This was the last piece I wrote for AnyVoices and one I was pleased to do. I’ve been a big fan of the group and Kevin, who is possibly one of the nicest people i know. They are a great organisation, and I hope they continue to grow.
“We are citizen live stream journalists, people like you are us”
Sitting at a table in the Glad Café, I was pleased to have the chance to catch up with the self-effacing founder member of Independence Live, Kevin Gibney. The Glad is a integral part of the Southside community, and in itself a key player in the Independence Live story.
Kev always stresses that it wasn’t just him and most people will be more aware of the other founding member, Derek McLean – the enthusiastic 8-badge Yes supporter of Jim Murphy’s now famous train journey – especially as Derek was often the public face of the organisation, but I thought it was time to hear from behind the camera.
We start by discussing pre-referendum politics.
Looking back, Kevin says he wasn’t as politically aware as he liked to think he was at the time. He believed he was on top of the politics scene, as he read the Guardian,, watched the news on TV, followed UK political happenings (and occasionally Scottish, when it hit the main headlines). And he always felt he had an instinctive leaning towards greater autonomy for Scotland, voting for Scottish devolution in the 1997 referendum.
As time passed, doubt in old political certainties crept in, the Westminster expenses scandal and global banking crisis occurred with the subsequent narratives blaming the poorest in society for the country’s woes and it seemed that Labour didn’t rise to the challenge. This then closely followed by the election of the Conservative/Lib Dem coalition and subsequent rise of austerity led to Kevin feeling very disconnected from Westminster and British politics.
After the referendum was announced, he kept waiting for the Guardian to give balanced reporting setting out the arguments from both sides of the debate. After a while he said it felt like a veil dropping when he realised that ‘his paper’ was as just as much a part of the establishment as all of the others. So, like so many others, he went online looking for further information, finding his answers in Wings Over Scotland, Bella Caledonia, Newsnet, etc.
Kevin then started to attend Yes events, in particular ones organised by RIC, such as at Langside Hall in June 2013 with Patrick Harvie, Jonathon Shafi and Liam McLaughlan. These meetings inspired him and, while he was happy to canvass and leaflet, he wanted to use his skills to spread the message further.
It was around this time he had been given an iPad, and with the help of Derek, they were involved with organising a meeting at the Glad that they intended to livestream. The two of them were incredibly nervous but they got through it, and it was events like these that enabled them to experiment, learning the best ways to facilitate the livestream. They also started working with Cherryman Media to improve the quality of their output, as he said it had to be watchable to engage people’s attention.
Getting the message out is the priority, and Kevin was pleased to add that they are able to get signing for the deaf on a number of their events covered. There is no group which he will not try to engage. One of his favourite events was one they set up for pro-indy ex-military, which lead to the formation of the Veterans for Indy group. This was done as a counter to all the “patriotic Union Jack waving”, such as the total co-incidence that Stirling just happened to get Armed Forces Day on the 700th anniversary of the Battle of Bannockburn. Video here
Kev also made links with Business for Scotland. He says that he attended the inaugural Business for Scotland meeting at a hotel in Glasgow where seven speakers all stated that they wanted a fairer Scotland. He wanted to get that side of the economic case out to non-business people, to fight the ‘Too Wee, Too Poor” stories which were being spread. Ivan McKee from BfS has since become a regular contributor to the site. The economic event at the Glad, organised with help from Crawford at Southside Session, with Ivan & Michelle Thomson MP, filmed by Cherryman Media, has been viewed around 100,000 times. Video here
It was around early 2014 that the first crowdfunders started to help fund the small group that had now formed, to pay for equipment, setting up events, travel etc. Post referendum, the increased workloads had put pressure on Kevin, as he needed to be able to set aside more time for the project, so he decided to walk away from his own business and concentrate on doing Independence Live full time, supported by the crowdfunder donations. He stops for a minute to add that he could not have put the hours in without the support of his wife Claire. You get the feeling that the last two years have been non-stop for them, with the frenetic run-up to the referendum, followed by the general election, streaming events, training others and providing as professional a system as possible, available to be used by other groups.
As it says on their website:
We have two main aims: one is to facilitate and democratise the news coverage from anywhere by using citizen journalists and a second is to further expand our group across Scotland.
Kevin is thinking big. He takes his motto from J. P. Morgan “Go as far as you can see; when you get there, you’ll be able to see farther.”
Independence Live currently has over 25 active individuals involved, including the Glasgow and Edinburgh groups. However, the ambition is for this to grow, to provide coverage of news and culture all over Scotland, and beyond. He sees the groups expanding organically, as those trained then train others, increasing the range of groups and subjects covered. He is also keen to point out that other groups can use them to host their own livestreams.
The site has expanded beyond purely the events, and now includes blogs and videos. As they have the ability to Skype livestream, the world is now their oyster, with interviews already taking place from USA, Spain and France.
The latest development is of course the IndyLive app, which was launched a few weeks back. But that is not the end of it, with the links Independence Live has formed with a wide range of pro-independence groups, the next stage is a super-app, which if he manages it will be astounding, and will ensure that I for one will NEVER be able to go offline. It seems there are downside to being a political anorak.
Independence Live can be found at: