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Scott Begbie: Spectra proves art is the new oil for Aberdeen

Hundreds of folk flocked into the city centre for Spectra. Photo: Katherine Ferries.
Hundreds of folk flocked into the city centre for Spectra. Photo: Katherine Ferries.

When Spectra burst into spectacular life across Aberdeen at the weekend it was far more than just stunning light shows and amazing artworks.

It was a statement.

The Granite City is back.

You could tell that by the hundreds of folks who thronged the streets to take in the rich array of jaw-dropping installations, from the floating Earth in the art gallery to the sci-fi structure on the Castlegate.

Not even cold or dark or wind or even, dare I say it, a pandemic, could stop them from getting out, coming together and having fun.

When was the last time you saw that many people on the streets of Aberdeen for an event? Or for anything, come to that?

I’ll wager it was about two years ago. That was when the last Spectra took place, just days before Covid knocked us all sideways.

The return of the festival of light – the return of people to our streets for a celebration – feels like something special.

It has a sense of change about it, that we might being getting our lives back again.”

It has a sense of change about it, that we might being getting our lives back again.

And not before time here in Aberdeen.

As something of a gadabout, I’ve been in a fair few other cities in recent months and always been struck by the sense of busy-ness and normality in the likes of Edinburgh and Glasgow.

The Granite City has always felt quieter, more cautious.

Now, hopefully, the joyous success of Spectra has proved a point. We can enjoy ourselves again.

Sure, we still need to be cautious – nice to see facemasks still in place at indoor Spectra venues – but we can be optimistic about the months ahead.

Gaia in Aberdeen Art Gallery was one of the highlights of Spectra.

And arts and culture will continue to lead the way for Aberdeen.

After all, next weekend is Granite Noir, with the crime-writing festival being, finally, an in-person celebration again.

Later this year we will see Nuart brightening our streets, True North bringing us cutting edge music, Aberdeen Jazz Festival offering the best tunes going, Aberdeen International Comedy Festival, making us laugh out loud, and many other festivals beside.

Each of these is built around the arts, but each of them also pull people into the city centre, get them into restaurants and pubs, have them spending their hard-earned cash in shops and businesses that really need support right now.

It is obvious now that art is the new oil – and Aberdeen is perfectly placed to put culture at the heart of the Granite City’s future prosperity.”

And between festivals we have some of the nation’s best venues from His Majesty’s to P&J Live, Aberdeen Art Gallery to the Music Hall – the brilliant bedrock on which our thriving arts and entertainment scene is built.

Much is made of how Aberdeen and the whole of the north-east will recover in the very different landscape of a post-pandemic world, one in which the North Sea industry is fading.

It is obvious now that art is the new oil – and Aberdeen is perfectly placed to put culture at the heart of the Granite City’s future prosperity.

Spectra blazed a trail at the weekend – one that can only lead to great things ahead.


Does anyone have wise counsel for Douglas Ross? Probably not

I almost feel sorry for Douglas Ross. Almost.

It can’t be easy being the Tory’s placeman in Scotland when the Conservative Party seems to be going out of its way to humiliate you.

Not content with being branded a lightweight by Jacob Rees-Mogg for demanding Boris Johnson resign over Partygate, now the rulebreaking (allegedly) PM and fibber-in-chief (allegedly) has been invited to address the Scottish Conservative conference next month.

“Oi, Johnson, you’re not fit for office… but would you mind coming along to say a few words to the party faithful north of the border.”

Of course, Mr Ross needed to distance himself and his Scottish colleagues from the disgraceful row around Downing Street. To do otherwise would be suicide at the ballot box.

Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross

There is, after all, the small matter of the Scottish council elections next month.

Yet here comes BoJo to blowhard at the Tory gathering in Aberdeen. No doubt he’s already working on swapping Peppa Pig quips out for Oor Wullie ones to put a kilt on his attempt to steady the Jocks.

The eyebrow-raising invite has seen some suggestions Mr Ross’s position is untenable and he should step down.

Wouldn’t that be the ultimate irony, though? The man who it seems crystal clear broke the Covid rules he made then told porkies about it, stays in the UK’s highest office, while the man who called him out for his deplorable behaviour has to go?

But then, that kind of sums up the morass at Westminster doesn’t it? Unaccountable, untouchable no matter what.

I wish I had wise counsel to offer Mr Ross in his time of need, but I don’t. I don’t think anyone has.


Can triathlete Ben lend some of his willpower, please?

I am in awe of Ben Rushton.

He’s the chap from Aberdchirder who made a New Year resolution in 2020 to get fit and healthy after tipping the scales at 12st 9lbs and has just qualified for the GB triathlon team.

Coincidentally, I also tip the scales at 12st 9lbs and I also have made resolutions to get fit and healthy. I’m so keen to do this, I have made lots of resolutions. Not so much running or eating less, though.

Ben Rushton is an inspiration.

I’m very much still on Ben’s old diet – the one with crisps, alcohol and takeaways – rather than his new clean eating one.

I was going to say I wish I knew the secret of his success, but I know it already. Conviction, determination and willpower.

If Ben would like to lend me some, I’d be grateful.

 

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