STONYPATH is a farm surmounting a steep windswept Lanarkshire hillside near the village of Dunsyre. It was renamed 'Little Sparta' by Ian Hamilton Finlay to indicate that it stood apart from Edinburgh as Scotland's capital city.
Edinburgh with some justification is regarded as a modern Athens. As such it is also identified with its glory days, long since gone, in the age of Scottish enlightenment.
Ian Hamilton Finlay chose to challenge Edinburgh's proud claim to have emulated Athens by identifying his home and place of work with the fighting spirit of Sparta. He felt it necessary to do this when he had transformed Stonypath into what he regarded as a philosophers' garden.
He was inspired to achieve this in collaboration with his second wife, Sue Macdonald Lockhart, who I had first met in the company of my friend Pete McGinn in a cafe in Edinburgh's Forrest Road in the early days of the Traverse Theatre, and the Paperback Bookshop of Jim Haynes.
I knew Pete McGinn as an artist associated with an esoteric publishing house known as the Wild Hawthorn Press. This was the press that published Poor Old Tired Horse. It provided me with my first experience of concrete poetry and the world of Ian Hamilton Finlay, and therefore the world of Black Mountain College and such poets as Jonathon Williams, Robert Creely and the Cistercian Monk, Don Sylvester Hovedard.
Ian Hamilton Finlay had founded the Wild Hawthorn Press in collaboration with his friend Jessie McGuffie in 1961. They invited Pete McGinn to design and illustrate a slim book with the unforgettable title: Glasgow Beasts an' a Bird (Haw, an' Inseks an' Aw, a Fush. This was concrete poetry with an undeniable Scottish dimension, and vintage Ian Hamilton Finlay.
Sue Macdonald Lockhart helped me present the Traverse Theatre Gallery exhibition in a Bank of Scotland building in George Street for the 1964 Edinburgh Festival, soon after she met Ian Hamilton Finlay, and together they decided to spend their married life together on one of her family's farms.
Until their separation in the late 80s, she devoted herself to bringing up their two children, Alec and Ailie, and co-create the garden around the run-down complex of farm buildings. Neither she nor her husband had any qualifications as gardeners.
As the years passed she acted as a most efficient representative of Ian, who was suffering from agoraphobia, and she found herself travelling in the international art world dealing with the complexities of exhibitions and commissions which slowly but surely established the name of Ian Hamilton Finlay far beyond Scotland as a leading exponent of a new and thought-provoking expression of avant garde art, binding together the literary and the visual arts.
As director of The Demarco Gallery, I gave Ian Hamilton Finlay a one man show in 1969 and in so doing introduced him to the Maltese artists, Richard England and John Borg Manduca. In collaboration with them, Ian Hamilton Finlay produced concrete poetry honouring Malta's heroic role in the Second World War.
I realised that Stonypath was a 'nodal' point on the expeditions I devised in collaboration with Edinburgh University's Schools of Scottish and Extra-Mural Studies. These expeditions were under the aegis of The Demarco Gallery's experimental Edinburgh Arts Summer School, inspired by Black Mountain College.
The expeditions began in the Mediterranean, linking Scotland to the culture of ancient Rome and Greece, focusing on Malta, Italy, Greece and the former Yugoslavia. At Stonypath, Edinburgh Arts faculty and students found themselves in a world where Apollo could be seen at home, far from Delphi. It was the legendary land of the hyperboreum, beyond that of the North wind, where they could see a farm building transformed into a temple dedicated to 'Apollo, His missiles, His muses and His music.'
These expeditions took place over many years, beginning in 1977, when Stonypath possessed only one large tree. On its trunk was affixed a plaque with the words, 'Mare Nostrum.' because the sound of the wind in its branches was like the sound of the sea.
My memories of Stonypath were focused on the Maltese images which particularly attracted my attention. Ian and Sue had decided to name a small lake they had constructed in honour of their son Eck. I therefore remembered him as a tiny child dressed in a sailor's suit, sailing on 'Lochan Eck' in a small boat, which Ian had made for him. Lochan Eck was Ian's inland seascape.
He and I had met because of our shared love of Scottish fishing boats and their harbours. He had admired a lithograph I had made as a student of fishing boats berthed at low tide in Fisherrow Harbour and a handmade book I wrote, designed and published on the history of Scottish Fishing Boats.
