Fowler's First Round this Christmas!
Auld Fowler's Wont Fall Without a Fight!
Lidl's finally threw down the gauntlet to those in the Pans who have been campaigning for just under two years to save the town's last surviving working building from our industrial heyday. Their proposal is for 'affordable housing' which one and all agree is a social priority across the nation. Surely, they argue, 56 new flats are of greater value to the town than the restoration of an old building - and the fact that it brings greater profit to Lidl is incidental.
Lidl makes its case in the face of a not inconsiderable campaign to argue the absolute oppposite. It has brought Historic Scotland's Chief Inspector Malcolm Cooper to the town, involved the Minister of Culture Linda Fabiani, the MSP Iain Gray and seen some 700 signatures collected in support of a Community Right to Buy petition.
So why is the Auld Fowler's HQ seen as so important by the Arts Festival?
It's very clear why renascent microbrewer Fowler's Ales wants to be back in the old home. But why is the Arts Festival so animated about it all?
The answer is very straightforward. All the activities over the past decade by the Arts Festival from writing the town's history, painting the historical murals, tracing the history of the town's potteries, remembering the 81 Witches, restoring the historic Gothenburg, championing the Battle of Prestonpans Heritage Trust - even the totem pole itself on the foreshore - have been about honouring the town's history. History is the watchword and has been throughout.
As such, and with some well acknowledged successes under their belt, the Arts Festival simply cannot stand idly by and allow the Auld Fowler's HQ - and all that great company symbolised with its slogan Famous Since the '45 - to fall without a fight.
Yet the determining decision cannot be made by the town's people at large or its Community Council
The irony is that despite every political party in the nation [and south of the border] declaring they wish to see communities determine their own fate the processes by which the fate of communities such as The Pans in this matter will be determined is firmly in the hands of others, of bigger government. Historic Scotland makes its value judgements against national criteria not local criteria as it recommends Listing or No to the Minister. It believes and acts on the belief that it knows best. If local is to triumph it can only be because 'bigger' government thinks it is good for the locals not they for themselves.
Most of these paradoxes arose because of the restructuring of local governement in the seventies which swept away any proper seat of authority in local communities. The case for the restoration of the old burghs will never be more clearly seen than in this bizarre tussle between a German discount retailer and a community Arts Festival in Scotland! The retailer argues the town needs more affordable housing and the Arts Festival argues it needs greater self esteem and creativity through the arts. The Arts Festival asserts that the neo-art deco Auld Fowler's HQ can be restored as a community icon just as the Gothenburg has been while the discount retailer says all other tenderers missed the point about mining subsidence [which incidentally is not the case!].
.....You Aint seen Nothing Yet
So, this whole episode is going to go right to wire. Politicians are going to be forced to show their colours from East Lothian Councillors in the Preston et al SuperWard and the coalition Council-at-large in Haddington, to Chief Inspectors, MSPs and Ministers at Holyrood. Do they or do they not mean what they say in public and in their manifestoes? And how do they weigh the balance of social and economic advantage between 56 new affordable flats and a socioeconomic strategy for community regeneration by enhancing community self-esteem and creativity through history as told through the arts in which so much has been invested this past decade? Surely it's a no-brainer?
click on press cuttings to enlarge
from: Arts Directorate of Prestoungrange Arts Festival and Fowlers Ales
Published Date: December 22nd 2007