Good afternoon, and welcome to UPLAND, a unique site-specific group
exhibition presented by staff and students from Edinburgh College of
Art's Intermedia course here at Camp 21, the former Prisoner of War
My name is Neil Cooper, and I’m a writer and critic about theatre,
music and art for various publications.
Before I introduce the panel, I just want to go through the procedures
of the afternoon and introduce a few ideas and connections about it
that have been thrown up in my mind since I came on board.
Once I’ve introduced the panel, each of them will talk for a few
minutes, introducing their ideas about things relating to Upland, which
may open things up for discussion later.
I’ll then ask each of the panel some questions before we open things
out to the floor.
After that, who knows, but we’ll be aiming to finish at about 5 O
clock, but before we do I’ll ask each of the panel to try and sum up,
and if anyone wants to we can continue the discussion in a more
To introduce each of the panellists –
Neil Bromwich is one half of Walker and Bromwich, and is an artist and
lecturer in Fine Art at Newcastle University.
David McCall is Chair of Comrie Development Trust, knows Cultybraggan
backwards, and very graciously opened the site up to us today.
Johnny Rodger is a writer, critic and Reader in Urban Literature at
Glasgow School of Art.
Calum Britane is one of the artists from Edinburgh College of
Art's Intermedia course taking part in UPLAND, as is Jenny Salmean
Also taking part in the discussion will be Susan Mowatt from Edinburgh
College of Art's Intermedia Department, and Zoe Walker, the artist and
other half of Walker and Bromwich.
Before I hand over to the panellists, by way of introduction I’d just
like to offer some of my own responses, which may or may not be
Last year, I broke the rule of a lifetime, and slept under canvas at an
open-air music festival.
Previously, I've always vowed that unless there's a roof over my head
and hot and cold running water, I wasn't interested.
As a result, prior to last year, the only music festivals I'd been to
were All Tomorrow's Parties, the left-field festivals curated by a
particular artist, who selected all of the supporting acts in a series
of weekend events.
These took place originally in Pontin's holiday camp in Camber Sands in
East Sussex, and latterly at Butlin's bigger and slightly less basic
holiday camp in Minehead in Somerset.
At ATP, as it came to be known after the first event, which the
curators Belle and Sebastian called the Bowlie Weekender, I was lucky
enough to attend events curated by Mogwai, Shellac, Tortoise, Autechre,
Thurston Moore, Portishead and Godspeed You Black Emperor, the latter
of whom had first appeared at the Bowlie Weekender back in 1999.
Being somewhat older than many of the attendees, myself and my friends
made the effort to see pretty much everything on offer, only falling
prey to the allure of late night bars once the bands had finished.
For some of the younger people in attendance at ATP, however, it didn't
seem to matter whether they saw many – or indeed any – of the bands or
It was being there that counted.
This is probably much the same as how it was at Woodstock and the Isle
of Wight as much as it is at Knebworth, Glastonbury or any of the other
open-air events that have become a summer fixture as the ongoing
festivilsation of culture has become ever more mainstream.
It was the same for me last year at Wickerman.
Unlike ATP, however, where many happy campers were having their first
holiday away from their parents as a kind of mini gap year rites of
passage, much of the Wickerman audience was made up of middle-aged
weekend ravers who could take their kids along so they could try and
recapture a similar state of being and remember the first time.
The summer music festival, it seems, like week-long raves in Ibiza, or
the school camping trip before it, is the done thing these days for kids of all
In the art world, students and seasoned artists alike 'do' Venice just
as they might have once 'done' and maybe still 'do' a Club 18-30
holiday with their mates.
There's something about getting away from your regular environment, be
it for work, pleasure or both, that sharpens the senses, raises the
antennae and brings you out of yourself a bit.
There's a Peanuts cartoon with Peppermint Patty and Marcie skipping
merrily through the grass with the slogan above them saying 'HAPPINESS
IS CLASS OUTSIDE'.
Such a notion isn't that different from the 1960s hippie generation's
idea of 'Getting Their Heads Together In The Country', or Jesus going
out into the Wilderness for forty days and forty nights.
And it was exactly the same for me at Wickerman and All Tomorrow's
Parties at Pontin's and Butlin's as much as it was at youth club
weekends in North Wales or at Iona Youth Camp or a summer performance
course in Fife.
