EU and No-EU: From the Centre to the Margin

Fablevision and its director, Elizabeth Gardiner, feature in Creative Europe’s review of European projects, “Stories From Creative Europe In The UK – 2014-2020”.

One of the great things about the greatest European project – the European Union – was its role in fostering a feeling of co-operation, friendship and interrelatedness among its constituent parts – 28 sovereign nation states sharing a commitment to the same future and direction. Amity had replaced enmity.

It was in this regard and spirit that Fablevision joined Intercult (Gothenburg and Stockholm, Sweden), Municipality of Levadia (Levadia, Greece), Nabaltyckie Centrum Kultury (Gdansk, Poland), Ormston House (Limerick, Ireland) and Stad Oostende (Oostende, Belgium) in the Memory of Water EU project, which explored the nature of heritage, urban regeneration and renewal in post-industrial riverine and seaboard communities. At its heart was the use of artistic interventions/residences to help explore, encourage and engage with communities which have often been ignored or sidelined. It asked the question: who decides the future of such places? The question needs asking as more often than not regeneration of post-industrial places and spaces involves the imposition of “solutions” without reference to the heritage of these places or engagement with the communities who live there.

Then came 23rd June, 2016 and Brexit. It remains to be seen what the level of engagement between the UK and EU-based cultural organisations will be post-Brexit. However, one thing is certain, there is now no common narrative or direction of travel. Aside from the obvious dislocation and disengagement, the UK and its organisations will no longer have access to the same level of cultural funding or the same access to the skills, knowledge and experience of our erstwhile European partners. It is already the case that interns and cultural professionals are not finding Britain as welcoming and easy to access as it once was.

Fablevision continues to work with European partners – notably Intercult (Sweden) and Mariupol Platform TU (Ukraine) – as part of the Woven Network project, and Bridging Digital, with organisations from Sweden, Greece and Poland, on how the community cultural sector in Europe is adapting post-pandemic.

What is now less clear is what the future holds for Scottish cultural organisations now that the UK is outwith the largest market and culturally dynamic bloc in the world.

Memory of Water EU Shortlisted for New Bauhaus Prize 2021

The Memory of Water EU project, on which Fablevision (Govan, Glasgow) worked with Ormston House (Limerick), the Municipality of Levadia (Levadia, Greece), Nadbałtyckie Centrum Kultury (Gdansk), Intercult (Gothenburg and Stockholm) and Stad Oostende (Oostende, Belgium), has been nominated and shortlisted for the European Commision’s New Bauhaus Prize 2021.

The artist-led project explored new approaches to urban regeneration, cultural planning and placemaking in post-industrial, waterside or riverine locations.

Memory of Water EU Reviewed

Memory of Water EU was a six-city (Gdansk, Gothenburg-Stockholm, Govan, Levadia, Limerick, Ostend) Creative Europe-funded project which set out to answer the question: What’s next for post-industrial waterfront heritage zones in Europe?

Our lead partner was Intercult, Sweden, and we had a range of NGOs, social enterprises and public sector organisations in the partnership mix. Fablevision was the Scottish partner with t s Beall, the social engaged lead artist responsible for delivering residency programmes in Levadia, Gdansk and Govan. From Ostend, Belgium, the city council arts department nominated street artist, Siegfried Vynck. Levadia, Greece, another local authority partner, nominated performance artist Ira Brami, whilst our partner in Limerick, Ireland, was a visual arts organisation, Ormston House, with visual artist, Mary Conroy. Gdansk, represented by Nadbałtyckie Centrum Kultury, introduced visual artist, Iwona Zając, whilst Intercult contributed film director, Jonas Mystrand.

Being involved has been a massive capacity building process for Fablevision in many ways: our profile and social media presence has been boosted exponentially; our project collaboration in Govan with activists, artists, architects, politicians and planners has first of all stopped the building of 750 high rise flats on Govan’s iconic, A-listed Graving Docks, then supported the developer to change plans and prioritise heritage, industry, tourism and recreation. Finally, by December 2020, we learned that Glasgow City Council has removed the Victorian dry docks site from the housing register so it is no longer zoned for housing. There is no doubt that without international benchmarking (in particular with the historic shipyard in Gdansk, Poland, whose iconic cranes were given protected status, and which, as of December 2020, is well on the way to having the whole shipyard area designated with UNESCO World Heritage site status) partnership with artists and academics, urban lab discussions, and the high profile residencies themselves, none of this would have happened.

An unexpected aspect of the learning and development for Fablevision was the arrival of Covid-19 which could have scuppered the whole project but in fact allowed us to invent whole new methods for delivering participatory artist residencies remotely that involved local people, community organisations and Govan-based artists in the delivery! Substantive research and relationship building gained during the first residency in 2019 coupled with the close, trusting relationships of partners and the expertise, professionalism and dedication of the artists involved, transformed disaster into opportunity and delivered output of exceptional quality.

The benefits are almost too numerous to list but leverage of match funding; the ability to remain within the European project at a time when Brexit is dragging us out; legacy developments like new East European project partners from Georgia and Ukraine and new projects like Woven Network are a few highlights. 

We are very sad that we have been unable to be a lead partner on Memory of Water EU and are now reduced to third country status going forward but we hope this will be temporary and we are determined to continue working with current partners as well as forging new ones.

As the two year journey now draws to a close, you can catch up on some of the amazing dialogues and digital exhibitions of the artists’ work via the following links:

Memory of Water EU – Webinars, Podcasts, Labs, Posts

Memory of Water EU – Artists’ Biographies

Memory of Water EU – YouTube Channel

Memory of Water EU – Facebook

Awakening The River

The film entitled, “Awakening The River”, is a collaboration between Fablevision, who co-ordinated the project, STAGE (Scottish Talent Across Generations Events), and the Greek Memory of Water EU artist, Ira Brami.

Directed and produced by Helen Kyle, the film provides a narrative of poems, music and photographs to evoke something of the essence of the river which has played such an important part in Govan and Glasgow’s history. Contributors include: “The Greatest Iron Ship” by Danny Kyle; “Clota, Goddess of the Clyde” performed by Louise Oliver; “Fear” by Kahlil Gibran (translated and performed by Michael Dempster) and “Braw Sailing on the Sea” by the Iona Fyfe Trio.