National Galleries of Scotland Exhibition at Abbotsford to be Part of New Borders Creative Festival

20th Sep 2016

A new pop-up exhibition of artworks made by young people from across the Scottish Borders will be a highlight of the first ever Creative Coathanger - The Everything Creative Festival (which opens next weekend, showcasing everything from the arts to the area's internationally renowned creative industries).

The King of the Clarty Hole: Sir Walter Scott Meets the Youth will be on show at Abbotsford, the world-famous home of the novelist Sir Walter Scott, which is now an award-winning visitor attraction, close to Galashiels.

The house, which contains Scott's extraordinary collection of historical artefacts and curiosities, provided inspiration for a group of local young people, who worked with staff from the National Galleries of Scotland's (NGS) community outreach team to explore the literary and historical heritage of their area.

The result is a spectacular, site-specific installation, which will be on show in the grounds of Abbotsford on 1 and 2 October- the same weekend that Creative Coathanger will transform the town centre of Galashiels into an unrecognisable creative hub, with empty shops and outdoor spaces turned into exhibitions by artist, designer and makers, pop-up studios art installations, makers demonstrations and markets.

At Abbotsford, five giant silhouette figures, based on a set of characters created by the group, will rise from the Haugh. The figures, which feature hand-drawn faces and hands, form a dramatic tableau, reminiscent of a toy theatre blown up to a large scale. They can be viewed from the battlements of the house itself or discovered on walks through the grounds.

The characters belong to an invented narrative not unlike those created by Sir Walter Scott's vivid historical imagination. Their story draws upon the young people's exploration of Abbotsford and other sites associated with the writer, paintings in the Scottish National Gallery which illustrate aspects of Scott's novels, and elements of contemporary Borders life, viewed from a young person's perspective.

The same narrative is also woven into a fascinating film made by the young people, in which a fictional writer, a contemporary and friend of Scott called Bertimus Jerfordson, develops the story in which the silhouette characters appear, a tale concerning the site of Abbotsford – originally known to locals as ‘Clarty Hole’ – and its erstwhile mythic king. The film will be specially screened in the education centre at Abbotsford and in the shop window of the Tomorrow’s People charity shop in the centre of Galashiels.

The young artists behind the exhibition were part of a course led by Mark Timmins, Manager of Galashiels Works (Tomorrow’s People), an employment charity that works with young people facing multiple barriers to employment, who joined with the National Galleries’ outreach team to develop their creative skills.

Robin Baillie, Senior Outreach Officer at the NGS, commented on the importance of the project, ‘This has been a very exciting project to work on, and our aim has been to develop in the young people taking part an awareness of the local heritage of the Borders, as well as the Scottish national art collection. The project has encouraged them to investigate how Scott re-imagined local folk tales and oral histories to inspire new stories that presented key episodes in Scottish history. From this starting point the participants have created exciting new characters of their own and a powerful narrative, interweaving the past and the present. The exhibition is part of a three-year project, linked to the current major redevelopment of the spaces in which we show Scottish art at the SNG, and heralds the start of a new relationship where our audience can help us rethink and revitalise our historic works of art.’

Mark Timmins, Galashiels Works (Tomorrow’s People) Project Manager, believes the project has had a great impact on those who took part, ‘We have been working with the National Galleries of Scotland developing a film and sculptural installation, exploring the young people's perception of Sir Walter Scott and his legacy in contemporary society. The project has developed skills and confidence in the young people that could not have been developed in any other way and I would recommend a visit to Abbotsford to see the installation and view the film in the Tomorrow's People shop in Channel Street, Galashiels as part of the Creative Coathanger Festival, beginning in late September.’

Giles Ingram, CEO of The Abbotsford Trust, is delighted that Abbotsford has such a fantastic opportunity to host this intriguing art installation and believes that it will succeed in showcasing Sir Walter Scott’s home and wider legacy in an engaging and impactful way to young and enquiring minds. He says, “Working in partnership with the National Galleries of Scotland and the Tomorrow's People Project has been exciting and illuminating. We have watched as the young artists explored and delighted in Scott’s ‘conundrum castle’, engaging interest in a way that Scott would have definitely approved, using quirky and dramatic representations of the heritage and story of Sir Walter and his effect on a nation.

We are sure that the coming Art Installation will add value to Abbotsford for the younger enthusiasts and will serve to encourage more visitors in the future. The links with Abbotsford from the project, both culturally and creatively, will help us to strengthen our relationship with the community and further enhance our growing Edinburgh audience in quite a dramatic fashion! We are all really looking forward to the event on the 1st and 2nd of October.”

This project is supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund, as part of Celebrating Scotland’s Art – The Scottish National Gallery Project.

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