“Sleep when you’re dead”  – mystical, dreamlike landscapes by Adrian Gardner @ Whitespace Gallery, Edinburgh

The American rock singer, Warren Zevon is often credited with coining the mantra, “You can sleep when you’re dead.” or as Bon Jovi stated, “Gonna live while I’m alive, I’ll sleep when I’m dead.

Adrian Gardner graduated in Fine Art at the University of Central Lancashire as well as studying at the University of Lisbon, and now lives in Edinburgh.  After a difficult time during lockdown when he could only exhibit work on line, this showcase of new paintings and prints is based on a narrative theme – the importance of living life to the full:

I try to express what it means to be alive, connections, love, tragedy, existence .. I’m keenly aware of the magic and fragility of it all – a connection to the past and hopefully the future’. Adrian Gardner

Walking into the Whitespace gallery, a lush, languid landscape on the far wall stands out: Off Grid illustrates a couple of hikers trudging downhill towards, perhaps, a Highland loch, with rugged mountains beyond. An intriguing colour palette, switches from soft pastel pinks to shimmering green hills and dark grey clouds with an evocative sense of escape.

Off Grid, Adrian Gardner

A snowy winter day in Wish You Were Here depicts a fun family day out with the artist sitting on a sledge as his son, Charlie stands beside him at the top of the hill.  The ice-blue snow is criss-crossed with tracks while the skeletal bare trees are bathed in a rosy glow at dusk. 

Wish you were here, Adrian Gardner

Observing the panoramic view of jagged, rocky mountains in Transitions, it’s reminiscent for me of a majestic cruise on the Silver Spirit while circumnavitating South America, gliding gracefully along the Glacier Valley, Patagonian Fjords.  

However, Gardner explains that this is based on the dramatic Himalayan mountains in Nepal, although he has never actually travelled here: ‘I paint what I see, what I imagine, places I have been and places I haven’t.’

The Himalayas, Nepal

The Himalayas stretch across Nepal, northeast India, Tibet and Myanmar – as well as the land of the mythical Shangri-La. 

James Hilton imagined Shangri-La in his bestselling novel Lost Horizon (1933). After a plane crash in the Himalayan mountains, British diplomat Hugh Conway claims to have found the utopian world of Shangri-La where the people live in perfect harmony with nature, a paradise on earth.

People make mistakes in life through believing too much, but they have a damned dull time if they believe too little.” James Hilton

Shangri-La is often used as an analogy for a life-long quest for something elusive.  As well as the fictional Conway, only intrepid mountaineers are ever likely to visit the remote, hidden valleys of Nepal.  

Transitions. Adrian Gardner

Transitions is a spectacular, mesmerising landscape of the mind, portraying perhaps his own elusive, lost horizon, conjuring up memories and dream-like imagination.   

The mirror image of the mountain range delicately coloured in pale pink and glistening gold, is like a glimmering reflection on water, a view which is similarly described in painterly fashion in Lost Horizon :

‘The whole range paled into fresh splendour; a full moon rose, touching each peak in succession like some celestial lamplighter, the long horizon glittered against a blue sky.” James Hilton

The soft shades of oil paint in all these landscapes give a luminous effect on the textured quality of the linen.  Gardner has a particular technique, priming and sanding the paint with several coats for a smooth finish.

​One wall features a series of Op Art decorative designs in Bridget Riley-styled geometric stripes and circles with the addition of miniature sea and landscapes in the bullseye centre. Sleep when you’re dead’ has a whirring, whirling sense of movement while the tiny image of a winter tree and snowy field is all about rural peace and tranquillity.

Sleep when you are dead, Adrian Gardner

Another illustration is Seascape, a miniature painting of calm waves and distant horizon as if to say, forget the flurry of life’s problems surrounding us, to focus on the beauty of nature beyond.

Seascape, Adrian Gardner

As a pure abstract, Bright Futures is aptly named, depicting the warmth of summer sunshine and happier times ahead. 

Bright Futures, Adrian Gardner

This is an enchanting, inspirational exhibition of mystical, magical places expressing moments of silence and contemplation.  Gardner is an artist and also a philosopher whose evocative, rose-tinted vision of the world may encourage us all to dream a little more and find our own personal Shangri-La.     

‘It is an innate human condition to imagine and explore in our minds. The world seems small with modern technology, but is immense, giving a perspective on the now’.  Adrian Gardner

Sleep when you’re dead

Adrian Gardnera solo show of reasonably priced, original paintings, (oil on linen), large and small scale; Limited edition prints.

30 July to 3 August, 2022: open 11am- 5pm

Whitespace Gallery, 76 E. Crosscauseway, Edinburgh EH8 9HQ


The Old Course – St. Andrews: classic and contemporary paintings by Davy Macdonald @ Dundas Street Gallery, Edinburgh

Art history: ‘the study of aesthetic objects and visual expression in historical and stylistic context.’

Davy Macdonald is a most innovative artist, specialising in dramatic scenes, inspired by meticulous research into Scottish cultural heritage: Herring Lassies, Harris Tweed, Gothic Edinburgh.  This exhibition showcases a diverse range of his artwork, both realism and abstract, but centre stage is a new and topical Figurative theme, The Old Course – St. Andrews.

The 1st Open Championship was played at Prestwick in 1860, with just eight players; in July 2022, the 150th Open featuring 156 players in the field, aptly took place at the world’s Home of Golf.   Cameron Smith produced one of the all-time great rounds in Open Championship history to pip Rory McIlroy to glory at St. Andrews.

Davy Macdonald has researched the cultural golfing heritage of St. Andrews with meticulous and magical detail.  In the first half of the 20th century, Staycation in the British Isles meant visiting the seaside on day trips or holidays and travelling by train was imaginatively promoted through colourful advertisements.

LNER travel poster for St. Andrews, A.C. Michael (1933)

This evocative poster for the London & North Eastern Railway, dating from 1933 and designed by the Welsh artist, Arthur C. Michael features two golfers with their caddies, teeing off in front of The Royal and Ancient Clubhouse. West Sands is visible in the background.

The fabulous fashion and leisurely lifesetyle of the 1920s and 1930s are beautifully illustrated in these attractive vintage and now extremely valuable travel posters.

With his own inimitable style, Davy Macdonald has created his own stunning series of paintings depicting a line up of women golfers enjoying Tee Time around the Old Course. Against a threatening grey sky, this determined lady, dressed warmly in a red sweater and plaid skirt, eyes up her shot with a follow through of her club. Beyond are the rolling sand dunes and in the background, the church spires and castle of the old town.  

Old Course, # 1 Davy Macdonald

Here she is again, with no caddy to carry her golf bag, standing proudly on the Swilcan Bridge with neat, period detail of her curled hair, tasseled white shoes and ankle socks. This iconic bridge, beloved by golfers worldwide, was built over 700 years ago so that shepherds could move their flock across the Swilcan Burn which meanders across what is now the 1st and 18th fairways.  

Swilcan, Davy Macdonald

While Mary Queen of Scots played on the historic links in 1567, golf here has has long been a traditional sport for gentlemen. Finally eight years ago, the Royal and Ancient Golf Club (founded 1754) decided to allow women to join the Club for the first time. In another railway poster, men and women enjoy a round of golf in the sunshine.

Vintage LNER poster to promote golfing holidays in St. Andrews

Refreshments are essential after a round of 18 holes and The Jigger Inn (1850s) was the Stationmaster’s lodge. The Old Course Resort is built on the site of the former train station which sadly closed in 1969.  This cosy pub is decorated with golfing memorabilia, open-hearth fires, hearty good food, Scottish beers and their own Jigger Ale. Here, a young girl poses elegantly with her club over her shoulder as she heads jauntily into what’s known as the 19th Hole!.

The Jigger Inn, Davy Macdonald

The pioneering and influential Abstract artist Wilhelmina Barns-Graham, (1912-2004) was born in St Andrews and attended Edinburgh College of Art in the 1930s before moving to St. Ives. Her love of the sea shore is captured in her minimalist drawings, such as West Sands (St. Andrews) and North Sea Fife.

Inspired by Barns-Graham’s linear meditations on waves, sand and wind, Macdonald also relishes the freedom of non-realistic expression to depict a sense of rhythm and energy, such as the swirl of blues and sunshine yellow in Flow #1.

