What art have I seen? In the eddy of the stream

Posted in Exhibitions by chrisfremantle on September 8, 2022

Cooking Sections and Sakiya’s exhibition at Inverleith House in the Royal Botanic Gardens Edinburgh is as good an example of putting the wellbeing of the web if life first – the challenge Helen Mayer Harrison (1927-2018) and Newton Harrison (1932-2022) set themeselves in the early 70s and which is now clearly the challenge for all of us.

Cooking Sections “is a practice that examines the systems that organise the world through food, and how food can be used to explore, trace and advance climate justice.” Sakiya “is an academy, a residency programme, a research hub, and a farm located in Ein Qiniya, a small agricultural village seven kilometres west of Ramallah, in Israeli-occupied Palestinian territory… By grafting local traditions of self-sufficiency onto contemporary art and ecological practices, Sakiya seeks to create new narratives around relationships to land, knowledge-production, and commoning.” (Sakiya are also working with Arts Catalyst and have a residency opportunity at the moment.)

Cooking Sections have been working in Scotland and in particular on the Isle of Skye for some years now – Emma Nicolson first worked with them on the Climavore project when she was the Director of Atlas, and she has curated this in her role of Head of Creative Programmes for the Royal Botanic Gardens Edinburgh. This enduring connection is significant.

The exhibition “…draws attention to the breakdown of ecosystems through the removal of plants and the ensuing long-term harm to people, communities, and other species.”

There is an important set of proposals around commoning which directly relate to Newton Harrison’s On the Deep Wealth of this Nation, Scotland. Where that work proposes understanding the soil, water, air and forests of Scotland as commons that we are dependent upon and asks for a ‘commons of mind’ to commit to putting back more than we take out, the proposals around commons in this exhibition include that the whole intertidal zone of Scotland should be established as a commons and that a Scottish Office for Commoning should be established. This proposal needs published as a full page pull out in the Highland Free Press or another widely distributed publication.

Commoning proposals, In the eddy of a stream exhibition Royal Botanic Gardens Edinburgh 2022

This forms one part of a series of installations focusing on salmon and forests, mussels and muscles, oysters and terrazzo. Each reveals an aspect of an ecology and a different way of imagining exchange and reuse rather than extraction. Some like the work on seaweeds and shellfish is being developed to a functional scale to offer alternatives to industrial fish farming which is destroying coastal waters in the Highlands.

Deborah Bird Rose talks about the two violences of colonialism – the violence to people and the violence to the environment. Sakiya’s installation focuses on the violence to the environment done by British colonial rule of Palestine even before the imposition of the state of Israel. The British colonial administration ruled that a large number of culturally significant plants were weeds to be exterminated. The main display is of botanical specimens of 33 plants, their cultural significance and their ecological role. Another remarkable creation in the exhibition is a carved wood frieze of these plants, reminiscent of a plaster cornice. Throughout Inverleith House we can hear singing. The installation in the final room echoes through the whole space, lamenting ecological and cultural loss.

In the eddy of the stream judiciously uses whimsical and suprising installations as well as scientific data (highlighting what we know as well as what we don’t know) and beautifully crafted elements – these works hold the challenging evidence of human ignorance of and violence to ecosystems in a way that draws us into careful attention through an experience that is rich and rewarding.

Mussels and Muscles

ayr converses Cultural Hustings

Posted in Civics, News by chrisfremantle on April 25, 2012

ayr converses flyer April 2012

ayr converses flyer April 2012

ayr converses hustings focused on arts & cultural regeneration in Ayr in the 2012 local council elections.

A full note of involvement is available here, and video of the event can be seen here

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Arts & Cultural Regeneration Hustings, 25th April 2012

Posted in Civics, News by chrisfremantle on April 17, 2012

ayr converses hosts an arts & cultural regeneration in Ayr focused hustings for the three Ayr ward candidates in the 2012 local council elections.  Download flyer: ayr converses a5_final please distribute.

ayr converses is hosting an arts & cultural regeneration in Ayr focused hustings on Wednesday 25 April 2012 at the Foresters’ Hall, New Road, Ayr KA8 8EX. The hustings is from 8pm – 9.30pm. All those who wish to see South Ayrshire Council place greater focus on the arts and culture in the regeneration of our town are welcome to attend.

The aim is to hear from candidates – party political & independent – on how the arts & culture – including the creative industries – can act as drivers for the regeneration of Ayr and what will be their policies and practice for the arts & culture over the next five years. Each candidate who wishes to speak will be given a set time in which to speak. Members of the arts & cultural community including Chris Taylor of Hipshot Theatre, Laurin Campbell, the new YDance freelancer in South Ayrshire & Chris Fremantle of Ayr Gaiety Partnership & Public Art Scotland will be given the same set time in which to share their vision for the future of our town. The hustings will be chaired by Karen Murray of Newton & Heathfield Community Association.

ayr converses has invited all candidates who are standing in the three Ayr wards – Ayr North, Ayr West, Ayr East – and has copied the invitation to all candidates standing in the other five South Ayrshire Council wards. Parties have been asked to put forward a spokesperson to speak on arts, culture & economic regeneration. The same opportunity has been extended to independents. A good number of candidates have confirmed that they will attend and participate with all parties represented. Independent candidates have also confirmed that they will participate.

