Artists’ plat­form with a dif­fer­ence

Open week­end on Fife rail­way line will stop you in your tracks

The Herald Magazine - - ARTS | VISUAL - I SARAH UR­WIN JONES

T’S not quite what you’d ex­pect from the daily com­mute. A potter in the sig­nal box, weavers in the wait­ing rooms, a jew­eller in the ticket of­fice. And yet this is no sur­re­al­ist vi­sion, but the re­al­ity along the rather idyl­lic Fife rail­way line that runs be­tween North Queens­ferry and Cu­par, a di­rect re­sult of ScotRail’s Adopt a Sta­tion scheme.

The scheme runs through­out Scot­land, aim­ing to re­use rail­way build­ings no longer needed or in­deed cared for, fill­ing them with com­mu­nity ven­tures.

But while it has spawned libraries and cafes, nowhere else has a line been so over­run by artists. It is, as this year’s Open Doors Week­end of all the stu­dios tucked away on the rail­way line shows, a true Art Line.

The first artist to come was Kirsty Lorenz, who did up the old sta­tion restau­rant at Lady­bank, now a stu­dio where she paints Scot­tish wild­flow­ers and gives com­mu­nity classes. Fea­tured on TV some years ago, her stu­dio was seen by Kinghorn artists Lynette and Dou­glas Gray, who trav­elled up to Lady­bank to talk to Lorenz about how she did it.

It was dur­ing one of many sub­se­quent con­ver­sa­tions that they came up with the very vague – says Lynette – idea for a linked open day for stu­dios along the line.

“It was just one word, Art­line, to be­gin with,” she says. “A joke, al­most.” But then it be­came a re­al­ity and, af­ter their first year in 2016, “every­one wanted to keep it go­ing,” says Lynette. ScotRail agreed and has, along with other bod­ies, funded it ever since.

When Lynette and I speak on the phone she is mid­way be­tween a pho­to­shoot at Aber­dour sta­tion and an in­ter­view on King­dom FM. “It’s one thing hav­ing ev­ery­thing in place, but get­ting the word out is an­other,” says Lynette cheer­fully.

At Kinghorn, Lynette will wel­come vis­i­tors to the artists’ stu­dios up­stairs, a for­mer rail­way flat where she and her hus­band Dou­glas have ad­join­ing stu­dios.

“I’m plan­ning to do a few demonstrations, per­haps on how to paint with Ja­panese brushes and then peo­ple can have a go,” she adds, although she says it’s hard to plan ex­actly as she’ll have to be on hand to take peo­ple round her painter hus­band’s stu­dio, a mine­field of spirits and wet oil paintings. Fin­ished paintings will be on dis­play in the ground floor ex­hi­bi­tion space, a for­mer wait­ing room from which the Grays ex­ca­vated a large quan­tity of salt, then “dried the place out” be­fore restor­ing it.

There are many such tales of restora­tion along the Art­line, as there are else­where. In­di­vid­ual build­ings, adopted by com­mu­nity groups and in­di­vid­ual artists, funded by char­i­ties and other bod­ies sup­port­ing the arts, painstak­ingly cleared out, made safe in some cases, the orig­i­nal fea­tures of these Vic­to­rian build­ings re­stored or re­in­stated. You don’t have to read about it, you can ask the artists them­selves.

At Burn­tis­land, where the gar­dens have also been adopted and are a sea of red pop­pies in the sum­mer, jewellers in the re­stored sta­tion build­ing in­clude Grace Gir­van, who makes spare and beau­ti­ful sil­ver and enamel jew­ellery em­bed­ded with sliver-thin skim­ming stones found while beach­comb­ing.

Fel­low jewellers Ebba Gor­ing and Sally Grant will also open their stu­dios, along­side weaver Susie Red­man who, says Lynette, will un­doubt­edly have her

Main im­age: Painter Kirsty Lorenz, who did up the old sta­tion restau­rant at Lady­bank

Far left: Work by Dou­glas Gray Left: Burn­tis­land Crown of This­tles

loom in ac­tion for the week­end. At In­verkei­thing, poet Mau­reen Sang­ster will read from Con­verS­ta­tions, a book of poems set around the Fife Cir­cle line, along­side artist Sheena Berry’s il­lus­tra­tions. At Kirk­caldy, there are new ex­hi­bi­tions in the Art Gallery, next to the sta­tion. At the other end of the line is Cu­par, whose mu­seum and lo­cal his­tory her­itage cen­tre on the plat­form has many ob­jects dat­ing back to Pic­tish times, along­side a new ex­hi­bi­tion, Work and War Horses, 1914-1918, on loan from the Royal High­land Show So­ci­ety.

The beauty of it is that you can pick

where you stop – with a day re­turn you can hop on and off as many times as you like, as long as you don’t leave the sta­tion. For rail­way en­thu­si­asts keen to see the re­stored struc­tures, for art lovers or those in­ter­ested in look­ing around work­ing artists’ stu­dios, this should be an idyl­lic way to spend a day on the rails.

The Art­line: Open Doors Week­end, North Queens­ferry to Cu­par and sta­tions en route, Fife. www.theart­line.co.uk, 5-6 May, Sat and Sun 10am-4pm (Kirk­caldy Art Gallery, 9.30am (12noon Sun)-4pm

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