The Sackening

The Sackening

The Sackening installation

Since January 2017, eight young people on a Tomorrow’s People/Galashiels Works employability skills course, have worked with the Outreach Team at the National Galleries of Scotland to explore the paintings, prints and photographs in the Galleries’ Scottish art collection.  They were particularly interested in landscape scenes revealing the historic past of the Borders region. In response to these images the young people created a set of eerie characters and landscapes of their own. They wanted to prove that living in an environment they didn’t create, is just about possible for Borders’ youths… if only because they can put sacks over their heads and disappear into the landscape.

The Monks

On a visit to Dryburgh Abbey, the young people assumed the disguise of the monks who had prayed there in the Middle Ages. They saw the monks as a weird cult, which they could mimic by wearing sacks over their heads. The participants now became interested in

photographs and sepia prints of the Abbey, in which Victorian tourists strolled amongst the cloisters and the graves. Soon, via the magic of the ‘green screen’ filming technique, these photographs and prints began to rustle with life. The sack-wearing youth were now appearing in these images from the past, and in their own drawings. They had discovered how a simple intervention (a head-covering) could animate an everyday setting. Next, they went to the Asda Superstore in Galashiels… and made mayhem.


Altered Plate VII of Sketches in Scotland, St Mary’s Aisle, Dryburgh Abbey, Samuel Dukinfield Swarbreck, P 8085, Greenscreen still.


The young people published their manifesto –

The Sackening


The Cult is Demanding

The Cult is Overwhelming

The Cult is Everything

The Cult is Society

The Cult is not Us


The model town in the exhibition

Mapping the town

Our participants made a model of the ‘forgotten’ town of Galashiels, in the Scottish Borders, and in that model the heraldic foxes, from the town’s coat of arms, returned to eat ‘soor plooms’ , and hang out with the ‘cardboard people’.  (The ‘soor plooms’ refer to an incident in the Middle Ages when an English army stopped at Galashiels in 1337, and a group of its soldiers were killed after stealing unripe plums, and suffering the consequences.)

The Sackening @ Drybrugh Abbey

Alternative Shopping

The young ‘Sackheads’ have also invited the people of Galashiels to search the shelves and record bins of the Tomorrow’s People Charity Shop, to find the hidden treasures they left behind. Shoppers were invited to find rebranded LPs, DVDs, books and framed photographs showing the activities of those who seek an alternative reality.

When they visited the Scottish National Gallery these young people managed to uncover something of use to them in the old paintings and photographs. They have taken this inspiration and produced a surreal intervention in a world that usually renders them invisible.

The exhibition continues in an empty commercial property in Douglas Place, off Channel Street, Galashiels.

Altered Record Sleeves


By Robin Baillie, Senior Outreach Officer, 4 May 2017