It now seems inevitable that he invited me to collaborate with him to make screen prints such as 'The Little Seamstress' which depicts a small sailing boat on a straight course across a calm sea. It is drawing a line, in the form of its wake reminiscent of the handiwork of a seamstress.
It was fitting that in the last decade of his life, he was invited by his good friend, Joyce Laing, to be guest artist of the now well established visual arts festival, centred on the harbour and fishing village of Pittenweem. This was the same year when he was honoured with an exhibition presented by the Tate in their gallery overlooking the harbour of St Ives.
The lengthy list of artists with whom he collaborated is testament to his interest in and respect for not only the skills of painters and sculptors but also printmakers, illustrators, typographers, calligraphers, photographers, book binders and designers.
Among the very first of these collaborators was Margot Sandeman. They first met as fellow students at Glasgow School of Art in 1940. They enjoyed a long lasting working friendship from the days when she was invited to illustrate editions of Poor Old Tired Horse, and decades later to make three suites of still life oil paintings inspired by the significance of 11 words, defining the aspects of the vegetable world: 'Olive, red currant berry, honey, pear and nut' and with things man made: 'Net, patch, sheaf jug and twine.'
Ian and Sue Hamilton Finlay fought long and hard to defend the truth and beauty of 'Little Sparta', against the worst aspects of bureaucracy and an art world ill-prepared to accept the challenge inherent in their dedication to their self-imposed task.
Ian Hamilton Finlay in the last years of his life made sure that Little Sparta, as his undoubted masterpiece, will be able to flourish beyond his lifetime.
It is now the responsibility of a board of trustees, under the chairmanship of Magnus Linklater, the former chair of the Scottish Arts Council. He and his fellow trustees have been left a great challenge along with Pia Simig, who will continue being responsible for safeguarding all other aspects of Ian Hamilton Finlay's work.
They have to deal with an incomparable legacy in the history of modern art. Ian Hamilton Finlay's physical presence at Little Sparta will be sorely missed. The essential challenge will be how to make his absence positive.
IAN HAMILTON FINLAY . 1925 - 2006
On Sir Sean Connery
Am I a reliable witness to the life of Sir Sean Connery as arguably the most famous Scotsman I have known in my life-time in his world-renowned role as an actor who has achieved film stardom?
Asking myself that question, I must answer 'Yes', but only if I think of him as I first knew him over sixty years ago, as Tommy Connery, an Edinburgh schoolboy, a month younger than myself. We were born not far from each other near the West End of Edinburgh. I was the eldest of three sons born to my parents, Carmino and Elizabeth Demarco, known to their friends as Car and Cissy. He was the elder of the two sons born to his parents, Joseph and Ephemia Connery, known to their friends as Joe and Effie. I was born in a private nursing home and brought back to the comfort of my parent's new bungalow with a bedroom prepared specially for me in the fashionable suburb of Ravelston with a nanny to help my mother recover from the breach birth which brought me into the world.
Tommy Connery was born in a two-room flat in one of the tenement buildings which characterised Fountainbridge, an industrial area beside the Union Canal Basin which linked Edinburgh to Glasgow before being made redundant by the building of the railways. This was the part of Edinburgh associated with the pungent smells of the Scottish and Newcastle Breweries, mixed with that of the North British Rubber Works. Euphemia Connery placed her new-born child in the safety and warmth provided by the top drawer of her bedroom cupboard. Euphemia was a house-proud twenty-year-old newly-wed but, like all those inhabitants of the Fountainbridge tenements, she had to cope with primitive sanitation and a lavatory shared by her neighbours in a building separated from the tenement's sturdy stone walls hewn from Edinburgh's Craigleith quarries.
The Connerys lived in Fountainbridge throughout the childhood and young adult years which strongly influenced Tommy Connery's idea of himself, having to cope with the disadvantage of having to make a premature ending of his schooldays at Darroch Junior Secondary School. His parents suffered, as did mine, during the years of The Depression, so they had no means of sending to one of the city's secondary schools or paying the tuition which might have helped him enjoy the experience of his schooldays. Both our fathers were obliged to work excessively long hours for their hard-earned weekly wages; Joseph Connery, working for the Co-op in Fountainbridge, and my father for Maison Demarco in a family-run Parisian style cafe, half-way between Portobello's Victorian indoor public baths and the splendid open-air swimming pool, the largest in Europe. Portobello had a reputation as Edinburgh's Riviera, attracting tens of thousands of Glasgow Fair holidaymakers. It also attracted the teenager, Tommy Connery, not only because Portobello's public baths offered the luxury of well-equiped shower rooms but also because he could find employment as a life guard in the Art Deco sophistication of Portobello's outdoor swimming pool. I well remember the eye-catching handsome figure he made patrolling the poolside.
