Govan Fair set fair to continue

February 4, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

A Thames tidal wave of enthusiasm gave the current Govan Fair organisers a flotilla of good ideas to improve the stability of the annual event.

Adrian Evans, Director of Totally Thames and Lord James Stringfellow, Chair of Govan Fair.

Adrian Evans, Director of Totally Thames and Lord James Stringfellow, Chair of Govan Fair.

Adrian Evans, Director of Totally Thames, a Festival spanning the length of that great river which flows through the heart of London, was guest speaker at a seminar on the Govan Fair’s future this week.  He outlined the ebb and flow of events which led to Totally Thames. His inspiration was the exceptional artist George Wyllie.  ‘He brought this huge origami boat and floated it down the Thames in the 1990s,’ said Adrian. ‘That made a big impression on me. It was immense. It was amusing and made me realise Govan – where he came from – was a special place.’

The festival he has developed from nothing on the Thames now has many very good working partnerships with businesses along the length of the river. His organisation is responsible for around 25% of the events while the others arise locally and are included in the Totally Thames programme. He urged the Govan Fair organisers to: ‘Look for the opportunities. Pursue them aggressively and celebrate the fantastic and unique history you have.’

Architect Andy McAvoy left Govan at the age of five but admitted he’d been ‘infected by the Spirit of the Place’ on his return in recent years and acknowledged George Wyllie had been an inspiration, too.

Andy has spent at least three years researching the buried history of Govan. ‘It was a gathering place. It was the confluence of two rivers – the Kelvin and the Clyde. So people could wade across from North to South and from East to West at low tide.  The Weavers would taunt their Deacon to come out of the Water Row Inn in an annual ritual to take up his post. That led to the ‘Ghost of Water Row’ an art work in light set on the site where that inn had been.’

How Architect Andy McAvoy considers Govan    mapped out in times past.

How Architect Andy McAvoy considers Govan mapped out in times past.

Andy’s research showed that a Fair predated the procession which is almost the only current activity. ‘There was commerce and interaction of people. There was a horse fair and a labour fair. Where commerce was, people gathered. But ship building caused a massive re-writing of the landscape. That’s when Lady Elder stepped in with Elder Park to have a green space protected for people.’

The Govan Fair has probably been in existence since well before 1756 when there is some documentary evidence to show it flourished. Andy outlined the various ups and downs of the Fair and said that Lord James Stringfellow, Govan Fair Chairman who chaired the seminar and Liz Gardiner of Fablevision who introduced all the speakers, were issuing a call to arms to bring in new energy to develop the Fair in a way that could be sustained and would grow the event.

The fair at present is mostly an annual parade on the first Friday of June with shows being set up last year because of Lord James’s show family connections. Other entertainments and attractions are being considered to encourage more local community participation.

The ‘incredible history’ of Govan and its Fair was supported by Graham Jeffery of the University of the West of Scotland and Director of the Creative Futures Institute and  Dr Alan Leslie of Northlight Heritage concerned with archaeological excavations.

Graham Jeffery, University of the West of Scotland and Alan Leslie of Northlight Heritage.

Graham Jeffery, University of the West of Scotland and Alan Leslie of Northlight Heritage.

They referred to a bus from Gdansk with local people aboard tell the local history of their shipyards and city to visitors. This idea had been successfully adapted for Govan and could be again. And the site of Doomster Hill – currently under a car park – should be reclaimed as an ancient place of justice and important meetings.

The seminar was held in the Board Room of the re-furbished Fairfield Offices on Govan Road by courtesy of Govan Workspace.

It was followed by a walking tour of Govan which included the Old Kirk, the Pearce Institute, Doomster Hill and Water Row, the derelict Govan Graving Docks and the vibrant Film City which was once Govan Town Hall.

Glasgow sees first snow

January 17, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

As Celtic Connections world music festival got under way, snow fell in Glasgow.  Around 4pm it started to snow more heavily. By 7.30pm there was a snowman at Charing Cross, but not a gritter in sight.

