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Historic Scotland's Chance to Make a Bit of History Itself!

Going, Going ...Not Gone ... Perhaps?

One wonders. Where are all the old industrial buildings in our town? Well, there's the neglected Museum with the fine yet inaccessible Beam Engine and the fenced off Brickworks and the engine-store of a boarded-up BathHouse. But David Spence's Dream of Scotland's Mining Museum proper was long ago lost to Newtongrange.

Everywhere else our old buildings are gone, commemorated at best with a street or housing block name. Sir Walter Scott Wynd, The Pottery, Brewery Court ... and most lately 'Charles Belfield IV Car Park'. Everything swept away without a murmur of dissent and replaced with low cost [then, maybe] housing.

Except the old Fowler's HQ, built in the glory days of the Pans just eight years after the end of World War II. Fowler's directors were proud of their enterprise - it had after all been in town Since the '45! They built grandly by Pans standards, and they built for posterity [which is us here today and our children], not just the sort of temporary low cost edifice that supermarkets and discount traders have been throwing up across the country and south of the border for the last thirty years. And Nick Sharp's Coeval had cared for it.

Historic Scotland not Much Impressed thus far...

Historic Scotland has hitherto not been much impressed with the town's industrial buldings. Nor the Haddington based East Lothian Councils over the years. They all went. Historic Scotland was not even suitably impressed when East Lothian Council did ask for the old Fowler's HQ to be Listed. They turned it down as frankly not much to write home about architecturally speaking.

But the Arts Festival disagrees and is certainly not inclined to take such a No for an answer. It has set out its reasoning and launched its Protest Campaign. Furthermore it has requested that if its 'careful reasoning' is not to be accepted, it wants a 'carefully reasoned' explanation; nothing less - and that before any bulldozers get near the building. And the Arts Festival knows that at the end of the day it is a non-party 'political' question, since Historic Scotland reports to the Parliament at Holyrood through the Miniser of Culture and is accountable there to our MSPs and all the electors.

Our 'Reasoned' Case for Listing

Firstly, the building does have most considerable architectural merit and whilst nationally it may not be the finest treasure [although there are few other examples], so far as the Pans is concerned it is gold dust, it is a treasure. It's the exemplar of the post war industrial activity in the town. It carries not the slightest hint of the decline and fall of Fowler's just a decade later when it was swept away in the keg technology-based merger frenzy in the brewing industry by out-of-town directors, taking too many local jobs with it.

Secondly, conserving the town's history is at the very core of the Arts Festival's strategy of using the arts to stimulate further socioeconomic regeneration in our town. We are a town which includes families amongst the 15% most deprived in our nation. To demolish Fowler's old HQ would accordingly be socially counter productive, destructive. We have in our town all the evidence needed to assert that the arts in the service of community history have got results. Believe us; trust us.

Thirdly, a failure to List the building will send absolutely the wrong signal from Historic Scotland and from 'politics at large' to all those in the Pans who have spent the past decade seeking recovery and renaissance. It would be a signal that talk of 'localism' is well, just talk. When the real decisions are made, they are made out-of-town and the criteria are nationally derived and nationally weighted, incapable of reflecting local context and dynamics.

Fourthy, if low cost or 'commuter' housing is ever advanced as an alibi for demolition, let it be well remembered that the town has already sacrificed its historic buildings on that altar. And as of today is preparing to welcome thousands of commuting incomers to fine new housing on its southern and eastern borders. They require integration within our community by taking a pride with us in our great history if a souless surburbia is not to be created in the coming decades.

Well Historic Scotland .. are we all going to Make History Together hereabouts?

We await your Listing, please.
Prestoungrange Arts Festival Directorate

Published Date: July 26th 2007

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