GRACIAS A LA VIDA things i am proud of in my life


  1. having three wonderful children; intelligent and aware;  happy in their partnerships and with their children; happy in their work running a cutting edge brand company; wine maker/importer; vocational teacher
  2. living and working in Chile during  the Popular  Unity Presidency of  Salvador Allende years 1971-3; experiencing the energy, fervour and enthusiasm and idealism of that periods  and surviving the 11 September 1973 coup d’etat. Living in Temuco in a street called ‘Porvenir’ (future)  and having as close friends the Cordero family – neurologist Ruth, psychiatrist Martin, and their 3 children Ruthie, Martin hijo and Paula- and going to their home all the time to hang out, eat and chat and play table tennis. Spending time each week singing with the patients at the hospital  in Chol Chol  as part of Ruth’s therapeutic regime for them. Helping the Cordero family escape out of Temuco to Santiago  and eventually to the UK  after the coup d’etat when Martin father was taken in and tortured and then placed under house arrest.
  3. having three inter-disciplianry degrees: B.A. Hons. Compaative Literature with Languages (Spanish) (Essex 1971); M.Phil Latin Amerucan Studies (Oxford 1977);  PhD (Edinburgh 1987);  writing my MPhil (Latin American Studies, Oxford) on ‘la nueva  canción Chilena’, the first thesis of that nature  on a popular music in a British university; ditto my PhD on ‘Karaxú, the music of the Chilean Resistance’ (Ethnomusicology, Edinburgh); studying ‘Third World Literature with Jean Franco as an undergraduate at Essex University.
  4. being first woman Latin DJ in Scotland (for Club Sandino i.e. fusing love of politics and music); and first woman radio DJ to play world music on BBC Radio Scotland for Earthbeat 1991-04, a weekly programme (Thursdays 7.30 until 8.30pm) I named the show myself (with help from colleague and friend Lucy Dúran)
  5. being lucky enough to be selected  in the lottery  for Anthony Gormley’s 4th plinth project ‘One and Other’  in Trafalgar Square, London  on Monday 14th September 2009 2pm-3pm where I read poems for the ‘disappeared’ in Chile and Latin America’ from the plinth, wearing a home made cape (thank you Jan Newton for making it) , saying ‘Remember the disappeared’  – linking poems offered by present old  friends to those who are no longer here. Picture is in the book Gormley’s company produced afterwards and film guarded somewhere by Welcome Trust?  A unique experience: it was windy up there though and although I wanted to dance a ‘cueca sola’ for the disappeared in memory of the ‘mothers’ who did  I could not brave it.
  6. to have worked for the BBC as an official BBC freelance  in the 1990s until 2003 and made lots of wonderful feature documentaries from parts of  Europe and other parts of the worlds for BBC Radio Scotland, Radio3, Radio 4 and World Service; particularly the R3 series ‘Songs from a country called Spain’; WS series ‘Ports of Call’ (about which I wrote a chapter about for the book Migrating Music ed by Jason Toynbee)’;  and the 2003 ‘Chile 30 years’ after documentary for R4, one of the Sunday docs of the year
  7. being Director of Edinburgh Book Festival 1995-7;  making huge change  by taking it annual; giving it a more international flavour; having Latin American writer Mario Vargas Llosa open it (with opening party music from Salsa Celtica); nominating 3 dead poets  for the festival – Pablo Neruda, Emily Dickinson, George Mackay Brown; having three visual art exhibitions (Neruda photos direct from Chile; Gunny Moberg photos of Scottish writers and of Orkney and Mackay Brown); introducing the  readings for imprisoned writers (because of my time in Chile 1971-3 (which later became an Amnesty project); bringing in a yurt for stories for kids; co- organising the opening PEN conference;’ starting the ‘Friends of Edinburgh Book Festival’; introducing a ‘body and mind lifestyle tent with creative artists in it;   doing a small mid-year book festival weekend at the Traverse and Film House in November; organising some co-events with Mark at the Film Festival; organising and creating some music events like Mairi Hedderwick Katie Morag stories for kids with the late Martyn Bennett playing music; having Gerda Stevenson do the ‘Story of Barbar.’  And much more to be proud of there even if ultimately  I fell foul of the board being slightly headstrong, too much my own person, and naïve  as to significance  of profit in first change-over year; and then one can  add in  remarks from people with limited vision  like then bookseler and EBF treasurer Ainslie Thin that ‘poetry  does not sell books’ etc
  8. Taking part in TRILOGY Nic Green’s groundbreaking 21st century feminist show at the Edinburgh Firnge August 2010 Arches at St Stephens when as part of the choreographed women’s dance group; we danced naked to the Pixies, celebrating  our bodies, which for me was big time, as I had a masectomy and re-build, so to be naked on stage and expose that was liberating and accepting. I also took part in the very final performance at the Arches in Glasgow in January 2011.
  9. being a singer since I was about 4; singing everything from Gilbert and Sullivan leads at school (Yum Yum, Rose Maybud, girl in Pirates) ; to acapella group  Witches Tuesday; latterly  being member of champion barber shop Forth Valley Chorus; singing regularly with my wonderful singer songwriter friend Carlos Arredondo, and his wife, my close friend Giovanna Reboa
  10. being a good salsa dancer and not bad at tango either and coming from a family of dancers: the extended family of my grandfather used to own Fairley’s Ballroom at the toe of Leith Walk in Edinburgh( my family the Fairleys come from Edinburgh and our roots and family tree literally go back here for centuries). Fairleys was infamous for being popualr with sailors and for rough fights! They also owned a bar down in Leith port itslef… leds said the bettr said my father when i made a BBC radio Scotland series called ‘Are ye Dancin?’ when various champion dancers  told me all about Fairleys and its reputation – they had a good ballroom dancing term apparently.
  11. walking pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela in March 2007; walking pilgrimage to the Holy Island of  Lindisfarne with Northern Cross from 2000 onwards and sharing community life in village halls on the way
  12. being Chairwoman of the IASPM (The International Association for the Study of Popular Music) of which I had been a member since 1983 between 2009-11
  13. being member editorial board Popular Music Journal (CUP) from 1980s and being responsible for over 12 ‘Special Issues’ including the last one dedicated to me ‘Music and Age’
  14. having a great group of wonderful loving friends whose company I enjoy hugely
  15. having organised host of fabulous fun parties in my home; meals, suppers shared with friends most often with great music  made by all
  16. having become a NUJ journalist to write about musicians who otherwise would not feature in UK press: first ever article  and commissioned reviews for Songlines magazine début issue; Folk Roots/fRoots); Scotsman; Herald; my first ever piece about Silvio Rodríguez and Cuba in The Guardian!!! also being NUJ freelnace Edinburgh Welfare Officer for quite a few years
  17. taking part in Toby Gough’s Teatro Botanicum shows during Edinburgh Fringe Festival in Botanic Gardens: taking the roels of Queen’s Elizabeth and Victoria in the Spice  Trail (and singing);  Lady Lipton in The Tea Party (check show name)
  18. being proud of loving life to the full and living it tot the full and rarely being afraid of danger
  19. thanks for being curious, intrepid, often sacred but just doing it often naively and often following ideas others first introduced to me
  20. GRACIAS A LA VIDA que me ha dado tanto!

