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Film Review: Queen of Glory by Nana Mensah

By Erin Aitchison

Queen of Glory, dir. by Nana Mensah (Bohemia Media, 2021)

This month, Reel to Real Cinema returned with Queen of Glory (dir. By Nana Mensah), in recognition of International Women’s Day. This feature-length film; written, directed, and starring Mensah, follows Sarah Obeng, a cancer-curing PhD student and brilliant daughter of Ghanian immigrants who is trying to navigate life after her mother’s sudden death. Mensah manages to explore themes of maternal/paternal relationships, heritage, grief and acceptance all in a neat 79 minutes – no mean feat for her directorial debut. Being an F-Rated film, (meaning it’s created by and significantly features women), Queen of Glory is perfect viewing for this year’s IWD.

Sarah Obeng is preparing to move to Ohio with her already-married lover (Adam Leon), when she receives a phone call that her mother has died following an aneurysm. Sarah is the sole inheritor of her mother’s estate, and the new owner of her Christian bookstore ‘King of Glory’ in the Pelham Parkway section of the Bronx.

Sarah is left to organise both a wake and a Ghanian funeral, decide the fate of the bookstore, wait on her dad (Oberon K.A. Adjepong) who is visiting from Ghana and placate her aunties who despite her scientific success keep telling her to lose weight and have some babies. During her endless tasks Sarah develops friendships with the lone bookstore employee, tattoo clad ex-convict and talented baker Pitt (Meeko Gattuso), and the multi-generational Russian-American family who live next door.

The film opens with close-ups of vibrant, rich textiles accompanied by the sound of West-African drums. Archive footage from Ghana is interspersed throughout the film, representing Sarah’s ongoing conversation with her heritage and her journey to celebrating it. The intermittent archive videos show both an insight to Ghanian culture and the repetitive cycle of the human experience as the videos echo what is happening in Sarah’s life.

Rich with these references to heritage and a powerful overarching conversation with grief, Queen of Glory also finds itself punctuated with pockets of humour. Memorable moments of laughter were the effects of Pitt’s pot-brownies, Sarah answering the door to a flat-viewer in a risqué outfit intended for her boyfriend, and the chaos of her neighbour going in to labour as three generations of people rush to find the blasted car keys.

At the second funeral for Sarah’s mother, we revisit the same drumming sequence which opens the film. From this we gain an appreciation of Sarah’s journey and the many women (and men!) who have influenced it. Sarah adorns her natural hair and a vibrant funeral dress, marking the inevitable end to her journey as she dances and finally weeps over the loss of her mother.

Voices of aunties, neighbours, customers and mothers guide Mensah’s character through this story with a feeling of familiarity and genuine warmth. Like the bright West-African fabrics shown in the title sequence of the film, Queen of Glory feels like it is carefully woven together by the voices of women.

Queen of Glory is currently available to watch via Amazon Prime and can be rented/bought online from various streaming services.

Erin is our Marketing Assistant at The Stove but is no stranger to watching and talking about film. Erin graduated with an English and Film Studies degree in 2022, and is delighted to share her thoughts on the films shown at our monthly Reel to Real screenings. 

You can find out more about Reel to Real Cinema here.

Musings News

Brave New Words: Blueprint100 Takeover

Brave New Words Celebrates with a Blueprint Takeover, Millions Dead
by Chauncey Milquetoast

The night of the 27th was one of debauchery, excess and – at the hands of the host – violence. There was also some rather lovely poetry and music and…misc.
The night marked a change from what was usually expected, thanks to a bunch of youths running the show this time instead of that guy what usually does it.

Hosted by the absurdly abrasive Brandan Braslin and his Phantom House Band (one dude), the night began innocuously enough before descending into surreal, Lynchian chaos.There was more variety than ever with acts performing a cacophony of poetry, prose, musical numbers and stand up comedy. It’s impossible to pick a highlight, as each act was as wonderful as the one that preceded it, except for one profoundly unpleasant man in a hideous floral shirt.

