Archive for ‘Bon-Accord Baths’

March 25, 2011

Closed Aberdeen – just doesn’t care about people – unless they’re rich

In recent times it has become glaringly obvious that rich Aberdeen has long abandoned any concern for its people.  When was the last time the council promoted any popular ideas to develop and create an enjoyable  environment for those it is supposed to represent?  The arrogant, we know best, culture apparent in the Town House takes delight in going against local opinon.  On the one hand it bemoans lack of funding then goes ahead with developing Marischal College as the new Town House (which I approve of – having suggested this several years ago to the then incumbent Chief Executive who resisted on grounds of not liking the building himself, – however it is pretty unpopular with voters),

the olympic-sized swimming pool (necessary it’s said to produce successful swimmers – despite Aberdeen and area having produced more top swimmers than anywhere else in the UK over the past 40 years without a multi-million pool – very unpopular decision), prop up the AECC ( oh, yes very unpopular) and throw untold millions to make Aberdeen the concreted over capital of Scotland through the misconceived and hugely unpopular Union Terrace Gardens fiasco.

I wasn’t going to mention the killing, sorry culling, of the city’s roe deer population at Tullos Hill (hugely unpopular and stupid as the deer killed will be replaced by other deer migrating there, doh! Oh, but the money’s run out for it – hence the slaughter of animals for trees).

My day out in Aberdeen this week confirmed how Aberdeen handles the concreting over issue.  When a previous bunch of councillors – Labour I believe – destroyed St. Nicholas Street and George Street to create a series of shopping centres which cut off easy access to the area there was an attempt to produce a crossing point above the St. Nicholas Centre.

Street sculpture was introduced. I won’t go there. Not today. Just to say – we’re talking small here.

So I did the walk over the centre walk on Wednesday. There was a guy there. Me. A few bits of litter. About it really. Problem is people don’t like it. It’s a nasty place. And it has become progressively more hostile to people.  Railing are erected to stop people congregating – mainly targeting skate boarders.  Skate boarders are people too, councillors.

Well, people have got the message. The council doesn’t want you here.

Take a look at my day out in Aberdeen pics from this week. Does this look like a city which cares about its population?

November 19, 2010

Pulp Art

Pulp Art?

Jack Vettriano,

The Councillor

and the Art Gallery

You will have seen Jack Vettriano’s work – it is frequently represented on greetings cards, posters and mugs.  The self taught artist attracts a great deal of attention and a great deal of criticism from the art world so when an Aberdeen City Councillor took it upon herself to determine Aberdeen Art Gallery’s acquisition  policy by insisting it acquire a work by the Scottish artist she caused a sharp intake of breath in some circles in the city.

It has to be said that in the main Vettriano’s critics come from people with a background in fine art – the sort who know their Ingres from their El Greco.

As for Vettriano himself he points to Caravaggio and Monet as his main inspiration.

Italian painter, Caravaggio, who has a look of Kirsty Allsop about him in Ottavioi Leoni’s portrait, was a giant of late Italian renaissance art.  His pictures are heavily theatrical partly due to his liberal deployment of chiaroscuro: the use of strong light and deep shadows.             carravagio

Despite leading a disreputable life Caravaggio’s paintings were intended to inspire religious devotion in the viewer, as emotional vehicles in which familiar biblical themes and symbolism were strikingly depicted through dramatic diagonals which energised  scenes, suggested movement  and directed the eye around the action punctuated by bold  luminosity set tight against gloomy blackness.  As a figurative painter, Caravaggio’s mastery of investing his subjects with character is instantly apparent – real people, flesh and blood, warts and all with complex emotions written into their faces and actions.

 

carav

By contrast, Vettriano’s other influence, the French Impressionist Monet, is associated with what is known as the en plein-air movement meaning the artist painted swiftly outdoors, capturing the transience of natural light on the landscape.   Monet’s art appears tame by today’s standards, chocolate boxy and easily acceptable to most tastes.  However there were ructions in the art world when Monet’s lyrical picture, Impression, Sunrise was exhibited in Paris and earned the movement its name.

