Statement of Special Interest
While incomplete and located within a largely altered setting, the remnant of the figurative sculpture of Gulliver meets the criteria of special architectural or historic interest for the following reasons:
- For its stylised or primitive design, representative of themes and trends in public and 'outsider' art and sculpture during the post-war period.
- As a celebrated example of participatory, community-led public sculpture in Scotland.
- As a rare tangible marker of the wider work of the Craigmillar Festival Society during the 1970s, one of the most important and influential community-led regeneration initiatives of its time.
- For its broader contribution to our understanding of the Community Arts Movement in Scotland and its role in society during the later 20th century.
The Craigmillar Festival Society (1962-2002) was an early, ground-breaking example of community-led regeneration through artistic endeavour in Scotland, founded by a group of Craigmillar mothers, including Helen Crummy CBE. The aspirations and the scope of the Society grew steadily, bolstered by a £750,000 anti-poverty research grant from the European Economic Community in 1975/6.
The large play sculpture was commissioned by the Society in 1976, based on a design conceived by Jimmy Boyle while incarcerated at Barlinnie Prison in Glasgow, and participating in the pioneering Special Unit art project at Barlinnie.
The sculpture was constructed between 1976 and 1978 by the Society's Art Team headed by Rosie Gibson and a group of local volunteers as part of a local Job Creation initiative. Community artists including Ken Wolverton from Australia and Beth Shadur from Chicago were also involved in the construction.
Gulliver functioned both as a play sculpture for children and as a symbol of social change and inclusion through community action and artistic enterprise. The sculpture was unveiled by the Scottish actor, comedian, artist, writer and musician, Billy Connolly at a public event in 1978.
Images of the sculpture were used in promotional publications by the Craigmillar Festival Society during its earlier years. It continued in use as a popular play sculpture for local children during the 1980s, although increasingly became associated with anti-social behaviour after a boundary fence was placed between the sculpture and the reconfigured housing development.
In 2006, the sculpture was subject to plans for demolition to allow the Niddrie Burn to be redirected through the park as part of flood prevention measures in the area to support additional housing development.
The developer and the local council considered it was not feasible to relocate the sculpture as part of those works without destroying it. In the event, it was possible to retain the left foot and part of the left leg tunnel section in place, as part of the landscape regeneration design.
The entire sculpture was digitally scanned and recorded by AOC Archaeology Group in 2010 prior to the removal works in 2011 (Bradley-Lovekin T and Hindmarch E 2011). The surviving left foot of Gulliver is in a structurally stable condition (2023).
The left foot of the Gulliver Sculpture is of a simple form and robust design using in-situ concrete construction. Artistically, its style is consistent with the resurgence of primitive figurative art and sculpture during the 1960s and 1970s.
The Society commissioned 'outsider' artist Jimmy Boyle to design the sculpture while incarcerated at Barlinnie Prison, Glasgow (see Historic Interest: Association with People or Events).
The positioning of the removed parts of the sculpture are no longer readable in the landscape following changes to the topography of the site due to flood-prevention measures in 2011. However, the surviving remnants are intact and have not been relocated, adding to their authenticity within the landscape of Hunter's Hall Park. What remains of the sculpture continues to evoke the deliberately primitive design of the original whole, albeit in a much-reduced form.
The Gulliver Sculpture was an early and influential example of community-generated, participatory public art in Scotland. The surviving remnants are representative of stylistic themes and social trends within the community art movement, public art and 'outsider' art during the post-war period. The remnants are evidence in the landscape of the work of the ground-breaking Craigmillar Festival Society (1962-2002), its community-led approach to social regeneration through artistic endeavour, and the emergence of grass-roots initiatives across Scotland and further afield during that period.
The predominant loss of the Gulliver sculpture does not dilute the intrinsic interest of the surviving remnant, nor the associative cultural value, to the extent that it can no longer be recognised.
Many works of public sculpture were placed by local authorities in every-day locations such as shopping precincts, areas of housing and public play parks as part of the public sector expansion of towns, cities and the development of 'new towns' during the post-war period. The setting and the landscape context of an individual work can add to its wider cultural and historic value.
