Govan is in danger of losing one of its oldest communities. Show families who have lived in the area for generations fear they are being pushed out to make way for developers despite legislation which should enable them to buy their land. Show people bring shows to fairs and events around the country and have been doing so for hundreds of years.
At a meeting called to promote – Behind the Scenes at the Fair ! a three day family fun event at Glasgow’s Riverside Museum on 6,7 and 8 December highlighting the culture and heritage of Show people – some very serious concerns of Govan Show people surfaced.
Said Sheldon Johnstone who lives with ten, related, family groups in one of only two Showmen’s yards in Govan: ‘My father was born in Govan. I’ve lived here for 30 years and am on the Scottish Guild of Showmen. But we are only allowed to stay here on a monthly lease. Originally it was a six month lease. We want to be here permanently but we all worry that we’ll be put off this land and have to go and find somewhere else to live.’
Jimmy Stringfellow, who has the other Showman’s yard in Govan, told the meeting of around 30 people: ‘We have no security. I’ve been served with eight eviction notices and have had 50 visits from the police in the past three months. The CID has visited me 18 times, and the Council’s case against me was thrown out of court. I’m having a hell of a time living here in Govan. But I’m not leaving. I intend to die here!’
The meeting was held in Govan Old Parish Church which is recognised as the church for all Show families in Scotland.
‘I was married here on 24 November 1964,’ said Christine Stirling whose maiden name was Colquhoun. ‘It was a double wedding with my husband’s brother. My daughter Cindy was married here in February 1994. All my four grandchildren were christened here and the funerals of two babies who died also took place here. This is a special place for me and my family and for all Show people in Scotland.’
Six beautiful stained glass windows were installed and dedicated in the Church in 1991 to ‘show the devotion’ of the Show families.
But in the church’s meeting space near the ancient sarcophagus stones dating back to around the 9th century, today’s art works were the intended matter of discussion.
Tara S. Beall, Artist in Residence at Glasgow’s Riverside Museum promoted the culmination of months of research done in conjunction with Scotland’s Show families. This is part of her PhD work. ‘On Friday 6, Saturday 7 and Sunday 8 December at the Riverside Museum we’ll have three days to enjoy a traditional fun fair,’ she said. ‘Attractions include a steam traction engine, a carousel, chair-o-planes, swing boats, game stalls and food stalls.’ Enthusiastically she added: ‘Visitors can learn how rides are packed and transported around Scotland, how they work and even try setting up a showground game.’ She said: ‘The Riverside is a transport museum and the Show people who have contributed to this, know how to transport, pack, fix and engineer all the equipment you see in a fun fair. They’re the experts and this three day event will help spread that knowledge as people can ask any of the experts about the fairground equipment. It will be family fun too.’
A key speaker at the meeting in the Church, was Professor Mairead Nic Craith, Chair of European Culture and Heritage at Heriot Watt University. She explained the differences in language between heritage in old Irish Gaelic – from the soil, the roots, values, traditions, principles, sense of values and the new Gaelic form – legal rights, what one is entitled to.
‘These differences are obvious in Gaelic but not in English,’ she said. Further differences in meaning were explored in English speaking cultures where heritage generally applies to something tangible – ‘like a castle,’ said the Professor. ‘In some Asian cultures it can refer to the skills required and handed on to create – and re-create – a place.’
This led to the observation that tangible cultural heritage could be recognised more easily and so World Heritage sites were protected. But intangible cultural heritage was more difficult to codify. While music might be intangible, it would have the tangible element of the instruments used to make the music. Social practices, festivals, fairs and events were intangible and craftsmanship such as that used to make Arbroath smokies would also be intangible.
She noted that the United Kingdom Government has not signed the UN Charter to protect cultural heritage which would go some way to protecting intangible elements important to Show people. The Scottish Government was in favour of signing it but cultural heritage is not a devolved issue so it cannot do so.
Alex James Colquhoun, Chairman of the Showmen’s Guild, Scottish Section, outlined the difficulties the Guild has encountered in having the work and heritage of its members recognised.
