As I See It Workshop Leader, Amy Conway, gives us an update on what’s been happening with the project.

 

As I See It is back with a brand new project! Last year was a busy one for Kathy, Emmanuel, Joe and Frank, our visually impaired tour guides, with two successful projects under their belt. Back in early April, our guides delivered a fascinating, personalised insight into the Gorbals area of Glasgow, and then in June they hosted a community event in Maryhill celebrating Glasgow dancehalls and the city’s enthusiasm for dance, both past and present.

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As I See It: Dancehall Experience (Photo by Jassy Earl)

 

And as if that wasn’t enough, our intrepid participants finished the year with the research phase of their next project which is all about the public statues, monuments and sculptures of Glasgow.

This is obviously quite a broad topic and not specific to any particular area of Glasgow, unlike our past projects, and we have had a brilliant time so far, thinking about the many existing statues in our fair city, learning a bit about how these statues are created, and starting to think about what statues might be missing from the city landscape.

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Out and about researching

A few fun facts we have gathered from our research for you:

  • If you’re a fan of cartoons, you might already know that there have been two statues commissioned to celebrate the life of Scottish (Partick-born) newspaper cartoonist, Bud Neill. You may know that sheriff “Lobey Dosser” used to sit astride his two legged horse, El Fideldo, on Woodlands Road until it was vandalised and removed by the council. But did you know that there is a second Bud Neill character, “G.I. Bride”, in Partick Station still going strong?
  • Speaking of other statues that have been removed, Robert Burns used to occupy a prime spot in George Square but has been absent recently to undergo restoration and cleaning.
  • Unfortunately we found almost zero statues commemorating the achievements of women(!), but we were interested to learn that the person most depicted in statue form (other than religious icons) in the world was Queen Victoria! Mind you, she did get about a bit.

We’ve also been lucky enough to receive a guided tour of Glasgow Museums Resource Centre by    3-D Art (Sculpture and Installation) Conservator, Stephanie de Roemer. She gave us an exclusive look at some of the pieces she was restoring at the moment and a glimpse into the challenges that an international conservator faces. She’s also employed by UNESCO so gets to help protect sculpture from all over the world, including in places of ongoing conflict! It was particularly interesting to discover that Stephanie disapproves of the infamous traffic cone on top of the Duke of Wellington’s head in Royal Exchange Square. Whilst some feel that this semi-permanent addition to the statue is just part of the cheeky “Glesca” patter, she feels it is disrespectful to the historical significance of the piece, as well as to the publicly-funding authority that maintains it.

Something that irked all of us more generally about the sculptural landscape, is the lack of accessible statues. Older statues tended to be mounted on a high plinth and were generally out of reach with the result that those with visual impairments were not able to fully appreciate or enjoy them. We acknowledged that some of the more modern statues were specifically designed to be interacted with and touching was by no means prohibited, yet there had been instances where this accessibility had led to vandalism or even theft (most recently a statue in the Gorbals got its foot sawn off)!

Having cast a critical eye over Glasgow’s existing statues, observing the recurring features and different types, our guides are now starting to think about what they feel is conspicuously absent. Who or what are not represented in these public artworks? Glasgow institution and champion boxer, Benny Lynch, has already had a statue commissioned which will be erected in the Gorbals area sometime in the near future, but if you could commission one statue for 2017, what would you choose? This is the question our guides will be looking to answer in the coming months and will work with a local artist to realise their ideas.

 

As I See It: Statues is created with support from the Big Lottery Fund. Terra Incognita is working with groups across Glasgow to create new statues of people and events that are currently missing from Glasgow’s landscape. These statues will be unveiled at a special event in June 2017. Watch this space for more information.

 

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Terra Incognita is about to embark on its first tour of Scottish theatres with its show My Friend Selma. Artistic Director Victoria Beesley tells us more about the real-life friendship that inspired the production.

When I was eight years old the thing I wanted most was a best friend. I imagined we’d spend a lot of time on our own having serious conversations, that we’d make each other laugh, that we’d invent some of the greatest games ever played, and that we’d tell each other secrets.

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Selma and me in the paper

When I was eight years old, I got that best friend.

Selma was amazing. She was braver, cheekier, and naughtier than me, she made me laugh, and her two front teeth were missing. At first we couldn’t actually speak the same language but we were instantly friends. I loved her. I still do.

We met in a disused boarding school in Leeds. Selma and her family had fled war in Bosnia, and had been brought to the UK by a charity my dad set up. The charity took aid to refugee camps and towns isolated by the conflict, it sent volunteers to work in refugee camps, and it brought more than 500 refugees to the UK. These refugees were housed as far north as Crieff and as far south as Kent.