There will be refreshments by su casa after the hustings to give those participating time to meet & converse in a sociable setting. Those attending will be asked to make a small contribution to a collection towards the cost of hall hire & refreshments.


“A hustings event is a meeting where election candidates or parties debate policies and answer questions from the audience … voters can ask candidates about issues that are important to them.” Electoral Commission

ayr converses aims to facilitate communication between individuals and groups in the town of ayr with the aim of acting as an ideas bank + soundboard, strengthening community ties and furthering cultural and economic regeneration. The website, which will be launched end April 2012, is open source – with input it will become a repository of ideas, suggestions & positive proposals that will point the way forward for Ayr and inspire all those who love to live, work, study and play in the town + visitors to Ayr.

for further information, please email

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Scottish Artists Union Hustings

Posted in Civics, News by chrisfremantle on April 20, 2011
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Nature and purpose of art

Posted in Civics, Texts by chrisfremantle on June 11, 2007

“You see in this country for instance (Britain) writers are not involved in the sort of things I’m doing, because it’s a much more settled society, writers write to entertain, they raise questions of individual existence, the angst of the individual. But for a Nigerian writer in my position you can’t go into that. Literature has to be combative, you cannot have art for art’s sake. The art must do something to transform the lives of a community, of a nation, and for that reason you see literature has a different purpose altogether in that sort of society – completely different from here….

And a writer doesn’t earn money in Nigeria, because although you have a 100 million people, most of them cannot read and write there, so literature has a different purpose. So here I am, I’ve written 22 books, I’ve produced 150 episodes of a T.V. programme which everybody enjoys, but I’m poor!

But that is of no interest to me. What is of interest to me is that my art should be able to alter the lives of a large number of people, of a whole community, of an entire country, so that my literature has to be completely different, the stories I tell must have a different sort of purpose from the artist in the western world. And it’s not now an ego trip, it is serious, it is politics, it is economics, it’s everything, and art in that instance becomes so meaningful, both to the artist and to the consumers of that art.”
Ken Saro-Wiwa from ‘Without Walls’ Interview

Culture and the New Scottish Parliament

Posted in Civics, CV, News, Producing by chrisfremantle on October 2, 2000

This event was focused on the Scottish Government’s draft National Cultural Strategy.


Public meeting at Lumsden Village Hall to take place on 2 October 2000

This is an open invitation for you to join us for an unique opportunity to hear Rhona Brankin MSP, Deputy Minister for Culture and Sport, speak about the new National Cultural Strategy. The meeting is being held at Lumsden Village Hall at 7pm on Monday 2 October 2000. The meeting is open to everyone interested in culture in the North East of Scotland and there will be an opportunity to ask questions and raise issues with the Deputy Minister.

The National Cultural Strategy recognises that our culture is not only the arts, but is also the buildings and landscape of Scotland, the language and traditions, and that culture permeates every aspect of our lives. A strong and vibrant culture can have enormous social and economic benefits. The Scottish Sculpture Workshop initiated the programme of discussions on ‘Culture and the new Scottish Parliament’ because one of the strengths of our culture is discussion and debate. This is an opportunity to speak directly to the key politician with the responsibility for government policy on culture.

On the publication of the National Cultural Strategy Rhona Brankin MSP said:

“The breadth and vision of this document are in themselves radical. Scotland’s culture can flourish and can be accessible to all. It can develop and exploit its international potential. We can celebrate excellence and we can celebrate diversity.”

The National Cultural Strategy is available from the Scottish Executive on 0131 244 0340 or on their web site at

The Scottish Sculpture Workshop is an artists’ residency centre specialising in sculpture and known internationally. We provide a resource for artists including residential accommodation, facilities, and technical help. We initiate projects involving artists and facilitate the commissioning of public art in the North East of Scotland.

The meeting will take place in Lumsden Village Hall which has recently been upgraded with an award from the National Lottery Halls from the Millennium Scheme.

I very much hope that you will be able to join us for what promises to be an interesting and informative evening where you can hear about the National Cultural Strategy and raise issues concerning culture with Rhona Brankin MSP, Deputy Minister for Culture and Sport.


