Wednesday 26 June 2019
There are many cats on Albert Street who seem to wander freely through the various tenement blocks and flats, hoping to be petted and thrown a snack. They have their own sense of the city and its boundaries, connecting public and private spaces in a way which many human citizens cannot. In a strange way, their roaming presence helps to bind a sense of "neighbourhood" or connection, even if that contact is lacking between human neighbours.
We led a workshop at the Cadogan space with two participants who are based in Glasgow but are not originally from there. E*** (an anthropologist from Germany) and D*** (a Lithuanian storyteller). After a group warm-up we work on memories of surprising/happy encounters, as well as of fearful memories in public space. This culminates in a structured improvisation where fragments of physical image tableaux and soundscape are combined and composed in the space. It is interesting to see how multiplicity and the seemingly infinite possible encounters within a city can be evoked theatrically through repetition, mirroring, counterpoint and leaving empty spaces.
After this we have a meeting with Melanie Jordan (performer, theatre facilitator, queer artist, physical theatre practitioner at SURGE) to discuss her experiences of Glasgow and the Scottish performance "scene". In particular we touch upon the Glasgow public's relationship with outdoor performance, and the participation/representation of marginalised LGBTQ+ communities in Glasgow. She says that "Category Is" bookshop in Govanhill is "the heart" of a vibrant and supportive scene, largely thanks to the massive amount of work the owners (Fi and Charlotte) have put into fostering a safe and invigorating environment. Mel moved to Scotland about 15 years ago (she has done all of her "adulting" in Scotland) and feels that in general it has a very open and welcoming attitude. Our interview is conducted in Mel's (Jordan&Skinner) office at the SURGE Cadogan building. It is full of bright and joyful feminist posters, as well as many toy/cuddly unicorns. She tells us these unicorns are part of a theatre project looking into "bronies" (adult men who are obsessed with My Little Ponies), using them as a means to explore social expectations surrounding performative gender and the supposed high/low culture divide.
After our chat with Mel we head across to the "Category Is" bookshop on Allison St. Here we find a relaxed community hub, with many alternative, political books/comics/posters/pamphlets/zines, as well as message boards for members of the LGBTQ+ community to meet, skillshare, rally, perform, hang out etc. On the counter is a load of binary and non-binary pronoun badges ("she/her", "he/him", "they/them" as well as "per/per", "vey/vem" and "zie/zim"). Also interesting to note is the recurrence of feminist-witchcraft imagery which we also encountered at the Glasgow Autonomous Space the day before.
Walking from the bookshop towards Vicky Road we bump into my friend Sita and her mates. They are on a break from making a show at the Tramway ("Them!": a sci-fi musical about identity politics), and are walking to the same place as us: Queens Cafe/Ginesi's Gelato for ice cream! It is now a roasting hot/taps aff day, so that makes sense.
As the rest of the gang get ice cream, I start to note down the names and descriptions/tag-lines of all the shops on the East side of Victoria Road. From "Glasgow Dentist [Pain Free Dentistry Guaranteed*]", up to "Kebabish Grill [the traditional desi experience. Est. since 2005. Welcome.]". The streets are packed now, with everyone out to enjoy the sunshine. Whilst making my notes I overhear many different languages on the road. Someone told me there are 42 different languages spoken in the Govanhill area. Also, seeing wee gangs of Roma kids playing tig up and down Victoria Road reminds me of the children on Lampedusa who seemed to enjoy free reign on the streets. There are many community-oriented shops and services, nestled-in amongst the charity shops, hardware shops, egg-free cake shops, halal subway, pawnbrokers, hipster coffee shops, off-licenses and pawnbrokers.
Next up is a meeting/mini seminar discussion at Milk Cafe. The subject matter is terminology: "New Scots" and "Third Culture Kids". How useful are these denominations? Do they resonate with people? The majority of the people at the discussion feel either ambivalent or negative about the terminology, voicing questions like: "what are Old Scots"? "are there only 3 cultures?" and
As with the Swap Shop which we visited yesterday, we are offered tea and cake free of charge. It seems like sharing food really fosters a positive communal atmosphere and eases conversation between strangers.
At the end of the day we walk through Queens Park to meet with friend, artist, activist and general force-for-good Geraldine Heaney. Whilst drinking juice with her beside the duckpond we catch up and discuss issues of accessibility in the arts, particularly the integration of BSL and (D/d)eaf artists into theatrical work. She has been spending the last week creating a children's piece at the Tron Theatre called "The Museum of Mistakes", and the group iintention for this show has been to make it as accessible as possible in as playful a manner as possible. Geraldine suggests that the next time we are on Victoria Road we should check out the bike hub and community centre which hosts weekly "bike days" for local kids to cycle around Queens Park together.