Flow #1 Davy Macdonald

I am fascinated by the power of nature such as skies, seas, atoms and galaxies all in constant change.  My current approach is to work with both hands simultaneously with willow charcoal sticks, brushes or palette knives .. a duet, comparable to a pianist or drummer, both hands working independently yet together creating balance’. Davy Macdonald

Likewise, Flow #3, a mesmerising maze of apparent, ad hoc, quick, red and grey brushstrokes, balanced by a scatter of precise, bold black lines – horizonal and perpendicular.  As the eye follows the ebb and flow of shape and space, there’s a soft jazzy rhythm lurking here in its improvised pattern.      

Flow #3 Davy Macdonald

Having viewed his previous Abstract paintings in recent years, once again, Davy has a real touch of Jackson Pollock (with a more controlled structure), as well as the fluid grid patterns of early Mondrian (e.g. Sea and Starry Sky, 1915).

The truly modern artist has been inspired more by the beauty of lines and color and the relationships between them than by the concrete subject of the picture.”  Piet Mondrian

As well as original paintings, the decorative designs of the Flow series would create most attractive fabric, textiles and wallpaper.

A large scale, (6 – 4 foot) Abstract composition, Among the Floe, is extremely impressive in both inventive design and experimental technique.  A floe is a sheet of floating ice, all the more visible due to the melting of glaciers and icebergs from the Patagonian Fjords to the Polar Regions.  A flurry of brash brushstrokes splash icy streaks of thick white paint across the canvas with an effective sense of dramatic mood and movement.  


The exhibition also includes work from previous Figurative series, such as At the End of the Day and Herring Lassies at the Harbour Wall – portraits of fisherwomen whose bandaged fingers are the result of shucking oysters, gutting and salting the herring. 

This new collection of nostalgic, vintage scenes of the Old Course, St. Andrews juxtaposed with modern Abstract Expressionism illustrate Macdonald’s evolving, imaginative style and aesthetic vision criss-crossing the world of art history.

Visit the Dundas Street Gallery this week to view these contrasting classic and contemporary original paintings as well as Limited Edition Prints on paper and canvas.

The Old Course – St. Andrews

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

21 – 31 July, 2022; open 10am – 6pm, daily.


Herring Lassies at Harbour Wall, Davy Macdonald

‘word is’… by Catherine Sargeant – the abstract visual art of language @ Doubtfire Gallery, Edinburgh

After achieving a 1st class degree in Drawing and Painting at the Edinburgh College of Art, Catherine Sargeant became the first recipient of WASPS new graduate award. Her art practice covers printmaking, drawing, photography, painting and bookmaking, she is a professional member of the Society of Scottish Artists and teaches at Leith School of Art.

Catherine Sargeant, ,SSA – a passion for painting and a love of language.

“I use text in my art, not as a writer or poet but as a collaborator. So many words, so many ways to create. I collect words from various sources: individual favourite words, quotes from the great and good, dictionary definitions, the poetry of Robert Burns, the list goes on’.

Catherine Sargeant

In this collection of paintings and screenprints, using a diverse range of media, “word is” is inspired by the beauty of specific words and the shape of each letter of the alphabet. In family matters, just visible beneath the surface, the original text has been erased to leave a few letters highlighted to create a message about love and kinship in an artistic pattern.

family matters, Catherine Sargeant

This is reminiscent of the experimental literary style, Concrete Poetry, first coined in the 1950’s – Poesia concreta originated in Brazil quickly spreading to Europe: the dissection of words into separate letters constructed in a layout of grids, columns, spirals or the shape of the poem’s subject.  Edwin Morgan was a unique contributor to the avant garde movement, delighting in visual wordplay with intellectual wit.  ‘Message Clear’ repeats the biblical verse from John 11:25 (‘I am the resurrection and the life’) removing different letters to make new phrases.

A fragment from Message Clear, Edwin Morgan (1966)

As a literary visual artist, Ian Hamilton Finlay also specialised in the fragmented format of words within circles and geometric shapes across the page as in ‘Cork Net’ and ‘Broken Heart.’

Catherine makes clear that she is not a poet per se, but celebrates the interpretation of language in minimalist manner to communicate a subtle subtext – ‘often in collaboration with contemporary creative friends – writers, poets, musicians, – adding yet more layers to my work, both literally and metaphorically.’

A chilling message with echoes of Hitchcock’s Psycho and other murder movies is captured in hollywood moment: “A sensual, per f ect scream”.

hollywood moment, Catherine Sargeant

Catherine enjoys experimenting with various fonts although much of the text resembles the typeface of a vintage typewriter, such as in red web and reddest.  Like the clue for a crossword puzzle, each word can be prefixed by the colour red.

red hot, Catherine Sargeant
red web, Catherine Sargeant

Observing how text communication today dominates modern social life, she also focusses on the abbreviated use of language; the selection of edited, altered, blackout phrases lets the viewer interpret their own meaning.  orrizonte (Italian for Horizon) illustrates the definition – ‘the limit of one’s experience’ – as well as the artistic symbol of a compass and fluidity of sea waves. This is a screenprint on paper over a wooden board with resin.

orrizonte, Catherine Sargeant

An intriguing series, Sea Circles captures the changing mood and movement of the waves – from calm to stormy days:  Dream, Silence, Squall, Magical, Sound. These 17 cm round abstract paintings (gloss, graphite and oil on plywood) are so delicately crafted, a soft swirl of blue and white and one single solitary word for calming, meditative thought.

What is so appealing is the simplicity, brevity and clarity of the artwork.  Here are graphic patterns of letters, words and symbols – with an emphasis on the ampersand –  in which the typographical image is more important in conveying an essence of emotion and mood than overall literary significance.

A magical composition is velvety night, which draws the viewer deep into the seascape where a scattering of words – stars, sound – are almost drowned by the flowing waves under a shimmering moonlit sky.  Such a dramatic atmosphere of night-time darkness – a time and place of peace and solitude.

With such imagination, inventiveness and originality, Catherine Sargeant combines both linguistic and visual expression in painterly poems with such precision and creativity.

The Art of the Word.

velvety night, Catherine Sargeant

word is ……. Catherine Sargeant

Doubtfire Gallery, 28 NW Circus Place, Edinburgh EH3 6TP

13 July – 13 August, 2022

Opening hours, Wednesday to Sunday, 12 noon – 4pm.


Homeland @ Dundas Street Gallery: explore the Outer Hebrides and the wider world through the art of travel by Donald Libby and Eilidh Jamieson.

The Dundas Street Gallery, Edinburgh is a marvellous space for an eclectic range of pop up art exhibitions.  This week there’s a superb collection of hand crafted, sculptured ‘seascapes’ displayed on towers of white boxes complemented by colourful, decorative maps around the walls.  

Homeland – sculptured seascapes by Donald Libby and decorative maps by Eilidh Jamieson

Donald Libby and Eilidh Jamieson both live in Stornoway and their contrasting artwork is inspired by their homeland, the Isle of Lewis.  Eilidh was initially due to be exhibiting with another artist, and so it was by chance she was introduced to Donald who agreed to collaborate on this joint showcase. 

I find that being born and brought up on an Island shapes you as an individual and as an artist – surrounded by the sea, rugged coastlines and beautiful beaches is where I find my inspiration’.

Donald Libby

His art materials are sourced from beachcombing walks to find salvaged driftwood, water bottles, rusty nails, fishing nets and mooring buoys, washed up by the waves on to the sand.  Working in his Studio Shed, Libby has such a magical imagination to transform these found treasures into unique, hand crafted sculptures.  Each specific shapely piece of timber, metal, glass and plastic is selected to create such realistic miniature cottages perched on a rocky seashore with cute wee dinghies, complete with miniature oars.

Sailors Warning, Donald Libby

The detail is exquisite with washing lines in the garden, twig ‘trees,’ and the creative use of salvaged planks of wood, perhaps from an old boat with peeling red and blue paint, as in Sailors Warning.

These 3D seascapes capture the atmosphere of living on a Hebridean island – you can almost catch a whiff of the fresh sea breeze around harbour walls and sandy beach.  In Approaching Shower, see the pounding waves crashing against the rocky cliff, with the lighthouse keeping sailors safe at sea.  

Approaching Shower, Donald Libby

Libby doesn’t identify exactly the location of each particular scene although a few scenes depicting tall, slender stacks are reminiscent of St. Kilda, such as Gannet Rock. 

