Archive for ‘City Square’

March 3, 2012

Sign the petition to save 200 year old elms, please

http://www.petitiononline.co.uk/petition/save-the-200-year-old-elms-in-union-terrace-gardens-aberdeen/4168

February 24, 2012

The Referendum is on for Aberdeen’s Gardens

February 17, 2012

The BBC Debate on Union Terrace Gardens V the Granite Web

Union Terrace Gardens debate on 16 February 2012

This BBC debate concerned the proposal to remove Aberdeen’s Union Terrace Gardens and replace them with something called the Granite Web.

As the audience took their seats for the debate concerning the intended destruction of the city’s unique green basin a meeting of minds took place in the shadows of Queen’s Cross church hall between Aberdeen City Councillors, the advocates for the controversial development and BBC staff.

Then it was time to begin. Brothers-in-arms Council Leader, who I had taken for a cub reporter, SNP Councillor Callum McCaig sat next to Ian Wood, the man who stepped in to stop the exciting Peacock development in Union Terrace Gardens with his own scheme and succeeded in changing minds among SNP Councillors and one time supporters of Peacock with his promise of £50million contribution towards his vision. Opposing them were Lewis Macdonald, Labour MSP and Mike Shepherd from Friends of Union Terrace Gardens.

From the start it became clear that while the bulk of the audience was a mix of opinions a couple of rows at the back was packed with a phalanx of Wood cheerleaders. It must have been coincidence they were all together and intent on being the most vocal of elements in the hall. No sooner had proceeding got underway than the packed rows jelled into a veritable beast of astonishing intolerance towards opinions they didn’t share.

The opening point raised from the audience was a silly notion which sprang from original literature on the scheme that the development would be the answer to ‘undesirable elements’ that populate the Gardens. It’s a no-brainer – it won’t. As was countered from the audience, any so-called undesirables will not disappear because Union Terrace Gardens don’t exist, they will be hanging about the Web (granite or more accurately concrete).

There was a snort from the back of the room.

McCaig was asked why he had once supported Peacock’s innovative development then switched support to Wood’s project. He did not answer this. But he underlined his support for the Aberdeen millionaire Wood in his ambition.

From behind came a shake of a Rolex on a hirsute wrist and a black forked tongue dribbled long shards of stringy spit in ecstatic anticipation and released a roar of approval.

Someone asked about the glaring absence of democracy surrounding the project.

The beast heaved with indignation and emitted a belch of sulphur.

Wood ducked the question and mumbled something about preserving heritage: balustrades, statues, Kelly cats, arches but altogether managed to miss the point entirely that the sunken Gardens is the main heritage feature, practically the sole remnant of the medieval town.

The beast shifted: tiny red-infused eyes shiftily sweeping the ranks of dissenting voices from the audience. Its man had spoken.

Wood and his family made its fortune from working out of Aberdeen, in fishing and later in offshore energies. They are not alone. There are many millionaires in Aberdeen. You wouldn’t know it. The money is private money. There is nothing to show in the city for the wealth it helped create for these millionaires. This has been a complaint from the city’s people for decades.

Now money is on offer. With strings attached. No such thing as a free lunch. Not for ordinary citizens of Aberdeen. I’m sure there is for some.

Mike Shepherd talked up the park. He was fed up hearing this unique green basin being denigrated by those determined to get their way to pour in concrete by the hundreds of tons to create shabby walkways above street level.

A glint of Rolex and a shudder of mohair.

Someone in the audience mocked the Gardens. He clearly wasn’t from Aberdeen. He had taken a photograph, he said, so he knew what they looked like. They looked frightful. He gave no sense of realising their significance.

Lewis Macdonald disagreed, saying that this green heart of Aberdeen will be replaced by concrete walkways and that the consultation on the 6 shortlisted designs had not come down in favour of this Web.

A long impatient tail beat out a disturbing rhythm and the head turned on the thick neck sighting someone with the audacity to mention that recent architecture forced on the city had been of poor quality – his inference being this scheme was no different.

It listened as its collaborator McCaig talked up PricewaterhouseCoopers promise of 6500 jobs. He referred Charles Landry who had worked in Bilbao and considered this the best transformation project he’d seen in 20yrs. And still no word of democracy. Andwhat are the views of anyone in Aberdeen compared to those of a man who once worked in Bilbao?

