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This season, it’s all about the jacket for Watson.
Pictures from the BBC

By Sarah Artt, Edinburgh Napier University

The third season of the BBC’s Sherlock opens with a bang and gives us Derren Brown, Benedict Cumberbatch’s Sherlock in an action hero window smash, followed by an insouciant hair tousle and a Hollywood kiss with Molly Hooper. The opening of Empty Hearse is more in the style of Guy Ritchie’s fantasy Victoriana Sherlock Holmes films, and could not be more different from the show’s more procedural beginnings.

This similarity with Ritchie is certainly deliberate, because Season 3 of Sherlock shows its infinite adaptability by incorporating the style of the two recent Sherlock Holmes films, along with various elements of the infinitely flexible Sherlock canon. As someone who is quite happy at the prospect of living in an era with three different iterations of Sherlock (Cumberbatch, Johnny Lee Miller in Elementary and Robert Downey Jr. in the two Ritchie films), I’m also quite happy that they adapt and reference one another.

Sherlock as a series is also clever about its Victorian origins, particularly when it comes to costumes, and the latest season is no exception. Upon his return to London, we are treated to a sweeping, Romantic image of Sherlock surveying the city from on high, clad in his now iconic great coat; an image that recalls the powerful 19th century explorer. This is just one of the myriad Victorian allusions embedded in the Mark Gatiss and Seven Moffat’s costumes and design for Sherlock.

Steampunk and shoulder patches

Dr Waton's Haversack Jacket

Dr Waton’s Haversack Jacket

Consider the attention accorded to John Watson’s black Haversack jacket, which he wears consistently throughout the three series. The jacket has received a GQ fashion profile, not to mention endless remarks on Twitter. Haversack is a Japanese label that reproduces and draws inspiration from traditional menswear and workwear. Watson’s jacket expresses a sort of commercialised steampunk aesthetic, a gesture towards an earlier era. Its leather shoulder patch evokes the structure of military uniforms (something we see Jude Law’s Watson wearing in Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows, for example) delineating Watson’s status as soldier. The jacket is contemporary and yet evocative of Victorian “period” professions and pursuits.

The décor of 221B Baker Street in Sherlock is absolutely neo-Victorian, with its bison skull adorned with headphones that forms a focal point of the sitting room. The skull evokes the décor of traditional private men’s clubs or military messes – the trophy from a big game hunt. The headphones on the skull reflect the contemporary presence of technology via laptops, smartphones, blogs, and the Skype-like software deployed in season two’s A Scandal in Belgravia. The pairing of skull and headphones encapsulates the show’s fusing of 19th and 21st century.

As embodied by Benedict Cumberbatch, Sherlock adapts the Victorian fantasy of total mastery over knowledge. Though apparently as flummoxed by composing a best man’s speech as he was by his nemesis Irene Adler’s voracious sexuality, he once more demonstrates this near-total mastery in The Sign of Three by delivering a deeply moving speech and solving the crime, just as he outwits Adler by confirming her deep longing for him in season 2.

Mary Watson A woman with a past

Mary Watson
A woman with a past

The series as a whole mocks this aspiration to total knowledge while also, for the most part, presenting a Holmes who expresses an astonishing level of knowledge. Nowhere is this more in evidence than in the line: “Get out, I need to go to my mind palace”. Yet Sherlock’s mastery is undermined by his frequently remarked-upon social ineptitude: Mary observes that he knows nothing about human nature after he bungles his reappearance in The Empty Hearse.

What also makes the original Holmes stories timely is that many of them centre around the theft and retrieval of information. In A Scandal in Belgravia and The Hounds of Baskerville, referencing two of the most well-known stories in the Holmes canon, concerns with information and technology are front and centre. The season 3 finale His Last Vow also centres on the information that surrounds Mary Watson’s past and how the Appledore files of blackmailer Magnussen will be deployed.

All these versions of Sherlock Holmes can exist simultaneously because they demonstrate how the presence of Sherlock and Watson act as anchors for the story. Sherlock has weathered the sometimes troublesome shift to the present moment particularly well due in no small part to its carefully constructed neo-Victorian references.

Sarah Artt does not work for, consult to, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and has no relevant affiliations.