The Charing Cross family with Jack Frost - their newly created snowman.

The Charing Cross family with Jack Frost – their newly created snowman.

Christened Jack Frost by the creative local family who made it, the snowman may – or may not- be around when the Burns Conference starts at the neighbouring Mitchell Library on Saturday 17 January.

Games’ volunteers honoured in Exhibition

January 15, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

The 1,068 volunteers who helped make the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow last year, ‘the best ever’ have been honoured by an exhibition in the People’s Palace on Glasgow Green. The displays will run till 3 August 2015 – the date the Games finished in 2014.

Picture shows Volunteers from left: Ibrahim Jabbie ; Natalia Baltramaitiene ; Frank O'Hare, in front of the Peoples Palace  where "Our Games"  exhibition has opened. Photographer : Ian Watson

Picture shows Volunteers from left:
Ibrahim Jabbie ; Natalia Baltramaitiene ; Frank O’Hare, in front of the Peoples Palace where “Our Games” exhibition has opened.
Photographer : Ian Watson

Co-curated by some of the Volunteers, the exhibition features objects from the Commonwealth Games journey. These include the only remaining costume of the Games mascot, Clyde, an iconic teacake seen in the Opening Ceremony, uniforms, photographs and other memorabilia.

Entitled ‘Our Games’ the new exhibition challenges pre-conceived ideas of who can be a volunteer and encourages visitors to add their own experiences of the Games.

Natalia Baltramaitiene, who communicates using British Sign Language, was among the first volunteers to visit the exhibition. She said: ‘The Games was my first volunteering experience and I loved every minute. I met many wonderful people and this has encouraged me to carry on volunteering. I’ve kept my uniform and bags, but it’s brilliant to come to the People’s Palace museum and see so many great memories.’

Volunteer Frank O’Hare said: ‘ Being part of the Games was, for me, like meeting your brothers and sisters in the streets. I’d definitely consider doing it again and I’d encourage anyone thinking about volunteering to give it a go.’

Councillor Archie Graham, Chair of Glasgow Life, said: ‘The People of Glasgow were the magic ingredient that made the Games such a success. Our Host City Volunteers were the face of Glasgow and offered a welcome bursting with warmth and passion and pride.’ He added that the exhibition hopes to inspire people to volunteer. ‘Now we have a whole army of positive role models who will encourage even more people to give volunteering a go. That’s a legacy to be proud of.’

Every one of the 1,068 Host City Volunteers was given intensive training and is featured in ‘Our Games’ exhibition via a large screen projection. Corresponding community exhibitions are on display at community centres in Netherton, Barmulloch and Castlemilk.

For more information on volunteering in Glasgow visit: or call Glasgow Life volunteer inquiry helpline on 0800 027 6402.

Classical concert in West End

January 11, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 


Sunday 1 February

5.30pm – 6.30pm

Wellington Church

77 Southpark Avenue

Glasgow G12 8LE


Played by Flora Tzanetake, piano and Sandie Bishop, violin.

Suggested ticket price £5. Accompanied children, free.


Glasgow Fair painting to go on show

January 6, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

A long lost painting of Glasgow Fair has been acquired by Glasgow’s Museums and will go on show at the beginning of February in the Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum.

Conservator Polly Smith has worked on the John Knox 'Glasgow Fair' painting to make it ready for public display. Photograph by Ian Watson

Conservator Polly Smith has worked on the John Knox ‘Glasgow Fair’ painting to make it ready for public display.
Photograph by Ian Watson

The exquisitely detailed picture was painted by John Knox, a famous artist of very big canvases, around 1819- 1822.  It shows around 1000 people in fine detail on Glasgow Green attending the annual Glasgow Fair.

