by Anna Starling 2007
in consultation with Invergordon Fire and Rescue Service and Invergordon Academy competition winners
You can almost feel the heat from the flames in Anna’s eye-catching portrayal of the fire that engulfed the Royal Hotel in 1973.
The day of the fire is well remembered in local history because of the hotel’s significance to the local community.
“The Royal,” as it was affectionately know, was situated directly across the High Street from where the mural is today. The hotel was at the core of the community. Many local weddings were celebrated within its walls and many brides remember throwing their bouquets from its balcony.
Fire! Fire! – Artist’s Interpretation
The Fire! Fire! theme really inspired me when I first heard about the Off The Wall mural project. Hence I was very honoured to be commissioned to paint the mural associated with the Fire Brigade to represent the history of Fire Fighting in Invergordon. I was asked to involve local children from Invergordon Academy in the development of the mural. It was decided that it would be best to hold a competition, so children from the local school came up with their own ideas of how they would interpret the theme Fire! Fire! The best drawings were chosen and fifteen prize winning children were then invited to take part in some workshops and subsequently help paint the mural.
My final design was an amalgamation of the ideas from the children, the Fire Brigade and my own imagination. I chose to depict The Royal Hotel burning down which was a topic close to many peoples’ hearts in the community. This was a building that locals remember as a key landmark of Invergordon and obviously its tragic fire in 1973 evokes a heartfelt response from local people.
In order to display the history of Fire Fighting I chose to paint the Fire Fighters in different uniforms representing a time line of different generations. To enhance this idea I also painted a modern fire engine in the foreground with an old engine in the background.
I endeavoured to get an accurate representation of a real life fire scene so I worked closely with the Invergordon Fire Brigade. I took photos of the real Fire Fighters at work and took advice on the procedures put into place to control a fire. I was also given many photos of past fires to see the movement of the smoke and flames. It was very helpful to have action photos of the fire- fighting equipment particularly the water jets as I knew this could potentially be one of the harder areas to paint.
When I was working out my composition for the mural I decided to have passers by watching on the street as fire always attracts a lot of attention. I depicted a family standing in their nightwear as the fire happened at night. The lady pointing up to the fire helps lead your eye up to the flames. I painted the small boy wearing a football t-shirt of the local Invergordon football club which is another reference to the town.
As an artist I like to paint representational scenes and I specifically enjoy painting detail so I found this mural both exciting and challenging. In my murals I often like to incorporate elements of Trompe L’oeil which is why I wanted to have the modern fire engine in the foreground. The idea was that at a very quick glance one might think that a real fire engine had pulled up next to the mural.
Anna Starling (nee Smith) 2007
The blank wall before work started
Invergordon Fire and Rescue Service training in 2007
Invergordon Fire brigade gave Anna and Invergordon Off the Wall a tour of the local fire station, including live demonstrations of using the ladders, hoses, and fire engines so that Anna could re-create the action of a live fire scene in the mural.
Invergordon Fire brigade staff were also involved in the design process. The fire brigade not only put out fires but put up floral baskets, Christmas lights and contribute tirelessly to the local community.
If you’re local, look out for familiar faces in the mural – a couple of local firefighters from 2007 are included in this mural!
Invergordon Academy competition winners help Anna
15 competition winners from Invergordon Academy were involved in meeting with Anna to gather ideas for the mural and they participated in painting workshops on site. You can see their signatures on the grey box at the bottom left corner of the mural.
Anna painting the mural