Edinburgh Fire Poem
1 August – 1 September 2013
Fire rituals have long been a familiar feature of the Scottish landscape – from the Celtic Beltane Fire to the burning of Viking longboats. Indeed, the use of fire in Robert Montgomery’s work is connected to his childhood in Bathgate, West Lothian, where an historical fire torch procession is still a key part of the town’s annual Gala Day.
Montgomery’s sculptural poem, created in oak to be burnt on the opening day of the festival, references another vivid childhood memory. The artist spent a term receiving lessons in an adhoc classroom set up in the hallway of his primary school after it had suffered a serious fire, and keenly recollects the smell of burnt wood which permeated the building.
Free education is a subject very close to Montgomery’s heart. His grandparents were miners in West Lothian and Lanarkshire, and he speaks passionately about Scotland’s tradition of free education and of the generations of miners who campaigned for education for their children – a concern that, the artist suggests, is just urgent today as it ever was.
Montgomery’s latest work reflects on another cornerstone of Scottish identity, the Jacobite tradition of rebellion and exile chosen in the pursuit of freedom. The poem will stand for the duration of the festival, a charred monument to the choice of freedom over power, a literal expression of the artist’s words, ‘rather burned than captured’.
To watch a short film of the artist discussing his work for the festival, click here.
Robert Montgomery, Edinburgh Fire Poem, 2013. Image courtesy of Dael Poulter.
Accessible 24 hours a day
Installed on The Mound, in front of New College
Mound Place, EH1 2LX
1 August 2013
Robert Montgomery: burning of Edinburgh Fire Poem
Free admission. Book tickets.