Artists’ platform with a difference
Open weekend on Fife railway line will stop you in your tracks
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