The only downside was that, for the fourth time, my request for Dead Kennedys fell on deaf ears. Perhaps I should ask a musical act next time instead of literally every poet. Live and learn.This was also a particularly inclusive night where everyone was made to feel welcome – with only one heckler this time, which I believe is a new record, plus it was a member of staff so it doesn’t even really count.

The finale consisted of our host providing a final monologue before disassembling himself into minute, complex geometrical shapes and dissolving into the ether, while the house band grew to a gargantuan size before rampaging through the town centre.Overall it was a good night. I’d say…twelve out of a possible thirteen stars.


Beyond Burns

From Dr Gerard Lee McKeever
I was delighted to have the opportunity to run an event at The Stove in Dumfries in February. They are a really exciting arts network who have been a driving force in revitalising Dumfries town centre in recent years, part of a much broader flowering of cultural activity in the region.

Gerry McKeever introsducing 'Beyond Burns' at The Stove
Gerry McKeever introducing ‘Beyond Burns’ at The Stove

 Beyond Burns was an evening of poetry and talks about literary Dumfriesshire & Galloway, past and present – the first event funded by my British Academy Postdoctoral Fellowship. It was an opportunity to engage with the local public, aiming to inspire thinking about other literature connected to the region around the time of Robert Burns, as well as more contemporary writing.

Beyond Burns Galina Walls

After an opening talk in which I surveyed some of the early fruits of my research, I was delighted to give the stage over to three local poets: Hugh McMillan, author of many books and pamphlets including Not Actually Being in Dumfries (2015) and McMillan’s Galloway (2016); Liz Niven, widely published in Scots and English and recently the editor of I’m Coming With You (2017); and Stuart A. Paterson, the latest BBC Scotland Poet in Residence, who has a new collection titled Looking South (2017). All three poets gave performances featuring a mix of their own work, other local poetry and reflections on the literary history of the region, with particular stress on issues including place, gender and language.


‘Knowledge Exchange’ and ‘Impact’ in academia have acquired the off-putting quality of all buzzwords. But literary scholars are among those best placed to engage with wider audiences. I’ve been really heartened at the response my project has had from the local community over the past six months. It’s clear that there is a significant wellspring of local knowledge and enthusiasm for eighteenth and nineteenth-century subjects. Through my involvement with the Oxford University Press edition of Burns at Glasgow, I was introduced to some creative ways of tapping into the massive public interest in Burns. Certainly no other D&G writer has his profile, but there is a real appetite for the wider literary-historical landscape here.

Beyond Burns Galina Walls Stuart Paterson
Stuart A Paterson
Beyond Burns Galina Walls
Liz Niven
Beyond Burns Galina Walls
Hugh McMillan

Engaging with three contemporary writers has also been a refreshing way of developing my thinking. Liz, Stuart and Hugh are all poets with a keen interest in the historical, geographical and political issues around living and working in this part of Scotland, with its unique perspective on local, national and global contexts. Further collaborations have already been mentioned – it’s great to reach beyond the traditional confines of scholarly research and participate in what is an optimistic moment in the region’s arts scene.

Beyond Burns Galina Walls

Beyond Burns was well-attended and closed with a Q&A session, before an after-hours writing workshop for keen attendees. The response to the event has been brilliant – I hope that it has helped to stimulate some new conversations about this rich literary history ­– including but also beyond the legacy of Burns.

Credit to Galina Walls for the photos from the evening.


Big Burns Supper at the Stove

Last week, The Stove Network ran as the town centre hub for this year’s Big Burns Supper Festival, hosting a variety of events over the 10 days, as well as being the base for the very first D-Lux Festival of Light.

The Big Burns Supper festivities kicked off on Sunday with the annual Carnival. This year, blueprint100 team members created giant skeletons of celebrities and artists lost in 2016. Among these were David Bowie, Prince, Muhammed Ali and Carrie Fisher.

