Feb 202017
 

Fun Lovin’ Criminals provide an entertaining and engaging live show.

Fun Lovin’ Criminals brought some New York cool to The Garage in Aberdeen on a Friday night in February. Craig Chisholm reviews.

Wandering nonchalantly onstage with a drink in hand, frontman Huey Morgan toasted the crowd before he and the band – multi-instrumentalist Brian “Fast” Leiser and Leicester born drummer Frank Benbibni – launched into an 18 song set that covered their near 35 year career.

For such a quintessential New York band it’s ironic that their commercial breakthrough and subsequent peak came at the height of Britpop in the mid to late 90s and their song choice reflects this with a set heavy on tracks from debut album ‘Come Find Yourself’.

Opening with funky trumpet led track ‘The Fun Lovin’ Criminal’ the band blast through crowd pleasers such as the laid back ‘Smoke ‘Em’, the full on rock of ‘Bombin’ The L’ and, undoubted highlight of the night, the Tarantino movie dialogue sampling ‘Scooby Snacks’.

Tracks such as those highlight why the band became so popular at the time – the eclectic mix of hip-hop, rock, blues and soul delivered with a knowing nod and a wink draw their audience in and keep them enthralled throughout the night.

If any criticisms can be levelled at the group it would be that their later material doesn’t have the spark and imagination of their earlier work.

Later tracks from their most recent album ‘Classic Fantastic’ – released 7 years ago now! – such as the title track and ‘We, The Three’ aren’t met with such enthusiasm and recognition as cuts such as the Barry White referencing ‘Love Unlimited’.

Despite that, the band still keep the crowd on entertained for almost two hours.

Singer Huey may be better known nowadays as a Radio 6 presenter and TV host in the, thankfully, short lived series ‘Pet Nation’ he bizarrely hosted with Liza Tarbuck but it’s on stage that he’s at home.

His between song banter is entertaining and humorous – tall tales about hotel maids and of meetings with Mafia Boss John Gotti Jr to discuss the song ‘King Of New York’, which references his notorious Father, are all delivered with friendliness and laughs.

Closing their main set with a cover of James Bond theme song ‘We Have All The Time In The World’ the band return for a three song encore that includes ‘Friday Night’ performed exclusively for the fact that it is, indeed, Friday night.

At the end of the day, Fun Lovin’ Criminals may not be as commercially successful or as prolific with new material as they once were but they still provide an entertaining and engaging live show that will leave you with a smile on your face.

Pictures © Craig Chisholm.

Aug 102012
 

As ‘you’ve been trumped!’ continues its world-wide tour, its current stop in New York proves irrisistible to the Occupy Wall Street Protest group.  Montrose Pictures tells Aberdeen Voice readers what’s going on.

NEW YORK – In an effort to call attention to the environmental damage inflicted by Donald Trump’s troubled golf course development in Scotland, Occupy Wall Street projected excerpts from the documentary You’ve Been Trumped on the Trump Tower last night in Manhattan. Their action was beamed live worldwide on Occupy’s streaming video website.

A video of the Action, prepared and released by Occupy Wall Street, can be found here.

Standing atop of the Illuminator, a special truck designed to undertake “guerilla screenings”, Occupy Wall Street Organizer Justin Wedes explained to why they had chosen to project You’ve Been Trumped:

“It’s a story that has to be told, an exemplary case of the 99% against the 1%, “ he said. “ It’s just one more example of the 1% corrupting the political process, destroying our land, destroying the earth, and we have to speak out or we’ll have no more earth to speak out for.”

You’ve Been Trumped captures the confrontation between Donald Trump and a proud group of homeowners in Balmedie, north of Aberdeen in Scotland.

It has been held over for a second week in New York City, whilst continuing a successful theatrical release in the UK.

The film has won 10 international awards and has been nominated for the prestigious Grierson Trust British Documentary Award.

“I’m honoured that activists like those at Occupy Wall Street have found the film so powerful, and relevant to the causes they are fighting for,” said director Anthony Baxter, in reaction to news of the screenings.

“They have helped change the debate around inequality, and the various ways the 1% run roughshod over ordinary people’s lives, and we hope that our film is making a small contribution as well.”

You’ve Been Trumped is currently continuing its national cinema release in Britain and in the United States where it opens at the Village East Cinema from Friday 10 August, having enjoyed a successful first week at the Angelika Film Center.

You’ve Been Trumped opens in Los Angeles on 17 August.

Aug 032012
 

On Friday August 3rd 2012, Scottish Artist David McCue brings two controversial paintings to the general release premiere of Anthony Baxter’s You’ve Been Trumped in the Angelika Film Centre, New York.  From Montrose Pictures.

The portraits, “Red Money” and ‘No More Trump Lies’ will be on show for the fi­rst time in the U.S. They form part of a series of paintings and artefacts that examine and expose the power of a wealthy minority to shape, influence and ultimately destroy the environment and culture of a small traditional community half way across the world.

Originally shown in Menie on 4 July 2008, as earth-moving equipment was moved in to begin work on Trump’s controversial golf development, the works of art reflect the clashing perspectives of Trump International Golf Links and the local residents at Menie. They explore environmental and related social issues raised by the development: the irreversible destruction of a traditional ­fishing community and the bulldozing of a site of global scientifi­c significance.

Red Money“, shows Trump in stark business attire against a background wall of American dollars that are visible through Trump’s face, hands and body. This painting has been chosen as the ‘face’ of Anthony’s award-winning film. It was also featured in the San Francisco Chronicle as the front page of its Arts and Culture section and is currently being used as a full front page on the Apple Itunes fi­lm trailer.

No More Trump Lies’, in contrast, is a depiction of salmon fi­sher and quarryman Michael Forbes who denied Trump the land he was eager to purchase for a hotel. The colours in this painting are the antithesis of those in “Red Money” and the emphasis is on greens, blues and earth tones connecting Michael to the heritage of the land and sea he is adamant about protecting. A cautious, suspicious and apprehensive glance to the left of canvas, matched with his casual attire and eccentric hat project dignified defiance and determination. The red collar of his jacket is like the red rag to a bull (Trump) who wants but has been refused what Michael rightfully owns. Michael’s con­fident, masculine body language suggests he’ll ­fight to the end.

Notably the controversy has sparked a wide range of artistic responses across many genres, including a ‘crazy golf’ sculpture, also by Artist David McCue, music written and performed by Karine Palwart, poetry, photography and a ‘spitting image’ puppet, rather than the conventional protests of political activism.

