Chapbook - A link to the North East’s Folk Music History

Some of the very first words of Scotland’s mid-twentieth century Folk Revival commended the folk music of Aberdeenshire: speaking in Edinburgh in 1951 the folklorist Hamish Henderson ushered in the revival movement while praising the ‘fine rumbustious quality’ of Buchan folksongs.1 The North East had long held a significant position in the history of Scottish folk music, and with the development of the Revival over the following two decades the area’s stature as a centre of folksong would become even more renowned.

I am a PhD student researching the Revival in Scotland. I have a dual purpose in mind in writing this article: to share with you a little of Aberdeen’s musical history, especially as it relates to the Revival movement; and to seek out anybody who may have old copies of Chapbook, the Revival magazine of Aberdeen Folksong Club, who might be able to help me with my research. First, let me sing for my supper.

A reputation for folksong

The North East’s reputation for folksong dates back at least several centuries. Danny Couper, fish merchant and co-founder of Aberdeen Folk Club, explains this history through the area’s links with fishing and farming.2 Fishing communities all over Scotland have traditions of song and choir; more local to Aberdeen are the Bothy Ballads, written and sung by North East farm workers and named for the basic farm buildings in which they lived. Aberdeenshire was also home to many Travellers who took part in an active oral culture which included singing and storytelling.

The area’s strong links to ongoing musical traditions attracted people interested in folksongs and ballads for many years before the Revival: 91 of Francis James Child’s seminal collection of 305 ballads, from the second part of the nineteenth century, are from Aberdeenshire;3 while Gavin Grieg and James Bruce Duncan’s revered collection, from the start of the twentieth century, includes nearly two-thousands songs recorded in the North East.

All ears turned to the North East

Unsurprisingly, then, when the Scottish Folk Revival of the mid-twentieth century got underway all ears turned once again to the North East. The Revival was a far-reaching movement to re-introduce the people of Scotland to a style of folk music which many, especially in urban central-belt areas, knew little about. Spanning the 1950s and 60s, the Revival had different intentions for different people: to ‘save’ what was seen by some as a dying culture; to regenerate that culture and give it a renewed vitality; to show that the everyday culture and experiences of normal people were worthwhile, meaningful and powerful; and to address political issues through this form of popular culture. With so many aims, the movement also spanned a range of activities.

A caricature of the folk revivalist Hamish Henderson on the back of Chapbook 2.5

In its first decade, the 1950s, a lot of the Revival centred around finding and recording folksong singers. The largest amount of so-called ‘collecting’ was carried out by workers from the School of Scottish Studies at the University of Edinburgh. Folklorists from the institution, such as Calum MacLean and Hamish Henderson, utilised new portable technology to visit and record singers, storytellers, and other people who took part in traditional culture all over Scotland. Many people who collectors revered for their knowledge of folksong were from the North East, including Jessie Murray, Jimmy MacBeath and Jeannie Robertson – all singers who many involved in Scottish folk music nowadays would still think of very highly.

Aberdeen Folksong club

By the turn of the decade, the collecting-focus of the early years was giving way to growing public interest in folksong. In the early 1950s, a series of ceilidhs had been organised in Edinburgh as part of the People’s Festival, designed ‘By Working People for Working People.’4 These introduced people to folk music, demonstrated that the tradition had not yet disappeared, and set some on their own path to folk revivalism. From the late 1950s through to the end of the Revival, a growth of public-facing activities introduced new audiences to longstanding folksingers and generated a huge uptake in folk singing among fresh enthusiasts. Commercial records were published, print and broadcasting media gave increasing time to folk music, and across the country folk clubs and festivals were founded.

Aberdeen Folksong Club was founded in 1962 by Danny Couper, introduced above, and Arthur Argo, a journalist and great-grandson of the previously-mentioned collector Gavin Greig. Most folk club meetings in this period followed a similar set-up: an invited guest would perform several times across an evening, and the rest of the night would consist of ‘floor spots’ where club members and the audience could contribute. Where Aberdeen Folksong Club differed was in the ongoing vitality of the musical culture which surrounded it.

An excerpt from Chapbook 5.3 of the tune and lyrics of ‘Busk, Busk’ as sung by Cathy Stewart

While clubs elsewhere in Scotland might have to look around the country for guests, singers local to Aberdeen were also some of the hallowed names of the Revival. Well-grounded as it was in the region’s traditional music, though, the Club could also draw in larger acts; Ewan MacColl and Peggy Seeger, Jean Ritchie, and Martin Carthy all topped the bill at Club nights or festivals within a few years of its opening. Couper explains how, for Argo, Northeast songs were part of a ‘global context’;5 for many involved in the Revival, at Aberdeen Folksong Club and elsewhere, folk music spoke to the international experiences of working people.

