Archive for ‘Union Terrace Gardens’

Mar 5, 2013

Photographs by Oliver Godow

Plan B – Side A Photographs by Oliver Godow

Pink all over 1

A small exhibition of photographs by the German artist Oliver Godow is currently on in the McBey Room at Aberdeen Art Gallery.

Godow’s painting-like photographs present us with combinations of angles and colours which I would love to show examples of but unfortunately the Gallery has a policy of zero tolerance of photographing its stuff – unlike Manchester Gallery, Tate Modern, Guggenheim Bilbao – you get the picture.

The two-dimensional angular forms on the left of the door are reminiscent of early 20thC abstract paintings. Perhaps that was just me. I always relate one art form to another when it’s likely the artist wasn’t thinking of anything of the kind. Doesn’t mean to say it isn’t there of course.

Regular readers will know I like to illustrate my blogs so in lieu of images from Plan B I am including some colourful angles from the delightful Union Terrace Gardens which lie close to the Art Gallery.

Union Terrace Gardens

Godow was born in Lübeck but has lived and studied in Scotland.

Union Terrace Gardens 1mar13 yellow

These photographs were shot in Augsburg in Bavaria. Godow’s Plan B that is not Union Terrace Gardens ones.  Just thought I’d make that clear.

Union Terrace Gardens, Aberdeen

Godow’s works encompass a very wide subject area: documentary, urban spaces, objects or as he has here geometric shapes, texture and colour. He captures detail of all kinds of objects with his camera lens so that colour, as in his Pink all over 1 above, saturates the eye to the extent you can almost taste its sugary pink pig quality.

Union Terrace Gardens, Aberdeen

In this exhibition it is colour which is one of the  most striking aspects of his work.  That said his umbrella image is not one of these with its subtle soft fringe of umbrella silk cutting through the 2-dimensional surface as it carries the eye down and across the composition.

1mar13 006 utg

Apart from the Pink my favourite is his Green on Green or a title fairly close to that.

Feb 5, 2013

Political purges are not confined to Russia

Andrew Neil interviews Renée Slater, agent for Helen Torry over Scotland’s equivalent of Russia’s Pussy Riot protest.

See main blog

Sep 22, 2012

The Gruesome Fewsome: the Rally of 400 that went phut!

They built up the rally on their Facebook page.

The police were expecting 400.

The media informed us there would be 400 on the streets of the Granite City.

These people were angry.

Angry that Aberdeen City Council would no longer be obliterating Union Terrace Gardens in favour of shops.

The people came.

Well around 55 people and a dog turned up.

The police – two officers watched from a safe distance.

It wasn’t impressive. Demos don’t come much smaller. It did entertain a few curious members of the public wondering what the underwhelming rally was all about.

Nothing much.


Sep 17, 2012

Aberdeen Deserves Better – Protest 22 September

They demand Aberdeen comes into the 21st century but if that is where these clueless illiterate idiots reside then let’s not.

Aberdeen is one of the richest parts of the UK – never mind Scotland.

Land prices have been steadily rising in Aberdeen. Unemployment is virtually unknown and the economy is booming.

Of course this not enough for the business cabal which was desperate to get its hands on public land in the centre of the city for its own enrichment dressed up as civic improvement.

Lies, exaggeration and even bigger lies have been fed to the northeast public via various media outlets – you know who you are and public servants – we know who you are.

Some were taken in. Some were not.

The previous council, let’s call them the brown-nosers – were thrown out by a discerning Aberdeen electorate and replaced by a council which stood against the business barons and feckin eejits.

The feckin eejits were happy, now they’re nae happy.

They’re still feckin eejits by the way.

So they are organising a demo against the current council on 22nd September. They set up a Facebook page and urged the Aberdeen public – should that read pubic in these feckin eejit language? to support them outside Marshall College.

The protest shall take place outside of the Marshall College on Saturday the 22nd of September at 1:00pm.