The timing of the presentation in New York is signifi­cant. The artworks are irrevocably linked to You’ve Been Trumped and bringing the paintings to New York creates an equilibrium between their original setting and the close proximity to Trump Tower. This reinforces the concept that this is not a parochial issue, but a global confrontation between the power of wealth and the value of our culture and heritage.

Donald Trump has just inaugurated his golf course in a flurry of disinterest and umbrellas, with Scotland’s First Minister being notable by his absence. The local communities have held their ground but are still being harassed. Meanwhile, Trump has suspended the major part of the project – the part that would create any benefi­t for Scotland – citing the potential creation of a wind farm, visible from the golf course, as the reason, and implying that Scotland is incapable of making environmental or political decisions for itself.

David McCue is delighted to have been invited to present his paintings at the fi­lm’s premiere and is looking forward to experiencing New Yorkers’ reactions to the fi­lm and art works. He will be available for questions and discussion of the paintings at the opening night on 3rd August and selected screenings scheduled till the 9th of August.

Aug 032012
 

Dave Watt presents the second article of a series of 3 concerning ‘strops and arguments’ in the olympics.

May joy and good fellowship reign, and in this manner, may the Olympic Torch pursue its way through ages, increasing friendly understanding among nations, for the good of a humanity always more enthusiastic, more courageous and more pure : – Baron Pierre de Coubertin – founder of the modern Olympics. Athens 1896

After some discussion in which the Germans put in a spirited bid Stockholm in Sweden was awarded the 1912 Olympiad with the unlucky Germans being promised the 1916 Games.

Stockholm introduced a series of firsts to the Olympics with the introduction of a electronic timing, a public address system and female athletes in the swimming and diving competitions with the last innovation causing an  Australian journalist to worry that the sight of women in bathing suits might incite lust amongst the spectators causing them to behave like ‘primitive blacks’.

The Swedish organisers banned boxing on humanitarian grounds but introduced the highly militaristic pentathlon in which the future megalomaniac George S Patton finished a disappointing fifth despite a diet of raw steak, salad and opium.

The usual growls and snarls began at the opening ceremony with the Finns opting out of the Russian team, the Czechs marching separately from their fellow Austro-Hungarian subject races and the Germans tramping around in formation eliciting boos and cries of ‘Prussian Militarism’ from the Swedes.

The usual racism was also on display with the US’s commendably diverse team being the subject of protests at non-white athletes ‘violating the Olympic ethos’ by having too much melanin in their skins.

Owing to World War One (having been unsuccessfully marketed as the ‘War to End Wars’ and the ‘War for Civilisation’ but eventually having to settle for the more prosaic ‘Great War’) the Berlin Olympiad didn’t materialise. The Germans consoled themselves by invading Belgium where, according to Allied propaganda, they bayoneted babies, raped nuns, shot civilians and threw poison gas around willy-nilly by way of endearing themselves to the locals.

Not surprisingly, the 1920 Olympiad, held in war-damaged Antwerp was rather low key and the Germans along with the Austrians, Turks, Bulgarians and Hungarians were all banned for picking the wrong side in the war and the Soviet Union was banned for presumably not having anyone closely related to Queen Victoria running their country.

The first five were also banned from the 1924 games as well (not that the IOC are ones to bear a grudge) but the Soviets were sportingly allowed to eventually compete in 1952 whereupon they wiped the floor with every other country in the medals haul until they returned to the wonderful paradise that is free-market capitalism in 1990.

Having participated in a four year bloodbath the few participants in Antwerp games were pretty matey all round with the US bagging most of the medals and the newly independent Finland coming second with the legendary Paavo Nurmi taking three track golds.

The 1924 Paris Olympiad.  Eh…Eric Liddell not running on a Sunday, Harold Abrahams, Chariots of Fire, men running along beach in vest and pants, blah, blah blah.

While this delightful piece of Anglocentric nostalgia was going on the Finns bagged thirteen gold, thirteen silver and five gold medals which isn’t bad for a country which has roughly the same population as Scotland but is obviously less devoted to Scotch pies and crap lager.

Needless to say, the usual deranged elements in the European press obligingly attributed the Finns success to the ‘wild mongol strain’ of their savage ancestors.

Love and international understanding reasserted itself when a Frenchman severely thrashed an enthusiastic American fan with a cane during the Franco-American rugby match and William DeHart became the first black athlete to win an individual gold amidst the usual grumblings about non-whites participating.

Having pocketed two Olympiads the French decided to outsource the Olympics to Amsterdam in the Netherlands in 1928 which saw the introduction of the five rings Olympic symbol for the first time.

The huge US team garnered most of the medals despite being managed by another megalomaniac in the shape of Douglas McArthur who kept the athletes marooned on board a liner/prison hulk from which they were only allowed ashore to compete.

The re-instated Germans, having presumably promised that they would behave much better in any future wars, performed exceptionally well with eleven gold, nine silver and nineteen bronze medals, coming second in the medals haul.

  Not surprisingly, this led to protests by impoverished and hungry people turning up bearing banners proclaiming ‘Groceries Not Games’.

After ‘some discussion’ the Olympic committee settled on Los Angeles for the 1932 Olympiad which saw the introduction of the first Olympic Village and the first major anti-Olympic protest over the games being held at all. In 1931, with a million unemployed in California and soup kitchens springing up all over the state, a massive press campaign gulled local voters into voting for huge funding for expanding and improving the Olympic facilities.

Not surprisingly, this led to protests by impoverished and hungry people turning up bearing banners proclaiming ‘Groceries Not Games’. One can sympathise with their point of view – I mean, what kind of idiots would spend millions on a pointless sports junket in the midst of a huge recession and massive poverty………..?

Thirty four nations turned up including a rather unpopular entrant in the shape of Japan which was engaged in the conquest of Manchuria at the time and attempted to hijack a a formidable Chinese sprinter resident there to run for their puppet state of Manchukuo.

The sprinter, Liu Changchun refused to run replying that “he would never betray his own nation to serve others like a horse or a cow” which is obviously not the view of the Scottish footballers in Team GB.

Predictably the US won forty-one gold medals but the surprise teams were the Italians who came second in the medals table and the Japanese who dominated the men’s swimming events.

Berlin 1936. When Germany was initially chosen to host the 1936 Olympiad it was a liberal democracy but by 1935, with the games one year off, Germany was a Nazi dictatorship with the racist Nuremberg Laws banning Jews from all aspects of civil life and attacks on their shops homes and persons becoming ever more frequent and ever more violent.

Consequently a great deal of soul-searching went on, particularly in the US, about the morality of sending a multi-racial team to the Berlin Olympics. There were campaigns for a boycott of the games both in the US and Europe while the Germans fudged the implications of their racial laws and hinted that Jewish athletes would be eligible for selection.

