Ursula Kam-Ling Cheng, who has an installation at the Wheat Cafe, Linthouse, and Audrey O’Brien, who work includes tutored walks in the Moogety Garden and Elder Park, were on hand to discuss their work.
The Woven Network Govan forms part of a large artistic endeavour involving Ukraine, the Nordic countries (Denmark, Norway and Sweden) and Scotland (Govan, Glasgow), which is focussing on gathering and interpreting stories from the unheard – mainly female workers – who have juggled low-paid and frontline roles in places such as hospitals/care homes with caring for families during the Covid19 pandemic. The artworks that have arisen from this take as their themes care and community in a time of crisis.
During the 1980s and 90s, when social enterprise was an innovative concept in Scotland, Strathclyde Regional Council, Objective 3 Partnership and the Scottish Centre for Regeneration were surprised when Fablevision board members thanked them for turning down applications for funding on the grounds that we were ‘not sustainable’. Having funding bids rejected forced Fablevision’s artists, like most other creative practitioners, to develop other, entrepreneurial business models that would allow them to continue their practice without compromising their vision or values and we thanked them for forcing us to be independent. Over the ensuing decades, Fablevision inherited furniture from Strathclyde Regional Council when they shut up shop; computer equipment from the Objective 3 Partnership when they closed and co-created learning materials on the demise of the Scottish Centre for Regeneration. The ‘unsustainable’ small cultural social enterprise outlasted all the big beasts. Like other small cultural organisations, we were light on our feet – able to adapt and pivot creatively and meet the new requirements of whatever adverse social/economic/political circumstances presented. There is a joke in community-based cultural practice that practitioners of these arts are like ‘cockroaches will be after the nuclear holocaust – they will be the only living things to survive’.
For more than four decades, Fablevision has created ‘glocal’ experiments in artistic interventionism. Taking a cultural planning approach (and with the intention of making a difference), in the early years this involved supporting people with disabilities to find their voice and make stunning theatre, resulting in the formation of Birds of Paradise Theatre Company. In the middle years, with partners in the Banlieues d’Europe network, we focused on place-based cultural planning in for example, north east Glasgow with the Royston Road Project and BoltFM. More recently, through collaborations with River Cities Network members on a project entitled, Memory of Water EU, we have worked in Govan with partners from Sweden, Poland, Greece, Ireland and Belgium asking what difference socially engaged, interventionist artists can make on post-industrial waterfront heritage zones: an exploration that has, over the last five years, expanded to include Ukraine and Georgia.
These international sharings of learning and practice are vital. They provide the oxygen for locally based artists working in communities/communities of interest (as well as those local residents who gain inspiration from seeing what’s possible in other countries) to ‘keep going’ in the face of, at best, indifference and often, outright hostility from politicians and planners. Artists empowering local people to speak out is one thing but empowerment to the extent of taking ownership; taking control and affecting transformation on their local area plans is not always welcomed by landowners and housing developers.
Fablevision survived the first waves of the Covid-19 pandemic thanks to European funding (which helped to lever local and national ‘match’). We concluded the final year of Memory of Water, (a major Creative Europe 6 cities, EU project) during 2020, delivering a ‘blended’ residency programme in spite of lockdown.
In early 2021, we secured a successful Erasmus bid to explore this experimentation with new working practices further. Over the next three years, collaborating with partners in Greece, Poland and Sweden, we will map examples of best practice in each of the participating countries: experimenting with case studies that will be delivered in real time. The ingredients for success will be unpacked, teased out, analysed and compared across the four partner countries. From these mappings and case study examples, we will create a set of learning materials for artists, educationalists (formal and informal) and community arts organisations, to facilitate adaptations in post venue based performance arts.
All of this is now threatened by Brexit, however, as , over the last 5years, we have seen ourselves reduced from lead partner status to ‘ third world country’ where we can’t participate in Creative Europe or Erasmus at all unless invited and subcontracted by an EU member state.
To be clear, it is not just the Fablevision business model that is under threat here. The whole premis of collaborative learning and sharing of practice with mutual understanding and in the spirit of shared values is now in jeopardy for all independent cultural organisations and practice based researchers throughout the UK.
Whilst many of our colleagues in the UK Creative Europe network of beneficiaries are moving themselves into mainland Europe or setting up satellite organisations in Cyprus, Paris and other welcoming ports in a storm, Fablevision is pondering available options. The jury is out on whether or not Brexit will spell the end of the line for Fablevision; if we can ‘pivot’ and survive the storm yet again, or if reinstatement within the EU family will come in time to save us.
Liz Gardiner is founder and Director of Fablevision and a PhD candidate at the University of the West of Scotland. All of the projects mentioned above have been developed with the support, partnership and supervision of colleagues within UWS.
Fablevision is looking for an Admin Officer, a Media Technician and a Sales and Marketing Officer to be employed under the terms of the government’s Kickstart programme. Applicants must be on Universal Credit and aged between 16-24 to be eligible. The role involves working 25hrs per week from 10am-4pm, Monday to Friday (TOIL is available if applicable) and will be paid at the minimum wage.
Deirdre Nelson, one of the artists engaged on the Woven Govan project, has been collaborating with expert mould maker and designer, Helen Kalmijn, to render her statement piece “Care” into a series of textured reliefs.
Dr t s Beall is the Lead Artist for ‘Woven in Govan’, and was the lead Scottish artist for ‘Woven Network’ (2020), spanning five countries and led by Platform TU (Ukraine). Beall is a socially-engaged artist and researcher based in Dumfries and Glasgow, working with communities on durational projects to recover marginalised histories. Her work spans a variety of media including performative events, printed matter, and creative interventions in the public realm.