There are booths, sideshows and rides with people having a good time in and around the stalls and activities. The figures show rich and poor, soldiers from different regiments, street vendors, beggars, merchants, pick pockets, men watching a cock fight and a woman trying to drag her drunk husband away from a seller of alcohol.  There are twins in matching clothes and a sign for Mr Taylor’s Olympic Circus which advertises slack wire, tight rope dancing, theatrical and horsemanship displays. A travelling menagerie called Wombwell’s Grand Collection of Beasts, is also seen. An anti-slavery booth is included in the fun of the Fair.

The painting was thought to be missing for more than 100 years. Then, in 2013 in Sotheby’s in London, it was sold as depicting a fair in Aberdeen by an Irish artist William Turner de Lond. Later it was recognised as the work of John Knox because of the landmark Nelson Monument on Glasgow Green which is seen in the background.

No purchase price has been revealed but it was bought with generous support of the National Lottery through the Heritage Lottery Fund, Trustees of the Hamilton Bequest and Friends of Glasgow Museums.

Said Councillor Archie Graham, Chair of Glasgow Life: ‘John Knox’s Glasgow Fair is a painting that belongs to Glasgow and we are delighted to welcome it home. It shows Glaswegians enjoying themselves at the Glasgow Fair in the city’s oldest park. It also helps us understand the historical importance of a holiday many of us still enjoy every July.’

The acquisition is supported by the Showman’s Guild of Great Britain. They recognise the importance of the painting in demonstrating the contribution of the history and heritage of travelling Showpeople to the development of the city.

The display will be complimented by a programme of events and activities including storytelling, creative writing, multi-sensory workshops, school visits, specialist talks and family weekends. For more information visit:


Gorbals sparks with new business

December 16, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

Sparks are flying in Gorbals and going global.

The Entrepreneurial Spark programme to nurture business developers from around the world is based in the splendid setting of Baron Haughey’s Caledonia House headquarters in Lawmoor Street.

An initiative of the UK Trade and Investment department, the world wide competition to search for the best entrepreneurial sparks is called Sirius – reflecting the brightest star in the sky.

Winners receive around £12,000 each for the 12 months they are given to develop their projects in the UK. They are also supported with business accelerator programmes, mentors and other practical assistance to set up and launch their enterprise.

This is in sharp contrast to independent entrepreneurs coming to the UK under their own steam. From November 2014 they require to have a bank balance of £2 million before being allowed to reside here to develop their business. Before then the figure was £1 million.

Paola Cuneo, Campaign Director of the Sirius Programme on a recent visit to the Glasgow Entrepreneurial Spark base, told the LOCAL NEWS: ‘We had 2000 applications from 93 countries in the launch programme. Sirius is really the United Nations of start-ups.’

During a three day showcase festival for entrepreneurs in Manchester in 2013, a Mexican psychologist with a bright idea for a children’s fun but educational electronic game, met  Paola. ‘The game was for visually impaired children and it won the competition at that event. I met Pedro Bori, the man behind it,’ said Paola. ‘I was delighted when he later won our Sirius competition. His is now one of six teams based in Gorbals.’

Pedro Bori from Mexico

Pedro Bori from Mexico

Another two teams are in Edinburgh and a total of 200 people are in 67 teams scattered across the UK.  Next year Kilmarnock in Ayrshire will host some incoming teams in the next wave of Sirius winners.

‘The idea is that they will feed the UK market and have potential global markets. Having launched in the UK, it is highly likely they will remain here and make this their headquarters,’ said Paola.

Scottish based Sirius Sparks will finish their one year business start-up programmes in the spring of 2015.

In a candid interview in his Gorbals Sparks base, Mexican Psychologist Pedro Bori said: ‘The idea started when I noticed how children were using electronic toys. I wondered what kind of fun toy could be used to help visually impaired children with their cognitive development and memory skills and re-action rates.’

His university – Universidad Autónoma del Estado de Hidalgo – is the oldest, largest and most respected research institute in east-central Mexico.  So he and colleagues worked on the idea and won first place from 470 ideas in Santander Awards for Enterprise and Science Innovation in Mexico in 2011-2012. The prize money enabled them to develop a prototype for their game called Smash-a-Ball.