The Conversation

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Jenny Niven joins the Creative Scotland team
(Picture from Flikr)

In the latest moves of Janet Archer to strengthen the team at Creative Scotland, has arrived from Australia to take up her new post as a Portfolio Manager, leading on Creative Scotland’s work supporting Literature, Publishing and Languages. Prior to joining the team, had been Associate Director at Melbourne’s Wheeler Centre for Books, Writing and Ideas. There, she headed the programming department, responsible for creating over 300 literary and cultural events annually, in UNESCO’s second City of Literature.

Creative Scotland logoJenny has also spent six years in Beijing, where she directed the events programme at The Bookworm, China’s foremost English-language literary events venue. She was director and co-founder of The Bookworm International Literary Festival, which runs annually across the three Chinese cities of Beijing, Chengdu and Suzhou. Continuing the books and travel theme she spent April and May 2008 and 2009 working on the PEN World Voices Festival in New York.

During her time in Beijing Jenny was books editor at Time Out Beijing from 2006 to 2008, and has continued to provide books commentary and reviews for a range of broadcast stations and publications including The Age, and Triple RRR Radio. A frequent events host she has interviewed writers including David Mitchell, Jeffrey Eugenides, Kate Grenville and Nobel Prize winner Mo Yan. She was a founding board member of Australia’s Stella Prize for women’s writing.

Jenny is originally from Scotland where she gained an MA in Scottish Literature and Film and a PG dip in broadcast journalism. She also spent time as an arts researcher for Hopscotch Films and BBC Scotland for ‘Writing Scotland’, an eight part TV series of hour-long documentaries on Scottish literature which screened on BBC2.

Laura Mackenzie Stuart

Laura Mackenzie Stuart

Laura Mackenzie Stuart, Acting Director of Creative Development, said that she was “delighted to welcome Jenny to Creative Scotland. She brings a high level of experience and expertise in her field along with a clear ambition and passion for literature in Scotland. This is also matched by her proven international success which I am sure will continue to be a source of inspiration and opportunity for writers and publishers in Scotland”

Jenny herself described her appointment as an “exciting new challenge. “While living overseas I’ve kept a strong engagement with literary Scotland and am looking forward immensely to being ‘back on the ground’ and engaging fully with the excellent work being produced here, by individuals and organisations alike. It feels a very vibrant time culturally in Scotland, and in books and writing specifically, despite the challenges of the changing market and cultural environment.

“I’m looking forward to meeting people from across the literary sector, and to applying my experiences overseas to Scotland’s unique context. And of course to working with Creative Scotland’s impressive team to support and develop all kinds of new and existing work, and to help bring great ideas to fruition.”

In the ‘Roman de Fergus’, the hero must travel to Dunnottar to retrieve a magic shield

Scotland has a new hero. He’s called Fergus and he comes from Galloway. He sung his way onto the stage at the Queen’s Hall in Edinburgh last night (Tuesday 10th December ) in the world premiere of a new operetta by Alexander McCall Smith and Tom Cunningham.

Fergus of GallowayScotland’s master storyteller has retold a 13th century tale of a knight from Galloway who wins the approval of King Arthur and the hand of the beautiful princess of Lothian, Galiene. A series of 12 poems sees Fergus hunting stags in the forest, defeating evil knights, rescuing the lovely Galiene from a siege at Roxburgh and, of course, marrying her. “I believe in happy endings,” McCall Smith told the audience afterwards. “ But of course the Le Roman de Fergus, written in courtly French, was a send-up, a parody of the King Arthur legend.”

And the 8-member cast of the Edinburgh Studio Opera brought all the humour to life. This is an operetta mainly for the chorus and their chorus work was superb. Every face told the story, every word could be heard and their movements around the stage were assured and precise.

Alexander McCall Smith  believes in 'happy endings'

Alexander McCall Smith
believes in ‘happy endings’

Tom Cunningham’s music too was delightful, flowing natural tunes with a pacey accompaniment provided by Stuart Hope on the piano and Emma Donald on the violin.

The whole show reminded me of Gilbert and Sullivan with its immediately appealing music and its comic observations on our social manners.

As McCall Smith said afterwards; “Almost everything we do has a deeply symbolic meaning, if we care to look for it.” And while this, like the opera, was meant as a joke, there is a slight element of truth in it and this is what gives the comedy backbone.

