Aug 032012
 

Peacock Visual Arts offers a programme of changing exhibitions in both the main gallery and shop/reception area. With thanks to Angela Lennon.

Language Barrier & Other Obstacles – Alina & Jeff Bliumis,

Language Barrier And Other Obstacles is an exhibition by Alina and Jeff Bliumis that examines cultural standards, foreignness and national identity.

Alina and Jeff Bliumis were born in the former Soviet Union; Alina is originally from Minsk, Belarus, while Jeff was born in Kishinev, Moldova. Both have lived in America for over twenty years and have been collaborating since 2000.

They have exhibited in a number of exhibitions internationally including: Castlefield Gallery, London; Assab One, Milan; The Victoria and Albert Museum, London; The Jewish Museum, New York; Moscow Biennale of Contemporary Art, Russia; Stanislas Bourgain Gallery, Paris; Busan Biennale, South Korea and Bat-Yam Museum, Israel.

They also have work in various public and private collections. These include the Saatchi Collection, Moscow Museum of Modern Art, Bat-Yam Museum, Harvard Business School and The Victoria and Albert Museum.  http://www.peacockvisualarts.com/events/376/language-barrier-and-other-obstacles

Happy All Smiles – Adam Bridgland

Happy, All Smiles is Adam Bridgland’s first solo exhibition in Scotland and launches three new prints made with Peacock’s master printmakers.

Alongside the three latest editions, the exhibition will also include new works, sculptures and vinyl installations that explore Bridgland’s fascination with the mundane and the everyday, and the constant pursuit of finding an escape from these.

Described as ‘your favourite leisure time artist’, Adam embraces the everyday object finding inspiration from the colouring book image, travel guidebooks, and scout camping paraphernalia.

Kitsch and humorous, yet equally poignant, Adam’s work rejoices in the mundane and is an investigation of the notion that holiday-making is just another ordinary everyday activity and that the holiday is essentially a fantasy that rarely lives up to our expectations.   http://www.peacockvisualarts.com/events/377/adam-bridgland-happy-all-smiles

Both exhibitions will run until 8 September, and more information about each can be found here: http://www.peacockvisualarts.com/exhibitions-and-projects/now

From Thursday 16th August to Thursday 20th September we will be running another 6 week course of our Thursday Print Club from 5.30 to 8.30pm. 

The cost to attend all 6 sessions is £60.

There are also Animation classes for children aged 10+ scheduled throughout August and September, each class is £35.

Please see:http://www.peacockvisualarts.com/get-creative/courses-classes for more information.

Peacock Visual Arts is also proud to announce that we will be taking part in the Aberdeen Art Fair again this year, which will take place on Saturday 18th and Sunday 19th August.

Entry to the fair at the Music Hall is £3 and times are 9.30am to 5.30pm on Saturday, 10am to 5.00pm Sunday. More information can be found here: http://www.peacockvisualarts.com/archive/353/peacock-at-aberdeen-art-fair-2012

For more information on PVA exhibitions, events, courses and workshops, see: http://www.peacockvisualarts.com/events/

Jul 092012
 

Mike Shepherd has  lodged a complaint in a letter to Aberdeen City Council Chief Executive Valerie Watts regarding the recently published TIF business case. Mike shares the content of the letter with Aberdeen Voice readers.

To The Chief Executive, Aberdeen Council

I am lodging a complaint about the TIF Business Case “Aberdeen City Centre Regeneration Scheme” which has been written as a report to inform a council vote in August. This document should be a disinterested analysis of the case, or otherwise, for Aberdeen Council borrowing £92 million through Tax Incremental Financing (TIF).

It is not. The report is a constructed narrative that contains major factual mistakes, errors of omission, false statements and flawed data. It is not credible.

The key argument of the report is based on input by private developers and their advisors who have a clear interest in a positive outcome to the council vote.  The conclusions of the report are therefore incompetent.

I request that Aberdeen Council withdraw the TIF business case as unfit for purpose.
http://www.aberdeencity.gov.uk/TIF_business_case

The details of my complaint are as follows:

  • The TIF business case contains a major factual mistake concerning funding for the Art Gallery:

On page 11 it is stated: 

It is expected that a further £20 million of funding will be secured via Grants and other funding mechanisms to enable the City Art Gallery Redevelopment.”

In a table on page 42, it is stated that:

“The City Art Gallery redevelopment:  Funding identified from existing sources – £20 million”

This is incorrect. There is no identified £20 million funding for the Art Gallery. Council minutes show that the appropriate figure is £4 million.

The £20 million figure stems from an unrealistic aspiration to apply for funding from the Scottish Heritage Lottery Fund (SHLF):

“Both the Art Gallery redevelopment and a Museums Collection Centre would be eligible to apply for Heritage Fund Lottery grants, although the value the City Council would wish is beyond the annual allocation, which for all of Scotland is currently £20 million.”
http://committees.aberdeencity.gov.uk/mgConvert2PDF.aspx?ID=7314

The Council have yet to apply for funding from the SHLF and intend to do so later this year, in November. They have approached the SHLF:

“Officers have also discussed the current status of the project with the Scottish office of the Heritage Lottery Fund; the Fund advises that if matched funding can be raised within the City, then their Board would accept this as the Council’s contribution to the project within the application.

“The Art Gallery redevelopment is also included as one of the projects within the Tax Incremental Fund BID to the Scottish Government and if this is successful, that funding can be counted as part of the city’s contribution.”
http://committees.aberdeencity.gov.uk/mgConvert2PDF.aspx?ID=18050

The Art Gallery component of the TIF application is for £4 million (Ref: Table on page 42).  Matched funding from the SLHF for the TIF sum would be £4 million, not £20 million.

In the table on page 42 it is also stated:  

“The TIF Scheme creates the opportunity to invest in the City Art Gallery and even if after this investment the City of Culture bid is unsuccessful, the City will still have a state of the art asset for future generations to enjoy, as a result of the TIF mechanism.”

This is misleading. The Art Gallery redevelopment costings are as follows:

“The Development Study was fully funded by the Marguerite McBey Trust. Gareth Hoskins Architects provided an options appraisal in 2010 outlining 5 schemes ranging in scale and costs from £15.7m to £24.3m [2010 prices].”

TIF plus matched funding from the SHLF would only account for £8 million of the total sum required. The conclusion that “the City will still have a state of the art asset for future generations to enjoy, as a result of the TIF mechanism” is false and incompetent.

  • The TIF business case is misleading about funding from the private sector:

On page 11 there is a statement concerning private funding for the City Garden Project:  

“This includes £55 million that has already been pledged to the City Garden Project by private donors and a further £15 million to be raised”.

It is also mentioned that Aberdeen Council are confident that the extra £15 million can be found even though that this has been an unfulfilled aspiration for the last two years. Although the full £70 million has not been pledged, this figure has been assumed as valid for the rest of the report.

By page 42 this has become “funding identified from existing sources: £70 million.” This is incorrect, only £55 million has been identified.

On page 89 the conclusion states:

“The estimated total cost of the assets and enabling infrastructure for the TIF Scheme is £182 million.

“Pledged donations towards the City Garden Project of £70 million and potential grants for the City Art Gallery of £20 million creates a public sector investment requirement of £92 million, or marginally over 50% of the total cost, which will be borrowed by ACC as part of the proposed TIF Scheme.”

