A McIntosh for a Cultural Shower

Gordon McIntosh Corporate Director

Would you look to this man for advice on decorating your home?

I’m sorry Mr McIntosh but I cannot take seriously any advice on aesthetics or cultural heritage from a man who gets his Ma to cut his hair wi a bowl every Friday week. Does this man attend council meetings in grey shorts wi a slingy tucked into his back pocket? Does he play boolies wi his pals in the office at playtime? Whose job is it on the council to blaw the McIntosh loons nose?

Grow up man and get a bit o style. Ken fit I mean? Just goes to prove money, and Mr McIntosh has plenty coming in from his job as Corporate Director at Aberdeen (Just ca’ us skint) City Council, doesn’t come with guarantees of good taste or quality. Did no-one notice a man with degrees in geography and accountancy , and thon haircut, is NEVER going to have a visual sense that should be listened to when it comes to deciding about Wood’s proposed concrete jungle covering Union Terrace Gardens? The mannie McIntosh was aye goin to favour the mannie Woods appalling proposal. Let’s face it neither has style nor taste but the scary fact is they both have influence.

Money and power and to hell with what is good for the city. It’s not what you know it’s who you know. The dirty campaign to replace Union Terrace Gardens with a bleak concrete-scape is testament to this.
McIntosh just doesn’t get heritage.

When he looked at the B-listed art deco Bon-Accord Baths, full-time bureaucrat McIntosh could only see its economic potential not its benefit to the people of the city especially the poorer ones who tended to use the baths and the gyms: the kind who couldn’t afford to join private health clubs. He advised closing them down. “Marketing the site gives us the opportunity to identify an economically viable future for the building which will bring it back into use. We are looking for positive and innovative ideas on how that should be done. We want to stimulate interest in the building and are inviting ideas on how to preserve its best features. We are open to ideas and are flexible in how we speak to people about them. This is a chance for people to come up with their own ideas on how the building could be used when the council has disposed of it.”

At the beginning of April, Aberdeen Council launched its latest cultural strategy. And it’s ‘vibrant’. Vibrant, you see is one of those positive terms that bureaucrats love to use to persuade people what they are doing is interesting and worth throwing cash at. Often its nothing of the kind: just reworking the same old stuff. But hey ho another conference to breath new life – nay – vibrancy back into Aberdeen called ‘Arts and Urban Re-invention’. Won’t bore you with details other than to say it promised the usual menu dressed up with a fair sprinkling of standard committee speak – ‘establishing cultural cohesion’ , ‘ increase community engagement’ – I think that means murals for poor people in poor areas, ‘cultural profile,’ ‘monitor and evaluate’ – yep, that’s right monitor and evaluate – what people who get public money have to promise to do to justify the cash – amazing how easy it is to do this.

The conference leaned heavily on something similar from Sweden, apparently, called Intercult. Intercult? Yes, well I think we get the picture. Does sound good, doesn’t it and full of culture so where does McIntosh come in? The cultural thingy goes international and this means that Aberdeen culture people must reflect on ‘cultural questions facing the city and its heritage.’ One such reflector is none other than our mannie McIntosh. So what did he have to say about Aberdeen’s latest innovation culturally and heritagally ? Uhm, nothing.

Knows his way around a spreadsheet does our Mr McIntosh but culture and heritage and dare I say it good taste – sorry Gordon but no, not with that hair cut . Start with it then we’ll see if we can take you seriously until then go back to keeping mice in match boxes and playing with your Meccano set but don’t spell the death knell for the only unique feature left in Aberdeen city centre in favour of more chewing gum stained concrete and trees in tubs but we know you will.


5 Comments to “A McIntosh for a Cultural Shower”

  1. “we”… I work for “creative Cultures Scotland” and I represent a lot of creative people – I run networking nights for “us” and try to provide help wherever I can (funding opportunities, news, promotion) etc.

    I can see from you thumbs up fan, my points will never be read with a positive approach, as any “argument” on-line, it’s a waste of time.

    I wonder if the V&A in Dundee was possible because Dundee had a “cultural vision”… no, I imagine they just threw a dart at a map… sheesh.