Gannet Rock, Donald Libby

Having enjoyed travelling and living abroad made me realise what a privilege it was to be born on the stunning beauty of the Outer Hebrides. It evoked the desire to create art which would inspire nostalgia and a sense of Home’. Eilidh Jamieson:

In 2013, Eilidh was just 19 years old and working on the far side of the world, Mount Isa in the Australian desert and missed her home on the Isle of Lewis. She came across an online shop which could emboss an image of one’s own country onto the cover of a travel journal. This began her love affair with Maps.  

At the gallery you can see a collection of her delicately designed paintings and prints, an enchanting world atlas of islands and countries from the Isle of Lewis to Australia, Asia to South Africa, Canada and the Caribbean. 

World maps: the art of travel in watercolour paintings, Eilidh Jamieson

The Outer Hebrides are named after the Norse word, Harbredey, loosely translated as “Isles at the edge of the Sea.”  A map of this archipelago depicts the 130 miles of wild, rugged, undulating coastline, around cliff tops and white sand beaches.  It is not just the geography and location of the islands which Eilidh is trying to capture but the cultural heritage of her homeland, renowned for Harris tweed and the ancient Standing Stones at Callanais.

The Outer Hebrides etched in gold, Eilidh Jamieson

These unique hand-painted watercolours, decorated with colourful inks and pinpointed specific places on the map sprinkled with flecks of copper, silver or gold for a glittering piece of artwork.  The curving coastline of islands, the curving shapes of borders and boundaries evoke memories of family holidays and romantic journeys of discovery around the world.

A blue tinted watercolour of Scotland, Eilidh Jamieson

With little opportunity to jet off over the past couple of years, we can still appreciate memories of journeys past, and these maps offer an original illustration of favourite places through Eilidh’s innovative art of travel. 

We study maps to be inspired and to daydream of planning a bucket list of where to go on our next wanderlust adventure.

Through her company, EJayDesign, she accepts commissions for personalised bespoke maps with the addition of your own text and title. Printed on giclèe fine art paper or unstretched canvas using pigment inks, they are completed by hand with sparkling of acrylic gold.  These would be perfect birthday, wedding and anniversary gifts for family and friends. 

Scotland maps for personalised gifts

The planning, organisation and travel to set up this exhibition has been a huge effort, having to drive a truck, by road and ferry from Stornoway, with an extensive range of artwork to Edinburgh.  Do take a visit if you can to the Dundas Street Gallery this week to see Eilidh and Donald’s artwork – prices are very reasonable for these finely crafted maps, seascape models and also useful key holders – perfect presents too.

This is a creative debut collaboration between two distinctive artists who share a dramatic imagination and evocative sense of place.  I do hope this review will encourage a gallery on the Isle of Lewis to offer the two artists the space to show off their inspiring artwork in their own Homeland. 

Dundas Street Gallery,  Dundas Street, Edinburgh

Tuesday 5th – Saturday 9th July 2022



The art of observing distant Horizons, real and imaginary @ Dundas Street Gallery, Edinburgh

Horizon: ‘the line where the earth and sea seem to meet the sky; the range of perception or experience – e.g. to broaden your horizons.  

Four artists who all studied at Edinburgh College of Art have collaborated in this exhibition, exploring this theme to take us on an evocative journey through place, time and imagination.

Let’s take a browse around a small selection of the diverse artwork on view:

Soosan Danesh specialises in perfecting abstract Rothko-esque landscapes depicted through the repetition of striated rectangles of unequal measurements, which subtly represent earth, sea and sky.  The Colour of Horizon is a made of interconnecting bold blocks and thin lines to reflect the rich hues of nature and the elements, perhaps grey-black stone, olive green trees, azure blue water, illuminated by a coral red sunset.  

Colour of Horizon, Soosan Danesh

‘This fresh new way of looking at the Scottish landscape, expresses my response to the memory of places and appeals to both emotions and senses’.  Soosan Danesh

Using acrylic on canvas, see how the paint has been paired down in overlapping layers, the green blending with red – minimalist in detail but with geometric depth and shape through the light and shade of muted colour. A meditative landscape of the mind, indeed.

Many of you will have travelled by train along the East Coast Line between London, Newcastle and Edinburgh; as you approach Berwick on Tweed, look out for the spectacular views of the craggy cliffs along the coastline.    

East Coast Line, Soosan Danesh

In this painting Danesh has constructed a more representational landscape to illustrate a shimmering blue sky merging into the waves, the sandy beach, railway track and green fields.  Just like the rhythmic motion of a train, there’s a tangible sense of movement amidst the fresh breeze, as we look out to the horizon across the sea.

Beach scenes around Scotland and New South Wales is the recurring subject for Australian artist, Ruth Thomas in paintings, prints, drawings and watercolours.

Nature’s calligraphy: the myriad of lines on windswept beaches, tiny barnacles in rocks, the delicate structures of shells and seaweed.”

Ruth Thomas

Tidal Flow, Ruth Thomas

With an exemplary eye for geological detail, Tidal Flow focusses on the etched, criss cross patterns on multi-coloured, smooth pebbles, fossilised stones, tiny crusted shells against the translucent fluidity of salt water in a shallow rock pool. A most innovative touch is a sprinkling of salt engrained in the paint to represent tiny particles of sand.

Along the East Lothian coast is the village of Aberlady, known for its nature reserve and as the home of the historian and novelist, the late Nigel Tranter. He began each day by crossing over what he called, ‘The Footbridge to Enchantment’ for a walk along the beach, stopping to jot down literary notes and pick up shells.

Aberlady Bay, Ruth Thomas

Here too Ruth Thomas has been inspired to capture the enchantment and solitude of Aberlady Bay, focussing on the brown, grey and lichen-covered rocks on the grassy sand dune. The perspective is as if snapped through a fish eye camera lens – drawing the eye to the seashore and the low hills of Fife. It is so atmospheric, from the tide-smoothed stones to the billowing clouds reflected on the waves.  

Inspired by contemporary urban environment, Marion Barron has a fascination with Brutalist architectural lines to create meticulous collage artwork.  The precise selection of media and materials is the starting point using inks, acrylic, handmade paper, linen or reclaimed wood.

Peeling Plaster, Marion Barron

Most effective is Peeling Plaster which captures with uncanny realism, the tangible rough, hard surface of scratched, cracked paint revealing old layers of plaster on a concrete or stone wall. The two contrasting. juxtaposed sections are beautifully crafted with feather-light tones of cream, mushroom, cafe latte. But it is the softly textured linen backdrop which gives the perfect balance for this crisply composed, finely integrated collage.  

The tactile feel of fabric is central to Marion’s collages as illustrated in Fissure with its carefully placed scraps and strips of tobacco brown and fawn paper on a grey embossed backdrop, with torn ragged edges and a long split through the centre. The delicate, thin ink-marked lines, grid and curves creates such a precise abstract shape, so mesmerising in its detail.

Fissure, Marion Barron

Influenced by the American Abstract Expressionists, Joan Mitchell and Helen Frankenthaler. Also with minimalist creativity, Mary Mackay aims to capture the raw essence of natural world. As art is a silent way to communicate meaning, she is also interested in trying to express the space between words and language.

‘Typically, I start by applying a light colour wash to the canvas then add seemingly random marks using stronger colours … to give more prominence to the expression of landscape and plant forms. At this point the really creative work starts!’ Mary Mackay 

With bold, brash brushstrokes in black, with flashes of blue and red in a mustard gold setting, Conversation beginning clearly shows her method of spontaneous mark making, with jagged scratches and a series of white circles, floating over the calico canvas.    

Conversation Beginning, Mary Mackay

The theme of talking and speech is expressed again in Conversation in a landscape, composed of an enigmatic pattern of tiny black dots like hieroglyphics, visual symbols of language.

Forming an abstract pattern is again observed in A Wander Around the Garden this time with a more representational and charming image of what would appear to be a flourish of white daisies, blossoming buds, green leaves and a sense of glowing rosy pink sunlight. 

A Wander around the Garden, Mary Mackay

Horizons is a most inspiring collection of complementary artwork to express the beauty of nature and human experience with fine crafted imagery and symbolism.  It’s about deconstructing realism to express the pared down purity of shape, colour and light with imaginative, atmospheric vision. 

Just like a quartet of musicians, these artists have created their own artistic concerto of free flowing movements to denote luminous, languid reflections on the horizon. They look towards the distance, past and present, the passing of time within the peaceful permanence of place.


