This section contains the answers to many of the questions that we are asked. Please also see our Links to extended information
Why do you think that the mural will increase footfall for Colinton? The idea for the project came about over two years ago when our bank and a number of key retail businesses in the village were closing. We spoke with a number of people who have 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.
What are you doing about the wet parts of the tunnel? Since the Council did some repointing and other remedial work, about 18 months ago, 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 will be attached to the walls in various parts of the tunnel, including the wet bits. There will be a gap behind them so that air and water can circulate, and they will be 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. The smooth surface 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 will be varnished on both sides and mounted onto the brickwork.
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.
How much will it cost? The total project cost is a little under £100,000 (Firm cost estimates of £83,425 plus a 15% contingency means that we are working towards an overall budget of £95,939). 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 have plans to develop the shed in Spylaw Park as a heritage centre. That would serve as a retail outlet for tunnel mural prints and souvenirs, although that longer-term strand of our marketing is not yet fully developed - we're mainly concentrating on creating the mural at present.
Do you need all the money before you start? Some front-end loaded capital projects, such as the statue and railings projects that have been done so well 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 our agreement with the art team is that we will take the project forward as a series of "panels", or mural components, as funding permits, taking a more dynamic approach. 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 are also currently setting up with Virgin Money Giving (more cost-effective than JustGiving, as well as being UK based), where we will be going down the route of an income vs. target "thermometer" being displayed. We also have the technology in place to show a funding vs. target map on our website, but have not yet activated it.
You mailed some houses in Colinton asking for funding. Is that it? No - the limited local mailing was a focussed approach based on our local demographics, but the main "launch" of both project and local donating will be three-fold. The Colinton Amenity Association, with whom we have been working closely, will distribute their Spring Colinton magazine at the end of the month. The front and back covers will feature pictures of the tunnel with an emphatic request for support on the back cover. At the centre of the magazine will be a four-page series of articles, providing a project update, an artist profile and releasing the design concept. Every copy of the magazine will also have a loose insert, with a "please donate" request on one side and a gift aid form on the other. No minimum amounts will be specified - we're very happy to have lots of £10 and £20 amounts, and equally happy to have some bigger sums too!
When will you "go public"? We have a meeting in the next few days with both the Convenor of Culture and Communities at CEC (who is a strong supporter of the project) and the Council's Executive Director of Place (who is also fully supportive). Our artist will be there too, as will the Council's PR people and photographer. We're letting them be the first to reveal the concept, but will launch it to press and media during the immediately following days. In reality, the point at which paint is being applied to walls will be more attractive to the media than the mere release of the concept, but it would be foolish not to use the Council's PR machine, which also confirms that they support the project. The tunnel is, after all, theirs.
The final bit of launch activity will be an exhibition of the mural designs, a "meet the artist" and a further community engagement drop-in event at Colinton Parish Church. That exhibition will run from 23rd April to 29th April. Notices about it will appear in the village next week, and it is also on Facebook and our website.
So when does it start? There's been a lot happening behind the scenes, and the community engagement work has been going on for some time. We anticipate starting painting in May - at the far end of the tunnel on the large (17m x 7 m) brick abuttment wall. We've a striking design for that. If all goes well, that first "panel" should be complete by around the end of June. Again, having something to see is what is likely to attract people and, we hope, both publicity and donations.
And when will it be done? That depends on funding. If we have the success that we hope for, the mural could be complete by the end of 2019. We're not fixed on that, though, and accept that it might take until early 2020. Our main concern is to have a high quality outcome, and quality is more important than speed.