Memory of Water - Govan Residency and Urban Lab 2-8th September 2019

Artists participating in the Memory of Water project take turns to experience and to  be immersed in each other’s locations – Gdansk, Gothenburg, Govan, Levadia, Limerick and Ostende – and the insights and conclusions that they draw will be used to inform and assess what role art and artists can play in community regeneration in a post-industrial context.

As an essential part of the residency, the artists – both visiting and local – will engage directly with community groups within the respective communities.At the heart of the project - and what underpins it - is how power and engagement can be invested in communities to bring about change and mesh with the Scottish Government’s policies for local community empowerment. Part of this means not just engagement but ownership.

The artist residency week during 2nd-8th September, will explore how Govan and Glasgow-based artists can work in and with the local community to imagine and instigate a new narrative for post-industrial regeneration. Artists from Gdansk, Gothenburg, Levadia, Limerick and Ostend will attend to observe and interpret; they will return in June 2020 to deliver their ideas in practice. An Urban Lab discussion, which will involve local people, artists and policymakers, will be held on Friday, 6th September.

Fablevision Studios will be joining sister charity, Fablevision, to film the September's artists research residency  as part of the six-city Memory of Water project.

Govan's Urban Lab

 The overall theme of September LAB  is the impact of artists in planning processes. The Lab's programme is divided into 4 panel sessions:

Session 1 - heritage and cultural planning approaches - looks at the history, the wealth of Govan’s heritage and the policy context which is apparently so favourable (Govan has legislation on community empowerment, right to buy and the right to enforce sale) they really have to question why there are so few examples of urban community buy outs and developments on the ground. Angus Hardie, from the Scottish Community Alliance will  help to tease out why the policy doesn't seem to translate onto the ground!

Session 2 - Glasgow cultural policies - has a focus on Glasgows cultural policy: in particular the current city wide artist residency programme.
Alex Wilde will talk about her work  (as she is also one of the participating artists in the City of Glasgow City wide residency programme) and hopefully she will also share about her experience as part of that initiative.

Session 3 - artists and waterfronts - presentations from artists who are working by/with/on water and waterfronts: Minty Donald with Nick Miler who have been working on water and waterfronts for many years now and Mark Zygadio who has been making some wonderful work in on and around the River Nith in Dumfries.

Session 4 - Evaluation - will focus on the artists who are involved in Memory of Water: their practice, what they have achieved so far, why they have chosen to work the way they have and some initial responses to what they have seen during their week in Govan.

Throughout the week the visiting artists will be liaising with community-based artists, organisations and businesses such as Kinning Park Complex, Fairfield Heritage, Govan Stones/Govan Old Church, Film City and Govan HELP. Ingrid Shearer will give a tutored tour of the Clyde which explores its past, present and imagined from the water and the riverbank . They will also visit the Mitchell Library archive and attend a civic reception at Glasgow City Chambers hosted by the Lord Provost, Eva Bolander.

History of Govan: Marking the Traces

Govan has both prehistoric and historic roots. The River Clyde flowing through its midst was essential to its development. At the confluence of the rivers Kelvin and Clyde, Govan was always an important fording point. Later it was a ferry route (after the river was dredged and embanked to allow ocean-going ships to dock in the heart of the city). Further down river was Merlin’s ford, whose mythologically-inspired name takes us into another era when Govan was part of the Brythonic Kingdom of Strathclyde (5th century AD) which fought the Vikings for control of this vital trade route and meeting point.

Traces of this time, aside from the hogback tombs in Govan Old Church (Anglo-Scandinavian in style); old illustrations of the man-made Doomster Hill and pictographic references on maps (e.g. Blaues’s dating from 1654, which shows Govan as a palisaded community next to a church), were swept away by successive periods of industrialisation. Weaving, which had hitherto been the staple industry of the area, was replaced by shipbuilding and heavy engineering from the 18th century onwards.

From this period onward Govan and the Clyde provided the market and merchant tonnage that sustained the Triangular Trade, the British Empire (mercantile and military) as well as providing the iron and steel for two monumentally destructive world wars. After resurgence in activity immediately post-war, by the 1970s – the time of the Upper Clyde Shipbuilders’ work-in – the days of shipbuilding on the river started to wane as antiquated work practices and cheap competition from Japan, South Korea and elsewhere destroyed its competitive advantage. The place that had played such an important role in the transport of world trade was now relegated to building and maintaining capital ships for one client – HM’s Royal Navy.

The presence of absence

Govan’s recurring story is one of birth-death-rebirth often characterised by the wholesale obliteration of what went before. The morphology of the riverside walk (indented to reflect the location of Harland and Wolff’s slipways) and isolated fragments of rail lines or machinery, are sometimes the only clues as to what was once there. The one constant in Govan’s history – subject to some modifications over the years – has been the River Clyde, our Clutha - the reason that Govan exists at all.

To read more about the Memory of Water Project follow their web page and FB page.

Project Partners:

Intercult, Sweden                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                         City of Ostend, Belgium                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                   Municipality of Levadia, Greece                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                             Baltic Sea Cultural Centre, Poland                                                                                                                                                                                                                                             Fablevision, United Kingdom                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                           Ormston House, Ireland

Memory of Water is an artist- led project exploring post-industrial waterfront heritage in the context of urban planning and community development. For two years, participating partners from six countries will collaborate on twenty-three interrelated activities. This includes four City Labs, six international residencies and a documentary film.


See also

Intercult’s Seminar on 06th of May - Transforming Urban Waterfronts

In connection with Europe Day 2020 Intercult is starting a series of webinars that will connect cities...

European Culture during the Corona-Crisis discussion by River//Cities Council Members

On 16th of April, River//Cities Platform Council Members met in a cyber space to discuss...

Messages of solidarity from Memory of Water partners and artists.

Messages of solidarity from artists & partners during online meeting. Be well & safe!

Memory of Water EU Gdańsk Film

Long awaited film by artist Jonas Myrstrand about Memory of Water EU artists' creative work in...

Memory of Water EU Gdańsk Trailer

In this short film, Swedish artist Jonas Myrstrand presents a Memory of Water EU artists, inspiring...