chance to work out who needs the most support,” she said, “And we are well known for our support services.
“What we do not want is for our students just to abuse the re-sit system.”
When asked why student representatives had not been made aware of the changes, she maintained that the decision was financial, not academic, and that the proper procedures had been adhered to.
Matte Andrews, Students’ Association President, said: “GCU is supposed to be a wide access university which encourages students from the most underprivileged backgrounds to come here.
“This is a complete contradiction of that mission, and we welcome a review of this decision.”
While he was pleased to hear Professor Gillies commit to reassess the situation, he admitted he was not entirely satisfied with the meeting’s outcome.
NUS President Robin Parker, who also attended, said: “Students should not have to pay to re-sit. Something you should quite rightly take for granted is your right to re-sit your exams.”
A final decision on the new fees is expected to be taken at the next meeting of Glasgow Caledonian’s executive board in two weeks’ time.
This article appeared on the Glasgow Journal website on April 18 2012.
Glasgow’s subway is set for a top-dollar revamp as nearly £290 million is invested in its development.
All 15 stations on the city’s 115-year-old ‘clockwork orange’ have been earmarked for refurbishment using a £246m sum pledged by the Scottish Government.
Strathclyde Passenger Transport is to add its own contribution to the pot, to the tune of £41.5m.
The city’s subway, which covers over ten kilometres, will see facility improvements including driver-less trains and a new ticketing system modelled upon London’s Oystercard scheme.
Work at Hillhead station is already underway and scheduled for completion this summer, while Partick (lower levels), Kelvinhall and Ibrox stations are set for refurbishment before the 2014 Commonwealth Games. The majority of modernisation work is expected to be complete by 2020.
SPT research estimates that the plans could save up to £150m in maintenance and operational costs over the next 30 years.
Chief Executive Jonathan Findlay hopes the new system will make Glasgow stand out amongst other European cities.
He said: “I’m delighted that the Scottish Government has again shown great faith in SPT and its delivery of projects.”
Alison Murray, Senior Line Supervisor at Hillhead Station, said: “I think staff are really enthusiastic about it.”
“We’ve not had a lot of changes in the subway over the last 30 odd years if not more, and to now see the improvements coming to the station is great.”
Glasgow resident John Gavin, 35, from Dennistoun said: “I think it’s a good idea because it does get used a lot. When I first moved here and saw there was a subway I immediately ditched the car.
“At the moment they look a bit old-fashioned, and they smell a bit.”
Charlotte Roberts, 20, from the West End disagreed. She said: “I haven’t really noticed a need for improvements.
“The improvement work at Hillhead at the moment has actually been a bit of a nightmare for commuters.”
Margaret McPhee, 59, from St George’s Cross added: “The government should be pumping their money into improvements on the roads and getting jobs for young people. It’s a vulgar amount to spend in the current situation.”
This article appeared on the Glasgow Journal website on March 21 2012.
Stephen Biggerstaff (21) from Glasgow and his team of six others discovered last week that they were nominees for BAFTA in Scotland’s New Talent Awards, after their computer game impressed at this year’s Scottish Game Jam.
The annual competition, which runs alongside the international Global Game Jam, sees teams of entrants strive to design and develop a video game in just two days. It was held at GCU in January.
Stephen said he was stunned to hear his game, called Shplem, and which he says fans of Angry Birds and Worms will enjoy, had been nominated for a BAFTA as his team’s entry had come last in 2011.
After losing out last year, the team he worked with this time dedicated much more time to planning.
“I think the real secret for success was that we sat down as a group and came up with 10 or 11 concepts and spent the first seven hours of the challenge just discussing ideas and trying them out, before settling on the best one,” he said.
“That process really ate into the 48 hour time limit but we were able to start implementing our ideas straight away as we were very clear in what we wanted to do.”
Dr Jon Sykes, Scottish Game Jam organiser and senior lecturer in Creative Technologies at GCU, praised Stephen’s team’s success. “That they developed such a polished and engaging game that is good enough for BAFTA is fantastic in itself, and that they managed to make the game in just 48 hours is truly incredible,” he said.
Jude MacLaverty, Director of BAFTA in Scotland, was delighted with this year’s nominees. She said: “Each year the standard of work never ceases to impress and this year is no exception, with a fantastic array of work shortlisted across all categories.