  From the Nazis’ point of view Brundage was the ideal choice

However, as they were banned from participating in the qualifying events as they weren’t members of German sporting clubs having been expelled early in Hitler’s reign this wasn’t very likely.

Eventually, the IOC in the US sent Avery Brundage to discuss the situation with Hitler’s ’regime. From the Nazis’ point of view Brundage was the ideal choice as his bigoted and racist views permeated the Olympics (a bit like a polluted stream running through a children’s play park) for nearly forty years.

On arriving in Germany Brundage set out the ground rules early on by proudly announcing that he was a member of several clubs that barred Jews from their membership thus indicating that he wasn’t going to be too hard to deal with.

Despite Hitler’s previous assertion that the Olympics were ‘a plot by Freemasons and Jews’ the Nazi regime was very interested in holding the games and assurances that multi-racial teams would be welcomed and treated equally were forthcoming.

This turned out to be quite genuine and black athletes like Jesse Owens and high jumper David Albritton were accommodated in the Olympic Village whereas they weren’t allowed to live on the campus where they studied at Ohio State University.

The Jewish athletes competing for Germany was more problematical when the world-rated Gretel Bergmann (classified as a full Jew by the Nuremberg laws) was told that her qualifying jumps were not of sufficient quality to allow her into the national team. As she emigrated to the US and won successive trophies there it’s a pretty fair bet that she could have qualified for the rather poor German womens high jump team if she’d jumped while carrying her week’s shopping.

A compromise was reached whereby blonde haired, green-eyed Helene Mayer, rated as only a half-Jew and resident in the US was allowed to compete as an honorary Aryan for the duration of the games where she won a silver medal.

In a little known attempt to “clean up” Berlin (which would surely endear him to the leader writers of a certain present-day local rag) , the German Ministry of the Interior authorized the chief of police to arrest all Romani/Gypsies and keep them in the Berlin-Marzahn concentration camp during the games.

Protests about the games in Britain were more subdued and Harold Abrahams, winner of the 1924 100 metres, undertook a lot of work to persuade fellow Jews in the country not to boycott the Nazi games. Presumably, he spent much of 1945 removing these particular endeavours from his CV.

Anyway, the Berlin Games went ahead with forty-nine nations competing, Germany winning 89 medals, including 33 golds and the whole event was wonderfully filmed by Leni Reifenstahl who was very pleased with her cinematic efforts until she discovered that Hitler was a Nazi in 1983.

Contrary to popular belief about the Berlin Olympics Hitler did not actually snub Jesse Owens. Hitler had greeted all the winning German athletes on the first day with a handshake and some Fuhrerly chit-chat but was told by the Olympic Committee that he either had to personally greet all of the winning athletes or none of them and he chose the latter course.

Consequently we can excuse Adolf from that particular breach of good manners – however, on the down side, there is just that little matter of fifty million war dead.

 

Jul 262012
 

Dave Watt presents the first article of a series of 3 concerning ‘strops and arguments’ in the olympics.

“May joy and good fellowship reign and in this manner, may the Olympic Torch pursue its way through ages, increasing friendly understanding among nations, for the good of a humanity always more enthusiastic, more courageous and more pure.”

– Baron Pierre de Coubertin, founder of the modern Olympics, Athens 1896

These noble sentiments expressed by de Coubertin in 1896 must have caused a certain amount of eye rolling and throat clearing, even at the first modern Olympiad, as he had just overcome a threatened boycott by the French Gymnastic Union which was incensed by the Germans being allowed to compete.

In addition, the Hungarians, part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, paid their own travel costs and refused to take part as anything but native Hungarians under their own flag.

Irish athletes refused to compete as part of Britain and the Turks refused to take part at all, denouncing the Athens games as a tool of Greek expansionism in Asia minor.

The scene was thus set for over a century of huffs, strops, snubs, accusations and counter-accusations of sharp practice, boycotts, threats of boycotts and the international equivalent of the stamping of little feet and tossing of curls.

De Coubertin, having begun in the home of the original Olympiad, was anxious to take the second modern Olympiad to France.  Unfortunately, to do this, he was obliged to run the 1900 games as part of the French world fair – the Exposition Universalle International (EUI) – whose chairman, Alfred Picart, stated tactfully that all sports were for morons.  Consequently, the events were fitted in as and when the disaffected EUI officials felt like it, ran from mid May to late October and included bizarre sports such as fire-fighting, ballooning and pigeon shooting.  (No, not clay pigeon shooting, real pigeon shooting).

The competitors had also to deal with their events being shunted off into wherever the EUI could find space and the swimmers, banished to the fast flowing River Seine, found their exceptionally fast times being offset by an interesting variety of unpleasant skin diseases from the heavily polluted river.

The 1900 Olympic Games also featured the first accusations of cheating when, during the marathon, Arthur Newton of the United States  finished fifth but stated he had not been passed by any other runner during the race.  Another American, Richard Grant, claimed he was run down by a cyclist as he made ground on the leaders.

Eventually, Frenchman Michel Théato crossed the finish line first and France took first and second place.  The US was later to allege that Théato was actually from Luxembourg and held a passport for that country, so the stage was set for a certain amount of transatlantic friction over the event.

Despite the France/US acrimony it was, predictably, the German participation which set Gallic teeth on edge.  The French president, Felix Faure, tried to keep the Germans out of the games and it was only persistent lobbying by de Coubertin and friends which ensured their participation.

However, having grudgingly accepted the presence of the evil ‘Boche’ at their games, the French went out of their way to make the German team feel as unwelcome as their means would allow.

The organisers refused to meet the German team at the station so that they were obliged to roam the city looking for their accommodation.  They were not allowed to train on any French equipment and were not informed of the timings of sporting events, resulting in the sprinters arriving at the stadium as the gun went off for the 100 metre race.

One morning the Germans awoke to find that their hotel had been adorned with the words “Cochons – a bas la Prusse!” (Pigs – down with Prussia!) and, upon returning to the hotel in the evening, the team captain, Fritz Hoffmann found an enormous pile of excrement in his bed.  His indignation at this was increased by, as he asserted,

This being the work of several persons.”

Obviously, you didn’t get to be captain of a German athletics team in those days if you displayed any kind of milksop unwillingness to delve around a pile of turds on your counterpane in order to find how many culprits had been involved.  I’d like to see Philipp Lahm try that one.

Things went slightly better for the Teutons in 1904 when the Olympics were held in St Louis in the US.  Not only did eight of their ten entrants win medals, but their bedding was completely free of any solid wastes.  The enormous US team – 432 of the 554 athletes were from America-predictably won most of the medals with twenty two golds, with two African Americans taking part for the first time.

