Keeping remembrances of your children’s early years is what many parents do. Some parents keep their child’s first pair of shoes, their first few drawings from playgroup and I have a wee pottery seal my youngest made in his primary art class.
For Robert Leslie, however, his parents had kept all those posters that were pinned to his bedroom wall as he grew up. Robert has been reunited with them and the latest exhibition at the Northlight Gallery let’s the rest of us peep into his world in that time, in that place.
Here’s Robert Leslie’s account of what those posters meant to him.
“Many of the posters simply reflect the musical tastes I passed through in the 1980s, when the likes of Shakin’ Stevens, Abba and Boney M were quickly eclipsed by the enigmatic Adam and the Ants.
Orkney was a heavy metal hotbed at the time so getting into AC/DC and Iron Maiden was almost inevitable. (I’ve stuck with Maiden over the years and am going to see them in August.)
The Doors and Led Zeppelin, along with the likes of Deep Purple, expanded my musical horizons as my life moved on. I also read Jim Morrison’s poetry at the time, which was interesting.
The Russian posters were all brought back from a joint Kirkwall Grammar School and Stromness Academy trip that took in Moscow, Kiev and Leningrad in the summer of 1985. It was a fascinating time to be in Russia, and we absorbed the history and culture that we were shown.
Lenin’s Tomb was an eerie visit. The guards wanted to know what my asthma inhaler was. The discos in the five-star hotels that we stayed in played the only Western music they could get hold of – mostly tape recordings of BBC Radio 1’s Sunday evening run through the UK Top 40. We sometimes heard snips of the DJ’s voice at the end of tracks we’d danced to.
I wore a jacket with AC/DC and Iron Maiden patches on it. The Russian teenagers recognised them and shouted ‘We love Maiden! We love Bon Scott!’. They tried to get us to swap our denim jeans for fur hats and gun belts. Being isolated from the West didn’t stop these boys being tantalised by what we took for granted.”
The Northlight Gallery Stromness is owned and run by Cary Welling and she is delighted with the response to ‘Robert’s Bedroom Wall’.
Cary Welling said:
“The exhibition is a collection of 23 posters that were on Robert’s bedroom wall some 30 years ago. None of them are individually extraordinary – pictures of bands, pop stars, heroes, cars – but collectively they repay looking at. They show a world where war is celebrated and violence is played at; where both the past and the future are fantasy; where both the posters and the people and events depicted are commercial products designed to be eye catching.
“The boy who collected pictures that appealed to him and put them up in his personal space made for himself a play-world that inevitably reflected the contradictions and self-delusions we live with in the everyday. The distance produced by the time that has elapsed enables us to recognise some of them in his collection.”
The exhibition is on from 11th – 17th May and is free to view.
Reporter: Fiona Grahame