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The Cottage: Inside The Quaich

A week of Scottish entertainment & friendship – Los Angeles style!

18th July 2019

That’s me back in the UK after a whirlwind trip to LA.  It’s amazing how many people you can speak to in a week!

It is always heartening to meet Americans who feel so passionately about their Scottish roots and ancestry. My visit to LA built on the long history of the Scottish diaspora and the great tradition of philanthropy, pioneered by Andrew Carnegie who gave so much of his wealth to America, Scotland and the world.

I was honoured to be invited to attend the St Andrew’s Society of Los Angeles (SASLA for short) Garden Party on 16th June which was hosted at the HM Consul General’s residence.  The annual event is organised by volunteers who do an amazing job making sure everything runs like clockwork! At the party I had some fab conversations and secured a new partnership with SASLA’s President, Ian Skone-Rees and discussed future collaboration and opportunities with Collette Weston, Deputy Consul General from the British consul.

The Quaich Project ambassador sculptor Andy Scott travelled with his wife Hanneke from Philadelphia to attend the launch of the project in LA. Andy has already produced one sculpture for the gardens and is best known for The Kelpies, the world’s largest equine sculptures and Scotland’s largest public artwork.  He is incredibly passionate about Scotland’s public spaces and how this is the time to be bold and innovative.

I also met Marc and Allister Blackham ‘the EC TWINS’ who, began their career in the house music scene in Edinburgh at age 16 and ended up running the city’s most successful nightclub: Eye Candy. The initials of the infamous nightclub stuck and the brothers are still known around the world as simply… EC Twins.  They love West Princes Street Gardens and were delighted to get on board as ambassadors of the Quaich Project.  Now that I’m back home, I’ve been trying to impress my teenage daughter by telling her I’ve been hanging out with cool DJs in LA.  Sadly, it’s not working!

Next day, I was off to a breakfast meeting with Nigel Daly and Lou Salter from Laboratory Arts Collective who were supporting the event we were hosting (more on that to follow!). I also had dinner with Frances Anderton who had previously written an article about The Quaich Project and is keen to help us promote the architectural significance of the development.


The event we hosted in LA was billed as an evening of ‘Scottish Entertainment and Friendship’, very fitting as The Quaich Project takes its name from a traditional Highland ‘sharing cup’ which are used to celebrate special occasions together.

Kulapat Yantrasast, founding partner and Creative Director of wHY architects, graciously hosted the event in his beautiful self-designed home and it was a very cool venue.  I don’t think we could have had many more guests there without someone being knocked into the pool – well, we were in LA and it was 30+ degrees after all!

The evening started with a warm welcome from Nigel Daly OBE, president of Screen International and was followed by an introduction to The Quaich Project by Kulapat and Mark Thomann from wHY Architects and Gunnar Groves-Raines from Edinburgh-based architectural firm GRAS who spoke about their dynamic vision which will embrace the landscape, biodiversity, performance, heritage and most importantly the community of this beloved green space.

I then spoke to guests about The Quaich Project’s campaign mission and our ambitions to make West Princes Street Gardens a space for all in the heart of Edinburgh.  I showed the guests our campaign animation, voiced by Iain Glenn of Game of Thrones fame – unfortunately Iain couldn’t make the event, but his distinctive voice and passion for The Quaich Project certainly resonated with all the guests!

TV presenter Ross King – who you may recognise from ‘Lorraine’ and ‘Good Morning Britain’- gave a traditional Scottish toast to the project. A big thank you to Dalmore for sponsoring the whisky for the event.  Oh, and we had shortbread and a piper too – of course!

The highlight of the evening for me was when Andy Scott held guests spellbound in a fireside chat where he described his connection with Scotland, West Princes Street Gardens and his experience of developing The Kelpies.  It so beautifully demonstrated the importance of the Gardens’ as a much-loved and treasured place.

Our guests included members of the American Scottish community and individuals from the creative, entrepreneurial and communication industries. This is such an ambitious and stunning project that it was wonderful for me and colleagues from the design team to fly the project flag and get more people on board to support. The Quaich Project is very much dependent on the success of our fundraising campaign at home and at key locations around the globe. We are half way through our first year campaigning and have had several gift pledges and lots of interest to date. We are committed to keeping up the pace and achieving all our goals!

I also took my turn to become a ‘roving reporter’ and ask some of the guests how they pronounce ‘Quaich’ with some hilarious results!  See link to video below.

Now I’m back home I’ve been incredibly busy following up on all the new friends and connections I’ve made during my trip. And my team and I are busy planning our very special event in New York in October.

Stay tuned for more exciting details in my next blog!!