On film: The man who created art for Glenrothes and its people...

David Harding
David Harding

He was responsible for nurturing young artistic talent as a lecturer at Glasgow’s famous School of Art, even influencing future Turner Prize winners.

But for the people of a certain age in Glenrothes he will first and foremost be the the man with the wild hair and beard who gave the town its art.

Now, thanks to two enthusiasts from St Andrews University, an ambitious and wide-ranging film, book and exhibition project is set to shine a spotlight David’s time in Glenrothes and his body of work that remains here.

“It’s incredible to think that David Harding’s appointment as the town artist for Glenrothes back in 1968 was completely revolutionary and unheard of at the time,” explains Dr Jeremy Howard, senior lecturer for the school of art history at St Andrews University, and the man leading the project.

“The fact that he was specifically employed within Glenrothes Development Corporation’s housing department creating public works or art that took a direct influence from who would be living around them and where they were within the town, remains fascinating to this day.

“And having virtually every one of his works still here and largely in the same place is quite remarkable.

“That is one of the main reasons why we wanted to put this project together.”

Furthermore, it’s often the smaller, understated works that have the most appeal, as colleague and project collaborator Andrew Demetrius points out.

“His work is not shouty, it’s not something that was meant to be put up on a pedestal, it was designed with complete social engagement in mind.

“They were designed to be part of everyday lives, that’s why in most of the old photographs you see children climbing all over them.”

Harding joined the Development Corporation in Glenrothes in 1968, the first appointment of its kind in the UK.

Over the next 10 years, he produced dozens of public pieces of art, mainly from concrete, with some of his larger works including The Henge, Heritage and the Western Underpass mural now heralded as some the finest examples of their type still in existence.

Now, with the explosion in popularity for 20th century Brutalist architecture – largescale building primarily constructed out of concrete – Jeremy and Andrew say the time is now right for a wider appreciation of David Harding’s Glenrothes public art.

With the blessing from the 81-year-old former town artist, who was brought over to Glenrothes on two occasions from his home in Glasgow to visit and talk about his creations, filming is now complete and is currently being edited.

Additionally, to tie in with the 50th anniversary of Harding’s appointment and Glenrothes’ 70th anniversary, an exhibition of David’s work and influence, as well as an accompanying book, is also planned for later this year.

“There’s much still to do but its an exciting time,” Jeremy added.

“We have the support of the Kingdom Centre who are giving us a unit in which to host the exhibition, and we hope tie in a number of other aspects relating to David’s work during that.

“There’s the possibility of walking tours to view the town’s art, events at the Reimagination book festival in Glenrothes have shown there is an interest and an appetite for that sort of thing.”

It’s often said townsfolk don’t like to shout about Glenrothes, but by the same token, they harbour a deep and fierce pride for their town.

This project is about to shine a light on one aspect of the town’s rich artistic heritage, and not before time.