Taking a great leap of faith and raising the enormous cost of travelling to the UK, Pedro and co-founder  Nadia Guevara attended the Manchester entrepreneurial festival where the Sirius Programme was launched.  He said: ‘When we heard about Sirius we wanted to win that.’  And the idea did win!

The result is that Sirius Smash-a-Ball was incorporated in the UK in May 2014.

Now the team is hard at work in Gorbals finalising the game and preparing for the test stage and clinical trials.  ‘We can’t ask more than this,’ said Pedro.  ‘We are on a really exciting journey with Sirius. We plan to have the first product on the market next year.’

The range of games is expected to appeal to children with a wide spectrum of impairment including autism.

Another of the Gorbals Sparks teams is developing an on-line version of a time bank.

Murilo Mafra and Ana Fernandes  from Brazil

Murilo Mafra and Ana Fernandes from Brazil

From Brazil, Ana Fernandes, Murilo Mafra and Lorrana Scarponi had developed 30,000 activities from 60,000 users who exchanged their skills for virtual time which is ‘banked’  to buy skills they needed without money being exchanged. They were surprised to find the time bank idea already working, on a small local scale, here. Said Ana: ‘Just think what this can do where there is poverty.’

But in order to make such an entrepreneurial idea work to generate income, they have extended it considerably so that corporate bodies can offer this service to employees.  Said Murilo: ‘co-workers can help each other grow and this can be integrated into social media networks.’

They now have the potential to handle 1 million users. Called Bliive – the company name is rooted in the Latin word meaning to trust.

Undeclared attraction to a girl at his school got Sebastian Maraloiu launched on his idea of a teen crush app in his adult years. From Romania, he said he was too shy and lacking in confidence at high school to approach the girl at that time. Years later he discovered on meeting her, that she had felt the same way about him. But by then each had moved on! ‘Technology now can help teenagers with a crush on someone,’ he explained. He is developing the app which will allow a signal to be sent and where there is mutual attraction, the two people can connect. But where it isn’t reciprocated, the sender’s identity is not revealed.

Sebastian Maraloiu from Romania.

Sebastian Maraloiu from Romania.

He said: ‘It is a kind of flirting game and it is growing at the rate of 20% a week.’

These are only a few of the Entrepreneurial Spark ideas being developed in Gorbals right now.  The Glasgow district has always had a big reputation… now with Sirius, it is positively sparkling!

Great new interest in politics as a result of the referendum

September 19, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

As the number of ballot papers was first checked, interested parties were able to meet and chat and compare notes of experiences during the canvassing processes.

Alison Thewliss and her daughter planned to stay the night at the count.

Alison Thewliss and her daughter planned to stay the night at the count.

Glasgow City Councillor Alison Thewliss brought baby Kirsty to the count and was determined to see the night through at the Emirates Arena. ‘But I’m nervous about the outcome,’ she admitted. Richie Venton of the Scottish Socialist Party said he was delighted at the number of people who had been ‘educated,’ during the campaign. ‘This was mass political education. That cannot be stripped away or reversed now. These people will make demands and we’ll have a different kind of Scotland either way the vote turns out.’

YES supporter Gwen Ferguson and SSP's Richie Ventonsee a 'different kind of  Scotland' emerging as a result of the referendum.

YES supporter Gwen Ferguson and SSP’s Richie Ventonsee a ‘different kind of Scotland’ emerging as a result of the referendum.

Labour Party member Ghulam Nabi, a Southsider who writes for a London based Asian paper, was non-committal about the outcome. ‘We’ll need to wait and see.’ Joe McCauley one of the Labour team leaders said: ‘We’ve had three sessions a day for two and a half years of solid slog. We owe a great deal of gratitude to the people who’ve done this work. What is really pleasing is the number of new people who have joined and who have been inspired. We’ll keep the momentum going and show that politics really does matter.

Ann McLaughlan and Graham Campbell were encouraged by the number of people now interested in  politics.

