Beyond Cause & Effect
In common with the rest of us, historians, politicians and bureaucrats hold opinions and reach conclusions that are necessarily shaped by their cultural conditioning, education, subjective gaze and personal tastes. We would argue, therefore, that rather than allowing our thinking to be unduly influenced by any such one individual’s viewpoint or research, we should engage in meaningful discussions on a wider platform like the World Wide Web.With this in mind, our discussion forum “beyond cause and effect” is designed to initiate the sort of fruitful discussions that will allow each of us to step outside of our own preconceptions and beliefs, and engage with topical issues from a multitude of perspectives. Even if, at times, a general consensus of opinion on an issue can’t be reached, such an approach broadens our outlook on life and our respect for the value of the opinions and voices of others. This allows us to grow as individuals and makes us stronger as social groups, thereby attaining the state and aim of Smskrti.

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Vizfest

It started on the Isle of Skye in 2008. A great friend of ours, Vizzy, applied for his UK residency/indefinite leave to remain after staying in the country for over 10 years. A few of us decided to meet up at a youth hostel on Skye for one last hurrah as we could not predict the outcome of the application. Around 80 people gathered for that eventful weekend in Skye and we had some trouble with hostel authorities as they weren’t expecting a 2k sound system and Techno music at 6am. They were also annoyed with a few of the locals joining the party and enjoying the banter. Anyway we survived that, lost our deposit money, and Vizzy was banned from Scottish youth hostels for life. But we all had an excellent time and forged new friendships with the locals.

In the meantime one of our crew, a well-respected lawyer, took over Vizzy’s residency application and started communicating with the Home Office. He asked several of our friends to draft a letter supporting Vizzy’s application for his residency. The Home Office website clearly restricted applicants from enquiring about the progress of an application unless there are extenuating circumstances. Six months passed with no response and we decided to gather again. Finding a venue was a tricky affair due to our lockout by the SYHA.

After an intense search we managed to find a venue, Lochend Chalets at Lake of Menthith, which is a fairly exclusive establishment run by Nick Nairn, with his culinary school based on the same premises. Perhaps not too surprisingly, the staff (and ruffled residents) here were also unprepared for dance music at 6am, while our sensibilities were challenged when faced with enforced curtailment of the music at so-called sensible hours! However, Saturday went without further hiccups. We asked Nick Nairn ‘Do you think we can come back next year?’, and he said ‘We will talk about it some other time.’ He was smiling, as was his sister. We don’t know the reason behind their smile, but we guess we made some progress.

Another year passed and we still hadn’t heard from the Home Office. With such uncertainty as to Vizzy’s status, we organised another gathering at Grantown on Spey. Folks used to joke that ‘Vizzy is having another leaving party’, hence the birth of Vizfest. In this our third Vizfest venture, we finally located a place that was isolated and catered for the likes of fun-loving people, who might listen to music 24/7 and get up to all sorts of capers, yet be respectful and leave the place clean and tidy. The owner was very impressed with us and told us that we could come back any time, which made a welcome change from what we were used to: this time we had definitely made progress!

Another six months passed and, after a total of 2 years waiting on the Home Office, it was agreed we needed to have another gathering at the same location. It snowed non-stop for two days and the whole of the Highlands was snowed in with various roadblocks. However, this did not deter people from turning up, which really demonstrated the spirit of Vizfest. The party was an epic success. Unfortunately, Vizzy’s dad was admitted to hospital and he wanted to go home to India. His passport was still with the Home Office, but it was decided that this situation constituted extenuating circumstances, and his lawyer contacted them. It was touch-and-go, but we had the Home Office in a tight corner such that, finally, after 2 long and often difficult years, they had no option other than to grant Vizzy British residency! In the end, it was well worth the wait, as we had come to realise that occasional gatherings like Vizfest are one of the simplest yet greatest pleasures in life.

In the meantime, a few of us set up an organisation called Smskrti. Smskrti is a bridge, or platform, for people who value Eastern and Western cultures. It offers a dynamic whereby we can interact and organise various cultural events around the globe. Everyone involved with Smskrti is delighted that we manage to eliminate the middle man during the various activities that we conduct. In 2011 and 2012, Smskrti organised two more Vizfests at a new location in Nethybridge. We had tried to book there before but they couldn’t accommodate the dates we required. Being such amazing people as they proved to be, we owe them for suggesting our previous location of Grantown! However, Nethybridge was a bigger and better venue, and even during our first weekend there we knew that we would return again soon. In 2011, the owner of Abernethy Bunkhouse, retired Colonel Richard Eccles, was so impressed with the banter and crowd that he hired the venue to us at a discounted rate in 2012!

The following excerpt from the letter that Richard sent us after our 2012 escapade shows how much we have evolved over the years. It reads:

Thank you for being such an easy group (I am only sorry that P and I were away when you were here). […] Also a great big thank you for leaving the House clean and tidy, I have to say that I was a little worried, but you were as good as your word. The cleaning lady was thrilled, again […] Do not hesitate to get in touch….should you be able to come back next year?

Many thanks again!

May the sun never set on all your enterprises!

All the very best!

Richard and Patricia

Over the span of five years, Vizfest has evolved from an informal gathering of mates into a fully-fledged wee festival, with over 250 different folks participating in the 6 events that have been organised since 2008. Our ultimate dream is to hold a much larger festival back where it all began, on the Isle of Skye. More precisely, our dream location is Scudburgh Farm, which rightfully belongs to the family of one of our associates. Sadly, at present, the family is battling with the UK’s oppressive and unsympathetic financial institutions. On principle, Smskrti would love to dedicate some of our time and energy to getting that farm back for Sturat and Morag, and to turn Scudburgh farm into a self-sustainable farm. Organising a festival there is one of the means that we have at our disposal to raise the funds needed to turn that dream into a reality. Vizfest 2013 marked the first of the wee festivals that we will organise in our efforts in achieving our objective.