by Colin Campbell
TWO major projects which will directly affect the public mood in Inverness over the dark and difficult months ahead are currently in limbo.
The first is the Riverlights programme, an imaginatively colourful plan for light show illumination of city buildings. Gerry Reynolds and his highly successful events team at Highland Council have come up with an initiative which would see “eyecatching light shows and projections mounted at city buildings and locations”.
That could involve Inverness Castle, Abertaff House, Inverness Town House, St Andrew’s Cathedral, Inverness Museum and Art Gallery, the Northern Meeting Park, and Eden Court Theatre.
This is not a proposal to burn up money with wasteful frippery. The city centre is coming back to life now after months of deserted lockdown and what could be more welcome during this winter especially than rounding off a pretty dreadful year by spraying good cheer over the heart of Inverness through the power of light.
What is planned would be spectacular and uplifting at a time when spectacle and uplift has never been more needed. It would bring commercial benefit to the city centre but it would do something equally, if not more important than that. Carefully crafted, as it would be, it would play a role in cheering people up.
Consider the power of light transformation of the Ness bridge. Not so very long ago it was a dark slab of concrete. Now it is a rainbow coloured feature which has brilliantly enhanced the appearance of the entire riverscape.
The funding of Riverlights from the Inverness Common Good fund would involve no additional spending. It would be paid for through money saved due to the necessary but hugely unfortunate cancellation of the Inverness Winter Festival. No Ness Islands Halloween show, no Bonfire Night, no Hogmanay party and no much else besides. These events will be sorely missed. Riverlights would not fully compensate for their loss but it would certainly help alleviate potentially bleak times ahead.
Councillors are stalling on giving it the go-ahead because they want more details. That’s fair enough, but this no time for curmudgeonly instincts to come to the fore. The next time they consider this, they should look at the bigger picture – the bigger, brighter and spirits-raising picture.
The second project currently in limbo is the Gathering Place, which would have the exact opposite effect on the public mood. Three months ago there was the shock announcement that this riverside monstrosity would be built as a priority project, with work starting in August/September. Well August has passed now and we are deep into September and the lights seem to have gone out on this thing. There has been no further information on it. But with a minimum building schedule of three months, if work began tomorrow workmen would still be slogging away on it in December, weather and water levels permitting.
We don’t know, yet again, what’s going on behind the scenes with the Gathering Place and perhaps the least said about it the better.
All that can be said with certainty is that Riverlights would do a thousand times more for public morale than the grimy riverside desecration brought about by construction of the Gathering Place.
Or to put it another way, if the council is intent on pressing ahead with the winter ruination of the riverside, for heaven’s sake let the city have the vividly cheerful spectacle of the Riverlights power of light show as well.