‘The Guild will be 125 years old next year. It promotes education and lobbies for our way of life, our heritage. At a meeting in Brussels sit was made clear we can’t be a part of European cultural heritage schemes or protection because the UK has not signed up to it.
‘We are not looking for money. We are only looking for the recognition we think we deserve for our intangible culture and heritage.’
One of the reasons the UK government has not signed the UN Charter is because heritage is used as a political football, suggested Dr Alan Leslie, of Northlight Heritage, a Glasgow based archaeological Trust for Excavation and Research.
He suggested ways to tie-in the intangible with the tangible. ‘Culture needs weight and force to tie-in with other things around,’ he said.
An example of a Fair that has been held in Kirkcaldy for 700 years was used. Alex James Colquhoun said it was in danger of stopping because of official objections. ‘Establish whether it is an issue about the location or the Fair itself,’ advised Dr Leslie who instanced other cultural entities which lost out to commercial development.
In Europe a similar ancient Fair was revitalised through the UN Charter and the European approach because it received status, out of which came sponsorship.
The Govan event was orchestrated by Liz Gardiner of Fablevision. She is one of the people behind a gathering momentum in culturally sensitive and place-based regeneration. She said: ‘Behind the Scenes at the Fair! is an amazing project. It is important to Glasgow and Scotland. And interestingly, by holding this meeting in this church and by the involvement of Govan Show people and young film makers at Fablevision, and the commitment of Chris Jamieson of Glasgow Life Open Museums, all roads lead to an important intangible project.’
More than 500 people attend the Gaelic speaking church during Doors Open weekend. ‘We’d love to have that number every Sunday!’ said the St Columba’s Church elder, Donald MacKechnie at the St Vincent Street ‘B’ listed building.
Despite their Doors Open day banner being ‘pinched’ and despite major repair work still underway following the storms early this year, the church welcomed visitors in true Gaelic style with tea and home baking in the hall and quiet time to walk around the sanctuary and savour the atmosphere. A Gaelic language service is held at 10am and one in English at 11.30am each Sunday in a worship tradition going back to 1770. But the forward looking congregation is on facebook as well as in the history books so have a look at their artistic pages.
This was one of more than 100 buildings taking part in this year’s Doors Open festival in Glasgow. Seminars, talks, walks and artistic events were woven around the core weekend of 15 and 16 September 2012.
And the rain did not deter people from attending or taking part. The East Glasgow Concert Band played under a canopy at the Kelvingrove Bandstand and Amphitheatre off Kelvin Way. And they needed the cover as the rain came down through most of their very tuneful 30 minute set. Conductor Kirsty Martin, a music teacher, said: ‘We’ve played in worse weather! It snowed last year at the Fort shopping centre.’ With their music ranging from Elton John to Queen and from film themes to ‘Yakety Sax’ it was real top tapping stuff. ‘It’s really good to be playing here, ‘ said Kirsty. ‘The more people who hear us the better.’ The wind band was started almost 25 years ago by people who’d learned an instrument at school and wanted to continue to play as a hobby. Now covering a wide age range from school pupils to retired – but mostly early 20s – the band welcomes interested new players. Check their Facebook page or turn up on Tuesdays for the 7pm start to rehearsals at St Andrew’s Secondary School in Carntyne.
Among the bystanders enjoying the playing in the rain were 9 month old Millie Fleming whose mum Cheryl was in the band, and retired librarian Olivia Scott who remembered attending concerts in the Kelvingrove Bandstand in summers past.
‘I’ve still got all the programmes,’ said Miss Scott. ‘You could follow what was being played through the numbers on the programme which were supposed to be matched by a number on the stage. But often the man on the stage would forget to change the number as each new piece of music was played.’
Such memories of music in the Bandstand are likely to become fact in the future if a dedicated partnership led by Glasgow Building Preservation Trust has its way. The derelict site is to be redeveloped in time to be used for the Commonwealth Games in 2014. ‘Fundraising is going quite well,’ said Anne McChlery Director of the Trust who was standing at the Bandstand site throughout the rainy Doors Open Sunday to inform visitors about the project. ‘We’ve raised £900,000 to date and are confident we can reach the £1.5million target.’