The Scottish Sculpture Workshop initiated a programme of discussions about the potential impact on culture of the proposed new Scottish Parliament in 1998 when we held an open meeting in Lumsden Village Hall prior to the referendum on Devolution. A note was taken of the meeting and ciculated

In 1999 we followed this up with another meeting, on this occasion prior to the elections for the new Scottish Parliament. This meeting took the form of a ‘cultural hustings’. The candidates for the four parties standing in our constituency we all invited to answer questions from an audience. Again a note of the meeting was prepared and circulated, and on this occasion was also published in Artists Newsletter.

The meeting at 7 pm on 2 October 2000 will therefore be the third meeting in the programme.

We would like to thank Gavin Renwick for stimulating the idea to hold these meetings and Eric Robinson for chairing them. Lumsden Village Hall has provided an excellent venue for these meetings.

This note was originally published on the Scottish Sculpture Workshop website.

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Culture and the New Scottish Parliament: Report by Anne Douglas

Posted in Civics, On The Edge, Texts by chrisfremantle on May 23, 1999

This event took place at the point where the first candidates for the new Scottish Parliament were standing, and it was more or less a hustings.

Report for Artist Newsletter on the meeting at Lumsden Village Hall on 23 May 1999

Culture and the New Scottish Parliament.

Report by Dr Anne Douglas, Senior Research Fellow in Fine Art, Gray’s School of Art.

With the imminent election of members to the new Scottish Parliament, the second meeting in the series Culture and the New Scottish Parliament took place at Lumsden Village Hall on Friday 23 rd May. The panel consisted of three prospective candidates from Gordon district; Maureen Watts, representing the Scottish National Party, Gordon Guthrie, representing the Labour Party and Mike Rumbles for Liberal Democrats. The fourth invited member, ? of the Conservative party was unable to attend. The meeting was, like its predecessor, an initiative undertaken by Chris Fremantle on behalf of the Scottish Sculpture Workshop at Lumsden. Building on the success of the July meeting, the aim was to question candidates specifically on their parties’ plans for the provision for culture within the new Scottish Parliament. The candidates had received three prepared questions drawn up by representative members of the community within Gordon district as a means of focusing the debate. In the chair for the second time was Eric Robinson, who is currently involved in the promotion of culture within the voluntary sector. The meeting drew a significant cross section of people from Gordon District, some professionally involved in the development of the Arts through practice, education and administration as well as other participants engaged on a voluntary basis.

The ensuing discussion debated a range of issues on culture, creating a matrix of links between, for example, access to culture and education; support for national institutions (such as the Scottish National Ballet) and provision at a local level; the choice between supporting professional and/or amateur activities, between so called ‘high art’ and/or popular culture, between heritage and/or contemporary culture. Deep concern was expressed on the depletion of resources, in particular within education, with the cut of visiting specialists to primary and secondary schools, and its negative effect on future participation and awareness of the Arts. The importance of local indigenous culture was stressed, specifically in creating and nurturing a meaningful Scottish identity, as opposed to a contrived ‘Tartan culture’. The nurturing of Doric culture was linked closely with the issues of engaging participation across age and specialism, through education. as well as dedicated festivals such as the anual Doric Festival in the district of Gordon.

All three parties acknowledged the importance of decision making at a local level. Mike Rumbles (Lib Dem) cited with regret the retention of the control of broadcasting at Westminster and the opportunity that local control of the media offered, in promoting local culture. All three candidates saw the opportunity that the New Scottish Parliament created for reviewing the procedures by which funding and cultural resources are distributed. Where, at present, decisions rest with the Secretary for State for Scotland, it should now become possible to influence the political situation on an area basis. The possibility for extending a practice of positive discrimination presently ongoing in the Highlands and Islands, to other less privileged and geographically dispersed areas of Scotland was largely supported with a view to enabling, among other developments, a more appropriate fit between Lottery funding and local Arts plans.

Gordon Guthrie for Labour responded on a number of occasions with the clear view that both the production and consumption of culture was a question of debate open to Scotland’s citizens. While Labour were committing £60 million to support the Arts over three years, there was an issue as to how this should be divided up. He compared Scotland to Iceland, where the development of culture, in particular popular culture, was instrumental in developing self confidence as a nation. This situaton was helped by the lack of segregation between culture, politics and business. He proposed that the professionalisation of politics in Britain with its current centres of expertise in academic institutions and trade union offices, resulted in distancing politics and business from culture.

The discussion was drawn to a close, perhaps fittingly, by a question about the Per Cent for Art Scheme for the Visual Arts. The panel and members of the audience alike were informed of the current position by professional experts; the sculptor, John Maine and Chris Fremantle himself , both currently collaborating on a Per Cent for Art Scheme in the area at Kemnay, Aberdeenshire. Their role and recent experiences demonstrated quite poignantly the way in which meetings of this type and quality can function. At one level they create an opportunity to exchange important experience. At another, they form a mechanism for engaging a community in first raising the crucial issues impinging on current practice, and from these , in developing informed strategies in the company of political representatives.