When my father acquired his own business in the form of The Ralleye Café, Tommy Connery was a regular customer because its location on Edinburgh's Lothian Road was within walking distance of his parent's house.
In my third year at Edinburgh's College of Art, I cemented my friendship with Tommy Connery. We met in one of the life rooms, the one where he played the demanding role of an artist's model and I played the role of an aspiring painter in oils. He was a natural model with the ability to hold a pose for extended periods to give the students the opportunity to make not only drawings, but also paintings in oils. I have an oil painting at home to remind me that he was an inspiration for all those students who wished to draw and paint a younger version of Signore Mancini, the doyen of Edinburgh College of Art models who had become famous as a young man when he modelled for Holman Hunt's painting of 'The Light of the World'. In this he could be seen holding a lamp and waiting patiently on the doorstep of a house as an un-invited stranger.
Artists' models were not allowed to fraternise with the students so at the lunch break, the students would disappear into the College refectory and the models would lunch elsewhere.
Tommy Connery had solved the problem of his lunch break by bringing sandwiches and a bottle of milk. He invited me to share his lunch. Why was milk his favourite drink, I wondered. He explained he was drinking it to help him cure the pain of the stomach ulcers he had suffered which had caused him to be invalided out of The Royal Navy.
We talked in general about his hopes for a purpose to our lives.
At this time in his early twenties, Tommy Connery had a guardian angel in the form of Anna Neagle, then among the most popular icons of British film and theatre worlds. It was she who changed the course of his life and gave him his first true experience of being on the actor's side of the footlights.
It was my dear friend, Eugene McFadyen, who first alerted me to the fact that Anna Neagle had given him the opportunity to earn what he considered 'easy money', to stand on the stage of The Empire Theatre with a half-dozen other would-be actors. The qualifications required to earn the 'easy money' were very basic. Firstly, you had to be a six foot tall young man and secondly be prepared to look like a soldier on guard duty at Buckingham Palace - as a loyal member of the Brigade of Guards protecting the Imperial figure of Queen Victoria.
Anna Neagle had devised a 'musical' play together with her husband, Herbert Wilcox, which was inspired by the successful film she had made on the life of Queen Victoria. The play had come to Edinburgh on tour. In each city, Anna Neagle interviewed local young men who would be asked to stand on stage without uttering a word. It seemed to me inevitable that Tommy Connery should find himself following in the footsteps of Eugene Mcfadyen earning easy money as an actor without the responsibility of a speaking part..
The musical was entitled 'Sixty Glorious Years' and when it ended its run in Edinburgh, Anna Neagle took with her the most handsome of the guardsmen - Tommy Connery. I recorded this historic departure in my diary with the simple entry: 'Today Tommy Connery left Edinburgh as an actor'. My words had more than a tinge of regret and a hint of admiration mixed with relief that, at long last, Tommy Connery had freed himself from the restrictions imposed upon him in the life he had lived within the confines of Fountainbridge.
I was sad, not just because I knew I would miss him as a friend, but as someone I knew should be regarded as an artist. I had a feeling that, having escaped, he would not return.
To my surprise and delight, he returned to Edinburgh as an actor with a small speaking part in the touring production of 'South Pacific'. Making the most of the role of a US Navy radio operator, he also made his mark in the chorus singing with gusto 'There is nothing like a dame'.
He returned once again not long afterwards in a play starring opposite a popular starlet, Heather Sears, and I was pleased to see that the Edinburgh evening newspaper publicised the play with a photograph of 'Sean' Connery introducing his stage partner to one of his favourite parts of Edinburgh beside the estuary of the River Almond at Cramond.
It seemed inevitable that not long afterwards he would be chosen against the odds to play James Bond, Ian Fleming's personification of the British super spy more than able to cope with the world-threatening forces which would endanger the British way of life.