The revival and Chapbook

Aside from live performances, Aberdeen Folksong Club also played another major role in the Revival: the Club magazine Chapbook, published from 1964 to 1969, became the de facto publication of the Scottish movement. The magazine was edited by Argo, initially in Aberdeen and later from Edinburgh, and Ian Philip and Carl MacDougall, who brought perspectives from the West of Scotland. Chapbook took its name from small, cheap paper booklets sold as street literature mostly throughout the seventeenth to nineteenth centuries.

The magazine, which regularly ran to over 30 pages, contained matters relevant to both the Aberdeen and national folk scene: new and old songs, notices and reviews of events and records, and discussions on topics ranging from the state of Scottish folk clubs to William McGonagall’s relationship with ‘folk-poetry’. Some magazines also contained more miscellaneous content, like cartoons of prominent folkies or instructions for homebrewing beer!

3 – A selection of Chapbook magazines and Aberdeen Folk Festival programmes

As I mentioned at the start of this article I am researching the Folk Revival in Scotland and, given the forefront position of Chapbook within the movement, very keen to study as many copies of the magazine as I can. My research looks especially at the Revival’s cultural-political position and, as part of this, I’m interested in how people took part in, viewed, and talked about folk music during the period. Chapbook offers a great window into the Revival, demonstrating what the people running and attending folk clubs felt should be shared with the national movement. Some copies of the magazine are available through libraries in Edinburgh, but the collections are far from complete and aren’t the most accessible to me at present.

Can you help in finding copies of Chapbook

I would therefore love to hear from anybody who might have an old copy or two tucked away that they would be willing to let me look at (for my purposes a photocopy would suit just as well as the real thing!). If you might be able to help please contact me via email at

Although the focus of this article has been historical Aberdeen Folk Club is, of course, not a thing of the past. The Club, which has long since dropped ‘song’ from its title to reflect the post-revival growth of instrumental folk music, still meets regularly. The group can be found every Wednesday at the Blue Lamp, 121 Gallowgate, beginning from 8 pm for an 8.30 pm start. Singers, instrumentalists and listeners are all welcome for sessions and open mic nights, and the Club also hosts occasional concerts from visiting artists. Aberdeen Folk Club just celebrated their 60th birthday and are still one of the top clubs going, winning Club of the Year at the most recent Scots Trad Music Awards. The prize is demonstrative that that ‘fine’ folk song Henderson identified in the North East in the 1950s still has a home in Aberdeen.


1 This event was the first Edinburgh People’s Festival Ceilidh, which I discuss more below. A recording of Henderson speaking these words can be found at the Lomax Digital Archive.

2 Quoted in Ewan McVicar, The E****o Republic: Scots political folk song in action 1951 to 1999 (Linlithgow: Gallus Publishing, 2010), p. 137

3 Les Wheeler, ‘Traditional Ballads in North East Scotland

4 Hamish Henderson, ‘The Edinburgh People’s Festival, 1951-54’ in A Weapon in the Struggle: The Cultural History of the Communist Party of Great Britain, ed. by Andy Croft (London; Sterling, Virginia: Pluto Press, 1998), pp. 163-170 (p. 165)

5 Quoted in McVicar, p. 261

Art Gallery micro commissions awarded to local artists

Aberdeen Art Gallery and Friends of Aberdeen Art Gallery have announced the three local artists who will receive funding for micro commissions. The call for proposals was open to creatives residing in Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire. The objective was to create new works that respond to Aberdeen's exceptional art and history collection.

The applicants were requested to share their experiences in Aberdeen, focusing on themes such as diversity, social justice, climate change, representation, identity, well-being, and migration. The commissioned artists will work with the Aberdeen Archives, Gallery & Museums' collection and curatorial specialists. They can also exhibit their works through public talks, events, performances, workshops, and displays.

Amy Benzie

The artists awarded micro-commissions

Amy Benzie: Amy is a ceramic maker from Torry, Aberdeen, who finds inspiration in the interplay between art and science. She plans to explore local knowledge and traditional healing practices of the North East. And to create a collection of ceramics that reflect these themes.

Find Amy's work here

Clive Ramage: A self-taught artist, Clive is known for his unique paintings and hand-made prints. He will create a triptych of prints inspired by the John Piper painting of Dunnottar Castle. He'll explore the theme of disintegration and how it can lead to creating something beautiful.

Find Clive's work here

Helen Scaife: Helen is a painter and performance artist who intends to create a mixed-media painting that addresses global and local issues related to climate change. Her painting will be based on the setting of Aberdeen harbour. She has been inspired by the artwork Paddle Steamer 'Sovereign' Entering Aberdeen Harbour in the gallery collection.

Find Helen's work here

Clive Ramage

Supported by the Friends of Aberdeen Art Gallery & Museums

The completed pieces could be small-scale, and the development and production process need not be extensive. The Aberdeen City Council will preserve the artworks, which could also become a permanent part of the collection.

This is the third round of micro-commissions sponsored by the Art Gallery and the first one supported by the Friends of Aberdeen Art Gallery & Museums. The Gallery received funding as a joint winner of Art Fund Museum of the Year in 2020. This is what led to the program's creation.

