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Alastair Mabbott excavates a distinct strain of London bias in the national media.

Who could forget the Emperor‘s Warriors exhibition in Edinburgh‘s (‘in Art (‘entre back in 1985‘? Or. rather. who could forget the queues that streamed seemingly for miles along the street outside. endless lines of people imbued with the patience and expectation of Muscovites queueing fora consignment of Levi’s?


Well. as the ranks finally march their terracotta bodies into London for an exhibition at the Royal Horticultural Society. we find that such amnesia is not impossible. While most of the London-based media. from Time Out to Blue Peter. were content to ignore the fact that the Edinburgh venture had been the best-attended temporary exhibition ever outside London drawing just under quarter of a million people the Observer Magazine of (i December 1987 went further and erroneously reported that the current undertaking is the first time the statues have ever been displayed in the l7nited Kingdom.

It's true that the Warriors weren‘t intended to come to Britain in ‘85.

and wouldn‘t have but for Edinburgh's Lord Provost who.

when in Xian in the early months of that year to sign the necessary documents for the twinning of the two cities. expressed admiration for the massed ranks ofstatues (7()()() in all) that had been unearthed. As a gesture of goodwill. the (‘hinese Minister of(‘u|ture extended the tour ofduty ofthe seyeral Warriors and horses already on the road. so that they would call in on lidinburgh after their Viennese stint. (While here. the Irish government made a bid for the soldiers. leading to a further extension of the tour to take in Dublin as well.)

Bob McLean. of lidinburgh District (‘ouncil‘s Recreation Department (who organised the appearance of the Warriors at the (‘ity Art Centre). quite naturally took umbrage at the Observer Magazine's mistake and took the time to write to its editor. letting him know that their readership was being misinformed. The letter. passed on to the writer of the piece. l’atrick Malone. generated a ‘humorous reply" passing the buck on to the organisersofthc London exhibition for misinforming him which

McLean felt ‘didn't address itself to the issue: that the error he had made was the result of an attitude.‘

The attitude of which Mcl .ean speaks is not one that he has to spell out. It's only too easy. it would seem. to assume the position that if something is ‘only‘ happening in Scotland then it doesn‘t count.

Earlier in the week that the offending Observer article had appeared. McLean had contacted the selfsame paper to remind them ol the forthcoming (iold of the l’haroahs exhibition said to be on a par with last decade's display of 'l‘utankhamen's family trinkets - and to ask if they were interested in covering it. 'l‘he predictable reply: Not really. not if it‘s happening outside London.

"l'he problem.‘ he tells its. ‘is getting London media people to take seriously arts and historical events that are taking place outside the city. We‘re trying to use their inaccurate reporting ol'the limperork \Varriois to make them realise the importance of(iold ofthe l’haroahx'

In an attempt to find out inst who was keeping mum about the quarter-million gate for the Warriors in lidinburgh. and possibly misleading top Sunday paper journalists. we contacted the Royal Horticultural Society . who are hosting the current exhibition. .-\ spokesperson told its. "l‘he press always get it wrong. 'l'hey don't read. they don't listen. they inst make up what they want. In fact. w e‘re not very happy with the press at the moment. ‘l'he way to find out is to get hold ol'our press releases. w hieh are Very accurate and make lull mention ofScotland.’

While the present exhibitors make no secret ol'tlie fact that the warriois have been seen in Britain beloie. they are how ey er claiming that it is a different exhibition from the one seen at the ( ’ity .'\rt ( 'entre. But ‘nine Warriors. two horses and twenty-one artelaets’ w as e\aetly the billing .\lcl ,ean recalls for the lidinburgh display and he at least is sceptical whether there is any thing but a cosmetic dilterence.

Whoever‘s oy erlooking the facts for the purposesoftheir story . one things certain: without a little more effort all round we could see (ilasgow ‘s much-by ped stint as liuropean (‘ity' of (‘ulture in thI receiving about as much coy e rage in Britain’s London-based national media as the .»\berfeld_\ Rat! Race.

The List 8 Zl January 1988 41