Macdonald countered the jobs claim by revealing that PwC job figures were based on its collective experience and not through looking at Aberdeen as a discrete scheme.

The beast drew back its lips and snarled.

Wood protested that ‘we are going through a democratic process’ – albeit a truncated one Mr Wood, for it was a clique which chose the 6 designs and a clique which short listed and a clique which chose the winning design and you who have said it’s this or nothing – forget the years of the city being run down you’ll get nothing unless you let me get my way. I’m paraphrasing. In all innocence he shrugged, I have only ‘made money available.’

The beast snarled. The tail beat the floor. Again and again. The head pulled back and a cold reptilian stare settled on the little people who dared question the great man and his backers.

This Council is closing schools and cutting services to the disabled and yet there is commitment to spend millions of public money voiced an audience member.

The council leader had nothing to say.

A Prada stiletto scourged deep into the grain on the church hall floor and the beast opened its jaws releasing its sulphurous stench.

McCaig was asked to sell TIF to the audience. TIF is the controversial scheme the council hope will eventually pay back the huge sum of money it will have to borrow to finance Wood’s idea. It will be based on two areas of the city being designated as special areas. Whenever a business sets up it will contribute towards TIF and this money will be ring-fenced to pay back the loans. Of course it is pure speculation that enough money will be raised by TIF. It is a new system of raising funds in Scotland. In fact Aberdeen City Council is not even sure it will get government permission to establish TIF sites. There are many unknowns regarding TIF including a description of it from McCaig. The above is my explanation. It might not be up to much but it was more than we got from McCaig who appeared surprised to be asked to sell this scheme to the people of Aberdeen. Sell it? He couldn’t even describe it. Immediately he jumped to the Ravenscraig example, one of only 2 approved in Scotland. Brownfield site developments which as MacDonald pointed out can only add money, unlike this one being proposed for Aberdeen.

A clearly unsettled McCaig was put out of his misery by the chairman who defined it for him. It’s good to know that Council representatives and the Council leader is so well versed in the detail of the scheme he is happy to put his name to.

The beast shifted uncomfortably on legs of iron and feet of clay.

McCaig did confirm the raising of the funding through TIF would be underwritten by the Council.

Mike Shepherd referred to problems with TIF funding as an untried means of guaranteeing cash. Well so much depends on incoming business that no figure can be guaranteed. Fall back on council funding. Council’s borrowing while in debt and the risks to services if that happened.

Possibly the most stupid question of the evening came from the vicinity of the beast. More a statement than a question that young people wouldn’t come to the city unless there was development in the city. This development.

The Beast roared its approval.

Wood spoke of the need for connections: road and air connections. But it’s bus connections Aberdeen City Council is talking about with this proposal. Connections to the bus station. The bus station so recently erected and so badly designed that there is no room for passengers and no seats provided for them, no dropping off and picking up places for vehicles to drive in, forcing passengers with luggage to walk from several streets away. This bus station where buses have to reverse into the station traffic each time they begin a journey. Would you trust the Council to do any better with such a radical scheme for Union Terrace? The same council which has continued to build shopping malls while Union Street empties. It is empty because of shopping malls. It is empty because the council refuses to reduce rates to keep businesses operating. The council has taken an impressive mile of granite architecture and created a desert.

Mike Shepherd reminded Wood that his company, and every company, would not hesitate to set up anywhere, irrespective of what it looked like if there were profits to be had. He cited Wood’s company in Caracas and Lagos and that he doubted they went there because of how they looked.

Don’t know about them but Wood looked confused.

There was a grunt from the beast, a slash of something golden and an angry sweep of the tail.

McCaig had nothing to say.

Businessman Tom Smith, Chair of ACSEF the anti-democratic body given all the cards in this scheme railed at Macdonald for rejecting this multi-million pound ‘investment’ and yelled at Mike Shepherd to be quiet. He accused Macdonald of trying to stop any development from happening.

The beast peeled back it thick lips and yelped frantically.

Mac Donald insisted the divisions which had emerged over this proposal were because there was only one project, only one ambition and shared arrogance of the people behind this scheme.

The audience breathed in the stench of cashmere soaked in sweat.

The panel was not invited to address where anonymous literature landing through peoples’ letterboxes sprang from. The inference was that city businessmen were behind it. Well only businessmen could afford to do this surely. But why not reveal who you are?

