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Presenting the Mascots Family!

As we prepare for the Hosts and Champions exhibition, there is a family of mascots waiting to be introduced! Jocelyn, our Exhibition Assistant, presents a Scottish favourite…

Continuing from the introductions already given to Clyde and Wee Mannie, Mac the Scottish Terrier is the first from the mascots family to appear. Adored by children and adults alike Mac was bred in the highlands of Scotland and became an incredibly successful Scottish mascot for the Commonwealth Games 1986 in Edinburgh.

A giant Mac towers above

A giant Mac towers above

Unlike Wee Mannie, – who had been proposed as the original Scottish mascot in 1970, but was later dismissed – Mac is the first official mascot for the Commonwealth Games in Scotland that was made public. With a host of available merchandise and memorabilia Mac was reproduced as toys, pins, on tea towels, scarfs, ties and more, and has become an iconic image for the second Edinburgh Games.

A stand full of 'Macs'

A stand full of ‘Macs’

 

Mac and his memorabilia

Mac and his memorabilia

Actively displaying the spirit of ‘The Friendly Games’ Mac sent ‘Macvalentines’ to each of the member countries of the Commonwealth Games Federation five months before the start of the event. Sending all participating athletes his love, each of the 25 countires received a valentines card graced with the lovely mascots face, and inside a description of his impeccable charater:

“typical of his breed, a real friend of the family, bright eyed, intelligent, courageous, energetic, and always willing to please…The Commonwealth Family will undoubtedly take him to their hearts in 1986”

A living Mac!

A living Mac with an example of his valentines card

And indeed they did, with the famous terrier apppearing once again at the Opening Ceremony for the Glasgow 2014 Games and introducing each country in turn.

A Scottish terrier introduces Team Scotland at the opening ceremony

A Scottish terrier introduces Team Scotland at the opening ceremony

Stay tuned for more news from the mascot family next week!

Norman McLaren: Umbrian angels and stereoscopic drawings

A highlight of this year’s McLaren 2014 celebrations was the screening at the Edinburgh International Film Festival of Norman McLaren’s stunning 3-D films from the early 1950s, painstakingly digitally-restored by the National Film Board of Canada. The fascinating history of these ‘lost’ films was recently told on the Canadian Animation Blog, and the films will receive another screening at MoMa in New York in November.

McLaren’s interest in the creative possibilities of stereographic art is recorded in a set of papers which were recently donated to the University of Stirling Archives by Prof. Harold Layer of San Francisco State University. Prof. Layer corresponded with McLaren in the 1970s and 1980s about his 3-D film work, these letters forming part of the collection. It also includes copies of stereoscopic drawings and paintings created by McLaren in the 1940s which Prof. Layer has documented on a very useful online resource.

Stereoscopic portrait (left and right) by Norma McLaren, 1944.

Stereoscopic portrait (left and right) by Norma McLaren, 1944.

The material also includes a set of reports and articles written by McLaren in the 1940s and 1950s, noting the new approaches offered by stereographic drawing and providing technical notes for the 3-D films he produced for the National Film Board of Canada. In 1946 McLaren wrote a proposal for the Guggenheim Museum in New York, seeking support for his research into the new field of sterographics which he defined as “the art of doing a separate drawing, painting, sculpture or mobile for each eye, which when viewed together, will synthesize a new additional dimension.”

Honeycomb, Stereoscopic painting (left and right) by Norman McLaren, c 1946.

Honeycomb, Stereoscopic painting (left and right) by Norman McLaren, c 1946.

McLaren argued that this method of drawing offered “Freedom from the physical laws of a three-dimensional world.” He went on to argue that:

“The laws of physics such as balance and gravity need not operate in this type of three-dimensional space created by stereoscopic synthesis. Apparently solid objects, heavy substances, complex structures and liquid matter may float in space, needing no support and existing by a sort of auto-suspension. The renaissance painter, with his growing awareness, gradually realized that he, on his flat surfaces, was released from such laws, and the first Umbrian angels who rose a few timid inches from the ground were soon to lead the imagination to a magnificent world of soaring form. Today’s stereographic drawings are like those Umbrian angels, for they point to a world where angels may ascend with a new magnificence into the very three-dimensional substance of space itself.” (Ref. GAA 31/F/7/2/2)

A later annotation to this document shows that many of McLaren’s plans remained unrealized. In the introduction of the paper he wrote that:

“It is my intention to go much further, and open up stereography as a creative medium. I am writing this paper on the basis of my past researches, my present conclusions, and my future plans.”

Beside the words “future plans” McLaren added an annotation in red pencil in 1980 which read “unfulfilled as yet.”

