Artist's video about new Danderhall sculpture

The thinking behind the design for a new sculpture which will stand outside Danderhall Community Hub has been unveiled by the artist, Alex Allan.

Pupils helped shape his ideas

Alex held workshops with every class at Danderhall Primary School prior to and during the lockdown, to work up their ideas into a final proposal. In a special video link, Alex provides an overview of the story behind the design along with an outline of what the final piece will look like.

The new community sculpture will act as a focal point in the public area in front of the hub building, which includes the new primary school, early learning centre, library, leisure and community facilities.

Key words

During the consultation, the local children were asked to think about their community and translate their thoughts into an imagined sculpture. Choosing a series of key words, they worked together to communicate these into three dimensions using clay.  Their chosen words were Small, Nature, Co-Op (to be read as Co-operative), Peaceful, Achieving, Mining, Social, Connected and Together. 

Danderhall's history

The words conveyed an over-arching awareness of their area's history, particularly its mining and industrial past. The resulting design, given the working title ‘Graft’, is an amalgamation of a traditional smith's hammer, a miner’s pick and a joiner's claw.

Instantly recognisable symbol

“The hammer has been used for millions of years, initially without a handle, to deliver concentrated impact onto a surface,” explained Alex. “By taking something as instantly recognisable and with such instinctive connotations as a hammer, its intention in this instance is to raise questions and its use in the sculpture can be read in many ways.

Exploring possibilities

“Many of the children I spoke with are at an age where they would have soon been on their way to a career in the mining industry - it was not uncommon for children their age to be put to work out of school to provide income for their household.  Fortunately this method of labour has been put to an end and children are more able to enjoy their childhood and explore new possibilities far beyond their immediate surroundings,” added Alex.

New freedoms

“My hope is that this sculpture will become a symbol of this relatively new freedom - one which is about to be expanded upon by the changes taking place in and around the town.”

Book planned too

Alongside the new sculpture are plans for a unique book to be displayed in the new library, which chronicles the children’s explorations in class.  “A kind of accessible time capsule, this book will be a snapshot into the minds of the children of Danderhall at this moment in their history,” said Alex.

Great partnership working

Midlothian Councils’ Cabinet Member for Education, Councillor Jim Muirhead said “This is a great example of our children’s involvement in our school developments. We are keen for the children to gain as many learning experiences as possible from these developments. It’s not often that school children are able to work with a leading artist such as Alex. I am sure many of these children will enjoy this piece for years to come as they visit and enjoy using the new facilities.

"The main contractor, Heron Brothers, commissioned Alex after consulting with Edinburgh University. The project is another example of great partnership working between the council and the university.”


22 Jul 2020