Councillor Kate Dean said Aberdeen was anti development and against attracting young people to come and stay in the city. Well it’s a point of view, fair enough but then she had to spoil it by saying how the city has done very well in the past in attracting people in. Really?? Without a totally transformed city centre? Not following that logic.

When he was asked if Aberdeen City Council would spend any money on improvements to the city centre if this scheme was rejected by the people, McCaig initially said no then suggested there might be something. Then he went back to TIF repeating it was designed to pay for itself. That certainly is the plan Mr McCaig. And the point you are making is? Oh and that ACC is not in a position to splash out. Not a great deal of clarity here.

He was asked about the arrangements for the referendum. What would be the winning line? What had been decided between ACC and the government? A harassed looking McCaig said nothing had been worked out. Hello? Nothing? The papers have gone out. Do you have faith in these people to act in your best interests?

Macdonald interjected with the observation which most of Aberdeen have already made that a major reason for the lack of visits to the Gardens was because the Council had not spent anything on them over the years. Have you seen how the beautiful granite has been allowed to go green for lack of a bit of housekeeping? Why has the Council never even put in a set of swings or a climbing frame to attract children and families into the park? This would cost practically nothing. But they’re not interested.

Mike Shepherd reminded the audience that another city businessman was willing to put money up front to make improvements to the existing Gardens,  including better access and a park-keeper but James Milne has not received anything like the same attention in the local media that Wood has enjoyed.

Wood said he regretted the divisions his scheme had created in Aberdeen to which Macdonald replied that it was because people cared so passionately and Wood’s undemocratic way of handling his proposal had resulted in such ill-feeling.

I guess you don’t become rich by consulting with people. Well, maybe that’s not true as some well-known examples from the US suggest. It is clear this is not the Wood nor ACSEF way.

The prospect of Aberdeen borrowing £92 million might be a risk too far for the more prudent Aberdonians but McCaig would have none of it – risk? What risk? He compared it to a household mortgage. Yes, and we’re seeing what’s happening to many of them at the present time. His parting shot was that people should see Aberdeen as others see it. So much for representing the people who vote for you Mr McCaig.

Mike Shepherd urged people to vote against Wood’s backward-looking 1960s style concrete monstrosity in what is the city’s leafy green heart with its 200yr old elms.

The iron legs strained, the stiletto scraped, the nostrils steamed, the beast screeched and cracked its cleft tail.

Wood was given the final word. He emphasised the huge amount of work which had gone into working out the finances of the scheme and that the comments on TIF were ridiculous. Certainly were Mr Wood. He railed at his opponents for what he described as negativism but which they will say is approbation for the most positive development for Aberdeen that which involves retaining the magnificent Union Terrace Gardens.

The beast is a simple animal. It is excited only by profit yields, retail opportunities and exclusive cabals in its determined drive to take the city forward into the past. It roared its approval. It roared and snarled and beat its swarthy chest and licked the fleshy lips in euphoric rapture.

The referendum result will be known on Fri 2nd March if the Council works out how to read the results by then.

TIF info: https://lenathehyena.wordpress.com/2012/01/25/a-parcel-of-rogues-aberdeen-city-council-chamber-and-the-lure-of-rich-mens-gold/

Wonder why Ian Wood has SO much money?

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January 31, 2012

Result of the poll on the proposed Granite Web on Union Terrace

The result of my poll on the proposed Granite Webb replacing Union Terrace Gardens is as follows:

I approve of the Granite Web design in place of Union Terrace Gardens 7 votes = 9.33%

I do not approve of the Granite Web replacing Union Terrace Gardens 68 votes = 90.67%

Total votes 75

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January 25, 2012

A Parcel of Rogues – Aberdeen City Council Chamber and the Lure of Rich Mens’ Gold

So Aberdeen City Councillors at a special meeting of the full council voted to place politics before commonsense over the proposed obliteration of Union Terrace Gardens. This nightmare of a design could only have been chosen by people of very poor taste. If there was any design more likely to stick out like a sore thumb which will turn the city centre into a depressing series of concrete walkways – this is it.

The press release from ACC says the Web will ‘transform the Victorian Gardens’ but it will not transform them it will eradicate them. Shame someone entrusted to communicate with the public is so casual with words.