Marion Barron, Soosan Danesh, Mary Mackay, Ruth Thomas

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

28 May – 3 June: 10.30am-6pm. Sat 4 June: 10.30-4pm

Horizons: Enticing art in the window at the Dundas Street Gallery – come on in!

Scottish Ballet presents the world premiere of ‘The Scandal at Mayerling’ – a real life Romeo & Juliet tale of passionate love and tragic death.

With unwitting, timely prescience, (following recent Royal scandals), Sir Kenneth MacMillan’s epic narrative ballet has now been reimagined afresh by Scottish Ballet in a dramatic new touring production.

Originally created by MacMillan, an innovative, ground-breaking choroegrapher, for the Royal Ballet in 1978, The Scandal at Mayerling is based on the tragic, true story of Crown Prince Rudolf, the only son of Emperor Franz Joseph I of Austria and his wife, Elisabeth.

Crown Prince Rudolf of Austria

When he was 23, his parents selected 16 year old Princess Stephanie of Belgium to be his wife but this was a very unhappy, arranged marriage. A few years later when Rudolph met and fell in love with Baroness Mary Vetsera, his parents demanded that he swiftly end the affair, and also that he could not divorce Stephanie.

Baroness Mary Vetsera, 1888

On the morning of January 30, 1889, the bodies of Rudolf, aged 30, and Mary, aged just 17, were found at the Hunting lodge, Mayerling in the woods outside Vienna. The scandal of the affair and apparent suicide pact was immediately hushed up by the Austrian Royal family. As heir to the throne, Rudolf’s death, publicly announced as a heart attack, left the succession in jeopardy, dividing the Hapsburg empire which ultimately led to the Great War in 1914.

The Mayerling Incident, full of mystery, murder and intrigue, has been adapted many times for the movie screen: a 1936 French movie starring Charles Boyer and Danielle Darrieux; Mel Ferrer and Audrey Hepburn, (1957); Omar Sharif and Catherine Deneuve, (1968). The Illusionist, (2006), set in Vienna, 1900 is a fictionalised version of the royal romance. 

This passionate story of real life star-crossed lovers also inspired Sir Kenneth MacMillan to devise a narrative ballet, exploring the social, political and personal background of Crown Prince Rudolf, set within the opulent grandeur of the Royal court. John Lanchbery, conductor of the Royal Ballet orchestra, suggested Liszt as the composer, selecting over thirty pieces to orchestrate into an atmospheric, lyrically lush score.

Lynn Seymour, David Wall and Kenneth MacMillan in rehearsals for the premiere

The premiere of Mayerling took place on Valentine’s Day 1978 at a Royal gala with David Wall as Prince Rudolf and Lynn Seymour as Mary Vetsera.  The audience gave the ballet and MacMillan, a prolonged ovation and the critics praised the ballet’s boldness and originality: Mary Clarke described ‘.. a thrilling, moving theatrical experience’. Clement Crisp commented that MacMillan had moved the three-act ballet from its 19th century structure and conventions into the realism of modern life.  And after a revival by the Royal Ballet at the Met. New York, Anna Kisselgoff  was impressed by  ‘great dancing, great acting on a level of sophistication and richness of detail’. 

Lynn Seymour and David Wall as Prince Rudolf and Mary in the 1978 premiere by the Royal Ballet

Opening in April at the Theatre Royal Glasgow before a Scottish tour, Scottish Ballet now presents a sumptuous new version entitled The Scandal at Mayerling, featuring the full company of forty dancers.  This world premiere will be the first time MacMillan’s iconic ballet has been produced in the UK outside London. 

The drama centres on the Prince and his relationship with the women in his life – his wife, his mother and his mistresses – dramatised through a series of intense duets.  

Crown Prince Rudolf and the powerful women who control his life

Rudolph is a desperate, disturbed young man, trapped in a charmed world of royal wealth and privilege, seeking an escape in in the reckless pursuit of women (both nobles and prostitutes), drink (Cognac and Champagne), drugs (morphine), and revolutionary politics. He also has a morbid fascination with death. With clear echoes of another anti hero, Hamlet, Prince of Denmark, he was obsessed with a skull and a revolver which he keeps in his room, as he delves into a deteriorating state of psychosis and addiction.

Edward Watson as Prince Rudolf, with skull (Royal Ballet production, 2013)

MacMillan’s precise and potent choreographic storytelling focuses on characterisation with psychological insight to relate a brutal account of human nature, in a way which only dance can express.  With his moods ranging from desire to rage, Rudolf is one the most demanding male roles created in British ballet requiring a high level of technique and stamina coupled with strong acting skills.  

Christopher Harrison as Prince Rudolf and Sophie Martin as Mary

However, the dancers of Scottish Ballet excel at dramatic clarity as recently illustrated in the stunning adaptations of A Streetcar Named Desire and The Crucible, based on the iconic plays by Tennessee Williams and Arthur Miller. 

Eve Mutso as Blanche DuBois in ‘A Streetcar Named Desire’

The Scandal at Mayerling is a story rich with political intrigue, conflicting emotions, passion and obsession played out against an archaic and crumbling empire. Sir Kenneth’s choreography is some of the most visceral and emotionally charged ever produced – it demands our attention right up to the ill-fated conclusion.”  Christopher Hampson, Artistic Director/CEO of Scottish Ballet .

This revival has been adapted and staged by Christopher Hampson and Gary Harris in association with the choreographer’s widow, Lady Deborah MacMillan:

Kenneth didn’t set out to shock people but was acutely aware that in the ballet world of fairies and tutus, more realistic insights into human behaviour might prove difficult. There is a strong Scottish connection – Kenneth was born in Dunfermline – and Scottish Ballet attests to the highest aims of ballet companies worldwide, performing the best of the classics as well as looking to the future in choreography and designs.” 

This bold, ambitious new production features an elaborate stage set and lavish costumes with the Franz Liszt score performed live by the Scottish Ballet Orchestra.

Dancers and rehearsal staff are taking part in a series of workshops with the Fight and Intimacy Direction company, Rc-Annie. Training in the safe use of replica imitation firearms will also create the authenticity for realistic theatre.   

An intimate pas de deux, Christopher Harrison as Prince Rudolf and Sophie Martin as Mary

The historical mystery of the Mayerling Scandal has recently had a new twist. In 2015, a long forgotten collection of letters found hidden in a bank vault in Vienna might now reveal the secrets behind one of the world’s greatest love stories. 

Please forgive me, I could not resist love,’ wrote Mary Vetsera in a farewell letter to her mother, Helen, ‘I am happier in death than life.’

Apparently, an unknown person had deposited a leather-bound folder containing personal documents, letters and photographs of the Vetsera family, including Mary’s letters, which were finally discovered, 126 years after her death.

Dark, dangerous and daring, ‘The Scandal at Mayerling’ by Scottish Ballet promises to be a richly romantic and captivating dance drama. With a tasty flavour of the raunchy, period TV drama, Bridgerton, (with more bite), it’s sure to be a smash hit and described once again, as in 1978 as “a thrilling, moving, experience.”

Book your tickets now!

Scottish Ballet – The Scandal at Mayerling

Tour dates: 13-16 April 2022:Theatre Royal, Glasgow, 21-23 April 2022: Eden Court, Inverness, 5-7 May 2022: His Majesty’s Theatre, Aberdeen,  25-28 May 2022: Festival Theatre Edinburgh

Age guidance 12+


Video: https://fb.watch/bYomodbYi-/

The Scotch Malt Whisky Society and Kingdom Scotland create a fragrant, sweet and spicy, spiritual partnership

The Society Kingdom Collaboration of whisky and perfume

First launched for Christmas 2021, this is a most creative business collaboration to demonstrate how Scotch whisky has inspired and been imaginatively paired with Scottish fragrances.

The partnership between the Scotch Malt Whisky Society and Kingdom Scotland celebrates the aromatic synergy between whisky and perfume, both produced through a similar distillation method. The perfumes can be sampled together with the paired whiskies at the Society venues in London, Glasgow and Edinburgh, guided by the knowledgable experts behind the bar. 

The people who said it couldn’t be done were so dull’

Pip Hills, Society Founder.

