I took a second look, “That is plastic isn’t it?” The answer was swift and smart, “Yes, no man was hurt in the making of this display.”

Setting up my stall at the Student Festival of Learning in Edinburgh’s Telford College yesterday I soon realised that I was a bit short of merchandise. Thanks to Tommy I had the biggest and boldest banner in the hall and I had put together a nice display of bright leaflets about intercultural arts events, voluntary work and community gardens. Then I discovered Leith Open Space was sandwiched between Young Scot and Safe Sex and, damn it, they both had a much more interesting selection of freebies.

“It’s all about give aways,” said one of the Young Scots sympathetically as a queue gathered in front of his stall to pick up the very snazzy triangular plastic markers I was casting a covetous eye over. Then I looked to my left and saw a crowd of young women lining up to examine a giant condom and (in comparison) a rather small plastic penis.

I sent a surreal text to family and friends. “Amazing”, Tom texts back, “take a picture”. Soyoungscots.jpg I did and got rather a good one of Ms Safe Sex sipping a pot noodle but sadly she told me they are not allowed to be photographed for publication (eh?). Mr Young Scot had no such qualms, “Just make sure it’s my good side.”

All in all, Telford’s Diversity Day was so interesting I stayed twice as long as I intended. With Mike’s help I even got time to sit in on a couple of workshops which gave me a glimpse of the extraordinary range of further education. Seeing a room full of young guys slumped in the first workshop I didn’t give much hope for Nil by Mouth but came out seriously impressed by the discussion on sectarianism in Scotland. Mike’s workshop on Rock against Racism was a thought provoking exploration of the grassroots rebellion against the fascism of Enoch Powell and – heaven help us – Eric Clapton who made his millions out of black music. (I did not know that Clapton still clings to his outrageous belief that Powell was a brave man speaking out against the danger of black supremacy. The one black student in the room said something like: “what planet is he on?”).

Back at my stall, I found a few people lining up to find out about the Opening Doors shadow scheme I am helping to organise with Mike (and others) to enable minorities to become more involved in politics. A group of Chinese students had already picked up a load of postcards advertising the extraordinary intercultural extravaganza Dialogues of Wind and Bamboo in the Botanics in June. So I didn’t need the plastic merchandise after all – but I wouldn’t mind getting hold of a few of those magic markers.


Thanks to Tommy for the banner!