Cumbernauld - the vision

Good and bad news for Cumbernauld this week. The bad first - it's up for its third Carbuncle. These are the raspberries given out by Architecture Scotland for the worst buildings, with a special "Plook on a Plinth" category for worst town. The idea is to "provoke debate about the poor quality of development in many of Scotland’s towns and cities" but it still seems a bit mean.

On the other hand this view of Cumbernauld how it was meant to be is one of the top 10 Treasured Places in Scotland. This competition run by the RCAHMS (Royal Commission on Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland) asked people to nominate their favourite picture from the RCAHMS archives. The 100 nominees are an interesting cross-section of the ordinary and extraordinary: The Dollan Baths in East Kilbride, The Italian Chapel in Orkney, Edinburgh prefabs and the Aluminium works in Kinlochleven all got a mention. I spent a while trawling through the site, reading why people love certain places. There are some great buildings in the top 10 - voting is open until 10 December.

Hello Anne- you may be interested to hear about a project by satellite arts- reviving an underpass with original artwork by Cumbernauld's town artist Brian Miller...

Hello all, I am contacting you in regards to an exciting piece of permenant public art project which is about to be installed in Cumbernauld this week.

I am looking for help this Wednesday, October 31st to reinstate a mural in an underpass in Cumbernauld. I am afriad that the budget is really tight for this project, so i can only afford to cover all travel and will feed and water you all day.

Brian Miller for fifteen years was Cumbernauld's first and only town artist. The Town Artist is employed in a town department of architecture and planning, and involved in the process of the making of that town. It is also someone who has a long‑term and full‑time commitment to it and its community. Mainly what has happened in Britain is that the social development and recreation sections of city councils have employed artists. There are around 20 towns in the U.K. that employ artists in ways other than for, say, graphics and exhibitions.

These artists are employed mainly to contribute to social and cultural development. It may be that the first example of an artist being involved in the new towns of Britain was Victor Pasmore in the late 1950s and early 1960s in Peterlee, a town in the north of England. Pasmore was employed as a consultant to work with the architects on designing the buildings of the town. He would visit in short bursts and played a very dominant role. This wasn’t wholly successful work because the houses ended up looking like Pasmore paintings—black and white with the odd spot of color, so that it was said that if people put up colored curtains it would spoil the composition. In the mid‑'60s two other New Towns (this has been specifically a New Town phenomenon) employed artists for some environmental work. When Brian Miller came to Cumbernauld, he was employed, as it were, as a civil servant in the town under a contract with retirement at 65. There were doubts about where to place him, and it was suggested that he should be part of the Planning Department. This was a sensible idea because it meant he could attend planning meetings and be involved in early discussions with planners about the shape of the town. After a couple of years, a historic decision was made in the town. It was part of the planning briefs that came out of the planning department to the architects and engineers. It contained a clause, which said, "the artist should be consulted at every stage of the development." This was ideal as it meant that the role of the town artist was just as important as the architect and town planner.

Brian also felt it was fundamental to live in a housing project in the town because it was important to experience the kind of environment one was contributing to. Brian treated Cumbernauld as a blank canvas. He used the concrete as a canvas to explore different forms of abstract expressionism. His work varied from large concrete sculptures to paintings on gable ends and underpasses. In some cases he tried to use certain colours in each neighborhood (i.e. Blue – Kildrum. Red – Carbrain etc). This was to help people understand what neighborhood they were in. He was making art for the people of Cumbernauld.

Cumbernauld underpasses have been neglected. (Please see attachments for a more detailed description of the project) They are in need of some sort of facelift, so that it makes it more appealing to the people who are scared of using them.

My proposal is for an underpass in Kildrum, which will have a dual impact in the area. Firstly, it regenerates the space. It makes it a more safer and approachable space to use. With the addition of new lighting and new paintwork, it will give the surrounding neighbourhood more confidence in using this space. At the moment it is mostly only getting used during the day, as the general consensus is that it is safer to cross the main road than use the underpass. Secondly it gives the opportunity to show public art in a discreet, sincere way. The artwork will exist on the internal facades of the underpass. By incorporating designs by the original town artist, Brian Miller, it is paying tribute to him and his incredible artworks that he made for the people of Cumbernauld. It will prove nostalgic to older generations and inspirational to Cumbernauld’s younger generations. The text, which will run along the exterior wall on the underpass, will come from a promotional film made about Cumbernauld. This will enlighten the people who use the underpasses, giving them knowledge on the in the 1960’s.

Cumbernauld should really be seen as one of the most important towns in British history and I believe this would prove an ample way showing some of the quotes and statements on Cumbernauld’s creation. As the underpasses is on a busy route to a nursery school, park, residential area and route to the Cottage Theatre and Cumbernauld Village, the audience for this work will be of all ages. This project is taking place during the first week of November and will be a permanent piece of Public Art.

If you are interested on this project and would like more information, please feel free to contact me.
Many Thanks,

Neville Rae

Wow - I remember helping to colour one of Brian's underpasses when I was a child - he had drawn the outline, a sort of Nessie monster, and my summer playgroup got to paint the colours in. He got quite narky when we went over the lines, understandably I guess as we were probably messing it up. I didn't know he was a well-regarded artist, but when I think about it, it was certainly a nice design. This was in Abronhill, it has been painted over now I think. Also, am I right in remembering that his daughter was an actress who was in the tv series Maggie? Not sure about that bit.

I don't live in Cumbernauld now but good luck with the restoration.

Yes Kirsty Miller was in Maggie. I was a friend of hers from Cumbernauld Theatre (then The Cottage Theatre) from way back in the late 60's till the early 80's. That is where I got the bug for drama.Kirsty's mum & dad used to help with the youth theatre way back then.
Now a drama teacher working in our rival New town E.K.Loads of memories of Cumbernauld way back when it was just being built. Gerry

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