This conclusion is incompetent. The sums are wrong.  A consequence of this blunder is that Aberdeen Council may be required to borrow more than £92 million to ensure that the ‘city centre regeneration project’ is enabled.

  • An overlooked detail of critical importance to the business case: 

The report quotes extensively from the conditions voted through at the January 25th Council meeting. However, I have failed to find the following information mentioned.

From the report to Council of 25th January and voted through:

“Instructs officers to enter into negotiations with a view to putting in place a development agreement with Aberdeen City Garden Trust (ACGT) and/or their representatives, which sets out the terms upon which Aberdeen City Council (ACC) would be prepared to make necessary Council owned land available, to realise the proposed development described in Appendix 1 of this report after 1st March subject to;

“(x) Requires ACGT to confirm, in a legally binding form, that they have access to at least £70 million of private sector funds to invest in the CGP, prior to the signing of;

“a. An appropriate Development Agreement, and

“b. A TIF agreement confirming ACC’s ability to invest at least £70 million in enabling infrastructure related to the CGP. “

http://committees.aberdeencity.gov.uk/mgConvert2PDF.aspx?ID=18252

In other words, councillors have already decided that if the extra £15 million of private investment is not guaranteed, they are not going to apply for TIF funding. This should have been stated in the business case.

  • Flawed data:

Part of the justification for the City Garden Project is based on a questionnaire that was sent out to two selected groups in Aberdeen. This covers several pages of the report. One ‘cohort’ was a small group of 35 developers, landowners and agents in the City Centre area; the second comprised

“four hundred local private, public and third-sector organisations, representing a wide range of views.”

They got no replies from the first group (“a small response”), and later tried to phone them to get any views at all. Eventually seven people replied and several pages of analysis ensues in the report based on the comments of only seven individuals. There was a bit more interest from the second group, a group that included me.

I found that the questions were framed in such a way that it was virtually impossible to register any negative opinions about the City Garden Project. By dint of answering almost all the questions you ended up agreeing that the project was worthwhile.

This is typical:

“Considering each of the development schemes, which of the following benefits do you envisage they might deliver to the wider Aberdeen City economy?”

There is a clear intentional bias to the questionnaire that looks designed to elicit positive statements in favour of the City Garden Project. My opinion is that this is propaganda not data, and it should have no place in what should have been a dispassionate report informing councillors regarding the decision they have to make about the TIF business case.

  • Inappropriate input from the Aberdeen City Garden Trust:

The bottom line of the business case is that the City Garden Project will “will act as a catalyst for regeneration and economic growth” in Aberdeen and gives “The potential to unlock significant private sector investment and generate up to 8121 jobs and an average of £142.0 million per annum of economic growth over 25 years.”

The business justification is that take up of commercial space in two large business parks being built in the north of the city will be significantly under-subscribed unless the City Garden Project is built. An additional assumption concerns extra business activity in the city centre.

There is no discussion concerning how these assumptions have been made, yet this is the crux of the business case. We are being asked to trust that these assumptions are valid without any cogent analysis provided.

Yet, trust is a major issue concerning these assumptions. On page 74 under the section ASSESSMENT OF NEW DEVELOPMENT AND BUSINESS RATES UPLIFT” we read that:

In undertaking this assessment of development uplift ACC has received specialist research support from property advisors CB Richard Ellis as well as input from ACGT and PwC.”

(ACGT –Aberdeen City Garden Trust, PwC – Price Waterhouse Coopers, CBRE – CB Richard Ellis)

The relationship between CB Richard Ellis, PwC and the Aberdeen City Garden Trust is made clear on page 52:

 “ACC, with support from ACGT Enterprises and their advisers (PwC and CBRE)”

Thus it appears that major input has been provided to the critical argument in the business case by Aberdeen City Garden Trust and their advisors. A private company seeking to take over a lease and operatorship of council property, has been allowed to dictate input to a report recommending that  Aberdeen Council borrow £92 million for a project in which the company has a direct interest. This is entirely inappropriate.

The Aberdeen City Garden Trust has a clear interest in a positive outcome for the City Garden Project. They and their advisors should not have been allowed to have input into this report.

  • Conclusion:

Aberdeen Council operates at both a corporate and political level. Politicians make policy while key council officials provide a detailed examination of the background that commonly informs the decision making process.

In this regard, it is important that council officials provide a rigorous and dispassionate analysis, with any recommendations based on logic and a clear basis for the arguments that have been set out to justify these recommendations. In the report detailing the business case for the City Garden Project and other ancillary schemes, they have failed abysmally.

The most recent version of the business case is a travesty of synthesis and thesis. Rather than setting out a well argued case leading from careful marshalling of data towards a conclusion, the report appears to proceed from conclusion (the City Garden Project is a good thing) via a constructed narrative that includes mistakes, flawed data and wishful thinking.

Given that a consequence of this report is that Aberdeen Council could end up borrowing £92 million on the basis of ‘economic regeneration’, this may result in major reputational and financial damage for the council. The vote to approve submitting the business case to the Scottish Government is likely to take place in August this year.

  • The outcome I would like to see:

The TIF business case should be withdrawn immediately as incompetent and unfit for purpose.

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Jul 052012
 

Following a successful showing at London’s Victoria & Albert Museum, Aberdeen Art Gallery is pleased to host ‘The House of Annie Lennox’, opening 7 July.

The House of Annie Lennox pays tribute to the creativity, style and passion for life of the Aberdeen-born artist.

This touring exhibition from the V&A features costumes and accessories worn by Lennox together with photographs, personal treasures and awards, ephemera from the political campaigns she has championed, music videos and a specially commissioned video of Lennox in conversation.

There will be exclusive new content curated by Annie Lennox in partnership with gallery staff including memorabilia from her musical beginnings in the city, family photographs and a piece specially written by her for the exhibition.

Annie Lennox said:

“I’m delighted to be presenting The House of Annie Lennox in Aberdeen. I used to regularly visit the gallery as a teenager, and found it to be a place of beauty and inspiration.  It feels like coming full circle to be actually holding an exhibition here myself, over forty years later.  

“I very much hope that people get a better sense of my life as an artist and communicator, and can derive a similar sense of inspiration that I enjoyed from my visits there.”

Christine Rew, Aberdeen Art Gallery & Museums manager added:

“We are delighted to host the only Scottish presentation of The House of Annie Lennox.  Growing up in the city Annie was a frequent visitor to the art gallery, and we are delighted that she has lent additional material for the Aberdeen showing.  The exhibition illustrates her vitality and passion for life. 

“It’s a wonderful opportunity for the gallery and our visitors to pay tribute to her amazing career as singer, songwriter and campaigner, who has transformed the status of a generation of female performers.”

The exhibition is open until Saturday 29 September 2012.

Image credit:  ©Mike Owen

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May 112012
 

Bobby Niven presents ISLAND, an exhibition using film, sculpture and found objects to explore the history and architecture of Inchgarvie, an uninhabited island located under the Forth Rail Bridge. With thanks to Peacock marketing manager Kylie Roux.

ISLAND is based around the strange architectural history of Inchgarvie whose now uninhabited ruins tell of past lives as a castle, a prison, a quarantine and a foundry and accommodation for workers who built the Forth Rail Bridge under whose shadow it sits. Like the Inchgarvie ruins themselves ISLAND comprises distinct but related parts: the film, the grey room of concrete sculptures and the orange room of objects and artefacts.

