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The smart new Neighbourhood Kitchen-Bar-Garden, is the place for coffee and cocktails, lunch, supper and Sunday Brunch

The Neighbourhood Kitchen – Bar – Garden is at the Bruntsfield Hotel

The Bruntsfield Hotel, in the southside of Edinburgh is a grand property of four connecting Townhouses dating from 1861.  Converted into a hotel in the 1920s, today the quiet location overlooking the Links and Meadows Park is ideal for visitors within easy walking distance to shops, theatres, cinemas and a short bus ride to the city centre.

As part of a £1 million investment, the Hotel’s former Bisque Brasserie has been transformed into The Neighbourhood to welcome hotel guests, locals, shoppers, students and office staff to meet, eat and drink, and described as “a new, exciting all-day dining, working, and socialising space”.

A recent media launch party was a marvellous opportunity for a sneak preview to sip a cocktail or two and sample the food.  In the large, L shaped space, the Neighbourhood Bar is well designed for comfort and relaxation, the booth tables ideal for a couple or group of friends  

A cosy corner at the Neighbourhood bar

As well as good selection of wines, Scottish beers the bar tenders have invented a menu of house cocktails such as the “Scottish Garden” made with Edinburgh Gin, Grey Goose vodka, Elderflower cordial and apple juice.  This is so refreshing, tart and fruity ….and rather dangerous as you hardly taste the alcohol!

The Secret Garden cocktail – hits the spot

The Penicillin sounds like a healthy tipple to keep the bugs away – a blend of Famous Grouse and Laphroaig whiskies, lemon juice, honey ginger syrup, the perfect winter warmer, plus all the classics, Cosmopolitan, Negroni and a signature Ferrero Rocher Martini – Smirnoff vodka, Frangelico, cocoa liquor and whipped cream.

Ferrero Rocher Martini – an Espresso Martini with a twist

 “We want The Neighbourhood to be somewhere to work and play with homely food, creative cocktails, and true Scottish charm.”  Alistair Bruce, General Manager

A homely environment with smart artwork and comfy cushions

Around the corner from the Bar is the Kitchen Bistro where Chef Colin Moore and his team serve an all day food menu focusing on seasonal, local ingredients, classic and modern Scottish cuisine.  

The Neighbourhood Kitchen with Banquette seating with views of the Garden

 For lunch, a choice of sandwiches and sharing plates.  Warmly recommended is the Crab Arancini, a tiny, tasty light bite, and for a hearty meal, good old Fish and Chips – having sampled an appetiser portion, this was superb, crisp batter and perfect fat fries. 

Fish and chips with pea puree

Other dishes include Cullen Skink soup, Scallops with cauliflower puree and Stornoway black pudding and Haggis ravioli with neeps, potato and whisky sauce. All the favourites too – pizza, pasta and burgers with vegetarian/vegan and gluten free options. And you might be tempted by Apple crumble or Sticky toffee pudding.   

With the King’s Theatre, Dominion and Cameo Cinemas, a short walk away this is the ideal place for a drink or meal before or after the show.

The Neighbourhood is open for breakfast each day and at the weekend for a leisurely Brunch to enjoy a full Scottish fry up, Eggs Benedict/ Royale or Smashed Avo with Feta.  Sip a spicy Bloody Mary or for a celebration, opt for the bottomless Prosecco to turn brekkie into a party.   

The Neighbourhood Secret Garden with lamplight and heaters

Outside is the ‘secret’ garden, a plant filled patio where you can sit in heated booths with good lighting for alfresco drinks year round – dog friendly too after a walk around the Meadows. 

As a change from WFH why not visit the Neighbourhood for a business meeting, work on your laptop with tea and coffee on tap and fast Wi-Fi for just £10 per day. 

Hospitality is also family friendly with a healthy, appetising menu for children who can join in fun, educational quizzes to keep them entertained.

Children and their animals are welcome at The Neighbourhood

‘Eating at the Neighbourhood should feel like eating at your family dining table. Good food and good company is at the heart of what we’re about’.  

Visit The Neighbourhood for coffee, a glass of wine, brunch, lunch or supper. The Kitchen is open from Wednesday to Sunday, 7am-1am, while on Monday and Tuesday, the Bar is open from 5pm until late.  

Check all the information, browse menus and book a table here: 

Best Western Plus Bruntsfield Hotel
69 Bruntsfield Place, Edinburgh, EH10 4HH

Alastair Bruce, the General Manager and Chef Colin Moore at the launch party

HOME – Art and Design to decorate your home from the Green Gallery and Author Interiors at the Dundas Street Gallery

This is a most timely and inspirational pop up show bringing together two Scottish companies to present a colourful Aladdin’s cave of paintings, decorative arts, furnishings and festive gifts for your family, friends and your own home.   

Scottish paintings, glassware, ceramics and a duck foot lamp at Home

The Green Gallery was established 29 years ago by Becky Walker’s parents, and continues to present an ever-evolving selection of established and emerging artists across two venues in Buchlyvie and Dollar. These galleries showcase the art based around an interior design concept:

“Paintings are aligned with objects to create a more domestic setting, working with interior designers, furniture makers and glass blowers so clients can see how the work will look in their own homes.”

‘An interior is the natural projection of the soul’ Coco Chanel

For the HOME exhibition, Becky has collaborated with Jane Adams of Author Interiors in rural Angus, an online shop and home design studio. The ethos is about slow, sustainable and ethical, hand-crafted British furnishings and homeware sourced from St Ives to the Scottish Highlands.

“All are luxury items .. unusual and unique created with love by artisans …sophisticated, exquisite interior classics designed for modern living to love for a lifetime.”

The Home show of art and design at the Dundas Street Gallery

Step through the door of the Dundas Street Gallery to view a marvellous and magical collection of paintings – land and seascapes, portraits, still life, flowers, birds and animals by such artists as Mhairi McGregor, Simon Laurie, Jane Blair, Lucy Campbell, Caroline Bailey, Margaretann Bennett, Garry Harper, Erraid Gaskill, et al.

‘Spread your Wings’ by Lucy Campbell in this treasure trove of art and decorative homeware

Unlike a conventional open gallery space, there’s a warm and welcoming homely environment featuring coffee tables, chairs, cushions, ceramics, glassware, candles, ornaments and vases.  The display of art and décor has been beautifully curated to complement colour, shape and design.

Let’s take a browse around to pick out some highlights around the gallery, packed full of enticing objects.

A stunning, serene landscape immediately caught my eye – a calm winter scene, Sunset Loch by Rosie Playfair.

Sunset Loch, Rosie Playfair

This is a masterly, atmospheric composition where the eye is drawn through the woodland of slender Silver Birch trees with bare, tentacle-like branches, down to the shoreline, the still water bathed in a soft salmon pink hue across the horizon at dusk: a moment of peace and tranquillity.   

Vintage travel trunks full of artwork and mohair throws

Placed below this painting are vintage ocean liner travel trunks, stuffed full of art frames and oh-so-cosy, mohair throws – just what we need to wrap ourselves up in this winter.  Araminta Campbell is a renowned weaver of Scottish textiles in cashmere, lambswool and alpaca for scarves and home accessories, and has been commissioned to design bespoke tweed and tartan for such luxury hotels as the Waldorf Astoria, Fingal and Fife Arms. 