There is still an opportunity to stop this hugely costly madness: Councillor McCaig said: “It is absolutely clear that our decision today to put in place the arrangements to progress the scheme depends entirely on the outcome of the referendum on the City Garden Project. If there is a ‘no’ vote, it will not happen.

Most councillors have been easily swayed by powerful influences (excluding Aberdeen voters) and the vote today confirms its determination to push ahead unless the public referendum returns a ‘no’ vote.

Would you trust this council to manage the transfer of land (Union Terrace Gardens) which is council-owned – that is owned by the people of the city – to allow it come under a part-privately developed scheme? ‘the City Council is prepared to make council-owned land available for the scheme.’

The statement says how there will be ‘no need for direct revenue support from the City Council.’ So if something goes wrong and the anticipated cash through TIF fails to materialise then the council will do what exactly? Nothing? I suppose – the council has done just that for decades in Union Terrace Gardens.

The reliance on the untested TIF scheme makes the funding of this scheme more IF than TIF.

See: Skint Aberdeen Council and TIF https://lenathehyena.wordpress.com/2010/09/24/319/

They say ‘the minimum space possible is used for commercial or semi-commercial purposes.’ This is meaningless so couched is it in qualification.

This council has little interest in being careful with public funds. It will carry on spending in the hope of public agreement – £300,000 of public money. What’s that for a maybe cause? Easy come, easy go to the council.

I did notice a reference to ‘provide no direct funding towards design, planning or construction costs for the CGP, other than that generated through TIF, already committed to the referendum, and to cover external fees.’   That phrase, ‘no direct funding’ is a little loose, isn’t it?

There will be the safety net of ACC officers overseeing all these arrangements. Do you have faith in them given how the city has been run over the years? And this is the council which complains about how run down Aberdeen is – what have successive councils and permanent council officers been doing to earn their crusts while this decline has been happening?  If they are not responsible for the decline then who is?  And do you think they know what they are doing now?

I note there still hasn’t been confirmation of the promised £70 million. Assume it’s still there in the post office but let’s face it, £70 million is only the start. The price is going to go up and up. Along with the headline figure of 6,500 jobs – couched in ‘up to’ or ‘as many as’ so a few dozen then – that won’t hit the headlines.  Who have you heard challenging these ridiculous figures? Press? Councillors? Council officers?  Do you get the impression this is what some of them want to hear?

And do you know what this means? ‘that in approving the above recommendations, the City Council is nonetheless taking no view of any proposed development in its capacity as the planning authority.’

But pith and power, till my last hour,
I’ll mak this declaration;
We’re bought and sold for rich mens’ gold-
Such a parcel of rogues in a nation!

Thanks to Burns

http://www.aberdeencity.gov.uk/CouncilNews/ci_cns/pr_UTG_250112.asp

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November 2, 2011

Union Terrace Gardens versus the City Garden Project

The Victorian Union Terrace Gardens in the heart of Aberdeen create an unusual feature which alludes to the city’s historic past around the valley of the Denburn. It is a public park paid for by public money and not private land for a select group to remove. Or is it?

Few of Aberdeen’s historic landscapes have escaped developers. The city has a reputation for failing to recognise what is important to preserve for future generations. The city does not convey any sense of pride in its heritage. It chooses to ignore it instead.

So, Union Terrace Gardens are up for grabs. If you have money there’s a chance you can determine what goes and what stays in the city.

For a moment it looked as if the ordinary citizens would also have a chance to voice their opinions. A questionnaire attracted a big response and when the people gave a resounding ‘no’, the questionnaire was rubbished.

The proposal went ahead despite opposition. Some councillors began to get cold feet; shifting their stance on the subject but only after a working group to push ahead with the plan was set up. Some people have asked who the people on the working group are and what gives them the right to make decisions about the future of a public park. We haven’t been given an answer to that.

So the proposal went out to tender and 6 finalists were selected and the results displayed for the public to see and voice their opinions.  Well, up to a point. The choice for the public was to number the designs in order of preference. There was no box to say they wanted the gardens to remain with a few alterations  – such as improved access. Sleight of hand there.

There was no reference to the proposal by the Friends of Union Terrace Gardens to work with the Council to restore the gardens and improve the space, at a fraction of the cost, were it to stay on budget, which we all know it won’t.