Many of Monet’s works have the brilliant light of Caravaggio’s but not his depth of shadow. There is none of the melodrama of Caravaggio although he employs staged settings nonetheless.   By the time Monet was painting, photography was increasing in popularity and some of its influences can be seen in his compositions however they are scenes from D’Oyle Carte rather than Wagner.

Jack Vettriano’s paintings share the studied compositions of both Caravaggio and Monet.  He shares Caravaggio’s love of theatricality but it is a stilted version and lacks the innovation of the Italian.  Vettriano’s The Singing Butler work, butlersurely his most famous, may be set on a beach but this is no real beach but the artist’s studio, they may be populated by figures but they are comic-book characters lacking depth or insight.  We can imagine what they are thinking only from the accoutrements that accompany them.

Vettriano has applied extremes of light and dark, the  murky and portentous sky is a backdrop for his translucent foreground with its sun high overhead reminiscent of Monet yet this is no neo-neo-Impressionist

or neo-Baroque work – more Greco Roman with its frieze-like foreground of activity.

There is no doubting Vettriano’s popularity but in the snooty world of fine art popularity can be a hindrance to reputation.   So was the Councillor right to push for having this Fife artist’s work in her local gallery?  Why Vettriano?  Because he is Scottish?  There are hundreds of highly talented Scottish artists who would love exposure in Aberdeen’s gem of a gallery.  Because he is particularly talented?  Well he has a talent, no doubt about that, and is very popular – is that the criterion for including his work in the Aberdeen gallery?

So what are the factors which determine a local gallery’s collection policy?  How much influence should a Councillor have in the day-to-day running of any museum or gallery?   Is this a role for a Council committee?  Is there any need for expertise or just what appeals to whoever is there at any time?   Should such decisions be trusted to the fine art professional in the gallery?  These are real questions.  Who should the casting vote lie with?  The gallery is, after all, a public body, paid for by the public and so should be sensitive to public taste but does the logic of this lead us to suppose that its collections should be determined by the citizens of a town or city? Where then does the value of professional status of the gallery curator start and finish?

The person so keen to influence what hangs on the walls of Aberdeen Art Gallery is Councillor Jennifer Stewart who has a BA Hon Social Science (Public Policy) Politics and Economics . But while Ms Stewart has no formal qualifications she is recorded as a ‘passionate supporter of the arts; her personal vision would be to increase arts, culture and museum participation in the hard to reach group and remove the myth about snobbery within the arts culture in order to show that galleries and museums are there for everyone to enjoy.’

Councillor Jennifer Stewart  is the Lib Dem  Member for Hazlehead .  On the Register of Members’  Interests her commitment to the arts is clear:

  • Treasurer of Aberdeen Liberal Democrats (Central)
  • Director of Aberdeen Exhibition & Conference Centre – membership ceased-effective October 2010
  • Director of Aberdeen Performing Arts
  • Trustee of Aberdeen International Youth Festival
  • Member of the Board of Museums & Galleries Scotland
  • Aberdeen City Heritage Trust
  • Occasional voluntary work for Cancer Research (commenced March 2010)

In  May this year C. Stewart introduced a motion to:

“Instruct Council officers to explore all potential sources of external funding, including the McDonald Trust, which would allow Aberdeen City Council to acquire an original Jack Vettriano painting to be hung in Aberdeen Art Gallery.”

And so it was referred to Education, Culture and Sport Committee.

On 18th November a meeting of Aberdeen Council  Education, Culture and Sport Committee discussed a report from the Art Gallery which included –

‘Jack Vettriano was born in Methil, Fife in 1951. He left school at sixteen tobecome a mining engineer, however after he received a set of watercolour paints for his twenty-first birthday he taught himself to paint. His earliest paintings, under the name “Jack Hoggan”, were copies or pastiches of impressionist paintings – his first painting was a copy of Monet’s Poppy Fields. Much of his early influence came from studying paintings at the Kirkcaldy Museum and Art Gallery…’

As is generally known, Vettriano’s work sells for relatively big money.