Craiglockhart – where Sassoon met Owen in 1917

We’re entering the second week of this year’s History Festival. What makes this event special is the way in which it blends expert knowledge with trips to the places where history was made, the way in which it takes history out of the classroom and into bookshops and tearooms, galleries and theatres.

Siegfried Sassoon  by George Charles Beresford (1915) (Picture: Public Domain)

Siegfried Sassoon
by George Charles Beresford (1915)
(Picture: Public Domain)

Tomorrow for instance (Tuesday the 19th), there’s a special event to celebrates the war poets of Craiglockhart. Now part of Edinburgh Napier University. the campus started life in 1880 as a Hydropathic establishment where the wealthy could take fashionable water treatments. However, it took on a completely different role during the First World War when it was turned into a hospital for officers suffering from shell-shock (what we’d now call PTSD). And in the summer of 1917, the poets Siegfried Sassoon and Wilfred Owen met there. The University has a small special collection of material covering the history of Craiglockhart and Catherine Walker, its curator, will host a guided visit and talk about the many interesting characters who have had links with the place over the years.

On Wednesday, you can travel back in time to experience the classrooms of the Victorian era. The Victorian Schoolroom is located in Leith Walk Primary School and when ‘pupils’ can go through an hour long lesson using Victorian-style slates and slate pencils, old fashioned pens and ink from ink wells. The events are led by experienced, volunteer role-play teachers – corporal punishment however is NOT on today’s menu!

Billy Kay - speaking on both nationalism and wine!

Billy Kay – speaking on both nationalism and wine!

The historian Billy Kay is leading two discussions on his favourite topics – Scottish nationalism and wine! Earlier this year, he produced and presented a series for BBC Radio Scotland on the history of Scottish nationalism. ‘The Cause’ ranged from the identity forged in the Wars of Independence, through the radicalism of the 19th century, to the dramatic transformation of the SNP from a small, marginalised “sect” to a dynamic political machine capable of winning two elections and a referendum.

Much longer ago, Billy wrote a fascinating book on what he genuinely believes should really be regarded as “Scotland’s other drink” – Claret! Though made in Bordeaux from grapes not girders, claret once linked Scotland with France, so closely that it was known as the “Bloodstream of the Auld Alliance.” Billy looks at the fascinating history of the Scots involvement with not just claret but also other great wines of the world. Both events will be held at the Adam House Theatre in Chambers Street.

The Birks Cinema – a celebrity re-opening

For a time, it seemed as if the commercial cinema was, if not doomed, then limited to the big multi-screen complexes and the occasional specialist centre such as the Filmhouse in Edinburgh or the GLasgow Film Theatre. But none of the worst predictions has come to pass and there’s a growing interest in the ‘big screen’ productions away from the city centres. The Screen Machine is currently touring the Highlands and, shortly, the new Birks Cinema will be formally opened in Aberfeldy. And the town is gearing up for the event next month because Hollywood star and Scottish actor, Alan Cumming OBE, has agreed to carry out the opening ceremony.

Alan Cumming Photo Credit - Kevin Garcia

Alan Cumming
Photo Credit – Kevin Garcia

The cinema has been operating since the Spring but its transformation from derelict Bingo Hall to its current glory has been a story of true grit, determination and enthusiasm by local film buffs. And the actor has played a considerable part in the story. Alan Cumming has been the cinema’s Patron since 2009, lending his considerable support to a local fundraising campaign that eventually saw the building undergo a £1.3million renovation programme and return to its original use as a local cinema at the heart of the community.

To celebrate the official opening of the renovated cinema, Alan will be welcomed into town on Saturday 30th November for a red carpet gala event and a private screening of his latest film, Any Day Now. “I’m truly delighted to be visiting Aberfeldy,” he said, “and I’m very much looking forward to seeing The Birks Cinema in all its finery. Everyone involved in this project has shown true dedication and commitment and I’m very excited to finally see it for myself.”

A special screening of 'Local Hero'

A special screening of ‘Local Hero’

General Manager, Paul Foley is also looking forward to welcoming Alan, saying that the community was “very grateful to Alan Cumming for his support and delighted that he has been able to make the trip over to Scotland to formally pronounce us open. I’m looking forward to rolling out the red carpet, welcoming Alan to The Birks Cinema and making this St Andrews Day a very memorable and historic one for Aberfeldy.”

