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Looking Back: Fun and games at the Netherbow

From November 1972


Fun and games at the Netherbow by Allen Wright

John Knox’s statue in the forecourt of the Assembly Hall never fails to arouse comment from some of the London critics who go there to review plays at the Edinburgh Festival. Knox is held responsible for all that is stern and forbidding in Scottish life, as if his spirit lingered over the land like a grim haar stifling creativity and joy.

That sombre statue suits their case, but anyone who would like to advance the opposite argument that Knox stood for enlightenment and freedom might point out that his house is the most cheerful looking building in Edinburgh. Its picturesque gables, prominent in the cover picture of this issue of Life + Work, puncture the gloom of the Royal Mile where it now has an attractive partner – the Netherbow.

That the Church Of Scotland should build an arts centre next door to Knox’s house is remarkable. That it should look so inviting, with its spacious courtyard welcoming people in from the street, is admirable. But the most refreshing thing about the project is that no rigid policy has been laid down. The Home Board have provided the facilities the facilities for artistic enterprise and it is up to writers, actors, musicians and anyone with lively ideas to make use of the Netherbow.

The first public presentation towards the end of November is to be a multi-media show devised and produced by John L. Paterson entitled Knox in Camera.

Over several weeks, there will be afternoon and evening sessions to cater for individual visitors and groups.

The director is the Rev. George Candlish who ran the Gateway Theatre for the Home Board from 1946 until it was sold to Scottish Television four years ago. The proceeds from the sale of the Gateway, and adjoining property which was given to the Church, have paid for the Netherbow.

The centre will keep alive the Church’s involvement in the Arts but it will not be run on the same lines as the Gateway. Instead of regular seasons of plays or films, there will be occasional performances and exhibitions and the emphasis will be on participation rather than just watching other people’s efforts.


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Life and Work is the magazine of the Church of Scotland. Subscribe here.