Like the bulldozers of the future ploughing up the grass, the mature trees, this unique urban green oasis the plans were drawn up, models shaped and Perspex-covered boxes built in preparation for the people to look upon.

‘Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!’

Yes, there are plenty who have despaired.

Firstly they promise ‘A new green space’ but there is a green space there already. They promise a ‘civic space’. It already is a civic space – owned by the people for the people, remember? It will ‘provide a home for an international arts centre’ – what does this mean? An internationally important architect had his innovative design for an arts centre, partially sunken in keeping with the shape of the gardens first accepted, then when Wood came along, rejected by the council. And what is an ‘international arts centre’?

These are old ideas. The difference is the people behind them.

The official document promises the creation of a ‘natural amphitheatre to host events. There already is an amphitheatre, natural or not there. So nothing new in this, either.

There were 55 submissions. All I can say is there must have been some shockers if the 6 remaining are the best. Still it’s not down to me, or you little people, to choose the design. This will fall to – well, see below. `

No matter –  let us take a look at what is on offer.

Number 1 The Granite Web

This is incredible. It’s like someone’s idea of a joke. For starters we have raised walkways, streamlined with figures wandering around. Now call me picky but can you see health and safety allowing people to walk at these heights without tall fences along the walkways? And quite right too, I could take a dizzy and topple onto the folk eating below, or if I was less polite I might… well.

Cutting through the turgid descriptions of nature and culture fused into a ‘vital network’ – what ?  – ‘an elastic web’  – ‘stretching across the historic river site – ’ which river would that be then? No rivers there. The Denburn. Far fetched calling that a river, ‘multi-tiered archaeology’ has anyone checked what this guy’s been drinking? ‘quiet hang outs to meadows’,  ‘the city’s emergent future’.

Cutting though the crap. This design is a mess, misleading in its visualisation and frankly, an eyesore in the making.

Number 2  The Winter Garden

Hmm, sounds a wee bit like the Winter Gardens which already exists in Aberdeen.

This one appears to be most in favour with people who have looked at the plans, perhaps because it looks most like Union Terrace Gardens  – only much, much more expensive.

They want to preserve and enhance the existing park’ – good. So do lots of people.

They talk of decking over the railway and road, hope that doesn’t mean decking as in patio style.

The decking feature is where they build what looks to me like a long glass caterpillar – i.e. the winter garden- singular friends of Spike. Now they compare the caterpillar to the Crystal Palace, uhm don’t think so, or the Kibble Palace, never heard of it. It is to be home to cultural events, a garden, restaurant and cafés. Now can you just see Aberdeen Council paying to heat this place in winter? Can you?

That said, this looks like UTG. It’s even keeping the arches which are wonderful. And hopefully the balustrade which a councillor assures people is rotten – so of course ready for removal. Well the council’s rotten but no-one’s talking of removing  …oh, yes, so they are.

Number 3 Sculpted Landform & Connections

This design is deceptive. I thought at first it was just rubbish – a technical term for substandard design. Then I read the water feature is actually two quartz pavilions and I thought, really? But I looked again and decided I was right the first time.  It says one is opposite Her Majesty’s Theatre – so it’s not Aberdeen ,then? That’s good. There isn’t any Her Majesty’s – some attention to detail.

It goes on about a cairn, more about culture, fine views of the park – must be different from the view I was getting which I wouldn’t describe as remotely fine. Horrible, horrible.

Next!

Number 4 The Flower of Scotland

Nice tune pity about the design. Blah blah ‘latent potential’, blah, blah ‘harmony’, ‘truly rich’ blah, ‘grand iconic space’ Is there anything that isn’t iconic nowadays? Aye, most of Aberdeen.

It’s all glorious and beautiful and – well flat. Floral patterns ‘meanders’ over the site. I can’t tell you how much I dislike this horrible, overworked, disappointing expanse of nothingness.

Next!

Number 5 The Cultural Plaza

This one is not going to simply ‘deck over’ the existing valley’ – thank god for that. It is aiming to created ‘interconnected spaces’ ‘variety of scales’ ‘a ‘Ramblas’ no less-  Barcelona! A city of inspired public art. A spectacular city so like…no. Anyway I don’t like the caged birds on the Ramblas so that doesn’t work.

The impression of multiple slopes which look like it might be decking with some tufts of grass poking through. All over. That’s a helluva lot of decking. How much decking can you buy for £150million? Quite a lot.

