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Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Star of Caledonia landmark worth millions to Scotland

It is a big week for Star of Caledonia - with DGC Councillors deciding whether to commit £1 million to match the £1 million promised by Creative Scotland - a joint sum which would then need to be matched by Scottish Government. The importance of the arts community to our region is  highlighted below, in the press statement released by Wide-Open......the high heid yins making these big calls do want to know that artists here are behind the project and can see its value for highlighting the South West as a place of Creativity. Star of Caledonia at its various stages has been featured on The Commonty over its entire lifetime (search Gretna Landmark and Star of Caledonia in the search box)......this stands to be huge for us all for a long time to come - so where is everyone standing just now?

from Wide Open

Dumfries and Galloway Council will decide on 18 March whether to match the £1 million already pledged by Creative Scotland to help fund of the spectacular new landmark. At the same time a specially-created model will be going on show at the Scottish Parliament for MSPs.

Location of Star of Caledonia - next to the M6/M74 at Gretna

The Star of Caledonia landmark planned for the Scottish border at Gretna could bring £16 million worth of benefits in its first year alone according to the latest research. The Star of Caledonia (double the size of the Angel of the North) has been designed by world-renowned artists Charles Jencks and Cecil Balmond and will be visible day and night. Reaching high above the roadside it will be seen by around 10 million drivers and passengers a year, forming a grand and dynamic entrance to Scotland.

Project Director Jan Hogarth said:

“Great landmarks like the Angel of the North and the Star of Caledonia bring real benefits in terms of tourism, jobs and regeneration. The project will have a significant economic impact, creating the equivalent of 70 new permanent jobs for the region and attracting many more visitors.

“Dumfries and Galloway is doing a superb job of harnessing the power of the artistic and creative sectors to help revive our economy and create new opportunities for the future. The Star of Caledonia will not just be a landmark for Scotland, but a powerful symbol of the vitality of this region as a centre of artistic excellence.

“One of our great challenges has always been that too many people zip straight through the region on the way north or south. The Star will be a powerful magnet for them, persuading people to stop and to discover much more about what we have to offer, not simply in Gretna, but through to Dumfries and right over to the west coast.”

Twilight view of the proposed Star of Caledonia
The External Assessment of the Star of Caledonia was carried out by BOP Consulting on behalf of Dumfries and Galloway Council and public art development company Wide Open. The key findings indicate it will mean:

  • £2m into the economy from construction (equal to 17 one-year jobs)
  • £4m a year from extra tourism (equal to 70 jobs)
  • £6m to £10m worth of national and international publicity in the first four months
  • £300,000 a year locally, and the same again Scotland wide, from operational spending (equal to more than 10 jobs)
In a joint statement of support Isabell Tranter Gretna Green and Springfield Community Council and Alex Thomson Gretna Community Council said: "Lots of hard work has gone into the Star of Caledonia project over the years from the community and the local schools who feel it will be great for the area and the region. There is overwhelming support for the Star from local small businesses. They are keen to see the project completed as it will really help revitalise an area which has depended so much on the weddings industry and urgently needs to diversify.”       

Daytime view of Star of Caledonia


  1. This idea is dreadful. It's a very poor, overblown concept. Moreover, the purpose of art is not to provide jobs or provide businesses with greater profits. An idea of this quality barely meets local authority standards, nevermind being suitable for a national boundary. Scotland deserves a better idea from someone who understands Scottish sentiments and aspirations.

  2. I agree ....its all a lot of nonsense ...the Star of Caledonia is a hideous ego trip and I see no visible relationship to the landscape or Scotland ..... The Angel of the North has a distinct power and is iconic ..also created by a great has a poignancy about it which is powefful ...and people who have to see it every day get it...I don't think The Star will have anything like the presence.

  3. Star of Caledonia is a contemporary landmark thats has grown out of the heart of the community and place and is inspired by science both past and present. It sits on the boundaries between art,architecture, engineering and science so it isnt an artwork like the Angel is. Its an interdisciplinary collaboration, even mathematicians worked on the design. Unfortunately we have to make economic arguments for investment and have to use regeneration language you can talk about a project in many different ways from many different perspectives and each perspective is true. From the community of Gretna and the people thats live there its about hope in the future and a sense of pride in the place, the energy of creativity and innovation as well as regeneration.
    This area deserves to shine this part of Scotland has been bypassed for too long (historically and literally)

  4. Yuck, glitter and baubles.

    It sits on the boundaries between art,architecture, engineering and science...says it all

    lets hope it stays sitting there and not on Scotland's border

  5. At long last a major creative work for the region that will have an international profile. Good luck to them.

  6. Dear Commonty – what a grand discovery you are and thank you for affording a free forum for this debate.

    Significant resource has been expended in making the case for the economic (and with it – social) benefit and impact of this project. It is right that our elected representatives take this into consideration as part of their decision-making regarding the allocation of public funds – we, the public, would expect nothing less.

