Thanks to Ray Perman for this guest blog on a bold new proposal for our part of town. And thanks to Aunty P for the picture (taken a little further afield).
I like the work of Antony Gormley. I like particularly that his rusting, steel statues – modelled on his own body, although you would not immediately guess that to look at them – often provoke critical derision when they are first installed, but soon elicit popular support. The critics come round – mainly because their bread and butter depends on it.
So I am excited that Gormley has been asked to create six figures to be partially submerged in the Water of Leith, between the Gallery of Modern Art and the docks. He is such a bankable name that the Great and Good – the National Galleries of Scotland and its well-heeled patrons, the Art Fund, the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation, Claire Enders (whoever she might be) and The Henry Moore Foundation – had no hesitation in putting up the money.
The statutes will attract locals and tourists alike to this underused and often sadly vandalised stretch of waterway, and that can only be good.
But would these great names be as quick to put their money behind local, unknown artists? I doubt it, financial risk takers are notoriously conservative in exposing their taste and prefer to play safe and go with artists who have already made their names. Not all of the corporate elite thinks the same way.
Deutsche Bank came into Scotland only briefly, buying a company outside their usual run of business and selling a few years later when management fashion turned the other way. In the meantime they introduced us to the art buying policy of the Deutsche Collection: only local artists, and only works on paper – almost by definition the cheapest. So while in Scotland they bought mainly from local unknowns – and they have done that wherever they go.
It is an enlightened policy – but, sadly, almost unique. It supports local creativity, produces a fascinatingly diverse corporate collection and occasionally throws up an astonishing bargain. Long may it continue. What a pity few others have the courage, or taste, to follow suite.
PS talking of enlightenment – lets celebrate the Creative Commons philosophy which shares art and talent. And thanks again to Aunty P for contributing pictures for common use.
May 28th, 2010
The success of our business depends on listening to people and responding to what they tell us. [Tesco Corporate Social Responsibility]
Here’s a shocking revelation in our local community newsletter. Shocking but probably not surprising. Tesco will not be paying a penny towards the construction of Edinburgh’s tram route although it is perfectly – and surely deliberately – placed to gain custom from three tram stops on Leith Walk. But that’s not the shocking bit.
According to the latest issue of the Spurtle, Tesco – unlike other developments on the tram route – is exempt from making contributions to construction costs. Planning regulations require only new developments to make a payment and technically the new Tesco Express coming soon to Picardy Place at the top of Leith Walk is not a new development, merely an internal refurbishment of an existing store.
No, that’s not the shocking bit. Nor is the fact that a planning department source told Spurtle there was absolutely no way round the technicality. The truly gobsmacking bit is what the planning official said next:
It would be unreasonable even to request some payment
on a voluntary basis.
Why? What is remotely unreasonable about asking for a donation towards the cost of a transport system which (assuming the line actually runs that far) will deliver customers right to the store doorway. Now Tesco has bought the old Scotmid in Duke Street that means Scotland’s largest private sector employer has three stores carefully positioned by tram stops along Leith Walk (one at the foot, one at the top and one half way up opposite McDonald Road). (See Spurtle and city planning rules for more)
In the week that the earth moved in Westminster it is always sobering to remember who really holds the power. Tescotowns could well be the future for many parts of the UK as the Guardian reported recently – whole communities of shops, homes, schools and public places owned by a company with the vision, confidence, clout and cash that local authorities are sadly lacking.
And there are no planning regulations to stop them – and no political will to change the planning regulations to protect the interests of small, independent retailers.
But maybe there is another way. (Of course I think we should limit the number of Tesco stores in town but neighbourhoods should at least get some cashback benefit for every new store in their area.) Let’s take Tesco’s word that they care about communities and the environment. Their very nicely produced Corporate Social Responsibility report lists at length the investments they make in good causes as well as what they are doing to reduce their carbon footprint. Green transport is one of their priorities and they are changing to rail wherever they can – especially in Scotland.
So maybe they would be only too happy to invest in a tram system which could eventually connect communities across the city centre (as well as bringing customers to their store) – and reduce Edinburgh’s carbon footprint and congestion at the same time. Tesco says their success depends on listening. But first we have to ask. If only the council wasn’t so shy.
May 13th, 2010