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Inverness Virtues To Be Topped By Caithness Flagstone

25th November 2007

Invernessians have helped select three new virtues to take the city forward into the 21st century. The new virtues are perseverance, open-heartedness and insight. The new virtues will be incorporated into a sculpture and will form a new entrance feature to the Old Town. Located in the new pedestrianised area at the south end of Church Street, the new virtues will be inscribed individually in English, Gaelic and Old Norse on three sloping platforms, each topped with a layer of Caithness stone. Out of each platform will grow a single birch tree: one native Scottish variety, one North American and one Asian. These reflect that Inverness is now home to many diverse communities. Work begins on installing the new virtues early next month.

They will complement the city's three statues of Faith, Hope and Charity, which are due to return to the Highland capital from their exile in Orkney early in the new year.

The 'search for virtue' was led by prominent Scottish artist Matt Baker who was commissioned in early 2006 as the lead artist for the city centre Streetscape Programme.

Matt explained: "One of the first stories I heard in Inverness was about the way that the statues depicting the three virtues 'Faith, Hope and Charity' had been lost when the building on which they sat was demolished in the 1950s. Faith Hope and Charity had been chosen for the town in the Victorian age and it made me wonder what people would chose to 'look over' the city today."

This 'Search for Virtue' began with discussion within Church groups, the debate then widened out to include other community groups before spreading around the whole city in the form of a Text and Website vote. The process concluded with 'The Philosopher's Salon' held in Leakey's Bookshop, with 25 people participating.

Marie Mackintosh, City Partnership Officer, said: "As the city in the Highlands I think it is important that the city reflects some of the extraordinary landscape that surrounds it. The three virtues grew from the idea of transporting a small piece of the landscape around Inverness into the city centre. The use of natural local materials and the beauty of the indigenous trees as they grow and change through the seasons suggest a glimpse of the countryside. It is hoped that the three virtues will work as an entrance feature for the 'Old Town', a symbol of the rebirth of the area as a cultural district of Inverness, and that it will be useful to the public in many ways - as a calming place to sit or meet friends, as a traffic free space for performance or music."

The local community will get their first glimpse of the '3 Virtues' as the complex installation process begins early next month. The bases inscribed with the new words will be installed first. Within a few days the 'virtuous trees' will be planted (under the expert guidance of Highland Council's City Tree Officer Ben Clinch and Horticultural Officer Peter Kelly), then the natural stone covers will be fixed into place before Christmas. In early January the paving will be completed around the Artwork and the whole project will be complete ready for a public celebration event some time in February. Neighbouring businesses and community groups will be involved in planning this event.

Matt added: "Through working here I have developed a great love and respect for the 'Highland attitude' and the way you do things here - a quite bewildering array of different people have been involved with making '3 Virtues' possible; each adding their own individual stamp to the process. I hope this bodes well for the art work to play a useful part in the success story of Inverness."

The New 3 Virtues:

Perseverance: an early favourite that never faltered throughout the decision process. I like the way that this is a very traditional Scottish virtue reflecting the deep rooted Calvinism in our society, popular mythology eg Robert the Bruce and the spider and respect which we hold for sportspeople etc 'who never say die'.

Open-heartedness: One of the strong themes to emerge from the 'search for virtue' was the idea of 'highland hospitality' and of 'tolerance' to those who come to into the highlands. It was felt however that hospitality is now the name of an industry and that tolerance carries with it slightly negative undertones ie that we tolerate under sufferance.

Insight: The future is very present in Invernessian thinking just now, there were many suggestions for words such as Vision, Creativity, Enterprise. In the end the decision went in favour of Insight as having a sense of looking to the future whilst also retaining a sense of the wisdom and sensitivity in the highland character.

At the Inverness City Committee meeting on 12 November 2007 Councillors approved a recommendation to secure the return of the original Faith, Hope and Charity statues to Inverness. Discussions are continuing about where to locate these.

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