‘ …The Singing Butler was sold at Sotheby’s for close to £750,000. More recently prices have levelled. The highest seller at a Sotheby’s auction sale of Scottish Art in April 2010 was a 15 inch by 12 inch painting entitled Game On, which fetched £49,250.

…Currently he is not represented in any of Scotland’s national collections. Kirkcaldy Museum and Art Gallery owns two paintings and is the only local authority funded public collection to include his work. One painting was donated in 1997 and the other, a self portrait, was a gift of the artist in 2002. Vettriano’s known collectors range from lyricist Sir Tim Rice and businessman Sir Tom Farmer to the former motor-racing champion Sir Jackie Stewart, who commissioned a triptych of himself and his wife. 

…Purchase prices for Jack Vettriano’s work have fluctuated over the years,ranging from the record price reached at auction for The Singing Butler (£744,500 in 2004) to an auction sale at Sotheby’s in 2010 where seven out of ten paintings failed to find a buyer. The highest seller was Game On which sold for £49,250. A selection of images and their purchase prices is attached for information.

The Museums and Galleries purchase budget is £26,376 to cover works of art and artefacts from all disciplines, dating from earliest times to contemporary work. The budget for the year 2010-11 is already committed. If the acquisition  of a Jack Vettriano painting was considered in future years external match-funding would be required. Many grant-giving organisations require a percentage of local funding to match the grant given. Museums Scotland, the National Galleries of Scotland or the National Library of Scotland. Advisers will base their recommendations on evidence given in the application under the following headings:

significance of the proposed acquisition

relevance of the acquisition to the applicant’s collecting policy

whether the price quoted for the acquisition is a fair one

evidence of public benefit demonstrated by proposals for display,

learning/public programmes, study or research, or loan to other

organisations

objects of great local interest judged to be of good museum quality objects which will aesthetically enrich collections and support the expansion and development of new areas of collecting…’

I find it interesting that the report mainly sets out the cost of acquiring a Vettriano rather than a critique of him as an artist but then if this Councillor gets her way she blows the entire annual budget of Aberdeen Art Gallery & Museums for how many years?  Is Vettriano worth it?  Is this kind of intervention in the running of art galleries likely to reduce collections to the lowest common denominator?  Will galleries run the risk of being flooded with exotic green ladies

lady

or the ubiquitous cute tennis player scratching her arse (as a fellow tweeter suggested) or any of the anodyne prints designed to co-ordinate with your sittingroom décor on sale in furniture stores for far more than a good original piece of art?  It cannot be denied that this type of print is very popular with the public so why shouldn’t they be hung in public art galleries?

For images of Jack Vettriano paintings try:

http://www.jackvettriano.com

http://www.diytrade.com/china/4/products/4093383/Dancer_for_Money_Jack_Vettriano_Oil_Painting_Reproduction.html

November 15, 2010

One Aberdeen? Pure Pîche

It is said that life is stranger than fiction. Certainly is if you live in Aberdeen.

What appeared wildly exotic fantasy in John Aberdein’s marvellous satire, Strip the Willow has come to pass. Yes, really or should I say, Aye, ken fit I mean, min?

If ever there was a misbegotten name it is surely One Aberdeen so let’s improve on it – how about LeopCorp?  Hang on, it’s not a million miles from Aberdeen Pure – the joint venture water bottling plant on top of Brairiach – ‘A Peoples’ Water – Aberdeen Pure’. (STW)

I don’t think so.  One Aberdeen.  Live in hope dear council.  It has been a very long time since the people of Aberdeen were at one with their council.  Given the debacle of the consultation and ultimate decision to trample over the views of public feeling and push through the hugely unpopular Union Terrace Gardens programme largely determined by one man, albeit a rich one, Aberdeen citizens know exactly where “their” council stands – on the opposite side of the chasm from them.

Council officials fish about in their in-trays marked ‘panic’ and out drops such crisis coping gems as:  close all public parks, all art gallery and museums and as many schools as we can get away with.