Shot on location the film evolves around a room full of sculpted birds and a lone inhabitant. There is a seemingly playful and humorous visual language to Niven’s film as the character prances and cavorts across his island but this quirky abandon is misleading.

Despite the humour a dark undercurrent runs through. Framed shots of sinister sculpted birds, contaminating deposits of guano, the lapping water, flotsam and jetsam and a manic trumpeted soundtrack all contribute to a feeling of suspense and isolation. (The suggestion that our island fellow is perhaps quarantined, the result of a modern day pandemic, alludes to the island’s history as a place of seclusion for syphilis and plague victims.)

The colonies of sea birds that occupy the island and their vast deposits of guano were the inspiration for the sculpted birds perched inside the concrete dingy rooms of the ruins that feature in the film. Niven further references and repeats these motifs by creating large-scale concrete abstract forms that take over the gallery in all their monochromatic splendour, paying tribute to the island’s concrete structures.

Continuing the narrative and landscape of the film found objects and artefacts that relate to the island, the structural forms of the bridge and the activity of the fictitious character are displayed with museum reverence inside an orange fluorescent box in the reception gallery.

About the artist:

Bobby Niven was born in Fife in 1981 and is currently based in Glasgow. He holds a 1st class honours degree in Fine Art from Glasgow School of Art and a masters degree from the University of British Columbia, Vancouver.

Niven has exhibited both in the UK and internationally. Exhibitions include: Sierra Metro, Edinburgh; Lowsalt Gallery, Glasgow and CSA Space, Vancouver; The Royal Standard, Liverpool; Glasgow International Festival of Visual Art (2010); TBC Gallery Melbourne; and Peterfabers Gallery, Copenhagen.

  • Preview night Friday 25 May, 6 – 8pm, all welcome!
    Exhibition runs 26 May – 7 July 2012
Other Exhibitions And Events

BIG JESSIE // Donald Urquhart
The Brunswick Hotel, Merchant City, Glasgow
http://www.peacockvisualarts.com/events/373/big-jessie-donald-urquhart
exhibition runs until 27 May 2012

CLASSES & WORKSHOPS
At PVA throughout 2012
http://www.peacockvisualarts.com/get-creative/courses-classes
call 01224 639539 for more info & to book

http://www.peacockvisualarts.com/

Apr 062012
 

A report on the UTG referendum was discussed at a meeting of full council on Wednesday with a view to it being approved before being sent to the Scottish Government. Friends of Union Terrace Gardens chairman Mike Shepherd was permitted to give a deputation. Aberden voice presents Mike’s deputation in full.

“I was allowed to give a deputation here in January when I said that the FoUTG would agree to take part in a referendum if it was fair.

We agreed to the referendum in spite of the shameful behaviour of this council in ignoring the result of the public consultation two years ago. We agreed for two reasons.

First, we saw the CGP as a juggernaut pushed through relentlessly by business and a friendly council. There were only two options to stop this; either through the referendum or legal action. We chose the referendum.

Secondly, we chose this route through public spirit. We were only too aware of the poisonous attitudes building on both sides of the issue. Aberdeen was at war with itself. A fair referendum was the only way of killing this beast.

I also told the council that the referendum would have to be fair because implicit in taking part was that we accepted the final result, whatever it was. This was said in good faith.

THIS WAS NOT A FAIR REFERENDUM!

We do not accept the result. The process was flawed. Internet and phone voting should not have been allowed as without signatures, this was open to fraud. The Green party have also asked me to complain about their shortened message in the information pack that was sent out.

The City Garden Project supporters were allowed to spend tens of thousands of pounds on PR, newspapers, leaflets and radio ads. This money spent on advertising bought a marginal result for the referendum.

The ads were often misleading and in some instances blatantly so. We were told of a bogus £182M investment, consisting of a bogus £15M of private investment and a bogus £20M Art Gallery grant which didn’t exist. One misleading ad is under investigation by the Advertising Standards Authority.

This council also misled the public. The claim that a new park could create 6,500 jobs was utterly ludicrous. They did not explain the risks of borrowing through TIF properly, even when Audit Scotland expressed their concerns about the long term implications for the Council’s finances.

You are £618M in debt, you cannot afford the risk on further borrowing.

The council were partial to one side of the referendum. The ACGT were allowed to show a video in the Art Gallery, council property, yet we were excluded until after several days of complaint on the matter.

This was a dishonest referendum. The public were misled right up the City Garden path. The council should vote to ignore the result. Furthermore, this report should not be passed onto the Scottish Government as suggested. The proposal to spend valuable investment and infrastructure money on something as trivial as a new park is a disgrace.

We do not accept the result of the referendum and we intend to carry on campaigning to save Union Terrace Gardens. Thank you.”

Evening Express report here.  http://www.eveningexpress.co.uk/Article.aspx

Feb 172012
 

Old Susannah looks at the Granite Web, and the impressive effort it has taken to spin.

By Suzanne Kelly.

Tally Ho! Yet another vibrant and dynamic week in the Granite Web City.  Whilst Friends of Union Terrace Gardens, Aberdeen against Austerity, and Democracy Watch engaged in some inexpensive grassroots campaigning by flyer, the mysterious Vote for the CGP group pulled out all the stops and spent, spent, spent.

You could be forgiven for thinking that Northsound is playing City Garden Project commercials non-stop. The Art Gallery has a swish new display showing the Garden plan in its Alice-in-Wonderland perspective and garish colours, and issues of The Granite Web compete in the ugly stakes with the A3 VFTCGP colour flyer sent out before.

News reaches Old Susannah that visitors to Aberdeen Royal Infirmary are being cheered up no end by pro-City Garden Project posters on the walls. There is no escape at work either, as employees of Wood Group (no surprise really), Nautronix, and Taqa all seem to have received lovely e-mails from bosses hinting gently that they should vote for the CGP.

I do find it very touching that employers are looking after their employees so well and giving gentle guidance which puts no pressure on them at all.

Why do I call the VFTCGP members secret? Because I was told in so many words by the BIG Partnership, which does PR for this group and, coincidentally, the artwork for the CGP, that “if the members want to stay secret, it’s up to them.”

But before I return to my Myth-busting busting activities started last week – I only got through the first four of the ten Myths the CGP team say we’re suffering from – condolences to Rangers fans.

Was this one of the top Scottish clubs? Yes.

Will this leave a massive hole in Scottish football? Yes.

Will other sides face similar financial clubs? Looks like it.

I believe one tycoon is still paying some £60,000 of his own money each time his team plays. I do hope this mogul is not getting overly financially stretched. I’d again ask the question if Loirston Loch land – in a Special Area of Conservation – should really be turned into a 21,000 seat football ground with offices and museum in this climate.

  Donald’s granny was Scottish. This gives him good cause to call Alex Salmond ‘insane’

Well, I would ask, but the continuous concrete covering of anything green in Aberdeen seems unstoppable. Thankfully, we all have one tireless, gentle campaigner who is not giving up the fight for ‘Scotland’s heritage’. Step forward, Mr Donald Trump.

You might have seen one or two small news items saying that this gentle giant wants to build the galaxy’s greatest golf course on a no-doubt-underused stretch of coastline. He’s got rid of many of the view-blocking trees, but there are horrible plans to build windfarms offshore which could actually be seen by his guests, if you can believe that!

