Two days in Edinburgh with Scottish Government International Development and the Scotland Malawi Partnership

Two consecutive days were spent recently in Edinburgh on activities associated with the MalDent Project. The first, on Friday 4th October, was to attend a Scottish Government International Development practical grant management workshop at the Scottish Government offices at Victoria Quay in Leith.

On arrival I met Alex Mackay and Simon Guild, both from the University of Glasgow and who, like me, were attending to represent their respective grants.

With Alex and Simon before the workshop

It was an extremely useful morning which taught me a lot about budget management and reporting. There are a number of things I will be doing differently from now on.

Ian Nicol explains the ups and downs of currency exchange rates and the potential risks for grant-holders

The following day I travelled back to Edinburgh on the train with Alex Mackay and Paul Garside to attend the 2019 Scotland Malawi Partnership AGM. This year it was held at the Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh.

Paul and Alex on arrival at the RCPE

The lecture theatre was all set up with a brightly coloured and cheerful stage set. Whilst people were filtering in to join the meeting a quiz was held, allowing guests to become familiarised with the software programme Mentimeter, which would be used later in the afternoon.

The colourful stage set 

The afternoon was formally opened by Professor Heather Cubie, the recently appointed Chair of the Scotland Malawi Partnership, who welcomed everyone present.

Heather Cubie, SMP Chair, opened the meeting 

After hearing from the SMP team about some of their personal highlights during the past year, we enjoyed a presentation from Dr Ann Phoya, the Chair of the SMP’s sister organisation the Malawi Scotland Partnership (MaSP).

Dr Ann Phoya at the lectern

The core business of the AGM, including adoption of the 2018/2019 accounts, took place next. This was followed by an interactive discussion about the 2020-2023 Strategic Plan for the SMP.

David Hope-Jones led the session on the 2020 – 2023 Strategic Plan

The first half of the event was rounded off by the Youth Committee, which talked us through the networking opportunities and stalls available during the coffee break in the adjacent marketplace.

The SMP Youth Group in action

The coffee break was a great chance to meet colleagues and friends we knew well …

Nicola Cogan and Joanna Keating at the Scottish Government International Development stall

… and to meet new friends:

A good chat at the Mary’s Meals stall

After coffee we were treated to the Scottish Premiere of the short film ‘LAZARUS’. This film is about the Malawian musician Lazarus Chigwandali, who has albinism. The film, produced by Madonna, was featured at the Tribeca Film Festival in April 2019 and is receiving wide acclaim. A good summary can be found at:

Watching the screening of the film LAZARUS

We then met Lazarus himself and enjoyed an initial Q&A session with him, compèred by Chimzy Dorey.

Lazarus taking questions from the audience

Subsequently the music started and it wasn’t long before members of the audience were on their feet, clapping and dancing. Here is a short sample of Lazarus playing solo:

Lazarus was then joined by Brave Mnyayi and Davie Luhanga for more rousing renditions:

After the fantastic music, the Youth Committee returned to the stage to distribute prizes  following the variety of competitions that had been running during the event. The afternoon was then brought to a close with an inspirational address from Ben Macpherson MSP, the Scottish Government Minister for International Development.

The closing speech from Minister Ben Macpherson MSP

We headed back to the market place where Lazarus was selling T-shirts, so a signed one was de rigeur after enjoying his stirring performance with such an important message in support of those with albinism.

Lazarus shirt
An eye-catching T-shirt design

It was a real privilege to meet such an inspirational artist.

With Lazarus after he had signed my T-shirt

It had been another lively SMP AGM and a thoroughly enjoyable afternoon. Our smiles at the end of the day, following a chat with the Minister Ben Macpherson MSP, sum it up nicely!


If you would like to see the official video and related materials published by the Scotland Malawi Partnership following the AGM you can find them at

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