Okay council officers are just playing silly buggers so that when the sensational headline proposals are junked there will be a collective sigh of relief when the axe really does fall on services once regarded as essential.

But wait, wait a bit – how then is One Aberdeen still in the reckoning?

It runs along principles along the lines of – Aberdeen City Council is incapable of handling the city’s multi-million pound assets so there will be shared responsibility for developing them by linking up with local businesses.  Once there has been a transfer of such property and land to One Aberdeen wave a magic wand say abracadabra and watch money rain down on Aberdeen and what remains from the profits after the private companies had taken their whack will be invested into ‘less affluent’ i.e. poor areas of the city.  Land values will rise, Aberdeen will attract outside investment and jobs will be created.  That is the sales line.

Among the 14 or so targets of One Aberdeen will include the area surrounding Aberdeen Exhibition and Conference Centre (AECC is losing money hand over fist), the Bon Accord Baths (closed down under great controversy despite being well used), Union Terrace Gardens (even more controversial with its rich man’s vanity project utterly rejected by the people of Aberdeen but steadfastly supported by the Cooncil).

Er, why does the city hold properties and control certain services in the first place?  Perhaps something to do with not being able to trust private enterprise to preserve and value them and so they are held in trust by the people for the people.  Along comes some whipper-snapper official who thinks a trouble shared is a trouble halved and so big business is in.

Perhaps with a joint holding organisation in charge of public assets it might be expected that the peoples’ representatives will hold the chair and casting vote but, wait again, this is Aberdeen – no, the council is to hand over the final say to the chair- a city businessman – or woman. I can only imagine the Cheshire cat grins on these men’s face as they rub their hands and lick clean their cream-laden whiskers.

The jargon promises maximising the city’s unused assets and promoting regeneration – well blow me down, isn’t that kind of what council’s should have been doing these past years?  What’s the matter with these people?  What do they get paid for?  Anyone out there who can answer that?

Hello, hello, hello what have we here – ah, Kate Dean – why do people smile when they hear that Kate Dean is up for something?  So, as convener of the Enterprise, Planning and Infrastructure Committee Ms Dean – is it too intrusive to ask just what have you and your committee been doing for the city?  Can’t hear you. Oh, you have nothing to say. Ever have self-doubts? No it’s fine, just a rhetorical question – I’m not that naive. A quote from Councillor Dean, “I welcome this. Moves to create a company like this have been around for a long time. We have assets at the moment which are not working for the people of Aberdeen and that’s not what we are about. We want to make our assets work for the city.”

No, Councillor Dean – this is precisely WHAT you are about – a plan around for a long time, assets not working for the people – this is YOU and the rest of the COUNCIL that has created and sustained this situation – nobody else. Still no self-doubts?  Okay, can’t criticise me for trying.

Vice-convener Callum McCaig gets to the nub of the issue.  Public private partnerships have been around for some time and not always very successfully but an optimist, McCaig states, “…this is a public private partnership which will actually work for the public, not just for the private sector and I look forward to seeing it moving forward.”

Well it’s a point of view but not a guarantee Mr McCaig.  You recognise that not all PPPs work but assure the people of Aberdeen this one will – and not just for the private sector – is there an inference there that in the past that’s what PPPs have done? Just pause a moment Mr McCaig – what if it turns out like the rest of them? What happens then?

It is not only Aberdeen facing this type of quandary and more councils will be looking at PPPs as the economic climate continues its downward spiral.  There will be many more moves to use public assets to attract private finance for regeneration programmes.

http://www.localgovernmentlawyer.co.uk/

“…concern has been exacerbated by the structures being classified by Treasury as “novel, contentious and repercussive”.   There we have it – chances are all the optimistic talk is just that.  What happens when reality sets in?

Whatever the name adopted by this type of joint venture arrangements between public and private sectors, PFI/ PPP/LSP, they aim to reap rewards but the risks are substantial.

http://www.european-services-strategy.org.uk/outsourcing-library/pfi-ppp/private-finance-initiative-and-public-private/what-future-pfi-ppp.doc

While there are recorded successes for such partnerships that is not the whole story.  Yes shareholders and mangers of private companies involved may see higher profits but public assets are often sold off for less than their full value and public services fail to reach required standards.