Number 6 Cultural Podium

Straight in with ‘arborial wealth’ – didn’t know we had that, did you?

They want to create a promenade ‘framed by an alée (no an alley, I think it’s Frinch) of London Plane trees’ Fit! London! Yer in Scotland! We hiv trees.

References to Aberdeen’s granite heritage – that’s good – even the council doesn’t do that. And they’ll give us ‘visual, tactile and fragrant’ They’ll provide an art and cultural museum – more than the council does. But wait – does that museum look like something out of the Flintstones? I’ve been to Flintstone Park.  I know it when I see it. It really fits into that corner on Union Street. See that guy who designed the Peacock centre – that’s where he went wrong – create an eyesore – and if you’re going to create an eyesore might as well make it a big one.

Now, personally I don’t think anyone who doesn’t know there’s an ‘r’ in Aberdeen should be given any say on UTG.

The gardens from STV

http://news.stv.tv/galleries/city-gardens-project/

The Jury

Sir Duncan Rice – Former Principal Abedeen University

Sir Ian Wood –who began the project

Councillor John Stewart, Libdem

Tom Smith MD of a large telecommunications company

Charles Landry Provides toolkits for urban innovators

Lavina Massie  I have no idea either

Malcolm Reading  a consultant on capital projects

STV’s link to the garden designs

http://news.stv.tv/scotland/north/275128-union-terrace-gardens-plans-unveiled-to-the-public/

The council’s monitoring group.

http://www.aberdeencity.gov.uk/planning_environment/planning/city_gardens/cgp_city_garden_project.asp

As Shelley might have continued –

‘Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert. Near them, on the sand,
Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown,
And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command,
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them, and the heart that fed;
And on the pedestal these words appear:
“My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:
Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!”
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away.’

Thanks Mr Shelley.

Ian Wood’s fortune comes from…

October 31, 2011

History is More of Less Bunk: Henry Ford and Aberdeen Council: the sad case of the weaver’s shed on the Denburn

Guest Blog by Textor

Our current Aberdeen City Council is very good at extolling the virtues of wealthy men said to be coming to the economic, cultural and aesthetic rescue of the city. It has shown itself willing to put millions into a crass project at which even Ozymandias might have blushed.

And yet, at the same time as the Council trumpets its commitment to staying true to Aberdeen’s history and sense of place, it allows unique moments of its past to fall into rack and ruin. One glaring example of this is the small stone built shed-house on the south side of the Denburn near Mackie Place. Humble as this building is it is one of the last structures which points to what was once a key industry of the city, handloom-weaving. While there is no definitive evidence that it was a weaver’s shed-house its shape, location and period (c1800) leads to the conclusion that this is what it was. Regardless of proving absolutely that a handloom weaver worked there it was certainly part of the historic Denburn- Gilcomston community.

Some time in the 1980s the sadly neglected, but largely intact building, was made wind and water tight, including new pan tiling to the roof. The idea was floated that the shed might become a small museum marking the city’s important past as an area of textile production. Of course this came to nothing. Funding was never found for it.

It was then suggested it could become a centre for local crafts people to bring it back into use and preserve an important local landmark. It was a great idea but once again it came to nothing.

And so the shed has been left to decay. The stabilisation of it, making it wind and water tight, money spent for nothing. It stands in this most picturesque part of Aberdeen semi-derelict with a great hole in the roof and no obvious prospect of finding a useful life.

The Council has seen fit to restore Marischal College and it must be said that it has given us a sense what the building must have looked like in the Edwardian era. Apart from the rather anaemic mannie on a cuddy in front of the building we now have sight of a magnificent glistening piece of work. But it seems, that despite our civic leaders claims to be concerned with what is today called the heritage of the city they are not willing to maintain, let alone develop, one of the last remaining fragments from the early years of the industrial revolution.   

Of course, unlike garden projects and Marischal College the shed lacks grandeur; it is not a thing of classical beauty nor is it a shrine to wealth. It is simply a record of a central aspect of Aberdeen’s industrial past; a community’s way of life which deserves to be remembered for the vital part it played as the social and industrial backbone of the city.

Until the introduction of the power loom, handloom weavers were amongst the elite of craftsmen. Highly skilled, much in demand, especially after the invention of power spinning which vastly increased the availability of yarn without a corresponding increase in productivity in weaving: the output from the weaver was tied directly to the dexterity and the inclination of the craftsman rather than to the speed of factory machines.

