Issue 212
March/April 2020

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Apr 10, 2020

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Editorial Comment

Artwork PO Box 3 Ellon AB41 ::

Payback time for Big Oil?

UNUSUALLY, it might seem, for this paper, we were generous in our praise in our last issue (ArtWork 211) for Aberdeen's born again Art Gallery and Museum.

And the general consensus seems to be that this view is widely shared.

A sizeable amount of money was spent, certainly, and the sums still don't fully add up. The target figure for public donations is still some £5 million adrift and predictably there has been some political sniping at the problems this has caused.

Yet Aberdeen needs something to show for the huge contribution its years as Oil Capital have made not just to the Scottish, but to the British economy as a whole.

Our national finances would look a good deal rockier than they do without the the many billions of oil dollars that flowed in to the Exchequer from the North Sea.

And though the costs of refurbishing did, predictably exceed the budgeted figure, the over-run was not that excessive – unlike the final figure for the very much more grandiose structure gracing Dundee's waterfront – the Northern outpost of the V & A.

Whether this venture will turn out to actually deliver the promised 'Bilbao' effect – by bringing many thousands of visitors to the city of jam, jute and journalism remains to be seen.

What is certainly true is that running costs have turned out to be substantially higher than was originally predicted – or maybe wished for.

Perhaps success on Schoolhill will encourage the revival and re-opening of another much missed cultural asset in Aberdeen – the university's Marischal Museum.

Its mainly anthropological collection was of global importance before, in a move meant to ease the birth of the new university library, it was closed and closed it has remained.

As the image of our oil giants has (often unfairly) been darkened by agitation from the environmental movement, now is surely the time for Big Oil to make a contribution to the cultural life of the area which has done so much for it over recent decades.

Step forward and burnish your collective reputation.

Another STORM brewing?

WHEN, back in the 90s this country's railways were threatened with privatisation, this paper went out of its way to host a campaign against what we saw as a crazy plan.

Our STORM campaign – to STop this Railway Madness – attracted a good deal of publicity.

It was massively helped by inspired ploys like the late George Wyllie's locomotive plunging into Loch Linnhe and the silver necklace, Rust to Rust, created by Jack Cunningham of Glasgow School of Art.

No one objected then that as an 'arts' paper we should not be getting stuck in to misguided, and as it has turned out, unpopular policies.

The chaos created by the ill-thought out, dogma driven decision to dismantle our whole rail indsutry is now all too plain to see.

The crazy franchising system for rail operating companies is being shown to be more and more unworkable as more and more of them are forced to hand back the keys, to a state owned body.

Polls show that there is strong national support for the railways to be re-nationalised, but with a government even more dogma driven than the one that wrecked the railways in the first place there is little prospect of that happening.

Indeed there is little prospect of any sort of sanity emerging from a government led by liars and bullies and advised by crackpots.

The crackpot-in-chief, who gives every impression of running the show, the 'brilliant' Mr Cummings, brings a mish-mash of half baked theories gleaned from the internet and science fiction.

Most worrying of all perhaps is his declared aim to close down the BBC, who he describes as 'the enemy.'

Time will tell who is the enemy and who, or what body, is the lover of truth and honesty.

Blooming cultural decades

THE LATTER part of the last century – the 70s, 80s and early 90s saw a most welcome flowering of many cultural activities.

The crafts enjoyed something of a heyday, encouraged by some inspired policies from public bodies such as the Small Industries Council for Rural Areas of Scotland (SICRAS) – responsible for the birth of Craftwork, the predecessor of this organ – and the Highlands and Islands Development Board (the HIDB).

Not all the flowers that were planted then still bloom today, but a surprising number do. An amazing number of such ventures are now celebrating not two, but in many cases three, decades of existence.

ArtWork salutes them all – and thanks many of them for their continued practical support.


AA trveller's guide to Scotland's Train Stations
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An extensive new preface by the Ross Herald of Arms, Charles Bunnett, Chamberlain of Duff House