James Bond was the heroic figure that the British people needed in the dismal grey post-war days which lingered into the sixties when The Cold War was showing no sign of thawing. James Bond placed Britain in the forefront of the battle against the malignant forces which seemed all too powerful - and he spoke English with a Scottish accent - and, of course, the world inhabited by James Bond symbolised all the glamour associated with Hollywood stardom. Sean's career was seen to possess a meteoric energy.
My own life was much focussed on Edinburgh after my first meeting with Jim Haynes during the 1957 Edinburgh Festival which led to Jim Haynes opening his historic Paperback Bookshop. It was in this bookshop that he met John Calder, the publisher of Samuel Beckett and the French Nouvelle Vague writers. Their friendship led them to devise The Writers Conference for the 1962 Festival. This conference was followed in 1963 by The Drama Conference and this was also the year when, together with Jim Haynes and other friends, I found myself a member of the founders of The Traverse Theatre which changed the very nature of Britain's concept of theatre. 1963 was the year that 'Dr. No' was premiered.
Of course, I saw every film in which Sean Connery starred as James Bond. When made his occasional visits to Edinburgh, he contacted me at the Traverse. In 1966, The Demarco Gallery was born out of the spirit of The Traverse Theatre and so it provided us with our place of meeting, particularly in the seventies when Sean invited me to become the first Director of The Scottish International Education Trust.
It was in 1972 that the office of the Trust was established on the top floor of the four storey building which housed the Demarco Gallery in Melville Crescent. This was the year when I had persuaded the Polish Ministry of Culture to support my concept of a major exhibition of Polish contemporary artists, including the world-renown Tadeusz Kantor and his Cricot II Theatre Company, as well as the artist-film-makers from the world-famous Lodz Film School which had educated the likes of Polanski and Wajda. Sean Connery was in his element befriending these film-makers and enjoying the theatre of Tadeusz Kantor together with Tina Brown, Auberon Waugh and Jenny Agutter, all involved in the Demarco Gallery's experimental Summer School which brought together all aspects of contemporary arts.
The Polish exhibition had brought over forty Polish artists to Britain and it had been made possible with the generous support provided by The Scottish International Education Trust.
The Trust came into being 1n 1970 because Sean Connery had become involved in the struggle of the Clydeside shipbuilders to save their industry from total collapse. He forged friendships with those stalwart figures defending the beleaguered position of the shipbuilders' unions, led by Jimmy Reid. The actor who portrayed James Bond was seen to be a supporter of the workers' cause when he made a film highlighting their preparedness to run the shipyards by themselves. In making the film, he had made friends with Sir Samuel Curran, the first Principle of Strathclyde University and James Houston who had set up his own business as director of a company he called 'Higher Productivity' The Board of Trustees was put together by Sir Iain Stewart who was captain of The Old Course, St. Andrews. Other trustees were Jackie Stewart, the world motoring racing champion. He played the role of vice-chairman under the chairmanship of Sir Samuel Curran. Another trustee prepared to play a leading role was Alistair Dunnett, arguably the most successful post-war editor of 'The Scotsman'.
One of the first projects sponsored by the Trust was the establishment of a visiting fellowship in drama and the appointment of a Director of Drama at the University of Strathclyde. Andrew Cruickshank, the much-loved colleague of television's Dr. Finlay, and Hugo Gifford accepted willingly the invitations to fill the two posts.
The aims and objectives of the Trust were simply defined. They were to give support various projects which would encourage Scots with initiative and ideas to remain in Scotland. It also intended to stimulate a deeper interest in Scotland by Scots who had been obliged to settle in other countries.
I crossed the Iron Curtain into Communist controlled Europe 97 times in all from 1968 to 1989 and 47 times I was in Poland, the one country where I could nourish my hopes for the overthrow of Communist rule through the Polish Solidarity movement. I found myself in 1972 under the scrutiny of the British Secret Service who wished to know why I was visiting Poland and obviously endangering British society by consorting with officials at the Polish Embassy in London (in order to be given the necessary visas).
When I was interviewed, I made my intention clear that I was not prepared to betray the friendship I had forged with a great number of Polish artists but I did indeed have a suggestion to make as I had just been appointed Director of SIET and that the founder's name was synonymous with the world's most effective spy in defence of the free world against the threat of Communism. The MI5 officer did not believe me until I showed him the newly printed SIET brochure which included the photograph of both myself and '007'.