The Scotch Malt Whisky Society was established in Edinburgh in 1983 and now has more than 27,000 members and branches around the world. The idea all started in the 1970s, when Pip Hills sampled the delights of whisky drawn straight from the cask – undiluted and unadulterated – and this soon led to the idea of forming a club for whisky lovers. Hence, The Scotch Malt Whisky Society (SMWS), to share whisky in its purest form for those with a passion for flavour. 

Whisky tasting and testing by the expert drinkers at the SMWS, 1992. Pip Hills, centre

The Scotch Malt Whisky Society selects unique single casks and exclusive blends from more than 140 distilleries from Scotland and beyond promoting a new batch of around 20 rare single malt whiskies every month. The team of whisky experts seek out whisky in its purest form with a diversity of flavour and give each bottling a curious, quirky name.

Members enjoy exclusive access to these speciality whiskies through the world’s most colourful whisky club.

The vast collection of specialist bottlings by the SMWS

Imogen Russon-Taylor enjoyed an international career from film studios to drinks companies before moving back to Scotland to work in the Scotch whisky industry. This experience and insight into the delicate crafting of Scotch, soon inspired her to launch her fragrance business, Kingdom Scotland.

Imogen Russon-Taylor and her Kingdom Scotland perfumes

At the University of St. Andrews, she researched historical records of perfumed ingredients and stories of Scottish botanists and plant collectors. Born in 1889, the Scottish botanist Isobel Wylie Hutchison was an adventurous and pioneering explorer who took a 260-mile solo trek across Iceland, later travelling across the Arctic circle into Greenland and Alaska where she collected floral and grass samples for the Royal Botanical Gardens in Edinburgh and Kew. A biography about her life is poetically called, ‘Flowers in the Snow.’

Isabel Wylie Hutchison – Botanist and Arctic explorer

With this background knowledge, Imogen selected and foraged specific plants, flowers and botanicals to create a range of luxury perfumes – unisex, sustainable, ethical and crafted in Scotland.

“It’s the landscape, the history and elemental weather. If I could bottle that in scents, such as gorse on the way to the beach and its coconut notes, I thought it would be an amazing Scottish brand.”

Imogen Russon-Taylor

The ancient craft of distilling whisky also links into the Scottish environment – the heritage, culture and wild terrain of lochs, forests and mountain peaks.

Whisky is in the business of “bottling Scotland” across the distinctly different distillery regions from Lowland to Speyside, Highland to Islay.

“Bottling Scotland” in a whisky barrel

The Laphroaig 10 year old single malt is for instance poetically described as “no other aroma so perfectly encapsulates the island. Peat reek, soft oak, craggy coastline, screeching gulls. .. in a glass.” 

Just a sniff of this dram will certainly transport you to Islay.

Words used to capture the complex scent and potent taste of whisky are certainly wide ranging: citrus, floral, woodland, seashore, BBQ, bonfire, spice, hazelnut, chocolate, dried fruit, cheese, Christmas Cake et al.

Experience the fragrant aroma before the first sip

Just like testing a perfume on one’s wrist or a card, we first need to “nose” a whisky as 95% of ‘flavours’ are in fact the whiff of the aroma.

The tantalising taste of a fine single malt lingers on the tongue just like a splash of scent on the skin. The sense of smell indeed lingers in the mind, engrained in the remembrance of things past.

In similar fashion, Imogen was keen to ‘bottle Scotland’ in her hand crafted scents: ‘ to transport you to a memory, a place, a moment in time. I want to create that “sense of place” in my fragrances’.

“Bottling Scotland” in a perfume

A Sensory Experience event at the Scotch Malt Whisky Society, Edinburgh, gave the marvellous, magical opportunity to take an aromatic journey linking whisky and perfume and vice versa.

Metamorphic Eau de parfum is influenced by Imogen’s love of Ardbeg and other Islay single malts, reflecting the layered, crystalline rock formations of the Highlands and Islands formed around 400 million years ago.

Fragrance notes:

Top – Black Pepper & Tobacco
Heart – Incense, Minerals, Islay Malt & Dark Rose
Base –  (as the scent warms on the skin), Amber resin & Leather

Such a rich smoky peat and lingering tobacco scent and oh so masculine with the underlying tones of leather seats of a vintage classic car.

This Kingdom Scotland perfume has been expertly paired by the experts at the SMWS with their Lightly Peated collection, a flavour profile blending fragrant Parma Violet/rose/ freesia floral notes and smoky wood ash.

Peat fire tales on Orkney (Highland Park, 1st fill Oloroso butt).

As described by the whisky ambassador, expect fish and chips, blood orange, smoky peat fire, lime salt, honey, and altogether smooth and well balanced.

The Taste Test:

Nose: oak, sherry sweetness, juicy raisins, vanilla, coffee  

Taste: a teardrop of water to open up the flavour: a seashore briney breeze, dark sherry, roasted coffee beans, dried fruit, hazelnuts, caramel, woodsmoke  

Finish:  warm spice, nutmeg, ginger, raisins, espresso coffee and oozing with campfire smokiness.   

Portal Eau de parfum is inspired by the Caledonian forests on the Ardnamurchan peninsula with the pungent scent of Scots pine and lichen, herbaceous botanicals and bergamot to evoke the experience of being out in the fresh country air.  

Fragrance notes:

Top –  Herbaceous botanicals & bergamot
Heart – Verdant flora
Base – Vetiver, bark & Scots Pine

This clearly bottles the sensory experience of a woodland walk after the rain in spring or summer and Vetiver oil is said to be calming for meditation and relaxation.  

Portal is matched with a whisky from the SMWS Juicy Oak & Vanilla flavour profile range: honeysuckle, coriander seed, juicy fruits, chocolate-coated cherries, passion fruit and pineapple sorbet, such as Summer Garden Curiosity and Day Sipper.

Day Sipper. (Linkwood, Speyside, 1st fill Bourbon barrel)

As described: big, robust, cherry, juicy, sweet, playful – an anytime, daytime dram. 

Nose: fresh cut grass, floral fragrance, leafy, oatmeal, hint of honey

Taste: soft stone fruits, (plum, damson), rose blossom, tree bark, moss, honey, coconut, citrus notes

Finish: Earl Grey and herbal tea, orange, vanilla, almonds, marzipan.

Imogen Russon-Taylor – with her whisky inspired perfumes at the SMWS

This is indeed the ultimate sensory experience: sip, taste and smell the natural fragrance of Scotch whisky afresh through the art of perfumery.

This innovative, cultural and truly spiritual collaboration between the Scotch Malt Whisky Society and Kingdom Scotland allows us to appreciate even more how the seductive aroma of spirit and scent capture the romantic, wild, natural landscape of Scotland in a contemporary way.

The SMWS, The Vaults, Leith, Edinburgh

The Scottish Malt Whisky Society

The original HQ is The Vaults in Leith, Edinburgh where it all started nearly 40 years ago, then developed with club premises on Queen Street, Edinburgh, Glasgow and London.  There are now 27,000 members and branches around the world – Austria, Australia, Belgium, Canada, China, Denmark, France, Germany, Hong Kong, India, Japan, Malaysia, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Poland, Sweden, Switzerland, Taiwan, Thailand, Singapore and the US.

Belonging to the world’s most entertaining whisky club gives access to exclusive Members’ Rooms, a network of global partner bars, tasting events, whisky education and a monthly members’ magazine Unfiltered.

The Members’ Lounge Bar, SMWS, Queen Street, Edinburgh

Visit one of the Society venues in Edinburgh, Glasgow and London, where you can sample the expertly selected whiskies across the flavour profiles together with the associated perfumes. These unisex fragrances are the perfect gift combined with a bottle of the paired Single Malt for the whisky lover.

As a unique and exclusive luxury brand, the Kingdom Scotland perfumes are available at Harrods, Harvey Nichols, Les Senteurs, Gleneagles and The Balmoral Hotel, Edinburgh.



Portal inspired by the forests on Ardnamurchan peninsula

The French Film Festival is back with Screen Horizons@ Summerhall, January to April 2022. 

The French Film Festival UK is the only festival dedicated to and embracing French and Francophone cinema in all its diversityInstead of waiting until November, an inspiring season of French and Francophone cinema comes to Summerhall from 30 January to 17 April, 2022.

Presenting a diverse range of films for all ages, from award-winners to new talent, classics to documentaries and animation.  Several will be accompanied by introductions, Q&As and talks by leading experts in film and French culture.

