Issue 212
March/April 2020


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Apr 10, 2020

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ArtWork Newspaper Issue 212
March/April 2020 (7.03MB)

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The world's left a poorer place

SINCE OUR LAST issue, a number of core members of the Scottish arts community have died whose passing should surely be noted.

Several have associations with the Iona Community, an ecumenical community of perhaps surprisingly sane and down to earth Christians loosely based on the Hebridean island of Iona, all folk who have been the leading pioneers of trying to steer the stodgy established Church of Scotland away from its seeming determination to remain in the 1950s until it self destructs.

Perhaps the most commendably eccentric has been Dr Graham Maule, 61, who was the close creative associate of Rev John Bell, whose regular appearances on Radio 4's Thought for the Day has turned him into something of an international celebrity.

Graham was a small impish like figure, often with a naughty glint in his eye, who had originally trained as an architect but was driven by an engaging off the wall charm and determination to break down barriers and make a concrete contribution to social justice.

Perhaps best known for his hymn writing, often with Bell, he was the least sanctimonious figure you might ever meet and it was hard to be in his company for more than a few minutes without him coming up with a crazy hat full of new ideas on everything from the crisis in social housing to why Scottish independence wasn't necessarily about nationalism.

He also helped pioneer a number of interesting experiments, perhaps most significantly the Columban House scheme in which he and others would live quiet and helpful lives in small communities on deprived council estates, not proseletyzing, just being cheerful and intelligent and making the odd pot of soup when it was really needed.

His art was often a strange combination of the highly imaginative and yet also punctiliously organised, and he had a great skill in encouraging those he did publishing business with to behave responsibly.The Church needed Graham badly and he delivered for them time and time again.

Much the same might be said of his close friend Rev Peter Macdonald, who has died also aged sixty one. Peter, like Graham, was known for his unassuming charm and down to earth witness.

He was a former leader of the Iona Community where his time was marked by his imaginative new ideas and a warm and welcoming approach to those who didn't share them. In many ways he pioneered a new style of inclusive leadership and changed the community for the better. He was one of the great ministers of his generation. His last charge was in Edinburgh's Broughton, where once again he was pioneering new ways to touch the hearts and minds without the pomposity so often associated with that calling. His recent work in trying to bring more music and the arts into the church was generating much excitement in Edinburgh. His death is truly a tragedy.

It would be wrong not to include reference to the death of another Iona Community stalwart in this piece, the ever delightful and self-effacing Alison Macdonald, who managed the community's finances with such quiet charm.

Ali-Mac was a tender and sensitive soul, much given to caring and sharing and whose work and recent death was no less significant to the Community than those whose public profile was greater. In very truth I loved her dearly as did so many.

Finally ArtWork should surely add a word for Alasdair Gray, the Glasgow based artist and writer whose work has changed so many of us. We live in politically terrifying times and whether you believe in Scottish independence or not, few would deny that Scotland is currently leading Britain in terms of at least attempting to bring some kind of decency into our governance.

Let us salute these fine folk who have guided us so well on that journey. A stone to their cairns and let us learn from their lives as we march nervously on.

MAXWELL MACLEOD


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