Isabelle Moore is an Edinburgh-based furniture maker including decorative, practical tables with a round, removable tray made from laminated oak and solid oak handles.  Gilded 24 ct porcelain vases are wheel-thrown by Jo Davies in her East London studio, with either a black or satin-matt stoneware glaze.

Neatly juxtaposed beside ceramics and coffee cups is the still life, Stove by Simon Lawrie which reflects his signature observation of household objects – kettles, coffee pots and fish – in a symbolic pattern. Also on show is Another World, a semi abstract design of geometric shapes to depict a vase, plate, flower and playing card.  

Pears, apples and figs sculptured in bronze by Pomaris of Suffolk using the lost wax casting method, capture every natural detail of the fruit. They are so tactile and heavy – the perfect paperweight or attractive ornament around your home.

This year why not hang unique, artisan decorations on your Christmas tree with delicate handblown glass baubles crafted by Elin Isaksson at her studio in Dunblane – select from wine red, amber gold and dark purple glitter balls tied with a satin ribbon. The perfect family heirloom.

Hand blown, colourful and glittering glass Christmas tree baubles to treasure

The quirky portraits by Margaretann Bennett are immediately recognisable for their caricature faces with a dramatic narrative to express emotion, remembrance and loss. In Forage one is not quite sure what this red haired lady is thinking but a serious expression plays around her wide, mascara-lash eyes.

Forage, Margaretann Bennett

Karen Gibson at Red Earth Designs, Northern Ireland creates painterly ceramics including these Ramekin dishes from Porcelain Flax clay with a honeycomb textured design and decorated with hand drawn bees and a gold lustre rim.

Buzzing Bee painted ramekins

Figurative studies by Catriona Millar often include an animal as a companion: Monique is a bold and vivid characterisation with humorous wit, as she poses in a garden, a dog on her lap and a bird perched on her shoulder. Surrounded by flowers, her sideways glance with a perplexed look is enhanced by her plum-painted cupid lips and blushing cheeks.

Monique, Catriona Millar

The Green Gallery has a knack for sourcing new and interesting artists .. you can always find something surprising and unique. – Nick Nairn

Love, love, love Green Gallery! Forever brimming with an inspirational mix of work from a vast spectrum of artists .. that tug at the strings of temptation! – Jenni Mcallister

Jane at Author Interiors has an extraordinarily good eye, inspiration on a new level with every detail being thought about and meant. – Caroline and Hugh Black.

Author has been absolutely brilliant at sourcing of some really unique pieces – priceless pieces of art that will undoubtedly be passed down the generations. – William Frame.

At the preview launch for HOME, the hospitality was also curated with sophisticated style, serving the elegant, fresh and floral Kinrara hand-crafted Highland gin with a splash of tonic. The distillery is located amidst the wild landscape of the Cairngorms, an area of outstanding scenic beauty and nature conservation.

HOME @ Dundas Street Gallery, 6 Dundas Street, EH3 6HZ

A pop up show by Greengallery and Author Interiors

Exhibition open:

Thursday 25th and Friday 26th: 10am-8pm
Saturday 27th, Sunday 28th, Monday 29th & Tuesday 30th November: 10am-5pm
Wednesday 1st December: 10am-1pm

For more information:

Be inspired for festive gifts and for decorative arts and crafts for your own home.

Experience a fun, cultural, foodie, city break in Manchester this Festive season

Having visiting Manchester a few years ago, I planned another trip recently to find out what’s on, where to go and what to see during the festive season.  Instead of a seasonal sleigh, I had a smooth, comfortable journey on a brand new Nova Tranpennine Express electric train from Edinburgh. There are five carriages, with 264 seats in standard class, 22 in first class, complimentary wifi and a power socket at every seat. Trolley service for refreshments and snacks, and storage for 4 bicycles. The Nova 2 trains run between Edinburgh and Manchester Airport so the ideal route if planning to jet off somewhere exotic.

The sleek new Nova 2 Transpennine Express train from Edinburgh to Manchester Airport

As I headed south to Manchester, meanwhile my sister, June, was speeding north from London Euston on an Aviva train: the itinerary for our Christmas shopping and cultural city break began with perfect synchronicity, the two trains arriving on time, just four minutes apart at 1.23pm and 1.27pm respectively.

Take the train from around the country to Manchester Piccadilly

Manchester’s Christmas Markets have been attracting thousands of visitors to the city centre every year since 1998 to add a sparkle to the winter chill.  Staying at the Mercure hotel was a great central location on Portland Street, Piccadilly Gardens, which has been transformed into the ‘Winter Gardens’. This is a pop up village of Christmas market stalls and log cabin bars such as Apres Ski & Off Piste where you can warm up with an Alpine Ale, mulled wine, prosecco, cider, Nordic Glogg, Hot toddy and a Bailey’s coffee.

The Alpine ski-themed Winter Gardens, Piccadilly Square

The markets are also located across St Ann’s Square, Exchange Square, New Cathedral Street, King Street, Market Street and Cathedral Gardens which will entice the skaters to the ice rink. A central stage with a series of live music events will entertain the crowds.  Sip Gluhwein and sample apple strudel around the traditional German stalls, and, of course, Bratwurst – perhaps best to share the half a metre sausage!   

The half metre Bratwurst German sausage

Dine around the world from  Little Spain – paella, chorizo rolls, patatas bravas and hot sangria to Mexico Joes Ltd – Chicken flatbread, falafel, and halloumi fries. Eat Greek – halloumi fries, pitta bread, Elsie Mays for warm brownies and milkshakes. French, Sicilian and Dutch dishes too.  An American feast at Triple B -Pastrami Burger and a huge Turkey Reuben bagel.

The best of British at Porkys of Yarm serving Hot roast pork rolls, Hydes beers, local cider, English wines  and Clowbecks for Cumberland sausage, bubble & squeak, tatties, mulled wine and lager.  Porky Pig  Yorkshire puddings wraps. Battered pigs in blankets. For vegetarians and vegans, Panc is a plant-based stall offers meat free sausages, burgers, fried chick’n and more.

And of course, the Markets are the place to buy innovative gifts galore – from chocolates and cheese, to toys and games, arts and crafts, soaps, clothing, socks, hats, gloves, leather bags and wallets, jewellery.

The Markets are open until Wednesday December 22, 10am to 9pm daily with some stalls continuing around the Winter and Cathedral Gardens into the New Year.

A night at the theatre to see the musical, Waitress at the Opera House, originally The New Theatre, which opened on Boxing Day, 1912, then renamed the Opera House in 1920. It was a cinema in WW2, then a bingo hall before launched as a theatre again in 1984, renowned for touring musicals such as Barnum and Phantom of the Opera.  Waitress is a comedy drama set in an American diner and after the ten day run in Manchester, it’s now on tour around the country so do catch this heart-warming, feminist, feel good show if you can.  

The pantomime at the Opera House this year is Aladdin, starring Alexandra Burke, with flying carpets, a genie, an evil sorcerer, magical effects, song and dance.  

Warmly recommended for a pre-post theatre lunch or supper is Bill’s Spinningfields which is perfectly located a two minute walk away from the Opera House.