“Far from constituting partnerships in any meaningful sense, PPPs provide for the contracting parties to pursue their separate, diverse and potentially conflicting public and private interests.”

PPPs – It’s time to take the PIIS by Christopher Sheilhttp://evatt.labor.net.au/

PPPs emerged as a result of the economic crisis of the 1970s when major cuts in public spending were being introduced by successive UK governments and investment in the public sector dropped significantly.   Interestingly this was during the period when many private fortunes were being made with North Sea oil and gas extraction at its peak.

One Aberdeen has materialised from a council incapable of running its own services, a council devoid of imagination and ability. There is an expectation that private sector managers will be able to do better than the ranks of officials on salaries ranging from just under £50K to well in excess of £100K. If PPP is the extent of their combined deliberations then shouldn’t they all be offering themselves up as sacrifices for the sorry mess they have made of governing the city?  But perhaps it may be a crumb of comfort to these fat-cat officials that when private is mixed with public such as hospital cleaning, the results have been a decline in standards and no-one needs reminding of the current dire state of our hospitals with regards infections.  The private sector will squeeze and squeeze profit from joint projects, cutting staff – cutting service.

Where there are partnerships between a public body and the private sector where does the latter influence stop?  What level of responsibility does the private sector carry, e.g. for dirty hospitals?  What influence will private investors have on the running of schools, allocation of resources, teachers employed when their money is being spent on building and refurbishing them?

One Aberdeen is the private sector’s Christmases and birthdays rolled into one providing them with access and influence over empty buildings and land which will result in ‘surplus’ public assets being sold off for private development.

Lack of democratic accountability

When councillors mismanage they can be rejected by the electorate at elections, oh alright this does not apply to the mediocrity that is often the council officer but what about the accountability of the business partners represented in One Aberdeen?  Who do you think they will be more accountable to – the amorphous mass of Aberdonians or their shareholders and company boards?

Which officer from the council will turn out to be Guy Bord? (STW)

‘UberStreet’s hitherto hidden quality as a street, said Guy, as a long street, a long and very straight street, was it aptitude as a giant ball alley.’ (STW)

Public and private interests very often clash

‘Planning controls will need to be more imaginative, agreed Swink.’ (STW)

Commercial confidentiality is vital to private companies who are hot on protecting their intellectual property rights. How does this tie in with public accountability?  Will there be limited public accountability because of the strictures applied by private business interests in One Aberdeen.  You can bet your bottom dollar there will be.

100% retained by the public or lost assets?

According to HM Treasury in 1999, PFI/PPP assets should revert to public ownership at the end of the contract where it is in the public interest and when there is no alternative use for the assets. So there you have it – assets ‘should’ revert, ‘if in the public interest’ – who determines that? ‘When there is not alternative use’ – if a private company cannot see a profit in them.  Not many guarantees there then. And what will be the state of public finances at the end of the period One Aberdeen will be set up for?  Will the city then be ready to take back and run these public assets or will it have to continue down the road of another similar scheme?  Like the Kaimhill ski centre, this is a slippery slope leading straight to the bargain basement box of ‘public assets clearance sale’.

One Aberdeen as with LeopCorp’s Aberdeen Pure is unadulterated Pîche.

September 24, 2010

Skint Aberdeen City Council willing to gamble all on a maybe. Tif scheme comes closer.

Aberdeen City Council maintains the reasons for its slash and burn policy of closing facilities and services for the people of the city, especially the disabled, is because it is deeply in debt and a victim of COSLA’s unfair distribution of local authority funding, not because it likes to pick on easy targets. (See examples throughout my blog pages.)

Well, it has a strange way of dealing with its debts. Upping the already huge salary of its Chief bureaucrat to £142K the Council shows once more it cannot be trusted with public money.