The courtyard beer garden and Royal Dick pub at Summerhall Arts Venue

With the easing of restrictions, we’re delighted to be able to offer Summerhall screenings in the newly re-equipped Red studio theatre with its Seventies’ vibe. Audiences will have the chance to catch up with French Film Festival titles they may have missed the first time around. The programme really does have something for everyone.”

Richard Mowe, Director, French Film Festival UK

The comfortable, intimate Arthouse cinema at Summerhall

Summerhall, located near the Meadows, is a well established and popular visual arts and performance venue, – with a pub, brewery and gin distillery on site too – a buzzing cultural centre year round with exhibitions, drama, music, films and, in August, Edinburgh Festival Fringe shows.

And what must be the best kept secret, a brand new cinema opened here in October 2021!  

The Red Lecture Theatre was previously used for the Edinburgh Short Film Festival, Cinefile, French Film Festival and Cinematic, shows films every weekend as well as special events.  The revamped cinema was financed from the Screen Scotland’s Cinema Equipment Fund, featuring Dolby 5.1 surround sound and DCP projection and is the only cinema on the southside of Edinburgh.  Each Friday, Saturday and Sunday, the venue screens new releases, independent films, modern horror, retrospectives and world cinema.

The French Film Festival UK presents Screen Horizons@ Summerhall.

As Valentine’s Day 2022 fell on a Monday, there is still time for a delicious sweet taste of romance on Sunday 20 February with a 3pm matinee screening of Love Affair(s).  

The French title, ‘Les Choses qu’on dit, les chose qu’on fait’  is translated as ‘The Things We Say, the Things We Do,’ a classic brief encounter tale of two strangers thrown together by chance, set against the lush green French countryside. Exploring their notions of what real love is, the chemistry between Daphne and Maxime is viewed with authenticity, elegance and compassion. Directed by Emmanuel Mouret, the film has been described as a more serious Love Actually, pitching between the philosophical and farcical.

Neils Schneider and Camelia Jordana in Love Affair (s)

This really sounds like a smash hit with rave reviews, awards and accolades:

Best Film nomination, Césars 2021.

Rotten Tomatoes – Critics score,100%

‘ Mouret channels a cacophony of beating hearts in an effortless conversation about the universal trappings of love and monogamy’.

‘A complex romantic drama which twists and turns at every juncture’.

Later that afternoon on 20 February at 5.30pm is Hello World! (Bonjour Le Monde!) for adults and children alike. With perfect topicality in the race to save the planet, this is a whimsical animated study of our fragile ecosystem.  How is a bird born, why does one come into the world as an insect, mammal or fish?

Hand crafted papier-mâché puppets with a colourfully painted backdrop interpret the life and habitats of a pike, beaver, bat, salamander, turtle, dragonfly and several birds to illustrate the amazing spectacle of the natural world.

An enchanting scene from Hello World!

And here a few more highlights over the next couple of months:

Oh Mercy! / Roubaix, une lumière (Sunday 27 February, 15.00)

A fictionalised adaptation of the 2008 French TV documentary Roubaix commissariat central, which followed a police officer and his colleagues in Roubaix, near Lille, as they deal with the shocking homicide of an elderly woman. The investigation has real authenticity to create a riveting, compassionate drama and among the potential suspects are the neighbours who report the crime, Claude and Marie.  Grégoire Hetzel’s sombre soundtrack creates a suitably chilling Bernard Herrmann, (Psycho, Citizen Kane, Taxi Driver), mood and ambience. 

Engrossing and well worth checking out’. Time Out

Simply Black / Tout simplement noir  (Sunday 6 March, 17.00/Sunday 13 March, 15.00)

Jean-Pascal Zadi’s feature debut follows, JP, an actor and activist (played by Zadi himself) who, tired of the bigotry and racism in France, decides to organize a “Black Man’s March” to raise awareness in Paris. The politically incorrect satire is essentially a mockumentary through a series of dramatic, often hilarious misadventures. By exploring how racism remains a serious issue in France, Zadi questions whether the motto ‘liberté, égalité, fraternité’ is more of an ideal than a universal truth. 

An extraordinary comedic work of lilt and sparkle’. The New Yorker

Jean Pascal Zadi stars in his mockumentary political satire, Simply Black

Léon Morin, Priest / Leon Morin, prêtre: (Sunday 10 April, 17.30/ Sunday 17 April, 15.00)

The French Film Festival always includes a classic programme of vintage movies which are always a joy and here is another classic in Screen Horizons.  

In 1961, a year after appearing in Breathless, Jean-Paul Belmondo starred as Léon Morin, Priest, playing a devoted man of the cloth who attracts all the women in a small village in Nazi-occupied France.  Holy but human, he finds himself drawn to a widow—played by Emmanuelle Riva—a religious skeptic. Sparse yet utterly convincing in period detail, this is a potent study of desire, religion and politics.

Belmondo is masterly at embodying how Morin uses his charisma and surly, forthright charm. Riva’s emotional vitality powers the story with an oscillating vibrancy .. the accumulation of small expressive touches is as exact and suggestive as a pointillist masterpiece’. Deep Focus review

Adolescents / Adolescentes  (Sunday 17 April, 17.30)

Emma and Anaïs are best friends and yet everything in their life seems to set them apart – from their social backgrounds to their personalities. Five years in the making, Adolescentes is a remarkable achievement, charting the lives of the two girls from the age of 13 to 18 as they grow into maturity. Things turn more emotive when the personal meets the political during key moments in French history from the Paris attacks to the election of Emmanuel Macron.  

Melancholic and graceful, ‘ ….capturing moments of aesthetic bliss  ..comparisons to Richard Linklaters 12-year narrative ‘Boyhood’ are evident.Hollywood Reporter

For the full Screen Horizons programme of films, trailers, dates and tickets – https://frenchfilmfestival.org.uk/2021/front-page/screen-horizons/

Supported by Film Hub Scotland, part of the BFI’s Film Audience Network, and funded by Screen Scotland and National Lottery funding from the BFI.

The 30th anniversary edition of the French Film Festival will run in November and December 2022, as always touring numerous towns and cities across the UK, as well as an online programme. Keep up to date with all news of this special celebratory year.


Sozyë Nish, Noya and Noyster: Soya and fish-free organic sauces for sustainable, healthy, tasty dishes

This is a timely tale about how we can all help create a brave new greener world.  

The global taste for soy sauces and soya beans requires a constant removal of the crop which has greatly reduced the ability of forests to absorb and store carbon dioxide. Sea life is also affected as fish and oysters are used for the production of fish-based sauces.

Observing this serious ecological and environmental impact, Jacob Thundil used his experience and passion for food and innovation to create a range of organic, allergen-free, sustainable tasty sauces.

Jacob Thundil sourcing seaweed on a Scottish beach near Wick

 “While experimenting to make a vegetarian stock, the savoury notes from a particular Scottish seaweed reminded me of fermented soya. This led me to carry out hundreds of kitchen trials to perfect the world’s first British soya sauce alternative. I hope you will support our mission to brew delicious sauces which are kind to the planet and to you.”

Jacob Thundil, Founder – Sozyë

Thundil sourced sustainably-harvested, certified organic seaweed from the seashore near Wick on the North East coastline of Scotland – only the tops of the leaves are collected to enable them to regrow within a few weeks.  Sozyë Noya, Nish and Noyster sauces are formulated as soya-free, plant-based alternatives to soy, fish, and oyster sauces.

Soy sauce is traditionally produced by fermenting soybeans and wheat, a staple ingredient in  Oriental dishes and a popular seasoning in American cuisine.  The daily consumption of soy sauce in Japan alone is estimated at about 30 ml per person. That’s a lot of soya beans.

A traditional Fish sauce is made by fermenting anchovies with salt for up to 12 months.  It’s used in many different Asian dishes predominately Vietnam and Thailand, a popular ingredient due to its robust flavour profile.  It can also be made from shrimp and tuna belly.

A traditional Oyster sauce contains oyster extract, soya, wheat, and a handful of preservatives, also used in many different Asian dishes. 

The world famous Lea & Perrins Worcestershire sauce

Many people might not realise that Worcestershire sauce is actually a Fish Sauce, (also made from anchovies), first created in the city of Worcester in 1837 by two pharmacists John Lea and William Perrins, thereby founding Lea & Perrins, still today a household brand. Pronounced Wooster-sher, it’s used to flavour steak, chicken and fried fish, added to soups and stews and is an essential ingredient of a Bloody Mary.

