As events are wiped out, only one highlight remains: the opening of the Gathering Place

Popular winter events in Inverness have already been cancelled.
by Colin Campbell

THE council this week announced the cancellation of popular winter events across the board. 

Gone are the Red Hot Highland Fling at Hogmanay, the bonfire and fireworks display and Halloween show, the Christmas lights switch-on parade, Winter Wonderland at Whin Park and the Ding Dong Merrily Old High carol singing event.

At least they haven’t cancelled Christmas itself.

Is this a rush to judgement as to how things will look in five months time? Is it an overtly bleak and pessimistic projection? Does it come from the same negative mindset that told us a few weeks ago that the coronavirus would inflict a £97 million deficit on the council budget when it now emerges the actual figure will be £32 million?

This sweeping declaration of intent will do nothing to boost morale. The council in its wisdom is telling people the gloom and doom will prevail right through the winter even though a lot can change in five months, for worse but also for better. 

Many of the events wiped out are highly popular and help bring some much-needed cheer to the city during the long winter months. In the first days of August, was it really necessary to slap the “cancelled” sign on events scheduled for December? 

While advance planning to stage them is needed that should not involve months of preparation. Why didn’t they leave it for a couple of months at least and then assess each event on its own merits rather than broadcasting the gloom and doom message so far in advance. 

With the lights turned out on so much, what does that leave us to look forward to?

 Well, there’s always the much-anticipated winter opening of the Coronavirus Gathering Place.

With work due to begin either next month or in September and expected to take three months, that should take place in deep midwinter in December. 

It had been expected that the opening of the Gathering Place would be a fairly low-key event, in accord with its status as the most loathed, mocked, reviled, ridiculed, despised and ruinous undertaking in Inverness civic history. 

And that Provost Helen Carmichael would stand atop the newly-built wall which will be its centrepiece in her robes and chains and read from a script declaring how impressively the £300,000 wall and concrete pathways creation was an inspiring piece of artwork which so impressively “enhanced the natural beauty” of its riverside setting, while a tiny audience swathed in overcoats clapped occasionally while avoiding making eye contact with her. 

Well, if this is to be the highlight of the winter, why not use the money saved elsewhere to try and make the best of it?

Could Tracy Emin be encouraged to open the Gathering Place for a suitable fee. Money should be no object – it hasn’t been up to now. In terms of artistic genius, is a wall her kind of thing?

Maybe enigmatic graffiti artist Banksy could be persuaded to emerge from the shadows he usually inhabits to perform the ceremony. He could daub it with a slather of his own graffiti. It won’t be the last to appear on it. 

And if neither of these icons can be persuaded to do the job, the chairman of Morrison Construction or some other building firm could make a grand appearance. Walls are their business.

As winter highlights go, the opening of the Coronavirus Gathering Place may not be the most enticing attraction imaginable. But this has been a strange year and with everything else being snuffed out, it looks like the only thing we’ve got left. 

Cast aside the long drawn out prospect of winter gloom and doom. 

There’s at least something to look forward to. 


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