Cash support and premises withdrawn from day centres for the elderly, the deaf, the disabled in moves which are an affront to this Council’s responsibility for social inclusion and underline its lack of any sense of decency for the well-being and independence of its most vulnerable of its citizens. And yet and yet . . . the escalating costs of the AWPR (bypass) – £90 million already spent on initial costs and compulsory purchase of land and buildings on the proposed area. If it ever gets built the initial forecasts of £350 million will undoubtedly be shown to be way out. Possibly that much will be spent without a yard of tarmac being laid. Inevitably, Aberdeen City Council’s contribution will also rise substantially. And how many millions more will the Council pour into the AECC, already £28 million in debt?

But let me get to the point – the highly controversial proposal for the Ian Wood Memorial Park aka Union Terrace Gardens aka City Square aka Piazza Woodii etc etc. This ego park and associated development is estimated to come in at around £200 million.

Easily flattered Councillors kow-tow to Sir Ian Wood over his pet project yet there are no guarantees it will make a jot of difference to the revenues coming into the city but what is guaranteed is the city will lose its one remaining distinctive feature of the sunken gardens.

How can the Council possibly find the cash? The saviour is to be Tax Increment Financing -Tif.

This is a system used by some LAs in the States to pay for urban infrastructure improvements by designating an area a Tif district from which taxes are collected for the specific Tif scheme. The idea is that the regenerated areas will attract commerce and housing, pushing up property values and the amount of local taxes collected from these will continue to grow. Interesting how LAs are all so optimistic when it comes to pet schemes and their projected successes.

It is also worthy of note that the discredited ACSEF consultation exercise on Union Terrace Gardens threw up several, similar, references to Chicago’s urban renewal in support of the proposed development and surprise, surprise, Chicago has adopted Tif as its means of paying for much of this regeneration. But while Tif has its devotees there are others who are more dubious about it. Tif schemes not only create funding opportunities, they can also tie up money.

Is Aberdeen City Council happy to take a huge gamble with taxpayers’ money that Tif will be a success? Of course the Councillors who take decisions today will not be around when the criticisms come in years down the line. So yes, possibly they will be happy to gamble with this US-style infrastructure funding tool to help pay for the city-centre project. The US is not known for diving head-first into financial experiments, is it?

So what exactly is Tif? It is a scheme by which an LA borrows to implement a development, against future tax revenues resulting from the regeneration. A Tif district aims to raise property value in one of three ways: 1- new buildings can be built on vacant land, 2-improvements can be made to existing buildings or 3- existing buildings without improvements can be assessed at a higher level.

A feasibility study carried out by consultancies CB Richard Ellis and PricewaterhouseCoopers for Scottish Enterprise examined the potential for using Tif to help finance Aberdeen’s proposed new city centre development. Estimates from the study projected £7.2 million of additional business rate revenues each year. On top of this it suggests housing developments in the city centre capable of creating £2million annually from council tax. Aberdeen Council is looking to fund around half of the £140 million proposal from Tif with the other half coming from the private sector.

Now with Tif the area revenue is preserved for the development it is supporting for the duration of the term of the scheme. I have seen examples of 23 years which means that for around two decades the Tif site holds onto the revenues it raises to cover its own costs.

As the point of Tif is to attract businesses into the Tif area then this will deplete the amounts of revenue raised by businesses outwith this area. For the duration of Tif, the Council will have less money coming in to pay for essential services such as schools, libraries, parks etc. If Tif becomes successful and attracts more and more companies into its sphere so the other revenue for the City’s essential services will decline for the two decades or whatever term is determined for Tif in Aberdeen. Either that or Aberdeen citizens will have to dig deep into their pockets to make up lost income to the City through increases in Council Tax.

 

A study by NCBG ( a coalition of around 200 community organisations in Chicago) has shown that, contrary to the argument that there are no negative costs to Tif, the opposite is true. There tends to be a trend of Tif extending to embrace other areas of a municipality, and remember within these areas the revenues are reserved, so that across the whole City there will be less coming into pay for essential services for the whole duration of the project. X% of Council revenue will therefore be tied up in Tif districts, meaning all new growth in these areas will not contribute to the funding of basic services.

