This last week has been hectic to say the least as final preparations for the Fruitmarket Gallery exhibition I’m curating have taken hold. I’ve never been comfortable with the word curating but without doubt that is what I’m doing.
What I hadn’t allowed for was how difficult it would be to find simple clip frames to display most of the posters, artwork and magazines I’ve acquired. Clip frames seem to have gone out of fashion but even when tracked down tended to be sized for photos rather than the things I had.
Today I was saved by a trip to Wilko, which operates in the old Woolworths site in the Livingston shopping centre, and had all the large frames I needed at a good price and then WH Smith, which had the smaller sizes. Still, many of the exhibits are awkward sizes and in the end some pieces haven’t made it simply because they were too difficult to display.
I’ve tried to go with the most interesting things I’ve been offered and not worry too much about making sure bands are included or how a time period is represented. I was pleased, as I said in my previous column, to have met some of the 60s bands and include them but nobody is ever going to doubt my commitment to 80s indie, for example.
Given this was a three-day pop-up without unlimited space I’m happy to have focused more on reminding folk of the great heritage of Scotland’s bands, though that isn’t to say all eras aren’t represented and current bands are represented too. I’m very grateful to the gallery for the chance as it has really focused people on what could be achieved if financed properly as opposed to not at all!
I couldn’t of course have done it without the help of quite a few others but I’ll save the thank yous for another time. Suffice to say I’m sure there will be many visitors to the exhibition amazed at what we have found in the lofts and cupboards of bands and fans alike.
So without giving too much away what do we have? Well there is the first single released by a Scottish band from The Athenians. There is stuff from the very beginning of Postcard Records and a fascinating insight into bands current in the eighties from the CUT magazine. Having just started reading through old issues given to me by Ally Palmer the magazine’s designer and erstwhile member of TV21 it is clear it will be the reference for that period in the future. Among other things we have issue number one with Lloyd Cole on the cover and also featured are Goodbye Mr Mackenzie, The Shop Assistants and Ivor Cutler. A must read is their White Pages which is a directory of bands at the time where Primal Scream and The Blue Nile rub shoulders with other bands long forgotten.
Bigger pieces on display include the original paintings for the Arab Strap album Philophobia and a Jack Vettriano canvas of the self-portrait he painted for the second Saint Jude’s Infirmary album.
One person who has been an enormous help is Simon Clegg a photographer now living in Australia. Not only did he put me in touch with some amazing people but he gave me access to his photographs which include gig-goers as well as the bands.
Simon’s other claim to fame is to have been the only other member of a Doctor Who fan club Peter Capaldi started when he was 15. That there are early photos of Peter is therefore no surprise but they also include Craig Ferguson who went on to international fame as an American chat show host.
Both of course played in the short-lived band the Dreamboys. The band’s single and the photos will be on display, which is an absolute must for any Doctor Who post-punk fan!
The exhibition opens tomorrow at the Fruitmarket Gallery and closes on Sunday evening. There will be various bits of memorabilia and music on sale but the exhibition is free and well worth a visit, even if I say so myself.
On a serious note so far I’ve reached this point with no funding and do not intend to rely on the goodwill of others any longer. Neither can I afford to any longer put in the long hours and hard cash it has taken so far. There has been much enthusiasm but little else from arts bodies, Edinburgh City Council and potential sponsors. For things to move forward that has to change and hopefully that will be the case.
The Only Fun In Town opens tomorrow at 11am and runs to 6pm on Sunday. For more details visit http://www.fruitmarket.co.uk/event/the-only-fun-in-town/
Post-punk’s holy grail
One massive coup was tracking down the blue Fender Coronado Mk2 famously played by Paul Haig of post-punk heroes Josef K. The guitar had ended up with Josef K’s one-time manager, Allan Campbell, who kindly put us in touch with the current owner who was happy to loan the guitar to the exhibition.
Not a guitarist myself I wasn’t aware of its mythical status but when naming it to others they would finish my sentence, giving the guitar its full title before I could get the words out.
There will be no touching, I’m afraid, but there will be a photo opportunity. Expect to see the pics on social media very soon!