This section contains the answers to many of the questions that we are asked. Please also see our Links to extended information
Where is the tunnel? It is on the Water of Leith Walkway, in southwest Edinburgh. Because it's a former railway tunnel it doesn't have a postcode (though EH13 OJX is the nearest), but the following Google Maps link is helpful in finding it:
The Google "Plus Code" is WP5Q+5X Edinburgh
Why do you think that the mural will increase footfall for Colinton? The idea for the project came when our bank and a number of key retail businesses in the village were closing. We spoke with a number of people who had been involved with public art projects in the UK, Canada and the USA; and the consensus was that major public artworks become “destinations” in their own right. The small town of Chemainus, on Vancouver Island, saw an increase of almost 100,000 visitors annually after their mural project. We don’t expect to emulate that, but have been rigorous in establishing baseline footfall and cyclist data along our section of the Water of Leith Walkway so that succeeding annual surveys can measure change - which we anticipate being upward. We've just repeated the annual footfall count, which shows a 10% increase already. By the time we do it again this year we anticipate having many more visitors.
What are you doing about the wet parts of the tunnel? Since the Council did some repointing and other remedial work there is much less wetness, but about 3% of the tunnel is still damp or actively wet. Our artist came up with a briliiant solution, which addresses that problem and gives other benefits. 9mm marine plywood boards with a waterproof membrane behind them are now attached to the walls in various parts of the tunnel, including the wet bits. There is a gap behind them so that air and water can circulate, and they are removable for the Council's periodic structural inspections. The boards can be shaped, e.g. cut out like a person or an animal, or left square. That enables a sort of 3D effect in places, as you can see when you visit. The smooth surface of the boards also enables fine details to be painted, which isn't possible on the brickwork. Finally, the boards can be carried to schools, youth groups and other community participants for painting, taking the mural to them rather than needing to bring them to the tunnel. After painting, they are varnished on both sides and fixed to the brickwork. As you'll see, it works brilliantly!.
Surely this project will just attract more graffiti? This was also a concern of ours and we we have considered it very carefully. First, there is a body of research evidence which indicates that good quality public art tends to reduce the incidence of casual and/or antisocial graffiti. Some links to that research are at http://www.colintontunnel.org.uk/index.php/further-reading. We also consulted City of Edinburgh Council’s anti-graffiti specialists, who were unequivocal in saying that putting a mural in the tunnel is the best thing that could be done. We also considered, but ultimately rejected, using an anti-graffiti coating. That decision was primarily because, whilst affording limited protection, it would adversely affect the tunnel bricks’ ability to “breathe”, thus potentially causing long term damage. Finally, and pragmatically, we have accepted that there will always be a small risk of damage being done by a stupid minority, and our contract with the artist includes an initial five years of maintenance and repairs so that any unwanted additions are removed quickly. If funds permit, that post-painting repair provision will be extended further. The theory seems to be valid - there hasn't been a single problem since we began, despite the obvious attraction of a "blank canvas" of masonry paint along three quarters of the tunnel.
How much will it cost? The total project cost is a little over £100,000. That includes ongoing running costs in terms of the provision for the five-year maintenance that is in the artist's contract. There may be additional minor costs for ongoing schools and community engagement events, but we plan that these will potentially be covered by income from post-mural merchandising. That is likely to be part of a collaboration between ourselves and Colinton Village Enterprise, who plan to develop the shed in Spylaw Park as a heritage centre. That would serve as a retail outlet for tunnel mural prints and branded souvenirs. That strand of our marketing is not yet fully developed - we're mainly concentrating on creating the mural just now.
Did you have all the money before you started? No, but we'll need it to complete the job! Some capital projects, such as the statue and railings projects that have been done by Colinton Community Conservation Trust, require that almost all of the funding is in place before the project begins. We are able to take a more flexible approach and we are using a more dynamic approach and taking the project forward as a series of "panels" or mural components, as funding permits. That is also helpful for the artists, who need to have time available to address other clients' needs rather than having their time totally committed to our project. We can now receive donations through Virgin Money Giving (more cost-effective than JustGiving, as well as being UK based) and by text message. We also have a funding vs. target "thermometer" on our Giving page. There's signage in the tunnel pointing visitors towards the wayas that they can donate
You mailed some houses in Colinton asking for funding. Was that it? No - the initial limited local mailing was a focussed approach based on our local demographics, but the main quest for funding is much more than that. The Colinton Amenity Association, with whom we have been working closely, kindly gave us huge support in recent editions of their Colinton Magazine. The Parish Church's "Colinton News" also gave us great coverage, as did the Dell Directory; and we've featured in the Evening News, The Times and the Currie & Balerno News. Leaflets, describing the project and seeking funding, are available in the tunnel and other locations. Please help us. See our "Giving" page or use the link to Virgin Money Giving. We're also constantly researching and making applications for grants and other corporate funding. If you know of a grant-making body please let us know or suggest us to them.
When will you "go public"? We now have a stunning images covering over three quarters of the tunnel, and have gone very public! Word of mouth is working well, as are social media and our website. We started painting at the end of June 2019 - though weather meant that our original work schedule had to be changed. There are now stunning images on 100+ metres of walls and ceiling, and masonry painting/surface prep isall completed. Having something to see is attracting visitors (from far afield as well as from Edinburgh) and is also helping to attract both publicity and donations. It's great to have gone from "we're planning to ..." to "We are ...!"
And when will it be done? That depends on funding as well as artist resources, tunnel temperatures and weather. We originally planned to finish the mural by mid 2020, but then COVID-19 came along and lockdown threw our plans out of the window. Our main concern is to have a high quality outcome, and quality is more important than speed. We are now aiming for late September 2020, but that's subject to us raising sufficient funding to complete the job.