However, an unfortunate sideshow to the Olympics were the Anthropology Games involving Africans, Asians, Filipinos and Native Americans, none of whom were eligible to appear in the Olympics proper as officials stated that, ”this type of man is hardly capable of Olympic calibre endeavour and, in any case, would hardly have understood the principles of amateurism.”

On the plus side for the Anthropology Games competitors, a local St Louis newspaper extolled their games saying :

“The meeting was a grand success from every point of view and served as a good example of what little brown men are capable of doing with training”.

Obviously, if heavy duty patronising was an Olympic event the US would have been well on the way to their twenty third gold medal.

The US contingent ….  refused to dip their flag to the Royal Box

The relatively peaceful 1904 Olympics were followed by a dramatic change of venue from Rome to London in 1908 owing to a natural disaster on Vesuvius.  There can’t have been many sporting events in history which have been cancelled owing to a volcanic eruption.

The opening parade at the White City was the usual brotherly fest when the Finns, whose land had been annexed by Russia in 1809, marched separately from the Russian imperial contingent and pointedly without a flag.   The US contingent, full of Irish first and second generation athletes, refused to dip their flag to the Royal Box, one of their athletes having previously stated,

This flag dips to no earthly king”.

Catcalls and boos from the pro-royal English crowd ensued and local newspapers later reprinted US pre-contest headlines containing such charmingly modest predictions as,

“American Athletes sure of success” and, “We will knock spots off Britishers.”  

The scene was set for a transatlantic head to head tussle and a series of protests and accusations flew from both sides.  The British accused the Americans of cheating in one of the heats for the 400 metres, the US runner was disqualified and his two team mates who had previously qualified withdrew from the final.

The British tug of war team, consisting of hefty Liverpool policemen, humiliatingly pulled the US team ‘over in a rush’ whereupon the Americans complained about their opponents heavy iron-reinforced boots which they referred to as ‘illegal equipment’.

In the marathon, the heroic Italian runner Dorando Pietri, leading the race by some distance, was so tired and disoriented by heat exhaustion that he ran the wrong way, fell down, got up, fell down again, was briefly treated by doctors and staggered to his feet stumbling towards the line, where he collapsed yet again.

They sportingly blamed this on the English weather

An Olympic official helped him up and half-dragged, half-carried him over the line where he collapsed once more.  He was taken off to hospital and, while he lay in critical condition, the US lodged a protest which was upheld despite a national outcry around Britain.

The German team, one of the initial favourites for the medals, performed less well than they and a disappointed Kaiser Wilhelm expected, coming in sixth in the medals table. They sportingly blamed this on the English weather; London’s heavily polluted air and the ‘hopelessly biased’ British judges.

This was echoed by the US after the Olympic medal tally ended with fifty seven golds for Britain compared to twenty two for the US. John Sullivan, the head of the Amateur Athletic Union in the US referred to the British judges as ‘cruel, irresponsible and utterly unfair’.

President Theodore Roosevelt referred to ‘so-called British sportsmanship’ and initiated a ticker tape parade in New York for the returning Olympians at which a papier-mâché British lion was dragged behind, jeered at and pelted by the crowd.

All things considered, I think we’d have to give the first four Olympics a bit of a failing grade on de Coubertin’s hoped for,

“… increasing friendly understanding among nations.”

Feb 172012
 

A lecture by Charles Renfro, held at the Robert Gordon University, Tuesday the 14th of January. By Jeremy Millar.

I pulled on my black turtleneck and picked up my Mac book pro and set off for the lecture. Would I be mistaken for an architect; yes I was – it’s all in the attention to detail. The theatre was pretty full, with architecture students to the back, and bolder interested parties to the front. Charles Renfro is an engaging character – think Niles Crane amalgamated with Andy Warhol.

He had flown in especially for this event, and encountered the usual techie difficulties in getting his gleaming Mac book pro to talk with a PC campus. The lecture was a run through of a number of the DS+R projects, and very impressive it was too.

At their heart DS+R are artists, often very clever and imaginative conceptual artists. This approach is exemplified by the ‘blur’ installation on lake Neuchatel in Switzerland. This brought to mind ‘Smoke on the Water’ for some reason. This building was a folly in the architectural sense and Charles spoke of playing with the senses as the visitor entered the water cloud and saw nothing. Like many of the DS+R projects there is an element of passing through, rather than destination.

The revolving trees in Liverpool are another witty play on perception.

Understandably the main focus of the lecture was on the High Line project in New York. I have to say that I was a fan before, and now I am even more so. This project demonstrates all that is great about urban design. It involves people with their environment on so many levels. There are many small spaces along the route that offer opportunity for performance. There is a sense of people owning and playing up to the intimacy of these spaces. If it is not to your taste – well you can just move on. It was, however, sooo New York – and I was reminded of “just a New York conversation rattling in my head”: thanks Lou.

 a walk-through video that involved much playing of the bagpipes

I was impressed by the way in which the High Line acknowledges routes and roots, and builds in memory of decay and goes wild. Charles is keen on letting the DNA show through and inform the evolution of the space. He ably demonstrated this with the Lincoln Centre and the new Rio gallery designs.

Loving what I’ve seen so far, in that it is visionary, interactive and accessible.  These projects are also all in large metropolises with sophisticated urban elites, and large numbers of tourists pretty much the year round. There is no question that I would visit if in New York, Rio or Boston.

And so onto the ‘City Garden Project’ for which Charles launched a walk-through video that involved much playing of the bagpipes. The key words and phrases included diversity of ecology, ideas pulled from existing context (that DNA concept) sustainability, green lung, reconnecting the city, reinforcing heritage moments, keeping topographic interest; and I have to say he lost me.

I could see some of the connections to the successful DS+R projects, but this vision betrayed a fundamental absence of an understanding of what makes Aberdeen unique both architecturally and culturally. The DNA of Aberdeen city centre is in the crisp Victorian lines of squares, crescents and terraces. The grand public buildings echo a past of commerce and culture as one strolls down Union Street.

The visual dominance of ‘education, salvation and damnation’ overlooking the gardens and leading the eye round to the gallery are rightly flagged up in guides to the city.

The gardens as they stand reveal this DNA and tell Aberdeen’s story. Charles in his presentation showed photographs of this evolution, the exposed Denburn, the trains pulling into the station, the bandstand and the vistas beyond. This legacy would be obliterated, and as for the DNA, we would have some balustrade and two statutes. I would defy any visitor to read the city from the perspective of the Web, unlike the active interpretation gained from a stroll along the High Line.

