A critic's bad vibes

14th July 2006 at 01:00
As the local councillor for King's Park Secondary School, and a friend and colleague of Bailie Margaret McCafferty and her late husband Chic, I was surprised, shocked and saddened by Kenny Mathieson's petty and puerile article following the first schools jazz band competition held in Glasgow at the end of last month (TESS, June 30).

In his article, Mr Mathieson implies that the band of King's Park Secondary only beat "the more accomplished sounding band of Jordanhill" because they were a local authority school and that the judges were biased, as the competition was sponsored by the convener of education in memory of her late husband.

This is quite frankly an insult to the memory of Chic McCafferty, who was not only a highly thought-of educationist but also long acknowledged as being a bit of a jazz buff. It is a slight to the integrity of Margaret McCafferty, convener of education in Glasgow, whose sole intention was to mark Chic's enthusiasm for music and encouragement of young people with a competition named in his honour.

It is also an astonishing attack to make on the independence of the judging panel at the JazzFest, which included not only renowned musicians but also, a rare thing indeed, a well-respected journalist.

However, the most damning insult of all is to the young people of King's Park themselves who will, despite many other pressures, no doubt have worked together and practised hard for their fine achievement to be questioned and pilloried by Mr Mathieson. How does Mr Mathieson feel his opinions would be viewed by the young people whose achievement he doubts?

In a society where two of the main complaints about local authority schools are that they don't do enough to encourage competition and that they stifle creativity, the magnificent achievement by the young people of King's Park surely flies in the face of this received and questionable wisdom.

As the local councillor since 1999, I have been aware of the fine work being carried out in the music department of King's Park by Ms Aileen Monaghan and her dedicated staff. Not only have the young people's musical abilities, skills and confidence been developed by Aileen and her team, this has also been acknowledged by the fact she was given the UK accolade of "Inspirational Teacher of the Year" a couple of years back. Importantly, it is now reflected in the significant and increasing numbers of young people at King's Park attaining Higher qualifications in music.

I was pleased to note that, despite the bile being vented from Mr Mathieson's spleen, at the gala dinner to celebrate the reopening of Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum, the youngsters of King's Park Jazz Band picked themselves up, dusted themselves down and played a damn fine set, drawing public praise from First Minister Jack McConnell.

While musically the young people of King's Park are, I believe, in a class of their own, I have absolutely no doubt the young people from Jordanhill played very well indeed.

Can I suggest that there was more than a wee possibility of a bit of "west end is the best end" bias coming from Mr Mathieson? I would therefore suggest that he divest himself of his sour grapes. After all it was a schools' competition - not a class one.

Bailie Alan Stewart

Glasgow City Chambers

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