Keeping Scotland’s Place in Europe

Fablevision has developed partnerships in Europe for almost 40 years.  This has always been “glocal and inter-local” (i.e. local issues shared with communities/communities of interests at a local level that have global interest and impact). Those projects have included arts and disability (leading to the formation of Birds of Paradise) – and more recently, Memory of Water EU, looking at the role of artists in future planning for post industrial waterfront heritage zones.

Memory of Water EU was originally 6 cities and on the journey we discovered that local communities are on the one hand most vulnerable but on the other, have huge resilience that could be channeled and supported. We also identified that the next ‘shock’ about to hit those same communities is climate change.

The plan for Memory of Water EU was to develop the next stages – a large-scale collaboration involving existing and new partners in the exploration. However,  Brexit has interrupted play:  although we understand both education and culture are devolved matters for the Scottish Government, we find ourselves excluded from both Erasmus and Creative Europe because the UK Government has made the unfathomable decision to remove all four of the home nations of the UK from those funding programmes.

Undaunted, we are rekindling relationships with like-minded Scottish artists and activists: reawakening an organisation, established by cultural activist Helen Kyle with incredible prescience in 1996 called Scotland in Europe (SIE).

Scotland in Europe (SIE) has been working between Glasgow and Paris: bringing artists together in partnership, amity and in the spirit of cultural collaboration over the intervening decades SIE is an idea whose ‘time has come’.  The departing Scottish MEP Alyn Smith begged the EU to ‘leave a light on for Scotland so that we can find our way home’. Scotland in Europe is that light.  A beacon for cultural co-operation and learning exchange in the darkness that is Brexit, SIE will support Scottish artists and cultural organisations to continue the relationships, partnerships and projects that have been/will be developed in the future.

Europe stands in solidarity with Scotland. Lights are coming on all over mainland Europe… We have already established SIE ‘desks’  in Stockholm, Barcelona and Paris, with others in the pipeline through membership of the River Cities Network

Our vision remains what it has always been – collaborative, engaged and outward looking.

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

Discover – Create – Share – Enjoy – Protect

Lia Ghilardi, Franco Bianchini and François Matarasso, cultural planners, took to Facebook to discuss the proposition which lay at the heart of the Memory of Water EU project: What’s the future of waterfront heritage zones in the post-industrial cities of Europe?

The discussion, which is facilitated by Liz Gardiner of Fablevision and Iwona Preis of Intercult with contributions from Professor Katarzyna Kosmala, Agnieszka Wolodzko and Roman Sebastyanski, focuses on three strands:

  • The myth and reality of regeneration (Bianchini)
  • The unique DNA or essence of place and how that can be used to shape the future (Ghilardi)
  • The “five capabilities” as laid out in the 2020 Rome Charter, without which the right to participate in the cultural life of the community cannot be exercised (Matarasso)

Full digital content of the Memory of Water EU project, which prefaced this particular discussion on post-industrial regeneration, can been viewed 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.