    However, such forecasts are based on the assumption that Star of Caledonia will ‘succeed’ as a cultural phenomenon (like say Angel of the North – the example cited). I would like to respectfully ask - where are the experienced and skilled voices from the cultural sector giving their backing to the quality of this project as a work of art (in the broadest sense of the word)? Are politicians expected to make up their own minds (on behalf of the public) about the likely value of Star of Caledonia as part of our contemporary culture that will be part of the inheritance we hand down to future generations?

    Any work of art has to take a complex and dangerous journey from its beginnings as a something formed within the issues and concerns of its own time – and thenceforth into the unknown of the future. For any work (be it literature, visual art, theatre etc) to continue to be relevant past its own immediate present – it must have the ability to draw new meanings to itself and contribute to our understanding of our own time through the way it reflects, absorbs and shifts ideas about the world we all share. This necessitates making something that has a strong sense of itself and its relevance to the place and the big themes of being ‘of the world’ – but also sufficient ambiguity to make it available to readings unimaginable when it was created. In Scotland, we have some world-recognised leaders in cultural thinking around art in a public context – not to mention our artists and designers who are working at the very highest level in this field.

    I wholeheartedly support the idea of a major cultural project that addresses the border at Gretna and brings with it a cultural focus on Dumfries and Galloway, the ‘Borderlands’ and could become a potent touchstone for Scotland. But, I should like to know that politicians making the decision about whether the project goes ahead have access to the best opinions available about the cultural merit of the scheme proposed. It may well prove that Star of Caledonia has the potential to be a great work of art - but I do not think we can expect our politicians to make a judgement call on this unsupported.

    No cultural voices are part of any media coverage I have seen – can someone point in the right direction if such analysis does exist somewhere?

  7. Re comment above: With publicly funded arts projects, the 'peer review' or 'informed opinion' usually comes from the selection panel commissioning the artists and/or selecting the designs submitted.
    I don't know enough about Star of Caledonia to be able to say how Charles Jencks and Cecil Balmond were selected or how the final was chosen; but, I would suggest this might be the first port of call for anyone looking for the cultural pedigree of project?

  8. If you have a look at the web site it has information on the development process, the selection process, the competition and the evolving design.

    I would like to mention that the site is very complex with a loads of motorways signs communication networks and retail. Therefore it was decided at an early stage that we needed to masterplan a landmark which responded to some of the challenges of the site. It needed to grow out of place and the help solve some of the issues around the site not be dropped into this location.So the recipe for the work emerged from this.

  9. In full support, my view that the offer presented by the Star of Caledonia is second to none; it presents opportunity for positioning of high quality contemporary work and artists and creative thinkers at their best. It links contemporary invention and heritage of invention with place and importantly celebrates resident D&G talent. Exactly like the Angel of over 20 years ago, its reference is of its own time and its statement bold with international offer.

    Cultural voices I note too are publicly scarce beyond the project team itself, this deserves as supposed by the previous Blogger, some correction. I too would look forward to such voices being heard to support critical decision making.

    From my own perspective meantime, an outside view; I've developed in excess of 20 public art commissions in Scotland over the past ten years .Publicly funded work has great responsibility to the public purse. The nature of the beast is that not everyone likes it - ever. The beauty of that same beast is that people talk and relate it to a place and explore their thinking, often to grow other logic and business, as happened with the Angel; a deepened sense of place emerges, bringing improved economic circumstance with it.

    Public art work neither stands in isolation, it is contextualised by neighbourhood. In the case of Dumfries and Galloway I’m told, the number of resident artists per head of population is greatest in national terms. The standards of provision from a myriad of organisations via events, festivals and other are high and yet not as nationally or internationally known as well they might be. Profile and link with The Star offers to change this.

    As far as I know, over the past few years artists in the region have worked to create a better communications structure in the arts and this has been fostered by Creative Scotland in tandem with the local authority. This interest and acknowledgement to the value of art and creativity might suggest that the Star would at its best continue to harness the support of those who may benefit from it. This scale and calibre of this artistic vision and investment has the capacity to result in strong impact to the economy; change the face of Gretna and signpost further afield, highlighting 'art and environment' in the region, help rural tourism business, build on regenerating town centres, and importantly impact on much other artists business and production in the area - if stakeholders work together.

    I would suggest at this stage that it might be considered to be beyond the personal like and dislike dialogue - but that readers, especially those residents in Dumfries and Galloway, step back and consider the wider benefits not only for themselves but others. Should the Star progress with positive feedback this week, it will guarantee to the region and resident artists, national and international attention, the place wholly deserves.

  10. Continued from above..

    Creative Scotland invested interest prior to transition phase and might unusually sit confidently by that, aligning its decisions with other 'revolution' in the area that has been said artistically to be taking place (Fresh Start for the Arts Conference, Greyfriars Church, Dumfries 2013) There is model change taking place in D&G which is the envy of many regions, which has unique national capacity in regional infrastructure to support an understanding and growth from response to the Star - not only for visitors but to residents and including other artists and creative thinkers - there is better quality of life to be gained

    Informed council decisions to be made soon are paramount for the Star and they might best refer to ongoing regional cultural targets with special relationship to demographics and future economy. The evidenced journey of the Angel, ofcourse is a gift and fine example to DGC and I'm sure there has been much investigation on the high investment returns brought into the North East as a whole (Gateshead like Gretna does not sit in isolation) With lessons learnt of what results from courage and creativity combined, evidenced by strong investment and the Gateshead Story, might Dumfries and Galloway not take heed and reflect at its heart a successful arts led regeneration of Place.