Helen Scaife

Michael Richardson, Chair of the Friends of Aberdeen Art Gallery & Museums, said: “The Friends are very proud of the support they have provided for the development of Aberdeen’s superb collection since the group was established in 1975. Over the years we have supported new acquisitions, conservation work and a large-scale site-specific commission for the Art Gallery during the redevelopment project.

"I’m delighted that we are now supporting the micro-commissions programme, which has become an in important source of support for local artists. Anyone who is interested in finding out more about the Friends of Aberdeen Art Gallery & Museums can come along and meet some of us during our next Friends’ Weekend at the Gallery on 15 and 16 April.”

New gallery Growing Pains takes root

Two Aberdeen-based contemporary artists have teamed up for a new collaborative gallery and creative workspace called Growing Pains. Gray's School of Art graduates Caitlin Robb and Ace Ireland are establishing an all-inclusive gallery to develop new artists and hope to expand into other creative areas.

The name Growing Pains represents their struggle of leaving art school and figuring out what comes next. And also the time-consuming nature of the entire process. It's a recognition of the challenges and pain that often come with finding our way through the world.

The team behind Growing Pains

Ace Ireland, who grew up in Balloch, uses expressive art to evaluate life events that have changed their outlook. They focus on religion, technology, death, and the human condition, pushing the boundaries between what is considered professional and what is considered art. Ace uses poetry, pyrography and sculpture to explore ways to help people process trauma.

Contemporary artist Caitlin Robb is originally from Fife. She uses art to explore the natural world, anatomy, spirituality, and social issues. Her recent work has focused on our relationship with bodies of water. Robb's practice incorporates drawing, printmaking, analogue photography, ceramics, and poetry. She also believes being intimately involved in her art lets her express ideas and thoughts with clarity.

Lifting up those who often go unheard

The pair's frustration with galleries that follow tried and tested templates has led them to set up Growing Pains to encourage the exploration of taboo topics that other galleries may avoid. They're committed to working with people from diverse backgrounds and lifting up those whose voices often go unheard. They believe that hearing from different perspectives helps everyone grow.

Growing Pains seeks to achieve all this within a unique space that moves away from the traditional "white cube" gallery setting. They're creating a gallery that can add flavour to the artwork displayed. Building a safe space for both artists and visitors.

We'll keep you up-to-date about this intriguing new gallery, but for now you can follow them on Twitter and Instagram, and sign up for their newsletter.

Aberdeen Art Gallery brings a little serenity to Relaxed Mondays

Visitors to Aberdeen Art Gallery can now experience a new relaxed and comfortable environment on Mondays. The gallery team hopes Relaxed Mondays will appeal to those who may prefer a calmer environment. This includes families with neurodivergent children, neurodivergent young people and adults, adults living with dementia, and those with mental health problems.

To provide a more sensory-friendly environment, the Gallery has teamed up with Aberdeen charity, We Too! The team received ‘sensory first aid’ training and developed resources, such as an access guide, visual story, sensory den, and sensory kits, to make the experience more enjoyable for all visitors. The charity, which has previously supported visitors with additional support needs during the Spectra festival in 2022, will have their Ninjas on hand during this weekend's Spectra event.

Aberdeen Art Gallery’s exterior view
Photo by Chris Sansbury

Relaxed Mondays make everyone's experience memorable

Visitors on Relaxed Mondays can expect to be greeted by friendly, well-trained staff who are ready to answer any questions and make everyone's experience memorable. Sensory backpacks are available to borrow to further enhance the visit, including dark glasses, ear defenders, and fidget toys. A quiet sensory den has also been set up for those who may need a moment of peace.

Everyone is welcome to visit on Mondays, but to ensure a relaxed environment, the Gallery will not be accepting large group bookings. The friendly staff will be on hand to make everyone feel at home.

Creating the best customer experience for everyone

Phionna McInnes, of We Too! said, “As a customer-driven organisation, it’s our aim to reverse the inclusion model where Relaxed Sessions are predominantly for ASN (Additional Support Needs) participants, but in fact everyone is welcome as long as they are aware of the needs of others visiting at that time. It’s been great working with the Gallery team and other partners in the city who are passionate about inclusion and creating the best customer experience for everyone.”

Relaxed Mondays begin at Aberdeen Art Gallery on Monday 13 February.
Admission free

Aberdeen Art Gallery set for a thrilling year ahead

Aberdeen Art Gallery has announced an exciting lineup of exhibitions for all ages and interests in 2023. The program includes a showcase of Sir Quentin Blake's book covers and illustrations, in honour of his 90th birthday. Additionally, 20 world-renowned photographers from the Magnum Photos collective have captured some of the most famous artists in recent history in their studios.

Three of Scotland's top artists, Lennox Dunbar, Ian Howard, and Arthur Watson, will also be returning to exhibit in their hometown. Also, a rare 17th-century manuscript recently added to the UNESCO-recognized city archives will shed light on the civic and religious life of the city during a time of political upheaval and religious persecution.