The surviving remnant of the Gulliver sculpture is located close to the west boundary of Hunter's Hall Park, adjacent to ground sloping down to the widened channel of the Niddrie Burn. To the west is a boundary fence backing onto rear gardens within the neighbouring Niddrie Marischal housing development.
The two fragments are located 30 metres east of the site of the former Niddrie Mansion House - the family seat of the Wauchopes of Niddrie Marischal from at least 1604. The house and grounds were purchased by the City of Edinburgh Corporation in 1944. Following complete demolition of the fire-damaged remains of Niddrie House in 1959, the site was redeveloped for social housing by the Edinburgh Development Corporation. The grounds of the former mansion house have been retained as Hunter's Hall Park.
The site for the Gulliver Sculpture, chosen in 1976, was directly accessible from the adjacent social housing development to the west and was intended for the specific use of that community. The housing development was replaced with new social housing during the 1980s and 90s. Direct access to the sculpture was interrupted by a metal boundary fence between the park and the housing. Further changes to the setting took place in 2011-2013, with the redirection and widening of the Niddrie Burn as part of flood prevention measures associated with nearby housing development.
While the general juxtaposition of housing and open recreation ground survives, there have been numerous changes to the immediate setting. The remnant of the sculpture no longer relates directly, in terms of physical access or visual relationship, with the neighbouring residential development.
Age and rarity
Public art of the mid and later 20th century is not uncommon in Scotland. Many works, such as sculptures, mosaics and murals were commissioned for new state-sponsored public buildings, housing developments, new towns, and other major building projects. They reflect a more socially aware approach to public art by the establishment, with the objective of creating a sense of place and identity and of bringing art out of galleries and into people's daily lives. Notable listed examples in Scotland include works in Glenrothes (LB51792, LB51793, LB51794, LB51795) and the Carbrain Totem in Cumbernauld (LB52419), conceived as part of a comprehensive programme of new town public art.
Community-led public art projects were a more particular feature of the 1960s-1970s, with the term 'Community Arts Movement' used to describe the activities of artists and communities who strived for more experimentation and grass-roots involvement in producing art for and by the people in urban environments (see Social historical interest).
Many sculptural works associated with this movement have subsequently been demolished. In Edinburgh, another large-scale work created by the Community Art Team at Craigmillar was the Bingham Mermaid Mosaic Sculpture of 1979 (demolished by 1990) by Chicago-based artist Pedro De Silva. Like Gulliver, this was a similarly large-scale concrete land sculpture that was constructed with close community involvement under the guidance of established artists and art professionals.
A surviving example of a concrete land sculpture in Scotland of a similar period is the Great Polish Map of Scotland (LB51957), completed 1974–76, although in this case the sculpture was commissioned by the owner of the Barony Hotel and executed by five Polish geographers representing a personal tribute to Scotland in commemoration of service during the Second World War.
Although incomplete, the remnant of the Gulliver sculpture is of special interest under this heading as a rare physical survival of a large and ambitious public work of art of its period, and of the wider work of the Craigmillar Festival Society during the 1970s, which in turn was one of the most important and influential community-led regeneration initiatives of its time.
Social historical interest
The Community Arts Movement can be traced from the radical 'outsider art' and political movements of the early 1960s through to activities promoting local participation and a democratised practice for art during the 1970s and early 1980s. Su Braden's book, Artists and People (1978) helped raise awareness of the developing community arts movement in the UK, documenting initiatives such as The Craigmillar Festival Society in Edinburgh, The Paddington Print Shop in London, The Great Georges Project in Liverpool, The Manchester Hospital Freeform Arts Project, and David Harding's work as 'Town Artist' at Glenrothes in Fife. These projects were mostly based in deprived urban areas and concerned with 'unleashing the creative energies of people who for one reason or another lacked a voice' (Braden, 1978).
