Historic Scotland Insists Graffiti has to go at Kelburn Castle is a myth

**Please note Historic Scotland has contacted us about the inaccuracies of this story please see their comment below **


The Sao Paulo Crew artists from Brazil put their graffiti on Kelburn Castle in 2007, but it was meant to come off after three years

The Sao Paulo Crew artists from Brazil put their graffiti on Kelburn Castle in 2007, but it was meant to come off after three years

Kelburn Castle in Ayrshire, the ancient family seat of the Boyle clan is famous for having the most controversial artistic additions to any historic building in the country. A group of Brazilian graffiti artists were let loose on the long suffering castle under the strict condition that the art work would be removed within three years.

It is now five months after the castle’s owners should have obliterated the graffiti, Historic Scotland has stepped in. The government’s heritage agency has ordered the removal of the colourful artwork adorning the walls of the 13th-century pile.

The owner Lord Glasgow, Chief of Clan Boyle, states that a fire at the castle which destroyed part of the roof – and the continuing financial crisis being faced has delayed its removal.

Historic Scotland, which has a legal duty to protect ancient buildings, has had a series of meetings with the Boyles over the issue, but so far they have been inconclusive.

The organisation’s principal inspector for Glasgow and the south west, Ranald MacInnes, said the castle is one of the most important buildings in the country, and that graffiti must not become a permanent feature.

He said: “In heritage terms, this is a building of great local and national importance. The three-year time limit was put on the artwork for this reason.

“We believe that the graffiti was actually a very good idea. The rendering it was put on was having to be removed anyway, and this was a modern way to enhance the appearance of the castle until that time.

“In historical terms, buildings have always been adorned in decorative ways which were modern for their own times, so there was no reason to object to the graffiti.

“However, there needs to be a proper strategy for its removal and the removal of the harling underneath.”

The local authority, which granted consent for the graffiti in 2007, confirmed that the permission expired in May.

A spokeswoman for North Ayrshire Council said: “We are aware that the consent has expired but it is now up to the applicant to apply to extend that particular consent.”

The Brazilian artists invited to decorate the castle, known as the Sao Paulo Crew, painted graffiti on the walls and turrets of the south side of the building, near Largs.

Lord and Lady Glasgow’s daughter, Alice Boyle, said she and her brother David came up with the idea. At the time Boyle said: “We thought we should use the opportunity to brighten up the castle walls. We will give them artistic licence – they can do what they like. Their work is amazing and it’s very colourful.”

About 1,500 cans of spray paint were used in The Graffiti Project, which cost an estimated £20,000. Surreal art scenes depicting Brazilian urban culture against the backdrop of the castle in rural Scotland was completed in May, 2007.

Kelburn has been in the Boyle family for more than 800 years and is thought to be the oldest castle in Scotland to have been continuously inhabited by the same family.

However, the aristocratic clan have been involved in a series of mishaps in recent years.

A BBC documentary broadcast in 2007, Crisis at the Castle, highlighted the family’s financial difficulties. Lord Glasgow hit out at the filmmakers, saying they had edited the programme to make his family look “ridiculous, old-fashioned, dysfunctional and incompetent”.

Then last February, the family were hit with a fresh crisis when a large fire destroyed part of the roof of the castle.

Lord Glasgow has been forced to raise an estimated £2 million to repair the damage, as well as other structural problems.

His son, David Boyle, Viscount Kelburn, admitted times were tough at the castle, but he has been organising high profile events, such as a recent summer festival and regular car boot sales, to raise cash.

He also staged a Brazilian festival at the castle last month, to celebrate the graffiti and the castle’s South American link. A spokeswoman for the estate said: “The graffiti has proven extremely popular but we don’t know exactly when it will be removed.”

We wonder what you think about this, please let us know.


About Amanda Moffet

I run www.scotclans.com with Rodger Moffet. Live in Edinburgh and love travelling around Scotland gathering stories.

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3 thoughts on “Historic Scotland Insists Graffiti has to go at Kelburn Castle is a myth

  1. Caireen Christie

    Do you know! I’m not sure whether this grafitti art should go. I think the target was to attract younger generations to the history of Kelburn Castle. Most history is lost and I do find it a very colourful modern looking historic building.

    Where I live, we have an issue with Cumbernauld Castle! We are fighting to prevent it being bought over by developers that want to turn it into flats.

    Its big news here. Mary Queen of Scots stayed here and it was also gifted to the people of Cumbernauld by Robert The Bruce himself!

    Hopefully all will work out in the end! :)

  2. amandamoffet

    Historic Scotland has commented PLEASE READ:

    regarding your blog entry – ‘Historic Scotland Insists Graffiti has to go at Kelburn Castle’.

    This is not, and has never been the case.

    Unfortunately there were a number of inaccuracies within your article – I assume you got the information from an article in Scotland on Sunday, written by Mark Smith?

    We wrote a letter to Scotland on Sunday alongside Lord Glasgow, in order to complain about the amount of misleading information.

    Both letters were printed.

    I would be grateful if you could also print both letters in order to set the record straight,

    Best wishes

    Jennifer Johnston-Watt

    Communications and Media Officer

    Here is the letter:

    Dear Letters Editor,

    I am writing with regard to the article, Graffiti has to go, insists heritage body, published in today’s Scotland on Sunday, 5th September 2010.

    I would like to clarify the following inaccuracies:

    • Historic Scotland has not stepped in and ordered the removal of the graffiti from Kelburn Castle and will not be doing so in the future.

    • Although we have had meetings with the Castle’s owners and North Ayrshire Council these have not been specifically to discuss the removal of the artwork.

    • We were happy to support this exciting and innovative project. The artwork is a celebration of Kelburn Castle’s importance as a historic building and has attracted many visitors to the Estate.

    The following statement was issued to Scotland on Sunday on 3rd September 2010.

    “Listed building consent was granted by North Ayrshire Council in 2007 for a period of three years to accommodate the artwork. The artwork is a celebration of Kelburn Castle’s importance as a historic building. In time the existing cement render will be replaced by a traditional coating of harling.

    “Work to remove the graffiti along with the cement render and to apply harling may need listed building consent if the Council decides that the work will affect the character of the building. Historic Scotland is very happy to continue to advise the Council as necessary.”

    Yours faithfully

    Ranald MacInnes,

    Historic Scotland’s Principal Inspector for Glasgow and the south west

  3. Manfred UK

    One thing = North Ayrshire Council said: “Yes” – not knowing what kind of scribble graffiti they have to defend for 3 years. A great Council with a vision.

    Not everyone can see here a touch of Hieronimus Bosch and a remarkable presence of Friedensreich Hundertwasser.

    Luckily, die Kleingeister, the small bore did not get the upper hand.

    Kelburn Castle still shines in Sao Paulo Crew colours and is mainly loved. To be also nice to the critics, a further consent could be given for every 3 – 5 years, till everyone got tired of it. But ending the permission should not mean to remove it. Applying a deep coating through to the stone structure and a colourless top coating followed by a separation coating will make it long lasting and able to carry an additional layer of historic beige-grey paint, easy removable after centuries . . .

    . . . which cold happen in half a millennium time of – still Clan Boile occupation when . . .

    . . . an Andromeda space ship congestion parks high above – now Great-Ayrshire – losing a sewage icicle, piercing the long forgotten Brazilian art work. This recovering attracts interstellar interests crowned by a festival with far outmatching intendancy numbers of Notting Hill Carnival.

    There is great future in Ayrshire. HMB 30.8.2011


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