As part of EDLC’s Trails + Tales heritage and public art programme, newly commissioned public art works by internationally renowned, East Dunbartonshire based artist Roddy Buchanan have just been installed in 5 sites across the region. The works take inspiration from political activist and community organiser, Thomas Muir who Lived in East Dunbartonshire in the late 18th Century. Trails + Tales commissioned 13 artists to make works for a series of heritage and art trails across the region that would combine local heritage with art and walking within 11 newly created trails. Roddy’s proposal involved sculptural route markers that could work as new metaphors about the life and story of Thomas Muir. An edition of 5 concrete sculptures mimic the shape of a eucalyptus seedpod, or as Australians call them gumnuts. Muir was among the first Europeans to spend time in Australia – an aspect of his story that Roddy notes is regularly hidden behind his activism. ‘Despite Muir’s growing reputation as a positive influence on Scottish society’ says Roddy, ‘back in 1793 he was convicted of sedition for calling meetings to discuss political reform and exhorting people to read more political pamphlets’. Sentenced to 14 years transportation he landed in Australia as the penal colony’s first political prisoner, ‘as a gentleman and product of the Scottish Enlightenment’ notes Roddy, ‘Muir set about observing his local environment, taking notes on, amongst other things, flora and fauna. Suburban East Dunbartonshire is now full of ornamental eucalyptus trees but I’m confident Thomas was the first person from the area ever to see one’. This is one thread that can be attached to these new objects sited in Auchinairn, Huntershill, Lenzie, Torrance and Milton of Campsie along with more traditional associations of growth and renewal contained in the very representation of the seed itself. Says Roddy, ‘I was flattered to have been given this opportunity to employ art as another means by which the local authority can promote a story that we should all be proud of, Thomas Muir represents a moment in European history when the emergent middle class was challenging the traditional assumptions of the landed gentry. He took on many fights for groups who had little access to the law and for that alone, should be celebrated in East Dunbartonshire’. In recent years the Watson family of Huntershill Village, Bishopbriggs have undertaken many activities to promote awareness of Thomas Muir and have actively supported Roddy’s work and its install. ‘When you drive into that town from any direction you can spot Tom’s silhouette on road signs – that’s the work of the ‘Friends of Thomas Muir’, says Roddy.
Other art works already sited include artist Elpida Hadzi-Vasileva at Kilmardinny Arts centre, Graeme Roger at Bearsden hub and Rachel Barron at Lennoxtown Hub and Milngavie Town Hall and Heritage Centre Trails and Tales is an arts and heritage learning programme funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund and Creative Scotland, which has engaged local and international artists with communities to explore local history and heritage. Interpretation about the artworks and their response to the heritage of the site is a major part of the Trails + Tales project and each artwork will be accompanied by either a small plaque and/or a weblink and QR code which will direct to information about the particular artwork on the project website: http://www.trailsandtales.org.
Each of the creative projects have generated research, conversations and creative responses to inform the design and creation of a series of outdoors sculptural arts and heritage trails, across 11 local communities (towns and villages) in East Dunbartonshire and include Auchinairn, Baldernock, Bearsden & Westerton, Bishopbriggs, Kirkintilloch, Lennoxtown, Lenzie, Milngavie, Milton of Campsie, Torrance and Twechar.