There is no shortage of metaphors involving fire. The vital spark that first ignites our interest, lights a fire under us and soon we are burning with desire or ambition. We, or others, fuel that ambition until we are almost literally blazing. The idea that a few moments ago was just smouldering can be fanned back into flame and, given the right support, will spread like wildfire among all those around us.
It is no accident that these metaphors are linked, so powerfully, with creativity – a legacy of our ancestors’ discovery of fire and its potential – for good and ill.
The shadows thrown up on the cave wall from our ancestors' early fires probably sparked the idea of intentionally marking those walls - and so the mural was born.
Of course fire is something to be feared. What can warm and comfort can also consume us if allowed free rein. So, at some point, our ancestors devised what we now know as the extinguisher. Another classical element – water – provides the simplest means of cooling the heat, dousing the flame and ultimately extinguishing the fire.
But the last thing we want is for our creative spark to be dampened far less extinguished. The great fear for all creative types is that the slowdown in generating new work will turn into a ‘creative block’ that, eventually, will signal the first stages of burnout.
All this considered, it was great to discover that an old fire station, used for generations to fight fires, had been transformed into an arts hub, dedicated to lighting and fuelling the creative sparks of a whole community of artists – and all those interested in the art they produce.
FireStation Creative opened this summer in Dunfermline, Fife, Scotland. Built in 1934, James Shearer’s ‘international design’ for the original fire station became an icon of progress in the town before lying empty for over five years. Now, the old fire station has been transformed into the thriving hub of Fire Station Creative - a charity and social enterprise set up to renovate the building and then to help fuel the creative appetites of the community as well as its artists - a Phoenix rising from the ashes of its own history.
With over 20 studios, a classroom, gallery and café, Fire Station Creative supports existing artists as well as inspiring the younger creative community.
I am proud to say that I was born and grew up in Dunfermline and used to pass the old Fire Station every day on my way to school. When travelling abroad I am often asked where I come from. Without hesitation I always say that I am from Dunfermline - ‘the capital of Scotland’. OK, I may be a few hundred years adrift but it still feels like a capital to me. The combined efforts of Ian Moir and his colleagues, along with Sarah Young, John Gibson, Billy George and many others, is restoring some of that capital feel to the Auld Grey Toon.
It is interesting that, on the day I first visited Fire Station Creative, I came across the out-of-print autobiography of my mother’s cousin, the Scots sculptor Harry Bain.
Harry called his book “The Fire Within: Life in sculpture”.
Now that is what I call synchronicity.
May all the fires of all the Dunfermline artists never go out!