Murray Grigor

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Murray Grigor
Born 1939
Inverness, Scotland
Occupation Film maker
Years active 1967–present

Barbara Grigor (1968–1994)


William Alexander Murray Grigor OBE (born 1939) is a Scottish film maker, writer and exhibition curator. He has made over 50 films with a focus on arts and architecture documentaries.

Murray Grigor, Scottish film maker & Philanthropist Carol Hogel

Early life[edit]

Grigor was born in 1939 in Inverness, and graduated from St. Andrews University. He started his career at the BBC which he left in 1967 to become director of the Edinburgh International Film Festival.[1] He married, in 1968, Barbara Grigor, née Sternschein, a teacher of French and German, film maker and exhibition curator, with whom he had two daughters, Sarah, b 1970 and Phoebe, b 1972[2]


Grigor made his first film, the documentary Mackintosh, in 1968, about the then neglected Scottish architect Charles Rennie Mackintosh. With photography by Eddie McConnell and Oscar Marzaroli, a haunting score by Frank Spedding and Bill Forsyth as editor. The film won five international awards and together with the Edinburgh Festival touring exhibition, curated by Andrew McLaren Young, did much to re-establish the reputation of the now renowned architect. {ref. citation: The Lighthouse Achievement Award, Glasgow, 2005, presented by Zaha Hadid}.

During the 1970s, Grigor wrote and directed several sponsored documentaries for Films of Scotland, most notably Travelpass with John Bett and Alex Norton, Suilven Spring with Bill Paterson and "Clydescope" on the tourist attractions around the River Clyde with Billy Connolly and innovative animations devised by his friend the artist John Byrne and brought to the screen by Donald Holwill. Connolly's original songs were augmented by the 'compleat musician' Ron Geesin and the great Irish actor Micheal Mac Liammoir read the picaresque send-up narration. This production with his partner Patrick Higson and the cameraman David Peat was such a fun experience that Grigor persuaded Billy Connolly to put up the money for a weekend foray to Ireland which resulted in "Big Banana Feet', inspired by Don't Look BackD.A. Pennebaker's film of Bob Dylan's UK tour.

Already during the 1970s, Grigor made arts and architecture as a focus of his filmmaking. He has made documentaries about many renowned American, British and Italian architects, including Robert Adam, John Lautner, Carlo Scarpa, Sir John Soane, Gwathmey Siegel & Associates Architects, Alexander "Greek" Thomson, and Frank Lloyd Wright. Grigor's documentaries on artists include "BLAST" on the Vorticists, 'E.P. Sculptor" on Eduardo Paolozzi in association with the Edinburgh Festival 1984 exhibition initiated by Barbara Grigor. "The Why?sman" brought together George Wyllie's play, "Day Down a Goldmine" with Bill Paterson and freely explored Glasgow's most popular artist, the creator of the much loved 'Straw Locomotive', and the "Paper Boat" – great public art inspired by his friend Joseph Beuys.

Grigor also worked on, and curated, art exhibitions. In 1976, for the opening exhibition of the Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum, titled Man TransForms. For this Grigor was invited by the Austrian architect and designer Hans Hollein to direct film loops on aspects of design. He was awarded a US/UK Bicentennial Fellowship to research and write a feature length documentary film on Frank Lloyd Wright, which he finally made with David Peat as cameraman in 1981, with Anne Baxter, the architect's granddaughter providing the narration. "The Architecture of Frank Lloyd Wright" received many awards including a 'Citation by the American Institute of Architects,' the first ever to have been awarded to a filmmaker. In 1981, Murray Grigor, together with his wife Barbara, curated the provocative touring exhibition Scotch Myths questioning a Scotland portrayed by kitsch and stereotypes of fatigued romanticism. A filmed burlesque based on their exhibition followed in 1982 – as a parody of the annual Hogmanay show for Channel 4, a British television channel. In 2008, Grigor produced seven film loops for the exhibition Between Earth and Heaven about the architecture of John Lautner, which coincided with the premiere of his documentary Infinite Space on the same subject.