In sheds such as the one at Mackie Place, the weaver would be supplied with yarn by a businessman who would late sell on the finished cloth. Weavers were often assisted by their families, including children who would ensure the bobbins were always at hand when needed. When there was no alternative to handloom production the weaver wielded power. It was never an easy job for it was arduous with long hours spent in cramped conditions which led to health problems. But these men were more than mere machine hands. They were highly skilled and could, at times, command relatively good prices for their output. Indeed, for a time a weaver was a person of some social standing. They had a reputation for being literate and politically active; many of them attached to movements calling for parliamentary reform such as the Chartists. But with the introduction of power looms, the handloom weaver’s income and social position fell away. The productivity from power looms was far greater than the handloom and it was cheaper for employers of factory hands working in the Green in Aberdeen or at Grandholm to pay unskilled rates.

By the 1840s handloom weavers and their families were becoming destitute. The Aberdeen weaver William Thom gave them a voice. In his Rhymes and Recollections in which he described the weaver’s reduction from what he called, “the daisy portion” of the trade to becoming a mere factory hand with no control over his working day:

…weaving, as it year after year declined, became at length an evendown waste of life – a mere permission to breathe…

The gradual changes at the Denburn and Gilcomston mirrored the weaver’s decline and the area became a byword for filth and disease. It wasn’t always so.

In the 1780s Francis Douglas described Gilcomston as a “fine village” and later Dr Kidd of the Chapel of Ease wrote that the area comprised “mostly weavers and shoemakers”. It was a distinct community but with Aberdeen expanding in population and geographically Gilcomston was gradually absorbed into the larger city. In 1818 Kennedy wrote that “the village may now be regarded as part of the suburbs of Aberdeen”. Later this process of assimilation became particularly evident for those handloom weavers forced to look for work in factories in, the Green or further afield, in other words, men were no longer labouring where they lived but were forced to travel to and from work like other factory hands.   With Gilcomston’s absorption into the city there was an increase in its population and an expansion of small industries working the area, particularly drawing upon the waters of the Denburn itself. Tanning, brewing, dyeing all found use for the burn’s once fine water. By the 1860s what had once been described as “clear and unpolluted as a mountain stream” was said to be an “offensive puddle” full of “horse leeches”.

The weaver’s shed is witness to this history. Its decay might be passed off as an inconsequential loss but this is to miss the point. Yes, weavers, and many other workers too, succumbed to the demands of an expansive industrial capitalism but before this they had carved a distinct culture marked by raising families, by attending church, by extolling the virtues of political reform and by practising their trade. There is little enough that remains as material witness to their lives.
Bedazzled by gold on offer from philistine benefactors, Aberdeen City Council turns a blind eye to a more worthy cause. Shame on the Council.

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?

March 2, 2011

Deer today – Gone tomorrow- Tullos Hill – A View to a Kill

If Thatcher’s mindset settled anywhere it’s surely within the heads of officials and councillors at Aberdeen City Council.

They exhibit no sense of community.  Their motivation appears to be a combination of so-called economic rationalism, realism and private capital.

The Tullos hill deer in the Council’s eyes are useless and uneconomic. To cap it all the trees they intend to plant are a fawning gesture to royalty. Since when has the SNP gone pro-monarchy?

Now the coalition LibDem/SNP council maintain it is so skint it cannot afford £225 000 to put up fences in place of killing the roe deer which live on the hill so why take on a scheme which involved slaughter instead of simple protective measures?

Again, ACC knows the cost of everything and the value of nothing.

They are backed by ‘land managers’ at SNH who have no sense of Scotland and its natural heritage.

SNH is associated with the slaughter  of 1.3 million hedgehogs in its failed attempt to save birds in Lewis, the controversial culling of red deer on Rum to satisfy the hunting and  shooting brigade, responsible for removing blackfaced sheep in preference to heather, bizarre behaviour over Tayside beavers, controversial culls of red deer and this is the bunch who went to court to stop being transferred to Inverness from Edinburgh .

According to SNH’s logic they should have been culled not moved.

Let’s face it – SNH do not have the interests of animals at the heart of its thinking. SNH is all about land management.

Back to the Council.