And I would wager it's pretty much the same for the artists who've made
work here for UPLAND at Cultybraggan.
A community of some kind is created.
And then you go home.
But, as shocking as it is to have to wake up to the real world again
after what has usually been a very insular experience, you come back
different in some way.
This is the essence of summer camp, to transcend yourself in some way,
to become something other.
But if the experience at Cultybraggan, Wickerman or wherever has
changed you, how has the summer camp you left behind now it's getting a
new influx of visitors without you been changed by you?
What have you left behind?
Places, like people, aren't fixed, permanent things.
They're always changing, and can be many things at one and the same
So it is with the site of Cultybraggan, which had a history before it
became Camp 21, but which has since been defined by its experience as a
Prisoner of War camp.
In many ways, UPLAND is an attempt to redefine Cultybraggan in the way
that the local, community-run Comrie Development Trust has done over
the last few years, and it's a badge of honour to the people running
the Comrie Development Trust that they're forward thinking enough to
recognise the potential for art to change a landscape in the way that
its done today.
But, as the booklet produced by Comrie Development Trust outlining Camp
21's history makes clear, UPLAND isn't the first art to be housed here.
The booklet highlights the experience of German musician Howard Tell,
who fled Nazi Germany, and ended up helping to build Cultybraggan.
Tell would give piano recitals, and the booklet features a poster for
The booklet also has an image of a programme for an evening of operatic
excerpts performed by German prisoners.
There's something of these incidents that made me think of Playing For
Time, the 1980 Arthur Miller scripted film which starred Vanessa
Redgrave as Fania Fenelon, a real life Jewish singer and pianist who,
confined in Auschwitz, becomes part of the camp's Women's Orchestra.
Not that Auschwitz and Cultybraggan can be compared in any way.
It just made me think again of the power of art to transcend the
surroundings that it's sired in and become something else, a weapon of
happiness if you will.
Weapons of Happiness was a phrase that came to mind the first time I
came into contact with the work of Zoe Walker and Neil Bromwich.
It was a phrase I nicked from the title of Howard Brenton's 1976 play
about a strike in a London crisp factory, and which also featured
characters that included Joseph Stalin and the Czech cabinet minister,
Josef Frank, who in the play has hallucinations of life in Stalinist
For some reason that plot seems more relevant in this context than it
did then, even though it has nothing to do with Zoe and Neil's work.
Zoe and Neil's film, Dancing Borders, which was based on a performance
of theirs I first saw in Berwick, drew on some of the battles that had
taken place there, and translated them into a piece of impressionistic
contemporary dance that transcended its source to become something
pinker and infinitely more peaceful.
In its sense of choreographed spectacle, Dancing Borders seemed to have
its roots in a 1960s counter-culture, and some of the grass-roots and
community-based art that came out of that.
This included Albert Hunt's Bradford Theatre Group, formed at Bradford
College of Art and immortalised in Hunt's tellingly titled memoir,
Hopes For Great Happenings.
Then there was Jeff Nuttall's adventures in performance art with The
People Show, and there was John Fox's Welfare State International
There was also Centre 42, an arts lab founded in North London in 1964
by playwright Arnold Wesker.
Centre 42 later morphed into the Roundhouse, the counter-cultural Mecca
that played host to hippie Happenings, including the launch of
underground newspaper, International Times, featuring performances by
Pink Floyd and Soft Machine, as well as the Middle Earth club.
With this in mind, it's interesting to note that, as part of UPLAND,
one of the artists huts has been dubbed Games Centre 42.
All of these initiatives in different ways created spectacles in places
and spaces both indoors and outdoors that became subverted, disrupted
or changed in some way.
A much sung example of this happened in 1970, when Joseph Beuys and
Richard Demarco set out on their walk across Rannoch Moor, not long
before Beuys' response to the walk – Celtic (Kinloch Rannoch) The
Scottish Symphony - was seen in the Strategy Get Arts exhibition at
Edinburgh College of Art.
In the 1980s, the band Test Department took the social and physical
environment of industrial decay and transformed it into a thrilling
martial spectacle set up in abandoned factories and warehouses that
would later house a fledgling rave and free party movement.
Using pounding percussion, found metal objects and heroic iconography,
Test Department looked militaristic, but remained fiercely oppositional
Later, Test Department's Angus Farquhar, who would go on to produce
environmental spectaculars with his company, NVA, would make the cranes
on the River Clyde dance and reimagine the landscape of Glen Lyon.
