Yesterday artists from D+G and the Borders joined academics and artists in Newcastle to take part in a seminar about the impact of a more autonomous Scotland on the north of England. Whatever the outcome of the the referendum next year there have been some fascinating new developments in thinking about issues of how Scotland could develop and where it positions itself in the world - and we were all eager to find out what the reaction to that might be from our nearest neighbours. Most of what we tend to hear from the english media seems to be between the poles of 'who do they think they are kidding' ...to....'good riddance to them' - so it was with some trepidation that we approached Newcastle.
Much to our surprise and delight we discovered that this particular group were committed to strengthening ties with their northern neighbours and saw the discussion about a different Scotland as a long-overdue re-balancing of the over emphasis on the South East of England within the overall British picture. There was a sense that a strong and distinctively different power structure in Scotland (with or without full independence) would help counter the dominance of London and allow the North of England to exert a more nuanced version of its own distinctive culture in relation to these two powerbases rather than just identifying themselves as 'not-London'.
|Eaglesfield's John Wallace talking at the Borderlands Seminar at Gallery North yesterday|
The day was a fascinating mix of theses ranging from governance and systems to the delicate understanding of place and collective working brought by many of the artists. D+G's own John Wallace stole the show with his 'insider art' talk on his project Cinema Sark that he presented as part of this years Environmental Art Festival Scotland in Gretna. Overall the presentations showed that the Border as a context (both an edge and a joining) has amazing potential and there are groups of artists and organisations on both 'sides' that are working with this context in very interesting ways.
It was particularly good to meet up with colleagues from the Scottish Borders who are working on the excellent Working the Tweed project. This project and the superb development work being done by Mary Morrison and the CABN-Borders initiative is helping build working links with the creative community in D+G....and it was great to hear that artists in the Scottish Borders follow The Commonty blog.
Borderlands was held in Gallery North which is the in-house gallery for the University of Northumbria - the last presentation of the day was by the gallery curation team who put forward (very seriously) the proposal that they rename the themselves Gallery South in recognition of their position in the hinterland of a Norther powerbase....rather than reinforce the tired stereotype that they exist only in relation to London.