Private Project

Carbuncle Town

Carbuncle Town is a film about people and buildings, and why you should never underestimate either. In this documentary we delve into the gritty, poignant, and often-humorous world of places tarred with the title, 'the most dismal town in Scotland’!

‘Dismal’ is a word that might have been invented to describe some of the worst examples of town planning between Glasgow and Edinburgh. So it comes with little surprise that Denny, smack bang in the miasmic middle should have won the 2010 Carbuncle Award, an annual architectural prize given to Scotland’s most dismal town. Instead of just accepting the unfortunate title, why not use it to your advantage, as one Denny rebel has done.

Brian McCabe, a local firebrand, and the good burgers of Denny, set about ridding their town centre of its monstrous 1960’s carbuncle of a shopping centre. It took five years worth of emotional and political struggle.

John Glenday, editor of the magazine that invented the carbuncle idea, Urban Realm, visits potential nominees for the following year: Linwood, Nairn and Fort William, and we are with him right up until the unfortunate winner is announced. During his eventful journey around Scotland, John meets a whole host of ardent characters all passionate about their towns.

What emerges is more than a lampoon at urban rejuvenation. This affectionate story brings sharply into focus the rough and tumbles of local politics, from the professionally motivated to the plucky amateurs, unafraid to speak their minds. Characters emerge that are rarely celebrated in everyday life, people who are fighting to bring back dignity to their town centres and residents. Are they fighting a losing battle? Or could the Carbuncle award ultimately help to save their towns? Above all this film shines a light on the huge chasm between those who make town planning decisions, and the people who have to live with the consequences.

  • Adam Barnett & Ann McCluskey
    Argentina in Therapy
  • Adam Barnett & Ann McCluskey
  • Project Type:
  • Runtime:
    1 hour 10 minutes
  • Completion Date:
    June 30, 2016
  • Country of Origin:
    United Kingdom
  • Country of Filming:
    United Kingdom
  • Language:
  • Shooting Format:
  • Aspect Ratio:
  • Film Color:
  • First-time Filmmaker:
  • Student Project:
  • London Festival of Architecture
    United Kingdom
    June 1, 2016
  • Festival Internacional de Cine Y Arquitectura
    June 28, 2016
    Special Mention
  • Architecture Fringe Festival
    United Kingdom
    July 18, 2016
  • Amsterdam Lift-off Film Festival
    October 1, 2016
Director Biography - Adam Barnett & Ann McCluskey

I am an Edinburgh based filmmaker, and I focus mainly on character based, human rights and environmental documentary filmmaking.

I began making films in 2003 and in 2005 I applied and was accepted onto the summer documentary course at the National Film and Television School, where I made Gazette Albania, a documentary about the only Albanian newspaper in the UK. It was ran solely by journalists, poets and writers, all of whom had had to flee for their lives from their native Albania.

In 2006 I came to Edinburgh College of Art to do an MFA in film directing. My first year film End of the Line explored the environmental cost of over-fishing, the decline of the fishing industry in Scotland, and the knock-on effects to the fishing communities, through an intimate portrait of two fishing boats in North East Scotland coming to the end of their working lives. This film was entered and reached the final stages of the national student television awards.

My first feature documentary, Argentina in Therapy, was shown at international film festivals and was then distributed by DR to six international broadcasters, including TVE in Spain. It was reviewed as “An intriguing and original insight into a fascinating country.” by Geoffrey Smith, Director of The English Surgeon, an Emmy award winning film.

Since graduating I have been developing several documentary projects including Carbuncle Town.

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Director Statement

We have all driven through towns so dismal and wondered ‘How does anyone manage to live there?’ ‘How has this happened?’ and ‘Is anyone doing something about this?’ ‘Does anyone one really care?’, then carry on with our journeys. This character-based film stops to pause and spend time with communities affected by the worst planning decisions and most horrendous architecture. It seeks to understand how this happens, and how people in these towns manage to survive and prosper.

31 years ago Prince Charles made his famous ‘Carbuncle’ speech lambasting the proposed extension to the National Gallery in Trafalgar Square. Inspired, an enterprising Glaswegian publisher devised a controversial competition, the Carbuncle Award, for the most dismal town in Scotland. Offensive to many, but great publicity for his architectural magazine. Both press and public loved it, bolstered by his argument that the award is ‘very effective in shaming councils into actually doing something about these deprived communities.’

The Carbuncle Award first came to our attention in 2010 when it was declined by Fort William, yet Denny, a small town in Stirlingshire, willingly accepted it. In fact, this mutinous town, led by ringleader Brian McCabe, actively courted the award. Gladly inviting the editor, John Glenday, to present Denny the Carbuncle Award, Brian reasoned that it would shame Falkirk council into doing something about the hideous town centre: 1960’s concrete blocks, boarded up for years, latterly home to drug addicts and sex offenders, and resembling a rather mouldy Battenberg cake. This is where we pick up the story.