Ann McLaughlan and Graham Campbell were encouraged by the number of people now interested in politics.

Political consultant and African Caribbean expert, Graham Campbell reported with pride how by 11am on Thursday 18 September, the number of voters in Alexandra Parade where he was based, had equalled the number who cast their votes at the last Scottish Government election. ‘By 5pm 60% of the electorate had voted and it was 70% at 9pm. We’re confident, even in a staunch Unionist area like Dennistoun, that the vast majority were voting YES.’   He too commented on the ‘poll tax refugees’ who had never voted since that debacle and young people who had become interested in important local issues simply because of the referendum campaign.

Count begins a long night of nailbiting

September 18, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

The calm before the storm of counting.At the Emirates Arena in Glasgow’s East End the count started for the historic referendum with boxes from Shettleston coming in minutes after the polls closed at 10pm. They were followed quickly by other districts. Soon the hum of activity as papers were counted was at every one of the eight district areas.

Shettleston papers were first in to be counted.

Shettleston papers were first in to be counted.

Some YES team members and SNP Councillors said they were ‘nervous’ but each was quick to add they thought on the streets where they’d been canvassing ceaselessly for two years, the answer was YES.



Historic voting under way

September 18, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

Lynne is triumphant after casting her first vote.

Lynne is triumphant after casting her first vote.

Lynne Chalmers voted today for the first time in her life. She’s 50.  ‘I’m a mother and I’m doing this for my daughter,’ said the Glasgow resident. ‘She encouraged me to vote and she’s voting for the first time because she’s 16.’ ‘I’ve voted Yes because if we’ve been better together for 300 years I don’t see it! I think we should be responsible for our own purse strings.’ She added that since her childhood she’d heard that oil was running out.  ‘But there’s still oil there and that will do us for a while yet.’ Said Lynne: ‘There was something spiritual inside me saying – stand up and be counted. I don’t trust any politician and think we’ve been treated like peasants all this time. But even peasants have voices.’  And Lynne made her voice heard today.

Shortly afterwards, Ruth Davidson, Leader of the Scottish Conservative Party arrived at the polling station to cast her vote. ‘I don’t think I’ve changed my mind,’ she said to the assembled media who’d circulated rumours she was going to vote YES!



Singing all the way to the Referendum

September 4, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

The audience was on its feet for the rousing Freedom for All delivered by the entire band of musicians with Alan Bissett centre stage in yellow T.

The audience was on its feet for the rousing Freedom for All delivered by the entire band of musicians with Alan Bissett centre stage in yellow.

A packed auditorium at Oran Mor had the YES campaigners on their feet after a rousing evening of fine music from musicians such as Dick Gaughan, Mary Ann Kennedy, Shooglenifty, Kathleen MacInnes and Eilidh MacKenzie – to name fewer than half of the artistes who donated their time and talents.

Billed as Songs for Scotland and produced by Kevin Brown, it was fronted by Alan Bissett who had some great ‘light bulb’ jokes to illuminate the proceedings with much laughter.

Under the magnificant ceiling art work by Alasdair Gray and the banner reading:  ‘Let us flourish by telling the truth’ world class musicians rooted in Scottish and Gaelic culture played for almost four hours.  From Gaelic hip-hop (Up-Ap) from finely dressed Griogair and DJ Dolphin Boy, to the MacKenzie clan from Lewis, the audience was in tune to the upbeat mood.  Countryside ranger Adam Ross’s catchy ‘ I can’t dance to this music anymore’  had everyone clapping along and echoing the sentiment.

The entire cast of musicians crowded the platform at the end to sing SAORSA – Freedom for All – by Ailean Domhnullach. And as Mike Small, Editor of Bella Caledonia said in his introduction: ‘For this one evening let the lyrics of hope replace the voices of doom. Let the pibroch replace the pollsters.’  There was no doubting the hope of everyone was: ‘We will win!’

This was gently framed with a reminder to stay friends and remain civil with everyone.




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