The people we lived with in the disused boarding school were the first two groups my dad’s charity, aLERT, brought to the UK. Leeds City Council had given aLERT permission to use the ramshackle old building and the response from local residents was amazing. People of all ages worked hard to decorate and repair Springfield School so it was fit for living in; they donated furniture, clothes, toys, toiletries and food so that the refugees would have everything they needed; they gave their time and energy to make these people feel welcome in Britain and to ensure they had all the support they needed.

This period of my childhood made a big impression on me. I’m amazed at the resilience of Selma, whose life had been turned upside down weeks before I met her. I feel incredibly lucky to have spent that time living at Springfield School.  The people we lived with had lost everything, they had left loved ones behind in a country at war, and found themselves having to start their lives again in an unfamiliar country and culture. But despite the worry, anxiety and pressure they must have been feeling they always had time for me; to teach me, share their culture with me, entertain me, or just to show me a bit of love. They are some of the most remarkable people I have met, and I have benefited massively from having them in my life.

Rehearsing My Friend Selma

Rehearsing My Friend Selma

Over the years I learnt more about the war, about why people had to flee, and about the journey that Selma and her family had to go on in order to get to safety. Selma was eight when I met her and she’d already seen and experienced things that, thankfully, most of us won’t see or experience in our whole lifetimes. My Friend Selma tells this story from her perspective as an eight year old as they embark on their journey and begin a new life in a strange country. The show is a document of her family’s experience and a tribute to their courage. In the light of the current events, it has also turned out to be a timely piece of theatre that will give audiences young and old a bit more insight into why people flee.

It’s an incredible story. I hope you can join us.

My Friend Selma is touring to the following venues from 9th-25th October:

Platform (Glasgow), Eden Court Theatre (Inverness), Cumbernauld Theatre, The Beacon (Greenock), Perth Concert Hall, The Macrobert Arts Centre (Stirling), Eastwood Park Theatre (Giffnock), The Byre (St. Andrews), Tron Theatre (Glasgow), The Lemon Tree (Aberdeen).

You can find out more about the real-life story that inspired the show by visiting our online museum.  

Under the Monkey PuzzleAs part of our As I See It project, we’ve been collecting stories from across Glasgow inspired by the Botanic Gardens. This is our final blog sharing these stories with you. This time the stories are from a lovely bunch of folk at Castlemilk Seniors Centre. Thank you once again to everyone who contributed. 

 

Jeanie

We used to go on the steam train a lot when I was younger. Once, I think we were on our way to Saltcoats because we used to go there a lot, I stuck my head out the window. I was just a girl and I was wearing this bright yellow dress. As I looked out, I was covered in all this black soot. I pulled my head back into the carriage and the soot was all over the yellow dress. I was covered. My mum shouted, “Hands up! Don’t touch it!” And she was right. It fell off the dress on its own and didn’t leave a mark. If I’d have rubbed it off it would have left black marks all over it.

Hughie

Glasgow Green is the park I’ve spent most time in in Glasgow. I remember fair fortnight when I was younger. They used to have the shows. There was the big wheel, flying chairs, dodgems. You were fleeced with your money but it was good fun!

Malcolm

When I was younger I spent a lot of time in Elder Park. It had a pond there and once a year a boat club would come out and race their yachts on the pond. But my favourite green space is Culzean Castle. We used to spend almost every weekend there between May and September. We’d leave the tent there. The only thing we brought home was our dirty washing. Then we’d go back there the following weekend. The only thing we had to do was move the tent once a month so they could cut the grass. One of us would hold the tent pole on one side and the other would hold it on the other side and we’d pick the tent up and move it a few metres along so they could cut the grass where the tent had been.

Jessie

We’ve spent the most time in Linn Park and King’s Park. We used to take our kids to Linn Park a lot, and in King’s Park they had the bikes there during the Commonwealth Games. They did it all up and it’s lovely. The parks are in much better condition than they used to be. When we lived in Govan we used to take the Govan ferry to go to Kelvingrove Park. There were these big steps that led down to the ferry. One ferry would be at one side of the Clyde, and one ferry would be at the other side and they’d cross each other as you travelled. It only took ten minutes and it was free.

Samuel

My favourite thing about Glasgow Green is the mosaic tiling on Templeton Carpet Factory. It’s beautiful. They were the best carpet makers in Victorian times. They were even popular with the Americans – who had the factory make a carpet for the Oval Office.

Jeanie

I remember my dad took us to the old transport museum when I was a child and you were allowed to climb into the old train cars. When I was older I took my kids to the museum but you weren’t allowed on anything, you could only look at it. My son set the alarms off twice trying to get on things. He used to run everywhere. As soon as I heard the alarm go off I thought, ‘Oh no, I bet that’s Kevin.’ The security guard came over to talk to me and I told him I thought it might be best if I took them to Kelvingrove Park instead!