The Craigmillar Festival Society (1962-2002) developed into a community campaigning organisation that explored key social issues using drama, sculpture, festival, poetry, visual arts, and musical theatre to build confidence, resilience, engagement, and ownership of these various initiatives by the local community. Using a grass-roots approach that became known as the 'Craigmillar Formula', professional artists were employed on terms laid down by the society to work alongside local people. With their aims championed by local politicians and receiving substantial funding from the European Economic Community, they achieved a level of political influence later described as cultural democracy in action (Harding, 2004). More than 200 local people were employed by the society on a full or part-time basis by 1976. Other community art groups based in socially deprived urban areas and influenced by Craigmillar include the Easterhouse Festival Society and the Cranhill Arts Project.
Artists, sociologists, planners, and community groups from around the world visited Craigmillar to become involved in the various community-led activities. Visitors included eminent behavioural sociologist and founder of the Tavistock Institute, Eric Trist, who claimed the Craigmillar Community was at the leading edge of post-industrial innovation (Trist, 1979), and German artist Joseph Beuys who helped develop the concept of "social sculpture" and who was involved with Richard Demarco in promoting the work of the Barlinnie Prison Special Unit.
In 1978 the Festival Society produced a report known as the Comprehensive Plan for Action, advocating a wide range of social reforms. The Gulliver Sculpture was featured on the cover subtitled 'The Gentle Giant Who Shares and Cares'. The report referred directly to the sculpture as a key symbol of the aims and aspirations of the society, gaining attention in academic and political circles in China, the USA, Russia, Israel, Canada, India, and throughout Europe (McRobie, 1981). The influence of the Craigmillar Festival Society within the broader Community Arts Movement, and as a model for affecting positive social change, has been widely documented. At the time of construction, the Gulliver sculpture was among the largest concrete sculptures in Europe, as a symbol of regeneration and community self-empowerment.
The modest remains of the Gulliver sculpture are rare surviving evidence of the work of the Festival Society during the 1970s. The surviving fragments evoke the idea of 'outsider' or 'unofficial' art and its place within society. They relate directly to the social history of Craigmillar during an important part of its later 20th century history.
After the removal of most of the structure in 2011, current and former residents of Craigmillar and Niddrie have posted childhood memories of the sculpture on various social media sites.
Association with people or events of national importance
Helen Crummy (1920–2011) and Mary Bowie founded the Craigmillar Festival Society in the early 1960s, spurred into action by the lack of music tuition available at the local primary school. Helen Crummy was awarded an MBE in 1976. Her account of the work of the Craigmillar Festival Society "Let the People Sing" was published in 1993. In 2006 she noted that the Gulliver Sculpture referred to a significant period of Craigmillar social and cultural history, when its people won international acclaim for pioneering the use of arts as a catalyst for social action, social caring, and social change (Art: The Catalyst, 2004).
In 2012, City of Edinburgh Council contributed funds for a new work of public art to commemorate Helen Crummy, while also celebrating the fiftieth anniversary of the founding of the Craigmillar Festival Society in 1962. The Memorial to Helen Crummy was designed by the artist and sculptor Tim Chalk (b.1955). The statue features Helen passing a violin bow to her son through an open doorway. The first panel of the door features a stylised representation of the Gulliver sculpture. The statue was unveiled in 2013 by Edinburgh artist and arts promoter Richard Demarco, who was involved with German artist Joseph Beuys in the promotion of the Barlinnie Prison Special Unit Project during the 1970s.
Controversially, the Festival Society commissioned Jimmy Boyle (b.1944) to design the Gulliver Sculpture while he was serving a sentence for murder at Barlinnie Prison in Glasgow. His widely publicised social rehabilitation as an artist, sculptor and author as part of the Barlinnie Special Unit arts programme during the 1970s shared affinities with the Craigmillar Festival Society's use of art as a catalyst for social change. In 2004 Boyle noted that he intended the sculpture to be 'a symbol of that particular period when disadvantaged communities were for the first time demanding to be heard' (Art: The Catalyst, 2004).