‘Our passion for great food, cooked with care in a friendly, relaxed atmosphere. Whether with friends, family or an intimate dinner for two, from breakfast to bedtime and everything in between.’ 

Bill’s started 20 years ago, when Bill Collison opened his Greengrocer’s shop in Lewes, East Sussex and soon added a café, a concept for seasonal local food which has gradually grown into a collection of restaurants across the UK.  

The modern, stylish menu changes seasonally – quality, gastropub, homely food with generous portions and is very vegetarian-vegan friendly.  I selected crispy calamari, perfect finger food, dipping the rings into the creamy aioli.  Then a veggie burger, Halloumi, avocado and roasted peppers, with sweet potato fries.  My sister nibbled a few olives to start and then enjoyed a real, juicy meat burger, cooked to her liking, with rosemary fries (we declined the bun to reduce the calories). With our meal we sipped one of the house wines, the South African, Journey’s End Chardonnay – deliciously crisp and dry.

This Christmas season, with the witty Wizard of Oz theme, There’s No Place Like Bill’s, you will be tempted by the enticing seasonal food and cocktail menu such as Pigs-in-blankets,  Christmas Truffle Cheese Fondue Burger,  Boxing Day curry, Truffalo sprouts and for dessert,  sugar-sprinkled Snow Nuts or Oh Christmas Tree, Oh Christmas Tree, a red berry cheesecake with chocolate tree, stars and baubles.

Time for party cocktails: Gin-gle Bells (Whitley Neill Raspberry Gin, Chambord, fresh pineapple), Passion Fruit Spritz and the Strawberry Margarita.

After the theatre, it was back to the Mercure hotel for a nightcap at the Level 3 Lounge Bar overlooking the bright lights of the Christmas market.  The ‘seasonal’ cocktail list includes a Summer Mojito (not quite right for a chilly winter night!), and, disappointing that there was no Campari in stock for the Negroni. I chose a classic Gin Martini (but no olive garnish available), while June sipped a Nojito, a minty, fruity tipple without the rum.

Gin Martini and Nojito at Level 3 Bar, Mercure Hotel with city views

Art lovers should visit the Contemporary 6 Gallery, 37 Princess Street, owned by Alex Reuben who selects a series of inspiring shows of paintings, modern prints, (Picasso, Kandinsky, Matisse), ceramics and sculpture. Throughout November is the eclectic artwork of Jim Moir (as seen on Sky TV, Celebrity Portrait and Landscape Artist), ranging from a flight of birds to quirky portraits.

For a marvellous day out for all ages, take a trip to the Trafford Centre, five miles from the city centre, and easy to get there by metrolink tram. This is very much like This is very much like an American shopping mall with designer and high street stores, not least a large branch of Selfridges, as well as a cinema, bowling alley, Game arena and Legoland.  After browsing the shops or seeing a movie, time for refreshments, but signage needs improved as where to eat and drink is difficult to find. The Orient is designed around the replica of a pool deck on a classic ocean liner featuring numerous bars and bistros from All Bar One to Zizzi. A huge marble staircase modelled on the Titanic leads to the Great Hall and features the largest chandelier in the world.

The marble Titanic staircase at the Great Hall,Trafford Centre

Drink, eat and stay at the Kimpton Clocktower which was named recently in the Sunday Times as one of the best 100 hotels in the UK. Founded in San Francisco in 1981, the cool, quirky Kimpton brand focuses on art, wellness, modern cuisine and playful style while reflecting the heritage of each destination. 

The landmark clocktower above the Kimpton Hotel, Manchester

The majestic Victorian red brick and terracotta building was initially the The Refuge Assurance Company (1890), which opened as the hotel on 1st October 2020. In the lobby, a bronze horse sculpted by Sophie Dickens illustrates the turning circle for the former Hansom cabs and carriages; original features include ceramic tiles, stained glass and wooden staircases juxtaposed with contemporary furnishings.

The lobby at the Kimpton with horse sculpture

Bold colourfully designed bedrooms and suites are draped in velvet with bespoke decor and artwork by Scottish company Timorous Beasties, while vinyl records of Manchester’s famous bands from the Stone Roses to Oasis can be played on a turntable. Guests can take use of the in room yoga mat, the complimentary tuck box and many bathrooms boast a classic roll top bathtub.

Signature suite at the Kimpton Clocktower, designed by Timorous Beasties

Relax over a drink or Afternoon tea in The Winter Garden, an interior glasshouse blossoming with plants and trees and wine and dine at The Refuge by Volta. The Refuge Bar and Dining Room is a vast but elegant space of interconnecting salons where on a Friday night the lounge area was buzzing with happy drinkers and around the corner, the fabulous Restaurant with well designed, comfy banquette seating and half moon booths.  

Refuge by Volta – stylish, soul food for sharing

An innovative menu of Soul Food for sharing is neatly divided into Meat, Seafood, On the Side and Vegetables, inspired around the global travels by the DJ -Restaurateurs, Justin Crawford and Luke Cowdrey.   

First of all it’s time for finely crafted cocktails – the Drinks list is most enticing with a celebration of gin and modern twists on the classics. Like a revamped French 75, is ‘Glamour of Manchester’:– Malfy rose gin, lemon, hibiscus syrup, Champagne.  There’s an innovative selection of spirits especially speciality gins for the perfect serve such as Aviation, Gin Mare, Malfy Rosa, Monkey 47 and Ramsbury Single Estate Gin.

The pure, smooth taste of Ramsbury Single Estate Gin (Wiltshire) for the perfect Martini

My Gin Martini was a masterclass of the art which hit the spot with lip smacking delight. Across the table, June selected The Queen’s Peach – Spiced rum, peach, lime, mint with a splash of prosecco – for a refreshing taste of the Caribbean.   

Masterly curated Cocktails at Refuge by Volta

Advised to select four to five dishes for two, we chose the ras-el-hanout scented chicken, salt cod croquettes with tartare aioli, tenderstem broccoli, chargrilled cauliflower and chickpea daal, for an eclectic Middle Eastern, Asia and Spanish culinary journey.  The vegetables were perfectly cooked almost al dente and the creamy daal in coconut milk was mixed with apricots and dates. For dessert, a sticky toffee pudding was the perfect finale to a superlative meal. Hospitality by Jake and James was exemplary.  

As well as sipping a delicious Sartori Pinot Grigio, the wine list tours the world to France, Spain, South Africa, Australia and Lebanon.  With DJs in charge of the ambience, you can expect a lively vibe with a soothing, sassy mix of jazz, swing, funk, soul and house.

Superlative, modern cuisine at the Refuge by Volta: soul food for sharing

Experience the magic of Manchester this Christmas at the Kimpton Clocktower. Treat yourself to a stay in one of the gorgeously styled rooms or suites and enjoy a three course Christmas Day lunch with a glass of fizz and festive snacks in The Refuge, breakfast each day is included and chill out for a leisurely 3pm checkout on departure.  

Enjoy a fine feast of Brunch at Refuge by Volta

Hope this all whets your appetite to plan a magical, cultural and shopping trip to Manchester soon.

Links to help you research your visit.

Waitress: a feel-good, feminist, rom-com musical as sweet as American blueberry pie @ Opera House, Manchester (and on tour).

