Shaping up…. the soon to be ‘unique’ Gathering Place wall.
by Colin Campbell
A STRETCH of Gathering Place wall has now been built on a former natural beauty spot on the Inverness riverside adjacent to the Ness islands.
One of the most controversial if not the most controversial construction project in Inverness civic history is due to be finished by early summer, according to the council, which means in a couple of weeks time.
And the $64,000 dollar question – or the £300,000 question given the overall cost of the thing is:
Will the curved centrepiece, proclaimed as “artwork” by the council clique obsessed with building it, turn out to be just an intrusive, unnecessary and ridiculously expensive stretch of wall?
Or will it gain plaudits, in the impassioned assessment of council arts group chairwoman Isabelle MacKenzie, as “a unique piece”, and “something which can’t be found anywhere else in the world”.
Well, the gulf between its current appearance and Isabelle MacKenzie’s prediction is the length of the Great Wall of China.
It’s a wall, as the legions of critics claimed. Special cladding will be added to it but there’s only so much that can be done to enhance the appearance of a wall, and after that’s been done it’ll still be just a wall.
And to think that this bit of brickwork gave rise to a three-year saga of debate, a 3000-strong protest petition, impassioned council meetings, fiery public forums, and an insistence from council chief executive Donna Manson that failure to build it would cause – horror of horrors – “reputational risk” to Highland Council.
Not to mention the involvement of Glasgow-based “artwork” consultants hired at inordinate cost to come up with something “special”.
Which added up to a total expenditure of public money rising to around £300,000.
Based on what has emerged so far, what an astonishing, inexplicable fuss.
Not from the thousands of people who just wanted an idyllic natural riverside beauty spot to be left alone.
But provoked by the tiny council clique who were utterly obsessed with ensuring that, come hell or high water, the Gathering Place with its “artwork” wall and concrete pathways should be built on it.
Well the ultimate vanity project is shaping up now for Isabelle MacKenzie and her council cohorts.
They’re keeping a close eye on its progress.
Based on what’s appeared so far, would Ms MacKenzie now stand before it and again issue a confident prediction that it will end up being “unique” and “something which can’t be found anywhere else in the world”?
In the timescale for its construction, the Gathering Place is supposed to be finished in two or three weeks time. They haven’t got very long to transform it from bricks stuck on top of each other to an international showpiece.
Getting down to basics, we can confidently predict, as thousands did, that they were talking delusional, intelligence-insulting rubbish all along.
Which is why so many people were so bitterly opposed to the incredibly wasteful desecration of a beautiful stretch of riverside at colossal expense for no good reason whatever. Other, than that is, to satisfy the vanity project ambitions of a small group of councillors who were determined that the Gathering Place site would be concreted over at all or any cost to nature, the environment, and precious public money.
So workmen are now building a wall, which will no doubt be turned into a nice-looking wall, the kind any householder would be pleased to have in his front garden.
Meanwhile, the site itself is still a churned up pile of dirt. Once this thing is completed, how long will it take to reseed and for lush, natural grass to cover the location, as it once did?
Maybe Isabelle MacKenzie and co will speed things up by covering it with artificial turf instead. Nothing would surprise us in this ongoing riverside fiasco anymore.
Meanwhile, 200 yards upriver the key crossing link of the Infirmary Bridge has been closed indefinitely because it has been neglected by the council for years and is no longer safe to walk on.
But the Gathering Place is certainly progressing. That brickwork is now in place amid an expanse of piled up dirt and grime.
On the evidence of what is now emerging, who can say whether those who were so vehemently behind this thing were fantastists, egotists or plain fools, or a combination of all three.
Well they’re getting their wall now, and apparently something “unique” and “which can’t be found anywhere else in the world” is taking shape on the riverside before our very eyes.
They say you can fool all of the people some of the time and some of the people all of the time.
It turns out that those behind the purblind folly of the Gathering Place with its concrete pathways and its glorified garden wall, right from its misbegotten conception, couldn’t fool any of the people any of the time.