Overall, the program sounds like it has something for everyone and is definitely worth checking out.

Shadows and Light – The Extraordinary Life of James McBey

11 February – 28 May

Shadows and Light, curated by author Alasdair Soussi, celebrates Aberdeenshire-born artist and adventurer James McBey. He was noted for his etchings and dry point engravings, and was once described as the “heir to Rembrandt”. This small-scale exhibition is curated by author Alasdair Soussi to coincide with his recently-published biography of McBey.

Travelling Gallery


A new two-person exhibition by artist Emmie McLuskey and choreographer Janice Parker will be featured in the Contemporary Gallery on a bus in Aberdeen. The exhibit, titled "Movement," combines dance and art to explore the relationship between the two. Keep an eye out for the Travelling Gallery as it makes stops across the city in March.

The Testament of Alexander Jaffray

4 March – 3 September

The Testament of Alexander Jaffray is an exhibition that examines the life of the two-time provost of Aberdeen. 2023 marks the 350th anniversary of the death of Alexander Jaffray, representative of the burgh in the Scottish Parliament. This prominent member of the community later became a Quaker, at a time when doing so would certainly mean persecution.

Where Ideas are Born

1 April – 11 June

Get ready for a visual feast at Aberdeen Art Gallery. Where Ideas are Born brings together over 20 talented photographers from the famous Magnum agency. This includes legends like Inge Morath, Eve Arnold, and Robert Capa. You’ll see 70 mesmerising photo portraits of world-renowned artists like Andy Warhol, George O’Keeffe, Ai Weiwei, and Yayoi Kusama.

Making a Splash! A Century of Women’s Beachwear

10 June – 14 January

Experience the evolution of beach fashion as it was shaped by historical events, the glitz and glamour of Hollywood, and groundbreaking design and material advancements. Dive into the Archives, Gallery & Museums' collection of stunning 20th-century beachwear, including iconic bathing costumes, in this must-see exhibition. See how the sands of time have shaped the way we dress for the beach.

Quentin Blake – Illustrating Verse and Book Covers

8 July – 17 September

Two Aberdeen Art Gallery exhibitions celebrate the talents of Quentin Blake. Illustrating Verse brings together for the first time a selection of Blake’s sketches and illustrations for a range of poetry, from comic nonsense poems to poignant ballads. While Book Covers demonstrates how Quentin Blake's illustrations have grabbed the attention of readers of all ages over the past 60 years. The exhibition includes reproductions of the cover artwork and rough sketches which give insights into Blake’s unmistakable work.

Constructed Narratives: Lennox Dunbar, Ian Howard, Arthur Watson

14 October – 28 January

Discover the works of three of Scotland's premier artists at this must-see exhibition. Lennox Dunbar, Ian Howard, and Arthur Watson, all hailing from Aberdeen, were nurtured by art teacher Charles Hemingway at Aberdeen Grammar School and went on to hold influential roles in Scotland's art scene.

About Aberdeen Art Gallery

Aberdeen Art Gallery is a vibrant cultural hub located in the heart of the city. Since its founding in 1884, the gallery has played a vital role in the cultural life of the region, showcasing a wide range of art from both local and international artists.

The gallery is home to a stunning collection of works of art, including paintings, sculptures, prints, and photographs. The collection is diverse and varied. It features works by some of the most renowned artists in history, such as Monet and Renoir. In addition to these classics, the gallery also has a strong focus on contemporary art, with regular exhibitions featuring the work of emerging artists from around the world.

SPECTRA 2023 - This is your complete guide

Get ready for SPECTRA 2023 folks! The multi-award-winning festival of light and sound is back! It will again bring colour and light to Aberdeen from Thursday 9th to Sunday 12th February. This year, organisers have selected an epic lineup of free-to-see installations from some of the best visual artists, studios, and companies from around the world. They’ll transform the city centre with light, sound, and jaw-dropping visual art.

The festival programme has some incredible new commissions that will illuminate iconic Aberdeen landmarks in the most stunning way possible! We've put together all the information you need to know about Scotland's festival of light this year. Furthermore, we'll keep this page updated as we approach the big weekend, so keep it bookmarked.

SPECTRA 2023 finds 'Home' at Union Terrace Gardens

SPECTRA is returning to Union Terrace Gardens for the first time since 2018 and will be one of the first major events to take place in the revamped historic public space. Expect a spectacular program of installations and artworks that will blow your mind. Inspired by the theme of ‘Home’, the festival will light up Aberdeen’s winter nights for everyone to enjoy.

Andy Brydon, Director of Curated Place said: "Spectra is always a winter highlight in Aberdeen, and we're beyond thrilled to be announcing this programme for 2023. It's packed with extraordinary work from some truly astounding artists and creatives.”