This popular and very successful stage musical is based on the 2007 movie, Waitress which was selected for Sundance Festival, became a box office hit, making nearly $22 million on a $1.5 million-dollar budget. 

Written and directed by Adrienne Shelly, it tells the classic American tale of Jenna, a small- town girl who works in a diner but has big dreams for the future.

When producers Barry and Fran Weissler saw Waitress, they knew it would make a great Broadway show: “I saw the movie and thought, ‘This is heart-wrenching, touching and funny.  An all-female creative team behind the book, music and director led to four Tony nominations including Best Musical, Best Original Score and Best Actress.  It then played in London for a year until forced to close in March 2020 for lockdown.

Becky (Sandra Marvin), Jenna (Lucie Jones), Dawn (Evelyn Hoskins)

Bouncing back again, the UK tour stars Lucie Jones, Sandra Marvin and Evelyn Hoskins who reprise their West End roles. The realistic stage set depicts the colourful Joe’s Diner with counter, stools, tables, booths, blackboard menu, and outside, a panoramic rural scene of telegraph poles against a blue sky.

The show kicks off in a colourful, rousing manner with a medley of songs, as we are introduced to the terrific trio of waitresses, Cal, the diner manager and old Joe, the owner, who loves to try the speciality dish of the day. Jenna is a talented baker devising her own Couch Potato and Polka Dot Peach Pies. She plans to enter a local Pie contest with the chance to win $25,000 which would solve her financial worries and escape her domineering husband Earl.

Earl (Tamlyn Hendrson) and Jenna (Lucie Jones)

Jenna, Becky and Dawn are close workmates and loyal friends, offering advice on life, love, romance and marriage, woman to woman. With her vivacious, sunny pesonality, Becky cheers the girls up, boosting their confidence. Petite, with a high pitched girly voice, the cookie, cute Dawn is rather naive but keen to find a man on a dating site. She just needs to find someone who likes History’s Mysteries on TV.

Jenna the star baker of Joe’s Diner

The song lyrics drive the storyline along such as the upbeat, What Baking Can Do in which Jenna remembers how she made cakes with her mother, who encouraged her to do well in pursuit of happiness.

So with flour on my hands
I’ll show them all how
Goddamn happy I am
Sugar, butter, flour ..

Jenna cracks eggs into a bowl, sifts flour and rolls out pastry dough while she acts and sings, all at the same time with neat, multi-tasking talent.  

Another passionate song, A Soft Place to Land, sung in perfect harmony by the three girls, relates how they are all determined to change their lives for the better.

Dawn (Evie Hoskins), Becky (Sandra Marvin), and Jenna (Lucie Jones)

The arrival of a new doctor in town quickly sparks an immediate romantic interest although unfortunately he is married. And so is she.  Think ‘Brief Encounter’. She seduces him with delicious cakes and as the intimate scenes with Dr. Pomatter (Matt Jay-Willis) are often in slow motion in a shimmering light – is this really happening or a fantasy of her imagination.? 

Jenna (Lucie Jones) and Dr. Pomatter (Matt Jay-Willis)

The topical narrative centres around Jenna who smiles happily, serving cakes in Joe’s diner, hiding the dark secret of Earl’s bossy, bullying behaviour at home.  She is vulnerable, lost and afraid but has a strong-minded spirit illustrated in a beautiful ballad, She Used to be Mine: Lucie Jones is a true opera diva, showing off her soaring vocal range and deep emotion, enhanced with an echo effect.

If I’m honest I know I would give it all back
For a chance to start over
And rewrite an ending or two
For the girl that I knew.

Lucie Jones is a true diva star as Jenna in Waitress

Sassy, smart and soulful, Waitress is a feel good, feminist, musical comedy with strong, dramatic punch.  Fine characterisation, sharp dialogue, charming songs, witty lyrics and moments of LOL hilarity, it all flows along to the lively score performed on stage by the six piece band.  Slick choreography too for the ensemble numbers with high flying pies galore. 

Imagine The Great British Bake Off as a musical: expect a sweet and savoury dish, a chunk of cheesy romance and a sprinkling of hot spice, the recipe for a perfectly baked show as delicious as American blueberry pie. No wonder there was a standing ovation at the Opera House, Manchester.

Show times:

Opera House, Manchester 8 – 20 November, 2021

For a pre-theatre supper, Bill’s Spinningfields is warmly recommended. Just a two minute walk from the Opera House

Waitress on tour:

The cookie, cute Dawn (Evelyn Hoskins) and her admirer Ogie (George Crawford)

‘Evocative Skies’ magical vistas from beach scenes to city panoramas – an exhibition by Jamie Primrose @ Dundas Street Gallery

Since 2003, Jamie Primrose has presented artwork at over forty solo exhibitions, specialising in city, land and seascapes from Scotland to the South of France. This new showcase focuses on the dramatic beauty of skyscapes along the East Lothian coastline and across Edinburgh.

East Lothian seascapes by Jamie Primrose at the Dundas Street Gallery

The ‘Evocative Skies‘ exhibition is well laid out following a geographical route from the sandy beaches of North Berwick to Tyninghame and Yellowcraig, around the gallery to the rolling hills, high spires and streets of the Capital.

A selection of panoramic sunsets across Edinburgh, by Jamie Primrose

The introduction to ‘Evocative Skies,” describes the artistic theme:

The transient nature of light onto water and land to create luminosity and atmosphere, the dream-like quality of glorious streams of light reflecting onto the sea and iridescent sands; these sweeping cloudscapes depict the ever-changing play of light above sparkling, tranquil shores’.

The glowing, glimmering luminosity of fading sun is clearly illustrated in Late Afternoon looking towards Cove, in which the viewer feels they are standing on the sand to observe the immensity of the clear blue sky. This impressionistic scene is captured in striated layers where the sea meets the sand, and a line of white cloud hovering over the distant hills.

Late Afternoon looking towards Cove, Jamie Primrose

The iconic pudding shape of the bird sanctuary takes centre stage in Looking towards Bass Rock from North Berwick Beach, given a perfect perspective between the lapping waves on the beach and mauve-tinted clouds; a realistic sense of a brisk breeze whipping up over the sea and sky too.

Looking towards Bass Rock from North Berwick Beach, Jamie Primrose

Another majestic view of the craggy island in Clouds passing over North Berwick depicting a more blustery day. Again, the sky takes prominence, spanning over two thirds of the painting, with just a slither of sea on the edge of the sandy beach. 

Clouds passing over North Berwick, Jamie Primrose

The Stevenson lighthouse on the island of Fidra is the focal point of Reflections on Yellowcraig Beach. Robert Louis Stevenson (who spent holidays in North Berwick), is said to have been inspired by the rocky shape of Fidra for his map of ‘Treasure Island’.

Treasure Island – perhaps inspired by the island of Fidra

This is such an evocative and tranquil study of Yellowcraig beach after the tide has ebbed away leaving glistening wet sand with slender shards of sunlight below the billowing cloud.

Reflections on Yellowcraig Beach, Jamie Primrose

The fading light at dusk is captured with such a delicate, pale palette in Tyninghame Reflections – the thick brush strokes sweep a soft dusty pink across the sky reflected with an impressionistic flourish on the waves and shoreline. Such an atmospheric, contemplative composition.

