From palette to canvas... 60 years of art in Glenrothes

A busy Glenrothes Art Club
A busy Glenrothes Art Club

When the Provost of Fife gave a toast during a civic reception for members of Glenrothes Art Club yesterday evening (Tuesday), he was marking a rich history that harks back to the earliest days of the town.

For the celebration to honour arguably the oldest surviving club in Glenrothes kicked off what is already shaping up to be a wonderful year of special events, shows and surprises that will make the art club Diamond Jubilee a birthday to remember.

The club’s beginnings can be traced back to December 14, 1955 when five of the town’s earliest settlers: Schoolmaster Ken Michie, art teacher George Paton, train driver W. Fraser Biggs, William Brown, a retired printer and architect John Coghill, who incidentally was responsible for designing much of the new town as an employee of Glenrothes Development Corporation (GDC), met to discuss the one thing they all had in common … art.

The club duly formed with the agreed ethos of it being affordable to all and open to anyone with an interest in art, whatever their background. Throughout the club’s 60 years the emphasis has been on keeping membership fees - today it still amounts to only £1 per week - so that no one need ever be deterred from joining because they could not afford it.

It was, and still is the cornerstone of the club’s existence, and is as important today as it was 60 years ago.

The original five members set about looking for a suitable home and quickly secured the derelict farm buildings of Woodmill Farm which were due to be demolished.

The GDC allowed the art club to take on the Cottar House and Coach House building and adapt it to their needs.

After some hard work to bring the building up to a habitable state the club were in business and had their very own studio in which to meet and work, they have remained there ever since.

In return for the patronage of the Corporation and subsequently the Council, the club has paid a handsome dividend over the years organising a wealth of day and evening classes in everything from life drawing and pottery modelling to weaving, embroidery, pottery and carving of wood and stone.

And in that time have brought some of the leading artists of the day to town.

The club continued to evolve, and when GDC was due to be wound up in 1995 it made a successful request to acquire the Cottar House and became a registered charity.

Throughout its history the club has strived to bring art to the community and the annual exhibition is the respected and much anticipated highlight in its events calendar.

In recent times the club has developed an ‘Arts 4 U’ youth group especially for 12 - 16-year-olds and over the festive period last year organised a highly successful week-long ‘pop-up shop’ initiative which it plans to expand on this coming December.

Later this month, as part of the ongoing celebrations, the club will release a specially produced photobook entitled ‘60 Years of Art’ which will be filled with a wealth of photographs, newspaper articles and other material relating to the first 60 years.

60th anniversary offers something for everyone

A recent National Lottery Awards For All windfall of £10,000 had helped secure the club for the future and help bring together a diverse and interesting programme of events in 2015.

Here a few of the highlights:

April 21 - Rothes Halls lecture series - Stanley Bonnar ’A Quest for Public Art’ 7.00 p.m. £2

May 19 - Rothes Halls lecture series - Sandy Guy 7.00 p.m. £2

June 6 - 50s and 60s dance including live band Raeburn Heights, Coaltown of Balgonie Bowling Club £5

August 8 - Annual Exhibition, Rothes Halls Gallery - official opening by original Glenrothes town artist David Harding OBE. 3.00 p.m.

September 13 - Doors Open Day Fife, come and take a tour around Cottar House studios, many events and demonstrations taking place.

November 14-29 - Glenrothes Art Club’s pop up shop, kingdom Shopping Centre.

December 4 - Diamond Jubilee Gala Dinner, Rothes Halls.

A year to remember - says club president

“We aim to have something for everyone and a few surprises too.”

That’s the message from Glenrothes Art Club president Lillian Sloan, as she and fellow club members get ready to launch their impressive events programme.

“The club was started with the aim of promoting art in the community and that belief has remained central to the club throughout its 60 years and is one of the things that has made it so popular throughout that time,” Lillian added.

“So our events programme has that in mind.

“The close association and support for art across the town and the various town artists who have helped to make Glenrothes so unique over many years, we are delighted to be able to welcome one of those artists David Harding to open our annual exhibition in September.

“We plan to make it a year to remember welcome everyone within the town to come and celebrate sixty years of art in Glenrothes with us.”