FOR Alicia Bruce, documenting the fight by a small but brave band of Aberdeenshire locals against Donald Trump was a personal quest as much as it was an artistic endeavour.

The Aberdeen-born photographer has been close with the community in Menie since 2010, when she ventured north from Edinburgh to speak with residents who stood up to the future president.

Feeling locals such as Mike Forbes were being vilified because of their opposition to Trump’s £1 billion plans to convert a 1400-acre plot of land he bought in 2006, Bruce returned to the Aberdeenshire countryside where she had spent days playing on the beach as a child to find out the truth behind their stance against the tycoon.

She has now passed a major milestone in a fundraising campaign to have a forthcoming book of her photographs of Menie locals published.

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Just three weeks after launching the Kickstarter campaign, Bruce has passed her £20,000 goal to partly fund the book – called Menie: TRUMPED – with donations pouring in from around the world, including from “American political figures” who she wanted to keep anonymous.

The book, to be published by Daylight Books, still needs to meet a total fundraising goal of $38,000 to make it into print, said Bruce, which will cover her costs of film, processing and travel.

But while the book delights in the defiance of the locals – one of the most memorable photographs has Forbes and his wife Sheila parodying the famous American Gothic painting by Grant Wood – the sense of loss and mourning from the images already released is palpable.

Her subjects became her close friends, with Bruce travelling up for birthday parties, celebrations and final goodbyes.

Earlier this year, she attended a memorial service for Sheila Forbes, who died during the pandemic. Sheila was one of three people involved in the project who died during the process, the others were Susan Munro and Molly Forbes, Mike’s mother.

“The final years of their lives were impacted by the stress,” said Bruce. “This book, I really wanted to do as a tribute to them. It breaks my heart that happened.”

The saga began in 2006 – the year Bruce graduated from university – when Trump bought part of the Menie Estate, just less than 20 minutes north of Aberdeen.

Residents were concerned about the environmental impact the 18-hole course would have (the area lost its site of special scientific interest status in 2020) as well as losing their access to the shore and the Trump corporation.

She kept an eye on the fight, which saw locals, including the Forbes family pitted against the might of Trump’s business empire, which at one point requested the council issue four homes with compulsory purchase orders to clear the way for the company’s original masterplan for the site.

Mike Forbes – one of the main faces in the initial fight against the Menie golf course – was charged with theft from Trump’s property and issued with a formal warning by police after removing small flags demarking his site in protest over the encroaching development.

It was this episode – which saw Forbes appear on the front page of Aberdeen’s Evening Express – which spurred Bruce to visit Menie herself and meet the people on the frontline.

Bruce felt he had been given a hard time in the local press, having been dubbed the tycoon’s “kilted nemesis” in the press, and even being called the “village idiot” by Trump himself.

She said: “Initially, I wanted to make one portrait of Mike and meet him to see if he was being a bit misrepresented in the press.

“Which he generally was. The day I met Mike, I met everyone because he was hosting an art exhibition in his barn.

“He was such a contrast to how he was being portrayed at the time. [Trump] said he lived like a pig, and his home was a slum.

“I wanted to go and see what he was like. He reminds me a lot of my dad and my uncles.

“We just quickly got on really well, and I decided to make the whole project about Menie.”

As well as integrating herself with the local community, Bruce found herself at odds with the local police and Trump’s private security team.

THE now-defunct Grampian Police themselves expressed concerns in internal memos revealed by a 2011 Sunday Herald investigation about the amount of extra protection Trump expected and demanded for his business.

Bruce hopes the book will be published in 2023 to coincide with the announcement of the presidential candidates for the following year’s election. Trump is widely expected to make a comeback, and Bruce hopes the fact her book will be published in the US first means it will make a greater impact there.

While her pastiche of the famous Woods painting will chime with American audiences – as will the tale of communities threatened by the millionaire bullyboy ex-president – less familiar will be her use of north east vernacular in the captions for her images.

One caption from the late Molly Forbes, reflecting on when the Trump construction team tore up a connecting pipeline, leaving her without water for 10 days, reads: “Well, yi canna live without water!

“I was carrying water for ma hens and plants from the burn. I had a barra, twa watering cans and a paint pot wi a string.”

Her use of Doric stems from her own upbringing in Aberdeen and subsequent relocation to Edinburgh, both of which dampened her own dialect.

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“That’s how they speak,” said Bruce. “When I moved to Edinburgh, I was really Doric, and people couldn’t understand me or my pals, we had to change our accents.

“We were always told off at school for that as well, so I think it’s important to use it.”

Bruce does not see her project as giving a “voice” to the community but rather an attempt to redress the imbalance between the marketing machine of Trump’s business empire and what was available to locals.

“They can all speak for themselves,” she added.

Trump Enterprises did not respond to a request for comment.