MY FAVOURITE VIEW
Joanna Norman, lead curator at V&A Dundee
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.