Joanna Nor­man, lead cu­ra­tor at V&A Dundee

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Why Joanna Nor­man, lead cu­ra­tor at the new V&A Dundee, loves cross­ing the Forth Bridge

At least once a year since I was born, I’ve trav­elled up to Scot­land to see fam­ily in Ed­in­burgh. The view from the train holds such in­cred­i­ble sig­nif­i­cance for me, both

per­son­ally and pro­fes­sion­ally. I’ve al­ways had that sense of ex­cite­ment when the train hits the coast, just around the bor­der be­tween Eng­land and Scot­land, and the same sense of ex­cite­ment at ap­proach­ing Ed­in­burgh and see­ing the city ar­rive. But for the last few years it’s a view that’s taken on new im­por­tance for me as I’ve con­tin­ued fur­ther north and over the Forth Bridge.

The can­tilever struc­ture of the bridge is the most as­ton­ish­ing piece of en­gi­neer­ing, even now in the 21st

cen­tury. When the train goes over your view is nearly 360 de­grees, with the coasts open­ing up on ei­ther side, Fife ahead and Ed­in­burgh sprawl­ing and head­ing out to­wards North Ber­wick. You have that first feel­ing of be­ing prop­erly in Scot­land. It’s also amaz­ing be­cause your view is of the iron struc­ture of the bridge, so you’re al­ways look­ing through this lat­tice, like an­other win­dow into the view be­yond. You can also see the road bridge and boats, so it’s an ac­tive view, a work­ing area; it’s not just pic­turesque.

When I was younger I was aware, to an ex­tent, of the coun­try’s his­tory, but not

the rich­ness of its de­sign her­itage. I think that’s not an es­pe­cially well-known his­tory yet, but it’s so in­ter­est­ing be­cause you can find traces of it in lots of places. That’s

partly what makes the Forth Bridge so im­por­tant for me, be­cause as I travel over I think of how that en­gi­neer­ing feat con­nected the north of Scot­land to Lon­don and opened up new com­mu­ni­ca­tion routes and travel and trade pos­si­bil­i­ties. Then, as you head north you pass through places with such rel­e­vance to Scot­tish de­sign her­itage. There’s Kirk­caldy, one of the most suc­cess­ful pro­duc­ers of linoleum for about a cen­tury from the 1870s, then Fife, where linen and jute were pro­duced. So there’s this net­work of in­ter­linked trade rooted in spe­cific places, but con­nected via the train line. Now, for me, the cul­mi­na­tion is cross­ing the Tay Bridge into Dundee and see­ing the V&A Dundee emerg­ing out of the wa­ter, en­cap­su­lat­ing some of Scot­land’s de­sign.

Sadly I now fly much more but I do take the train when

I have the op­por­tu­nity, and luck­ily I still have a rea­son to go up there apart from work: I have fam­ily in Ed­in­burgh and my hus­band’s from St An­drews. As a child, ev­ery school hol­i­day my fa­ther would put my mother, my two broth­ers and me on the train at King’s Cross and we’d meet my grand­par­ents at Waver­ley, so there was a sense of some­thing fa­mil­iar, but also an ad­ven­ture. I’ve done many spec­tac­u­lar train jour­neys, but this is still my favourite. JOANNA IS LEAD CU­RA­TOR OF THE SCOT­TISH DE­SIGN GAL­LERIES AT THE NEW V&A DUNDEE, 1 RIVER­SIDE ES­PLANADE, DD1 4EZ, 01382 411611, VAM.AC.UK/DUNDEE.

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