Having arrived in Aberdeen from Shetland the previous morning, the Yestival team awoke in Lossiemouth on Saturday following a successful evening in Moray on the Friday. But work was already underway in the Granite City, with National Collective Aberdeen branch plus some helpful volunteers from across the country hitting the streets of Aberdeen to promote the upcoming event.
Aberdeen is a strange city in indyref terms. For a Yes voter, it explains all that is wrong with Westminster rule. It sees vast sums of money coming ashore from the North Sea, yet some areas continue to face high levels of poverty and low life-expectancy. And it isn’t just that – foodbanks operate within walking distance of multi-million pound houses, and the infrastructure does not befit the Oil Capital of Europe. The inequality is stark, and is something that we have to change, and the new ideas that the independence debate has been providing gives us the best chance of achieving this change.
The yellow t-shirted team of volunteers met at noon on a day of glorious sunshine, with Iqbal Mohamed amongst the ranks, having produced an incredible beatbox set at Yestival Edinburgh a fortnight previously. He was going above and beyond the call of duty, being in the middle of Ramadan. However, that didn’t stop him from performing with John Martin throughout the day.
Aberdeen was busy on Saturday with the International Youth Festival showcasing the city to the world. Our day started in Belmont Street, where we gave the crowds gathered for Aberdeen’s Country Fair some musical entertainment, and Iqbal and John played together for the first time. From there we moved onto Union Street, entertaining the crowds with a beatbox version of Loch Lomond accompanied by John’s guitar. If Aberdeen didn’t know Yestival was there yet, it definitely did by the time we left to set up the Underground Klub at 4pm, with even Labour MSP Richard Baker accepting a flyer and chapbook.
A swift turn-around followed, with the tour team arriving from Lossiemouth to support the Aberdeen branch in setting up the venue. Crowds began to gather and before we knew it, Yestival Aberdeen was underway. Following the presentation of Andy Summers and Ross Aitchison’s ‘Scotland Is?’, our first live act was the touring Jamie Marshall, whose rendition of ‘Precious Few Heroes’ proved particularly popular.
In no time at all, we’d moved onto the next performer, with poet Jenny Lindsay captivating the audience, with her final performance of ‘Edinburgh’ demonstrating all of her positive, imaginative feelings about not just the city, but Scotland as a whole. She was followed by Zara Gladman/Lady Alba, who has rejoined the tour for a final flourish having performed at the opening weeks’ Yestival activities. As always, she stunned the audience with her viral hits of Yellow Nuclear-Powered Ballistic Missile Submarine, and of course Lady Alba’s Bad Romance.
Following a short break we were back with Esperi. His incredible performance left me speechless, as he used every instrument you could imagine to create an incredible sound. His skills are endless, and I hugely recommend going to see him if you ever get the chance. Daytime star Iqbal Mohamed was next up, and despite having known him for three years and lived with him for one of those, what he does continues to astound me. The beatboxing set included both Ben E King’s ‘Stand by Me’ and Reel 2 Real’s ‘I Like to Move It’ in a seamless transition. How Iqbal does this stuff, I do not know; but the talent on show needs to be heard to be believed. It is a true privilege to watch and listen to.
The live performances were brought to a close by North-East band Miss Lucid, before a clubnight ensued after a swift turnaround. Despite being a group of volunteers with very little previous experience in running events of this nature, the Yestival team works like a well-oiled machine when called upon, swinging into action to do everything from compering to documenting, heavy-lifting to running a shop. Each and every individual in the group, whether on tour or only able to appear for certain events, plays their role in ensuring that this tour has managed to navigate around Scotland successfully. To be part of it is a real privilege, unless of course you had to see the horrible attempts at what can’t really be described as dancing at the Yestival after-party, my own moves definitely proving the low point in everyone’s evening.
This is of course not to say that there weren’t some hiccups, most noticeably when some unionist clubgoers took it upon themselves to prevent our Zara Kitson from spreading our message with a ‘Vote Yes’ board by physically attacking her, and when another attempted to break said board over their knee. The Yestival team of course rose above these childish attempts at sabotage by engaging with those that sought to disrupt us. Not a word of a lie, those that entered so hostile and aggressive to our cause left as converts to Yes.
Sunday was a day of rest for the team, with a barbecue in the Aberdeenshire town of Westhill, (hosted very kindly by my parents David and Angie at their home – thanks guys!) and a few drinks to set the touring team up for the trip back down the east coast, with the next stop being Montrose. However, the events in Aberdeen opened many people’s eyes to the debate and how politics doesn’t have to be run by men in suits – the indyref has given people the opportunity to be involved in how our country is run, and in September we face a choice of whether to give up that one-off chance for us as people to grasp power, or to retain it. Perhaps most of all however, it showed to me that with such a group of committed people as those travelling Scotland throughout July, the ‘Yes’ campaign, and a future Scotland, truly is in safe hands. Roll on week 5, and see you soon Montrose!
Images from David Officer and Simon Baker