But Aberfeldy isn’t the only place to see the arrival of famous folk from the films. On Saturday 2nd November, a 30th anniversary screening of Local Hero will be shown in Mallaig, one of the locations used in the film. Director Bill Forsyth and international producer Iain Smith will introduce the screening and talk to the audience about the inspirations behind what is regarded as one of the giants of Scottish cinema.

Then on Sunday 3rd November, Scottish actor Bill Paterson will unveil a rare 40th anniversary screening of the BBC film production of 7:84 Theatre’s seminal play The Cheviot, The Stag & The Black, Black Oil in Dornie where it was partly shot and where many local residents were involved in the making of the film.

The film screenings are part of the Creative Scotland funded Natural Scotland on Screen project that showcases how films and television have imagined and represented Scotland’s rich landscape and biodiversity. The Screen Machine – Scotland’s mobile cinema – will host the screenings as part of its own 15th anniversary touring programme.

Douglas Dougan

Douglas Dougan

Douglas Dougan, Natural Scotland on Screen Film Project Manager, pointed out that “we have 60 films and 30 television programmes which have been collected together to show off the beautiful locations and natural resources Scotland has to offer. So far we have shown 50 films in cinemas in the Highlands, Islands, Inverness, Glasgow and Edinburgh, with more still to come before the end of the year. This special weekend is the highpoint in the programme with outstanding films and high profile guests.”

Iain Munro, Deputy Chief Executive at Creative Scotland added that “Bill Forsyth’s Local Hero is a Scottish cult classic, with The Cheviot, The Stag & The Black Black Oil a rarely seen masterpiece. This is a great opportunity for people to experience these two landmark Scottish films as they come back home to their roots.”

Just a sample of the Cheapside Hoard

George Heriot, the founder of the eponymous school, was one of the court jewellers to King James VI & I and his wife, Queen Anne of Denmark. Known in his time as Jinglin’ Geordie because of sound of coins in his purse, he grew very wealthy as a result of his royal connections. A painting of him by John Scougal, said to be ‘priceless’, normally hangs in the school in Edinburgh.

 Portrait of George Heriot © The George Heriots Trust


Portrait of George Heriot
© The George Heriots Trust

However, for the first time ever, it’s leaving Scotland for a major exhibition in London, aimed at unlocking the mystery and secrets behind the world’s largest collection of Elizabethan and Jacobean jewels, known as the Cheapside Hoard. The painting was chosen to place the Hoard in the context of its era, showing visitors an example of a jeweller who was active at the time.

The Hoard was discovered by chance in 1912 deep underground in London’s Cheapside by workmen demolishing a row of buildings. It is an extraordinary and priceless treasure of late 16th and early 17th century jewels and gemstones – widely believed to have been a jeweller’s stock-in-trade. The story of the treasure is multi-faceted – a tale of War, murder on the high seas, chance discovery and clandestine dealings.

The Colombian emerald watch found with the Hoard

The Colombian emerald watch found with the Hoard

It’s now been discovered that it was buried between 1640 and 1666. The key to unlocking this was a previously overlooked intaglio (a gemstone with an engraved design). Because it was engraved with the heraldic badge of William Howard, the first and only Viscount Stafford, it’s proved to be the latest datable item in the Hoard. This, alongside recent excavations at the site of discovery that show clear evidence of damage caused by the Great Fire of London, has seen the Museum of London accurately date the burial of the Hoard for the first time.

The exhibition will be the first time that the Hoard has been displayed in its entirety since its chance discovery deep under a cellar floor in London’s Cheapside over 100 years ago. At nearly 500 glittering pieces strong, it includes delicate finger rings, cascading necklaces, Byzantine cameos, beautiful jewelled scent bottles, and a unique Colombian emerald watch.

According to Hazel Forsyth, the exhibition’s curator, “Ever since the unexpected discovery in June 1912, the Cheapside Hoard has been swathed in mystery, rich in questions that had been left unanswered for too long. The Stafford intaglio has been absolutely vital in shedding new light on the collection, providing crucial dating evidence for the deposition of the Hoard between 1640 and 1666, and making a specific link to an individual who had international connections and a penchant for collecting gems and antiquities.”

