by Colin Campbell
I WENT along last Sunday morning to have a first look at the Gathering Place and saw it had been christened with a black scrawl of graffiti on a concrete slab jutting out over the river.
Was it worth a “Gathering Place vandalised by graffiti days after opening” piece? I didn’t rush home. There are other things to do on a Sunday other than write about this sorry pile of junk.
But the Inverness Courier weighed in heavily two days later and used it as their main front page story.
And now it’s happened again, with “Legalise cannabis” scrawled all over it.
So within a week of its opening the warnings of those who believed this concrete carbuncle would be a target for graffiti have been realised. One of so many warnings about the thing.
It’s quite possible that senior councillors like convener Margaret Davidson think this is exaggerated and are still wondering what all the fuss is about, and expect it to quickly die down.
They’ve misjudged the riverside situation for the past three years, after all. Why should that change now?
And there’s no doubt that the endless wrangling surrounding the Gathering Place passed many people by. As long as it was all argument and contentious plans on paper they didn’t take much notice.
But now it’s been built and stands very prominently in place. There’s been a lot of activity at the site, with curious folk having a close up look.
And I’ve yet to meet or talk to a single person who’s remotely impressed, especially when told the thing cost around £300,000 in total to build. Some of the responses are unprintable. The graffiti spread isn’t going to do much for its popularity either.
£300,000 is an extraordinary amount of money for what’s in place. A dismally uninspiring piece of so called “artwork” which, as thousands of people opposed to it warned, is just a curved stretch of wall.
But far from rapidly fading into the background, as those determined to build it now earnestly hope, it’s much more likely to be regarded for as long as it’s there as a high profile example of council extravagance, waste and folly.
There on the riverside for all to see, with varying degrees of disbelief, contempt and scorn.
Council budget crisis, no money for essential services, voluntary funded groups having to close?
Aye, but they could afford the bloody Gathering Place.
The script is already written.
And Margaret Davidson and Co are kidding themselves if they think differently.
Of course they’ll shrug it off because they’ve already shown that they don’t pay attention to public opinion in any case. Otherwise they’d have scrapped the Gathering Place notion long ago.
So it’ll serve as a reminder of their arrogance also.
The influential and widely supported OpenNess group intends to make an issue of this at the next council elections in May. That may to some extent work. It would be good in any case to see a clearout of at least some of the deadbeats responsible for it, and there are quite a few.
Then in May hopefully a new-look council with fresh blood will emerge. Comprising an intake of people who are prepared to listen to the public for a change.
But they’ll still be saddled with the Gathering Place debacle. I don’t believe it’s going to fade away.
After winter the by then grubby, graffiti scarred, reviled riverside Gathering Place will still hang like a millstone round their necks.
It will of course take time for such a view to mould into shape, but demolition will be the best and most obvious option. New councillors deciding to rid themselves of this ultra prominent monument to the waste and folly of their predecessors.
It was crazy to build it. The sensible alternative to such craziness would be to get rid of it. It could be bulldozed in two or three days without fuss.
Unique in all the world, newly opened, it’ll scar the riverside for some time yet.
But in the end, demolition and restoration of a riverside beauty spot to its natural state is the answer. Only then will councillors rid themselves of the curse of the Gathering Place.