Carbuncle Awards that honoured ‘dismal Scots towns’ scrapped

Denny in Stirlingshire won in 2010 after initial victor John O'Groats turned down the award. Picture: Jane Barlow
Denny in Stirlingshire won in 2010 after initial victor John O'Groats turned down the award. Picture: Jane Barlow
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For nearly two decades, it has been the prize no one has wanted to win - a badge of shame pinned on Scotland’s post-industrial towns and their much-derided architecture.

But after heaping scorn on a host of eyesore buildings and bringing unwanted bad publicity to struggling communities over the years, the country’s most infamous award scheme is to be wound up.

Cumbernauld - a two-time winner. Picture: Donald MacLeod

Cumbernauld - a two-time winner. Picture: Donald MacLeod

Organisers of the Carbuncle Awards, handed out each year in recognition of Scotland’s “most dismal town”, said the initiative is to make way for a new prize which looks to take a more “positive” view of the nation’s built environment.

The Carbuncles, which launched at the turn of the millennium, have been synonymous in recent yeas with places such as Cumbernauld, Linwood, and Coatbridge, all recipients of its so-called Plook on the Plinth gong.

The awards was envisioned as a way for the public to vent spleen at architectural bungles and the municipal planning authorities who allowed them to prosper.

It achieved notoriety when directing a tirade of criticism towards the North Lanarkshire town of Cumbernauld, which has the dubious distinction of being a two-time winner of the Plook on the Plinth title. Judges compared it to Kabul and described its shopping centre as a rabbit warren on stilts.

Coatbridge was the winner in 2007. Picture: Contributed

Coatbridge was the winner in 2007. Picture: Contributed

Now, after 17 years, the contest has come to an end after those behind the awards conceded that it was no longer fitting to single out downtrodden towns at a time when the Scottish economy remains stuck in the slow lane. Instead, it is hoped an alternative scheme will help local authorities with regeneratation efforts.

John Glenday, the editor of Urban Realm, the architecture journal which organised the awards, said: “We feel the time is right to relaunch and rebrand. The idea is to re-energise things and make it more relevant. We want to make it more positive, more of a tool to kick start regeneration.”

It remains to be scene if the new awards will enjoy a similarly high profie, but critics of the Carnucle contest - described by Neil Baxter, secretary of the Royal Incorporation of Architects in Scotland as “cynical, crass, commercial, stupid, unhelpful, petty nonense” - expressed relief that it was finally no more.

Elaine Smith, the Scottish Labour MSP for Central Scotland, has campaigned against the awards and welcomed the news of their demise.

She said: “It’s long past time that the organisers recognised how damaging they actually have been, in particular for towns who are striving to move on from the ravages of their industrial heritage.

“At last they seem to have recognised the negative, damaging effect it has caused and called a halt to the charade.”

However, Mr Glenday insisted that the Carbuncles had been a force for good because they put pressure on councils to take action to improve their towns.

He explained: “In New Cumnock, for example, there have been some remarkable changes since it was named Scotland’s most dismal town in 2013.

“The town hall which was derelict has been renovated and the lido, one of the last in Scotland, was reopened by Prince Charles just the other month.

“Most people had never heard of it, or its plight, until the Carbuncles brought it to national attention.”

READ MORE: Carbuncle film explores Scotland’s ‘most dismal’ towns