The exhibition – The Cheapside Hoard: London’s Lost Jewels – opens at the Museum of London next Friday 11 October.

The Enchanted Forest is Scotland’s premier sound and light show. The award-winning event has been running since 2002 and this’s year’s programme opens to the public tomorrow night. Located in Faskally Forest, it’s expected to attract around 35,000 visitors, a new record for the month-long production which turns the woodland into a magical place. In a new feature this year, members of the public will be able to enter a photographic competition, with the winner’s image being shown at an exhibition at Perth Museum and Art Gallery. Last night, the media and invited guests were able to see a preview of the show – the Caledonian Mercury was there.

The event runs from Friday 4th October – Sunday 27th October.

Summerhall – one of the Festival Venues

Edinburgh’s status as a ‘festival city’ is reinforced by the arrival of the Mental Health Arts and Film Festival which runs throughout October. Now in its seventh year, the Festival is said to be bigger and better than ever. Its programme covers theatre, film, music, art and literature, all turning the spotlight on mental health.

Mental Health Festival LogoLinda Irvine, Strategic Programme Manager, Mental Health and Wellbeing, NHS Lothian, that the organisations was “delighted to be a part of the 2013 Scottish Mental Health and Arts Film Festival. Over the last seven years, our local festival has gone from strength to strength. In collaboration with a range of arts and voluntary sector organisations, there are a wealth of events taking place including exhibitions, film, storytelling, drama, theatre and poetry. We are excited to continue our local and national partnership and would encourage everyone to get involved.”

A provocative, collaborative exhibition set in the unique spaces of Summerhall’s Old Animal Hospital will officially launch the Lothian festival tomorrow night (Friday). The exhibition will explore perceptions of reality, labelling, discrimination, confinement and medication in a range of site specific artworks, photography, painting and narrative.

Lee Knifton, Festival Director explained that the event was “about social justice; it’s about tackling stigma, exploring mental health identities and connecting people and organisations that otherwise wouldn’t meet. And it’s about creating space – not just for great art – but for exploring what art can tell us about mental health and about identity.”

The organisers have produced the trailer video below.

SMHAFF 2013 trailer from SMHAFF on Vimeo.

The Enchanted Forest – an Award-Winning Event

The Enchanted Forest in Perthshire is Scotland’s premier sound and light show. Launched last night, a select audience of press and VIPs witness an array of dazzling colours to at Forestry Commission Scotland’s Faskally Wood near Pitlochry. This twelfth event is on course to smash all previous box office records, with organisers reporting that advance ticket sales are up over 50% on the previous year. A video of the opening will be available tomorrow.

Enchanted Forest (from last year)

Enchanted Forest
(from last year)

The 2013 show “absorb” has been designed by a creative team led by Derek Allan including Scottish lighting designers Kate Bonney and Simon Hayes, music by RJ McConnell, and a specially commissioned orchestral piece in collaboration with composer Jon Beales. Together they have created a dazzling and engaging show which celebrates the stunning woodland setting of the event and appropriately marks the Year of Natural Scotland.

Derek Allan, producer of The Enchanted Forest 2013, said that the team had “worked especially hard this year to ensure we deliver a show that is both creative and visually stunning. Every year the remarkable natural woodland of Faskally Wood provides our canvas and inspiration and we really hope our audience members enjoy their visit. Thanks to funding from Event Scotland we have been able to extend the reach of the show this year into new markets and I am certain that new visitors to the event from the North East of England, as well as from closer to home, will find the experience both breath-taking and unique.”

Pete Wishart MP who opened the event

Pete Wishart MP who opened the event

Pete Wishart, Member of Parliament for Perth and North Perthshire, formally opened the show on Wednesday night. He described it as “undoubtedly one of Scotland’s finest cultural events which just continues to go from strength to strength. Last year it attracted over 30,000 visitors to Highland Perthshire, an essential boost for the local economy, but it also showcases the natural beauty of Scotland right across the globe. The Enchanted Forest is a must see event for any visitor to Scotland in the Autumn.”

Budding photographers visiting The Enchanted Forest this year will also have the chance to submit their own digital artwork to an esteemed panel of judges for the event’s first ever photographic competition. The winner will receive vouchers for photography kit as well as see their winning image displayed as a special guest exhibit in Perth Museum and Art Gallery’ Big Roots Exhibition.