Now, windfarms don’t actually work very efficiently yet. The technology can, and should improve. But I guess we’re all agreed there are few things in life worse than being a rich golfer who might have to look at an offshore wind farm. For those people in favour of this kind of blot on the seascape, I would remind you that you’re forgetting something very important.

Donald’s granny was Scottish. This gives him good cause to call Alex Salmond ‘insane’ for supporting renewable energy. Please try to keep that in mind, thank you.

Finally, it might have been Valentine’s Day this week, but it looks like the May to December romance between Callum McCaig and Aileen ‘Ho’Malone is over. One of them is an over-blown, over-hyped, over-rated, naïve, headline-seeking soul, blissfully unaware that they are dangerously out of their depth. The other is Callum McCaig.

No more will they share a coalition; there will be no more romps on Tullos Hill; there will be no more late-night negotiations. Maybe yet the SNP will change its tune over the ridiculous cull of deer to plant trees that cannot possibly grow on Tullos Hill. Watch this space.

  the taxpayers’ side of this great granite garden bargain is to borrow £92m and pay the loan, and its interest, back over decades.

There is certainly a current in that direction, not least fuelled by public anger and the wasting of some £43,800 to date. Still, a break-up is hard to take. Final confirmation of this great bust-up comes in newspaper stories announcing that the coalition is still absolutely fine. I am thinking of offering my condolences to Mrs Robinson, sorry, I mean Aileen.

I’m still thinking on it. PS. Message to Irene – feel better soon!

And now back to debunking the debunking of the Myths. The City Garden Project seems to be the only entity that’s been presented with these Myths, and I commented on the first four last week. Here are a few choice words on the remaining five Myths. Thank you CGP for printing these not-at-all-wild and not-at-all-made-up Myths – we’re all really onside now. Their comments are in bold. Old Susannah’s are in regular type

5. It will cost the taxpayer millions of pounds – FALSE.

Sure. All this happens for free, and you’ve not paid a penny, and you won’t pay a penny. I wonder if the CGP forgot about the £422,000, or probably more, of taxpayers’ money Scottish Enterprise has already spent on this project? And, no doubt, our CGP friends don’t think it matters that some of your city councillors voted to set aside up to £300,000 of your money for legal costs.

Old Susannah is still mulling that one over. A billionaire is ‘giving’ Aberdeen £50m, but there isn’t enough money on his side of the fence to pay the legal costs the city will incur? So, rather than getting granny a new wheelchair, or providing 24/7 care at homes which have just announced cuts etc etc, Wood wants your £300,000. But this £722,000, nearly quarter of a million pounds, is small change.  we’re going to chop down existing, healthy trees, thus getting rid of wildlife that’s called the trees home for decades, if not centuries

Multiply that figure by ten and you get close to the amount of interest on the loan Aberdeen City Council has to sign for this project to go ahead, according to one of last night’s radio show speakers. Thanks to Original FM (on 105FM) for hosting last night’s debate. Anyway, the taxpayers’ side of this great granite garden bargain is to borrow £92m and pay the loan, and its interest, back over decades.

If the 6500 new jobs don’t come in and we don’t make £122m each year (I can’t wait to see how this happens), if we go over budget, if anything goes wrong – then it will cost us an unknown additional amount of money in repayments. The trams fiasco has reached a cost of nearly one billion pounds.

But this won’t cost you a cent. Honest, guv.

6. Fake, plastic trees – FALSE.

It’s a great Radiohead song but a lousy Myth. It has been suggested that fake plastic trees will be planted in the City Gardens to act as vents for the giant car park underneath. If any fake trees are seen they will be beside the flying pigs. 186 new trees will be planted, some of them mature and many will be Scots Pines.

Old Susannah doesn’t know where to start with this alleged Myth. She does find it reassuring to find that a job in public relations entails so much creative writing talent. I know of no-one who’s heard of plastic trees being part of the plan. However, if we’re building underground, then we’ll need plants with very tiny root systems. Goodbye 250-year old elm trees, one of only a few surviving clusters of elms free from disease, and home to wildlife. In comes progress. Who needs fresh air, wildlife, shade and beauty when you can have ramps?

   we’re going to chop down existing, healthy trees, thus getting rid of wildlife that’s called the trees home for decades, if not centuries

My favourite bit is the announcement that the trees stay in the Gardens forever, as wood chip and seating. Well, you can’t say that’s not sensitive to nature. Still, the BIG Partnership’s student placement has managed to make a meal of a non-existent plastic tree myth. Perhaps someone will explain how mature trees are going to be magically planted in the new Gardens?

Where will their roots go, as there is meant to be underground parking? How do we get to have a thriving pine forest in the city centre – something that doesn’t seem possible according to experts including local architects?

If Old Susannah has this right, we’re going to chop down existing, healthy trees, thus getting rid of wildlife that’s called the trees home for decades, if not centuries, plant some new trees, and have the world’s only pine forest in a city centre.

The pines must grow faster than genetically-modified Leylandii hedges if the drawings I’ve seen are correct, and of course, no-one can fault the accuracy of these precision drawings. I like the giant transparent child romping over the flowerbeds best. So, replacing grass and trees with grass, concrete and trees can be done for only £92m. RESULT!

7. It will cost people their jobs – FALSE.

As a result of the project a projected 6500 new jobs are to be created, not taking into account the hundreds of jobs that will come as a result of the construction. In addition, a transformed city centre will breathe new life across the city, helping us become a World Energy City long after oil and gas has run dry in the North Sea. Existing businesses will be retained meaning existing jobs will be safe-guarded.

These 6500 jobs are going to be wonderful! What will they be? Well, for openers we’ve seen how well Union Square has protected high street businesses. Our small high street shops are struggling whilst multinationals got a cheap rent deal in Union Square. But clearly what we need is….more shops. Surely there is nothing we’d rather do than shop, and you can’t have enough shops can you? It’s not as if a glut of shops will ever result in shop closures, price wars and endless sales, especially ‘Going out of business’ sales.

I wonder if there is any reason that a cafe culture has never really taken off in Aberdeen? Could it be that it’s often too cold, too windy or too rainy? Could it be because the City Council consistently refused to allow anyone to run a snack bar or coffee kiosk in the shelter of Union Terrace Gardens? Clearly not. One wave of the granite wand, and just like those convincing concept drawings, we’ll all be sitting outdoors in short-sleeved shirts, drinking decaf mocha lattes while Toto play on the brand new stage, in front of the existing indoor theatre.

Right. The taxpayer is propping up the AECC with extra money since it can’t make enough by holding events. Same for the Lemon Tree. But the new theatre won’t have any problems making a massive profit and creating loads of jobs.

 So, ‘how many theatres should a taxpayer prop up?’ is one question.

I for one can’t wait to sit through an outdoor electronic folk music competition in February. But, by winter, this theatre will be an ice rink, thereby competing with the ice rink the city tried to kill off before.

But no, there won’t be any harm to jobs. We’ll need people to cut down the trees and get rid of the wildlife. Then there will be jobs cleaning the graffiti off the Web. Yes, the Web will create more permanent jobs in small Aberdeen than the 2012 Olympics will create in Greater London. Rest as assured as I am on that point.

8. It will be entirely made from concrete – FALSE.

Obviously concrete will be used – would you like to relax, visit an exhibition or attend a concert on top of a cardboard box? The project has been carefully designed so there will be 95% more open, green space with a series of pathways providing access for people through, across and in and out of the gardens. These paths will be made of granite, crushed granite and wood.