With Test Department, he would reconstitute the Beltane Fire on Calton
Hill, an event which became synonymous with protests against the
Criminal Justice Bill, the legislation brought in to outlaw gatherings
involving repetitive beats.
All of these, in different ways, were weapons of happiness, just as
Dancing Borders was, and just as some of the works on show in UPLAND
here today at Cultybraggan might be too.
But Dancing Borders was also a kind of re-enactment of battles won or
lost, which, by way of assorted anniversaries, seems this year to be
very pertinent indeed.
This year marks the 100th anniversary of World War One, the 800th
anniversary of the Battle of Bannockburn and the thirtieth anniversary
of the Miners Strike.
The response by artists to World War One as it happened helped spew up
the Dada movement, a noisy, destructive form of anti-art that exploded
into the moment before morphing into Surrealism.
Every time I walk past Harburn Hobbies, the model railway and Airfix
kit shop on Leith Walk in Edinburgh just now, I'm struck by their
latest window display.
This consists of an artfully arranged display of boxes, each of which
contains a regiment of model soldiers – World War One British Infantry,
World War One British Cavalry, World War One American Infantry, World
War One German Infantry – with the box featuring a painting of an
action scene involving the relevant troops contained inside.
Behind these boxes stands a much larger box, again with an action scene
painted on involving a cumbersome-looking tank – a model of which can
also be bought separately.
As its lettering indicates, inside the larger box is a kit that allows
the serious modeller to build everything required to stage their
version of the Battle of the Somme on a scaled-down diorama, presumably
with the boxes of model soldiers in front also involved in the toy-town
This re-enactment in miniature contained in the window display in
Harburn Hobbies made me think briefly of Hell, the sculpture by Jake
and Dinos Chapman – who, incidentally, in 2004 curated the Nightmare
Before Christmas December strand of the All Tomorrows Parties music
festival at Camber Sands - which artfully arranged miniature model
Nazi soldiers in the shape of a Swastika.
Neither Hell nor Harburn Hobbies window display, it seems, can be said
to be weapons of happiness.
As part of this year's much vaunted Homecoming celebrations in June,
the Battle of Bannockburn – which in real life lasted some 48 hours –
will be re-enacted in a series of three performances a day to entertain
the tourists in an event called Bannockburn Live, described on its
website as 'A Feast of Food, Music and History'.
In the re-enactments, more than 300 participants from re-enactment
societies across Europe, and described as 'living historians', will be
choreographed by Clanranald, the company who choreographed the action
scenes in the films, Gladiator and Thor 2.
Meanwhile, over on the music stages, Dougie MacLean, the writer of the
song Caledonia, and Julie Fowlis, who sang on the soundtrack to the
Disney Pixar animated feature film, Brave, will perform their own
weapons of happiness.
As for the Miner's Strike, Jeremy Deller already immortalised this late
twentieth century civil war when he and some of the conflict's
survivors – miners and policemen both – staged a re-enactment of the
Battle of Orgreave.
One of the Miners Strike's bitterest conflicts, the Battle of Orgreave,
saw some 5-6000 picketing miners at loggerheads with up to 8000 police
in Yorkshire in 1984.
It was an event which eventually saw South Yorkshire police pay out
half a million pounds in compensation to striking miners they had
Film-maker Mike Figgis, - who had once been part of The People Show
with Jeff Nuttall - filmed Deller's re-enactment of the Battle of
Orgreave for a Channel 4 documentary.
As well as using local people in the project, Deller drafted in three
re-enactment societies to choreograph something that was still fresh in
people's minds, and went some way to highlighting the battle's
significance as well as being a form of healing for the local community.
Deller's use of weapons of happiness was partly in keeping with
Culloden, the 1964 film made by Peter Watkins, who used documentary
techniques to dramatise the 1746 Battle of Culloden that resulted in
the British Army's destruction of the Jacobite rising.
Using a non-professional cast, Watkins staged Culloden as a piece of
contemporary reportage, with key players on both sides of the battle
being interviewed on camera as if being shown on a news broadcast.
To the best of my knowledge, neither Bannockburn, Culloden or Orgreave
are available in Airfix model kit miniature reconstructions, although
the Battle of the Somme and other key battles in World Wars One and Two
Perhaps these too are a form of creative play that reimagine
environments in the way that Zoe and Neil's weapons of happiness do,
and which the artists contributing to UPLAND today have done.
