“My mission in life is not merely to survive, but to thrive; and to do so with some passion, some compassion, some humour, and some style.”
~ Maya Angelou
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I am extremely privileged to know the indomitable Professor Richard Demarco (pictured above explaining his Archive at Summerhall), having first come across him in Edinburgh during the early 1990s, and am honoured to call Richard a friend.
As is his wont and despite his advanced years, Richard Demarco continues to be immensely generous about sharing what he has with others, regardless of where he is or with whom, and he loves an audience with whom to engage. Ever enthusiastic about disseminating his vast knowledge, conveying his passion in every word, and describing his many encounters with bright and brilliant minds, all of whom he recognises as artists, Richard thrives on speaking with anyone who is interested to hear what he has to teach, and speaks with brilliance and compelling emotion about the things most dear to his heart.
On one of my visits to Richard’s administration base in Edinburgh a couple of years ago, a small crowd had gathered, to whom Richard enthusiastically began to lecture. I switched on my camera to capture the moment in photograph, but hit the video setting, in error. Thus, instead of photographing him, I found I was filming the exceptional moment, which turned out to be fortuitious. Richard noticed that he was being filmed, but appeared not to mind the ‘intrusion’, so I kept the film running. To be honest, I wish I had video or audio recordings of every meeting and gathering at which we have met thus far, all of which have been fascinating, inspiring and intellectually vibrant. Richard Demarco is a stellar human being and one who never fails to enliven the world around him, a world which I am so fortunate to be able to encounter him in.
I share this treasure of mine in good faith, the result of my impromptu filming of an impromptu lecture by Professor Richard Demarco, CBE OBE on 10 July 2013, at Summerhall in Edinburgh. The film clip contains mentions of the Edinburgh Festival, the climate and Nature, made poignant by the presence of a cherished portrait of the late Joseph Beuys, renowned artist and environmentalist, a much-treasured and missed friend of the great man. There are also several ‘guest appearances’ through a creaky door, by those going about their business of managing the Demarco Archive at Summerhall. I hope none will mind being featured in this little film.
As an aside before ending this post, mere mention of the fact that this was filmed a day after Richard Demarco’s 83rd birthday. Richard has recently celebrated turning 85, and continues to travel widely to speak of Art, his great love, and many things related, inspiring all who come into his orbit. What a remarkable man he is!
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Note: For more information about Professor Richard Demarco, please search this site for other post(s), where you will also find links to his website.
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NB. The film clip featured is the property of and remains copyright to Holly Maxwell Boydell, with all rights reserved. The film and this post may be shared, but not used elsewhere for gain without prior and appropriate agreement / permission.
Copyright © The Holly Tree Tales
All rights reserved.
A few months ago, I was down in Winchester to attend a couple of events at Winchester College and found a little time for myself on the Saturday morning, anonymous and alone amongst the many inhabitants and visitors to the town. Feeling tired and fairly tender on the day, I decided to take myself on foot to the Cathedral, in the hope of finding a quiet corner where I might not intrude, and where I might be allowed to simply be.
Whilst there, I penned the following into my notebook …
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In Winchester Cathedral
As I walked into the Cathedral, on a video screen I saw the words very clearly “Be Still And Know That I Am God” … before they disappeared, replaced on the screen with something else. I had walked in alone, in that moment, and felt as though the stillness and trusting message was especially for me.
I asked the lady greeting visitors at the door if I might be allowed to just come in and sit down. I barely had the emotional strength to explain that I was not a tourist nor a history scholar, merely someone needing solace. I did not wish to join the milieu, nor have to walk across to the ticket kiosk and deal with the business of being there. Thankfully, mercifully, I did not have to explain to her. The lady looked directly into my eyes, and asked if I wanted to pray. I said “Yes, just to sit and pray, and to write”. She looked as though she clearly understood my need and, without hesitation, showed me the way – “towards the wrought iron gates on the left hand side, and then left into the little chapel” – which has been set aside for this purpose. I was so grateful to be able to come here and be peaceful, alone.
As I walked into the chapel and sat down, the tears that had been gathering on the long walk down the side of the Cathedral were beginning to really flow free, and I was pleased to be able to let them out, completely alone and privately. Then I looked up at the beautiful flowers, in an arrangement near where I was sitting, and noticed snapdragon heads amongst them, and realised that they are similar to the few apricot-coloured snapdragon plants that I had inherited at [the home where we currently live], before I moved them out of the area near the house, into the Stables Courtyard. Not my favourite colour in plants by any means, but I felt as if they were a link to here, a message of some sort.
I opened the Bible sitting on the pew rail in front of me; it fell open at Proverbs 19.
Then I opened another page, after reading what had been shown, and saw Psalm 126.
I photographed the pages, to have a record of what I had seen and read. Some meaning was already and immediately there, but I felt that more meaning might come later, and wanted a record of what I had felt to be special and relevant messages.
Before entering the Cathedral, I had walked around the area in and near the shop and refectory beyond it, photographing the beautiful and meaningful bits to me, nurturing myself by being peaceful, enjoying the unrushed time to absorb what I felt led to and what I wanted to see.
Drinking in the peace at the Cathedral, even with the many other visitors and voices bouncing around the huge stone walls, I feel grateful for being understood, being allowed to stop, sit alone quietly, and simply be.
“Be Still, And Know
That I Am God”
Psalm 46: 10
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As I was leaving the Cathedral, I slipped gold coins into the donation box, in thanks for the peace and understanding shown to me, by the kind lady at the entrance door. That time in the Epiphany Chapel had been a gentle, much-needed balm to my soul. I had felt momentarily as though, perhaps, someone truly is looking after me.
I imagine that a good course in Psychology would be as worthwhile to an Architect, as a good course in Nutrition would be to any Doctor.
