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J a n e t  M c E w a n

Waste not Want not

Residency based at the Woodend Barn Arts Centre, Banchory, Aberdeenshire. 2003

Project Programme

Lang Byre Exhibition Text

waste not, want not is an exhibition using visual art to raise questions about sustainability of our present lifestyle, linked to a local community development project exploring waste management strategies.  


Specific events have been targeted that will encourage people from Banchory and other parts of Aberdeenshire to visit the site.  While the project initially focuses on environmental issues the value to other interest groups, history, horticultural, and artistic should not be forgotten.


 waste not, want not  consists of six main elements:


1 Exhibition The entire contents of an unearthed Midden alongside photographs/video/other imagery from local council landfill site, at Banchory, which is currently undergoing expansion.

Sat 25th Oct – Thurs 6th Nov 10.00- 4.00



2 Bags of Time using the communal space at Scolty Centre, Janet and the service users created a series of hangings.



3. Binjuice Art Exhibition

Banchory Community Learning Centre

 Six students explore waste issues whilst working alongside Janet.

Tues 28th Oct- Fri 7th Nov evenings only.


4. Bags of Time The newly established Coop in Banchory High Street have helped promote the theme of the exhibition, allowing Janet window display space


5. Gerry Cambridge held poetry workshops with three local primary schools comparing and contrasting recycling in nature and in the human world


6. A variety of workshops:

Rubbish Art

28th October 8-9pm

An illustrated talk by artist and critic John Berry: ‘Not so much that some art is rubbish, but some rubbish can be made into art.’


Green Drinks

30th Oct 6-7.25 pm

Mark Hope explores the role of a Community Arts Centre.


Just Bury It: From Middens to Landfill

5th Nov 8.00pm – 9.00pm

Environmentalist Marie Fish takes a closer look at what happens to rubbish.



6th Nov 7.30-9.30

Caspian Richards leads a workshop and discussion looking at how we sort and manage all the stuff that comes into our lives.






This project formed one small aspect of a national concern about the waste we generate. The project aim was to raise awareness of plastic shopping bags and other waste in the community and complement the efforts of Aberdeenshire Council’s Waste Strategy. It was fortuitous that the project’s public opening coincided with two national initiatives. Firstly, a proposal for a plastic shopping bag tax was announced by Parliament and secondly the Keep Britain Tidy Group started a campaign to make businesses responsible for the rubbish they generate from their premises. There are currently many organisations concerned with the reduction of the waste stream but “Waste not Want not” was certainly the only one to approach it in such an original, artistic and innovative manner!




The planning and implementation process provides a tool for identifying weaknesses, which may help, in the effective planning of future community projects. These are discussed at length in the main report but include:


1.The need of communities to identify strategic businesses that embody the principles of sustainability and work with these to promote projects which benefit the community.

2.The importance of simplifying awards and accounting systems so that the creative and meaningful aspect of community projects can be developed without unnecessary trauma.

3.The necessity of adequate media publicity, so that the ethos and details of community projects can effectively reach the intended audience regardless of the whims of journalists.

4.As can be seen from the budget spreadsheet in the main report, the total costs (including in kind contributions) were close to the original estimate (not including contingency). However several individual cost areas showed considerable variance. 




There are additional benefits accrued which arise from the project in a more subtle way. Although not conspicuous, they are nevertheless powerful products of community projects such as these. They include the following: -


1.Janet McEwan has been able to expand her understanding and capability in promoting environmental concerns within the community. This has enhanced her skills as an artist addressing the needs of her community. Additionally, the project has provided a valuable vehicle to develop new work, some of which has been selected for display at the RSA’s annual exhibition in Edinburgh.

2.The involvement in project managing and contributing to an environmental event in the community has enabled Marie Fish, who has been unemployed for several years, to successfully gain full time employment in environmental education and also form tentative links with the newly formed Banchory and District Initiative.

3.The six young people at Banchory Academy have had a powerful opportunity to work with a professional artist and develop their skills and understanding of a career in art and its applications in the community.

4.On a more general level the project has reached into the community of Banchory through its primary and secondary school links. It has challenged the acceptance of waste as an inevitable artefact of modern life and supported those individuals who have already felt motivated to confront this issue.


The Future


There is an almost intangible aspect, tenuous and fluid, to this sort of community project, which identifies and networks people who are both capable and willing to address the needs of their communities.

Two important initiatives are presently emerging within the Banchory community. The newly formed Banchory and District Initiative, which developed during a parallel time frame to “Waste not Want not”, were interested and supportive of this project, recognising the community value of the project and future potential of its participants. Hopefully this may encourage further ventures within the community. Secondly, during 2004 Woodend Arts Association will be developing “Landfest” which will provide another opportunity for the promotion of sustainability within the community.


Summary Report


The Midden

Dave Bullock at Braehead, Tarland found the Midden while repairing a dyke in his garden. As he continued to dig he unearthed all the objects that you see on the plinth. The entire Midden is here from the largest object to the smallest piece of glass.

Estimates on the age of the Midden are guess work, people visiting the project may be able to determine the age of some of the items.


The Inspiration

Intrigued by these objects and the significant number of years covered by the Midden, his wife Janet McEwan, wanted others to see the Midden.  

In Scotland the links between contemporary art and archaeology are strong; often striving to understand a link between past and present through collecting, organising and itemising.  The environmental connection and the issue of how those who follow us will value our ‘waste’ had a specific topicality with the waste strategy of Aberdeenshire Council.  Initially explored in Tarland through the Landfull exhibition, the waste not want not project raises further issues while still reflecting on the sustainability of aspects of our current lifestyle and begs the question –where do we go from here?


Invited by Lang Byre committee to bring the Midden to Banchory the project became a three months residency with Janet, enabling her to develop the work in more depth and engage and work alongside various groups around Banchory.


In the Woodend Byre Main Hall, the poetry produced by the primary children, after workshops with poet Gerry Cambridge, are seen beside several sculptural pieces by Janet McEwan.  

A comment book will allow visitors to record their thoughts on leaving.


The exhibition space is split into three levels.

As one enters the Lang Byre large wrapped photographic images, taken following a local public event, sit beside a wall of cotton bags reiterating the old saying, today almost forgotten, waste not, want not.  The bags are padded with used supermarket carrier bags. Video images taken from Crow’s Nest, Banchory explore the site where rubbish from Banchory and the surrounding areas, is dumped.


Moving to the next level the screen contains mostly plastic ‘stolen’ from the top layer of the landfill site.  

All photographic images are from the Crow’s Nest Landfill site Banchory.  Donated used plastic bags have been transformed into wall pieces and also embellish the charity shop wedding dress.  The psychedelic wall piece, is given life by a discarded light fitting, that awaited ‘skipping’ from a local gallery.


Leading to the final level, a divided photo of the newest phase at the Crow’s Nest, opened in November 2002, scheduled to last for twenty years, it is filling frighteningly fast. In contrast to Tarland, where the Midden was displayed in an old shop, this layout allows the mass of the Midden to be seen.  

Does this represent all the rubbish from one household generated over decades?

The pyramid of black bin bags draws inspiration from Maslow’s hierarchy of needs.

In this hierarchy reflection is given to the difficulty that is encountered when moving beyond the first two base levels of Physiological needs (food, water, clothing, shelter) and Safety needs (security, freedom from attack and safe from danger) through the needs of belonging, esteem, understanding into the realization of ones full potential and self sufficiency.

The photographs are mounds of a completed landfill site which now awaits planting.

The jumble sale print is of a nostalgic landscape.

Cling film wrapping disguises or protects what is underneath.



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