Same day, another version:
We head by train to the city centre, £2 return (more for a single) our mood is lifted by the sunny weather. This morning’s news articles about the heat wave say ‘Hell is Coming’ to southern central Europe.
We would be running a public workshop that morning and we worked through the plan which had been seeded on day 1, clarifying what we each were running and hearing Vale’s plan for the body of the session. We waited for participants, and the importance of thorough social media publicity for these things sinks in, again. T at GAS kindly shared the post as did SURGE and Senza but a targeted post on Monday would have certainly brought more participants.
2 very welcome participants joined us and were thoroughly involved and giving. E a German anthropology masters student who also operates in the world of performance, sound and circus and D a friend and colleague of mine who is a Lithuanian storyteller, it was a real pleasure to see her creativity out of the context I’m used to.
I enjoyed the way we passed leadership of the facilitation and am reminded what a skilled bunch we are. Vale led us in an almost meditative walking and reflection exercise which fed the content of our final workshop output. We worked in still images and sound-scapes marking before, during and after moments of pleasure and positive encounters in the city and moments of fear in the city.
After tea and biscuits and hearing more about E’s studies and D’s sharing of some Lithuanian stories which mash up folk and Christian imagery in beautiful and human ways we said goodbye to our participants.
We interviewed M, in front of a back drop of my little ponies which she told us are being used for a show about hierarchy of interests, and how we devalue those things which are considered interests of young females. I remembered some articles I enjoyed, written by an art historian who researches portraiture, and how pictures painted of mostly women are considered the highest art, e.g. Mona Lisa, but when the agency is taken by the sitter themselves in selfies is it considered vacuous and unimportant a waste. She argues if the selfie phenomenon was carried out by older, white men it would be held in very different regard to how it is currently being associated with young people and mostly women.
M was extremely eloquent and painted a hugely uplifting and for me moving picture of Glasgow and how arts are positioned with in it. She said It is grubby and direct, it celebrates non main stream art, there is a place for it all, it has engagement at it’s core. She told us Glasgow is open to street performance and that in every intervention in the public space she has been involved with in Glasgow, a member of the public will approach a performer and directly ask, ‘what’s going on here’ even if the performer is dressed as ‘a giant, who knows what’ or in the middle of an very non Quotidien movement sequence. I have experienced this too when telling stories in public, right int he middle with a captive audience someone with ask, so are you telling stories then?
M said, her work aims to overthrow the patriarchy at every turn.
We returned to the South Side after M’s interview to visit Category Is books, which M said is a hugely important space for the queer community in Glasgow, the physical space has been able to united more of community. It was buzzing when we arrived, the floor to ceiling window wide open, people chatting, buying, reading books and adverts written on pieces of colourful card.
I gave them a present of a print which I had bought in GAS the night before which said: Not Gay as in happy, Queer as in fuckup the Nazis. We were warmly welcomed by C. While we were there, E from the Swap Market passed with her son F who had written 2 short zines called Fusion. With the support of his mum he negotiated the price for their sale, £1 each and as he was under 14 years of age 100% of the profits went back to him. He was given a £10 note and bought a book for the train ride of his holiday. I bought one of the Fusion zines about how you can’t force fusion between alien beings, it has to be complicit or you make weird monsters – Garnet.
We spent an enjoyable moment there and arranged an interview on Sunday morning.
On the way to the ice cream shop, we bumped into Dy’s friends who were on a break from rehearsals of a show they are in at the Tramway. In the ice cream shop we bumped into A and L my friends who are local cooks and pillars of the Govan hill community. Outside the shop we bumped into T who was on her way home from work. I commented on how its funny we had all met like that and A said, that’s Govanhill, he had already told me to him, Govanhill is the best place in the world. The ice cream is top notch, the shop has been their since my Grans time, ‘it has all the gossip’ we were told.
We spent 30 mins on Victoria Road alone, each on our own projects. For me that meant catching up with A at Milk Café in the Sunshine, she asked if I wanted to marry her for her Irish passport, I’m tempted. As we sat outside Angela warmly greeted many people as they passed and we had an enjoyable chat with 2 young Irish folk, who were off to the park for beers and strawberries, the conversation moved easily between banter and huge thoughts on identity and nationality, I don’t know if it’s wrong to think, but I think they had the typical charm and charisma of the Irish.
We attended a discussion in Milk café titled, ‘Are you a Third Culture Kid’ which was considering this and the Term ‘New Scot’ which are apparently both used to describe people who have lived in Scotland but weren’t born here. I hadn’t been to many events like this that I can remember, and I enjoyed the experience of thinking as a group in this way. We had to wrap up quite quickly as the space is a busy busy place.
The evening we ate, salad joined G for a juice in the park, watched the signets and got eaten by midges. G talks about performing with BSL and how so often a deaf audience will have to catch up with what the hearing audience were communicated a moment before and how she is finding ways, with the characters she is playing now to subvert this.