A question about the merits of consultation with the public gained an acknowledging that this had not happened

Granite is what makes Aberdeen noteworthy. The city centre is a symphony of granite. Apart from the granite in the name of the Granite Web it barely features in the design. The talk of the eye being drawn to new perspectives is compromised by the edifice of the Web blocking views towards the Theatre and the Terrace. The parade of arches under Union Terrace barely feature in the walk through.

The biodiversity of the various garden spaces are for me messy and confused. The High Line took it’s planting from the wild flowers that colonized the derelict line and the wildness was utilized to great effect. The current gardens are formal with wild edges and they reflect a city rightly famed for this form of planting. If people want to experience the Scot’s pine they can catch a bus to the Duthie Park. We have parks for all tastes and occasions in Aberdeen. There is no need to create a microcosm of the northeast in the city centre.

There was time for a few questions. A question about the merits of consultation with the public gained an acknowledging that this had not happened, although there was an awareness of the controversy. DS+R worked to the brief and they may consult more widely if the referendum is successful. There was no acknowledgment of contact with heritage groups at any stage of the process. Charles has made four visits to the city and feels he is getting to know it.

A question about the profile and presence of the arena space referred to as the ‘butterfly’ draws on the restaurant at the Lincoln centre, and both attempts to sit in the landscape and be iconic. There was an acknowledgement from Charles that this is a work in progress and they will get it perfect.

There was a question about sustainable build and climate change. Charles said that the build will reach the highest standard and will probably be the first in Scotland to do so. He talked to the advantages of green roofs for maintaining ambient temperatures. He did not address the concrete involved in the build, but did say that he was given materials to work with.

A further query focused on the tunnel through to the station. Charles was clear that this is not part of the project, but the Web would provide the opportunities for others to take these developments forwards. The man from Keppie spoke of connecting with the harbour and opening access to Aberdeen’s other areas in 10, 20, 30 years. He added that the project is about creating an identity for Aberdeen going forward.

 Make Union Street a cultural space and preserve the gardens

A question followed which addressed scale of the design and queried the numbers of people required to make the space work. The observation that Aberdeen was not New York was made.

Charles interestingly responded by reference to walking on Union Street and having to ‘fight’ people off. He went on to claim that the Web would provide the space for people to escape Union Street, which he acknowledged was dying, with the malls draining the energy away.

He then went on to claim that a range of cultural programming would attract people to the Web. It would be a melting pot for all the different populations that are around. In a further observation about walking down Union Street in the rain, he wondered why the ‘sidewalks’ couldn’t be bigger.

The final question was the magical one, and asked Charles that knowing what he knows now and if given a free rein to develop a project – would he go for the current one? The answer was of course, absolutely. He then returned to his battling down Union Street theme and made the obligatory one man and his dog in the gardens observation of the usage of the gardens by the public.

So there you have it. For me the most revealing evidence from Charles came with his ‘Why can’t the sidewalks be bigger’. In looking into the tranquil sanctuary of the gardens from the bustle of Union Street he was blind to the answer beneath his feet. Pedestrianise Union Street: create a space, a green corridor that revitalizes the Street; brings together all the successful elements of his other projects, preserves and lets the DNA speak. Make the Street a cultural space and preserve the gardens – subject to access improvements and recreational attractions – as the sanctuary within the hustle and bustle of ‘downtown’ Aberdeen.

The final train journey along the High Line delivered turkeys to New York for Thanksgiving.

Don’t let the City Garden Project deliver another architectural turkey to Aberdeen. Vote ‘Retain Union Terrace Gardens’  in the referendum.  

Cue ‘Won’t Get Fooled Again’…

Jan 272012
 

One of America’s biggest stars, Rosie O’Donnell, has admitted to millions that she was “moved to tears” by the hit feature documentary You’ve Been Trumped when the film’s director was the main guest on her show last week.

Footage of what the National Union of Journalists (NUJ) described as filmmaker Anthony Baxter’s “violent arrest” was broadcast across  America for the first time.

The broadcast prompted scores of outraged viewers to hit Twitter and Facebook to voice their anger at the actions of Donald Trump, the Scottish Government and Grampian Police.

On The Rosie Show, Baxter revealed how Freedom of Information requests made by the Sunday Herald have only heightened concerns that Grampian Police “have been acting like Donald Trump’s private security force”.  He also accused the force of carrying out a “whitewash cover up enquiry’ into his arrest.

The arrests of Baxter and his colleague Richard Phinney whilst making their film in 2010 prompted fierce criticism from the NUJ. The union described the police’s actions as “a breach of human rights” with “important implications for press freedom”.  

Meanwhile, O’Donnell is urging Americans to watch what she describes as “an amazing film”. She admits to crying during the scene where hundreds of people walk across the bulldozed dunes of the Menie Estate, to show of support for local resident Michael Forbes, accused by Mr Trump of “living like a pig in a slum”.

You’ve Been Trumped will be screened again in Chicago on 22 March, prior to its being rolled out for screenings in Europe as well as in Washington DC, Miami, New York, San Francisco, Arizona and other major American cities.

Clips from The Rosie Show…
http://www.oprah.com/rosie/The-Rosie-Show-Rosie-Takes-on-Trump

You’ve Been Trumped has won a total of eight international film festival awards

WINNER: Starz Denver Film Festival, USA
WINNER: Take One Action Film Festival, Scotland
WINNER: Michael Moore’s Traverse City Film Festival, Michigan
WINNER: DaKINO International Film Festival, Bucharest
WINNER: Hamptons International Film Festival, New York
WINNER: Edindocs Film Festival, Edinburgh
WINNER: Wild & Scenic Environmental Film Festival, Nevada City
WINNER: Sheffield International Documentary Festival UK

Michael Moore hand-picked You’ve Been Trumped for his Traverse City Film Festival in Michigan where it won the Special Jury Prize. It is now well on course to be the most successful cinema feature documentary ever produced in Scotland.

Jan 062012
 

Old Susannah tries to get to grips with the newspapers, the actual news, and council-speak.  By Suzanne Kelly.

Tally Ho and Happy New Year! Old Susannah’s had a bit of a holiday break in London and New York, but is back in the Deen and looking for news in all the wrong places.
All major world cities have their problems – New York, London – even Aberdeen.  It’s how these problems are dealt with that show the intelligence, logic, and well class of a city’s government.
New York at Christmas has subtle holiday lights, but all the stores (particularly 5th Avenue ones) do their best to have creative, exciting, individualistic window displays.

This just makes things look non-uniform and that’s a bad thing of course.  If only there were some giant red balls and uniform lights overhead to herald the presence of the New York Government.  Better still if such lights would fall down now and then  for a bit of drama as well.