    Beyond arguments concerning aesthetics of the Star, my view would be there is within the concept unprecedented hope for people and place. A Gretna Landmark offers pivotal position for due support from the national arts funding body, its regional politicians, its public and most of all its regional artists. Dumfries and Galloway has the capacity to make such connects, like no other region in Scotland.

    I dearly hope support is rallied and decision makers join the dots for generations to come. For Dumfries and Galloway and Scotland, it’s too important an opportunity to miss.

  11. "ongoing regional council targets with a special relationship with demographics and future economy" - that says it all really....

    The Star of Caledonia isn't going to affect hearts and minds in the same way as does the Angel, because the Star looks like generic international motorway art and doesn't tap into any local, regional or national sense of self-identity. Supremely bland while yet grandiose, it lacks specific rootedness in any culture, industry or activity connected with the south-west of Scotland, nor does it articulate any sense of a border crossing...

    At least it is entirely in keeping with the Gretna Gateway Retail Outlet...

  12. The Star of Caledonia will be to the region what the trams have become to Edinburgh. Tourism flourishes in Dumfries and Galloway because the region has an abundance of amazing artistic, natural and historical sites. Why are we not investing millions in these and the people of the region?

    According to the website:
    'The structures design emerged from electromagnetic energy lines being traced on the surface of a sphere with trigonometric equations informed the aesthetics of the Star’s emerging design'

    Does this sound like a reflection of Gretna? Of Dumfriesshire? Or in general does the whole thing have anything to do with the west of the region? Driving by something on the motorway near Gretna is hardly going to inspire people to pop to Portpatrick and invest in their local economy now is it?

    If this money is available to arts in the region why are we not using it to support more artistic activity spread across the region. Investing in those who already reside here to develop their work and encouraging artists from less practiced forms to get to the region and do what they do both in terms of professional practice and community engagement.

    £1 Million is the equivalent to fair salaries for 50 artists for a year or perhaps ten artists for five years. Imagine how the theatre or dance sector (arguably less practiced in the region in comparison with visual arts and crafts or music) could flourish by permanently engaging ten artists over five years and giving them both professional and community expectations. All of our young people could have regular access, audiences could have regular access, each district could host two to three permanently engaged artists…..

    Or giving one of our home grown visual artists a permanent salary for five years plus the other £1 million match funding could result in something of such scale and grandeur as the so called 'Star' of Calendonia.

    The project may be worth while (I'm actually quite a fan of the design and love a bit of motorway art) but in times of such economic crisis there are far more intelligent ways that an arts budget could be spent to actually invest in the region; not pay the salaries of a London based designer, an American Landscape architect and whichever other non Scots are working on the project.

  13. £16k of benefits to the local economy in its first I misread...
    ,,ohhh 16 MILLION ! Just where do these consultants get their ideas from ?
    Have they even travelled west themselves from that point?
    There are many ways to promote our beautiful area but this design and (costly) justification is not one of them.
    If I was driving past I am sure I wouldn't be persuaded to turn left or even right to see what is sixty or eighty miles down the track just because I had observed this "Star"
    Public art does have a place but I fear this piece if built will not live up to expectations.

  14. Good luck this week to the Star of Caledonia team - it is fantastic that people in our region have the guts and ambition to think on this scale - and then the determination and perseverance to try and realise their vision!
    Pioneers always have to overcome the doubters - James Clerk Maxwell would have been able to tell you that I'm sure.

  15. James Clerk Maxwell also said "Is the material world infinite in extent, and are all places within that extent equally full of matter?". Let's face it our current 'material world' is short on funds and relative to other provisions this star doesn't really matter.

  16. No clear news to report about the decision reached by the Council regarding funding for Star of Caledonia project....we heard 'decision postponed'....anyone got anything more concrete??

  17. Art is invariably a contentious issue. If it wasn't, it wouldn't be Art. I wonder how many people disliked the idea of a 'half man, half aeroplane' looming over them. The cost of the Angel was significant and I am sure the expense made people balk at it's construction. It is now highly regarded and an icon of the North East. I'm all for the Star of Caledonia as an art work, a land mark, and an educational tool. You obviously can't please all the people all of the time but you can at least put us on the map. "Turn left at the star" could be D and G's new strap line.

  18. I think the last comment has got the measure of the situation. Such a major piece of public art work is bound to be contentious but it does have the very considerable potential to make this region, Dumfries & Galloway and Gretna, the entrance point for most visitors to Scotland, much more identifiable in a simple manner. "Turn left at the star"" offers a link to another cultural iconic creation, Moat Brae, another project which has depended on a few people with vision to start it. We need a "must see" attraction to attract people to come and stop here and the Star of Caledonia would offer this attraction and talking point.

  19. Agreed. Or we could just spend 4 million on marketing the region. The star will pay for itself eventually.