  2. Most obliged aberdeencynic – a nice line in put-down that is fully deserved. All bluster to very little effect in the big A.

  3. lenathehyena I love your blog.

    I’d rather have the VA that Dundee are getting, but this is Aberdeen, so we’ll have a leaflet instead.

  4. Thanks for taking time to comment on my blog. You are probably correct when suggesting I am too hard on the latest culture initiative. I did go off on a bit of a tangent with the Vibrant Aberdeen thing. I wish it the best of luck as I did with all the others which have preceded it. It is, I believe another tinkering around the edges of real cultural ventures and will not transform the city. If it does then great.
    I am sceptical that’s all – not cynical as you say.
    I wouldn’t rush to the conclusion, however, that I don’t know what I’m talking about – or some of the people involved and I don’t doubt the sincerity of many of them doing what they can within a system that forces the arts to struggle against the odds for funding. Wish it were different and that cultural programmes were really viewed as worthwhile of funding and sustaining over the long-term but just because something is given a ‘cultural’ tag does not make it worthy, in any sense. Which brings me to your jibe about monitoring. Bring it on, as a wee woman called Wendy might say. My point being that any with a stretch of imagination can justify their own initiative. Keep it general and broad and you’re home and dry. Actually I approve of monitoring and disapprove of the amounts of public money that goes towards half-baked ideas tarted up with bureaucrat-speak – the lingo cultura. You’re familiar with what I mean – we’re all in this together – great – then you spoil it all by writing ‘we’ (the creative people) – oh, please, please!! How la la elitist.
    Laughed long and hard at your next jibe about reluctant tax payers too jaundiced in the eye to want to support the arts – as generated by ‘you’ “(the creative people)”. Actually, my friend, I have paid my taxes , lots and lots of them, most willingly – indeed I argue that taxation is essential and necessary so you’ve headed into another blind alley with that one. Oh that we could spend all the taxes raised to support Trident on colourful murals – wouldn’t life be so much richer if that could happen?
    I wish great things for VA as it appears to be termed. Will put a note in my diary to monitor this one myself in say five years? Just to see how different Aberdeen is then as a result. My hunch is that there will be another wonderful initiative coming along just about then and I’ll wish that one luck as well. Uhm, where have you been all these years? Doesn’t mean to say people stop trying but let’s be honest about it – most of your “‘we’ (the creative people)’” have been around several blocks with similar schemes.
    Sorry, cannot comment on your leaflet as I haven’t seen it but I’m sure it is terribly good.

  5. It’s a shame you have such negative views of the Vibrant Aberdeen launch. It’s a shame that you are too cynical to realise that the document was put together with the contributions of over 300 creative people and organisations, filtered and prepared by the very passionate Gary Cameron & Lesley Thomson – whom want the best for the cultural providers (and therefore their audiences)… A shame that you are sceptical and dismissive to think that all of their hard work, and the creative community in the North East just want to put “murals for poor people in poor areas”. You are right to be critical, but it’s apparent that you’ve not done much homework – or know the people involved, their intentions and desires for the North East of Scotland.

    I do just hope that you are not letting some shitty council party politics cloud your vision of what the cultural sector need – a cohesive plan or framework, so we can collectively work towards some common goals, to strengthen our voice and “output” so people start to see that there are practitioners and organisations “up here” that are professional, informative and above all contribute to our lives “up here”.

    the monitoring and evaluation you seem to have a problem with is primarily there to ensure that “we” (the creative people) can actually show that we are “contributing” – not financially, but something more meaningful – and that’s still to be defined! how do you “evaluate a quality experience” ? – it’s also there to ensure that your hard earned tax money is’nt given to any old willy nilly artist – I thought people would be happy about that – but no, I think people want to pay no taxes, and keep all the money themselves… a sad time / place we live in if this is indeed the case.

    my advice? go meet some people involved in VA before going and slagging it off – we need people to embrace and advocate a cultural “plan” in the North East, not shit on it before it’s even had a chance to help (not like Aberdonians, eh).

    PS, I did the Graphics for the document, I hope they aren’t “too vibrant” for you.

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