In 1997, I was delighted to experience the making of a remarkable film of 'The Scottish Play'. It starred Jason Connery as Macbeth looking remarkably like a 30 year old version of his father, and Helen Baxendale as Lady Macbeth. Their roles had been destined for Sean Bean and Tilda Swinton.
Much of the action was on location in Dunfermline Abbey. Jason was pleased to introduced me to his wife, the American film actress, Mia Sarapocutello known professionally as Mia Sara, and remind me of the time when as a 14 year old Gordonstoun schoolboy, he and his stepbrother, Stefan, were introduced by his father, Sean Connery and his second wife, the artist and actress, Micheline Rocqubrune, to the Demarco Gallery when it was housed in Monteith House on The Royal Mile, wedged between John Knox's house and Carrubbers Mission House. He recalled how Sean was happy to be photographed with the Demarco Gallery street sign above everyone's head, juxtaposed with the Mission sign declaring simply 'Jesus Saves'. Jason hoped that that sign was indicating that the Demarco Gallery was still benefiting from Divine Intervention.
Jason settled in the Scottish Border country to live a quiet life in the village of Lilliesleaf near to Melrose with his wife and their son, Dashiell. Sadly, the marriage was not to last.
Jason's career as an actor began when he was part of The Penrith Repertory Theatre Company programme soon after he had left Gordonstoun. Acting was in his blood.
His father was obliged to perform in seven Bond films altogether and at the same time show his versatility as an actor in films such as 'Woman of Straw' in which his leading was Gina Lollobrigida and 'Marnie', a film directed by Alfred Hitchcock and co-starring with Tippi Hedren.
And anther Hollywood film entitled 'A Fine Madness' which revealed his gift for comedy. I watched this film on television in the comfort of my Edinburgh New Town flat in Frederick Street with Sean sitting beside the Scottish art and theatre critic, Cordelia Oliver.
It was a surreal experience during which we discussed the importance of his performances in the film in which he starred with Audrey Hepburn in which he played an ageing Robin Hood to her mature Maid Marion, and naturally the conversation led to 'The Hill' directed by Sydney Lumet which enabled Sean to give a unforgettable performance as a Scottish soldier, an anti-hero entirely removed from his role as James Bond.
It is sad that Sean's marriage to Diane Cilento ended in divorce. They were a golden couple and together they rivalled the marriage between Laurence Olivier and Vivien Leigh.
Now, as the Scottish Nationalist Party's most famous supporter and in his image as Sir Sean Connery, he faces the challenge of helping his beloved Scotland play a leading role in this first decade of the 21st century in the year which marks the sixth anniversary of the re-establishment of the Scottish Parliament. I welcome the good news that he, at long last, he is fully prepared to put his views of Scotland's place in world politics into print and, at the same time, give an insight into his remarkable career as an actor and as a cultural icon. I see him at one and the same time as an artist's model par excellence in the splendour of his youth like a young Greek athlete and as the wise old monk who dominated the screen version of Umberto Eco's novel 'The Name of the Rose'. I remember fondly the day when he invited me to meet his beautiful mother when, as a widow, she lived in the Edwardian terraced house he had bought for her far from Fountainbridge. She had extra-ordinary dignity and acute awareness and pride in the achievements of her son. He could not persuade her to leave Edinburgh so she lived modestly into her old age, in no way desirous of living the glamorous life. I wish I had had the opportunity to know her better; she was like my mother, content to live her life in Edinburgh.
Edinburgh will always be an important factor in the life of Scotland's most famous son and he well deserved the day when he became a Freeman of the city of his birth, an example to anyone wishing to live their life as a Scot on an international stage.
July 2006 - Edinburgh
Scottishness defines a mercurial quality best expressed through the personalities of that special type of Scot who I would define as an artist according to Joseph Beuys' philosophy which claimed that everyone could prove their ability to be an artist by virtue of the ways in which they exercised their capacity for creativity.
Joseph Beuys dominated the international art world in the sixties, seventies and eighties with his art wedded to political advocating such ideas as 'Kunst = Kapital'. When he translated this into English, it was not that 'Art = Capital' or 'money', but 'wealth', meaning 'commonwealth' or 'well-being', or indeed, 'health'.