PULSE by This Is Loop - Manipulating scale and perception

One of the program’s highlights will be the first Scottish appearance of Fantastic Planet, created by the Australian group Parer Studio. It will feature towering humanoid figures descending upon different city-centre locations, including Union Terrace Gardens, Aberdeen Art Gallery, and Marischal College. These gargantuan visitors have travelled from afar to explore the city. At a time when the world’s resources are being depleted and the future seems uncertain, these visitors will playfully encourage you to imagine a better future for your own planet.

PULSE by This Is Loop

Broad Street

This is loop will transform Broad Street with Pulse, a 45-meter-long light sculpture created by the Bristol-based team This Is Loop. Pulse is a large-scale mirrored sculpture that manipulates scale and perception. The sculpture features 12 giant mirror-covered hoops arranged in a winding tunnel shape. It'll create a contemplative space for visitors of all ages to enjoy day and night.

ILLUMAPHONIUM by Illumaphonium - Bringing people together

ILLUMAPHONIUM by Illumaphonium

Union Terrace Gardens

Get ready for a one-of-a-kind experience with Illumaphonium. This giant instrument is all about bringing people together for a fun and spontaneous outdoor music-making session. Packed with over 200 illuminated chime bars, so you can make beautiful sounds when you interact with it. A real feast for the eyes and ears!


His Majesty's Theatre

At His Majesty’s Theatre, you'll find The Waxwing Wanes, created by the incredibly talented projection art specialists Illuminos. The lights react to a brand-new composition by the brilliant composer and harpist Ailie Robertson. And so the piece will take you on a journey, musing on our changing climate, as it follows the ebbs and flows of nature.

FANTASTIC PLANET by Parer Studio - Journeyed from faraway lands to SPECTRA 2023


Across the City Centre

A radiant large-scale public installation, Fantastic Planet is crafted by the Australian artist Amanda Parer, the mastermind behind Parer Studio. It illuminates the night sky with its giant humanoids. These brilliant beings have journeyed from faraway lands and now grace us with their presence as they embark on a new adventure here in Aberdeen for the very first time.

NATURE NOCTURNAL by Lantern Company

Union Terrace Gardens

Lantern Company will transform Union Terrace Gardens by adding two stunning nature-inspired installations. Nature Nocturnal will bring the slopes of Union Terrace Gardens to life with mesmerising illuminated plants, insects, and wildlife. You can also take a magical lantern walk through a radiant kaleidoscope of colours. Experience the nocturnal natural world in a whole new way.

LUMINOSI TREES by Sound Intervention - An immersive and peaceful experience

LUMINOSI TREES by Sound Intervention

Union Terrace Gardens

Sound Intervention's Luminosi Trees, towering structures resembling giant jellyfish, will provide an immersive and peaceful experience in the centre of the Gardens. These six-meter-high structures are equipped with thousands of sound-responsive LEDs that change colours and patterns in response to a Fibonacci-inspired soundscape, ensuring a unique experience every time you visit.


Across the City Centre

The SPECTRA 2023 program features live performances, including a premiere of a new outdoor piece by the Fusion Youth Dance Company of Aberdeen. Choreographed by Scottish dance artist Steven Martin, the performance will take place in the Marischal College Quad. It will also respond to the visually striking Fantastic Planet installation on display during the festival.

CIRCA by Limbic Cinema - Get ready to have your mind blown

CIRCA by Limbic Cinema

Union Terrace Gardens

Get ready to have your mind blown by Limbic Cinema's Circa. This light sculpture is all about exploring our circadian rhythms and the beauty of light in different seasons. It's a spectacular piece that the artists built around the seasonal light levels in Aberdeen. It features 12 light fixtures that represent the average light fall over one month of the year in the city.

Think of it as a 3D clock that reflects the light and dark cycles of the city, set to a mesmerising sound design by Joe Acheson of Hidden Orchestra.

HOME FRONTS by Vincent James

Union Terrace Gardens

Meanwhile, Visible Voices, an animated projection created by visual artist and animator Vincent James working with local young people, infuses everyday objects with a twist of the surreal and will appear in the archways by Union Terrace Gardens.
PROJECTOR BIKES by Sound Intervention - Touring the city for SPECTRA 2023

PROJECTOR BIKES by Sound Intervention

Across the City Centre

Sound Intervention will be bringing their Projector Bikes to different locations in the city. These electric trikes have been transformed into mobile cinemas and can travel around improvising and interacting with audiences. The bikes are off-grid and feature audio and visual projections of digital animations inspired by Aberdeen and the theme of 'Home'.

NØKKEN by Illuminos

Marischal College

Illuminos created a new sculpture, Nøkken, for the front of Marischal College. The sculpture is based on the Kelpie, a shape-shifting freshwater spirit from the folklore of Scotland and the Nordics. Furthermore, the sculpture is meant to echo the perspective-shifting effect of the nearby Fantastic Planet artwork.