Tyninghame Reflections, Jamie Primrose

This is almost reminiscent of the artist’s previous abstract landscapes such as Tierra de La Luz (Costa Rica, 2003).  The translucent sheen of blue, indigo and tangerine, with Rothko-esque expressionism, depict the horizon over the sea at sunset with stunning simplicity.

Tierra de La Luz, Costa Rica, Jamie Primrose

Perhaps, Jamie Primrose might be inspired to experiment again with his earlier, masterly artisic style to express these seascapes in similar abstract mode and manner, through blocks of pure colour, shape and light.

There’s an almost photographic perspective snapped in Shimmering light over Edinburgh from Longniddry, looking across the Firth of Forth.  There’s a painterly pattern here: the foreground stretch of rocky beach is echoed in the long, low lying dark cloud, and also in the distance, the rolling mound of hills in a shadowy silhouette. 

Shimmering Light over Edinburgh from Longniddry, Jamie Primrose

A seasonal, gold tinted cityscape is portrayed in Autumnal drama over the city from Blackford Hill, one of Primrose’s ambitious, signature, panoramic views with such architectural detail of the city skyline. The afterglow of sunset is sinking towards the west, turning the sky a shimmering salmon pink across the flow and flurry of clouds.

Autumnal drama over the city from Blackford Hill, Jamie Primrose

Around the gallery is a diverse range of other iconic skyscape views of Edinburgh, depicted from dawn to dusk – Duddingston Loch, from Calton Hill, the Castle and around the Old Town.  

Limited Edition Prints

As well as over fifty original oil paintings on show, there’s also a selection of exclusive, limited edition prints: East Lothian beaches, Arthur’s Seat, city sunset skylines, colourful Old Town scenes, and more. 

 ‘Evocative Skies’ paintings by Jamie Primrose

Magical vistas in East Lothian & Edinburgh

The Dundas Street Gallery, 6a Dundas Street, Edinburgh EH3 6HZ

Friday 5th – Saturday 13th November 2021

Open daily, 11am – 6pm. Saturday 13th November, 11am – 5pm (last day)

View the ‘Evocative Skies’ collection of original oil paintings online:

Limited Edition Prints:

East Lothian seascapes:

Vibrant sunsets:

The 29th French Film Festival is on the road – 30+ movies across 30+ cinemas around the UK from Aberdeen to Belfast and Plymouth

The French Film Festival is back, running from 3 November to 12 December 2021, offering another fabulous programme of new and classic movies screened in cinemas throughout the UK and on line. 

 “Bienvenue! We’re overjoyed to welcome back our faithful audiences to one of the most diverse line-ups, from award-winners to new talent. Thanks to our partner cinemas for showing enthusiasm and ingenuity and our sponsors for their unwavering support. Vive le cinéma! -Bon Festival.”

Richard Mowe, Director FFF UK

The FFF UK is the only festival dedicated to French and Francophone cinema in all its diversity, variety and vitality.  This is a brief overview of a few highlights in the programme which will delight all movie fans who adore the intimate, dramatic mood and elegant style of French movies. 

Deception (Tromperie), based on the novel by Philip Roth, relates the story of an American writer also called Philip (Denis Podalydès), who is working on a new book in London. Here he meets and becomes romantically involved with a married English woman, (Léa Seydoux), while his wife is back home. But is this literary affair real or a figment of the author’s imagination ?

Léa Seydoux and Denis Podalydès in Deception

In 1789, before the Revolution in rural France, fine cuisine was exclusive to the aristocrats.  Delicious (Délicieux) is about the fine art of gastronomy. When a talented cook called Manceron, (Grégory Gadebois) serves one of his invented dishes at a dinner hosted by Duke of Chamfort, he is dismissed. Moving to work at a country inn, he is inspired to develop his creative passion for food to become a renowned chef.  Bon Appetit!.

A lavish Baroque banquet is served in Delicious

Starring the inimitable Catherine Deneuve, Peaceful (De son Vivant) is about a son in denial over a serious illness while his mother faces the truth. A real-life cancer specialist, Dr Gabriel Sara is cast as Dr Eddé, expressing genuine, personal empathy as a medical and spiritual advisor.

Catherine Deneuve in Peaceful

Inspired by true events, The Big Hit (Un Triomphe) is a comic drama about an out of work actor who gives drama lessons to high security prisoners, hoping to inspire them to perform a production of Samuel Becket’s Waiting for Godot. ‘The outcome is worth the wait, a naturalistic, well-balanced, satisfying social drama,’ says one critic.

Isabelle Huppert as a powerful Mayor in Promises

In Promises, (Les Promesses) Isabelle Huppert portrays an ambitious Mayor of a Parisian suburb towards the end of her second and, expected, final term of office. Working with her Chief of staff, their mission is to secure a financial subsidy to save Les Benardins, an apartment complex from increasing urban decay. A power-grabbing, political game of chess ensues.

Obsessive jealousy in a lesbian love triangle is dramatised in Olivia (1951)

A neglected, feminist classic, Olivia, (1951), adapted from Dorothy Bussy’s autobiographical tale, captures the awakening passions of an English girl at a finishing school near Paris. The rather naive Olivia develops an infatuation for the headmistress, Mlle. Julie, sparking obsessive, jealous feelings in another teacher. ‘Gothic atmosphere, unspoken desire.…a landmark of lesbian representation.’

With perfect topicality in the race to save the planet, Hello World! (Bonjour le monde!) is a whimsical animated study of a fragile ecosystem.  Papier-mâché puppets with a colourfully painted backdrop depict the life and natural habitats of a pike, beaver, bat, salamander, turtle, dragonfly and birds.

This charming film will appeal to all ages and is also part of the educational programme for children, Lécole du cinema.

As always in the FFF programme, there’s a selection of Short Cuts, mini-movies of between 8 and 24 minutes.

A special double bill features a mini-musical, Belle Étoile about a Vietnamese woman who has arrived in France to be married but her life turns upside down.

Leanna Chea and Camille Le Gall in Belle Etoille directed by Valerie Leroy

This is partnered with a vintage thriller, The Sleeping Car Murders (Compartiment Tuers 1965), starring Yves Montand as a detective in charge of finding a killer on a train, akin to Murder on the Orient Express.

After the welcome innovation and popular success of screening FFF movies @ home during lockdown, there’s a choice of nine films to watch from the comfort of your own sofa.  

Another crime drama in The Enemy (L’Ennemi) follows the investigation when a politician is charged with killing his wife. 

Jérémie Renier and Alma Jodorowsky in The Enemy.

A classic from 1961, Vivre sa Vie, directed by Luc Godard, features his cinematic muse, Anna Karina as Nana, an aspiring actress who has a different role in real life, a lady of the night.

Anna Karina stars in Vivre sa Vie, directed by Jean-Luc Godard (1961)

Thrillers, romance, wartime drama, politics, animation, documentaries – take your pick of the 29th FFF programme.

Browse the full selection of films, list of cinemas and screening dates on the website:


Converge – a masterly, moody, creative collaboration by four Scottish landscape artists at the Dundas Street Gallery.  