Three more stories, inspired by our As I See It Walking Tours. Thanks to the members and staff of Shanti Bhavan and Fred Paton Day Centres.

Emmanuel under the tree 2

Bridgeton – Andrew

I’m a Bridgetonian. Born ten minutes from Bridgeton cross. I supported the Clyde football team which was twenty minutes’ walk over the river. I used to go play football in Glasgow Green. One part of it was an open gymnasium. I grew up near one of Glasgow’s gangs, the Glasgow Billy Boys. There were gangs all over Glasgow at the time. It was just a crowd of young guys, late 1930s through the Second World War right up into the 1960s. My uncle was one of the lead guys. King Billy they called him. I remember seeing them when I was young. You’ve heard of the collections – every pub and shop in the area of Bridgeton had to pay them money. I don’t know much about them… I don’t get out to parks much anymore but I am out all day. I go on a pub crawl! I don’t drink a lot, it’s just for company. It’s either that or sit in the house.

A farm in the Highlands – Margaret

I was born in Govan and lived in Glasgow for a bit but then we moved to the Highlands and I was brought up on a farm. I used to feed the wee lambs with a bottle of milk. We had sheep, we had cows, we had pigs, we had hens, we had everything on the farm. I used to go up and down in a horse and cart as a wee girl. I wanted to move back to Glasgow when I was an adult because I came from Glasgow. That was a long time ago now.  It felt like coming home.

On Glasgow – Ashghar Ali

When you look around Glasgow we have some amazing parks, so many parks. There’s so much to see in Glasgow, a lot of greenery. Some people complain about the weather, but I don’t think we should. I think it’s how you feel inside. If you feel good inside it doesn’t matter what the weather is like. The people of Glasgow are very friendly. If you’re looking for directions, if they don’t know they’ll stop somebody else on your behalf and they’ll try and help you. They’ll go out of their way to help you. It’s definitely a place to visit. If someone’s looking to go places, to see places, Glasgow is definitely the place to be.

Joe at the monkey puzzle with group

Inspired by our As I See It walking tours of the Botanic Gardens, here are a collection of stories from the Creative Writing group at Visibility.

Thank you to all those who contributed.

A park in Dubai. by Jen Worrall

It was quite warm.  Unlike other parks, it was very clean.  In Dubai, they have a high standard of cleanliness, everything is spotless, and, for example, the toilets are sparkling clean.  It was a children’s   park that we were going through; it was a bit of a short cut.  It was just nice to walk around.

This was about three years ago.  There was also a wee mini train that took you around part of the park.  The train was very small – it was mainly for kids, so we were squashed into our seats.  It’s too hot for flowers, but I could smell the smell of sunshine and food and chips.

 

Untitled by Amy Henighen

The Sunday before Gary and his family left for Australia, I remember Ava going on the swings and the flying fox, which is like a big roundabout.  It was a happy day but tinged with sadness because they were leaving the next week.

Forres Morayshire  by Jane Chisholm

As I sit here at the top of a green hill.  I look around me and see the turbine wind mills.

I watch them dance round and round, as they supply the power to the folks all around.

Untitled by Isobel Haddow

Glasgow is full of lovely parks.  They were made during the time of the ‘Industrial Revolution’ – so that the workers who worked under hard, terrible conditions after the hard work, they could relax in these lovely green places.

I don’t work know but still I love these parks.  My friend and I often go to the Botanic Gardens after tea and believe me, going there is a joy.  The things you see aren’t just the lovely trees and flowers, it’s the folk who go there – all shapes and sizes, kids, scooting around on their scooters and of course, being Glasgow, everyone speaks to each other.  The chat is something you don’t want to miss!

The Music by Isobel Haddow

The first wee part I heard sounded like big waves crashing on to the shore or buildings.  It sounded exciting.  It reminded me of all the lovely holidays I’ve had.

Now it’s louder, it sounds very dramatic.

It makes me want to get down to the beach and sea.  Wonderful feelings.

It reminds me of when I learned to swim – down at Rothesay and the pier there.

My Aunt Peggy taught me to swim there – right next to the pier but importantly, there’s  something I’ll never forget – my Mother couldn’t afford to buy me a bathing suit so my Aunty Peggy knitted me a costume.

You can imagine, I’m sure, what happened when I tried to get out of the water – yes the swim suit nearly fell off me in the water – and the beach .

Inspired by our recent As I See It walking tours, we have been holding storytelling workshops with a whole range of groups. Artistic Director, Victoria Beesley, tells us about this week’s workshops at Shanti Bhavan and the Fred Paton Day Care Centres.