Dead Famous Carnival

On Wednesday, we hosted ‘Being Made in Dumfries’; an opportunity to see the next crop of local creativity before anyone else as local playwrights, writers, musicians and artists presented their ‘work-in-progress’ to an audience for the first time. Martin Joseph O’Neill, writer and Curatorial Team member here at The Stove, began the evening with a discussion of his second artwork in a series entitled ‘Midnight Streetlight Smalltown Rain’; an interactive installation which ran during the week as part of the D-Lux Festival of Light.


The following evening, Holywood actor and D&G resident Gary Lewis hosted a special screening of the blackest of Glaswegian comedies – Orphans, starring Lewis and directed by Peter Mullen. The screening was followed by a Q&A with Gary. We had a great chat including the long and circuitous route getting started in acting, the value of independent film making, the uncertain future for film making post Brexit, and the most beautiful Scottish landscapes to work in.

To conclude our week of Big Burns Supper events, the Stove’s monthly open mic night had a special edition with ‘Brave New Words for the Bard’. The night was open to writers, performers and musicians with words spoken or sung to present their work in front of a live audience. The performances ranged from Brave New Words regulars and local young musicians Kate Kyle and Elia Davidson, as well as newcomers sharing their poetry and stories. Brave New Words will return at the end of this month with a special love themed evening.


A Day At Off the Record – A Short Review

By Isla Gracie of Taagan


As a young musician playing in a “neo-folk” duo, I was under the impression that it was vital that you had to play an instrument to be able to work within the industry. I have never be more disillusioned! Last weekend my band member and I attended Off The Record at The Stove in Dumfries, an event where anyone from 14 to 25 interested in working within the music industry could learn about all it’s key factors and how important they are.
The event was a series of seminars and talks from lots of different speakers who came from lots of different parts of the music industry. These talks ranged from learning about organising and getting gigs, producing and releasing music, working within the music industry, promoting your or your band’s music and getting the best images to promote your music and style.

There were many elements of the day that I found very informative including a presentation on realising music by Toni Malyn who works with EmuBands. He gave a step by step talk on how to get your music heard through companies such as Spotify, he also gave us useful information on how to release covers of other artists’ songs – this was something that we as a band duo found especially helpful. We learnt what the term “derivative work” meant from Toni, a phrase that has definitely stuck with me.
We also got the opportunity to listen to Nick Roberts, who is part of the team who run the very successful festival Electric Fields each year. He gave us a good insight of what his job was and how important it is to be a band or musician who is “good to work with”. He explained that you could be a rock star on stage but it is vital that you can work well with the organisers as it makes their jobs easier and everything runs smoothly. I thought that this piece of information was something that was very rudimentary but the most important.
He also gave some communication tips and how using emails effectively is also important. I was completely amazed as to how many bands copied and pasted emails to companies and promoters – I discovered that a “personal touch” can really go a long way within the industry.

We also got the chance listen to Jannica Honey, a well experienced photographer who has taken photos of bands such as The Killers. She gave us a presentation on the do’s and dont’s of music photography and provided helpful and nifty tips on creating the best photography so you or your band could get the best image for your sound and your style. She gave you simple questions to ask yourself like “who are you as a band or musician?” And “what and where does your music represent?” These simple questions made me really analyse our own band and where and what we symbolise.
Off The Record also highlighted a really fundamental part of the music industry – promoting your music. Derick Mackinnon of New Found Sound spoke about press packs and how using social media a lot can be a really great way to promote your music. This last talk was a really excellent way to wrap up the rest of day.
Attending Off The Record has really opened my eyes about the music industry and the amazing and unexpected destinations it can take you to, it isn’t just about playing music on a stage – there are numerous other jobs within the music business from sound engineering to promoting and even taking photos. It was less daunting to know how many career paths within music there really are. It was also really nice to hear humble advice such as “Be supportive to other bands” and “Flattery will get you everywhere” – modest guidance like that definitely reminded me of the excitement and enjoyment within the industry, and why I would really love to have a career in music whether it is playing in bands, promoting or even writing about it.

As a young musician, I would highly recommend going to Off The Record if you have the opportunity to. If you are a musician or interested in following a career within music then Off The Record is a phenomenal event where you can get a taste for it. It will open your eyes and fill your soul with first-hand knowledge from the best kind of people who have been there and done that.