Since the 1980s, Grigor widened his film focus to cover more international, and particularly American subjects, such as the 1986 landmark 8 part series Pride of Place with Robert A. M. Stern for the American television channel PBS. In 1997, he directed the PBS series "The Face of Russia" with James Billington, the Librarian of Congress. "Contemporary Days" on the British designers Robin and Lucienne Day for Design Onscreen of Denver Colorado, was premiered at the Glasgow Film Festival in February 2011. Ever to Excel, a feature documentary with Sir Sean Connery was funded in America to mark the 600th anniversary of the University of St Andrews for its scholarship endowment campaign, and had its British premiere at the 2012 Glasgow Film Festival.

Grigor also worked as film producer and writer. Together with his wife, he founded, in 1972, the film company Viz Ltd based in Inverkeithing, Scotland.[2][3] Grigor has also written screenplays for all his films, and a number of exhibition catalogues to accompany his exhibitions. He was co-author of "The Architects' Architect" on C.R. Mackintosh with Richard Murphy and "Sean Connery – Being a Scot" with Sir Sean Connery, published in 2008 and which is now published in 7 languages.[4]

Appointments and awards[edit]

Grigor was director of the Edinburgh International Film Festival from 1967 to 1972, and its chairman from 1985 to 1990. He was director of Channel 4, a British TV channel, from 1995 to 1999. He was appointed, in 2007, as a member of the Scottish Broadcasting Commission.[5]

Grigor is a fellow of the Royal Society of Arts, and was the first film maker to be made an Honorary Fellow of the Royal Incorporation of Architects in Scotland and the Royal Institute of British Architects. Grigor is Visiting Professor of Film Studies at the Anglia Ruskin University, from which he received, in 2010, an Honorary Doctor of Arts.[6]

Grigor was the first recipient of the Royal Television Society Reith Award. He has received a Citation of Excellence from the American Institute of Architects for his film Portrait of an Artist: the Architecture of Frank Lloyd Wright. His film E. P. Sculptor on the artist Eduardo Paolozzi won the Rodin Prize at the 1992 Paris Biennale. The film Nineveh on the Clyde on the architecture of Glasgow architect Alexander "Greek" Thomson won awards at Montréal and from Europa Nostra at Toblach, Italy.

Grigor was appointed Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in the 2012 New Year Honours for services to architecture and the film industry.[7]


Grigor has directed the following films.[8][9][10]

Year Title Summary
n.d. A sport for all seasons Film on sports in Scotland
1968 Mackintosh Documentary about 20th century Scottish architect Charles Rennie Mackintosh
1970 Fettes Documentary about activities and events at Fettes College, Edinburgh, including a visit by HM The Queen Mother
1972 GR Stein Refractories Documentary about the production, and uses, of refractory bricks
1972 Space and light Documentary about the newly built St. Peter's Seminary, Cardross, by Scottish architects firm Gillespie, Kidd and Coia
1973 Travelpass: it's just the ticket Promotional film for the Highland Board's "Rover" ticket
1974 Clydescope Documentary about the river Clyde, from Biggar to Brodick, with Scottish comedian Billy Connolly as guide
1974 Suilven Spring Documentary about the Northwest of Scotland seen through the eyes of a young couple taking a Spring break
1975 Raised from stone Documentary about Scottish architectural styles
1975 The Hand of Adam Documentary about 18th century Scottish architect Robert Adam
1975 Prospect of Scotland Documentary about Scottish industries in context with the country's history and tradition
1975 Steel upon the Sward Documentary about works of the three sculptors Gerald Laing, Gavin Scobie and Andrew Mylius
1977 Cumbernauld Hit A James-Bond type fiction film playing in the new town of Cumbernauld, and sponsored by the Cumbernauld Development Corporation; the film is an original take on the "promotional" films produced for Scotland's new towns during the 1970s.
1982 Scotch Myths A Drama-documentary questening a Scotland portrayed by kitsch and stereotypes of fatigued romanticism; Murray Grigor produced this film together with his wife, Barbara Grigor, for Channel Four's first Hogmanay show in 1982.
1982 Sean Connery's Edinburgh Documentary about Edinburgh presented by Scottish actor Sean Connery
1983 (Portrait of an Artist:) The Architecture of Frank Lloyd Wright Documentary about 19th/20th century American architect Frank Lloyd Wright featuring the architect's granddaughter, the actress Anne Baxter
1984 Pride of Place 8 part one hour TV series documentary about American architecture
1988 Henry Moore and Landscape TV documentary about 20th century English sculptor Henry Moore
1990 The Why?sman – In Pursuit of the Question Mark Documentary on the self-styled Scul?tor George Wyllie, artist, playwright, poet and Pataphysician. It features his Straw Locomotive (1987) and the Paper Boat, as a requiem for Glasgow's once-great industrial prowess. It also features Wyllie's performance piece, Day Down a Goldmine, with Bill Paterson, an eerie forecast on the collapse of the banking system.
1992 E. P. Sculptor Documentary about, and with, 20th century Scottish sculptor Eduardo Paolozzi
1995 The Architecture of Carlo Scarpa Documentary about 20th century Italian architect Carlo Scarpa, presented by Scottish architect Richard Murphy
1995 In Search of Clarity: The Architecture of Gwathmey Siegel Documentary about 20th century American architects firm Gwathmey Siegel & Associates Architects
1998 The Face of Russia TV mini-series for WETA / PBS with James Billington, Librarian of Congress
1999 Nineveh on the Clyde: the Architecture of Alexander "Greek" Thomson Documentary about 19th century Scottish architect Alexander "Greek" Thomson
2001 The Work of Angels Documentary on The Book of Kells, Director of photography, Seamus McGarvey,

