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Thurso artist meets Queen Camilla for unveiling of poignant sculpture


By David G Scott

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Shelagh Swanson from Thurso said she felt honoured to have met Queen Camilla at Aberdeen Art Gallery during the unveiling of her sculpture on domestic abuse issues.

The artwork was created in glass in Shelagh's studio in Bower and Gow's Lybster manufactured the mould in which it was cast.

Shelagh, who used her insight as a domestic abuse survivor to inform the design of the artwork, said: “It’s an incredible honour to be asked to create this piece, and personally very meaningful given my past experiences."

Shelagh Swanson meets Queen Camilla in Aberdeen Art Gallery for the unveiling of her sculpture. Picture: Aberdeen Art Gallery
Shelagh Swanson meets Queen Camilla in Aberdeen Art Gallery for the unveiling of her sculpture. Picture: Aberdeen Art Gallery

Her Majesty The Queen officially opened a Safe Space in Aberdeen Art Gallery on January 17 where victims of domestic abuse can discretely ask for help from the venue’s staff.

Queen Camilla then unveiled the poignant sculpture, which is in memory of those lost to and survivors of domestic abuse, as well as being visible both internally and externally to signify the venue as a Safe Space location.

The art gallery staff have been trained to provide help and guidance to people if they suspect someone is living with abuse. Alternatively, anyone can go and ask for support from the staff who will then point them towards professional help.

The fused glass sculpture, 'You are not the Darkness, you are the Light', was designed to commemorate the tragic loss of life in Aberdeen. The installation reflects on domestic abuse, and on the strength and beauty of survival. From different angles you can see words, ribbon symbols, and hand signals asking for help, fading in-and-out of view. This mirrors how the signs of domestic abuse can be hidden in plain sight, and only become visible when we look for and acknowledge them.

Queen Camilla unveils the sculpture. Picture: Aberdeen Art Gallery
Queen Camilla unveils the sculpture. Picture: Aberdeen Art Gallery

Shelagh added: "To be part of establishing this Safe Space feels like a full circle moment – I really hope that it encourages people to come forward for the support they need.”

Her Majesty also met representatives from SafeLives Scotland, who lead a private panel discussion on lived experience.

Head of SafeLives Scotland, Jess Denniff, said: "We know that when survivors of abuse feel listened to, seen and believed, it helps unravel some of the harm and trauma caused by perpetrators who tell them that they don’t matter, that nobody cares about them, that nobody will believe them.

Thurso artist Shelagh Swanson pictured at a local show some years ago with another of her works. Shelagh is well known to those in the creative scene within Caithness and has featured in many exhibitions. Picture: DGS
Thurso artist Shelagh Swanson pictured at a local show some years ago with another of her works. Shelagh is well known to those in the creative scene within Caithness and has featured in many exhibitions. Picture: DGS

“With her visit today, Her Majesty is making it clear that this is not true: anybody who lives with an experience of domestic abuse does matter and is an expert in their own situation. In Scotland, the brilliant Authentic Voice Panel prove this, in their ongoing, determined work to ensure that survivor voice is at the heart of Scotland’s response to domestic abuse.

“As a wider team, we were delighted today to see the opening of this welcoming and reflective space in the heart of Aberdeen, and to meet Her Majesty The Queen.

“Domestic abuse is everyone’s business, and we must work together to ensure victims have as many options as possible to reach safety and live the lives they want after harm has happened – as well as opportunities to contribute their lived experience towards change.”

If you have experienced domestic abuse please visit this link for more information: www.nationaldahelpline.org.uk/

You can call contact the National Domestic Abuse Helpline, for free and in confidence, 24-hours a day at 0808 2000 247.


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