Edinburgh International Film Festival—the Beginning

Cover of the Documentary 47 programme (ref. H3.P3)

Cover of the Documentary 47 programme of films screened in Edinburgh from 31 August – 7 September 1947 (ref. H3.P3)

As the Edinburgh International Film Festival gets ready to commence on 18 June, it’s interesting to reflect on how one the oldest and indeed the longest continually run film festival came to be.  Its roots date back to the postwar cultural revitalization of Scotland. In 1947 the Edinburgh International Festival of Music and Drama was established, and Norman Wilson realized that the medium of film was not going to be represented. Recognizing that this was a perfect venue to showcase film–as film historian Thomas Elsaesser later termed it, a ‘cultural clustering,’ a mixture of different art forms coming together for a rich community experience–Wilson, along with the Edinburgh Film Guild, went into action and took on the challenge of bringing a film festival together with limited financial backing.

“The aim of the founders, the Edinburgh Film Guild, was to have the cinema worthily represented at the first international Festival of the arts to be held in Britain” (ref. Grierson Archive, G7:44:61).The world was watching and they did not want to fail this challenge. In determining what their focus would be, they decided to showcase Scotland’s strongest contribution to film—documentaries.

“The first international Film Festival to be held in Britain will be devoted entirely to Documentary. This is no accident; for not only does Britain lead the world in documentary production, but the documentary approach—an innate feeling for reality—is now the distinguishing characteristic of British feature films” (ref. Hardy 3:9:8)

With the focus on documentaries, who better to invite to give the opening address and set the tone for the festival than Scottish-born John Grierson, the father of the British documentary movement?

A Time For Enquiry, John Grierson (ref. H3 P3)

A Time For Enquiry, John Grierson (ref. H3 P3)

The first film festival was modest, with only about seventy-five films shown during the eight day festival, but with the critically acclaimed films they did showcase, including Roberto Rossellini’s Paisan and Georges Rouquier’s Farrebique, they set the standard for what to expect at the festival.

Front of leaflet listing films shown at the first Edinburgh Film Festival

Front of leaflet listing films shown at the First International Festival of Documentary Films, Edinburgh, 1947 (ref. H3.P3)

Norman Wilson, serving as Chairman of the Advisory Committee of the Festival in 1950 , explained what kind of films the festival looks for and the power of documentaries:

“It is the film of reality that the Edinburgh Festival is especially concerned with, and many people believe it is in this sphere that film-makers come nearest to the basic qualities of the cinema as a medium of creative arts. The great virtue of the film is that it can capture reality through the lens of the camera. By getting art into the country, and into the city streets among real people—into the world of everyday, which has within itself all the drama and romance of life without fabrication—the film can interpret and synthesis realities in its own creative terms. That is its unique quality as an art form, and that is what we look for in the films selected for showing at the Edinburgh Festival.” (ref. Hardy 3:8:1)

(Kelly Kloser, M.Litt. in Film Studies)

Reverse of leaflet listing films shown at first Edinburgh Film Festival

Reverse of leaflet listing films shown at the First International Festival of Documentary Films, Edinburgh, 1947 (ref. H3.P3)

 

Let’s spend a million! The Communist plan for building a better Edinburgh

Giving seminars to students which introduce them to the wide range of materials held in our collections allows us to open up the boxes and display some of the items we hold. When putting together a selection of material for a seminar this week I came across this wonderful pamphlet in our Tait and Watson collection. Written in 1938 it lays out the ambitious plans put forward by the Communist Party for the improvement of Edinburgh. Buoyed by a huge increase in the Labour and Communist vote in Edinburgh municipal elections the pamphlet proposed “ten years of construction for the capital.” The improvements suggested included an extension of Princes Street and the creation of boulevards, gardens and floodlit fountains like those in Brussels; the removal of the slums found in the shadow of Arthur’s Seat and the construction of 3,000 new municipal houses every year; and the development of Portobello’s seaside attractions with the addition of a new pier and a tower to rival those in Blackpool and Paris.

A selection of pamphlets from the Tait and Watson Collection.

The Tait and Watson collection consists of material relating to the history of left wing politics in Scotland collected by William Tait, son of the Scottish Socialist pioneer Thomas Tait, and William Watson, a politically-active Clydeside welder and collector. It includes books, newspapers, pamphlets and the archives of a number of small Edinburgh-based left wing parties who were active in the first half of the twentieth century. The pamphlet collection includes over 3,000 titles on a variety of national and international topics and provides a first-hand illustration of the political debate that was generated by such major events as the Spanish Civil War and the Second World War. Full details of the pamphlets can be found on our library catalogue – do a classmark search for ‘Watson pamphlet’ or ‘Tait pamphlet’ to get an idea of the range of title and topics included.