Producer Louis Lentin for RTE, Ireland and ABC TV, Australia.

2003 Is mise an teanga (I am the tongue) Documentary on Scots and Irish Gaelic poems, complemented by the work contemporary Irish and Scots artists, based on An Leabhar Mor – the Great Book of Gaelic. Director of Photography Seamus McGarvey.
2005 Maggie's Centres Documentary about Maggie's Centres, cancer care centres in Britain, inspired by Maggie Keswick Jencks and built by celebrated architects
2005 Sir John Soane: an English architect, an American legacy Documentary about 18th century English architect Sir John Soane and his influence on 20th century American architects
2008 Infinite space: the Architecture of John Lautner Documentary about 20th century American architect John Lautner
2008 Shattering Boundaries: Grace Hartigan Documentary about 20th century American painter Grace Hartigan
2010 Space and Light Revisited A two screen documentary about the now ruined St. Peter's Seminary, Cardross, which was already subject of a prizewinning documentary by Grigor in 1972

UIA, Madrid – Silver Medalla

2011 Contemporary Days: the Designs of Lucienne and Robin Day Documentary about the British designers Lucienne and Robin Day[11]
2012 Ever to Excel Feature length documentary to mark the 600th anniversary of the University of St Andrews with Sean Connery. Director of photography Hamid Shams, Music composed by Rory Boyle.


Grigor has curated, or contributed to, the following exhibitions.[12]

Year Title Place Notes
1981 Scotch myths: an exploration of scotchness Crawford Centre, University of St. Andrews, and Edinburgh International Festival about a Scotland portrayed by kitsch and stereotypes of fatigued romanticism; Murray Grigor curated this exhibition together with his wife Barbara; the Grigors also produced an exhibition catalogue, and film documentary on this subject under the same title.
1990 Scotland creates: 5000 years of art & design McLellan Galleries, Glasgow
1991 Seeds of change: a view of Scottish inventiveness Royal Museum of Scotland / National Museums of Scotland, Edinburgh
1993 The Sixties Barbican Art Gallery, London


  1. ^ "Murray Grigor". Anglia Ruskin University
  2. ^ a b "Obituary: Barbara Grigor". The Independent, 19 October 1994
  3. ^ Later Patrick Higson, his colleague from the BBC joined the company and added considerably to its success. from Viz Ltd. Companies House, UK
  4. ^ "Sean Connery talks to Murray Grigor". Edinburgh International Book Festival 2011
  5. ^ [1] Biography of Murray Grigor on the website of the Scottish Broadcasting Commission
  6. ^ [2] Citation for Murray Grigor on the website of the Anglia Ruskin University
  7. ^ The London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 60009. p. 10. 31 December 2011.
  8. ^ Murray Grigor. Internet Movie Database (IMDb)
  9. ^ Search. National Library for Scotland
  10. ^ [3] Entries for Murray Grigor at the online catalogue in the Scottish Screen Archive, National Library for Scotland
  11. ^ "Contemporary Days: The Designs of Lucienne and Robin Day". Designs on Screen
  12. ^ "Speakers". Heritage and Identity

External links[edit]