This post is going to be about the recent trip I made to Glasgow to talk to a vast array of brilliant, helpful, interesting, exciting and excited people. I had a blast, was very tired and a little ill at the end of it, but I came out of it with a couple of possible collaborations and a flat-! So not a day goes by where I don’t fantasise about my beautiful new house on the hill with its glorious view to the hills beyond the city. I love a view, I grew up with one so moving into a gorgeous home with a new view feels like coming home, but in a new city.
So. Let’s talk about Glasgow. I arrived after the obligatory 5 hour train journey from Leicester (bumachesville), travelled to the place that would be my base for the next week-and-a-bit. I have lots of friends who live in Glasgow which a) means I’m moving to an established network of ace folk which is GREAT and b) means there’s always been somewhere to lay my head whenever I’ve gone to visit. I was staying in the West End, which is a predominantly quite affluent part of the city, and at the subway was welcomed by this piece of public art:
I find this representation of the “all kinds of folk” that live in and around Hillhead a really interesting way of telling the story of the area to those who visit it, travelling up from the dark underground tunnels that wind through the belly of the city, to see a bold map of the area, and a selection of the kinds of folk that whoever made this depiction of Hillhead felt lived there (with a pinch of salt, and a lot of room for individual interpretation: “sharp stingers” could mean different things to different folk…). So already I was collecting the different representations of the different parts of the city, coming from different places.
Wondering round the area the next day, heading to meeting number one at the West of Scotland Regional Equality Council, a little distance away from where I was staying but still in the West End, I snapped the following pictures
A rudimentary portrait of a place based mostly on signs, or, the kinds of things people are interested in buying/participating in/eating/drinking etc. You can see that it’s still a mixed part of the city, but not in the same way as Govanhill (see my earlier post), and it’s still clearly a fairly affluent area, at least around the main shopping streets near Hillhead Subway. (I’m particularly taken by the Scottish Afrikaans place – I’ll have to check it out-!)
So my first two meetings involved talking to people about how heritage stories are told in museums, how this relates to who is funding the exhibition often, how much the museum can move away from the representation they are being given to show to people, and the work WSREC have done involving ethnic minority groups in Glasgow with Glasgow and wider Scotland’s historic environment.
West of Scotland Regional Equality Council is based in this building – an old school
Next day meetings brought interesting questions about whether or not Glasgow’s heritage was in fact overshadowed by the endless changes in the city brought by industry development, shifts, losses, regeneration projects… I suppose this in part depends how you understand heritage, as these changes, having happened in the past will hugely shape the present and the way the city moves into the future for some, so even if individuals perhaps don’t use the word heritage, institutions in the city will still tell stories of Glasgow’s past, people will still interact with where the city has come from in their daily lives through the way they participate in the city, and part of a cities story is in understanding where it has come from and why the people who live there are there, and the ways in which they shape the city’s present (this reminds me of the film I made about an artist who was working with small groups in Bradford talking about Bradford’s heritage). So food for thought…
Other meetings in the week saw me thinking about the direction I was going in, thinking about how to approach questions of Scottish nationalism; whether to approach questions of Scottish nationalism. Meetings where people’s excitement about my work and the brilliant opportunity of a fully funded PhD to explore interesting things in interesting ways brought my levels of excitement right back up, filling my cup with all the fizziness of IRN BRU.
I had a great meeting at the Open Museum – talking to them about the ethos behind it; namely to bring Glasgow Museums’ collections to people who can’t, won’t or don’t go to museums, shaking up the idea of what a museum is, rethinking the need for a venue, and putting together handling kits to take out into communities, in which the interaction with objects which would otherwise be in the archives or in a museum are engaged with, and become part of a dialogue with those handling them, thinking about what the objects are, and most interestingly in my eyes, connecting them with their own life narratives. It is this dialogue between objects in museums or museum collections, or even objects people have in their own homes, and the people holding, touching, looking at them, which creates really fascinating and wonderful new stories which can be attached to these objects.
New interpretations, new stories, new meanings.
I also got a flat out of the meeting – one of the women is moving out and renting her lovely one bed flat in the South side, so I went to have a look at it later in the week and fell instantly in love. It has a lovely view to the hills beyond the city, and having grown up with a gorgeous view over Bradford, it feels really special to be moving to a new city and having something familiar and that I loved about my childhood home to be in place. It also helps that living nearby are a whole bunch of friends I’ve had for years that I know from Bradford-! A home from home – it’s interesting this, moving to an unfamiliar place and being surrounded by such familiar faces. One of my oldest friends (20 years…) will be living hopefully round the corner which is mad and brilliant all at once.
I also had another meeting with someone at WSREC, whose work around celebrating the legacy of migration in Glasgow saw the project compiling a book that I was given a copy of. A collection of stories, memories and feelings about Glasgow from a range of people living in the city from migrant backgrounds, it serves to make visible narratives which are so often drowned out by louder stories of migrants in mainstream media; which is filled instead with blame, narrow representations of migrant groups, and challenges to what migrants ‘contribute’ to society. It was a really interesting conversation which segued into identity, how we construct a sense of who we are, the importance of where we are born, and the idea of performing identity.
So after meeting with lots of different people, with different areas of knowledge, expertise, interests, and experience, I had a head full of different stories, ideas and opinions and feelings about the city – certainly lots of food for thought!
Not necessarily being any closer to identifying which groups I am interested in working with, I do however have lots more connections, some to community centres which run groups, some who will just be great to meet again and talk my ideas through, and some who have expressed their interest in collaboration. There are a couple of projects which are collecting oral histories from migrants and are in need of a helping hand, which I have volunteered for, so that’s in the pipeline, exciting!
So – I move to my new home in two weeks time (BRING IT ON) and being based there will make it much easier to become immersed in the city, going to groups, going to events, having conversations with people and beginning to gather a picture of the multiple heritage representations that exist in the city, which will provide the base from which to work on in talking to participants about heritage, migration and their own experiences of both in Glasgow.
Anyway. I have a children’s part to help everyone have fun at, so more from me later. As always, please feel free to feedback any thoughts, readings, websites etc.