Propaganda

Propaganda has become a very dirty word indeed, undoubtedly up there with 'crevice' as words not to be deployed in front of your local clergyman. Although a recent construction, dating back only to the 18th century and bastardised (another slightly dirty word) from the Latin verb propagare. Back in the good old days, those rather shady ministries of information in certain countries were called, quite simply, the Ministry of Propaganda. How disappointing it is that such pleasant-sounding words fall into desuetude so quickly.

The intention of today's post is not to eulogise, but to celebrate the finest propaganda I have ever come across. In 1942, Abram Games OBE (1914-1996), a Jewish Briton, designed the Your Britain: Fight for It Now series of posters. Inspiring, and tapping directly into the psyche of the British person and considering how he relates to his country. An honourable mention must also go to his Festival of Britain emblem, drawn up in 1951.

In addition to his perhaps 'quaint' town-and-country scenes, Games also showed an optimism about the future development of his country. The series expanded to imagine modern housing, schools and health centres growing up out of the rubble of post-war Britain. Not bad for a bit of propaganda.

The Cleansing of Marischal College

Another tale from the 'it ain't broke, but we're fixing it anyway' school of thought has emerged in Aberdeen. Our university's dear Marischal College is currently undergoing renovation work to enable a portion of it to house office space for Aberdeen City Council.

It is well known to Aberdonians, but probably to few others, that Marischal College was a very neglected building. When I visited it some years ago teaching still went on within its walls, but the rot had very much set in. The windows looked shabby, the corridors were unkempt, many of the rooms were very cold and institutional, sunlight blocked out by dust and dirt and everything touched by far too many hands over the years.

Still, however, the exterior stonework was never a problem. In their wisdom, however, the City Council have decided to 'clean' it - turning it from a dark-coloured building to its original lighter hue. Imagine such a policy adopted in Edinburgh! It would be a disaster.

Which brings me to my point: buildings are sometimes best when they show their age. Many of the post-Modern buildings which have been compared to Disneyland for their use of traditional styles appear artificial simply because of the cleanness of their fa├žades. For my part, I'd prefer a Marischal College which looks like what it is: a great old building which houses a great old university. Instead the City Council seem determined to create an awful office-block, with the front arch replaced with glass and revolving doors, and the reserved heraldic displays replaced with giant Council logos.

The university should never have allowed this level of abuse.

Renfrewshire Rifles

The helmet plate of the Renfrewshire Rifle Volunteers. Note the feathers motif in the middle, referencing the good Baron Renfrew's second job. The badge is surmounted by a Victorian Crown and dates to roughly the time of the Boer War.

Arundel

Arundel is, without a doubt, one of the finest small communities in England. Although hosting a village-sized population, this Sussex market town has more to commend it than many cities.

The attractive town centre is dominated by two major features: the 19th century Arundel Cathedral, seat of the Roman Catholic Bishop of Arundel and Brighton, and the Arundel Castle, seat of the Dukes of Norfolk, the oldest and most prominent Roman Catholic family in Great Britain.
The Cathedral was built following the various Catholic emancipation laws by the 15th Duke of Norfolk, Henry Fitzalan-Howard and the architect Joseph Hansom (creator of the Hansom cab). The Fitzalan family, from which the Norfolks are descended, has Renfrewshire links - sharing a common ancestry with the Houstons of Houston, the founder of Paisley Abbey and the Renfrew-based Stewards of Scotland. Inkeeping with the Castle and the Norman origins of the Norfolks, the Cathedral was designed in a flamboyant French Gothic style.
It's difficult to sum up quite how charming Arundel is actually is. From its small square, to its pleasant hotels, to the Christmas trees shimmering in the choir of the the cathedral it positively oozed the stuff. Even during the often miserable post-Christmas winter period when I visited, arriving only in the half-light of an early dusk, it still retained its ability to inspire awe.
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Previous Articles

Renfrewshire flags - A look back at the proper flags of the ancient county of Renfrewshire.

The Scottish Parliament - Possibly the most controversial structure in 21st century Scotland. A missed opportunity, a tragedy destined to happen or just an underrated work?

A Toast to Glasgow - Some views of Scotland's largest city and northern Britain's great Victorian metropolis.

A Defence of Propaganda - War-time optimism, reclaiming terminology and a nod to the fine work of Abram Games OBE.

St Andrew's House - Art deco at the political heart of Edinburgh.

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