By Isla Gracie of Taagan

Find out more about Isla’s band Taagan, online here

Musings Project Updates

The Procession of the Salty Coo – Performance, Creativity and Acceptance

From Dillon Colthart

As part of Nithraid 2016, The Stove commissioned emerging performance artists Dillon Colthart and Jordan Chisholm to lead the procession of the Salty Coo, a now annual event starting in the town centre and finishing in the river with the Nithraid’s mascot and icon, the Salty Coo raised to a great height overseeing the sailing race’s conclusion.

The annual Nithraid took place in Dumfries on Saturday 3rd of September and despite the rain hundreds of people turned out to watch they parade of the " Salty Coo" through the town and the sail race finishing on the Greensands. Pix Kirstin McEwan

‘It began with a blog post, advertising various commission opportunities for young artists in and around Dumfries & Galloway. It seemed fitting that Jordan and I would apply for both in hopes of our creative flare being challenged and displayed by the time Nithraid came around in September. We were excited, nervous and determined to bring something theatrically unique, as well as highly political, to the streets of Dumfries.

Jordan (with blue hair) performing in the Salty Coo performance she co-designed and produced with Dillon Colthard

Upon receiving Nithraid’s ‘Salty Coo Procession’ commission from the Stove Network in early July, we became overwhelmed with joy and immediately began to brainstorm ideas creatively over various different types of coffee within local coffee shops throughout Dumfries with some paper, a pen and a desire to spread awareness through theatre and performance.

The annual Nithraid took place in Dumfries on Saturday 3rd of September and despite the rain hundreds of people turned out to watch they parade of the " Salty Coo" through the town and the sail race finishing on the Greensands. Pix Kirstin McEwan

We came up with an idea to base our performance on the theme of ‘acceptance’ through queer performance whilst maintaining the meaning of the Salty Coo, which was to give something back to the river. Creatively, we challenged ourselves to incorporate movements with a strong message and create something which was both visual and aurally stimulating.

Grasping the attention of an audience in Dumfries, a place which has so much potential in terms of heightening awareness of LGBT, queer performance (such as drag) and acceptance was challenging yet liberating. We thought of ways we could get performers involved from more than just a theatrical background and made our goal inclusiveness though performance.

The annual Nithraid took place in Dumfries on Saturday 3rd of September and despite the rain hundreds of people turned out to watch they parade of the " Salty Coo" through the town and the sail race finishing on the Greensands. Pix Kirstin McEwan

The process was overall smooth. We worked together well, got to learn more about one another than we already knew, based our teamwork on compromise and began to find a balance between our personal relationship and working relationship. It was interesting, as we have so many of the same views on various issues, yet positively challenged each other constantly to bring out our best creatively.

The annual Nithraid took place in Dumfries on Saturday 3rd of September and despite the rain hundreds of people turned out to watch they parade of the " Salty Coo" through the town and the sail race finishing on the Greensands. Pix Kirstin McEwan

When the performance eventually came around, after weeks and weeks of preparation, we were ready to present the Salty Coo in all it’s glory – with rainbow coloured costumes, a kilt wearing – all tartan – unicorn, comic costumes, flower heads, white capes and colour bombs within the river to conclude. Our connection with the river has never been so strong, and the Coo never looked so good.

The annual Nithraid took place in Dumfries on Saturday 3rd of September and despite the rain hundreds of people turned out to watch they parade of the " Salty Coo" through the town and the sail race finishing on the Greensands. Pix Kirstin McEwan

This opportunity is something which was indeed challenging in terms of managing our own time and being given a complete creative freedom, as we wanted to do our Salty Coo justice, as well as making the team at Nirthraid proud. This was an excellent commission for anyone looking to further their practise in the arts, whatever you may specialise in. From our preview performance – confined within plastic bags and smothered in paint – to the ‘Salty Coo’ installation and multi coloured procession, our procession came full circle, and we couldn’t be more proud of what we achieved.’

All pictures: Kirstin McEwan

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