The biggest misconception about an Anchovy-based sauce is that it’s “fishy.”  In cooking, the fermented seafood functions more like salt and brings a deep, savoury, umami punch. 

There used to be just four main flavour profiles for food and drink – sweet, sour, salty and bitter. Now we have a fifth taste, umami, a distinctive savoury taste, which comes from the Japanese word meaning the ‘essence of deliciousness.’  It was coined by a Japanese chemist, Kikunae Ikeda, who noticed a particular flavour in asparagus, hard cheese and dashi, a Japanese stock made from kombu (kelp), a brown seaweed found in shallow coastal seawater.

Stronger flavoured foods like anchovies, salted fish, Parmesan, mushrooms, fish sauce, seaweed, oysters and olives et al. have an umami profile.  Words used to describe umami include well-rounded harmony, aromatic, and appetizing.

Seaweed has been part of the Japanese diet for thousands of years and Nori is perhaps the most familiar type used to make Sushi rolls. Eating seaweed is a super-healthy and nutritious way to add extra vitamins and minerals to your diet.

In Scotland, seaweed has been gathered on the sea shore – not so much for eating –  but for the exquisitely crafted, seasalt-infused Isle of Harris gin.  Sugar Kelp, gathered sustainably by hand from local sea-lochs, is the key botanical and when there is no ‘r’ in the month, the kelp is left to recover and grow, ensuring this vital local habitat for sea life is not harmed.

ishga skincare: The name ishga is the Gaelic word for water and the Hebridean Islands is where the mineral rich seaweed is sourced to create its organic skincare with anti-ageing and hydrating properties.  The award winning ishga marine cream is described as a ‘revolutionary antioxidant moisturiser’.

Hebridean seaweed – the active ingredient in ishga marine skincare

Seaweed is therefore such a versatile, nurtritious, natural plant for health and beauty. So let’s have a taste of Sozyë sauces with a few appetising ideas for classic Asian dishes and cocktails.

Sozyë Noya Sauce is sweet and savoury with a slight salty flavour and can substitute both dark and light soya sauces.  Add as normal to a stir-fry, and when sautéing vegetables or to flavour white or brown rice.  Start by adding a little at a time during cooking to check the taste to your liking. Use as a marinade mixed with herbs and spices, in salad dressings and it’s the perfect dipping sauce for sushi.

Noya sauce with Sushi rolls

Celebrate Chinese New Year: Health and Happiness Noodles (based on recipe by Gok Wan)

340g dry Yi Mein noodles, 1 tablespoon groundnut oil, 2 cloves crushed garlic, piece of chopped ginger, 100g asparagus, 100g green beans, 2 spring onions; 3 tbsp Noya sauce, 2 tbsp Noyster sauce, 2 tsp runny honey,  ½ tsp sesame oil, ground white pepper, toasted sesame seeds, 50g pea shoots. Serves 4

Blanch the noodles in boiling water for 2 mins, drain and put in a bowl of cold water to prevent sticking.  Heat the groundnut oil in a wok and add the chopped vegetables and cook for 3 minutes.  Add the garlic and ginger. Return the noodles to the pan and mix through, then add a little hot water, Noya and Noyster sauce, sesame oil and honey. Heat through and then season with, if required, a little salt and pepper.  Garnish with sesame seeds and pea shoots.

Chinese New Year – Happiness Noodle dish

Sozyë-style Bloody Mary  

50 cl Vodka, 120cl tomato juice, a few shakes of Noya or Nish sauce *, a few shakes of Tabasco, pinch of celery salt, ground pepper.  Celery sticks, olives and a slice of lemon or lime for garnish. (* instead of Worcestershire sauce)

Bloody Mary – vegetarian style with Noya or Nish sauce

Sozyë Nish or Noyster sauces would also be the ideal alternative, (if you are not vegetarian) for a Bloody Caesar which is made with Clamato juice, to complement its pungent flavour of the sea.  

Sozyë Nish sauce is the first like-for-like substitute for regular Fish Sauce – organic, soy, fish and gluten-free made from Scottish seaweed.   I first splashed a generous dash of Nish Sauce into a vegetarian Mie Goreng and the flavour is amazing: yes, that quintessential umami salty, earthy mushroom or avocado flavour – to my palate anyway.  A fried egg, sunny side up, is the golden crown of this delectable noodle dish.

A delicious Mie Goreng with a perfect soft fried egg on top

Again use Sozyë Nish sauce as a dip, a marinade, for a warming depth of flavour to pasta and mix with garlic and chilli for a salad dressing. It also does not have the slightly harsh vinegar undertone which is more prevalent in the Noya sauce. 

Nuoc Cham

This tasty, tangy Vietnamese dipping sauce and dressing has a subtle umami kick.  

3 tablespoons lime juice, 2 tablespoons sugar, ½ cup water, 2 ½ tablespoons Nish sauce.  Optional ingredients:1 small garlic clove, finely minced, 1 or 2 thinly sliced chillies.

Combine the lime juice, sugar and water, stirring to dissolve the sugar.  Add the Nish sauce and any of the optional ingredients. Taste and adjust to your liking, balancing out the sour, sweet, salty and spicy flavours. Perfect for dipping fried Spring rolls, grilled prawns or chicken, drizzle over rice and as a vibrant salad dressing.

Nuoc Cham dipping sauce and dressing

Pad Thai

The popular street food in Thailand is a quick and easy stir fry noodle dish to try in order to experiment with Nish Sauce.  It can be adapted for all diets as it is traditionally made with prawns, chicken or tofu (or other vegetables), with peanuts, egg, tamarind paste, garlic and bean sprouts all sautéed together in a wok.  Many recipes on line for meat, fish and vegetarian/vegan options.

Pad Thai with either chicken, prawns or tofu

Sozyë invented the world’s first Oyster Sauce alternative from Scottish seaweed.  Noyster Sauce is the ideal substitute, a well-balanced blend of sweet, salty and savoury with a hint of seaweed. Again it can be simply used as a dip such as Nouc Cham (as above), in a vinaigrette, stir-fries, roasted vegetables, a marinade and to flavour meat and fish. 

Asian Greens

1 tbsp vegetable oil, 2 tbsp Noyster sauce, 350g mixed Asian greens (pak choi, choy sum or tatsoi)

Stir the oil and Noyster sauce with 1 tbsp water in a saucepan. Cook for 2-3 mins until glossy, then set aside.  Cook the greens in salted boiling water, simmering for 2 minutes until just wilted, then drain and drizzle the sauce over the greens.  

Mixed Asian greens with Noyster Sauce

Noyster Sauce Vegetable stir fry

For this revamped classic Asian side dish, choose what you like from broccoli, chopped carrots, green beans, sugar snaps, chopped eggplant, sliced red onion, mushrooms, kale, pok choy, asparagus, baby corn, bean sprouts. Cauliflower florets will need an extra few minutes to cook.   For two people, this is a quick and simple stir fry with vegetable oil flavoured with 2 tsp garlic paste, 4 tbsp Noyster sauce and 2 tbsp Nish sauce.

Vegetable stir fry with Noyster sauce.

Food for thought!

To paraphrase marketing tag lines from Lea and Perrins:

Just a dash of Sozyë brings food alive’.

Splash into your spaghetti Bolognese and add a splosh into your stir-fry.!’

These exciting, innovative British-made Sozyë Noya, Nish and Noyster sauces made from Scottish seaweed have already achieved great success as the winner of the Great Taste Awards in October 2021. 

For more information:


Available from Planet Organic Instore and www.planetorganic.com

‘Hotel to Home’ by Sophie Bush: the story of how traditional industrial design has inspired cool, contemporary décor.

This lavishly illustrated book takes the armchair traveller on a global journey to peek inside the most original revamped buildings from Berlin to Cape Town, Chicago to London, Sydney to Singapore: destinations for design enthusiasts. Sophie Bush is the founder of Warehouse Home, a biannual magazine and interior design service,  specialising in the industrial aesthetic for bold, contemporary style. 

When I travel, I hope to be inspired. Wherever I go, I try to stay in hotels with authentic stories and exceptional interiors. I am always looking for new ideas.”

