It’s A Bing Thing

Inspired by the landscape of oil shale bings that surround Winchburgh, ‘It’s A Bing Thing’ is a playful sculpture that will be used informally for seating and act as a conversation-starter, whilst encouraging people to spend time together in the town centre.

Bing sculpture in the heart of Winchburgh’s new civic square

The artwork also features a poem penned especially for Winchburgh by Scottish poet William Letford, which is credited to Billy Letford as a tribute to both his father and grandfather who were miners and went by the name Billy.

“The men and women of Winchburgh bent their backs.
Moved the earth.
Fed the lamps that lit the world.
The Bings left behind are made from more than shale.
They are families and hardship and laughter and love.
Stories piled so high you can stand on top and see for miles.
They are monuments sculpted by strong, beautiful, countless hands..”

Billy Letford
Bing sculpture
Bing sculpture
Bing sculpture
Bing sculpture

This project originated from our work developing a public art strategy for Winchburgh called ‘The Big W- A Public Art Plan for Winchburgh’. This is a vision for how public art can help shape the £1 billion development of Winchburgh, near Edinburgh. Working with local residents, West Lothian Council Planning Services, Community Arts services, the Winchburgh developers and their design team we envisioned a series a projects to form part of this transformation in the medium to long term future.

Encouraging new contemporary public art commissions is the basis for encouraging people to experience West Lothian as a place that inspires, challenges and includes those who live, work and visit the region.

“It is a privilege to able to support the delivery of a series of new pieces of public art to be enjoyed by the people of Winchburgh. Deeply rooted in the industrial heritage and the rural landscape of the village, we hope that ‘It’s a Bing Thing’ will be a treasured landmark for many years to come.”

John Hamilton
CEO of Winchburgh Developments Ltd
Aerial view of Winchburgh and the shale bings
View of the Niddry Castle Bing

To kick-start the public art plan for Winchburgh we were commissioned to create a site-specific installation for the public square within the first phase of the town centre. We felt that this site is well suited to tell the story of the shale oil industry to local people, regardless of whether they have recently moved to the village or are born and bred in Winchburgh.

Model exploring the location of the bing sculpture
Model exploring the location of the bing sculpture
A visual of the artwork showing the poem inscribed on the layers

The brief for the artwork called for a piece of sculpture that can be used informally for seating in conjunction with other more conventional seating in the immediate area.

The form of the piece has been inspired by the three oil shale bings that surround Winchburgh and that act as both guardians of this very important part of local history and are a very impressive and sensuous landscape to visit.

“Having climbed a bing, one feels removed from the everyday reality – the horizon is shifted, the world looks smaller and the view goes as far as the Firth of Forth and beyond.”

David Pierce

Their strong colour, the barren peaks and scarce vegetation sets them apart from their surroundings. Their recognisable shape gives them away as artificial heaps – poured, not grown out of the ground.

The proposed sculptural seating takes the same approach, heaping layers of red stone upon the flat landscape of the new public square, creating a form reminiscent of a shale bing.

The barren peaks
The colours of shale

Art workshops were held at Winchburgh Primary School and Holy Family Primary School whilst the piece was being developed. Each child created a scaled model of sculptural seating that used the colours of shale – black and red – as the finish of their seating. Every design was individual and reflected different ideas, functions and form.

Sculptural seating workshop
Scaled models

Winchburgh, West Lothian
West Lothian Council