Issue 196
Winter 2016

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Aug 20, 2017
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    Editorial Comment

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    What future for Inverleith House?

    SOME DOUBT still hangs over the future use of Inverleith House in Edinburgh's Botanic Garden following the announcement by the garden's management that the building would no longer be used for art exhibitions. Instead, it will be used for weddings and other private events.

    This immediately led Christopher Breward, Principal of Edinburgh College of Art, calling for a new, five year culture plan to be drawn up for the building, and a protest petition, signed by more than 10,000 people and backed by artists including Tracey Emin, Anthony Gormley, Douglas Gordon, Martin Boyce and Anish Kapoor.

    Inverleith House was first used for exhibitions when it became Scotland's Gallery of Modern Art in 1960 and, since that institution's move to Belford Road in 1984, has continued to show work by, for example, Turner prize winners, contemporary Scottish artists and art that relates to botany and biology.

    This has been supported by grants amounting to £1.5m since then, including £148,483 to upgrade the building and an £80,000 Flexible Open Project grant supporting exhibitions.

    The domestic scale of Inverleith's rooms - and their small number - creates intimate spaces that are particularly suitable for looking at work that demands close scrutiny - and for showing a few major works so that they do not have to compete with lots of others around them.

    This is situation that made the Courtauld Gallery in Bloomsbury, London such a pleasant place to visit. And it remains an excellent reason to maintain Inverleith House as an important Scottish gallery.

    The International Festival at 70

    ALONGSIDE this editorial, one of the stalwarts of the Edinburgh International Festival - and one of the most active movers and shakers in the arts - 87 year old Ricky Demarco makes a strong case for the 70 year old Festival to be accorded a special status among festivals.

    He is appalled that the EIF is now bracketed with a whole cohort of festivals throughout Scotland in what he sees as a marketing exercise owing more to the promotion of tourism than the honouring of artistic endeavour.

    At the same time some serious questions need to be asked about the direction that the Festival itself has taken in recent years.

    In these columns we have more than once drawn attention to the lack lustre nature of, particularly. the music programme.

    Granted we live in difficult times for the arts, but where is the sense of adventure in the programming? Does every programme have to consist of safe choices that can be guaranteed to fill the seats of the Usher Hall?

    Where is the experimentation? Where are the moves to bring in a broader section of the community?

    When it started, the Edinburgh International Festival took risks and made waves, internationally. It's all got a bit too cautious and comfy.

    Real road movie - on the road again

    THE BIG BLUE heads back into the wild: that's the headline that says that Scotland's Screen Machine is back from its overhaul and upgrade in Ladon, 80 miles south of Paris, and is once again bringing films to the Highlands & Islands.

    Seating up to 80 people at a time, the HGV, now familiar after 12 years' service, is renowned for showing films like Alan Bennett's The Lady & the Van and Disney's musical, Moana, in sites that are often no more than a car park in the middle of nowhere, and during days marked by high winds and lashings of rain.

    It is perhaps a testament to the French love of film that, blasting the truck with water to give it a thorough clean, and overhauling the hydraulics that turn it into a mobile picture house, should be done in a place that itself looks like a film set and proudly describes itself as 'carrossier de rêves' - 'coachbuilder of dreams.'

    May the next 12 years be as successful as the last.

    A Caithness milestone

    IN OUR LAST issue we marked the incredible achievement of the Scottish Gallery in celebrating 175 successful years in the business of showing and selling pictures in Edinburgh.

    Many miles to the north another brave artistic venture is celebrating an anniversary. The ground breaking Lyth Arts Centre, situated way out in the wilds of Caithness, roughly half way between Wick and Thurso, has notched up forty years serving a very scattered community with a varied and challenging menu of artistic fare.

    The founding and driving force over these years, William Wilson, is stepping aside to allow others to take over. Anyone who has been lucky enough to enjoy their musical, theatrical or artistic presentations will want to applaud this achievement and wish the Centre many more successful years stimulating Northern tastes.

    If you have never discovered Lyth, make a point of searching it out and catching the special 40th summer retrospective exhibition.

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