Dr Anne Douglas, Senior Research Fellow, Centre for Research in Fine Art, Grays School of Art.

This report was originally published in Artists Newsletter and on the Scottish Sculpture Workshop website.

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Culture and the New Scottish Parliament

Posted in Civics, News, Texts by chrisfremantle on July 3, 1998

This event was held following the referendum on devolution which had taken place the previous September, but prior to the establishment of the new Scottish Parliament.  It was inspired by Gavin Renwick and Wendy Gunn’s project Whaur Extremes Meet and the evident need for a space for discussion about cuture and politics particularly in the context of significant change.

Summary of Meeting held on 3 July 1998 at Lumsden Village Hall

Culture and the New Scottish Parliament

Chairman: Eric Robinson

Attendance: Robert Smith MP, Cllr. Rhona Kemp (Chair COSLA Language and Culture Ctte.), Cllr. Jock McGregor, Cllr. Stanley Tennant, Cllr. Mitchell Burnett, Cllr. Kenneth Benzie, Jim MacDonald (Chair Gordon Forum for the Arts), Sandy Stronach (Chair Doric Festival), Alison Simpson (Banff and Buchan Arts Forum), Roxanne Permar, Suzannah Silver, Sarah MacKenzie Smith (all Grays School of Art), David MacLean (Scott Sutherland School of Architecture), Mary Anne Alburger (Elphinstone Institute, University of Aberdeen), Ian MacKenzie Smith (SSW Board and Museums & Galleries Commission), Jonathan Young (Head of Service, Planning), Ron Reid (Leisure and Recreation), Barbara MacLeod (Senior Arts Development Officer), Sheila Waterhouse (Arts Development), Fiona Bushe (Visiting Specialist), Frank Bruce, Jonathan Claxton, Chris Bailey, Frederick Bushe, Keiji Nagahiro, Gavin Renwick (all artists), Phil Sands (Mobil North Sea Ltd.), Mavis Wainman, William and Edith Petrie, Gordon Gillies, Kenneth MacLean.

The Scottish Arts Council Initial Submission on Culture and the New Scottish Parliament to the Constitutional Working Party was circulated at the meeting.

Eric Robinson opened the discussion by highlighting four issues for culture and the new Scottish Parliament – structure, policy, regional needs, and rural issues.

It was agreed that critical points should be highlighted from the meeting, rather than a verbatim report. For the purposes of this report culture is used to include art, music, drama, poetry, language, etc.


There is increasing pressure to deliver a widening range of subjects, and focus on the core curriculum. The result is that cultural and art teaching is being marginalised. This must be remedied, with culture becoming a fundamental component of the curriculum involved in every subject. If Scotland is to have a unique identity, this must be part of the educational system.

Language is critical in the support of culture and all children should have the right to be taught in their mother tongue. The strength of Gaelic culture is a result of the promotion of the language. This is a model for Doric. At present the strength of Gaelic culture has created a focus for tourism in the Highlands, brought £9 million into broadcasting as a direct support for the language, and created a strong cultural identity.

The involvement of youth in culture is vital. Sport presents a model for youth involvement. Sport is seen as an everyday part of life, not the domain of the adult, or of the school. ‘Education for leisure’ is a necessity in the light of the evolving nature of employment.

IT, which is currently prioritised, should be integrated into other disciplines. Alford Academy published the definitive CD-ROM on the Scottish Colourists – this is an excellent example of integration.

Visiting Specialists should be a statutory provision. Without culture teaching in Primary Schools children are disadvantaged in pursuing cultural subjects.

The Review of Scottish Culture report to SCCC was brought to the attention of the meeting. This report highlights many of these issues. This is clearly an area that requires further discussion.

Structures and Lines of Communication

The new Scottish Parliament should be transparent, its agencies should be transparent, and there should be ‘multiple lines of communication’ on cultural issues. The parliament should have a Select Committee on Culture. It was highlighted that the nature of the electoral process will create regional groupings of MSP’s. This should enable regional identity and culture to have a line of communication.

Regional and local arts forums, Local Authorities, and individuals should all be contributing to culture in the new Scottish Parliament. The national cultural agency should be transparent and dspersed. It was noted that SAC did not reflect on itself directly in its submission.

The tax system provides an opportunity for supporting the arts.

Scottish Culture and Culture in Scotland

There needs to be a balance created where the many Scottish cultures are promoted, and culture in Scotland is promoted. Scotland needs to develop culture in relation to Europe and look to models in other small European countries and regions. Beyond this Scotland needs to develop its culture on in an international context.

Point 2.12 in the SAC submission was commended “…the ability of the arts to be free ranging, unimpeded and dangerously creative.”

Broadcasting and International Cultural Affairs should not remain a Westminster responsibility. This is clearly an area which requires further discussion.

This note was originally published on the Scottish Sculpture Workshop website.

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