The event runs from Friday 4th October – Sunday 27th October. Tickets are in very high demand this year with many shows already sold out. For further information about the Enchanted Forest, the photographic competition and to book tickets, visit the Enchanted Forest website.

A new direction for Creative Scotland?

The past couple of years have been traumatic for Creative Scotland. A full-scale rebellion last year saw the then Chief Executive, Andrew Dixon, effectively forced to resign. It then took months to find a successor. Many in the arts world were taken by surprise at the choice of Janet Archer.

Janet Archer Chief Executive, Creative Scotland

Janet Archer
Chief Executive, Creative Scotland

The grumblings continued. Just last week, Scotland’s leading film producers wrote a candid memo – originally confidential but leaked – calling for immediate ­government intervention to prevent the sector’s complete demise.

Now, in her first announcement about her strategy for the organisation, Ms Archer has given film and television a much higher profile and a greater share of funding. This will involve the creation of a dedicated post – film and media director. It’s thought that this pave the way for investment in film and television productions worth more than the £4 million they currently get from Creative Scotland’s £97.5 million budget. The industry will also want an end to the current funding cap of £300,000 on major productions.

Ms Archer has issued a statement within the last few minutes. We’re publishing it below in full……..

—ooo0ooo—

Statement from Janet Archer, CEO Creative Scotland
Creative Scotland structure and recruitment

I am pleased to announce the first steps in our journey towards Creative Scotland’s new structure.

As I begin my fourth month as Chief Executive for the organisation, we are working hard to progress the development of our new long-term plan and as importantly, the simplification of our funding programmes. Alongside this, I want to ensure that we have the right structure in place to deliver these changes.

It’s clear to me that Creative Scotland’s management and staff are highly skilled and experienced. However our current structure isn’t as effective as it should be because it doesn’t make best use of the skills, expertise and knowledge of our staff, or enable best access to these skills. We are also currently operating with four members of our senior team on fixed term contracts. This needs to be addressed.

I want to build up a better knowledge bank of expertise within the areas we serve – the arts, screen and creative industries and make better use of the overview we hold, for the benefit of everyone working in these fields. We don’t plan to lose our commitment to working flexibly and holding a broad perspective. Many staff enjoy working across a number of disciplines alongside their core specialism, and have developed a breadth of knowledge and skills through this approach. We will ensure however that in future we will feed relevant expertise into advice, decision making, and feedback, because we know that’s what is valued.

At the same time as building a new future we need to fulfil the on-going work of the organisation as a funder and development agency that advocates and influences for everyone’s best benefit. The challenge of effective planning, change management and delivery simultaneously should not be underestimated.

My first step in meeting this challenge was to appoint Iain Munro as Deputy Chief Executive. The second has been to revise the structure of the senior leadership team to reflect our priority areas of work and mirror the three sectors that we are here to support.

As soon as is practicable, the senior team will be structured as follows, under CEO: Janet Archer

    Deputy CEO: Iain Munro
    Director of Arts and Engagement
    Director of Film and Media
    Director of Creative Industries: Caroline Parkinson
    Director of Communications: Kenneth Fowler
    Director of HR: Karen Lannigan
    Director of Strategy (12 month post)
    Director of Funding Operations
    Director of Finance

There is no increase in overall salary budget, these new posts are affordable within Creative Scotland’s existing operational budgets which are separate to the budgets we hold for funding.

Five of the Director posts now need to be filled and we will be recruiting this month, starting with the Director of Arts & Engagement; the Director of Film & Media; and the Director of Strategy. Following on from this we will also advertise the Director of Finance and the Director of Funding Operations posts.

The Director of Strategy will be a fixed term post, for 12 months in the first instance, to focus on the significant amount of planning, policy development and strategic partnership work that we need to undertake in the coming year.

I would like to emphasise that these changes are just the first step.

We will be working with our staff over the coming months to ensure that we put in place the right structure to enable us all to do our jobs effectively and provide the funding, development and advocacy that the arts, screen and creative industries deserve.

I am looking forward to strengthening our team and am excited about the potential we could unlock for artists and creative people across Scotland through this increased capacity.