He loved Scotland and accepted the eight invitations I sent him to teach and to make art in Scotland. Like Felix Mendelssohn, he was inspired by the world inhabited by the mystical figure of Fingal and the image of Fingal's Cave, and, like many German artists in the 19th and 20th centuries, he took seriously the story of Ossian, the son of Fingal who embodied the poetic nature of Scotland's culture.
I introduced Joseph Beuys to a number of Scots who I regarded as artists within the then controversial Beuysian view that part of the human birthright is to make art. One of those had his studio in The Special Unit under the aegis of H.M. Prison Barlinnie. The artist was Jimmy Boyle. When I first met him, he was serving a life sentence for murder but he was already proving himself to be an exceptional artist, both as a sculptor and as a writer. He knew, as I did, that The Special Unit was a highly successful experiment in art education, proving the point that even the most hardened criminal and murderer could, given the opportunity and with help, become an asset to society.
Joseph Beuys regarded Jimmy Boyle as I did as the personification of the Celtic imagination which he believed symbolised 'the brain of Europe'. Joseph Beuys took the trouble to defend Jimmy Boyle's right to be regarded as an artist and went to great lengths to show his solidarity with all those who supported the Special Unit. Joseph Beuys took the decision to go on hunger strike in support of Boyle's "sense of freedom". He regarded himself not only as Jimmy Boyle's friend but also as a fellow Celt, having been brought up in what he regarded as a Celtic enclave centred on the historic town of Cleve, close to where the waters of the Rhine and Ruhr provided the navigable seaway into the heart of Europe for the Celtic saints, scholars and missionaries who brought Christianity to the Germanic tribes. As far as Joseph Beuys was concerned, the word 'Scottish' was equivalent to the word 'Irish' and both these national identities were at the heart of all that was enduring and meaningful in Europe culture.
Joseph Beuys had great respect for those human beings who could be regarded as outstanding art patrons and therefore artists. Among them was Lady Rosebery because of her commitment to the Edinburgh Festival from its beginnings in the immediate post-war years. For him, she personified the patron of all the arts and to acknowledge this, he created an art work in which he placed himself in fruitful dialogue with her and with Buckminster Fuller, who Beuys regarded as an artist scientist and for all those who had been responsible for the Scottish Enlightenment. Joseph Beuys arranged a meeting so that he, Lady Rosebery and Buckminster Fuller could meet in the Royal Botanic Garden in Edinburgh to emphasise the importance of the work carried out by the intrepid Scottish plant collectors who were among the world's leading botanists. They, too, in Beuys' view were Scottish artists who benefited from the achievements of the giants of the Scottish Enlightenment, primarily Adam Smith, David Hume and James Hutton. In his mind, they had laid the foundations of modern thought which had enabled him to be one of the founders of the German Green Party. In this role, he took seriously the achievements John Muir as the first great environmentalist and defender of the wilderness, as well as James Clerk Maxwell who Beuys regarded as equal to Albert Einstein as a giant among those physicists who questioned the nature of time and space.
It is to my deep regret that I did not introduce Joseph Beuys to Ian Hamilton Finlay. His death at the age of eighty this year marks the end of an extra-ordinary life devoted to the bringing together of the visual and literary arts, philosophy and gardening. His masterwork is the garden temple which he chose to entitle Little Sparta, set on a windswept hill in Lanarkshire. Over three decades, together with his wife, Sue, Ian Hamilton Finlay laboured with extra-ordinary determination to create the world's most significant manifestation of concrete poetry within the concept of The Garden as a Temple in defence of the history of ideas and philosophical thought originating in the Greco-Roman cultural heritage and the ideas embedded in the French and Russian Revolutions.
