Proposals under fire as gallery dispute gets personal

A WAR OF WORDS has broken out over plans to revamp Glasgow’s Kelvingrove Museum and Art Gallery, with opponents to the scheme accused of putting lottery funding at risk.

Former Glasgow councillor and Euro- MP Janey Buchan led a demand last week for greater consultation over proposals to revamp the historic attraction, which have been described by critics as ’Disneyfication’.

The plans include computerised exhibits, audio and themed displays aimed at a greater level of ’stOryteIIing’. The intention is to bring the building up-to-date, but in an open letter to the Heritage Lottery Board, Buchan claimed the ideas lacked community support.

Backed by 63 signatures, she pointed out that applicants for Heritage lottery

funding were required to provide ’evidence of community support . . . including details of public consultation’.

’There hasn't been any consultation,’ said Buchan, a long-time supporter of the arts. ’Some councillors hadn’t even seen the proposals until they appeared in the press,’ she claimed.

However, her intervention was sharply rebuked by the City of Glasgow Council’s Arts Convener Frank McAveety, who said detailed plans would be made available on 3 June.

’It is extraordinary that Mrs Buchan has gone direct to Lord Rothschild instead of approaching us. She is doing Glasgow no favours by raising doubts in the minds of lottery board members about our plans to invest in

[Kelvingrove’s] future.’

Buchan said she took exception to his comments. ’What can we do? We can't get to speak to them. It is the oldest dodge in business to shoot the messenger.’

She denied that those criticising the scheme were anti-progress. 'Of course we want the new technologies, but it is there to back up scholarship, and Glasgow museums is in the process of sacking highly-skilled staff.’

Mark O’Neil, head of curatorial services for Glasgow City Council, said some critics had other motives. ’It is a platform for certain individuals to have a potshot at Julian Spalding,’ he claimed.

Spalding, the controversial director of Glasgow Museums and Galleries, is

Spalding: potshot

widely seen as driving through the changes. However O’Neill insisted this was not the case. ’There is nothing autocratic or threatening about this.’ (Stephen Naysmith)

Drug dealers stymied by Max factor

A SCOTTISH CLUB is putting the bite. on drug-dealers, as it becomes the first in the country to use a trained dog to sniff them out.

Max, a three-year-old Springer, is able to recognise five different types of drug, and he’s quickly becoming Scotland’s most uncompromising b0uncer

Bathgate’s Room At The Top had operated a strict anti-drugs policy, but were frustrated when a dealer walked free from court, as the judge ruled that the club’s search of him was illegal.

’lt just seemed like a carte blanche for people to deal,’ said promoter Ian St John. ’If the dog sniffs anything now we just refuse them entry.’

Room At The Top has recently reopened after the preVious premises burned down last year. St John claims it is now the largest purpose-built club in the UK, and aims to make sure it keeps its licence.

’If the police believe you’ve got a problem with drugs the licence is gone without even an appeal.’

Hence the arrival of Max, who can alert bouncers to the presence of heroin, cocaine, marijuana amphetamines or ’designer' drugs. If a dealer slips past him in the queue, he picks up the scent in the cloakroom and they are banned when they collect their coat.

St John claimed clubbers have no objection to the dog, which also patrols inside the club. 'They’ve taken him to their hearts,’ he said.

But while the club’s vigilant canine sniffs, he never inhales, St John insisted: ’If he smells anything, he acts like you are hiding his toy behind your back and gets very excited.’

’He can also scent explosives, though that isn’t as useful. If Max rejects you, you’re either a dealer or a bomber,’ St. John concluded. (Stephen Naysmith)

4 TIIEUS‘I' 30 May—12 Jun 1997

Mayfest director admits: ‘It’s an uphill struggle’

AS MAYFEST 1997 concludes, the post- mortem has already begun, but rumours of the arts festival’s demise have been greatly exaggerated, according to its director Paul Bassett.

Glasgow’s festival is in good health and ’great demand’, he claimed, despite a spate of bad news. Mayfest 1997 certainly appears to have been disastrous: several events suffered exceptionally low attendance figures, among them supposed highlights such as Peter Maxwell Davies’s opera Resurrection, and the performance by Les Ballet Africains of Heritage. Tickets to the shows were given away in a bid to fill seats and in at least one case, free seats were offered to a group of people queuing to buy tickets.

Space was booked for a press bureau at Glasgow’s Centre for Contemporary Arts, but it was never occupied and post and faxes were left uncollected. Bassett himself and marketing manager Sally Fletcher have both had prolonged periods of sick leave, and there have been resignations among senior staff.

Rumours have spread through Glasgow’s arts and media communities that Mayfest’s future is untenable.

Bassett sees it differently: 'A lot of things worked very well, others didn't,’

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Heritage: low attendance

he claimed, but admitted, ’it is increasingly difficult in a cash-strapped City like Glasgow to make adventurous, unknown work accesSible.

'lt’s an uphill struggle I often feel I’d rather watch telly than go out,’ he added with remarkable frankness.

Responding to suggestions that Glaswegians are not suffiCiently

interested in the arts, Neil Mowat, events co-ordinator at the Arches Theatre, denied this was the case.

The Arches has had to overcome such problems to survive in austere times, he explained. ’We’ve managed to capture a blend of commercialism, exciting art and enthusiasm.’ However, he was critical of this year’s Mayfest, arguing: ’lt's not an exciting programme and it is programmed in the wrong places. Is there an audience for a four-day run in a 1500-seat theatre for a new opera [Resurrection, at the King’s]? You have to be sensitive about who you're aiming at.’

However Bassett insists the festival has support in the city which is not being reflected. A survey was carried out at all venues, he pointed out. 'Hundreds, if not thousands of forms were collected, and the oven/vhelming response was that Mayfest should conhnue/

The director remains confident that Mayfest wrll return next year. 'It will be in a very different form in future but the essence of it which is a speCial festival of culture for all the people of Glasgow has not gone away,’ he said.

(Andrew Burnet)

Civil rights claim over ancient wood

THE CAMPAIGN TO save an area of ancient Caledonian woodland from commercial felling has moved up a gear, through the intervention of The Scottish Council For Civil Liberties.

SCCL director Professor Alan Miller has stepped in on behalf of the Pressmennan Wood camp- aigners who were evicted from a protest camp sited near the threatened forest and charged under the 1865 Trespass Act.

Professor Miller, who will be representing some of the camp- aigners, due in court on 11 June. commented: ’The criminalisation of those who seek only to protest peacefully brings no credit to the

criminal justice system, nor to society as a whole.’

He added that SCCL would be pressing for a different approach to such conflicts. ’It isn't appropriate for protestors to be criminalised, especially using laws passed 100’s of years ago,’ he said. 'Such matters should be resolved outwith the criminal courts.’

Environmentalists set up camp in the East Lothian village of Stenton on an acre of ground bordering the Pressmennan oak wood as an early warning base to monitor the arrival of tree-fellers.

The activists say the site, which is known locally as The Bughts and generally assumed to be common

land, is in fact unclaimed.

They had attempted to register the site themselves, but an alarmed local resident group contacted a trustee of the estate of the late Vice Admiral Brooke, who arrived to lay claim to the acre of land.

At this point the police, claiming to be acting for the legal owner, ordered the campers to leave. When they refused, the camp was evicted. Four people were arrested and put on bail with conditions barring them from the entire village of Stenton and Pressmennan Woods.

The site was fenced and cleared with four more arrests on 19 April. (Conchita Pinto)