But what happens next?
Is it all about personal change within this environment, or will it
amount to something greater than that?
That remains to be seen, but as an example of how environments can be
changed in the long term, one should perhaps look to Rannoch Moor.
Since Joseph Beuys and Richard Demarco first went there in 1970, the
place has become notable for other interventions.
Long before Brave, Disney situated Castle McDuck, the ancestral home of
Walt Disney's cartoon millionaire amphibian, Scrooge McDuck, on Rannoch
Rannoch Moor was also the location for a scene in Danny Boyle's 1996
big-screen adaptation of Irvine Welsh's novel, Trainspotting.
It is the spire built there by George Wylie in 1986 in honour of Beuys
and Demarco, however, that is probably a more lasting legacy of their
Even more pertinent, this weekend, Test Department have reconvened for
the first time since 1997 to present a new sonic, cinematic and
lighting intervention at Dunston Staiths on the banks of the River Tyne.
Dunston Staiths was built in 1893, and was reputed to be Europe’s
largest wooden structure to ship coal from the local Durham coalfields
to the world.
The event will form part of the AV Festival of sound-based art in what
should prove to be one of the most spectacular commemorations of the
What happens next at Camp 21, Cultybraggan beyond Upland remains to be
Perhaps there will be more art.
Perhaps there will be some kind of music festival.
Whatever happens, a brief conversation I had earlier with a lady who
was navigating the site as she perused the art in Upland saw her
capture what the power of a space, and the power for that space to
change, can mean.
She put it succinctly.
“In a way,” she said, “we should be grateful to the army.”
Given as an introduction to a panel discussion presented as part of
UPLAND at Camp 21, Cultybraggan by staff and students of Edinburgh
College of art's Intermedia course on Saturday March 30th.
Peter Watkins – Culloden (1964) - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y0efUZQANaE
Mike Figgis / Jeremy Deller – The Battle of Orgreave - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3ncrWxnxLjg
I was planning to end my introduction with a reading of a text from
theatre director Max Stafford Clark's book, Taking Stock (Nick Hern
Books, 2007), but decided it wasn't quite appropriate. You may see why
below. It comes from page 15 of the book, at the end of the first
section, when Stafford-Clark was artistic director of the Traverse
Theatre, Edinburgh, from 1966-72.
'In 1971, Stafford-Clark and the Company went to a conference of
experimental theatre companies.
Letter to Philip Roberts, 15 May 2002
The International Theatre Institute festival was outside Paris in an
up-market holiday camp. Experimental and radical theatre companies came
from several countries. We represented Scotland. Each company occupied
a cluster of chalets. We began with an interminable discussion about
why we were there, and, more pertinently, how we were going to work
together over the week-long conference. The opening session dragged on
all afternoon in the September heat but was kicked into life by the
Swiss group who launched into an immediate and surreal improvisation in
the middle of the conference. One of the group, Roderic Leigh, was
later in Joint Stock's first production, The Speakers. Robert Wilson
did a still life which featured a dead rabbit. The Polish group, led by
Kantor, were sombre and impressive. The Italian group from Turin had a
charismatic and autocratic director and his largely female company were
students, shop assistants and waitresses who had run away from home
telling their mothers they were at an academic conference. Their show
wasn't up to much, but they gave the best parties and got drunk with
vigour and determination. The Swedish group announced they would hold
an open-air performance outside their chalet, which was at the top of a
small incline. As I approached I could see a large and breathless
crowd. In the centre of the clearing a young man with long blonde hair
was very slowly fucking the group's volatile leading lady. There was
also a Marxist French group who declined to mix with the rest of us and
who everybody resented. They staged a protest against our bourgeois
inertia by arriving in the dining room swathed head to foot in
bandages, where they sat in silent protest at each table while we ate.
I was impressed. We played the role of court jesters and staged scenes
from John Spurling's In the Heart of the British Museum in the garden.
Part of the Traverse Workshop Company were an accomplished band, Bread,
Love and Dreams, who had their own following in Scotland. In retrospect
I can see that they gave the company much of the light and airy feeling
that we had at our best. As for the serious political idea, it would
have died of loneliness...we were interested in exploring ourselves.'