SPARR Celebrates Govan’s Heritage

December 18, 2008 by  
Filed under Features, Glasgow South, Local News, Top Stories

Friday Night in Brechin's BarA ship launches down the slipwayGovan’s shipbuilding heritage and historic links with the Gaelic speaking communities of the Western Isles have been celebrated in a dramatic performance called SPARR. Held in the Big Shed in Govan – the former Harland & Woolf engineering shed which has hosted flagship productions such as ‘The Big Picnic’ and ‘The Ship’ the free promenade performance was a year in the making.

Based on the actual lives and stories of Gaels who arrived in Govan to work in the ship yards, SPARR is the Gaelic word for ‘rivet’ and also means ‘to create an opening’.

Cast members in highland garb welcomed the audience into the huge space as the performance started. A wooden boat was being built in one part of the auditorium. A huge screen showing images from Govan’s past provided a backdrop. A two tier scaffold held musicians and the Glasgow Gaelic choir, and the clangs and clamour of the shipyards filled the air. As the evening progressed, the performers moved into and among the audience to tell the story. The audience were led from the crafting of Hebridean boats to the heavy industry of shipbuilding on the Clyde. In one memorable sequence, a local worker is teasing the ‘teuchters’. He is soon put in his place by a Gael who says ‘You just build the boats, but your feet are dry. We build them, sail them and skipper them as well.’

The cast line-up in front of the screen and start hauling ropes. The motion reaches a climax and the ship on the screen launches down the slipway. The workers cheer and throw their hats in the air. It is hard not to share the sense of achievement and pride. The evening closes with the Govan Fair procession led by the currentFair Queen and her entourage. The cast and audience followed the Queen to an area set up as a carnival and everyone sang an emotional version of ‘Flower of Scotland’. The final words spoken were ‘Welcome to the Govan Fair, the bar is OPEN!’

The project began with oral histories and folk memories being gathered from the community. These strands were developed into a narrative and a script. This traced the lives of Gaelic men and women as they arrived in Govan and established themselves in the workplace and in the community in the 19th and 20th century.

Participating groups in the production of Sparr included the Glasgow Gaelic Choir, Galgael, Cran Theatre Company and Theatre Hebrides. The project was led by Fablevision. Frank Miller from Cran Theatre said; ‘Govan has a vibrant, talented cultural community. I have never been let down by their energy and commitment in the telling of their stories. This project is the most ambitious production I’ve worked on so far. It really works and has captured the imagination of Govan as a whole – individuals, groups, communities and organisations. It is a lot of fun discovering a part of Govan’s history which, to some extent, has been forgotten.’

Sparr is designed to be an integral element of the Govan Cultural Hub. This is a vision for a centre of learning attracting local people and visitors alike. They can access traditional cultures and heritage and witness for themselves how Govan has managed to incorporate that diversity into a 21st century community. The cultural hub is co-ordinated through the Central Govan Action Plan which is a partnership aiming to retain and respect people’s roots and knowledge of past times in order to develop a strong community future.


The production of Sparr was developed by a team including: Liz Gardiner, Overall Director, Fablevision; Graham Hunter, Executive Director, set  design/historical advisor; Di Jennings, Project Coordination; Frank Miller, Artistic Director, Govan; Ian Stephen,  Scriptwriter; Peter Wilson, Film/Digital/Media, Govan; Elaine Marney,  Funding Coordinator/heritage resource materials development; Muriel Ann MacLeod Creative Director, Theatre Hebrides.

Theatre Nemo in Saughton Prison

November 6, 2008 by  
Filed under Local News

Theatre Nemo were in Saughton Prison in Edinburgh last month as eight inmates hosted their short film entitled ‘Does Anyone Know’.

Dealing with general life issues the inmates produced the film in 40 hours through drama workshops and support from the campaigning theatre group based in Glasgow.

As reported previously in the LOCAL NEWS, Theatre Nemo have worked on similar projects in Barlinnie Prison for several years.

Nemo’s founder and director, Isobel McCue, told LOCAL NEWS: ‘This is the first time we have worked with Saughton and what they produced was wonderful. We’d like to work with them again. It is not an easy option for inmates to take part in drama coaching. But it helps them to develop social skills.’

The Saughton men created every aspect of their film through to production and editing.