Closed in 1999, the site became derelict and is on the Buildings At Risk Register. But a band of valiant supporters kept campaigning to bring the place back into use. Built in 1924, it could accommodate 3000 people seated and 7000 standing for open-air performances. Earlier this year an agreement was reached with Glasgow City Council, Glasgow Building Preservation Trust and Glasgow Life on a plan to develop the site, access funding and confirm users. Page/Park lead the design team. Further details from Miranda Lorraine at GBPT : 0141 221 6061 www.gbpt.org or email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Easterhouse Baptist Church will officially open the doors of its new annexe at the end of the month.
The church, which has been part of the Easterhouse community for 50 years, will open the two-storey, £320,000 building – which has a multi-purpose space, servery and crèche – in an official ceremony for MPs, MSPs, city dignitaries and community groups, on 27 November.
While the building on Westerhouse Road will be dedicated by the congregation on Sunday, 22 November, with a special service and performance of the God Is With Us Choir, a general public open day and bakery sale will be held on 28 November.
Pastor Sandy Weddell, who has ministered at Easterhouse since 1980, said: ‘We have witnessed incredible changes in the last 30 year and it is our hope that the new church complex might be an oasis for many.’
The annexe, which was built with funds raised by the congregation, will become the home of a weekly youth initiative organised by Family Action in Rogerfield and Easterhouse.
The next meeting of the Oatlands Steering Group, on 3 December, will discuss the future of the former St Margaret’s Polmadie Church and its conversion into a community facility.
Residents and ‘stakeholders’ are encouraged to participate in a St Margaret’s community working group. Those interested will be asked to take part in a workshop to look at the latest design proposals and uses for the building; to discuss ways the community can be involved in running the facility in the long-term and training initiatives which will enable this to happen; to visit other sites which share similarities with St Margaret’s, and to set up and attend regular meetings.
The meeting will take place at Oatlands Community Resource Centre (the Blue Hut) Wolseley Street, Glasgow, at 2pm.
Shawlands United Reformed Church continued its centenary celebrations programme with a well-received concert of music, singing and sketches before an audience of 100 people recently.
The performers, all members and friends of the Moss-side Road church, proved to be a big hit and the event, although free, raised £200 in donations for Blue Peter’s Operating Smile UK appeal.
The congregation’s next centenary event is a service featuring the Praise Band, which takes place on November 22 at 6.30pm.
Looking farther ahead, the final event of the year is a Christmas ‘Sale of the Century’ fayre on December 5 from 2.30pm.
Clydebank Male Voice Choir gave their audience a treat at a recent concert in St John’s-Renfield Church in Kelvindale in aid of a childcare and educational centre in India established by two members of the congregation.
In his witty and informative way, Conductor Ronnie Simpson introduced the choir’s dozen songs and four soloists. The range of music was wide – from classic to calypso and touched the heart strings of the appreciative audience. Many who heard the choir for the first time that evening, have marked their next concert in the diary – Thursday 3, Friday 4 and Saturday 5 December in Clydebank Town Hall.
Introduced by Ann Ormerod, who with the late Jen Fisher established the connection in 1999 in Chetpet in Tamil Nadu, South India, the Kelvindale concert raised well over £700 for the Chetpet project.
Following their year long working visit to the area in 1999/2000 the two friends determined to support the local Society for the Welfare and Awareness of Poor and Leprosy Affected People which was directed by social worker Masilamani.
They raised funds for a childcare and education centre in the town. Following Jen’s death in 2002, Ann established PICT – Projects India Charitable Trust – to realise the original vision and to administer Jen’s legacy and to raise additional funds in a joint venture with the Society in Chetpet.
The Ann and Jen Nursery and Primary School was opened in April 2006 with accommodation for volunteers and overseas visitors. It provides education for more than 100 children and is also a community and education centre for adults, especially the mothers of the pupils. Further information on the work of PICT can be found at: www.pictscotland.org.uk