Kathy at the train station 2

On Wednesday I was collecting stories. I visited two centres that offer day time activities and services to older people – Shanti Bhavan and Fred Paton Day Care Centres. I arrived at there with three things: photographs from our recent As I See It tours of the Botanic Gardens; a recording of tour guide Kathy’s story of travelling to school by steam train; an audio recorder. I left with much more.

I shared the photographs and recording with the groups and told them the story of our walking tour. In return, I was gifted with story after story on a whole range of topics – days spent playing football in Bridgeton Park, experiences as a soldier in the Indian army, growing up on a Highland farm.

Here are three of the many stories I collected. Thank you to everyone who shared their stories with me.

A meeting in Balloch

If you go right up to the top of Balloch Park there’s a castle. It’s beautiful. It’s a lovely walk, right up to Loch Lomond. I used to go there when I was courting. I’m 80 now. I went up there looking for boyfriends. You got all dressed up. I didn’t meet anyone there though. There was a dancehall in Balloch and I went there every Saturday. That was where I met my husband, who came from Glasgow. He was there with a friend. He had a wee car, which was unusual at the time because nobody could afford a car. I didn’t go for him at first, it took a long time, but he won me over in the end!

A glazier for Glasgow

I used to work in all of Glasgow parks. I was a glazier, repairing all the broken glass. It was mostly working on greenhouses and glasshouses, especially at the Botanic Gardens. I was one of seven glaziers. It was a busy job. Glasgow is a big place so you can imagine I covered quite a large area. I didn’t have a favourite park. I liked Maryhill Park because it was nearby where I lived, it was handy. I used to like walking along the canal in Maryhill too – when I was a child I even used to go swimming in it! It was lovely.

India by train

When we were young we used to go with our parents to our mother’s parent’s house on the train. They lived in Kolkata. We always had a nice picnic on the train. People would come in to sell stuff for eating and drinking. It was great fun and we used to sit there and enjoy it. In those days the train wasn’t fast; it took so long. A lot has changed, we’ve grown up, the trains are so fast, and you can even get food included included in your ticket. It’s very refreshing.

Theatre-maker Ishbel McFarlane has been delivering some workshops with groups of young people who came to see the As I See It Botanics tour. She tells us a bit more about last week’s workshops at Toonspeak Young People’s Theatre.

During our three days of workshops at Toonspeak we were focusing on making our own tour, and using that to help us tell stories. Though we were using a similar form to the Botanics tours, our tour could hardly have ended up more different!

We started each day with a physical warm up, to get our blood flowing. After I discovered that the participants were keen dancers and gymnasts, on the second day they led us in a bit of a gymnastics warm up. I’m pretty pleased to say that I managed a cartwheel and didn’t embarrass myself. I think that is a win all round.

Toonspeak Group PicAfter physical warm up, we had to do a brain warm up. Like our muscles, our brains can get pretty stuck in the same old ways and we need to stretch them to keep them supple and imaginative. We used a technique from Keith Johnstone, the famous teacher of improvisation – first we walked round the room pointing to things and saying what they were: chair, window, bag, shoe etc. Then we stopped and walked around again this time pointing at things and naming them things that they aren’t: kitten, bus, jam jar, Playstation etc. It’s amazing how that freed us from thinking about things as they literally were.

I had brought a collection of random objects which I arranged under a sheet (because who doesn’t love a reveal?). I set each of the participants the challenge to take three objects and re-imagine them as something else. Some tinfoil became a snake, a box of hankies became confetti, and a cut up toilet roll tube became Golum’s ears. Together they came up with the idea of doing a pet shop tour, so we got out all the objects and they transformed them into different pets. And thus was born Olivia and Sean’s Pet Shop Parade!

The second day was spent making the Toonspeak studio space into a pet shop, arranging the pets we had around the room and making five more pets from Toonspeak’s amazing collection of craft materials and props. The time sped by and when the taxi beeped to pick up our performers, we were all surprised!

Toonspeak SnowyOn the third day we finished making a safety path on the floor with chalk to keep our audience contained (some of those pets are pretty dangerous!) and we rehearsed until the audience arrived. The performers did a fantastic job introducing us to Tilly the Cat (who looked a bit like a wig), and Penny the Parrot (who resembled a steam inhaler), and the ant hill (which reminded us of tissues and tin foil). Everyone was impressed by how polished the performances were, and everyone had their favourite pet. I think Snowy the Owl Who Looks Like ET might have won over all. The performers worked so hard to make the descriptions interesting, and Olivia and Sean did a great job of staying in character as the two owners of a rather remarkable pet shop that has a bear and giant bee with a poster of the queen (bee). I’m glad I finally worked up the courage to hold Sarah the spider…

Thanks to the excellent performers for a fun few days, and to the staff of Toonspeak for all their help organising it. The Olivia and Sean Pet Shop was a true Terra Incognita – unknown land!