Sophie Bush

The recent evolution of hotel design is fascinating.  Finding American hotels too large, old fashioned and impersonal, compared to his travels in Europe, Bill Kimpton opened the first, so called, Boutique hotel in 1981, The Bedford, San Francisco.  Three years later, Ian Schrager followed suit, launching Morgans on Madison Avenue, NYC, the first of a worldwide collection. Their respective vision was all about creative design & local culture, cocktail bars and modern cuisine, in-house music with personal attention from haute couture dressed staff.  Distinctive, desirable places to eat, drink, socialise, sleep, dream.

If the buzz words today are conservation and sustainability, then the re-imagining of disused factories and warehouses to create unusual Boutique hotels and private residences is a brilliant solution to preserve urban architectural heritage.  

This book features forty unique hotels, their stunning industrial architecture creatively preserved where steel structures, wooden beams and concrete walls now offer exciting and atmospheric places to stay with bold style and vintage vibe.

Architecture should speak of its time and place, but yearn for timelessness.’

Frank Gehry

The Titanic Hotel, Liverpool – a former rum factory

Formerly an old rum factory built in 1848, The Titanic Hotel, Liverpool overlooks Stanley Dock and is named after the legendary ship which was christened and set sail to New York from the city in 1912.  Now its exposed red bricked walls, iron columns and vaulted ceilings retain a sense of the its ‘spiritual’ history, juxtaposed with leather, tweed and wool furnishings.

A spacious suite in the Titanic Hotel

Soho House Chicago is a converted belt and leather tannery (1907). Now the vast concrete warehouse has been converted into a ‘Hip and happening’ private Club, full of impressive art work including by Damien Hirst.  The magnificent Drawing room has spacious soft velvet booths, chandeliers and polished parquet flooring.

Soho House, Chicago – the Drawing Room

The long forgotten 19th century Pearl Brewery is the charming, characterful setting for Hotel Emma, San Antonio, Texas, named after the heroic Prohibition era owner, which preserves the machinery, brickwork and distressed plasterwork with ‘timeless elegance.’ Furnished with Moroccan kilim rugs and leather armchairs, this is the place to chill out and sip a Texan craft beer.

Gorgeous George is an intimate, homely 32 bedroom, Boutique hotel in the inner city district of Cape Town, converted from two Art Deco and Edwardian buildings: wood panelling, brass and copper pipes with smart white tiles in the classic bathrooms.  As a cultural, arty, local hub, it’s described as “a living room for the neighbourhood.’

Gorgeous George – concrete, wood and leather materials decorate the bar and restaurant

The magnificent Zeitz Mocaa Museum, Cape Town showcasing African art, fashion and design, is located within a former grain Silo (1921) and its innovative restoration by the Heatherwick Studio, London, won a Global tourism award in 2019 from the British Guild of Travel Writers.  

The Silo Hotel entrance preserves the industrial heritage

On the top six floors above the Museum is the Silo Hotel with 18 foot windows for spectacular views over to Table Mountain and the Bay. The décor is a charming blend of Asian and European antiques, silk and velvet fabrics and African artwork. Stay in one of the 28 guestrooms including a Penthouse, all individually designed, and relax in the rooftop Bar.

The roof top bar at The Silo, overlooking Table Mountain

We created interiors to complement the stark industrial architecture with stylish, comfortable, decorative elements.”

Liz Biden, The Silo, Royal Portfolio Hotels.

A former United Artists Film Company office is now the address of the Ace Hotel Downtown, Los Angeles, a 1920s Gothic building partly inspired by Gaudi’s Sagrada Familia, Barcelona. Preserving the original structure, the décor focuses on Californian and Mexican culture and design – The Best Girl restaurant is named after the first movie screened at the UA theatre in 1927.

Ace Hotel, Downtown Los Angeles

The range of former industrial buildings is richly eclectic such as a former Cheese-making factory converted into the Ace Hotel, Chicago. The design concept is Bauhaus with bold, clean lines, plywood panels and chrome tubing, with a black, white and grey palette. The Bar has scenic views over the city skyline.

Ace Hotel, Chicago – a dramatic shower room

Clerkenwell, London is a buzzing neighbourhood of pubs, restaurants and creative businesses where The Zetter. Reminiscent of the slender shape of the Flatiron, NYC, the eco-friendly conversion of this Victorian warehouse retained sash windows, sourced vintage furniture and created a light-filled atrium with a changing showcase of art and sculpture. Rooftop rooms and a split level, circular Suite with private terraces offer panoramic views.

The Zetter, Clerkenwell

This is just a selection of the iconic hotels in unusual places – a former sugar mill in China, a Swedish power station and an 18th century garment factory in Paris – each preserving distinctive architectural features complemented with period or modern furnishings and artistic décor.  

As the title of the book suggests, Hotel to Home focuses on the designs, fabrics, material and use of space – bedrooms, bathrooms – to inspire the reader to add a touch of industrial chic to their own environment.  During nearly two years of lockdown, many of us working from home, we have been keen to decorate and design rooms afresh.

“If you want a golden rule that will fit everything, this is it: Have nothing in your houses that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful.”

William Morris

Chapters on residential Real Homes, such as Manhattan loft apartments, illustrate how to blend painted brickwork and raw concrete walls, tiles and timber for the weird and wonderful warehouse aesthetic.  Read all about mixing and matching raw materials for texture and colour. Terrazzo (a blend of marble, glass and quartz chippings) looks so effective for snazzy kitchen worktops and bathroom floors.

Whether a hotel or a home, the clever juxtaposition of hard steel and wood materials softened by velvet draped sofas and a splash of bold primary colours creates a dazzling, dramatic look.  There are suggestions for paintings, prints and statement, photorealistic wallpapers to jazz up a room with street art, abstract rugs or ‘paint- splattered’ fabrics. Great ideas too on book shelves, office space, how to create a feature bed, bathrooms, kitchen layout and the most appropriate lights and lamps for each room. 

This is not a travel guide.

It is a design manual filled with ideas for achieving hotel chic industrial style at home.” 

Sophie Bush

Well, I would say this book is an inspirational collection of desirable, unusual places to stay with bold and beautiful bedrooms, sleek bathrooms, smart bars, velvet draped sofas and quirky artwork offering a fabulous, fashionable home away from home.

Since 1981, the Kimpton brand continues to revolutionise hotel living. As a travel writer, reviewing luxury hotels, I have stayed in the revamped, uber-cool and contemporary Kimpton Charlotte Square, Edinburgh which offers a leisurely, liveable, home environment (Edinburgh Hotel of the Year 2020). Also love the classy Kimpton Blythswood, Glasgow, named Luxury Brand hotel, 2020.

I recently visited the majestic Kimpton Clocktower, Manchester, which was named recently in the Sunday Times as one of the best 100 hotels in the UK.  Formerly, the Refuge Assurance Company (1890), the hotel features Victorian red brickwork, ceramic tiles and stained glass as well as the fun and funky Refuge cocktail bar.  

And also in Manchester is the most exciting, new Moxy, Spinningfields, an “experiential,” nine storey hotel clad in weathered metal panels over the original façade retained from the former Hat factory. Bar Moxy and the social atrium space has a modern, industrial feel, with local-inspired artwork, curated Manchester illustrations and illuminated signs across the lobby. 

“There are two things that make a room timeless: a sense of history and a piece of the future.”

Charlotte Moss

You don’t need to live in a former factory or brewery to jazz up the atmosphere, ambience and style of your home whether it’s Victorian, Edwardian, 1930s or 60s et al. It’s all about architecture, function, comfort, décor and design to enhance original features and embrace your personal lifestyle.

‘Hotel to Home’ is an inspirational guide for interior design provides expert advice on finding salvaged materials, vintage curios, recycled furniture and artwork to create an individual sense of place, space and heritage.  A helpful comprehensive list of architects, designers and stockists is given at the end of the book.  

This is a timely, important story of renaissance, restoration and renewal of historic buildings, re-imagined with cool, contemporary design, practicality and purpose.

Hotel to Home: Industrial Interiors inspired by the world’s most original hotels

By Sophie Bush

Published by Warehouse Home, hardback £30.

ISBN: 978-1-527226-51-7.


(Reviewers note: Hotel to Home is a coffee table book designed like a glossy magazine with superb illustrations. However, apart from a larger typeface for chapter summaries, the font size of the main text is miniscule, and to read the Contents page, one almost needs a magnifying glass. There is an alphabetical list of hotels at the end but no page numbers. )

Bedroom with claw foot bath in Gorgeous George, Cape Town