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Yasmin Ali

Urbanism // Design

Event Review: Beyond Borders Festival 2014, 23rd/24th August 2014

August 27th, 2014








This year I attended Beyond Borders International Festival of Literature and Thought, which has been running since 2010, previously known as Borders, Books and Bikes. The programme was packed with cycle tours, guided walks, author’s talks and political debates and discussions. A central theme has always been Peace and Conflict, and contested territories were discussed in several forums. The event is held in the grounds and within Traquair House, Scotland’s oldest continually inhabited house, a picturesque stately home near Peebles.

I was lucky to sit in on a dialogue with war photographer Paul Conroy’s lunchtime talk subtitled ‘Seeking Sanctuary’ about his British Red Cross exhibition of the same name. Here Paul described his photographic portraiture project documenting Syrian refugees seeking asylum in Scotland. Conroy told of the challenges of depicting people without showing their faces, in rooms with no real distinctive features, and the daunting task of portraying character in such surroundings. In Conroy’s words, he described it as more challenging than his war photography overseas. The photographs were also on display in the Exhibition tent and are on tour throughout the UK this year.

The following day, for the first talk we sought sanctuary in the chapel at Traquair House for a discussion with Feeding Frenzy author Paul McMahon, about the politics of food in the 21st century. McMahon was joined by Delfina Foundation director and Director of Visual Arts of Beyond Borders Scotland, Aaron Cezar, who presented slides of recent artwork on food politics from the Delfina Foundation for hungry eyes. Lawyer, author and academic Oscar Guardiola-Rivera led the discussion; and also chaired The Rule of Law discussion, which is an event common to many previous Beyond Borders’ Festivals. Sir Jeffrey Jowell QC of the Bingham Centre for the Rule of Law, the UN’s Andrew Gilmour, and David Marshall were on the panel to discuss what the rule of law means for today’s international policymakers, and how to sensitively – and modestly – intervene in international relations.

I found most provocative the discussion ‘Lifting the veil’, in particular, details of journalist and Iranian correspondent Ramita Navai’s book Tehran: City of Lies, which exposes details of contemporary urban life in Iran, including double-standards and deceptive appearances within society. Navai was able to infiltrate areas of Tehran invisible to many of its citizens and tell surprising stories which have been woven into narrative fiction. Also present was author and columnist Yasmin Alibhai-Brown positing the counter question regards the danger of Muslim women in the West reassuming the veil. The discussion was chaired and led by author Bonnie Greer OBE.

Beyond Borders events continue with its film festival in Edinburgh this week, and more events planned for 2015. For details of future events go to the website here.

// With Thanks to the Beyond Borders Team based in Edinburgh

Product Review: Kala's pocket Sundial

August 22nd, 2014

















This month I have a product to review that brightened my day, in the form of a pocket sundial. The role of sunlight in design is something that architects have worked with for hundreds of years. There is a pocket version of an ancient tool available to help with solar studies, via a pocket sundial that is a thing of beauty. H. M. Kala’s Sundial, also subtitled as the Sunwatch, it tells the time of day by the position of the Sun, determined by aligning its moveable calibrated concentric rings. Its type is known as the universal equinoctial ring dial, a portable version originally designed in the 15th Century for sailors.

The rings are called equatorial and meridian rings, or Gemma’s rings, and when not in use can be folded together into a small flat disk. The central bar holds a perforated slider that was positioned to the month and day according to a scale scribed on the bar. This style of sundial indicates true North and is aligned with the Earth's axis; to do this, the user configures the appropriate latitude setting to the location. This means the sundial also functions as a miniature model of the Earth and a compass.

As well as the illustrious history of its original invention, the Kala sundial has a proud family history and German engineering. It’s a remarkable instrument miniaturised to take on your travels.