Gill Knight, Fee Dickson Reid, Sarah Anderson, Kirstin Heggie (clockwise from top left)

Converge: ‘to come together and unite in a common interest.’

Sarah Anderson, Kirstin Heggie, Gill Knight and Fee Dickson Reid share a passion for capturing of Scotland’s natural beauty from the Lowlands to the Outer Hebrides in their own distinctive, dramatic mode, mood and manner.

Sarah Anderson grew up in Galloway surrounded by countryside and coastline: My inspiration is derived from the Scottish landscape to reflect the dramatic effects of weather … and envelop the viewer in the prevailing atmosphere.

Paintings based on a recent summer holiday to Isle of Harris are expressed with a vividly, exuberant colour palette in majestic panoramic scenes.   

With the dark, thundery clouds, Approaching Rain, Scarista is mesmerising with its expanse of inky blueness, a glimmer of sun shining on the beach where the sand meets the lapping waves and the sea touches the sky.

Approaching Rain, Scarista, Sarah Anderson

This is akin to a Rothko-esque abstract in its bold geometric blocks of colour: the slither of turquoise water is renowned on this west coast and on summer days the white sand beaches evoke a tropical island. 

Likewise, Scotland meets the Caribbean in The Colours of Harris in a more representative scene of the striated layers of sand, sea with flecks of surf, distant hills and flurry of clouds. The stylised structure of the composition is stunning with an expressive use of shape, light and movement.

Colours of Harris, Sarah Anderson

“Composition is the art of arranging in a decorative manner the elements at the painter’s command to express his feelings.” – Henri Matisse

With an element of Van Gogh’s impressionistic ‘Pine Trees against an Evening Sky,’ the delicate patterning and halo of gold in Glentress Forest Light draws the viewer into the scene as the eye follows the winding path through the winter trees bathed in dappled sunlight.

Glentress Forest Light, Sarah Anderson

Kirstin Heggie also specialises in semi-abstract landscapes, ‘building up many layers of texture and colour, adding and subtracting paint using brushes, twigs and offcuts of wood. It is often a messy process!’ 

This method of collage painting is most effective in Tonnan Mara, (from the Gaelic: surging waves of the sea), a most atmospheric composition with thick, criss-crossing crusts of paint reflecting the elemental force of the treacherous waves and pitch black sky.

Tonnan Mara, Kirstin Heggie

A calmer seascape in Pure Morning captured with delicate minimalism in soft shades of white, azur and grey streaks, with an almost invisible divide between sea and sky. Pure indeed in the subtle, smooth blend of blue-green tones and texture.

Pure Morning, Kirstin Heggie

Against a rust-red crimson valley, a copse of three Skinny Trees stand out in the barren, sun-scorched landscape – almost desert like with a feeling of strong heat.  There’s a hidden narrative here on place and time which creates a most enigmatic and melancholic image, like a painterly poem.

Skinny Trees, Kirstin Heggie

Working in oils, acrylic and mixed media, Gill Knight describes her abstract and semi-abstract work as “dark, moody, atmospheric and emotional.”

Capturing the season with an impressionistic flourish, Autumn Tide features a wild swirl of threatening rain cloud brightened with a flash of sun on the water.  With the focus on the sky, the smudged brushstrokes and cool colour palette of grey and blue, depict the luminous effect of shifting weather.

Autumn Tide, Gill Knight

The same masterly technique is shown in Autumn Sky, the amazing contrast of light and shade with glistening shards of red and yellow – perhaps rocks and seaweed – on the shore.

October Sky, Gill Knight

To thole the winter’s sleety dribble, An cranreuch cauld!’

Robert Burns

This line from ‘To a Mouse’ comes to mind when viewing Rain at Newhaven, such a drenching downpour in a dark night with hopefully no lost sailors out at sea due to the lighthouse guiding boats back to harbour.

Rain at Newhaven, Gill Knight

The storm has passed over in Solace to depict a languid moment of peace and solitude – no wonder standing on a beach looking out into an almost natural ‘emptiness’, is so good for the soul.

Solace, Gill Knight

Fee Dickson Reid first studied architecture before concentrating as an artist from 2009. Based in East Lothian, the subjects here range from boat yards and harbours to craggy rocks and beach scenes.

‘Sea, sky, sand is what I am drawn to paint big atmospheric pieces filled with light and often a sense of peace.  The sea is a huge part of my life and my work. I live by it, I swim in it no matter what the season, and I paint it. It’s very much my muse’. 

Fee Dickson Reid

Dramatic views from around North Berwick are prominent such as Lamb from West Bay – a simple line drawing yet with such detail, the curved sweep of the shoreline stretches out to the rocky islet on the horizon.

Lamb from West Bay, Fee Dickson Reid

Here too is the bird sanctuary of the Bass Rock, its iconic pudding shape looming out of the night sky, so finely delineated as monochrome sketch.  Her artistic technique is based on a blend of charcoal, ink, gesso, water and white pencil on Fabriano paper to create tone and texture. 

Big Black Bass, Fee Dickson Reid

Colour is also vanquished in Black and White Beach to produce such an evocative mood through lapping waves and flurry of clouds with such a sense of movement. 

Black and White Beach, Fee Dickson Reid

As we enjoy the golden days of Autumn, the ‘Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness,’ here’s a sunny splatter of seasonal colour in A Garden of Birch, in fruity shades of tangerine, orange, lime green and plum around this rural scene.

A Garden of Birch, Fee Dickson Reid

This creative collaboration is a masterly showcase of how the Scottish land and seashore can be conveyed with such a variety of expression from natural representation to the abstract purity of colour and light.


Dundas Street Gallery

6 Dundas Street, Edinburgh EH3 6HZ

27 October to 1st November

Open daily 10am – 6pm.  Monday 1st 10am – 4pm.

Lost Worlds: an exhibition by Sarah Knox: a tranquil journey around Scottish gardens, glens, islands and the seashore with illuminating, poetic vision.

During the surreal experience of lockdown, Sarah Knox was determined to keep artistically creative, sketching outdoors around Edinbugh at the Royal Botanic and Malleny Gardens, Arthur’s Seat, the Firth of Forth and finally, this summer, a trip to the Highlands and Islands.

Following the pioneering approach of the French Impressionists, Sarah specialises in painting en plein-air to observe the changing light and weather. 

Sarah Knox enjoying sketching a beach scene in the salt sea air

When I’m outside with a sketchbook balanced on my lap and the materials at my feet, I relax and produce magical and fluid images of the landscape. My theme of ‘Lost Worlds’ emerged because of my reduced boundaries during lockdown.

When painting is going well it feels like I am flying.”

Sarah Knox

The light-filled Studio gallery at Dawyck Botanic Garden is the ideal space to show her Scottish landscapes. A miniature painting quickly caught the eye – In the Fold of a Green Hill, its undulating layers of meadow, river and heather-clad hill all bathed in the dying light of dusk. The blended shades of emerald, azur, tobacco, coral pink with a snowy streak of white is so atmospheric. 

In the Fold of a Green Hill, Sarah Knox

Over the past year, Sarah often visited her neighbour’s garden to sketch and captured this glimmering, golden scene, Sanctuary. Beneath the bare skeletal tree, the empty chair indicates the absence of someone who was sitting there, their ghostly silhouette lingering in the shadows.