There is a policeman on every corner of 5th and people are well behaved as a result.  Our streets are of course ‘livelier.’  How sad.  No one is allowed to use the streets for fighting/throwing up/robbing/ rolling around drunk in while the police stand idly by.  Here in Aberdeen there is more freedom to indulge in these traditional holiday past times.

Iconic landmarks such as Manhattan’s statue of Atlas, Ice-skating rink and the Christmas Tree just demonstrate how stuck in boring tradition NYC really is; hardly anyone comes to see these things.  I’d like to see a few buildings levelled (maybe the Chrysler and Empire) and a gigantic concrete public square created – that’s clearly what’s needed to revitalise NY’s dull city centre.

London’s  Soho was absolutely packed with people, music venues, and restaurants.  Believe it or not, the local shops don’t all close at 6pm; some even close when they feel like it.  Trash collections are regular, and I found myself missing my overflowing Torry communal wheelie bin with its broken lid and binbags torn open by hungry birds.   There weren’t even any sofas dumped on the streets to sit on.

In a not very vibrant or dynamic tradition, the Geoffrey Museum had  its annual  display showing how households used to look in times past for Christmas.  This tedious attraction could have done so much better if a monolith had been built on its historic front lawn.

You’ll never believe me, but in London’s massive Richmond Park (again just wasted space filled with lots of grass and trees) there is actually a deer park.

I suppose the biggest disappointment in New York and London as compared to Aberdeen  is the scale of waste.  New York has its (comparatively) massive Central Park and there are long stretches of coastal lands on nearby Long Island.  No one’s proposed any football stadiums, giant forests on the dunes, or turning the place into a giant golf course resort.

London has more parks than you could count that are filled with little more than grass – which so bothers Councillor Stewart.  These parks  do allow food kiosks and restaurants, something our City is far too cool to allow in Union Terrace Gardens (well, at least not until we build something over it first).

New York has great sports teams, but it’s not following our lead.  The Rangers continue to play in the outdated Madison Square Gardens rather than building something new outside of Manhattan.  Mr Milne could teach them a thing or two.  It’s almost as if people were fond of their historic sports venue and wanted to keep using it.  I think they’re in denial – the thing doesn’t even glow in the dark.

Finally an old building has been sensitively restored for re-use as a Native American heritage museum.  Doubt that made much money for any new-build businesses.  Shame.

You’ll never believe me, but in London’s massive Richmond Park (again just wasted space filled with lots of grass and trees) there is actually a deer park.

  No, the deer are not there for people to have their dogs chase.  The deer I have to admit are sometimes culled – when absolutely necessary – after living a lifespan where they can eat, roam free, and live.
Note: They are not culled for reasons other than animal welfare.

No one is proposing to shoot them in order to turn their turf into a lumber-producing forest.  Some eccentrics actually go out of their way to come and see the deer, or ‘vermin’ as Neil Fletcher and others would call them.

London and New York should really take a page from Aberdeen’s book and do much much more building in their empty green spaces.  The funny thing is that people actually choose to live near such places and pay more money for the privilege.

My one regret is that I missed the Christmas event in Union Terrace Gardens which by all accounts was a perfect afternoon.  The children loved seeing their artwork displayed; they loved the vermin – sorry – deer which had been brought in as a special treat.  The music was spectacular and everyone had a vibrant and dynamic time.  So my compliments to the organisers –  the Bothwell family and their friends, and to those who supplied prizes – Lush and The Artist’s Pad on Castlegate in particular.

I was happy to have been one of the judges for the art competition which was a real pleasure if not a nearly impossible task.  Watch Aberdeen Voice for an upcoming display of the childrens’ artwork and the entries for the Aberdeen Voice Union Terrace Gardens art competition – as soon as I can scan the 300+ items that were entered, that is.

But at this rate there won’t be room for definitions, so here we go.

Blindspot: (compound noun; English) An area which cannot be perceived whether due to physical limitations or psychological ones.

Old Susannah begins to wonder if any of our local press realise that by 23 January the City must relinquish details to me of what land was sold to Stewart Milne companies and for how much money? If they are aware, they certainly don’t find this revelation worthy of any space in their pages.

When I was travelling I kept up with local news via the internet – there were fascinating pieces on weather, a bit of vandalism, some bits of petty crime, another local store closed, and football games were won and lost.  But no word on Aberdeen Council being criticised by Scotland’s Information Commissioner or on the looming disclosure of what property ACC sold to Stew at what price. Guess this just isn’t as interesting as all the other stuff.

  seems northern Scotland can get windy in winter.  Who’d have guessed?

Still, by 23 January the City is meant to supply me with the info on Milne I requested a year and a month ago.

Let’s see who publishes the next development besides Aberdeen Voice.

I also read Private Eye when I was away (although I usually find it far too critical of our elected officials and millionaires), and a small item reminded me that the National Union of Journalists was ‘de-recognised’ by the Press and Journal and its sister, the Evening Express.

A cynical person might think the owners of these papers want to keep a tight rein on any reporter who goes ‘off message’ and writes anything too critical of their largest advertising revenue sources.  I just think the P&J management don’t want their staff to have to have the hassle of Union membership when they are so perfectly well remunerated.

Is there really any bias towards the powerful forces in the  City?  Just as  a matter of interest, a colour advertisement in the Evening Express supporting the ‘phase 2 tree for every citizen’ scheme cost the city c. £145.  A similar sized colour ad by those opposed to the tree planting and related deer cull cost over £700 (with 2 reprints in the Citizen).  Just thought you might like to know.

Festive Decorations: (noun) holiday-themed lights, banners, etc.

Well, the City’s outdone itself this year.   From 21st November 2011 to the 5th January 2011, Aberdeen City Centre was festooned with festive lighting and decoration.  Of course some of the lights came down almost as soon as they went up; seems northern Scotland can get windy in winter.  Who’d have guessed?  (Note – this historic pattern of high winds will of course be no object to planting trees on Tullos Hill, even if a Forestry report says wind is a problem there).

  I have my own theories about what the giant, over-sized, totally out-of-proportion red balls symbolised

According to the City’s website ‘Other communities around the City also take part with their own festive lighting on lamp-posts.  Aberdeen’s main thoroughfare (Union Street) is the centre piece with 11 cross street lighting all with a Christmas theme.’

I was surprised that Christmas was the theme for the beautiful lights on Union Street – I’d have thought the City was supposed to be non-denominational.  But I saw the light.  The decorations on Union Street show pictures of presents, toys and sweets – and buying stuff like that is the true meaning of Christmas after all.

I have my own theories about what the giant, over-sized, totally out-of-proportion red balls symbolised, but perhaps I’ll keep that to myself.  I look forward to watching them fall down again next year.