Pauline Cordiner - Old and new tales from Aberdeen and beyond for SPECTRA 2023
Pauline Cordiner - Old and new tales from Aberdeen and beyond

STORYTELLING with Pauline Cordiner & Lindsey Gibb

Storytelling Tent

Pauline Cordiner and Lindsey Gibb will host storytelling at Broad Street. They'll tell stories in English, Scots, and Doric for all ages. Expect both old and new tales from Aberdeen and beyond, encouraging you to reflect on the concept of home.


Marischal Square

Finally, Ulianka is a world-renowned face painter known for her innovative designs. She'll help you select the perfect design and create stunning UV light-activated artwork for your kids' faces. And adults are also welcome to participate in the fun too!

PULSE by This Is Loop - Manipulating scale and perception

SPECTRA 2023 - What you need to know

SPECTRA 2023 is a free light festival. It takes place over three days from 9-12 Feb 2023. It will be held at various venues across Aberdeen City Centre, including Broad Street, Union Terrace Gardens, Marischal College Quad and His Majesty's Theatre.

Please visit the SPECTRA website and follow them on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram for the very latest news.

Get out and explore Aberdeen's Nuart murals

If you're looking for an exciting way to explore Aberdeen's street art scene, there's no better place to start than setting out to explore the city's Nuart Aberdeen murals. BBC Alba broadcast Tog do Shuil, a brilliant new documentary about the festival and many have been inspired to search out more. Since 2017, the team behind Nuart Aberdeen team has brought some of the world's best street artists to the city to make their mark. It is, without question, one of the most important street art festivals in the world.

In this post, we'll take a look at what makes Nuart Aberdeen so special. We'll also share some handy tips on how to best explore the Nuart Aberdeen murals.

Every year, Nuart Aberdeen brings together some of the world's most renowned street artists. Each of them has created stunning murals in the city's streets, parks, and public spaces.

A brief history of Nuart Aberdeen

Artist and curator Martyn Reed founded Nuart in Stavanger, Norway in 2002. He had found inspiration in the street art festivals he had attended in Europe, and wanted to bring that same energy to Stavanger, and later in 2017 to Aberdeen.

Over the years, Nuart Aberdeen has grown and evolved. And so it has now become one of the planet's most important street art festivals. World-class artists come to Aberdeen every year to take part in the festival. They transform the city's streets and public spaces into vibrant, dynamic works of art.

Nuart Aberdeen has also become a major draw for tourists. Large numbers flock to the city every year to see the murals and explore Aberdeen's streets. It has clearly become one of the city's biggest attractions. It's also a great starting point for discovering Aberdeen's unique culture and history.

Nuart Aberdeen highlights

Nuart Aberdeen has featured some of the world's most renowned street artists. They have left behind a legacy of amazing public art. From the striking, vibrant murals of Martin Whatson and Slim Safont to the surreal and captivating works of Strok, Aberdeen's streets are filled with stunning works of art.

Here are a few of the best murals that artists have created for Nuart Aberdeen:

Nuno Viegas at Gerrard Street


KMG's massive mural on the side of Union Square is something special. Ken is a favourite of the Gray’s School of Art graduate. I think it’s safe to say, this is the biggest version of the playful character that KMG has produced.

Martin Whatson

Martin Whatson’s "The Quarry Worker" is a powerful homage to the grit and determination of Aberdeen's granite workers, a reminder of the importance of hard work and dedication. With his signature style which blends graffiti elements and calligraphic scribbles with vibrant colours, Whatson depicts a stencilled man sitting on top of a granite block.

Slim Safont

Slim Safont’s massive mural on Union Plaza is one of the finest examples of street art on display in Aberdeen. It not only looks brilliant but it also makes a strong point. You can either read it as a slight on big companies avoiding paying their taxes or about schools being there solely to produce good little taxpayers. How do you interpret it? That's up to you.

Helen Bur at Union Row


Strok’s work is electric, focusing on movement and how it interacts with the surrounding environment. As a photographer, he snaps shots of his subject moving through the streets below and transforms them into multi-layer stencils. When he places these works on the wall, they create a distorted perspective.

Helen Bur

One of the most eye-catching murals is Helen Bur’s stunning portrait of a couple with their baby at Union Row. It’s stunning to see such an intimate scene on such a huge scale. The mural is a beautiful testament to the importance of family and community.

Nuno Viegas

Nuno Viegas' has a background in graffiti writing, but when creating murals, his style is particularly polished. The finished product is clean and finessed, a contrast to the rough and ready nature of graffiti. His graffiti heritage is still reflected in this artwork. With strong bright colours and bold lines, it's one of the strongest murals of the 2022 crop.


Now missing its iconic neighbour across The Green, SMUG's photorealistic portrait of his friend along with his dog is a firm favourite with both passers-by and street art fans. It's one of the most striking Nuart Aberdeen murals and is often the first one visitors see when they arrive in Aberdeen by bus or train.

These are just a few of the incredible murals you can find in Aberdeen, and there are so many more to explore. Also, don't forget to look out for smaller Nuart work and some of the fantastic work by local street artists and graffiti writers along the way.

