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Craig Coulthard – Forest Pitch

When Craig Coulthard was growing up in Germany, he liked a kickabout as 
much as most other small boys. It gave the Edinburgh-based artist a 
sense of belonging, he reckons, helped him bond and integrate with the 
German kids. Rather than scrambling about in jumpers-for-goalposts 
childhood, however, Coulthard’s games took place in a forest, 
undercover of an all-encompassing blanket of trees that gave the games 
a more dramatic and mysterious edge.

Coulthard revisited his old playground a couple of years ago while on a 
residency in Dusseldorf, only to find a razed and abandoned site. It 
was a similar story in Cathkin Park, the former home to the now defunct 
Third Lanark FC in Glasgow, where Coulthard played as a teenager, and 
where the overgrown trees lent the environment a moody air. Flying over 
the Borders en route home from Dusseldorf, Coulthard was similarly 
struck by the dense impenetrability of the tree-lined landscape below 
and what might just be at play beneath.

All of which goes some way to explaining the thinking behind Forest 
Pitch, Coulthard’s large-scale spectacle that forms Scotland’s 
contribution to 2012’s Cultural Olympiad, which offers artistic 
responses to the Olympic Games themselves. Starting with two football 
matches taking place over one day on private land on the Buccleuch 
Estate just outside Selkirk in the Scottish Borders, Forest Pitch will 
field four teams – two male, two female - made up of players of non-UK 
origin, but who have been granted Leave To Remain here this century.

Football has always been a big thing to me,” says Coulthard, who is 
overseeing all aspects of Forest Pitch, from team training sessions to 
team shirts designed by school-children, “and has been as influential 
as music and visual art, so I think it’s natural that my work’s going 
to be about things I’m interested in.”

Forest Pitch isn’t the first time Coulthard has looked to football for 
inspiration. Indeed, popular culture of all forms has been explicit in 
Coulthard’s work since his time on the MFA course at Edinburgh College 
of Art prior to co-founding the still active independent artspace The 
Embassy in Edinburgh. Football strips, flags and t-shirts are 
paramount, while Coulthard’s band vehicle, Randan Discotheque, released 
a single, Heather the Weather, in homage to iconic Scots TV 
weather-girl Heather Reid. As tartan-tinged an anthem as it gets, 
Heather the Weather’s chucking-out-time sing-along infectiousness is a 
crossover smash-hit in waiting.

While Forest Pitch possesses a similar common touch, the contradictions 
of such a wilfully inclusive work taking place in a country where the 
so-called ‘beautiful game’ has been tainted by sectarianism is plain to 
see. As is too the sport’s capitalist excesses that have recently 
resulted in Rangers’ financial collapse. As with some of Jeremy 
Deller’s civic-minded work, Forest Pitch is something of a reclaiming 
of the original people’s game’s roots.

In Scotland football is dominated by the Old Firm,” Coulthard 
observes, “but beyond that there are hundreds of thousands of people 
who go and watch their local teams play at amateur level. I wanted to 
highlight that football can be a unifying thing rather than a 
destructive one, and that football doesn’t have to be about power, 
money and tribalism.”

With this in mind, Forest Pitch’s long-term effect will not be apparent 
for a couple of decades, when trees planted to mark out the shape of a 
football pitch after the games will at last become visible when the 
existing plantation that envelopes them is cut down.

It will grow and change into this really odd site,” says Coulthard, 
and I hope it becomes something less tangible as well, and that people 
will try and understand their environment a bit more, and that the 
people who take part in the games will take something away from the 
experience that matters.”

Forest Pitch, Buccleuch Estate, near Selkirk, July 21st 2012. Ticket 

Scottish Art News, Issue 18, July 2012



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