2020+1 Programme

The New Scriptorium

An ambitious new artist commission with Bobby Niven, for Arbroath Town. The New Scriptorium is an artist designed and built structure that is sited on the Abbey grounds.

In 2019 The Arbroath 2020 Festival group invited artist Bobby Niven to develop a project that would be sited in Arbroath Abbey to mark the 700th anniversary of the Declaration of Arbroath to celebrate the importance of the Abbey both historically and in contemporary culture.

This little building is a commission that is directly inspired by the history and context of the site. It explores and responds to the social, political and cultural histories of the Abbey and its influence on Scottish History. Bobby Niven has designed the building considering the history and skills in this medieval period along with the design and decoration of that time. The building was constructed off site and has a green oak frame created by Angus based carpenters. The space is used as a learning and engagement space and as a writers studio hosting a programme of writers in residence for Arbroath Town.

Arbroath2020+1 Group are delighted to be working collaboratively with key partners Historic Environment Scotland, Angus Place Partnership, Angus Council and Hospitalfield. We are thrilled to have secured funding for this project through the Town Centre Fund and Creative Scotland.

New Scriptorium CAD design artists impression

The Design

We know that Arbroath Abbey, as a very large and active community, including monks who could transcribed and illuminate documents and bound early manuscripts into books. The ability to read and write and convey information and document history was as powerful then as it is today.

The colour, light and texture within the interiors are influenced by the illuminations within medieval manu- scripts.

Greek mathematician Pythagoras depicted by Matthew Paris as a scribe writing a man- uscript, holding the page with a knife and dipping his pen into the inkpot kept safely distant. (MS. Ashmole 304, fol. 42r, England (St Albans), mid-thirteenth century).

This is a common depiction of a scribe at work using both arms, bent at the elbow and wrist. The use of serpentine timbers pictured on the right within the timberframe creates a resemblance to this pose and places the fig- ure of the scribe at work within the structure of the New Scriptorium.

Timber frame – scribe arms

Presenting the ‘coat of arms’ the picture window framing the view

This gesture is common amongst illustrations found in medieval manuscripts depicting the gesture of handing over a book.

In the context of the timberframe the hands are holding up a window, presenting the view south down West Abbey Street.

Manicules takes it’s name from the latin word manicula meaning little hand. Manicules were used as a means to annotate printed documents, directing the reader’s attention to important text.

The carved sculptural brace in the shape of a hand and arm braces the building whilst drawing attention to the view out of the large window looking east to Arbroath Abbey and the ‘round O’.

Timber braces br Bobby Niven for Palm House 2017

The New Scriptorium is used as a space to think about the importance of literacy and the distribution of knowledge. Through topics of literacy, language, communication, this opens many ideas and opportunities for the way we use the building through a learning and engagement programme. Working with schools and young people to create opportunities to enjoy and learn through writing and reading.

The small building is designed with purpose as a writers studio and hosts the Arbroath Town Writers residency programme as their work space on this very important historic site. Arbroath 2020+1 group are working with key organisations associated with supporting writing and poetry in Angus and Scotland to select a range of writers to take up these opportunities. Selected writers will develop new writing inspired by their time in Arbroath and using the New Scriptorium as their studio base.

Bobby Niven is a Scottish artist and founded the Bothy Project, in 2011, a growing network of small shelters across Scotland. Designed in collaboration with artists, architects, and designers, each of these simple structures is a unique response to the landscape around them, and an invitation to artists to spend time ‘off-grid’ exploring the environment and histories which hold them.


During this event...

Arbroath Writers Residency

The New Scriptorium a small temporary structure sited on the grounds of Arbroath Abbey is a flagship project for 2020+1 Festival. A major commission with Artist Bobby Niven that will be activated though a public programme and a series of writers in residence. The structure will be a detailed, ingenious, small timber highly crafted building, animated through its programme of residencies, workshops and events. 

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