Where essential service costs rise there will have to be revenue raised from sources other than the lucrative Tif area. The most profitable areas covered by Tif will not be able to add to the revenue required for essential services – for the duration of the scheme – which you can count in tens of £millions. In the longer term this will lead to an overall depletion of monies raised within the City for essential spending.

Those who are sceptical about Tif suggest it can be costly to run and it is the politics of madness to borrow large sums of money to support development projects through Tif unless it can be shown absolutely that Tif will deliver what it promises. Not all US cities have found Tifs plain sailing: smaller than expected revenues, none of the expected rises in property values resulting in short-falls in the amount raised to cover its annual payments.

What then for public services? More and deeper cuts and lay-offs, and the spectre of raising specific local taxes to cover the expenses accruing from non-contributory areas such as a Tif funded Union Square. And remember, the projected benefits of this rich man’s vanity project will not be proven until the end of the period of Tif while the loss of income into the City from the Tif areas will be a reality that has to be paid for by Aberdeen’s citizens – and those in the shire, as no doubt by then Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire will again have become one local government body.

It does not inspire confidence in the future of Aberdeen with its tendency to splash out huge sums of public money on unpopular and questionable schemes that its Chief Executive of two short years has already found herself a new job, in Edinburgh.

Three other Scottish councils are also looking at Tif to finance schemes: Glasgow and North Lanarkshire and Edinburgh.

Check out:

http://www.progressillinois.com/posts/content/2010/06/16/chicago-teachers-increasingly-complaining-about-tif

Tags:
March 8, 2010

Bon-accord Baths – white elephants, red herrings and blue-arsed baboons

White elephants

The Bon-Accord Baths is one of Aberdeen’s most classy buildings with its splendid architecture and Art Deco features. Built in the 1930s it was officially opened in 1940 and became familiarly known to Aberdonians as the ‘up-town baths’ – other baths being down at the beach. Beach baths were knocked down years ago but the up-town baths lived on despite neglect from a string of councils. The pool is big – just over 36 metres X 12 metres but not big enough for the Olympic sized pool seen as essential to bringing on Aberdeen’s Olympians of the future despite having punched above its weight with several notable swimmers such as David Wilkie, Athole Still, David Carry. Olympic pools must be 50 metres X 25 metres but it cannot be beyond the ability of someone to extend the existing pool while retaining the essential features of the building. But, girn the sports officials at Aberdeen Cooncil, it’s not fit for purpose. Not fit for purpose in bureaucrats speak is, we want something new and we demand public money to get it. Fit for purpose to the bureaucrats is something like a box with a big rectangle of water – never mind the quality see the length. Cost 15, 20, 25, 30 million – who cares – it’s public money. Easy come easy go. Architecture matters. There are buildings in Aberdeen that mean something to its citizens and buildings that have attracted notoriety by their hideousness out of keeping with their environment – think of the YMCA on Union Street. Who got a bung to let that through? As I recall when the Cooncil closed the baths it was being used by lots of people who couldn’t afford to join expensive health clubs. They used the pool, they used the keep-fit equipment. I used it. Funny, isn’t it that the present Cooncil keeps picking on the least fortunate, the least able to defend themselves? Well, no it’s not.

Red herrings

It all comes down to it being too expensive to run. Judging which parts of our built heritage to abandon solely in terms of money is shameful. The Cooncil is supposed to represent the wishes of its electorate, remember them? There is no integrity in abandoning architecture of value for the box housing the Olympic pool.

Blue-arsed baboons

There are people within the Cooncil on spectacularly high salaries – surely just one of them can come up with an idea to retain the up-town baths as a public building? No? Then sack them because if you ask around town you’ll find plenty better-informed and talented individuals who can do just that. Aberdeen needs the up-town baths – as a visual and emotional landmark revered by Aberdonian. Can’t say the same about the Cooncil.

For some great pics of the Bon Accord Baths blog see someone else’s blog – http://www.28dayslater.co.uk