P&J Column 9.8.18

‘Give my regards to Broad Street, remember me to Marischal Square’

J Fergus Lamont, Arts Correspondent

Aberdeen continues to lead the way in the field of public art. In December last year I found Marischal Square a bold and brutalist monument with many evocative empty spaces for contemplation. I am pleased to report that the surrounding area has been further revitalised, and that a mere 10 months behind schedule (a nano-second in cultural terms) the art installation known as “Broad Street” is open at last.   Like many, I had wondered what the project would involve, especially as the perpetual absence of personnel suggested the work was being done in secret, perhaps undercover of night. But as I walked down the freshly re-opened street I was immediately struck by the bravery of the artist in leaving several fenced-off areas ‘unfinished’ in a wry comment on the impermanence of man’s works upon this earth.

What defines this piece is that the tired old conventions of road and pavement demarcation have been done away with in favour of a cohesive single level surface where pedestrian, bike and bus can peacefully co-exist. A brave attempt to challenge existing notions of what it means to be ‘safe’ in both our physical and social environment. In furtherance of this narrative the somewhat bourgeois pelican crossing at the top of Upperkirkgate has been removed, allowing the pedestrian to make a dash for it on their own terms. One can scarcely imagine a more immediate or powerful metaphor for Brexit.

I watched as a number 19 bus bore down upon a family of five with a pushchair. Visitors will find themselves frequently participating in this specific piece of exciting street theatre.

Overawed, I stepped onto the ‘road’ and took a glancing blow to the coccyx from a passing bus. I wept.


Professor Hector J Schlenk, Senior Researcher at the Bogton Institute for Public Engagement with Science

As a scientist, people are always asking me questions, and this week, they’ve mostly been asking me about flies. After briskly checking my spaver, I realise they are referring to Aberdeen’s recent infestation by insectile invaders.

Many a barbecue or game of rounders was ruined last weekend when the hot, humid conditions we’ve been enjoying saw a huge influx of syrphidae (or hover-flies to the non-entomologists among you). These little fellows are completely harmless and extremely beneficial to plant life, but sadly for them have evolved to resemble that most despised of garden agitators, the wasp. As a result, their appearance caused some of the more delicate amongst us to flap hysterically, run about like startled deer and shriek like the audience at a Justin Timberlake concert. Myself included.

However, a little research showed me how benign hover-flies actually are, and as a man of reason, I was able to entirely overcome my basic instinctive terror of yellow and black stripy insects by the power of my rational mind. A pity that I then inadvertently disturbed the byke of wasps in our shed. Thanks to my rational, evolved intellectual response I remained unperturbed just long enough to become something of a vespular pincushion. ‘Oocha beastie’, as Descartes would say.


Ron Cluny, Official Council Spokesman

As the official spin-doctor to a local authority that has included such luminaries as Barney Crockett, Willie Young and Scott Cassie, I know a wee bit about damage limitation.  So it was with a sense of anticipation and a decent glass of red that I settled down to watch the news after Boris Johnson’s recent claim that Burka-wearers look like bank robbers and post-boxes.

This is, to say the least, an interesting perspective for a man whose political hero made his name fighting religious persecution, and I regret that I would grade Boris’s spokesman’s attempts to justify the comments as a ‘D minus’.

So here’s some feedback that might lead to an improved future performance:

1. Boris Johnson looks like he has been drawn by someone who had suffered broken wrists after falling out bed during a nightmare about a baby that has been covered in shredded wheat.  He is therefore not well placed to pass adverse comment on the appearance of others.

2. Trying to justify slagging off a minority group by stating that you are doing so in order to provoke a debate on liberal values rather overlooks the fact that prime among liberal values is tolerance.  It is also a bit like setting fire to your neighbour’s house in order to provoke a debate on arson.

3. Saying that attempts to make Boris apologise infringe his human rights misses the point that in a competition between religious freedom and the right to be a self-serving racist-baiting plum of epic proportions, freedom of religion is as easy a winner as Willie Miller in a ‘Who Now Looks the Least Like Willie Miller’ competition.