Tips for exploring Aberdeen's Nuart murals yourself

If you're looking to explore Aberdeen's street art scene with Nuart, here are a few tips to help you get the most out of your experience:

  • Make sure to bring a camera. Nuart Aberdeen's murals are a sight to behold, and you'll want to capture the experience. Use the hashtag #NuartAberdeen on social media, and the official account might even share your images.
  • Take your time. Nuart Aberdeen's murals are complex works of art, and it's worth spending some time with them, looking from different spots and considering what they mean to you
  • Look for work from local artists along the way. Check out the brilliant Street Art Aberdeen for an interactive map of most of the graffiti and murals on display around town.
  • Explore the city. Aberdeen is a vibrant and exciting city, and it's worth exploring to get the most out of your experience. Grab a coffee from a local café as you wander around.
  • Nuart Aberdeen hosts Street Art Walking Tours from spring through to autumn. They are a brilliant way to hear the back stories and gossip about the murals. This really is the best way to learn all about the art, giving you a deeper understanding of the work that adorns our city walls.

A masterpiece of public art

Over the past 5 years, artists have transformed the city centre of Aberdeen into a masterpiece of public art. The talented lineup of artists who have left their mark on walls comes from all over the world. Following these tips will help you to get the most out of your Nuart Aberdeen experience, and it's sure to be an unforgettable experience.

Whether you're local to Aberdeen or just visiting, it's worth taking a trip along a section of the city to go see these murals. They provide a unique reason to explore Scotland's most colourful city.

Nuart Aberdeen will be back in 2023

Nuart Aberdeen exceeded all expectations last year by bringing people together in a time of disconnection. The festival attracted thousands of art enthusiasts from Aberdeen and around the world to flock to the city centre. They were mesmerised by the breathtaking street art and participated in the festive activities with great joy.

It's no surprise that this cherished event will return for yet another year this June. Nuart Aberdeen, since it arrived in the city in 2017, has become an integral part of the community, elevating the unique character of Aberdeen to new heights, and bringing with it a splash of colour.

Tog do Shùil - Nuart Aberdeen doc explores a painted city

Tog do Shùil is the fantastic new documentary from Midas Media that follows the journey of journalist Mairi Rodgers, a newcomer to the world of street art. It follows her as she becomes a volunteer at the 2022 Nuart Aberdeen festival. It’s available to watch on iPlayer until Wednesday 15 Feb.

She provides a unique insight into the festival, offering a behind-the-scenes look at the creative process and showcasing the work of the amazing people who make it happen including world-class artists like Slim Safont, Jacoba Niepoort and James Klinge.. It’s a great way to experience the energy and excitement of Nuart Aberdeen and gain a deeper appreciation for the dynamic between the characters that surround it. The city looks pretty awesome too.

Martyn Reed founded Nuart in 2002 in Stavanger, Norway. Having attended street art festivals in Europe, Reed wanted to bring the same energy to Stavanger and later, in 2017, to Aberdeen.

Nuart brings together the globe's best street artists

Each year, Nuart Aberdeen brings together some of the globe's best street artists to create stunning murals throughout the city.

The show itself revolves around Nuart Aberdeen 2022. The street art festival has become an annual event since it came to the city in 2017. It has helped Aberdeen gain an impressive reputation as a world-class street art destination. Two of the 2022 murals have been nominated for major international street art awards!

It will also feature legendary American photojournalist Martha Cooper who has spent her life capturing the graffiti scene globally. Most famously, the New York graffiti scene in the 70s and 80s. Cooper will share her impressions of the streets of Aberdeen in the documentary.

Tog do Shùil - look up at the painted city

Aberdeen has become a world-class destination for street art. The city's vibrant and diverse murals can be found on buildings dotted around the city centre, making it an integral part of the city's visual landscape. The Nuart Aberdeen murals attracted attention from around the world and have been featured in numerous publications and exhibitions. Whether you're an art lover or simply looking for something unique and exciting to see, Aberdeen's street art is sure to impress.

Aberdeen Art Gallery’s exterior view

5 fantastic reasons to visit Aberdeen Art Gallery

Aberdeen Art Gallery is a vibrant cultural hub located in the heart of Aberdeen. Established in 1884, it’s a central cultural destination in the heart of the city, but since it’s re-opening in 2019, it has taken on a more welcoming member of the community. Gone are the days of shushing security guards and signs saying “no photography!” This is a space you can enjoy in short bites, or for a whole day.

It showcases classics and contemporary art, regularly exhibiting the works of emerging artists. The collections on display are always changing. In fact, it looks like the 2023 schedule of events is going to be one of its busiest yet.

Aberdeen Art Gallery is a vibrant cultural hub located in the heart of Aberdeen
Aberdeen Art Gallery is a vibrant cultural hub located in the heart of Aberdeen

The gallery's transformative renovation

The renovation of the gallery, which began in 2015, was a highly anticipated project in the city. The project aimed to transform the gallery into a world-class cultural destination for the community.