She is also one of ten commissioned artists on the Stove Network’s ‘Atlas Pandemica’, working with Travelling Showpeople to recover elements of Dumfries’ fairground histories (2020-21) and considering post-Covid positioning of creative projects in the public realm. Ongoing projects in Scotland include ‘Fair Scotland’ (with Showpeople, co-devised with Dr Mitch Miller), and ‘Protests and Suffragettes’ (recovering and highlighting women’s activism in Govan), both 2013-present. Beall was the lead Scottish artist for ‘Memory of Water’ (2018-2021), a project examining post-industrial waterfronts in six European cities, funded by Creative Europe. Her PhD with University of Glasgow (2017), collaborated with the Riverside Museum/Glasgow Museums, where her practice-led research developed engagement strategies for heritage institutions through co-curated events and participatory performance.
The latest artist to take part in this element of the Woven Network is Ursula Kam-Ling Cheng, a North Irish illustrator and visual artists based in Glasgow.
Woven in Govan is part of the European collaboration Woven Network with Intercult (Sweden) & PlatformTU (Ukraine). It concept and execution each part of the project is designed to focus on the often unsung role women have played during the continuing Covid19 pandemic and the various lockdowns.
Each artist’s work focuses on the different ways in which women have adapted and coped under the circumstances and how they have contributed markedly to the greater good.
Ursula’s work is created from life experiences combining surreal realities into a hyper colourful blend of contrasting and loaded line drawings. Often a mix of mediums are employed and explored on found surfaces and applications. Her work enjoys autonomy over the spirit of a place and seeks to bring charm and joy to viewers.
Her large-scale mural work has been commissioned by the V&A, Abertay University, Edinburgh University, Fringe Festival Society and Urban Outfitters to name a few.Within participatory creative facilitation her work aims to involve everyone, generate empowerment, build optimism and pride in communities. Her work combines a mix of mediums to create a unique hybrid of styles most distinctly her own and inspired by those interacting with it. ,
Donna Rutherford is an artist who has specialised in theatre and video working since 1990. She mixes the roles of writer, performer, filmmaker and director.
Starting from a Live Art background she has developed solo and collaborative projects in the UK and abroad with a wide range of artists, musicians and community participants. The work stems from personal storytelling while combining psychology, social history and the distortion of memory – oh, and humour!
The work manages to make difficult subjects such as displacement, family relations, ageing, and miscommunication in relationships accessible to wide audiences while developing innovative forms of storytelling. Touring extensively across UK & Eire and performing in Belgium, Denmark, USA & Canada, she has consistently been awarded funding from English & CS/ Scottish Arts Councils (including International Initiatives,Live Art Commissions, NRLA Residencies, Partners Fund, Made in Scotland), alongside funding from BBC2 Commissions, Barclays New Stages Award, international festivals & residencies, Opera North, Arts & Humanities Research Council.
AHRC awarded Donna a Creative Fellowship 2003 – 2007 (between RSAMD, GSA& New Territories) which led to her working closely with Stirling University’s Memory Lab. (A previous collaboration involved another of Stirling University’s Psychology Departments – the Face Perception Lab in 2001). Alongside teaching and facilitating work for others she has co-ordinated symposium events bringing together experts in diverse subjects and produced a DVD of artists interviews entitled ‘Rearranging Realities’ which is still used as a teaching aid across UK, Eire, USA & Australia. Alongside commissioned art & theatre work she has always engaged with community-based projects, often working with vulnerable groups.
Organisations include Loretto Housing, Falkirk Criminal Justice Service Women’s Group, NHS Greater Glasgow, North Lanarkshire Council Social Work Dept – Older Persons Team, West Dunbartonshire Violence Against Women, Macmillan Centre via Artlink.
The latest artist to join the Woven Network project for the Woven in Govan is Deirdre Nelson, an Irish artist/designer based in Glasgow, who uses the medium of textiles to explore humour, place and social history. In her first action as part of the project, Nelson asks us to consider what we understand by the word ‘care’.
She partners traditional techniques with contemporary processes such as digital print in creating work not only to be exhibited but on artist residencies, within education and community projects. Resulting works cross over art, design and craft. Deirdre enables the communities she works with to explore social and environmental issues through making. She also works to commission for arts and healthcare organisations. Collaborating with creatives such as architects, musicians and writers allows her to create and produce diverse projects.
Deirdre studied textiles at Glasgow School of Art 1992 and a M.Philosophy in 1996. She has exhibited internationally and nationally and undertaken residencies both in the UK and Australia, including: including: The Kildas, Glasgow School of Art+touring 2016; Designed with Heart, St Etienne Design Bienalle 2019; Between the Kine, Harbourfront Arts Centre, Toronto, Canada, 2013; White, La Porte Peinte Centre Pour Les Artes, Noyers sur Serein, Burgundy, France.
Audrey O’Brien – an Irish-born artist based in Glasgow, who works across photography, collage, sculpture, and curated events through a socially engaged practice – is the latest artist to join in the Woven in Govan part of the Woven Network project.
A background of employment in social care heavily informed her work in Arts and Health, Arts and Disability, and pedology. With both playfulness and seriousness having equal parts in her practice she is influenced by the Dada art movement. Her long-standing passion for this cultural and political art led to researching unfamiliar artists from this period and developing both collaborative and educational programme for community and school contexts. Creating interactive art works and focusing on the senses is essential to her creative exploration. Through working with diverse groups which as residents in supported housing to forest rangers and scientists she is a firm believer in collaborative production and democratising creative activity.
Recent projects include co-creating a self-led guide for Seven Lochs Wetland Park and collaborating with composer Sonia Allori with Sonic Bothy. She contributed to the School for Civic Imagination CCA Glasgow, a structured programme addressing socially engaged research and practices.