By now, Old Susannah is finding the content of the dispelled Myths by BIG just a little bit patronising and smarmy. They thought they had to talk us out of believing in plastic trees. Now they explain that we need to sit on something more robust than a cardboard box. Thanks for that! Appreciated.

So, ‘how many theatres should a taxpayer prop up?’ is one question. ‘How many competing businesses should Scottish Enterprise suggest?’ is quite another. They used to have rules on displacement and suchlike, but these seem to have gone, probably about the same time as your employer started to tell you how to vote.

This project has been carefully designed. Of course it has. More green space, but somehow it manages to have a giant concrete, sorry, granite theatre which takes up some 15% minimum of the existing Gardens. They count the giant granite potato-crisp shaped thingy over the stage as green space.

 what if the architects were to give us some drawings showing how these ramps will work safely now rather than later?

Of course it won’t sustain any wildlife, and at best will be a thin wedge of sod over concrete, but if they want to call it green space, fine.

I guess these people call anything green space if they can colour it green with Crayolas on their paper plan.

Looking at the slope of the ramps both up and downwards, I’m wondering how the aged, infirm or wheelchair-bound are going to find this system easier than the current access. The current access could use an additional ramp and you could probably do this for less than £92m as well. For the truly baffled, there is ground level access on the north side, not far from the theatre. This is where vehicles somehow manage to get in.

Clearly there is no other way to ‘relax and visit an exhibition or attend a concert in this town.’ Let’s borrow £92 million and build this beauty.

9. There will be no railings in the Granite Web, people will fall from the paths – FALSE.

Safety will be paramount. The concept design shows the various walkways at different levels but the final design will show how these work safely. And, seriously, do you think any development in a country obsessed with health and safety would get off the ground without proper safety measures?

Our PR work placement is patronising us again. I might be old, but here’s a crazy idea – what if the architects were to give us some drawings showing how these ramps will work safely now rather than later? Are they going to be enclosed, and of course, not at all potential rat traps? Are they going to have fencing that somehow won’t look like Stalag 17? How will wheelchair users go up and down these steep ramps? Details, details.

Well, Old Susannah has run out of space for one week. We will return to normal definitions next week, and take a closer look at who is behind ‘Vote for the City Garden Project’. You will, of course, want to know what businesses are in this group, to make sure you can reward them with your custom. Or not.

Finally, many thanks to those brave business people who have stuck out their necks in favour of saving our city’s only unique, free, green garden.

That’s you, J Milne. It is appreciated.

Feb 102012
 

Old Susannah wades in with her chainsaw rattling in the direction of Union Terrace Gardens, but the elms need not fear, she is only out to cut through the misinformation presented as ‘myth busting’ by the City Garden Project.

By Suzanne Kelly.

Old Susannah has been busy with Union Terrace Gardens this past week, like so many of us.  Another few short weeks, and the people will have voted one way or the other as to whether or not our environment, heritage and common good land are better served up with concrete ramps or not.

Then I can get back to the important work of singing the praises of our elected officials, unelected quangos and council officers, and local millionaires.

Before I get down to the Gardens situation, I thought I’d look back at all the wonderful artwork that the City’s children sent in for the Christmas time art competition and event in the gardens, organised and funded in large part by the Bothwell family.

Hundreds of children sent in their artwork, and at this chilly time of the year with Christmas past, they make a cheerful reminder of a great day, and what it’s like to be a child again.  And each and every one of the childrens’ artwork exceeds by miles the A3 takaway flyer sent by a group of anonymous business people telling you we must vote for the granite web.

Do have a look – you will be glad that you did.
http://oldsusannahsjournalchildrenschristmasartwork.yolasite.com/

On with some definitions then.

Propaganda:  (noun) Material, slogans, misinformation designed to advance a particular point of view often by discrediting or ignoring opposition.

My email inbox is bursting this week with details of employers who are sending their employees all of the leaflets, letters and testimonials which support the garden project.  Most of these are written in the names of associations or groups which have – but crucially do not declare in the literature in question – a member or members who are directly involved with promoting the scheme.  This is very clever indeed.

An employee wants to be told by their boss how they should think and want and vote.  It would therefore be most unfortunate if the employees were given some way to read the many arguments against going ahead with an undefined project with an undefined budget using an as-yet untested in the UK financial borrowing mechanism with a debt-ridden city council borrowing money.

Let us hope therefore that suitable precautions are taken to prevent employees reading the literature from different groups available at the following:-
http://oldsusannahsjournal.yolasite.com/

Myth:  (noun) work of fiction, often including gods, goddesses and challenges and tasks.

Not since the rainbow bridge of Asgard joined heaven and earth, not since the legend of Hercules and his impossible labours has there been a tale as far-fetched as that of the granite web that launched 6,500 jobs and paved the streets annually with £122,000,000.  Sure, it may look more like one of the circles of Hades or the Minotaur’s maze, but the web is already passing into myth.

Those clever people who bring us this gift from the gods are worried we mortals can’t undertand the benefits, and are misunderstanding (or mythunderstanding) their benevolent intentions.  They’ve written a handy guide (something called a ‘blog’) The City Garden Project – The Myths, dispelled’ which can be found at:-
http://www.voteforcitygarden.co.uk/blog/17-the-city-garden-project-the-myths-dispelled

And to its words in bold italics, are my little responses.

The City Garden Project – The Myths, dispelled.

  • We want you to make your decision based on truth, not incorrect claims, speculation and downright nonsense!

Fine – we are all in agreement.

  • Myths have been at the heart of the campaign against the City Garden Project and if some of them were true then the opposition could be justified.

Which myths and what are they?  Where did you get them from?  I remember the initial consultation:  we were shown a beautiful, expensive colour brochure (which the taxpayer had funded) – the cover of which had a flat concrete giant square with some plants in planters.  Later on we were told the project was not going to look like the picture.  Maybe we could have saved some taxpayer money and time by waiting for a consultation and poll until such time we knew what the proponents had up their collective sleeve.  But it is not for us to question the gods.

  • But, whether by mischief-making or simply misinterpretation, the rumours have been rife.

So here we have an implication of mischief-making.  Was it the god Loki at work?  Or of the opposition being too thick to be able to ‘interpret’ what is proposed.  I have not personally heard ANY RUMOURS.  I have read serious questions about the project’s economic, ecological, sociological and regeneration benefits.

I have read people asking where the ventilation will be for underground car parking.  That is one example of the sort of criticisms and questions that I’ve experienced.  ‘Dante’s Inferno’ has a version of heaven, hell and earth without any ventilation, so I guess these miracles can happen here as well.  

  • So, let’s dispel some of these myths! 

Fantastic!  Let’s go!

1. The “green lung” of our city will be lost – FALSE. 

The City Garden will double the amount of green space in our city centre. The new “green lung” will be more usable, more accessible and brought into the sun-light. New garden areas will be created, including a colourful, blossoming area, a forest, a Learning Garden, a quiet tree-lined Bosque area with street furniture and open green space for relaxing in or having a picnic.

Patches of grass do not clean the pollutants and particulates out of a city – established, large, leafy trees do.  As the goal posts keep moving on what trees are to be lost by the City Garden Project engineers, it is hard to imagine which trees are going.