Sanctuary, Sarah Knox

The broad panoramic scene in Light Washes over the Distance immerses the viewer close up into the landscape near Ullapool. Here is the rugged terrain of stones, sandy shore, tufts of grass as we follow the curve of the river towards the isolated trees and misty mountains under the glower of a murky sky.    

Light Washes over the Distance, Sarah Knox

With free-flowing, calligraphic style, Distant Colonsay is a sketchy abstract in sage green and grey to depict the fluidity of waves, island shore and rain clouds. This soft shimmer of a seascape is like a lyrical Haiku, the minimalist Japanese verses which traditionally evoke the natural world.

Distant Colonsay, Sarah Knox

Taking centre stage in the gallery is a majestic viewpoint, On the Rim of the World which features a lake fringed by a forest of trees and jagged peaks beyond. This frozen land of snow and ice, reminiscent of Norwegian fjords or Glacier valley, South Patagonia, is now melting in global-warming watery drips. The location is not given – it is up to the viewer to suggest where this may be or is it a fantasy, lost world of the imagination.

On the Rim of the World, Sarah Knox

After an invigorating stroll around Dawyck Garden, then view a few illustrations of the wild woodland in the gallery: Forest Shadow, Dawyck is a vivid, vivacious splash of a watercolour where the fine details of leaves and branches shine through. 

In contrast, the dappled texture and botanical green tones in Poet, Dawyck create the artistic effect of a tapestry woven in wool. 

In July this year, Sarah was able to head off to Loch Broom, a welcome escape from the city and lockdown – here is the artist in action outdoors (with midges galore), painting the aptly titled, There You Feel Free. You can see how her thick brushstrokes create a layered luminosity across sky and water with impressionistic effect.     

Sarah Knox painting, en plein air, ‘There You Feel Free’

Sarah Knox is fascinated by the liminal sense of space, time and place in her art, the boundary between reality and memory. While these landscapes are painted outdoors, back in her studio Sarah may experiment further to enhance the dramatic mood, pattern of light and natural colours as observed on location.    

These are just a few highlights of this showcase of magical, masterly landscapes so do visit Dawyck Garden for a painterly journey around tranquil gardens, glens, islands and seashore illuminated with such expressive, poetic vision.

Dawyck Botanic Garden*

Stobo, near Peebles EH45 9JU

Lost Worlds – an exhibition by Sarah Knox. 

On view in the Studio gallery to 30th November, 2021.

Open: 10am- 5pm (October) 10am-4pm (November)

Highly recommended is a visit to the very welcoming Dawyck Café for breakfast, coffee, lunch, Afternoon tea, scones & cakes

*Located in the hills of the Scottish Borders, Dawyck Botanic Garden is renowned for its seasonal displays of rhododendrons, blue poppies and golden Autumn colours. With a continental climate of warm dry summers followed by cold, snowy winters, there are plants from Europe, China, Nepal, Japan and North America. 

For more information and directions:

Waterfall, Sarah Knox

Figurative: the human form captured up close and personal by ten contrasting artists at the Heriot Gallery, Edinburgh

The definition of Figurative Art generally reflects the shape of things, objects, places and perceptions; creating a likeness, a realistic representation but can also embrace abstraction and distorted images. This wide- ranging showcase at the Heriot Gallery covers portraiture and figurative studies inspired by varied artistic styles from classical Baroque to modernist Photorealism.

Soon after graduating from Duncan of Jordanstone, Saul Robertson was voted Young Artist of the Year by the Royal College of Art and in 2005 he won second prize at the B.P Portrait award. His painting ‘Journeys’ has recently been selected for the Scottish Portrait Fine Art Awards, 2021.

The Rainbow comes and goes, Saul Robertson

Solitary figures in a city or rural environment is very much the theme of his work here. The meticulous detail in The Rainbow Comes and Goes requires careful observation; this figurative landscape appears to be a break for a picnic on a road trip by vintage VW campervan, with sandy soil and dry grass of a remote, hot, desert landscape. Although we cannot see the face of the woman in the yellow dress, she seems to be looking wistfully out to sea. Robertson has captured a most meditative and melancholic scene like a Kodak snapshot moment, a memory of a distant time and place.

While Madame Pommery was the entrepreneurial 19th century brand leader of the champagne house, Rory Macdonald introduces us to Madame de Chardonnay in her lavish blue-ribboned white crinoline gown. This is such a theatrical, witty portrait – despite the fact that she holds an oversized, decorative glass of chardonnay, her expression is far from cheerful. Rather like Mona Lisa, she has a serious, thoughtfully perceptive gaze.

Madame de Chardonnay, Rory Macdonald

After studying Art History at St Andrews, Rory’s innovative approach is inspired by Renaissance and Baroque traditions (Velazquez, van Dyck, Giordano) to create a contemporary, often comical narrative. Also enjoying a tipple or two, Old Soak is a classic portrait of a bearded gentleman, proudly dressed in a ruff and red silk gown, standing incongruously in a tumbler of wine. The quality of light glinting on glass and rich fabrics illustrate his perfectionist style as a young ‘Old Master’.

Old Soak, Rory Macdonald

In contrast, Peter Hallam captures a manner and mood of his subjects with a surrealist style. Here is a colourful line up of smart young men – racing driver, songwriter, androgynous fashionista and, very timely due to Bond mania, a Secret Agent. In his brown velvet jacket, tie, neat hair and piercing blue eyes (a la Daniel Craig), he appears suave and sophisticated.  

The Secret Agent, Peter Hallam

Apparently, Hallam’s portraits are often based on real people, transformed into quirky fictional caricatures yet balanced with a lively sense of humanity and charming humour.

Cherylene Dyer also has an artistic narrative through characters, choosing actors and dancers as her models, in order to express emotion and a dramatic ambience.  Her series, The World changed while I was sleeping’ are playful images of a girl wearing a tall crown made out of newspaper, but there’s a hidden message about disorientation as if lost in a fantasy dream world.

Duality, Cherylene Dyer

In Duality, we see a double image of a woman, one with eyes closed in a summer frock, the other is a back view, half undressed but the shadows of two figures perhaps reflect her dual, public and private faces. This is a poignant illustration of Dyer’s fascination with how we deal with social media, selfie images and the daily exposure of our identity.

In similar vein, Jane Gardiner has made a close study of the Venice Carnival where guests embrace the art of masquerade to hide one’s true self. Through period costumes, wigs and jewellery, people can adopt, and hide behind, a different glamorous personality. Titles such as The Bruised Heart, which suggests the end of an affair, shows an elegant woman, all dressed up for a party.

Light as Air, Jane Gardiner

Light as Air is another evocative portrait to depict the Carnival atmosphere through this attractive lady, beautifully made up, rouged cheeks, a lace eye mask and glittering ear-rings. She clearly wants to make an entrance and catch the eye of a secret admirer.

Steven Higginson is renowned for portraits painted in a hyper-realist style, selected for the SPA each year from 2017 to 2121.  He likes to experiment with the use of light and shade in a domestic environment such as the quiet study of a woman in The Last Light, with such delicate detail of sun-dappled skin, hair and wool sweater.   On display too is a stunning self-portrait, The Awakening  (BP Portrait Awards, 2019), with exquisite, photographic accuracy. You can detect the strong sunlight in his watery eyes and the brilliantly composed pattern of lines created by the window blind across his face, echoed in the shadow behind.

