As The Bishop Said To The Pop Singer
The Scotsman 25th September 2003

THERE have been many great musical duos. Sonny & Cher, Lennon & McCartney, Ant & Dec (OK, maybe not that last one). But never has there been a stranger pairing than that which will be unveiled at a special concert in a city church this Saturday...

Ricky (Ross, as in Deacon Blue) & Richard (Holloway, as in the former Bishop of Edinburgh).

It should be pointed out that the pair arenít - yet - planning to actually sing together. "I think that might clear the hall and have everyone running for the pub," jokes Holloway.

But they are on stage together in an event organised by the West End Church Together group to raise money for Christian Aid.

Itís a cause close to the hearts of both the outspoken churchman and the singer, who have both lent their names to campaigns to cancel Third World debt in the past. They first met when Ross performed at Hollowayís retirement party. This time, the ex-Bishop will be discussing matters musical and social with the singer between songs in what is likely to be an unusual discussion.

"I get a lot of requests to do benefits and this one sounded interesting because of Richardís involvement," says Ross. "We havenít really worked out what weíll do, which is good because it will have its own spark.

"Iíve found some of his writing very interesting and so it would be good if he would read some and then Iíll play - Iíll do something a bit different, songs I havenít done for a while and new things."

Deacon Blue, once one of Scotlandís most popular bands, got together again earlier this year for a special show at which they played their first album in its entirety, but apart from such one-offs, Ross says he now prefers more intimate shows these days.

"I stopped enjoying shows about ten years ago when I felt there was no interaction. I just feel thereís more of me in the shows I do now and I like being able to chat to people about the songs and actually see the audience. Itís hopefully a chance to talk about things in a bit more depth."

Five years ago, Ross visited Brazil with Christian Aid to see the work of local land reclamation groups, trying to establish farming communities and get people out of the huge shanty towns which surround the countryís rich cities with rings of extreme poverty. It was an experience that he still recalls vividly.

"We went to Sao Paulo State, which is just massive, and spent most of the time in a small village where they were celebrating ten years of reclaiming the land. I didnít know anything about Brazil and itís a confusing place. Before I went, Iíd watched the World Cup and seen football supporters travelling around and thought it must be a pretty prosperous place - and it is, there are very wealthy parts. But go a few miles away as we did and people are living in abject poverty.

"But we met people from the Movement Of The Landless who were trying to change society and it was actually a good news story about people doing things for themselves. It was very uplifting and the great thing is that when you go to a third world country you discover all the stuff you have in common.

"People have kids and families and want to get on with their lives and have fun, they love music, all that sort of thing."

The villagers he met hadnít heard of Deacon Blue, mind you. "The kids there were all asking me if I could play the music from Titanic . . . I played them some of my own songs and they said they liked them.

"I really feel that it would be great if everyone here had the chance to go there and experience it for themselves - it alters your perspective. On the news we only see these places when thereís a big disaster or a famine or war, but life goes on. I think that people just need to keep abreast of whatís going on and try to feel part of the whole world, not just their own world."

Those sentiments are shared by Holloway, who since retirement has stepped up his secular activities. Or as he puts it: "Iím much more interested in helping the world than saving the church these days."

A Deacon Blue fan, heíll be asking Ross about his songs and opinions at the show. "I think itís absolutely a good thing that artists speak out about the world they live in - after all, theyíre not running for election. So many politicians get bogged down in the party line and so on," he says.

"Celebrity is an odd kind of gift and it can be used in fairly superficial ways, but if you have the ability to use it well, itís a blessing." Andrea Mullaney