I am still very disappointed we will not have a MONOLITH at which we can make sacrifices to the gods.  I guess we’ll just have to sacrifice the trees, animals, birds, and money to these new gods instead.  But are you going to be reassured that the existing mature trees are somehow going to be replaced overnight by trees with equal pollution / C02 management capabilities by people – sorry gods – who think they can plunk a pine forest in the midst of a city centre?

Most people question where the trees’ roots will be – nearly all trees have extremely large, spreading root systems which require soil.  By the way these roots and soil are what prevents flooding.  I have read points made by experts who say it is not viable to grow a pine forest in the middle of a city centre for a number of reasons.  I don’t know the science – but I look forward to the City Garden Project team showing me examples of such cities.

  I do enjoy looking at the photos of people sitting on the concrete wedge over the ‘stage’ area which is covered with a bit of sod.

There are examples of cities with great open plazas which flood as there is insufficient soil / tree roots to absorb  heavy rains.  At least rain isn’t much of a problem here in North East Scotland.  As to bringing everything into the sunshine, err, the sun shines in the valley as it is – with the added advantage of the valley providing a very valuable wind break.

At Tullos Hill the soil matrix is very poor – which in the words of the soil report prepared by the Forestry Commission leaves any trees planted subject to ‘wind throw’.  If the roots don’t have a good firm earthy soil to hold onto, then a strong wind – like the kind that will inevitably blow across any area brought to street level – may well bring trees toppling on top of the granite web – or people.

Just by elevating a hunk of potato-chip shaped concrete and putting a few inches of sod over it, you are not creating a natural green lung/habitat/area,  even if it is the prettiest thing you’ve ever seen.  As far as doubling the space of the gardens, I do enjoy looking at the photos of people sitting on the concrete wedge over the ‘stage’ area which is covered with a bit of sod.

There is a woman sitting in a chair – a very neat trick indeed for such a steep slope.  Maybe she has a specially-constructed chair with short legs at the back and longer ones in the front?  Perhaps she is a goddess and is floating?  But as many observers point out, the ‘concept’ drawings are inconsistent in this and other ways, such as changing scale.

No, if you are losing the mature, healthy trees that are there – which are home to animals such as EU protected bats and rooks – you are indeed losing a major part of what makes the park valuable to our health.  There is no doubt of this in my mind, so I’m glad we have such a great team of pro-garden project personnel ready willing and able to explain all.  They’ve just not got round to it yet.

2. The city can’t afford the City Garden Project – FALSE.  ( Seriously? )

We have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to get a £182m investment in our city at NO cost to the City Council or the citizens of Aberdeen.

One way or the other, the citizen is going to pay.  IF the scheme somehow goes perfectly to plan and we have a bunch of new shops (without hurting further the existing ones) the business rates will be used to repay a loan – a loan at an unknown rate of interest on an as-yet to be determined sum.

And if it doesn’t go well, and Aberdeen gets its very own Trams project fiasco to match Edinburgh’s – the City has to find a way to pay for the TIF.  As far as the donations from private sources are concerned, at last report Sir Ian had promised to put the £50 million he pledged into his will.  Well, if I were one of his children, I’d contest the will if it ever came to that:  an ageing parent throwing £50 million on concrete webs should convince any court that something is wrong upstairs, and a will might get thrown out.

  Some say taking a loan is borrowing money.  But seems we would just be ‘unlocking’ funds – so no problem there.

But who is our mystery £5 million pound donor?  If this is a public project (debatable – the Aberdeen City  Gardens Trust is a private limited company with two people in it), then the public should know where all of the money is coming from.  If someone pledges money, what guarantee is there it will come in?  Some of our current millionaires are feeling the economic pinch, sad but true.

And if are they using this £5 million promise as a lever to tip the balance of public opinion towards the scheme  – then if they stand to gain personally, then we should be told.

I hear varying reports that other private people are pledging something like £20 million.  Now that’s a myth I’d like more info on.

Once in a lifetime?  How on earth is that conclusion reached?  That claims sounds  very much like the scaremongering the pro garden project have been accusing others of.  There are six trial TIF schemes at present.  There may well be more.  But if this were a once in a lifetime chance, then all the more reason to take our time and make a cohesive, desirable bid, perhaps even one based on something less nebulous than a scheme that has a forest one week, an ice rink the next – and so other many unknowns to it.

TIF is only in the pilot stage in Scotland – so let’s get in there first!  Test case Aberdeen!  Some say taking a loan is borrowing money.  But seems we would just be ‘unlocking’ funds – so no problem there.

A minor detail, as we’ll all be rolling in dosh in no time, but do we know the interest rates on the £182 -192 million pounds Aberdeen City Council is going to borrow?  I’ve not been told.  Over to you, City Garden Project.

Again I will say that mere mortals choose to live in an area that is clean, safe and has excellent schools and hospitals.  I must have missed the part when someone proposed to the City Council that it should cut services and schools, and replace green space and our environmental heritage for concrete.

I don’t remember agreeing to continuously expand the City’s footprint into its green space while there are so many empty buildings in the city centre.  I guess I wasn’t paying attention that day – probably got distracted by reading about a cute baby competition in the news or something.

  • 40% of the cost of the City Garden has already been secured. The Scottish Government have pledged that, if the development is supported by the public, a TIF will be used to fund the rest of the costs for the City Garden Project. 

Fine.  Let’s see the legal papers showing exactly how much has been pledged and how ironclad or otherwise these pledges are.  Forty percent?  What is the figure?  We still do not have any genuine, concrete, specific project (no timescale, no costings done, and no precise scope – these are what you learn in ‘Projects 101’ are the building blocks).  You cannot  possibly say you have 40% of the money you need for something which you don’t even have defined or costed.  Not without godlike wisdom anyway.

  • TIF is a bit like a mortgage. The cost of the “property” is £182m. The “property” is the City Centre Regeneration Scheme (Aberdeen Art Gallery, St Nicholas and North Denburn redevelopments, the new public realm and the City Garden Project). The £55m of philanthropic donations already secured for the City Garden, along with the £15m to follow from the private sector, is the deposit.   

First, please define ‘the new public realm’ for me – just so that we are all talking about one specific defined term, thanks.  I’ll bet TIF is a bit like a mortgage:  if you don’t pay up, you lose your property.  Again Aberdeen City Council are going to borrow the money via TIF.  Not Ian Wood.  Nor the private limited ‘Aberdeen City Gardens Trust Company’.

Just as well we’re told it will bring in over a hundred million a year – we’ll be needing it.

Back to the mathematics.  OK – let’s assume the £55 million is £50m of Ian Wood’s, plus the mystery philanthropist.

We should also be told who the £15 million is coming from, but leaving that aside, that’s apparently £70 million pounds.

Some people would question what kind of tax breaks if any will be given to the donors, and whether or not the tax that does not get into the treasury (because it’s being put in a hole in the ground) would be of benefit to our ever-dwindling services instead.

Right – 70 million is forty percent of 175 million.  We have just been told that the ‘cost of the property is 182 million’.  Sorry – I would have thought that the 182 million is the value of the assets, but there it is.  Just for the record: forty percent of 182 million is 72.8 million.  And just so you know, Scottish Enterprise had by May of this year spent over £420,000 on this project on consultations and PR and the like, and the City Council have just agreed to spend up to £300,000 of our money on the legal costs.