Retails at 42euros+shipping // For more information see website here

With thanks to Matthaeus Kala of H.M.Kala

Goodbye Glasgow Games

August 4th, 2014


Forget Usain Bolt's runaway remark, Glasgow's Games were really positive, and not just for the sporting heroes and fans - here's a snapshot of the key cultural happenings to supplement the sporting events:

1. We Are Panel

Too many arts activities to do mention, but one standout strand was the souvenir project and programme run by Panel Glasgow, based in the foyer of South Block Studios. Every purchase received a special edition medal set of Tunnock's Teacakes.

Special Edition Teacakes by Tunnock's

2. The Empire Caf

Across the way over at The Briggait, The Empire Caf held a series of discursive and reflective events exploring Scotland's connection with the Slave Trade, reminding us of the historic disparity in fortunes within the Commonwealth. Its beautiful, minimalist branding by Graphical House has had the design circles talking.

The Empire Caf Branding by Graphical House

3. Glasgow Mix Tape

On the rainy penultimate day of the Games, East End Social hosts a gig on The Green with a bill glittering with Glaswegian stars to be proud of - all for free.

4. Pop-up events and premises

There were lots of interesting pop-up stalls as part of Shedzone within the Green, and also along High Street. The Pop-up Fish Plaice Kitchen & Bar has been particularly successful and had its run extended until the 14th.

5. Last but not least...Legacy

It's not just about those 11 days - there is a programme in place to extend the regeneration initiatives catalysed by The Games, as well as the conversion of The Athlete's Village.

// Read more about it at

Edinburgh Mini Maker Faire @ EISF

April 22nd, 2014














Last Sunday multi-platform arts venue Summerhall played host to Edinburgh's second annual Mini Maker Faire, which also marked the end of this year's Edinburgh International Science Festival. Billed as 'a celebration of DIY culture in all its shapes and forms', it was a great chance to meet local craftspeople and groups, as well as very much a family event with activities for all ages.

There was a programme of talks and workshops, with Gunnar Groves-Raines of Edinburgh-based architectural practice GRAS among the speakers. Glasgow-based product design engineering centre MAKLAB were on hand with activities to try out, as were Summerhall residents Edinburgh Hacklab with laser cutting demonstrations.

It was a good chance to meet lesser-known groups such as Leith Lapidary Club which ran some popular enamelling drop-in sessions. Also open for tours was Summerhall's own in-house Gin distillery, Pickerings, with a piped supply going straight on tap to the Royal Dick bar on the Summerhall campus.



// The Mini Maker Faire is part of an international movement and programme of events. A larger event takes place in Newcastle this weekend (26-27th April).

MAKLab Resin Casting @ EISF

April 16th, 2014
MAKLab Resin Casting @ EISF


MAKLab ran a novel workshop introducing Resin Casting to novices at this year's Edinburgh International Science Festival. Attendees were introduced to not only how to dye and cast resin polymer, but also firstly how to cast a mould forming the inverse of a desired form out of silicone. The silicone is fast-setting and produced a reusable mould from which duplicate resin casts could be made.

Casting the mould

1. It helps to use a plastic or similar frame stuck to a flat base as a surround. The object you wish to make a cast is then stuck temporarily to this base. It needs to be flush with the base.

2. The silicone and its catalyst are then mixed in equal measures and poured immediately into the mould.

3. Within around ten minutes the mould is set and can be disassembled from the frame.

Casting resin

1. The resin and its catalyst used in this case are mixed in equal measures.

2. The mixed resin must be poured straight after mixing as it is fast-setting. At this point it can be coloured using a drop of dye.

3. Within around ten minutes the resin is set and the piece can be separated from the mould.

about the organisers

MAKLab is an open-access member makers' workshop based in Glasgow. They recently moved from the Lighthouse to larger  premises and are now based in Charing Cross. They have further plans for expansion, including a possible Edinburgh base, and a mobile MAKLab like this one, appearing at the upcoming Edinburgh Makers' Faire.

EISF 2014 runs 5-20th April and various venues around central Edinburgh. There are events daily for all the family, including workshops and talks, and theme nights. Many events are free; the full programme can be viewed online and in the official brochure.

// With Thanks to EISF Press Office