She added: “The New Talent Awards is all about rewarding excellence in the industry, and the final shortlist reflects the sheer breadth of talent, creativity, and originality here in Scotland.”
This review appeared on The Glasgow Journal‘s website on Friday 23 March 2012. Limbo was performed in the Citizens Theatre’s Circle Studio on March 8-10.
A one-woman play set at a lake-edge and focussing on a girl’s relationship with a much older man sounds three things. Predictable, depressing, and overwhelmingly female. And debuting on International Women’s Day doesn’t help.
But the audience gathered at the Citizens Theatre for the opening night of Limbo had apparently not got the memo. In fact the assembled crowd perched on the raised benches surrounding the theatre’s Circle Studio included a surprising number of men. Granted, they may have been the actress’ friends – she graduated from the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland in the summer – but they actually seemed intriguingly interested.
The play stars Lynn Kennedy, the Citz’s Actor Intern, in the solo role of Claire, a 17-year-old meat-factory worker whose life follows the 9-5 routine and disappointing nights out with the girls, but departs from normalcy when she falls for an older man.
Kennedy’s first appearance as Claire – in her pyjamas and slumped in an armchair with a stealthily protruding teddy-bear underneath – does little to discourage the chick-flick factor. But as soon as she begins to speak it becomes apparent this is no average kitchen-sink soliloquy.
With a script of only 45 minutes in length and a heavy onus on its actress to inject any kind of feeling into the diary-like narrative, Kennedy’s first words as Claire are straight in with an important metaphor. Her declared fear of water hangs in the air as the play unfolds and wave after wave of realisation washes over the audience.
Gentle Claire’s naivety combined with her frantic teenaged energy endears her to us immediately, and our loyalty is constant as her nerve is tested by ever-mounting emotional pressure. Kennedy teases the audience with the prospect of getting beneath Claire’s mask-like chatter when at poignant moment she unexpectedly stops, or shouts, or spouts an achingly sad statement as matter-of-factly as if it were her shopping list.
Her pacing the set, animatedly recounting anecdotes with wild hand gestures, casual swearing and unintentionally hilarious asides enhance our fondness for Claire, yet no more undermine the dark that inhabits her mind than deny it.
Despite being close enough to encourage actor engagement – which usually solicits tensed-up refusal to enjoy the performance for fear of being picked out – the audience was gripped. One couldn’t hear a single giveaway sigh of boredom or see a single exchanged glance. All eyes followed Kennedy’s Claire as if they knew she just wasn’t the type; as if she were the kind of old friend with whom you could be comfortable in silence. You might be tempted to reach out and take her hand, and it wouldn’t seem at all inappropriate.
Declan Feenan’s linear narrative relies heavily on its actress to pick up on every change of mood. In this sense Kennedy is commendable, allowing the words to serve as a mask for Claire’s emotional reaction to the events that befall her while subtly allowing us to witness slips in her self-protective cheerfulness.
Her first words: “I think I’ve always been afraid of water,” hang hauntingly in the air, mirroring the audience’s experience as each new wave of realisation washes over. As Claire’s life becomes increasingly suspended she seems to shrink before one’s eyes, and it is difficult to decide whether she is riding the tide or struggling not to drown. At times it seems she is doing both.
The play’s two collided sets, the interior of Claire’s house and the shore of Camlough Lake where we leave her, perfectly embody the gradual disintegration of her identity, while music is used subtly to suggest place – including the club where Claire first meets her love interest. Domestic furniture appears at varying stages of sunkenness as the lake-bed swallows them up, cleverly hinting at Claire’s eventual fate.
The play itself, by Declan Feenan, was highly-rated when it toured to London, York, Colchester and the Edinburgh Fringe in 2007-8, and was chosen for Kennedy by herself and new assistant director Richard Lavery. The resulting production is an impressive testament to both.
Geeing up for success: An exclusive interview with rising star in broadcast sports journalism, Ross Birkett, Dubai Racing Channel
This interview was published on the We Are Free Agents sports blog on March 23 2012.
In sports journalism, ‘competitive’ is an understatement. But with a little bit of luck, some juicy contacts and a no-fear approach to getting on the career ladder, one rising star in sports journalism shows diverging from the mainstream can really pay-off.
