NOTEBOOK: Clydebank’s heritage ‘brought to life through health centre art,’ claim

By Bill Heaney

It’s just as well that Billy Connolly is taking some time off at the moment. I am certain he would have something funny and not very complimentary to say about the colon-like design – or possibly even an umbilical cord – that has been unveiled at the entrance to the new £21 million health and care centre.

The local health board have announced in some high falutin’ language that Clydebank’s history, industrial past and natural landscape “along edge of the eponymous river” are all celebrated in the art work and design of the area’s “outstanding” new health centre at Queens Quays, which is where The Big Yin used to work as a shipyard apprentice.

And that it has references to the women who traced the drawings made by draftsmen building ships, to the Bankie Trek that leads from the town to the Old Kilpatrick hills, and the area’s post-industrial recovery, the design and art work connects the facility to the community it serves.

Jackie Sands, Health Improvement Senior for Arts and Health at NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde, supported the Health and Social Care Partnership’s arts and environment strategy group with the commissioning of the integrated works.

The tax-paying public might think this is another waste of public money such as the Mother and Child sculpture which was erected outside the County Buildings at Garshake in Dumbarton in the ‘Sixties.

That was described by one councillor as “a drunk man playing the bagpipes” and ended up being dumped in a cellar, with the clear message that the Council and the Health Board would have been better spending their time and money on the care homes which failed to cope during the Covid-19 pandemic.

She said: “We wanted to create an environment that is welcoming, therapeutic and connected to its unique locality and community.

“Clydebank was a key player in the ‘workshop of the world’ during the era of heavy industry. It developed a reputation across the world for its creativity and skill, and as a benchmark of design quality known as ‘Clydebuilt’. Skill and creativity is central to the town’s history and heritage.

“We wanted to celebrate that within the art and design approach for the centre, telling the story of a thriving community, located in a beautiful part of the world and the people who make up its past, present and future.”

The team worked with local residents, commissioned artists including designers Bespoke Atelier, Jim Buchanan, Ginkgo, local museum and heritage partners, and local Cultural Geographer, Ruth Olden, to share and learn about the history and changing shape of Clydebank.

The finished art can be seen on the “incredible” wrought iron gates, the impressive reception desk and replicating the work of the female tracers, who worked solely with ink and linen cloth, further works, all on linen based framed designs for the health centre waiting areas. The artworks are 46 inches wide – replicating the width of the works of the tracers.

Something similar could have been completed and displayed in the museum at Clydebank Town Hall which, it was discovered in a special investigation receives practically no visitors at all and has been dismissed as a vanity project for the thankfully now retired Councillor Denis Agnew.

He was the man who told local arts campaigner Rose Harvie that the fact that world famous architect Charles Rennie Mackintosh, who designed Glasgow School of Art and The Hill House in Helensburgh, married his wife, Margaret, also an artist in St Augustine’s Episcopal Church in Dumbarton High Street was not worthy of special note.

Liz Kerr, Business Manager at West Dunbartonshire Health and Social Care Partnership, said: “It has been a great experience collaborating with the arts team.  We are delighted to incorporate the poignant stories of “old” Clydebank and bring them to life in a modern way within our state of the art building. The colour palettes used also give a nod to the GP practice names which I and my colleagues appreciate.

“Our glass corridors allow staff and visitors passing through the building the opportunity to see colour and art looking across the courtyard.  It really is the finishing touch to the building.  Whilst my priority has always been functionality, I have always recognised the impact that our art will have on the mood and well-being of those visiting the centre. I particularly enjoyed taking part in the workshops and involving our own staff in the design process.  It gives the team a sense of ownership and pride in their workplace.”

Iain Marley, Chief Executive of development partners, Hub West Scotland, said: “The new Clydebank Health and Care Centre has been warmly welcomed as an important and high quality addition to the Clydebank community. The quality of its design has rightly been recognised and the art strategy is a key part of that success.  Early engagement with artists and stakeholders brings forward ideas that are integrated with the architectural design to create a wonderful fusion of stories from the past and contemporary design that enrich the experience of the building for patients, staff and visitors.”

Jackie added: “I hope that the stories gathered to inform the integrated art, architecture and landscape strategy in the new health and care centre, and the forthcoming exhibition and new Clydebank home wear collection developed as part of this process during a Makers and Menders Artist residency will add to the heritage of the area; a story of creativity, enjoyment of landscape and productivity being central to well-being, purpose and identity.

“I really hope that patients, visitors and staff enjoy engaging with Clydebank through the artworks and that the art and  design elements help to provide comfort and inspiration contributing to feelings of pride in Clydebank.”

The scheme was supported by Creative Scotland, The Green Exercise Partnership, The Arts and Humanities Research Council  and West Dunbartonshire HSCP Endowment Funding.

Who sanctioned this artwork and how much did it cost? And who has “warmly welcomed it”?

West Dunbartonshire Council meanwhile has given no indication following the recent election of the Scottish Labour Party to the administration if it proposes to lift the SNP-imposed ban on The Democrat asking perfectly legitimate questions such as that.

Pictured at top of page is the building which is said to be an inspiring celebration of the art work and design of the area’s “outstanding” new health centre. 

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