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Demarco Skateraw Dunbar Primary Living Chess

by IM Craig Pritchett

On Friday, 28th October, members of Dunbar Primary School chess club performed a living chess display at the Demarco Skateraw Exhibition in a farmer's huge grain barn near to the town and Torness Power Station.

To give a flavour of the happening, here is the cast list with credits to all those who made the performance possible, including some background:

Performed at the Demarco Skateraw Project, 28th October 2005

The White pieces v The Black pieces



Rebecca Clow


Lana Stewart


Kirstin Allen


Scott Higgins


Steven McPherson

David Brunton


Matthew McPhillipps

Denham Blair


Freya Willens

Rebecca Collins


Nadine Lam

Katrina Soutar


James Duguid

Liam Kirkham


Sophie Kaszuba

Katie Pritchett


Callum Faulkner

Nicola Johnstone

Isabelle Taylor

Connal McLeod

Craig Thorburn

Joseph Cameron

Jack Hunter

Danny McAllister


Curtis Wood

Casey Brunton

Andrew McFarthing

Jonathan Petrusev

Callum O'Brien

Rhys Patterson

Lauren Patterson

Annie Lynn Spowart

understudy David Bryant

The players

The Black Filly Junior Chess Club (Duncan Grassie)


Marcel Duchamp (Rhian Hughes)


The arbiter (Craig Pritchett)


Art Director: Martine Mccluskie supported by Jean Mccluskie

Dress Design: Jackie Burke

Parental and School support: Lorna McLeod, Ellie Wood, Penny Rounce

Music: Naomi Barnes (violin) playing The two Grenadiers by Schumann

Background: the art drama re-enacted a 1961 correspondence game by the celebrated avant garde artist Marcel Duchamp in New York and four members of a Dutch junior chess club in Amsterdam. Positions from the game were displayed as an artwork in a famous exhibition of avant garde art that year in Amsterdam, Bewogen Beweging (Moving Movement).

The junior team included Hans Ree, a future chess grandmaster, and Tim Krabbé, subsequently a novelist, many of whose works have been filmed, including the 1993 Hollywood movie The Vanishing.

Tim Krabbé, who also hosts a fascinating site on the internet, Chess Curiosities, presented a commemorative note for the Skateraw re-enactment. This included photos of him as he was “then” and is “now” and was made into a collage presented to Richard Demarco after the performance on 28 October 2005.

Our thanks go to Richard Demarco and the Skateraw Project for providing an opportunity to stage this performance and to all the wonderful children who took part.


A photo selection

Marcel Duchamp was an elite grandmaster of the avant garde and the acknowledged father of much that is “modern” in modern art. He was also a chess master. His lively art was full of fun, and his influence is everywhere in Richard Demarco's Archive collection, on exhibition at Skateraw (August-October 2005).

Duchamp was a particular inspiration for the late Joseph Beuys, one of Demarco's close friends and associates, whom he introduced to Edinburgh and the UK in the 1970s and 80s, to the acclaim of the artworld.

Beuys hatMany of Beuys' works are on display at Skateraw. Look out for the large photograph of the artist with his trademark hat at the side of the chessboard in the photo selection below.

I have also included a detail from a work The Bananatrap Dinner by Daniel Spoerri, who spoke with Duchamp about the artist's prospects against the Dutch juniors (he feared they'd rout him!) before play commenced in the cable match.

After the performance, Demarco, local artist Martine Mccluskie and the children made an artwork of the costumes laid on the squares of the chessboard. This made a superb focal point on entry to the exhibition space.

This work was such a success that Demarco retained it to frame a closing recital of Italian song after the public exhibition ended on Sunday 30 th October. Well done, Marcel Duchamp and the children of Dunbar Primary School!

Enjoy the photos taken variously by Dunbar Primary School, Johnny Watson, owner of the farm, and Craig Pritchett. Note Tim Krabbé's collage … and the piece which figures turf, inspired by the theme of “energy”. The latter and another showing Beuys' hat are by Robert McDowell, a student of Beuys in the 1970s, who became his assistant.

Robert McDowell, a present-day friend and associate of Demarco's, played chess to Ulster Championship level in the late 60s and early 70s.

And finally, the game was played in the spirit of youth and quasi-panto, including lots of audience and children participation and wry jokes.

Krabbé collage
The 9000 sq ft grain barn Richard Demarco and Martine Mccluskey
Demarco inspects the troops

Click the photos for a larger version

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