THE opening card of director Niall McCann’s film Lost In France reads: “In 1997 a group of young musicians and their fans travelled from Glasgow, Scotland, to Mauron, France. 18 years later they went back. Definitely older. Possibly wiser.”

It sets the scene for a documentary that gently explores the rise of our independent music scene in the 1990s, led by local record label Chemikal Underground.

At the time, a collection of Glasgow bands were busy infiltrating mainstream music. Bis appeared regularly on Top of the Pops, Mogwai were big in Japan while The Delgados and Arab Strap received critical acclaim. The young musicians remained rooted in Glasgow, plugged into a scene that revolved around a handful of active venues, including the 13th Note where Alex Kapranos, later of Franz Ferdinand, was a promoter.

A Frenchman decided he wanted Glasgow bands for a festival and extended an invitation. By festival, we mean a stage in the local hall. A bus was acquired, a ragtag bunch of musicians were loaded on-board, together with pals and supporters, and off they went to charm and entertain a small town.

Glasgow Times:  Alex Kapranos Alex Kapranos

The group of old friends featured in the film, which I saw premiere at the Glasgow Film Festival in 2017, have had a lasting effect on local music.

The story of the documentary plays out on a journey back to Brittany, re-staging a concert from their shared past. Putting the group back in that place allows them to reflect on their music and memories. It’s an entertaining journey.

Early in the movie, Mogwai’s Stuart Braithwaite, Stewart Henderson, Emma Pollock and Paul Savage of The Delgados, and Alex Kapranos, are posing up in Brittany for a photograph, laughing and joking. Someone asks: “Are we peering at the past or staring at the future?” Hogmanay often feels like the time to do a bit of both.

Niall McCann is Irish and his entire relationship with Glasgow, before arriving here to make a film, was based on music. “Glasgow was this mythological place for me when I was growing up. This magic place where all these amazing bands lived. It’s hard to even grasp the amount of great records that have come out of Glasgow. It’s incredible,” he 
told me.

We enter the new year with our venues closed and the looming impact of travel visas for musicians considering European tours, whether they be impromptu bus trips to France or something grander.

Kingsley Long and Alexander McArthur’s novel about Glasgow borrowed a phrase from St Paul, who said he is a citizen of Tarsus, which is “no mean city” – no obscure or insignificant city. For Glasgow to continue to be no mean city, we need our musicians and bands to sing their songs. Music is our chosen form of self-expression. It’s the way Glasgow sends messages to the world. Our bands should be cherished, encouraged and protected.

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