The renovation provided additional exhibition space and a rooftop terrace. It reopened in 2019 and attracted thousands of visitors from all over the world. The gallery was named Scotland’s building of the year in 2021 following the £36.4m redevelopment.

The Aberdeen Art Gallery is home to a diverse collection of artworks, ranging from traditional Scottish paintings to modern contemporary pieces.

The gallery regularly hosts exhibitions featuring the work of both local and international artists, providing visitors with the opportunity to see a wide range of artistic styles and techniques.

Aberdeen Art Gallery was named Scotland’s building of the year in 2021
Aberdeen Art Gallery was named Scotland’s building of the year in 2021

5 reasons you should visit Aberdeen Art Gallery

  1. The gallery is located in the heart of Aberdeen and is free to visit, making it easily accessible and convenient for you to spend time there.
  2. The gallery is a popular cultural destination for both locals and tourists, offering a unique experience for all who visit.
  3. Visiting the Aberdeen Art Gallery is a great way to spend an afternoon exploring the city's rich cultural heritage and supporting the local art community. It's a lot of fun. Long gone are the stuffy days of "No Cameras" and "Keep Quiet!"
  4. One of the standout features of the Aberdeen Art Gallery is its impressive architecture. The building itself is a work of art and grand design. The interior of the gallery is equally impressive, with high ceilings, ornate plasterwork, and marble floors.
  5. Visitors to the Aberdeen Art Gallery are able to explore the various galleries and exhibitions at their leisure. There is also the option to take a guided tour led by the gallery's knowledgeable and friendly staff members.
Aberdeen Art Gallery favourite by Tracy Emin
Aberdeen Art Gallery favourite by Tracy Emin

Temporary exhibitions are a reason to visit regularly

In addition to its permanent collection, the gallery also hosts a number of temporary exhibitions throughout the year. These exhibitions are an excellent way to see a diverse range of art and provide a chance for visitors to experience something new and exciting every time they visit.

One of the highlights of the temporary exhibitions program is the annual open submission show, which invites artists from all over Scotland to submit their work for consideration. This show is a great opportunity for emerging artists to showcase their talent and get their work seen by a wider audience.

Aberdeen Art Gallery also offers a range of educational and community programs
Aberdeen Art Gallery also offers a range of educational and community programs

Aberdeen Art Gallery tours and educational visits

In addition to its art collection and exhibitions, Aberdeen Art Gallery also offers a range of educational and community programs. These include artist talks, workshops, and school holiday activities, as well as special events and talks. These programs provide a great opportunity for visitors of all ages to learn more about the world of art and get involved in the cultural life of the city.

Overall, Aberdeen Art Gallery is an essential destination for anyone interested in art and culture. Its stunning architecture, impressive collection, and engaging program of exhibitions and events make it a must-visit for tourists and locals alike. So next time you're in Aberdeen, be sure to pay a visit to this wonderful cultural institution.

Upcoming events at Aberdeen Art Gallery

New Deeside Way street art encourages active travel

If you use the Deeside Way from Duthie Park regularly, you'll see a new colourful mural by KMG.

Aberdeen Cycle Forum commissioned the artwork to celebrate those who use the Deeside Way and to encourage others to get on their bike. It celebrates the Deeside Way's shared-use nature and encourages people to exercise more.

Sustrans' ArtRoots fund supported Aberdeen Cycle Forum in painting the wall below Great Southern Road, near Duthie Park. It'll be seen by many on this well-used section of the Deeside Way. Artist KMG created the design and has been painting on site this week to bring it to life.

Aberdeen Cycle Forum are a local voluntary organisation who campaign for the benefit of cyclists and active travel within the city. A major goal of the forum is to promote bicycle use as a viable and sustainable option for transport. They work with other organisations to improve cycle facilities and to raise awareness of issues affecting cyclists.

KMG has produced many street art works around the city, including two huge murals for Nuart Aberdeen. Last year she painted her much loved character Ken on the side of Union Square.

Deeside Way works best if everyone respects the needs of everyone else

Rachel Martin from Aberdeen Cycle Forum said, “Deeside Way is a much-loved, much-valued, and much-used piece of infrastructure in our city and we wanted to celebrate cycling and active travel while also encouraging tolerance and respect among all the different types of users. A shared-use space like Deeside Way works best if everyone respects the needs of everyone else.

"We hope KMG’s fabulous design will make people smile and inspire them to be physically active by whatever means works for them whether it be walking, cycling, wheeling, running, or scootering.”

An animal-themed design displays a family cycling alongside a dog walker and someone using a wheelchair. The family of cyclists are portrayed as leopards, a nod to Aberdeen’s history and coat of arms, while a gull and blackbird overhead provide another north-east reference.

So next time you're cycling or walking along the Deeside Way, be sure to look out for the colourful new addition!