“I was always told at university, only write about what you know,” says Ross Birkett on the advice that has got him the job he has today. “I always remember on the first day at university there were 80 of us in a lecture theatre and the lecturer said, ‘What is the main sport that you want to write about’. Of 80 people there 75 said football, and at that point I knew I had to forget about football.” Instead, Ross turned his attentions back to his first love and long-time hobby: horse-racing, and now acts as producer and presenter his own show for the Dubai Racing Channel.
Ross is from a racing background; his mother is Julia Feilden, a well-known horse trainer based near the world-renowned Newmarket race course, and his sister Shelley soon hopes to turn professional. Having ridden ‘winners’ on both of Newmarket’s tracks within the past two years and been an amateur jockey since the minimum age of 16 he is well and truly “immersed” in the sport. It has even played a part in all of the important life decisions he has made to date.
“I only applied to one university because there was a big trainer there called Gary Moore,” he says on his application to Brighton University’s Print Journalism course. “I knew if I went to Brighton I could get a job with him riding out in the mornings, so that determined my further education: where the nearest trainer was. Gary’s one of the leading trainers in the country and has something like a hundred horses. It was absolutely amazing,” says Ross.
It was after graduation however that Ross’ enthusiasm received a blow. “I found after graduating and trying to apply for jobs my degree was worth about as much as loo-roll really,” he says. “What people want is experience, and I was applying for jobs against people who’ve had 20 years of experience in the industry.” Ross took up a chance opportunity to go to Dubai and train horses for a family friend who has a small stud there. “I was going to go there, get a bit more experience, see how it’s done on the other side of the world,” he says. He had no idea that the four months he was to spend there would set him up with a job in the sport he loves.
It was a lucky second meeting with a guest-less Brett Williams, presenter for Dubai Racing Channel, on a day-trip to Royal Ascot that gave Ross his big break. “That was the first time I had spoken in television ever,” he says. “I’d never been interviewed or anything. By then I was pretty set then on working in television; in TV the pressure is on and it’s up to the minute and I got the sense that newspaper journalism was just a bit dull for me, but it was an absolute bolt out of blue when Brett asked me about the job. I couldn’t believe it. I snapped his hand off and here I am now!”
Although quite different to the racing world he was used to, Ross says his time with Dubai Racing Channel has reignited his journalistic ambitions. “Racing out here has only been going 20 years or so, so it hasn’t got the history of racing back in the UK,” he says. “But the facilities are absolutely fantastic. The media is probably one of the best you’ll ever see and the grandstand is one of the biggest in the world. Dubai is…you’ve got to see it to believe it.”
Now he has set his sights on a job at one of the UK’s top racing channels. “I definitely see this as getting experience,” he says. “The job’s fantastic, the money’s brilliant but I won’t feel I’ve achieved anything until I get a job presenting or producing – or just sweeping the floors – at Attheraces or Racing UK because for me that is the top-dog, that is the pinnacle. Once I get there I can give myself a pat on the back I think.”
“I’d definitely say take whatever opportunities come because you never know what it could lead onto,” Ross says by way of advice to aspiring sports journalists. And as for horse-racing: “For an outsider looking in it probably does look like quite a complex world. But the main thing is to know your stuff, and that just comes through submerging yourself in it and really following the sport deeply,” he says.
“A little bit of knowledge can impress quite a lot. Plus horse-racing is probably one of the only sports where you’ll be sat in the changing room next to a champion jockey like Ryan Moore or Frankie Dettori. I can’t imagine any other sports where that’s the case,” he says.
Before heading UK-bound for a welcome season-break, Ross’s broadcasting work to date will culminate in the Dubai World Cup on March 31. In the run-up to the day Ross will be a hosting a nightly preview programme featuring interviews with the owners, trainers and jockeys of all the main contenders. On race night itself however he will face his biggest challenge to date; a live broadcast at the beginning of each of the eight races. But he is far from reluctant. In fact he says he will enjoy missing out on the hours of planning and filming that go into a pre-recorded programme.
“With live stuff, you literally have free reign to do what you like,” he says. “It will be quite a buzz thinking that you are reporting on the biggest event in racing at that time, and it’s definitely something I’m looking forward to.”
A short news package on the arrival on ‘Join Our Jig’ in Glasgow city centre on March 12 2012.