Marshall College is nowhere, min. The place is Marischal College. Named after a guy called Marischal. But these eejits know nothing.

They have put out a statement which reads:

The purpose of our protest is not sorely based on the decision to abandon plans to regenerate Union Terrace Gardens, but also the decision to abandon plans to construct the Calder Park development and the third Don Crossing.

We welcome members of the public along should they agree with the above statement.

Saturday the 22nd of September outside of the Marischal College on Broad Street at 1pm.

Let me stop you right there. Your language skills are painful for the reader but the word is solely meaning alone – not sorely which means awfa sair.

Businesses want a modern developing city where land prices are rising and one of the ways to do that is to bring people into the city, tourists for example. Glasgow has Rennie Mackintosh, Edinburgh and Stirling have the castle, Dundee has the Discovery and Inverness has Loch Ness. What does Aberdeen have other than a major traffic problem and probably the worlds most expensive taxis!? The CGP has been scrapped so what does the council plan on doing to promote the city and bring back the small businesses that are the backbone? Yes the recession has a part to play but we have to stop using that as an excuse! If the council are wanting to balance the books then they have to come out and tell the city that. People would rather be told the bigger picture than seeing their city degrade. The people of Aberdeen are proud people and want to see their city doing well and moving forward but it seems that there is a minority, RoadSense for example, that are determined to see it fail. Like I said before I was for the UTG as at least it would have looked like Aberdeen was moving forward. However, if Labour have proof to show that it would not have worked and can show the people the facts then they should do so! I think the biggest problem here is that there is a distinct lack of communication and some people in Aberdeen have lost all faith in government and councils. That will be the biggest challenge for the council and one that they should be focusing on the most!

Aberdeen is a wealthy city – 38% GVA above the Scottish average creating 12% of the Scottish economy with under 9% of its population. Unemployment is extremely low.

I don’t think it’s true that Edinburgh and Stirling share ‘the castle’ and as for the other attractions – Loch Ness isn’t IN Inverness and Aberdeen has, therefore, various attractions close to it – such as castles (plural), mountains (some very famous) and beaches (many the most wonderful in the UK).The City has the lovely Old Aberdeen. It has the second largest granite structure in the world. It has Rubislaw Quarry , one of the biggest man-made holes in Europe. It has some of the finest granite buildings in the whole of the UK.

There is no sign of Aberdeen seriously degenerating – expect that’s what you meant by the word ‘degrade’?

Aberdeen needs those private businesses, owners of some of the finest granite buildings in the UK, to clean them up – removing the grass and other plants they have allowed to grow on them.

Aberdeen does need to encourage in more businesses to Union Street. Failure to tackle this issue has been a feature of councils of all political parties over the last two decades with the building of so many shopping malls which have drawn retail away from magnificent Union Street. Lowering business rates could fill up these empty properties fairly quickly.The Wood proposal would have done nothing to help Union Street.

This writer doesn’t appear proud of his city, if he does live in Aberdeen. He doesn’t appear to know much about it in fact.

And then there is:

I have a constructive meeting on Monday with Grampian Police and Council officials regarding our protest. This protest against ACC is going to happen!

And just what is a professional protest?

Please respect that this is a professional and peaceful protest against Aberdeen City Council therefore violence, vandalism or any other kind of inappropriate behaviour will not be accepted.

Their main banner will read:

“Aberdeen Deserves Better”

Looking at their Facebook page I couldn’t agree more. If these feckin eejits speak for Aberdeen god help it.

PS this is excellent

Aug 30, 2012


Sir Ian Wood: Send your £50 Million to Africa As Promised! Petition | GoPetition


Please sign the petition to help Africa and Aberdeen in one fell swoop.


Aug 24, 2012

Union Terrace Gardens: That’s all folks!

Aug 22, 2012

John Stuart Mill on Union Terrace Gardens decision

John Stuart Mill’s words on government have some relevance for today’s debate on the misconceived plan to replace Aberdeen’s sunken gardens with a concrete monstrosity destined to become as shabby as some of the plan supporters.