This year marks the sixtieth Edinburgh Festival, co-inciding with the fortieth anniversary of The Demarco Gallery, and I am thinking of all those Scots, among them many artists to whom I am indebted because without them the gallery could not have come into existence. Many collaborated with me to foster the concept of an international experimental art school in collaboration with Edinburgh University's Schools of Scottish and Extra-Mural Studies, focussed on the international spirit of the Edinburgh Festival. Outstanding amongst them is Lord Macleod of Fuinary, the founder of the Iona Community and restorer of the physical reality of the Abbey of Iona, and Lord Ritchie Calder, the pre-eminent Scottish journalist and one of the founders of UNESCO. Together with the poets, George Mackay Brown, Hugh McDairmid, Sorley Maclean, Hamish Henderson, Norman McCaig and Liz Lochhead, they participated in the international programmes of Edinburgh Arts, giving insight into the nature of Scotland to generations of those international students from American, Canadian and British universities who chose to focus their attention on Scotland in relation to Europe, particularly through Edinburgh Arts Expeditions which enabled them to link physically Scotland with Malta, Italy, Poland, the Former Yugoslavia, Romania and Germany.
In this anniversary year, I must take into account the role of the contemporary artists I am working with and with the art patron who are helping to develop international cultural dialogues. Chief among these patrons is Johnny Watson, President of the Scottish Federation of Seed Merchants, who, together with his wife, Sandra, is responsible for providing a large-scale building at Skateraw Farm which enabled me to exhibit the Demarco Archive for the first time on a scale that befits it complexity and internationalism. At Skateraw, thirty-five miles south of Edinburgh,I envisage an exhibition coinciding when the Edinburgh Festival celebrates its sixtieth birthday. Through an inspired and generous act of patronage, Scotland has been provided with the model of a 21st century art gallery. Now in his second year, Johnny Watson, as a farmer, is proud to have his farm at Skateraw associated with the international avant-garde encapsulated in countless thousands of manuscripts, art works, publications and photographs defining a unique 'Gesamptkunstwerk', a collaborative statement involving over 10,000 artists representing 52 countries, all inspired by the physical reality of Scotland. One year ago for last year's Edinburgh Festival, within the walls of a barn which is essentially a grain store, the Archive was made manifest in the form of an exhibition entitled 'Agri-Culture', bringing together the worlds of the farmer and the artist for the first time in the history of art in Scotland. I have high regard for Johnny Watson because, in 1999, he created a sculpture in the form of landart in a field close to Edinburgh's Turnhouse Airport on the day that Her Majesty opened the Scottish Parliament. This five acre field was transformed by the judicious planting of blue and white linseed so that the Saltire flag, the national emblem of Scotland. That was sculpture that transformed the nature of Scottish farmscape. This provided me with all the evidence I needed that Johnny Watson was a fully-fledged artist and art patron and the personification of the quality of Scottishness I can rely upon to provide me with high hopes for the future of Scotland's contribution to the global culture.
And, of course, with regard to Johnny Watson's role as a patron, I am fully aware of how much patronage I have personally received from another of Scotland's most active and committed and internationally-minded artists in the Beuysian sense. I am referring to James Thomson who has, through his love of Edinburgh, established the highest possible standards associated with the world of Scotland's hotels and restaurants. In so doing, he has brought together the role of hotelier, restauranter and artist. Prestonfield House is now regarded as one of the great hotels to be found anywhere in Europe. It inspires me and the artists I am pleased to bring there because from its parkland, you truly feel the essence of Edinburgh's history and culture and the spirit of the Enlightenment.
Skateraw Farm bestrides the main arterial rail and road routes, linking Scotland with England and mainland Europe. It is built on rich farmland with strong associations with Robert Burns, Robert Louis Stevenson, James Hutton and John Muir. It marks the nearest point in Scotland to mainland Europe. It will surely make demands on Scottish artists who would wish to build a sculpture even more meaningful than Anthony Gormley's 'Angel of the North'. I should express an angel of the north with a Scottish dimension.
After having experienced all fifty-nine Edinburgh Festivals and having contributed to both the Official and Fringe programmes, I know I have been blessed by those heroic and legendary figures who brought the Festival into being. I am therefore conscious of the roles played by James Bridie as one of Scotland's leading playwrights, Harvey Wood, Director of The British Council in Scotland, and Sir John Falconer, as Edinburgh's Lord Provost, who together accepted the challenge provided by Sir Rudolph Byng and Sir Tyrone Guthrie in suggesting that Edinburgh was tailor-made because of its exquisite and dramatic beauty as the stage for an international festival which would celebrate the hard-fought peace which came after five years of global conflict.
The Edinburgh Festival therefore is the best possible of all that I would proudly define as the essence of Scottishness. It sets an example to the whole world to show how the language of art should be wholeheartedly international and at the same time possessed of a dimension inherently Scottish.