On 22 March 2014 I wrote a short piece, in honour of a man I am proud to call a friend, which I ‘published’ onto the Facebook social media platform, in order that others might read it too. My short note was received with gratitude and favour by those who hold Richard in high esteem, as I do, and for that I was immensely grateful. These are the words and the image, which I had taken too, that was ‘published’ with them …
A remarkable man: Richard Demarco, CBE
I am writing this about and for Richard Demarco, to show him my appreciation and respect, a couple of days before a special event takes place for him, in a quiet way, in Edinburgh. I am incredibly proud to call myself a friend of Richard Demarco, a man who has had a profound effect on the lives of many and varied people in Britain, Europe, and around the world, through the world of Art, from his base in the ‘cultured’ city of Edinburgh.
On Monday 24 March 2014 Richard Demarco CBE will receive the highest award that his own city of birth has to offer. It has been a long time in coming, and I am one of the many who warmly applaud Professor Demarco in receiving this, the Edinburgh Award. He certainly has gone above and beyond boundaries or expectations and, unasked, has done more than most to foster links and goodwill between the United Kingdom and the rest of the world, using Art in all its forms as his medium and communication tool.
With family origins in Italy, and Scotland as his birth place, in his own right Richard Demarco is a most talented artist, his sketches and watercolours amongst some of the most beautiful, and informed, that I have ever seen, and for this alone he gets my recognition and respect. Richard Demarco is also one of the most passionate people I know, a true phenomenon, with the most incredible stamina and verve for life. Those who have been in his space have felt captivated by Richard and hearing him speak is an experience that few are left untouched by; he is, quite simply, a force to be reckoned with.
For many reasons, Richard Demarco’s own life deserves documenting, his own personality and grace applauded, and his own words heard – but always he thinks of others. Richard quickly sees where there is magic in people he meets, always seeks ways to put people and their given talents together, constantly looks for ways to better others’ lives. He has his own voice, undoubtedly clear and strategic, but he is always mindful of his fellow man… and, need I say, he is always mindful of his environment too. Richard is, without doubt, a thoughtful man, on every level.
Now in his 84th year, Richard Demarco has an archive that would take your breath away. The Demarco Foundation Archive contains immeasurably valuable historic records, incredible and inspiring artworks by others, many that will have to remain hidden, at least until a suitable place is found to safely house and make the entire collection available to the public, in perpetuity. Amongst the vast collection of international artworks, are records of deep and significant meaning, documented life witnessed and shared and expressed by others, which spans at least six decades, including information about and material from each and every Edinburgh Festival since its inception. Most profoundly, amongst the Demarco Archive are excruciatingly insightful, haunting and valuable records, giving glimpses into personal links with all sorts of artists and others in Europe and Britain during World War II. This part of the collection, alone, is worth national protection.
Many do not know this, but Richard Demarco has participated, in one significant way or another, in every single Edinburgh Festival, since it began in 1947. He remains committed to its original purpose, wishing to see it become once again the cultural and elegant festival which it used to be, where people’s spirits were lifted, lives enriched and elevated through Art in its many forms. Recently recognition for his positive role in humanity came from distant shores, when Richard Demarco was named European Citizen of the Year 2013. This is something that Edinburgh should be immensely proud of, and proves not only his commitment and loyalty to people everywhere, but his longevity of ambassadorial goodwill.
A passion that I share with Richard Demarco, besides a commitment to take care of our environment by planting trees (reference the oak trees planted by Joseph Beuys in Europe, as a symbolic gesture decades ago, with the expressed wish for this to continue, to protect the earth, the bees, and our lives), is to hear the voices and the hearts of children everywhere. Children, after all, will grow up to be the people who lead us, and it is for them that we ought to live well and decide our actions with wisdom now. Through Richard I learnt about “Room 13 International”, a movement that began in the West of Scotland about twenty years ago, which is now global, empowering the lives and minds of children around the world. I was especially touched to learn that “Room 13” exists in several areas of South Africa, the country where I was born and grew up, and that “Room 13” was one of the movements close to Nelson Mandela’s heart. He, too, cared deeply for children. Like Nelson Mandela, young people delight Richard Demarco; he never seems to tire of engaging them in elevating thought and suggesting opportunity. Like the artist Joseph Beuys, Richard believes that everyone is an artist – and that this is something to be nurtured young.
While he encourages Art, in its many and varied forms, most of all I get the impression that Richard Demarco responds to beauty, and to where he sees love present, wherever and however it is expressed – however deeply or otherwise – as long as it is truthfully expressed.
In some ways, Richard reminds me of Gandhi, who once said words to the effect that “it is expensive to be my friend …”, because Richard Demarco’s visions are enormous, his effect in the world he influences great, while his own means remain surprisingly humble. I love this man Demarco. I love that he is who he is and has done what he has done. He has annoyed some, he has delighted others. That matters little to me, because in him I see the truth lived out, and he is, like all of us, a mere mortal. I love Professor Richard Demarco’s passionate commitment to the human race and to elevating the minds of everyone he comes in contact with, whatever the means, regardless of age, background or creed. Richard Demarco is fearless in the pursuit of his passion: to stimulate consideration and thought, and to empower others. This I love and resonate with most of all.
As you prepare to receive your Edinburgh Award, so justly and rightly deserved, I want to say that I believe you are a shining star, Richard, and I am deeply humbled and grateful to know you as a friend, and a mentor in the journey of life. Bravo and congratulations on receiving The Edinburgh Award … not yet, perhaps, the greatest of your many ongoing achievements, but certainly a highly significant one, and the one that has been the most immediately deserved, yet has taken the longest to arrive.
Well done, our friend, well done.
FOR FURTHER INFO:
Digital Archive http://www.demarco-archive.ac.uk/
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