curiosity about the ways of the world

No mess, just hope


The National Portrait Gallery is plastered with graffiti. Empty shops fill with art, music and dance. Subversive signposts undermine the shopping mall. Bright paint covers a grey tenement. Could be the stuff of nightmares for some but to me it is like a dream come true. Ever since I first visited Berlin I have wanted to run round Edinburgh with a spray can. Yesterday I found Fringe fever and the recession are doing the job for me.

First the Portrait Gallery. One of my favourite buildings is closed for restoration for two years but someone has had a stroke of inspiration, allowing street artists into the space for the Fringe.  Rough Cut Nation is a wonderfully generous gift – a remix of Scotland’s history by young artists adding their own interpretations to the  murals – refreshing the dark space of the old building: challenging and uplifting.


21st century centaurs in the National Portrait Gallery (thanks to Anny Deery for the picture).

Admittedly Kelburn Castle got there first, wrapping an old pile in protective clothing so Brazilian street artists could cover it in graffiti with some help from Scottish talent. All living in the castle for a month.

But just think of the scope for putting some anarchistic oomph into Edinburgh. Never mind the tram chaos, never mind the financial fiasco, we could make a great virtue out of empty shops and holes in the roads. Next year lets wrap the RSA in sheeting and cover its face in graffiti (a fantastic defiant response to the mess in Princes Street).


Visual poetry: Burns Banner in Market Street

Or, how about doing something similar to the Scottish Parliament?  After all, the architect Enric Miralles does seem to have incorporated some of his design for a covered market in Barcelona into the Holyrood building. So  a touch of street art would be very fitting – have your say, spray your views on Scottish politics here! Better still, let’s give a make-over to all those banks we now own.

And open up those empty shops. Yesterday I ventured into Princes Mall for the first time in ages and was amazed to discover something adventurous brewing beneath the canned music and smell of fried foods.  Hard to believe this was the cavernous space that once housed events like the Great Northern Welly Boot show many many Fringes ago.  Sadly, the city fathers thought it a good idea to turn the old fruit and vegetable market hall into a bland shopping centre.  But maybe, just maybe, the recession brings new opportunities to reinvent the space.


It is very cheering to see Princes Mall has given floor space to Shop and Spot the Signspotting Project. The signs sometimes cast ironic shadows on their surroundings but someone with a sense of humour obviously sees an entrepreneurial opportunity for the shopping centre. At the same time they also allowed Poorboy Playrooms to work some mischievous magic in empty shops.


More fun less fear: Brian Ferguson of Poorboy with the Playroom poster.

And why not? With a bit of imagination empty shops can become art galleries, community cafes, music venues, street theatres –  a new sense of purpose in the worn out market place.  Edinburgh twinned with East Berlin?  We might even discover there is more to life than shopping.


Why not?


  1. Furniture in Portadown

    I know its a bit late now but does any1 know what happened to the graffiti?

    aswell as the paintings? especially of furniture? Would be very interested in these having owning a furniture shop!

  2. Fay Young

    It’s a shame the exhibition has to come to an end tomorrow (Sunday) but I hear there will be an auction of all the artwork – pieces of graffiti torn from the mural as well as furniture painted by artists such as Sketchy Pete and Elph and Dufi who works in “stencil, stone and schnitzel”

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