Just as well we’re told it will bring in over a hundred million a year – we’ll be needing it.  Hands up anyone who suspects this project will have many little extras here and there.  Do you think at the end of the day the estimates we are getting now (nebulous as they are) will:  a.  stay exactly the same, b.  decrease and cost less than we think, or c.  cost more?

  • The City Council takes out a loan to pay for the remainder. This loan is paid back over 25 years using the income from the new business rates raised. The City is therefore being given both the deposit and the income to pay back the loan – clever eh? That’s why TIFs are so widely used in the States and promoted in Scotland by the Government. But remember a TIF can only be used for this – not for anything else and if we don’t use our TIF, other cities will!

Well, it is indeed time for some myth- busting, because depending on who you listen to, this either is or is not a commercial venture.  TIF is supposed to be for commercial ventures – and it is unclear how anything but a commercial venture can make the millions in loan repayments we would need to make.

In fact, I seem to recall seeing a video of one of the ‘philanthropists’  saying this is ‘Not a commercial venture’.  ‘Clever eh?’  – I am not exactly convinced.  I do think risky, untested, potentially fiscally disastrous.

And overall, unnecessary to my way of thinking.  Nothing is wrong with the gardens.  We could regenerate the city’s shops by lowering our extremely high business rates.  Making more shopping spaces, eating places and entertainment venues creates more competition for the venues we have.

Did you know we as taxpayers are subsidising the AECC and the Lemon Tree – and now they want us to borrow money to build competition for these venues we’re already paying for?  It would be to my way of thinking like betting on several horses in a race.  You might win on one of them, but you will lose money.

3. The City Garden is a commercial development – FALSE

This is about creating a new civic space and gardens that will be brought back into daily use… 

(note – see definition above of ‘propaganda’)

…and become part of the daily life of the people of Aberdeen. The space will include exciting new venues for everyone to use and enjoy including a cultural and arts centre, a 500-seat black box theatre and 5,000 seat amphitheatre and stage.  

See my quotes above about these theatre/stage options.  We don’t need them.  We’re already paying for such venues.  The writer of this paper has first set out to ‘bust myths’.  However, they are lapsing into emotive, subjective prose when they say how wonderful this will all be.  We don’t know that – we don’t know anything of the kind.

But now we get to the ‘venues for everyone to use and enjoy’.  Right.  At present, we can come and go as we please when the gardens are open.  No one can prevent us from enjoying the space as we see fit – no one can charge us any fee to use the gardens.  Why?  Because they belong to each and every one of us as Common Good Land.  Are these ‘non-commercial’ theatres going  to be free of any admission charge?  If yes, then fine – they are not commercial.  If no – then they can’t make money and pay off the TIF loan.

And if they charge you money to be on your common good land, then whoever holds the deeds to the land, it is no longer common good land in reality.  Are we going to borrow millions to make a theatre that is free to go to?  If so, why don’t we just close the AECC and Lemon Tree and be done with them?

Who is responsible for joining up all these fuzzy, competing concepts – and why aren’t they actually doing it?

  • The land and all the facilities will remain in the ownership of the City of Aberdeen and its citizens.  

Oh yes, we’ll still own it – but better, wiser, richer people will control it.  You might own it – but try going to a concert for free or getting one of the 25-30 car parking spaces free.  There is every possibility that one private entity or another (why does the two-person Aberdeen City Gardens Trust spring to my mind?) will get a very long lease at a very low rate.  In terms of ownership, ‘possession is 9/10 of the law’.

4. Union Terrace Gardens will be turned into a giant car park – FALSE.

I don’t know where our friends picked up this ‘myth’  – I’ve not heard it.  But there you go.

Parking is at a premium in the city and while many people would indeed wish to see more car-parking in the centre, it will not be in the City Garden. There will be between 25 and 30 underground parking spaces to service the new development.  Old Susannah is no mathematical genius like the ones who work out our city’s budgets; but if we are putting in a 5,000 seat venue and a smaller venue in a city centre already pressured for car parking spaces, then I predict some car parking and car congestion problems.  Wild conclusion I know.

However, if there are 30 underground spaces, they will still need ventilation.  Nothing like that is shown on the plans I’ve seen yet.  But back to the maths.  If we have 5,000 people going to see a Robbie Williams tribute act in the brand new space and 30 parking spaces available at the venue, there just might be a little bit of an issue.

That nice Mr Milne (owner of Triple Kirks – soon to be developed, Chair of ACSEF, one of the anonymity-seeking businesspeople behind the beautiful Vote for the City Gardens Project…) seems to need some car parking space for his beautiful glass box offices which will be adjacent to this great ‘non-commercial’ granite web.  I guess the 30 spaces will take care of that nicely.  Either that, or there will be more than 30 spaces.  A lot more.

As I posted on Facebook this week, it comes down to these points (leaving out the environmental carnage and the Common Good Status, that is):

  • 1. Is TIF a tried and tested financial model in the UK? Not yet.
  • 2. Do we know exactly what this project will cost? No – because the scope is unknown and ever-changing. That is one of the main flaws with Edinburgh’s trams scheme – it kept changing – and now we are looking at nearly one billion cost for it.
  • 3. Is the design fully fleshed out enough for anyone who supports it to fully explain the engineering (vents, how will trees – esp. pines grow, how will ramps be made safe, etc)? No.
  • 4. As the taxpayer is already propping up entertainment venues with tax money, venues that cannot survive without financial aid, does it make any financial sense to create venues to compete with them? No.

So – if you’re not sure about any of these points  – and who is? – then maybe we should not rush into anything.

Feb 032012
 

The 2011 Annual Signal Gallery Punk Rock Artists show tribute to the late Poly Styrene (1957 – 2011) featured artwork from a majority of the acts that were the lights of British Punk Music.  Curated by Gaye Advert, featuring musical performances and great artwork, this was a highlight of UK winter art exhibitions as well as a perfect way to pay respects to Poly.  Voice’s Suzanne Kelly weighs in on a unique gallery and a unique collection of British artists.

The music world lost a number of real innovators in 2011 – people who were unlikely success stories in some ways, but whose individuality  shaped the history of music.  Amy Winehouse died in tragically predictable circumstances.  Nate Dogg had many personal problems and came from a world of violence, despite dice being loaded against him from the start, he worked with hip hop greats.

His style was sought after, and at the time of his death from  a stroke he’d been working on a new gospel project.  Then there was Marianne Joan Elliott-Said – or Poly Styrene to you and me.

Poly was born in 1957 – in a time where women had little prospects of exerting influence outside of the kitchen.  Women of the late fifties largely spent all their time trying to look conservatively, conformingly beautiful (and there is sad evidence that women are slipping back into wanting to look good more than wanting to be good at something).  Poly was having none of it.

She eventually wound up as the iconic, unpredictable, liberated, intelligent figurehead of punk band X-Ray Spex.  It was said the band formed after she and some friends saw the Sex Pistols perform.

Poly died in April 2011 from an advanced form of breast cancer.   Her unforgettable expressive vocals and X-Ray Spex’ music will always be around.

  Knox from the Vibrators is one of many musicians with artwork on show

The Signal Gallery near London’s Old Street Station has hosted exhibitions of music by punk musicians for some years now.   I’m sure many people who visit this extremely  popular show are there because of the musicians, but no one leaves without seeing a perfectly well curated group show of excellent, challenging art.

