Saturday, May 23, 2009

Is This Any Way to Treat a Sculpture?

Some years ago, my woodcarver husband, Alan Lees, was commissioned to make a life size carving of Tam o' Shanter and Meg the Mare. It was duly installed, with great ceremony, in the Tam O' Shanter Experience in Alloway. Almost from the day it was installed, however, the staff of the shop seem to have treated it as a dreadful inconvenience. Perhaps it was put in the wrong place - that wasn't our fault. Sculptors make statues to commission and generally put them where they are told!
But it has now become one of the most beautiful and expensive display stands in the history of the world. Whenever I have set foot in the centre over the past years, it is to find the statue surrounded by what can only be described (for want of a ruder word) as miff maff. As somebody remarked of this picture, the tartan napkins are surely the ultimate insult for poor old Tam.
Not only that, but when my husband, who carved this piece over some six months of blood, sweat and tears, sets foot inside the place, he is treated as some kind of pariah, with borderline rudeness. They have never promoted the statue, never used it in any of their publicity, never asked him to come and do any maintenance on it (it needs a little refurbishment) never expressed anything but complete and utter distaste for it and for the artist who made it.
The public, on the other hand, love it. If it was used as it was intended, people should have been able to get up close to it, have photographs taken, touch it and stroke it (wood is nothing if not tactile) and generally interact with it. They have done what they can - the horse's nose has a lovely patina, as has it's big bum, which has obviously been patted a good deal. But the horrible clutter means that people seldom can get up close. We have had people coming to this house, Australians, Americans of course, literally raging about it - but of course there's nothing we can do.
Now, the old Tam o' Shanter Experience is due for demolition. There is some talk of the statue going to Prestwick Airport - which would be good. There's plenty of room for it. But it will be hard to move (it is cemented in place) and it will need a certain amount of renovation. We have deep misgivings. Nobody has contacted Alan about it for months, and we wonder just exactly what will become of it when the centre is demolished round it.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Ayrshire Fiddle Orchestra

Went to a concert by the Ayrshire Fiddle Orchestra, in our village hall last night. In one sense it was a typical village event of the kind that we don't seem to have half enough of these days. When I first moved here in 1980, the whole village year was punctuated by one get together or another - the bonfire, the Christmas craft fair, the daffodil tea, the wine tasting, the gala day, the Minister's garden party... Far too many of them have fallen victim to health and safety regulations, or lack of interest or both. But last night was different. The village hall was full of familiar faces. There was a brilliant concert by a lovely group of talented young people, there was a raffle, and then tea and home baking at the end. It was a real pleasure, it was a genuine rural get-together and it doesn't happen often enough these days. We are well aware that our local council would like any possible excuse to close our village hall, but it is one of the few resources left to us. And the fact that last night it was full to capacity only goes to prove the truth of the 'if you build it they will come' maxim. Lay on some good entertainment, publicise it properly, spread the word, provide a pleasant evening out, reasonably close to home - and a surprising number of people will tear themselves away from the television, come out - and socialise.

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Burns on the Solway in the Scottish Review

I've just written a piece for the Scottish Review about Brow Well on the Solway, which probably counts as one of the least known places with which Robert Burns was associated. This isn't surprising, since he spent the last few weeks of his life there, desperately ill and horribly worried about his wife, who was heavily pregnant, and about the possibility of being sued for money he didn't have. As soon as he was dead, however, the great and the good of Dumfries came out to mourn him - and pestered poor Jean for pieces of manuscript, written in his own hand: disgraceful but not entirely unexpected behaviour. You can't help thinking that exactly the same kind of thing would happen nowadays.
Anyway, this part of the Solway Coast is bleakly beautiful and I find myself returning to it again and again in my writing.
Meanwhile, the same issue contains an elegantly acid piece about Swine Flu panic. If you're into Scotland, and all things Scottish, why not sign up to receive regular online issues of the magazine?