by Colin Campbell
WHEN artists are commissioned to provide pretty-picture illustrations of how new developments planned for Inverness will look – hotels, blocks of flats, entertainment venues and so on – it may not be their most favoured artistic challenge but they usually try and rise to the occasion.
Depicting a giant slab of concrete as something that’ll be aesthetically appreciated and admired takes skill and imagination.
And too often we’ve seen rather too much imagination applied, with the initial artistic creation bearing little resemblance to the structure which finally appears.
So we can only wonder what happened with regard to the new Marriot Hotel planned to replace the Ironworks in Academy Street.
Did the artist given the task of trying to make the thing look appealing lose heart halfway through the challenge and more or less give up?
It certainly looks like it.
How many planners, councillors or members of the public was this artistic depiction intended to win over? This is a very big and featureless lump of concrete soaring upward and towering over everything around it.
It doesn’t so much invite sceptical comment as the rather more direct question: “What in God’s name is that?”
Seven storeys high and looking every inch of it, the view of the city from the roof would be like that from the observation point at Inverness Castle, or pretty close to it. And that’s not how it’s supposed to be.
No wonder planners have gone back to the Marriot group and told them to have another go, and come up with something less dominant which blends in to at least some degree with its modest Academy Street surroundings. A lot of fresh thinking is required here – and maybe a new artist as well.
Designer’s jarring tone will alienate people
INTERNATIONAL designer Siobhan Mackenzie may have achieved considerable success in the fashion world but she shouldn’t let it go to her head.
And that’s what seems to have happened in relation to her views on racism and her home village of Fortrose.
A very sensitive subject – but that didn’t stop her plunging in with a claim that she was “gobsmacked” by the level of racism there.
She said: “A number of young women eloquently designed and made posters to put up in the village to share their solidarity with the Black Lives Matter campaign in America. But they were taken down by people in the village.
“I wanted to make a banner to show my support for them, and to send a clear message out to the world that, in the Black Isle, racism exists and people need to educate themselves.”
Has she considered the possibility that local people may be sympathetic to concerns about racism but don’t want a clutter of scrawled posters scattered for any length of time around their village?
“Gobsmacked” she may be. But her tone is liable to offend and alienate people far more than it is to convert them.
Ewing should stand up for tourism industry
WE don’t know how much attention Nicola Sturgeon pays to Inverness MSP and tourism minister Fergus Ewing – not the most compelling and charismatic character on the Holyrood scene – but we can only assume she grants him some kind of access.
Well if he can muster a persuasive argument urging her to remove the two-metre social distancing rule now is the time to apply it.
Sturgeon seems doggedly determined to stick with this, even though the World Health Organisation has said that one-metre distancing is enough, and other countries are going along with that advice.
Fergus Ewing represents a city hugely dependent on tourism and the overwhelming consensus among hotel, restaurant and bar owners here is that a two-metre restriction would make their businesses inoperable.
It would slash the number of tables they could put outside where people could enjoy an entirely safe, open-air drink, to the point that it wouldn’t be financially worthwhile putting out any at all.
Restaurants would be impossibly restricted in the number of diners they could host. How would hotels function at reception areas dealing with customers, how would it even be possible to assist guests needing help with their luggage in a lift?
Every one of these places will be working to the utmost on the huge changes required, a daunting task in itself. But application of the two-metre rule at all times is one challenge too far.
It is impossible to know how much Nicola Sturgeon just wants to be seen to be different from Boris Johnson, who has already given clear indication that he is open to altering the two-metre rule. So far, she can be given the benefit of the doubt for largely keeping politics out of it.
But this is a defining moment for her. If she refuses to yield she will be viewed as the person responsible for crushing the life out of the hospitality industry. And in Inverness and the Highlands, Fergus Ewing will be seen as her ruinous acolyte.