Awakening, Steven Higginson

Like Rory Macdonald, Higginson too is inspired by the meticulous artwork of the Old Masters, transferring the traditional representation of a likeness to modern day life and society.

Angela Reilly won third prize at the BP Portrait Award for a self-portrait in 2006, and her work was also selected for the prestigious Ruth Borchard Prize, 2021.  In the summer exhibition at the Heriot Gallery, she presented several exemplary paintings of the female nude to expose bare skin, flesh and bodily imperfections in intimate detail.

Wrap, Angela Reilly

Here, in Wrap, Reilly’s artistic lens captures a close up of a woman’s thigh and long, slender legs, the left wrapped around the right to reveal the sole of her foot. The blank background, painted in a shade of soft buttermilk, gives the effect of the figure floating in mid air. There is extraordinary photographic quality in the texture and tone of smooth skin, blue veins, toes and nails.

The focus of Homage with a girl perched on a stool, shows the naturalistic posture of bent legs, knees touching and clutching her arm around her waist, as if giving herself a warm, comforting hug.

As a modern master of portraiture, the profile study of a Boy depicts the fine facial features, his eyes slightly dazzled in sunlight and shimmering shadow with such clarity. 

Boy, Angela Reilly

This Figurative exhibition also features colourful illustrations of forgotten heroes by Stuart Moir who is inspired by classical Flemish art, Gill Walton, whose Pandemic-themed figures reflect religious icons and Ruaridh Crighton, who distorts portraits with bold abstract vision.


8 October to 6 November, 2021

Heriot Gallery, 20a Dundas Street, Edinburgh EH3 6HZ

Mon-Fri, 10am-5pm. Sat, 10am-4pm.

For more information on the artists and view images see the website:

Portrait 1, Ruaridh Crighton

The Scottish Portrait Awards 2021 – another captivating collection of intimate, emotional portraits and photographs of friends and family

The Scottish Portrait Awards are open to anyone over 16 years born, living or studying in Scotland. This is the fifth year of the annual competition managed by volunteers on behalf of the Scottish Arts Trust.  It is funded through the generous financial support of donors with prize money totalling more than £11,000 for the SPA in Fine Art and the Richard Coward SPA in Photography.  

This is just a personal overview picking some of my favourites from the sixty portraits  selected by the judges for the shortlists across the two categories.  The Young Fine Artist awards for Fine Art and Photography are for those aged 16 – 25 and this year there was a large number of outstanding submissions.

Phil Robinson, Brian Reading

Brian Reading is a charming sketch by Phil Robinson of his father-in-law, based on early photographs and memories: “I started drawing in this scribble style to try and capture people’s likeness quickly and to keep my mark-making fluid and my lines dynamic in different inks.”  This tranquil study of a reader lost in a literary world, raised hand on the face, and the eyes expresses such deep concentration and contentment.   

Paul Elder, A Conversation with Self

Paula Elder has had no formal art training so that A Conversation with Self shows such natural talent and confidence to express her likeness with such clarity and visible emotion in her eyes reflecting her feelings of sadness during the pandemic lockdown. Her aim in portraiture is to capture a depth of personality and character.   

Artificial Silk Girl by Minnie Scott is inspired by Irmgard Keun’s novel about a would-be movie star in 1920s Berlin, a poignant exploration of the doomed pursuit of fame and glamour.

The sitter is Virgilia, with her rouged, clownish cheeks, black kohl eyes and feathered hat, depicting a lady who clearly embraces a hedonistic, bohemian nightlife at the cabaret.  

Minnie Scott, Artificial Silk Girl

Kirsty Penny is a second year art student in Leeds and Beetroot is a portrait of her father painted during the first coronavirus lockdown. “For my family, dinner time became the best part of the day.”  He looks rather perplexed, staring at the artist and viewer, as if to say, don’t interrupt me when I am eating.  The fact that he has two forks on the plate and a large bottle of beetroot (presumably his favourite), adds a humorous touch.

Kirsty Penny, Beetroot

Mark Roscoe spends a good deal of time on commissions but was keen to paint his three children.  This is a delightful “snapshot” of them playing happily, the two older kids with broad smiles while the baby looks rather perplexed. There’s extraordinary, realistic detail in the striped clothes, logo sweatshirt, patterned carpet and colourful toys.

Mark Roscoe, Portrait of my Children

Saul Robertson admits that Journeys is the most ambitious portrait he has attempted: “Much of my portraiture focuses on my family, the passing of time and the changes wrought”. This seems to depict three generations – grandparents, mother and two girls sit in pensive mood with a quirky collection of items, a pear, mug, toy and mobile phone like a Still Life.

Saul Robertson, Journeys

Richard Coward (1946 – 2014) enjoyed a fifty year career as an artist across photography, printmaking, paintings, film and creative writing.  “He had the talent, the sensitivity, the touch; there was a special something about his pictures; that is the sensation I had whenever I saw Richard’s work” – C J Fitzjames, artist and friend.

Richard Coward, Self Portrait

The Richard Coward SPA in Photography was established in his memory by his widow Siobhán.  

Matt Sillars is based in the Highlands and Lewis is from a series on local musicians in small pubs and cafes. The relaxed manner of the three men is most engaging, pint of beer in hand or studying their phones.  The rather shabby bar environment with blackboard, wooden table and chairs is not exactly comfy or cosy, but no doubt the live music creates a warm buzzing atmosphere.  

Matt Sillars, Lewis

Having only taken photos when on holiday, when Effie Ioannou met the glamorous Aisha, she began experimenting in creative work.  The large hat is like a halo around her head, and with her hand elegantly placed over the railing, this is so well composed like a stylised Vogue fashion shot.

Effie Iaonnu, Aisha

During a gathering of women on a beach to protest after the murder of Sarah Everard by a policeman, Victoria Watson captured Liz as she took part in a ‘collective scream’ looking out to the sea. It certainly is an image of pent up anger being released into the open air by this young girl, akin to The Scream by Edvard Munch. 

Victoria Watson, Scream – Hear our Voice

In contrast, Hannah Brooks conveys a real sense of Euphoria with her portrait of Maungo, enjoying a refreshing swim in the sea at Gullane Beach, bathing in water and sunlight on a warm summer day – such a genuine feeling of joy, freedom and peace of mind.

Hannah Brooks, Euphoria

On a misty day, Tom Brodie Rose poses for his father Paul Rose on the shores of Loch Achray, the Trossachs.  It depicts the proud stance of a young Scotsman in a kilt, blending traditional heritage and contemporary lifestyle. In black and white, there’s such detail in the grasses, glistening water and shimmer of trees through the hazy light. 

Paul Rose, Tom Brodie Rose

The winners will be announced on 17th November, 2021.

The Scottish Portrait Awards Exhibition of fine art and photography is at the Scottish Arts Club, 24 Rutland Square from 30 October to 27 November, 2021; Gracefield Arts Centre, Dumfries from January to March 2022 and at the Glasgow Art Club in April and May 2022.