Issue 206
Winter 2018/19

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Mar 20, 2019

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Editorial Comment

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We need some answers now, not later

THE MORE ONE learns about the catastrophic series of events that led to the two fires that culminated in the eventual total destruction of what was arguably one of Scotland's most important buildings, the deeper seated the concern one feels.

Some of the stories coming out about the overall management of the contracts for the re-furbishment of Mackintosh’s masterpiece are literally hair raising.

Given the very high stakes and the enormous sums of money that could be involved, circumspection is understandable. No doubt there will be something of a legal field day and, as so often happens in the aftermath of disaster, cynics might feel that it will be only the lawyers who will end up benefiting.

Yet where the public interest is so central and where the need for clarity is so imperative there has to be a better way of serving that public interest.

As with most disasters on this scale, we are promised a full investigation some time in the future.

There are instances a’plenty where that full investigation comes so many years after the event that its outcome has become almost irrelevant.

Comparisons may seem invidious, but in the case of that tragedy to end all tragedies – the Grenfell tower fire – there is a clamant need for the fullest investigation to be carried out speedily enough for lessons to be learnt.

Yet, despite all the very worrying evidence that has so far emerged, there seems no prospect at all that things will proceed with anything like the urgency the situation require.

Sadly, there is really no other building in Scotland whose loss would be comparable to that of Toshie’s wonderful creation, yet the need for lessons to be learned is just as pressing as it is in the case of those many high rise blocks throughout the country where appalling danger may still lurk. lurking

Another cultural strategy for Carlisle

THE NEWS of the setting up of a Carlisle Cultural Consortium is worrying. So often these navel-gazing strategic partnerships fail to put artists first, producing little more than lengthy reports, and expensive fees to consultants.

It’s not that long since Carlisle’s last cultural strategy, and the concern is that this is just another smokescreen behind which politicians and funders can accumulate brownie points, hide, and do nothing.

Talk is much cheaper than action, and enables the buck to be passed. But hopefully this one will be different, exciting even, especially if the city’s creative talent is engaged and supported.

There’s certainly a lot in Carlisle’s past cultural heritage to shout about, and be proud of, like a too well-buried Roman legacy, strong Arthurian connections, beer and biscuits, its importance as a railway city, the pioneering fast-dyed, artist-designed fabrics from Sundour Morton, and one of the great women artists of the 20th century, Winifred Nicholson.

If next steps can help nurture latent creativity and deliver even half that, it will be doing well. Usually the so-called ‘instrumental’ social, economic and educational benefits that funders want will follow.

Ultimately it’s not committees, but passionate, committed and dynamic individuals who get things done, as articles elsewhere in this edition demonstrate.

They will know who they are. All power to their elbows.

Project Fear might come all too true

WHEN our last, Winter, issue appeared, it was reasonable to assume that by now there would be some sort of credible plan for Britain’s threatened exit from the European Union.

Another three months have passed and we are nowhere nearer fornulating any sort of rational policy.

Blame for this ludicrous situation can be laid at many doors, but one particular sector of the whole body politic, the so-called fourth estate, must take not a little share of the blame.

The behaviour of most of the British press can only be described as pitiful.

There is nothing wrong with being partial – supporting one side of an argument – but at the same time it is reasonable to expect that a mature press will make some attempt at a balanced judgement, weighing the pros and cons of the situation.

Yet with the exception of just a very few, mainly ‘serious’ papers. the performance of, particularly Britain’s ‘red top’ papers has been little short of a joke.

Any perceived attempt to balance the supposed advantages of leaving Europe has been presented at worst as treachery, and at best as part of Project Fear.

As their sales continue to tumble, the papers’ owners might pause and consider the long term damage this ridicuously blinkered approach might do their prospects of survival as credible operations.

But maybe it is already too late. A classic case of the biter bit?

The Perfect Gift! New Scotland's Stations - Northern Books

"A wealth of insider information" - Scots Magazine
"Immersive and informative" - The Courier
"This beautifully illustrated guide" - RIAS Journal
"Many great pictures" - Scottish Field

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An extensive new preface by the Ross Herald of Arms, Charles Bunnett, Chamberlain of Duff House