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19 October 1979

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Brothers score stage success

Seldom can the phrase "local boy makes good" be more aptly applied than in the case of Dunfermline-born Robin Anderson. Unless, of course, one applies it to his brothers, Ian and Alistair. For all three have achieved notable success in their chosen fields.

Robin, at 49, the eldest, is the administrator of the Scottish Ballet, which visits Dunfermline's Carnegie Hall on Thursday, during this year's Ballet for Scotland tour.

Alistair (44) is an expert hydraulic engineer, whose work takes him all over the world.

And Ian, in his early 30s, is a distinguished rock musician with the group Jethro Tull. As a flautist, one of his greatest admirers is James Galway.

No one who knew the brothers, when they lived with their parents in Dunfermline, could have guessed what paths their careers would take — one concludes, in fact, that they also gave themselves something of a shock.


For Robin trained as a pharmaceutical chemist; Alistair trained as a marine engineer, and Ian went to Art College.

Home for the Andersons was originally in Headwell Road and later in Aberdour Road, until the family moved to Edinburgh, while Robin was studying at Heriot Watt University.

Until his retirement, their father Mr James Anderson ran the family business, the RSA Boiler Fluid Company in East Port, Dunfermline.

Robin and Alistair attended Canmore Primary and Dunfermline High Schools. Ian, being a good deal younger than his brothers, went to school in Edinburgh and later in Lancashire, where the family eventually settled.


Much has happened since those days, but Robin well remembers having piano lessons in Dunfermline's Music Institute. And he laughingly recalls Ian's first musical offerings in local youth clubs!

Of the three, it is Robin who has perhaps the strangest story to tell, for it was not until he was 39 years old that he decided to give up work as a chemist in exchange for a career in the theatre. He had been actively interested in dance and the theatre in general for many years, but the crunch came with the opportunity of an Arts Council bursary to study theatre administration.

He toured Britain, spending time at various theatres, and eventually became theatre manager at the Phoenix Theatre, Leicester. In 1973 he became administrator of the Scottish Ballet and has never looked back since.

"This was the job of a lifetime, as far as I was concerned. It's been an exciting job and worthwhile. And there are still new things to do."

He is responsible for the whole operation of the Company as a commercial enterprise, and, with a turnover approaching £1 million each year, it is no bed of roses.

When he joined the Company, it had been formed a mere four years and still retained its original title, Scottish Theatre Ballet.

The first project in which he became involved was the ballet's tour to Australia and New Zealand, with Margot Fonteyn as guest artist.

He proudly explains how, when the Company embarked upon the tour, it was a small struggling group of dancers. When they returned, they brought with them a stature that has since grown into a national identity. Since then, performances in Madrid (with Rudolph Nureyev), Barcelona, Paris (again with Nureyev), San Sebastian, Biarritz, St Veande Luz and Sautander have all helped establish the company on an international level.


In a way they are unique, for as well as fulfilling the functions of a national company they split in half to undertake their popular Ballet for Scotland tours in order to perform in as many places as possible.

Last year they acquired new Headquarters in Glasgow, and Robin is looking forward to the setting-up of a ballet school associated with the Company.

They prided themselves on a commonsense approach to ballet.

"We have always believed that not everyone sets out in life with a passionate interest in swans and sylphs, and these mysterious and eccentric fauna of the ballet world may sometimes alienate audiences as well as attract them."


So, alongside the Classics, they like to present more modern, more familiar works which are accessible to a wider audience.

To celebrate the beginning of its 10th anniversary year, the Company performed an unusual triple bill — 'Underground Rumours' — a fusion of rock music and jazz with classical and contemporary dance.

And one might justifiably hazard a guess as to who was responsible for some of the rock music — brother Ian!

Ian contacted Jon Anderson (no relation) of the group Yes who also wrote a special piece of music for the Company.


Ian Anderson produced 'The Water's Edge', choreographed by Robert North, on the theme of Scottish sea legends, and Jon Anderson wrote 'Ursprung', a work concerned with the world of nature.

Ian, like his two brothers, has been travelling throughout his life.

Having left College and deciding to seek his fame and fortune in London, he once worked as a cinema cleaner in Luton to earn some money! He now combines his long-standing success in the pop world with the more down-to-earth pleasures of farming his estate in Skye and spending time with his family at their home in Buckinghamshire.


In Robin's view, Ian's success has been due to his continually lifting his music above popular taste, rather than aiming at the popular market.

"You have got to be slightly ahead of popular taste so you can lift it, but no so far ahead that you antagonise it," says Robin.

"One may like the music or hate it, but Ian, in his way, is always striving for new effects."

This constant striving seems to be a characteristic shared by the brothers — a characteristic that has happily brought them both personal and public success.


Photo captions: Robin Anderson (above) with the Queen Mother after a performance of 'The Tales of Hoffmann' at the Theatre Royal, Glasgow, and below, Ian Anderson with fellow musician Jon Anderson.

Thanks to Bruce Carribine for this article