This year’s curator was Gaye Advert of (if you didn’t know) The Adverts.  She works in many media, and I’m particularly fond of pieces such as ‘bad squirrel’.  Knox from the Vibrators is one of many musicians with artwork on show; Knox is an extremely talented painter and has studied art.  He’s known for imaginative pieces as well as street scenes of London and overall for portraits of fellow musicians.  He had a portrait of Poly Styrene in this show as  had Charlie Harper and Chris Brief.

I missed the opening (and was cross with myself over it).  For an enthusiastic review of the opening with may photos, try http://retroman65.blogspot.com/2011/11/punk-beyond-gaye-advert-curated-art.html

I did however make it down for the Saturday 10 December acoustic sets by Knox and Charlie Harper of the  UK Subs.

Each played a solo set and then they played together to the Signal Gallery’s main room, totally filled from floor to ceiling with artwork and punk lovers young and old.  Nigel Benett  from The Members was among the audience.

I would love to have spoken more with Gaye Advert and the Gallery’s staff.  However, the former was busy trying to get artists to sign posters from the show, talking to press, being photographed, and trying to find Charlie when it was time for his set.  The posters  were sold at £50 each to raise money for a cancer charity in memory of Poly Styrene; I was lucky to get one.

The gallery owners were busy selling the few pieces of art that hadn’t already been sold, supplying countless beers to the crowd, and dealing with a pipe which started leaking on Charlie as he started his set.

The art was being talked about; some pieces such as a kinetic sculpture involving two dolls was sensational.  The art ranged from classic punk iconic art to abstracts and sculptures.

This show was a testimonial to the energy and talents that continue to keep punk going, and to the ongoing legend of Poly Styrene.

 

Feb 032012
 

With thanks to Kylie Roux.

YOUR LEANING NECK – SONG AS PORTRAIT – Steven Anderson

Based on an event from November last year at The Scottish National Portrait Gallery, Your Leaning Neck is a performance project that aims to challenge institutional representations of national identity by giving voice to non-institutional values.

A silent video installation showcasing last November’s event from two perspectives will be shown in the Peacock gallery.

Saturday 18 February – Saturday 10 March 

– Live Performance

Starting off at Peacock’s gallery then moving onto the Episcopal Cathedral Church of St Andrew, visitors will be treated to a live re-contextualisation of the performance event created as a site-specific response to the Scottish National Portrait Gallery’s collection of portraits from the Scottish Enlightenment. Within the performance, oral tradition singers are presented alongside contemporary artists who also use their unaccompanied voice as a means of expression.

Friday 24 February | 7 – 9pm | Peacock Visual Arts | FREE 

GIG IN THE GALLERY – Martin John Henry

Recently praised by Sound-Scotland, as “one of Scotland’s finest songwriters”, Gargleblast Records and Peacock Visual Arts present Martin John Henry.

The Lanarkshire born singer songwriter is best known for fronting Scottish Rock Band De Rosa – critically lauded and championed by John Peel and Steve Lamaq – as well as writing, recording and playing with many of Scotland’s finest musicians including Barry Burns (Mogwai), Robert Johnston (Life Without Buildings), King Creosote and Malcolm Middleton.

Saturday 4 February | 8pm | £8 on the door 

RESIDENCY/PERFORMANCE – ONE MAN UNIT – Paul Wiersbinski and Wieland Schönfelder

ONE MAN UNIT is a hybrid of man and sculpture. Through a variety of outputs, audiences are invited to interact with and experience the spontaneous and unexpected developments of this creative beast, as it evolves during the artists’ two-week residency at Peacock.
You can follow the construction of this half man half machine via their daily blog on Peacock’s Facebook page. The ONE MAN UNIT will then be let loose on the public on two occasions:

Saturday 28 January – Friday 10 February

– Note: Aberdeen Voice updates Peacock info periodically, but there may be recently added events not included in this post. Please contact Peacock direct for the latest information.

Peacock Visual Arts
21 Castle Street
Aberdeen
AB11 5BQ
Tel: 01224 639539
Mob: 07947 490626
e: kylie@peacockvisualarts.co.uk
Website: www.peacockvisualarts.com
Online Print Store: www.peacockvisualarts.culturelabel.com

Oct 132011
 

Mike Shepherd, Chairman of the Friends of Union Terrace Gardens, puts the case for keeping Union Terrace Gardens.

Union Terrace Gardens are a vital part of Aberdeen’s heritage.

The city centre park was planned by Alexander Marshall Mackenzie, the architect who also designed the Art Gallery, St Marks and the frontage of Marischal College.

If Union Terrace Gardens feel as if they belong in the city, it is because there is a harmony between the park and the surrounding buildings, several of which were designed by Marshall Mackenzie.

There is a sense of architectural authenticity. This authenticity would be lost if a six-acre modern square is built, which would be surrounded by Victorian granite buildings. The singer Annie Lennox has described this possibility as an act of civic vandalism.

Aberdeen’s heritage matters.

The beautiful granite buildings give us a sense of place and belonging. We identify with our heritage, and Aberdonians are proud of their beautiful city. The replacement of the old with the new, artlessly done, erodes the unique feel of Aberdeen, and starts to make our city look like everywhere else.

The Gardens are beautiful and spectacular.

The Gardens provide shelter below street level under the hustle and bustle of the city centre. The shelter is enhanced by the 78 mature trees in the Gardens, all of which will be chopped down if a modern city square is to be built according to the technical feasibility study.

An Aberdeen Council document states the following:

Union Terrace Gardens has many qualities to be exploited and enhanced including:

– Topography which provides a unique and dramatic setting for the surrounding historic townscape and bridges, and an essential component of the identity of the City Centre

– The character of buildings to the rear of Belmont Street

– The setting for His Majesty’s Theatre, St Mark’s and the Central Library, Denburn Viaduct and Union Bridge

– Green space and mature trees

– One of the last locations where the historic relationship of Union Street to the old city can be appreciated

(Source: Aberdeen City Council,Aberdeen City Centre – Developing a Vision for the Future, May 2010).

The development of Union Terrace Gardens is not a done deal.

There are many obstacles in the way of the so-called City Garden Project, such that it is unlikely to happen.  The project depends on the Council borrowing £70M to fund the project through Tax Incremental Financing. The council, who are £562M in debt, cannot afford to take any more risks on borrowing.

There is no public consensus for the project: indeed a consultation held two years ago rejected the scheme. The politicians are hoping to address these concerns by holding a referendum, which will inevitably support the retention of the existing Gardens.

There is a much better alternative to building a modern and intrusive city square in the middle of the Granite City.

The Friends of Union Terrace Gardens group are committed to the sympathetic restoration of our city centre park. We intend to act in a similar capacity to the Friends of Duthie Park; Duthie park will benefit from the funds attracted by the Friends and will be restored to its former glory. Likewise, the Friends of Union Terrace Gardens intend to return Union Terrace Gardens to a fully-functioning park again.

It wouldn’t take much.

Our park needs some tender loving care, new toilets, a play pen, improved access. We have organised social events in the Gardens and we are instrumental in making Union Terrace Gardens a fun place to visit. It is a park that is a key part of Aberdeen’s heritage, the green heart of the Granite City.

We are a community group dedicated to the future of Union Terrace Gardens.

– Join us, help us in our aims; find out more from our website www.friendsofutg.co.uk