Jargon: (noun) vocabulary which is not recognised in the mainstream, is hard to decipher, and which may be deliberately exclusionary.

Next week I intend to look at upcoming budget/financial actions our fair city may be taking.  Believe it or not, I am not always convinced their financial skills are as good as you might think.  If anyone can help me decipher  the following paragraph which I found on the ACC website, then please get in touch:-

“There are also other projects currently active that will produce efficiencies for all Services, i.e. ICT infrastructure and connectivity, procurement revisions, etc. The ICT infrastructure and connectivity work is delivered solely by Service Design and Development and therefore is not included  in the above listing. The projects listed above all fall into the category of technology enabling making change happen.”

It sound absolutely wonderful, but I haven’t a clue what it means.  It’s from an older document covering finance and budget.

Is it  possible that a lack of straight-talking is confusing issues?  No, I thought not.  I guess I’m just not ‘falling into the category of technology enabling making change happen’ as naturally as everyone else must be doing.

Final thought:  Children in Need:
Spare a thought to those who don’t have the things they need this season.  Take the case of Stewart M.

Stewart, aged fifty-something years, will not have a happy holiday season (or any kind of happy season) without some help.  A mere 7.8 million pounds will give him the toy football stadium he wants.  Next year he may also buy some toy players to go in the toy stadium if it’s not all been thrown out of the pram.  Please give generously.

Another Final thought:  Electoral Roll:
Live in Aberdeen?  Want to vote on the future of Union Terrace Gardens?  Make sure you are registered to vote before 10 January.  IF you are not on the electoral role, follow this link and register:  http://www.grampian-vjb.gov.uk/clients/GVJB/flexviews/core/assets/pdf/er/voterregistrationform.pdf

 

em

Nov 042011
 

 With thanks to Tripping Up Trump.

Anthony Baxter and Richard Phinney continue their triumphant world-wide tour of multi award-winning documentary, ‘you’ve been trumped’.
Well received and recognised with awards from around the world, there are those who are not very happy.

The Trump Organisation has responded ferociously to the news that You’ve Been Trumped has won yet another award, this time in Donald Trump’s backyard at the star-studded Hamptons International Film Festival.

“Anthony Baxter’s film is a complete fraud,”

George Sorial, Director of International Development at the Trump Organisation, said in a statement to MSNBC.

“The film only presents the myopic views of a very small fringe element that are not respected and are widely regarded as a national embarrassment for Scotland.”

A full version of Anthony Baxter’s interview, and the Trump Organisation’s response, can be viewed here on the MSNBC website.  An interview on NY1 New York can also be viewed here.

Tonight in New York, Baxter will be presented with the Victor Rabinowitz and Joanne Grant Award for Social Justice Award by the Hamptons International Film Festival Programming Manager Cameron Yates. The award, named after one of America’s most famous civil rights
lawyers, is given to “a film that most exhibits the values of peace, equality and global justice.”

Baxter will appear on a special panel about Documentary Filmmakers Taking on Power at the Paley Centre in New York on Thursday night.  Full details can be viewed here.

You’ve Been Trumped has been praised by Michael Moore, who handpicked the film for his festival in Michigan (where it won the Special Jury
Award).  And in the UK, You’ve Been Trumped won the top environmental award for documentary films, for exposing, in the words of the international jury:

“one of the most shocking environmental crimes in UK history.”  

Turned down by the government-backed Edinburgh International Film Festival, the documentary later won Best Picture honours at the EdinDocs Festival.

You’ve Been Trumped has just completed another successful week long run at the Aberdeen Belmont Picturehouse and will resume for a further week’s run at Dundee Contemporary Arts (DCA) from Friday 21 October 2011.  The film will also be playing in cinemas in England as well as festivals in Bermuda, Taiwan and Australia over the coming weeks.

A full list of forthcoming screenings can be seen here.

Oct 212011
 

Voice’s Suzanne Kelly was present to witness Wayne Hemingway give a talk to a full house at Robert Gordon’s Business School on the evening of 5th October. The audience was a wide mix of students, lecturers, design practitioners, businesspeople and others (Hemingway kept asking the audience questions to determine who was there, and he tailored his presentation accordingly).

Mr Hemingway gave an illuminating, bespoke talk.  My only criticisms were that the lighting engineer had no clue what type of lighting was appropriate for a slide/video presentation talk where people wanted to take notes (the lights went on and off, up and down for most of the second half), and that those who plan to forever change Union Terrace Gardens weren’t in evidence.
They might have learnt something.

If you think the Hemingway family (Wayne and Gerardine) are associated solely with fashion and the iconic ‘Red or Dead’ brand, you are missing some very important developments – housing developments to be precise.

Wayne saw a very clear need (which alas many planners and construction firms miss) to create places where people would actually want to live, socialise, landscape, play and be proud of. But more on that later.

Hemingway began the talk with his own life and design history.

In his early family years in Blackburn, his family was not wealthy; they valued creativity and imagination. He was on the music and clubbing scene from age 13 or so, and was enthralled by all he saw and heard in these early heady days of punk. He met his future wife and business partner Gerardine in a club, and was impressed with her clear passion and talent for clothes and customising vintage wear.

They got engaged, headed to London, and did typical day jobs (she as a secretary; he in a pub). One month things looked tight for paying the rent, so they decided on the entrepreneurial path and took a stall in Camden Market to sell their own second-hand, vintage clothing. This first outing proved so successful (and I assume enjoyable) that they put their efforts towards buying second hand clothing to sell. They delved into the world of  ‘the rag trade’ literally – buying goods otherwise destined for recycling from the ‘shoddy’ yards.

Few were touching vintage or second hand at the time, and the popularity of their stall grew and grew.

They soon learnt marketing tips such as the importance of where the stall was located in Camden. The now iconic Doc Marten boot was adored by the punk world, but elsewhere just seen as workers’ footwear. A clever deal with Doc Marten saw the duo buying old, damaged DMs in quantity (where the soles were worn through), repairing them (with a family member’s repair solution and friends to help), and selling them on for a considerable profit. The business grew and grew.

Gerardine created a small line of clothing – there were only eight pieces in the whole line – and headed to the very cool Kensington Market to join other designers and artists selling work.  Of all things Macy’s of New York found her there, and placed an order for 200 of each item. With some help from  several friends and relatives who could sew  they were able to fill the order. Out of this growth and interest, ‘Red or Dead’ came to life.

 Wayne had bought a large number of non-working sample watches; these were used to decorate shoes.

