by Colin Campbell
WORK on the dismal, grey Gathering Place has speeded up. All that remains to be concreted is a stretch including the last remaining patch of grass on the former riverside beauty spot, which will soon be torn up and slabbed over.
So only 30 yards or so of “artwork” remains to be implanted in the soil.
The development, due to be completed “by early summer”, now looks likely to be finished before early winter.
And the most interesting thing about the entire project remains that “Vandalism in progress” sign that was hung on the fencing surrounding it two weeks ago.
The pithy public protest that the council, in a further act of Gathering Place lunacy, called the police in to investigate, branding it anti social, littering and vandalism.
But there’s only one act of vandalism taking place on the riverside.
And it’s clear enough which side of the fencing it’s taking place on.
As the structure shapes up as a curved carbuncle on the riverside it becomes ever more apparent why thousands of people were against it.
Because it is just a wall.
And with each foot of “progress” it just becomes a longer, more dominant wall built for no conceivable reason.
That is, other than to satisfy the arrogance and vanity of a small clique of councillors determined to get their way at all or any cost.
Anyone among them who hoped that some meaning or value would emerge to justify the Gathering Place after work began should be sorely disappointed.
How is it possible to rhapsodise a wall?
There is nothing quirky or imaginative or surprising about the slabs piled on top of each other.
There is far more character attached to drystane dykes across the Highlands, which really are rural works of art compared to this thing.
They were built with the toil and expertise of crofters 100 years ago, and are still standing to be admired to this day.
And they were not created by expensive “artwork” consultants, hundreds if not thousands of hours of council officials time, and £300,000 in public money.
Don’t prejudge and wait and see what it looks like when its finished, some might say, when the sullen grey slabs will be covered over.
They could be covered with gemstones and it wouldn’t change the fact that this “artwork” is just a wall.
It will be unique and something that can’t be found anywhere else in the world, said its cheerleader-in-chief, arts group chairwoman Isabelle MacKenzie.
It she has a wall at her home she’ll be seeing a partial replica of the Gathering Place every day, maybe minus the curve.
The longer it gets the more intrusive, pointless and meaningless it looks.
I don’t know the thoughts of the workers there just getting on with the grinding work every day. To these construction men it’s just another job. But I’d be amazed if at some stage the question didn’t arise among them: “Why the hell are we building this?”
At some point the sheer worthlessness of this project surely must have intruded on the thoughts of men used to doing building work for some obvious purpose.
There is no purpose to the Gathering Place, as becomes more evident the longer the construction work goes on.
The thousands of people opposed to this riverside travesty might have reasonably factored in the prospect that the vehemence of their opposition might have been at least partly confounded when the thing was built.
And that the Gathering Place wouldn’t turn out to be such a dreadful idea after all.
There is no prospect of that happening. This will meet the approval only of those who believe it’s a scenic improvement to replace a grassy, unspoilt, natural beauty spot with a long, curved, concrete wall.
As the Gathering Place nears the end of its actual construction phase, it looks more certain than ever that Isabelle MacKenzie, Provost Helen Carmichael and the few others determined to get it built will end up being responsible for the most worthless, reviled and wastefully expensive project in Inverness civic history.