About Jan Fairley

I am an experienced and passionate ethnomusicologist working as an arts and music journalist and broadcaster, writer and editor as well as researcher, lecturer, radio presenter and producer. I have a breadth of organising experience at home and abroad. I am a fluent Spanish speaker. I love travelling and have worked abroad (notably Chile 1971-3 and again in 1994) and researched in Cuba, Spain, Brazil, Argentina, Finland.
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13 Responses to GRACIAS A LA VIDA things i am proud of in my life

  1. Jenny Harper says:

    That’s not 19 things Jan – that dozens! I’m so proud of you.

  2. Rachel Clare says:

    What an extraordinary life Jan ! So creative and FULL. This is a celebratory list indeed, ummmm, so very glad I have read this and your web site as there is much you have done that I had no idea about. Big love as always x Rachel Clare

  3. Rachel Fairley says:

    Woah mumma, you’ve been very busy. What a wonderful list. Made me smile. Made me feel proud. Inspirational. xxx

  4. Carolyn Wood says:

    HI Jan how wonderful to read your blog! I shared the naked stage with you during the final performance of Nic Greens’ Trilogy…wow! Much love and gratitude to you, this life and beyond, Carolyn xx

  5. Vivien Schweitzer says:

    Dear Jan – What an incredible list! So many great accomplishments. Much love and admiration from a fellow music journalist. xox

  6. Julie says:

    Like Rachel Clare, Jan, I had only a partial appreciation of your achievements (which was humbling enough) but now I better understand where your extraordinary energy has taken you and I am awestruck! I thought we were both pretty impressive doing Jane Fonda work-outs up to the 8th month of pregnancy but I see now that was merely idling time for you. SYS XJools

  7. Mary Fogarty says:

    Hi Jan:

    It’s great to think back on the Trafalgar Square performance! That was spectacular. Had slipped my memory but such a memory to have back. Thank you. Your list is just scratching the surface of all of your accomplishments, a pleasure to read!

    lots of love from Canada,

  8. paperthistle says:

    Wow, what a list of achievements! I am even fuller of admiration for you after reading that. xx

  9. Paula Cordero says:

    Jan, what a wonderful list, but you forgot a few thing, like for instance, forming part of my most treasured memories when we were all so happy in Temuco, you became part of our family, my family, thank you so much for being part of that, Gracias a la Vida, Gracias a tú vida que nos ha dado tanto…. Love you.

    • Jan Fairley says:

      yes i relied on the welcome nad sanity and wild family in temcuo i came round lots and we played table tennis and you has cats and we ate delicious food and it was my life line and i have just mounted photos in a frame of that time and later wehn you had to elave and how wrnching that much have been and traimatic and i have photos of us in wales at tynewydd, pen-y-bont when steve and i took you 3 there for a few days and it was cold and we had to buy wellingtons for everyone but we dammed riversa nd dug the garden adn surivived and ahd easter there- love you big time paula your family ar oart of my close psyech and i weep when i think of all those happy times weep with joy kisses to your dad and to you and martin hijo and ruthis in uk who i hope to see soon

      • Jan Fairley says:

        i have to write th e stiory this ek of how you all escaped as i have told a few people lately – is till wonder at how you children survived losing evrything liek that one afternoon into a car and hey presto ciao Temuco and later hello Santiago adn then hello London and a lot of hard things and great loss the only good thing was everyone in the family survived incouding your Dad and Mum which looked touch and go especially for your wonderful father for a time

  10. Elaine says:

    Jan that is truly impressive……did not know I knew such a talented person as you are!! x

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