‘… beneficial exertion of legislative authority to correct the abuses of what pretends to be local self-government, but is, too often, selfish mismanagement of local interests, by a jobbing and borné (narrow-minded) local oligarchy.

Fortunately not everyone was gullible to the exaggerations, the vacuous statements and clichéd  pronouncements.

Over thirty years of oil and gas in Aberdeen and what have these multimillionaires given to the city?  Look around, it won’t take you long. There’s nothing here they’ve provided. No wonderful street art, no fine buildings, no magnificent developments or even social infrastructure.

Aberdeen doesn’t need any more tasteless developments with short shelf-lives. Aberdeen needs to preserve its magnificent architecture and preserve the best of what it has and be bold. The council should listen to people in the area who know and understand the importance of tradition and culture instead of promoting the whims of powerful men used to dictating their terms to others and fawning here today gone tomorrow councillors totally lacking in integrity or simple good taste.

Mar 10, 2012

Labour insists. Mr Langley says no. But what do you think?

‘Are you thinking of becoming a Councillor?

Aberdeen City Council is committed to strengthening local democracy, and recently held open sessions for people interested in standing for election as a Councillor in May 2012.’

Aberdeen Council is looking for appropriate people to stand in the May elections. Notice the words strengthening local democracy. Fine sentiments.  But what do you think?

‘We will be working closely with our citizens and all of our private and public sector partners because it will be up to all of us, working together’ says Aberdeen City Council with a nod and a wink to local democracy. That’s what the Council says. But what do you think?

The online and telephone voting procedures for replacing Union Terrace Gardens with walkways was judged entirely fair and free from abuse are – surprise, surprise NOT being used in the May council elections. WHY? I don’t know the reasons the Council would use to justify this anomaly although I can imagine. But what do you think?

Members of the Labour group in the Council requested from independent counting officer Crawford Langley (formerly employed by Aberdeen City Council) that it see the records for the city garden vote but were turned down by Mr Langley on the grounds that ‘normal election rules did not apply in this case.’ (P & J 12 March 2012) It’s a point of view but a subjective one and as Mr Langley was only brought in to run the referendum and is not a member of the Council what has it to do with him? But what do you think?

The two Parties responsible for promoting the controversial demolition of the sunken gardens at Union Terrace are the Lib Dems and the SNP.

Lib Dem Councillor Aileen Malone said Labour ‘should accept the will of the people and “move on.”’ (P & J) Lib Dems talking about accepting the will of the people sounds a bit rich to me given what’s been happening at Westminster from where her leader Nick Clegg coincidentally is also urging voters to ‘move on’ from complaining about the ‘reforms’ of  the National Health Service in England and Wales being planned by his Party and the Tories. But what do you think?

SNP Callum McCaig also wanted events to move on – to ‘”more important” issues’ (P&J) Yes I’m sure he does want to move on from this hugely divisive battle in the City which remember maintains to be – how did that go? ‘strengthening local democracy’ – ah, yes just words on a page. But what do you think?

Some Tory said something but life’s too short to quote Tories.

I am sure Mr Langley is absolutely independent and well respected for his knowledge about elections and no-one is questioning this but Mr Langley is one man and in Scotland we should not live by the views of one man. We expect our political system to be open and seen to be totally fair. Any person (or persons) hiding behind procedures flies in the face of open government. But what do you think?

SNP and LibDems insist the vote, postal, telephone and online, showed that the voters in Aberdeen came out in favour of the garden scheme. Fair enough. So what is the point in keeping the vote hidden? Follow the procedures in elections and allow scrutiny of the votes by the Labour Party in the City. The Council can only win through doing this.

Everyone involved in running democratic institutions in this country should remember they are answerable to the people and should not be erecting barriers to openness in carrying out their duties.

But what do you think?

Feb 24, 2012

The Referendum is on for Aberdeen’s Gardens

Feb 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:

Wonder why Ian Wood has SO much money?

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