An older man in the trade asked Wayne ‘What does Red or Dead stand for?’ In the ensuing conversation this man explained how different brands were clearly aligned to aspirations and values: Weetabix, Nike, etc. – all major brands had a ‘raison d’etre’. Wayne and Gerardine made a list of things they stood for themselves – they were politically active, they came from areas without expensive, fashionable designer wear, they valued creativity and bought affordable items themselves.

It was clear they wanted Red or Dead to be affordable designer clothes. In deciding this they reached out to a sector of the public which had long been ignored. (They also realised that Macy’s did not fit with this direction).

The Red or Dead lines were to be sold through Top Shop (1983) and Miss Selfridge. Topshop at that point used to have no designers – only buyers and “copiers”.  These days it uses established and graduate designers, and the flagship London store also has a vintage section, perhaps a nod to ‘Red or Dead’.

At this time the pair had started paying attention to London Fashion Week, which was still at the time primarily an affair for the affluent. But the ‘powers that be’ at London Fashion Week had noted Red or Dead’s ascent with disdain.

The Hemingway’s dealings with Topshop and Miss Selfridge actually prevented them  from showing at London Fashion week for there years. The Hemingways had ‘demeaned’ fashion, and fashion ‘is about Harrods and Harvey Nicols.’  Or at least this was true to a Fashion Week mandarin.

This rebuff did not hurt Red or Dead sales in the least.

One year when the French were conducting nuclear tests and protestors were demonstrating against the tests around the world, London Fashion Week saw some drama courtesy of Red or Dead. “Non a Nuclear” banners provided the backdrop to the Read or Dead collection and French buyers were banned from the RoD show (which accounted for about a quarter of the buying audience normally – this exclusion was a considerable financial gamble).

Wayne explained he and Gerardine were willing to lose this custom in favour of making a political statement and appealing to and showing solidarity with the environmentalists – a growing movement in terms of visibility and economic power. What was going to be the public, media and market reaction to this show? The Hemingways went home.

Watching the national news some hours later, an item opened with a protest outside the French Embassy at Trafalgar Square.

Then the news item cut directly to the Red or Dead Fashion show.

All the media had picked up the story – and the phone started ringing. Wayne and Gerardine were being summoned that same night to talk to the press – the story of their show had veritably gone global.

Sales increased some 400% around the Red or Dead shops (which by now were in many countries). Corporate takeover advances soon came, and the Hemingways decided to sell. It was time for another adventure.

Wayne had interspersed this biographical talk with some sage business advice – the willingness to take risks, the way in which he delved deeply into the workings of the fashion industry from the lowly shoddy yards to the high end and London Fashion Week; all of which contributed learning experiences leading to success. (And by the way, apparently he is a very early riser, proving there must be some truth in the old ‘early to bed, early to rise…’ adage).

Wayne tells the audience:

“You learn absolutely every day; you need an ability to graft; there is never a day I get up after 5am.

“Creative minds don’t switch off… it’s how you get those ideas realised – graft and recognising which ideas can work… you need friends and good minds behind you.”

He also said without any false, unnecessary modesty how good he and Gerardine were at putting excellent teams together.

Turning from fashion to architecture and housing was the new direction. Boris Johnson had asked Wayne to be a ‘London Leader’, which involved working with the Mayor on a voluntary basis on projects and ideas to make London better.   At this point the talk turns from fashion history to the future of our cities.

“We’ve allowed our High Streets to become ‘clone’ High Streets.”  Hemingway says, and no one can argue with that.

He discusses his contribution to Boris Johnson’s project, which was ‘KiosKiosk’ – moveable, affordable (need I say it – well-designed) designer boutiques on wheels, seen at various London icons such as the Wheel.  These offer young designers a chance to meet the world head on – and since a stall at Camden Market is now extremely expensive, this offers others the kind of break the Hemingways had at the start.

Hemingway also applauds the model of ‘pop-up’ shops and restaurants, which have taken London by storm, and which have reached Aberdeen (for instance Emma Noble’s and Toni Roddie’s S.T.A.G Studio events at Korova – 19 November).

Hemingway references an article he wrote, “Why I Hate The Creeping Suburbs” in which he describes the Wimpeyfication and ‘Barratification’ of Britain.

The issues surrounding ‘urban sprawl’ are now recognised by the United Nations (as well as by most serious, thoughtful local planners); our ecology and biodiversity are not all that is at stake – our very health is jeopardised by the cities and suburbs over spilling into the countryside (increasing asthma and heart problems come with increased pollution; obesity from lack of exercise as we all commute to and from the cities to work, alcoholism increases, and so do social problems).

As a designer who has identified a problem does, Wayne decided to ‘look inside’ the issue, ‘see what he already knew’ about housing, and propose solutions.

He showed poignant photos at this point – a fairly new housing development which clearly looked more like a prison or factory; a beautiful Victorian pub turned into a block of (very unattractive, compact) flats, and a Liverpool street which once offered small, good first homes, now earmarked for high-rise flats.

He cautioned that mortgage companies (which could have provided mortgages for people to fix and modernise the existing homes on that Liverpool street) are dictating the state of our housing by what they will lend money for.  They seem to favour mortgages for new properties and turn down those who want to refurbish and improve properties.

The old Victorian homes may leak carbon, but they have been around for one hundred years, and thus have less of a carbon footprint than the alternative of tearing them down to make flats.

Wayne has designed housing estates which have very few, if any, equals in the UK.

There are leisure spaces for families (sand, trees, tables, different levels, etc. – some of the best design work he ever did, he tells us), and community gardens.  No one vandalises these (or the outdoor communal Ping-Pong table) because everyone’s families had a hand in creating and designing them in the first place.  The design for these estates started with people first and what they wanted and liked – the actual housing came second to the people.

Wayne ends with some great footage of his and Gerardine’s ‘Museum of Lost Content’ (a home for vintage design which might otherwise be forgotten) and the Vintage event – a massive ‘happening’ (for lack of a better word) held last year at London’s Southbank.

This festival combines decades of design and fashion, iconic music, bands, events and everything that celebrates Britain you can imagine in one place.   It was attended by thousands.  As words fail me, I suggest you visit http://www.vintagebyhemingway.co.uk/ and let the design do the talking.

Wayne also discussed photos he has of an Aberdeen estate; there are signs prohibiting virtually every kind of activity a child (or adult) might want to indulge in, including the dreaded ‘ball-playing.’

Question time arrives, and I am dying to ask for a comment on the future of our Union Terrace Gardens then and there.  However I decide that once the designs are unveiled, I will contact Hemingway.  I have no doubt he will have something useful to say after tonight’s talk.  It was a valuable and thought-provoking evening, and I was glad for this glimpse into ‘Wayne’s World.’