(For Holyrood Magazine)
On The New Europe
IN 1997, the University of Paisley established a Centre for Contemporary European Studies.
The Centre's Research Progamme focused on the transformation of Central and East European countries from communism towards democracy, as well as the political and economic aspects of European integration in relation to the process of enlargement of the European Union and the resultant regional policies.
Emphasis is placed on the influence of French, German and Spanish culture.
The Centre's Director is Professor George Blasycka, He was among the prime movers behind the establishment of a consortium bringing together the likes of Glasgow, Strathclyde and Glasgow Caledonian Univesties to create 'The Futures of Europe,' a consortium bringing together an informal association of educational institutions.
The group's aim was to develop awareness through the debating of European matters, particularly in the West of Scotland.
The group was successful to the extent that it helped create the groundwork for a two-day event which took place on April 22 and 23 at the University of Paisley in the form of an international conference entitled 'What does EU enlargement really mean to Scotland?'
I found myslf invited to speak on the subject of 'Identity and Art.' My contribution was to the session on the second day of the conference which focused on 'Enlargement, Culture, Identity and Education.'
I was one of four delegates. Jack McLean, the Herald columnist, questioned the need for university education for the majonty and advocated vocational training and the restoration of the age-old tradition of apprenticeship
Fernando Leon-Solis gave a Spanish perspective on Europe and Professor Leonidas Donskis, from the University of Kaunas, spoke of the history and culture of Lithuania in relation to the Baltic States, with particular reference to Poland and Russia and the impact of the Cold War.
This session was chaired by Professor Neil Blane of Paisley University's School of Media Studies, who is working towards the development of the dimension within the life of the University in relation to that of Paisley as Scotland's largest town with an enviable tradition of public sculpture and impressive civic architecture, redolent of Paisley's once-predominant role in the Industrial Revolution.
I ended my own contribution by suggesting that perhaps the most effective symbol of Scotland, more meaningful than the Scottish Tartan in a world threatened by terrorism now associated with Iraq, would be the 'Paisley Pattern'
The Paisley Pattern is the perfect expression of the integration of the cultural heritage of Scotland, inspired by that of lslam.
The Ministers of Culture of the new Member States of the European Union should be inspired by the example of the artists of Scotland who were inspired by the Scottish and Islamic treasures in the National Museum of Scotland to make new images of Scotland in harmony with the cultural tradition of lslam.
Professor Mike Dan$on of Paisley University's Business School, chaired the final sesssion which brought together Laurie Russell, Chief Executive of the Strathclyde European Partnership, John Edward, Head of the European Parliament Office in Edinburgh, Alan Hogarth, Head of Public Affairs of the CBI in Scotland, John Purvis, MEP, and George Blazyca who deserves hjgh praise as the driving force which brought this historic event into being, possibly the only one in Britain, and certainly the only one in Scotland to consider the momentous decision-making process which will alter dramatically the future of Europe in relation to global politics.
George Blazyca's father is Polish, a survivor of World War II; his mother is Italian from Borgotara, a small Tuscan town near Parma, that region of Italy from whence my maternal grandmother began her ong journey to Scotland, a journey which brought many thousands of Italians to Scotland.
Alex Salmond MP spoke effectively on the first day on the theme of the politics of enlargeent, making clear his own answer to the questions which must be asked by everyone engaged in Scotland's cultural life.
Will the enlargement of the European Union marginalise or strengthen Scotland's place in Europe?
Will it boost the case for Scottish independence? Where will new partnerships emerge? What is the future for the small states in the New Europe?
These are the questions which should give Frank McAveety and James Boyle much food for thought as they engage themselves in writing the cultural policy statement of the Scottish Executive and the Scottish Arts Council.
The question I must ask "Should such policy statements include a referendum giving voice to those who labour in the world of Scottish culture?" - particularly artists, writers, poets, musicans, composers, dancers, film-makers, those who have the responsibility of making art nowadays in what Marshall McLuhan described as a global village.
I urge everyone who would be engaged in such a referendum to consider the grandeur and beauty of Paisley Abbey.
Its very stones are a testament to Scotland's role in the shaping of Europe and the concept of Christendom which gave Europe its democratic principles, its universities and its cultural identity with an unmistakable Scottish dimension.
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