An ‘Enlightened’ Archaeology Fortnight!!

Well that’s it folks, another year, another two weeks of East Lothian Archaeology & Local History Fortnight over, and what a glorious two weeks it has been!

We finished up almost on a similar theme to how we started, thinking about East Lothian during that creative period of Scottish history, The Age of Enlightenment. We heard about the role that East Lothian played during the 18th century, its battles of rebellion, grand house-building, and the cutting edge of agricultural improvement, and then actually went out ‘into the field’ and saw how these changes played out in terms of East Lothian’s landscape and its architecture.

Discovering Saltoun Hall Designed Landscape

Discovering Saltoun Hall Designed Landscape

Beautiful Balgone Estate

Exploring the beautiful Balgone Estate

Across the fortnight, there has been a huge range of other walks, talks, exhibitions and events, showcasing the many fascinating, but often little-known aspects of East Lothian’s rich and varied heritage. From the turbulent and important medieval past of the now sleepy hamlet of Morham, to the history of the seven bridges of Musselburgh, through to the excavations at Dirleton Paddock dig, we’ve been entertained, engaged, and most certainly ‘enlightened’ throughout the last two weeks! What has also been apparent, is how well the combination of talking and thinking about some of these subjects marries with the getting out and about, walking around and seeing things for yourself-and even better if both activities can be combined with tea, coffee and some good old homemade cake!

Delving into early medieval evidence at Morham Church

Delving into early medieval evidence at Morham Church

Contemplating some later prehistoric 'grand-designs' - North Berwick Law hillfort...!

Contemplating some later prehistoric ‘grand-designs’ – North Berwick Law hillfort!

From all of us here at the Archaeology Service, we’d like to say, once again, a big thank you to all the individuals, societies and local groups who contributed to this year’s fortnight. We are hugely grateful for all your hard work and continuing support, and we are looking forward to next September already! Bring it on!

If you are beginning to pine for the joy of sharing all things archaeology and history-related, fear not! Our annual Edinburgh, Lothians & Borders Archaeology Conference is just around the corner waiting to say hello in November, so do come along to what promises to be another ‘enlightening’ day packed full of great talks-just click on the link here for further information!

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Film Appreciation – How does your garden grow?

Luffness House Garden the scotsman

Luffness House garden (courtesy of The Scotsman)

The best place to seek God is in a garden. You can dig for him there.”

(George Bernard Shaw)

          The Film Appreciation Club (FAC@JGC) will be having its fourth screening and discussion on Thursday, September 22nd 2016. As part of John Gray Centre’s audience development initiative, the theme for this screening – ‘garden life’ – is in keeping with an exhibition in the temporary gallery of the John Gray Centre Museum. This exhibition, which runs from August 13th 2016 to January 10th 2017, features stories, objects and images from East Lothian’s gardening heritage, focusing on three contemporary community gardening projects. The film we are screening focuses on a group of gardeners at an allotment, who react angrily when a group of refugees are given plots at their favourite site.

          The importance of landscape and gardens in cultural history is evident in films, even though the 19th century fascination with wilderness and nature increasingly gave way to a focus on cityscape and city life. Any exposure to modern cinema clearly shows that landscape, in general terms and in more traditional depictions of wild and rural scenes, is virtually indispensable to film pleasure. This is especially obvious in the Western, of course, but is also true of all commercial film genres. From proposals to murderous hunts through mazes, some of the most memorable scenes in movies have taken place in a garden.

Mae Wright's vegetable garden 1950 (Gordon Collection, Archive & Local History Service)

Mae Wright’s vegetable garden 1950 (Gordon Collection, Archive & Local History Service)

          There are many movies that can be categorised as horticultural cinema in which gardening is a monumental part of the film because the entire story hinges on the garden and what magic occurs there. But more often than not, the garden is part of the film’s mise en scène. Mise en scène, which literally means “put in the scene”, refers to the totality of the world created within the film through all devices available to the filmmaker, such as framing, composition, lighting, sound, set and action. Films always frame what they seek to portray and therefore the crafting of the mise en scène is the design of a cinematic space. Likewise, garden designers imagine and display a similar dexterity in the making of spaces that serve to highlight a certain garden narrative.

          Most garden films, however, resemble garden magazines with a horticultural and photogenic emphasis. It is perhaps this “impressionism” of the cinematic landscape that so strongly commands our attention. But does it matter that a lot of movie gardens are overdone? We are used to accepting artful pretence in other realms. The photographers from House Beautiful and Architectural Digest utilise designers who add better lampshades and prettier pillows to the décor in a photo-shoot. Fashion magazines airbrush away the imperfections of male and female bodies. For the garden, however, those ideals might not only be meant to dazzle but also to inspire.

Spott House (Archive & Local History Collection)

Spott House (Archive & Local History Collection)

          The notion of landscape and gardens is a complex one, of course, but however it is defined, gardens have been central to cinematic art and artistry. Since gardens are both natural and artificial, we need to consider the relationship between nature and the built environment. Beyond this, gardens serve worldwide as metaphors for human life. So how do we use gardens to extend our definitions of home, country or nation? And as for garden specific movies, what is the message about the work of gardening, wheelbarrows and pruners, hopes and dreams? Perhaps the significance is that gardening is difficult but satisfying, and that even if it does not achieve perfection, it is yours.

          So do come and join us for a wonderful evening of visual pleasure and vibrant conversation about people and their relationships with gardens. Doors open at 6.30pm and screening starts at 7pm. Screenings are free-of-charge to members and £3 (donation towards costs) to non-members. More importantly, there will be popcorn, biscuits and refreshments available!  And look out for my next blog on our film in October commemorating Black History Month.

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September Weekend

The September Weekend is approaching. That long weekend where you can spend some quality time with your kids once the new term has started.

Summer has gone and it’s getting a little colder and a little wetter, but the trees are changing colour into a wonderful display of autumnal fireworks. With lovely reds and browns and greens turning the landscape ablaze with colour.

At this time of year, we like to get arty and we are going to share that with you.

Our resident nature person has come up with a great wee autumn themed craft for you and your little one to make. And we are all busy getting them prepared for the weekend ahead!

Autumn Leaf wreath


Come along this weekend and have a go at making an Autumnal wreath! Easy to make and they look great too! We’ll provide all the bits and bobs (but if you want to bring some leaves that you have found, mores the better!)

The John Gray Centre museum will be open as normal over the September Weekend.

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