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JOHN BELLANY: programme transcript


My name is John Bellany and I was born in Port Seaton in 1942.


I had an idyllic childhood living in Port Seaton, it was absolutely enthralling right from the word go. It’s become a continuation of Edinburgh now but in these days Port Seaton was away out in the countryside almost. I think it was a visual paradise really because it’s a fishing village. Every day was filled with wonder. The fishing part was the mainstay of the whole village and the harbour was the fulcrum of everything. But the people who lived there, everybody knew each other - the whole village was like one big family.

I think it was from the age of four I’d never ever wanted to be anything else but an artist and I’ve got early drawings of the harbour and of the people round about. And the people I used to paint there were actually friends because you knew everybody and it’s continued like that.


But then when I went to Edinburgh it was like an avalanche for a hungry man thirsty for knowledge. It was so colossal the difference and it was all here. To study at Edinburgh College of Art. You drew all the time, you painted all the time, Art History was a big part of the course as well. You had the University at hand, you had the National Gallery on the doorstep. And then I went to London to the Royal College after that, but really it was Edinburgh where I found myself.


Edinburgh is the most amazing city in the world. I think Port Seaton and Edinburgh are where I think about as home. I mean where I live I just have to look out the window and Robert Louis Stevenson lived three or four hundred yards away and I look at the same view he looked at when he was writing Treasure Island. It’s all there, it’s all on my doorstep, I’m such a lucky man. It’s all there waiting to be seen and felt. These people used that and I use it and other people should use it as well, it’s just…what a country, it’s magnificent.


When I went to Edinburgh the world opened you know and I was able to see the whole of Scotland and I became much more interested in literature and poetry and of course I met poets and I met writers and…the canvas was enormous. Our simple idea in these days, and still is, was we were going to enthral the world with our work. And that’s what I’m still trying to do to this day.



John was interviewed by Martin Smith.



Director : Martin Smith

Producer : Nicki Young

Cinematographer : Simon Dennis

Colourist : Simone Grattarola

Sound : Robert Anderson

Editor : Simon Blakeley

Executive Producer: Stuart Cosgrove

2004 Channel 4 Television Productions Ltd.

My City: Edinburgh