It wants to plant a tree for every citizen of the city.  Why?   Hard to comprehend given its plan to destroy the wonderful mature trees at Union Terrace Gardens in preference for a flat expanse of concrete and following its permission for the new Don’s stadium at Loch of Loirston at the expense of green belt .

ACC makes it up as it goes along. Have to say they’re not any good at it as every tree, sorry citizen can see right through them.

A LibDim councillor admits to receiving emails complaining about this stupid plan but the myopic cooncilor rejects these as most not coming from Aberdeen.  The small minded councillor would in other circumstances be only too willing to place Aberdeen at the heart of international interests and activities.

Suddenly it’s become very important for ACC to plant trees for future generations.  Is it also very important to lay thousands of tons of concrete for future generations as well Ms Balony?

Councillor Neil Cooney also proposed that cattle grids be installed.  Sensible suggestion and observation from a historian.   He said: “I would remind the committee that the deer were here before any of us.”

SNP councillor Mark McDonald said: “I think the opportunity to create a large woodland on Tullos Hill is very exciting and I think it is something we should progress. We don’t have the money to put in place the kind of measures that would be required to avoid culling the deer. It is an emotive issue.”

People bereft of an argument always throw in the ‘emotive’ accusation. Just what do you mean by this Mr McDonald?  Shouldn’t we care about the animals in our environment?

Liberal Democrat Neil Fletcher doubted whether the money would be raised. “It is very easy to send an e-mail in the middle of the night, but if you are asked to put your hand in your own pocket, it’s harder.”

I really can’t add anything to this remark – not without going to court. Who mentioned pocket billiards?

This calls for a political cull not deer cull.

UPDATE – MARCH 2012

Chartered forester Chris Piper the Orwellian doublespeak spokesman for Aberdeen City Council explains that “the roe deer population on Tullos Hill is currently much higher than the land can support, there is very little variety of vegetation growing and deer suffer as a result.

Concerned spokesman continues, “Hungry deer also present a serious risk to themselves and motorists when they cross busy roads in search of food.

The Council has found a solution: save the deer from a fate worse than death by executing them.

Black is white and white is black spokesman hasn’t finished:
“Roe deer are a natural part of the woodland ecology. We are anxious to recreate a habitat for deer, squirrels, birds, bats and the full spectrum of woodland wildlife.”

Yes, that will be until they prove a danger to themselves and then they will have to be slaughtered again – so to speak.

Aberdeen City Council A vibrant, dynamic and aspirational city for the rich and powerful and two-legged dumb animals.

February 25, 2011

Aberdeen Giving it Away – Money – want some?

Skint Aberdeen City Council has been asked to return £1.2million special project money to Cosla because its disgustingly highly paid officials were incapable of coming up with any good ways of utilising the money.

What do we pay these people for?

Is there anyone at the Council who can explain why the jaw dropping salaries these guys pick up is worth every hard earned penny by the people of Aberdeen?

 

Deadlines missed for funding opportunities are nothing new to this Council.  You might think, however, that in these difficult times the Council might just have its finger on the pulse to ensure that whatever funding has been allocated to Aberdeen will not be chucked away.

Well if you thought that you obviously are unfamiliar with just how incompetent this bunch is.  Will they be asked to account for the loss of cash or indeed the loss of services – don’t be silly.   Bottom line is that those ultimately responsible (I use the term loosely) Council officials will never face the sack but will can look forward to a rosy retirement based on their super inflated salaries which will be paid for by the children currently in the schools facing severe cuts.

We are talking here about the crowd who wasted, as it has turned out, nearly half a million pounds on the once viable and popular Peacock Arts building in Union Terrace Gardens –

that was before moneybags Sir Ian Would-you-help-me-build-a-park-in-honour-of-my-vast-wealth asked the Council permission to bulldoze the Gardens and pour concrete into the hole created.  Nice one Woody. Who says you can’t buy taste?                        

Haud the front page – not satisfied with toadying up to Woody, Aberdeen Council dug deep into its fast dwindling coffers and handed over a cool £375,000 public funds to moneybags Wood.  I’ll just repeat that – £375,000 from public funds to enable a vanity project for Scotland’s second riches man.

Sir Ian Wood – his fortune around £962 million.

 

According to today’s Press & Journal – the usual media tarts, John Stewart, Kevin Stewart and Kate Dean had nothing to say on the matter.

NOTHING