Obituary: Barbara Grigor

Barbara Sternschein, film-maker, theatre producer, arts entrepreneur: born June 1944; married 1968 Murray Grigor (two daughters); died Edinburgh 17 October 1994.

IT WOULD be easy but quite wrong to say that the death of Barbara Grigor left Scotland a poorer country. In her short life - she was only 50 when she died - she enriched and embellished and stimulated Scottish culture in countless ways. That she died so young was very cruel. The many thousands who knew her or were touched by her work can only mourn with her husband Murray Grigor, the film-maker who was her partner in so many bold and original enterprises, and with her daughters Phoebe and Sarah. But she left Scotland a wiser, more sophisticated country, and its artists more confident about their place in the world.

She was the child of Rudi and Leni Sternschein, Jewish refugees from Austria. From that background she brought not only her looks - a melting Viennese beauty, which reminded me of the late Lilli Palmer - but an intellectual energy, a Central European delight in the fun and sparkle of new ideas which did not stop at talk, as so often happens in Scotland, but would not rest until ideas had become a reality: an exhibition, a film, a theatre production and then - almost invariably - one of those high-octane parties which she and Murray would throw in their old stone house at Inverkeithing, across the Firth of Forth from Edinburgh.

With Murray, whom she married in 1968, and Lynda Myles, she took part in the capture of the Edinburgh Film Festival in the late 1960s by a group of dazzling radical intellectuals in their twenties, and helped to transform it into a carnival of new ideas about film which set fashions throughout Europe. As a partner with Murray in the film company Viz, Barbara learned all the skills of organisation, the marshalling of support and money, which complemented Murray's own hurtling torrent of ideas. Her interest in other arts, especially sculpture, led to the first big retrospective exhibition by their friend Eduardo Paolozzi at the 1984 Edinburgh Festival and to a pioneering film which revived the half-forgotten achievements of Charles Rennie Mackintosh. Barbara Grigor set up the Landmark Sculpture Trust, which in the last 20 years enlisted most of Scotland's best artists, and then the Scottish Sculpture Trust, which she chaired and which sent work to exhibitions all over Europe. It was Barbara's energy which brought forward the startling gifts of artists like George Wylie and George Rickey, and which broke through many obstructions to get a marvellous bronze memorial to the poet Hugh MacDiarmid put up near his home town of Langholm, in the Borders.

Above all, Murray and Barbara Grigor held a mirror up to Scotland and forced the nation to laugh at what it saw. Their famous 'Scotch Myths' exhibition in 1981 charged straight at the grisly tangle of sentimental kitsch which passed for the national self-image, the complex which the political thinker Tom Nairn called 'the Tartan Monster'. It was followed by a heretical 'Scotch Myths' Hogmanay show on television, and the Monster has been weakened and derided ever since.

Brought to this summer's Film Festival in a wheelchair, Barbara fought her cancer with wonderful courage to the end. Her warmth and her gaiety can never be replaced. But she was very much loved, and she left Scotland a richer place than she found it.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs People

Ashdown Group: Human Resources Manager

£28000 - £35000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: A successful organisation...

Recruitment Genius: Internal Recruiter - Manufacturing

£20000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Internal Recruiter (manufact...

Ashdown Group: HR Manager (CIPD) - Barking / East Ham - £50-55K

£50000 - £55000 per annum + 25 days holidays & benefits: Ashdown Group: HR Man...

Recruitment Genius: Operations / Project Manager

£40000 - £48000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This software company specialis...

Day In a Page

Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

The Arab Spring reversed

Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

Who is Oliver Bonas?

It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

60 years of Scalextric

Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones
Theme parks continue to draw in thrill-seekers despite the risks - so why are we so addicted?

Why are we addicted to theme parks?

Now that Banksy has unveiled his own dystopian version, Christopher Beanland considers the ups and downs of our endless quest for amusement
Tourism in Iran: The country will soon be opening up again after years of isolation

Iran is opening up again to tourists

After years of isolation, Iran is reopening its embassies abroad. Soon, there'll be the chance for the adventurous to holiday there
10 best PS4 games

10 best PS4 games

Can’t wait for the new round of blockbusters due out this autumn? We played through last year’s offering
Transfer window: Ten things we learnt

Ten things we learnt from the transfer window

Record-breaking spending shows FFP restraint no longer applies
Migrant crisis: UN official Philippe Douste-Blazy reveals the harrowing sights he encountered among refugees arriving on Lampedusa

‘Can we really just turn away?’

Dead bodies, men drowning, women miscarrying – a senior UN figure on the horrors he has witnessed among migrants arriving on Lampedusa, and urges politicians not to underestimate our caring nature
Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger as Isis ravages centuries of history

Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger...

... and not just because of Isis vandalism
Girl on a Plane: An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack

Girl on a Plane

An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack
Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

The author of 'The Day of the Jackal' has revealed he spied for MI6 while a foreign correspondent