Meet You at the Hippos

  • Andrew Demetrius

Press/Media: Relating to Research


Actor Mark Bonnar is on a mission to understand more about the Scottish new towns in which he grew up, exploring the street sculpture made by artists such as his dad in the 60s, 70s and 80s. He discovers why the new towns are there and how they enticed people out of the bigger cities, and uncovers the surprising ways in which public art changed the new towns and the new towns changed public art.

Mark's father, Stan, made sculptures that stand to this day on the streets of Glenrothes, East Kilbride and the Scottish new town that never was, Stonehouse. These new towns employed town artists to make artworks in the very housing precincts the new residents were moving into.

Stan Bonnar was the first assistant to seminal town artist David Harding in Glenrothes in the early 70s, then became town artist himself at East Kilbride and Stonehouse Development Corporation later on in the decade. His first new town artwork was the concrete hippos that have stalked Glenrothes for almost 50 years.

Scotland’s new town artists were at the forefront of a shift in thinking that changed the relationship between art and public places. Rather than plinths and bronze likenesses of dead soldiers and politicians, this art would be found in playgrounds, on underpasses, by bus stops, and could be seen out of people’s living room windows. The environment and surroundings of the work were seen as part of the art itself, the context in which the sculptures stand being part of what they have to say. The new town art was there for everyone, designed to define the places it was made and to mean something to the people who lived alongside it.

Mark uncovers the relationship between the new towns and their art, tracing a legacy of the approach taken by the development corporations and revealing the impact of the town artists’ work in the communities they were made for. Across Scotland, from Irvine in the west, via East Kilbride, Cumbernauld, Livingston and Glenrothes, Mark travels to talk with former town artists such as David Harding, Malcolm Robertson, Mary Bourne and Denis Barns, and to learn about Brian Miller. On his travels, he finds out how some work has survived, some has been damaged and some lost. This journey takes Mark closer to an understanding of his father’s approach to art and helps him grasp the context and legacy of the towns, the artists and their work.

Period30 Nov 2021

Media contributions


Media contributions

  • TitleProgramme Advisor
    Degree of recognitionNational
    Media name/outletBBC Scotland
    Media typeTelevision
    Duration/Length/Size58 minutes
    Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom
    Producer/AuthorBBC Scotland
    PersonsAndrew Demetrius


  • Public Art, Sculpture, New Towns, Scotland, Glenrothes, Art History