Monday, 24 November 2014

Book Week Scotland - Fun With Folktales


If you didn't manage to pick up a FREE copy of 13 Commonwealth Tales earlier in the year, be sure to head along to our Book Week Scotland event on Saturday 29th November in The Dutch Gable House, where you can also enjoy some craft activities and storytelling from 10 - 2 (we'll be in The Back House...)

There are lots of great events on throughout Book Week Scotland, thanks to the support of the lovely folk at Scottish Book Trust, Including lots of cool stuff at our own Inverclyde Libraries. Get involved!

And if that weren't enough to get you out of the house on a potentially chilly November Saturday, The Dutch Gable House also plays host to the Violet Skulls Christmas Market on the same day! With lots of local craft, arts and gifts plus the Bygone Photobooth Company will be along to take your picture too.

Monday, 17 November 2014

Absent Voices - Sugar Archive



An archive created by artists and musicians who have been exploring the heritage of Scotland’s once-mighty sugar industry is set to be handed over to the people of Inverclyde.

Sugar Archive, which opens at The McLean Museum and Art Gallery in Greenock on Saturday 22nd November, is the culmination of a year-long public art project chiefly inspired by the A-listed Sugar Sheds at James Watt Dock, Greenock.

The Absent Voices Sugar Archive is an actual and virtual collection featuring a range of mediums, from paintings to drawings, stained glass, photography, poetry, film, songs and soundscape. The collection, which includes new poetry reflecting the loss of the sugar industry by Scotland’s national poet, Liz Lochhead, will be formally handed over to the McLean Gallery curators when the exhibition ends on 20th December.

Artists involved in the Absent Voices collective are: Alan Carlisle, Alastair Cook, Alec Galloway, Ryan King, Yvonne Lyon, Kevin McDermott, Anne Mckay and Rod Miller.

The exhibition will highlight a broad range of work produced by the group as well as visual art, music and film-based imagery produced in collaboration with the wider community in Inverclyde.

The sugar industry shut up shop in Greenock in the late 1990s after more than 300 years continuous operation in the town.

Lead artist in this Heritage Lottery Funded (HLF) funded project, Alec Galloway, was inspired to create the project by his own family connections to the sugar industry in Greenock. He said: “By focusing on the historic sugar sheds at James Watt Dock in Greenock, the artists have created a lasting archive of material for current and future generations to come. 

“As well marking the importance of the sugar industry in Scotland, the archive shows a remarkable outpouring of creativity on the part of each and every artist involved.

“We have all been inspired and delighted by level of community participation in Absent Voices’ workshops and also the way in which the project has reached beyond Inverclyde. It’s been fantastic to see national figures such as Liz Lochhead, and fellow poet John Glenday get involved through the wonder of Alastair Cook’s innovative ongoing Filmpoem project.

“We worked with schools and community groups, conducted drawing and photography tours of the sugar sheds and songwriting workshops at the Beacon Arts Centre in Greenock.

“Through all these events, the level of interest in Absent Voices grew and grew. There was a real desire from the wider community to discover – or rediscover – the stories which surrounded sugar refining in Inverclyde. It re-enforced our feeling that it was important to create this archive.

“My family all worked in the sugar industry and it has been very moving for me personally to see this project unfold. One of the artworks I have created is a glasswork featuring my grandmother, Mary Galloway, who worked at The Glebe, a well-known sugar refining warehouse, in the 1920s.

“I’ve also been working on glass-works relating to my great-grandfather, Alexander Cochrane, who was killed when Walker’s refinery in Greenock took a direct hit during the Greenock Blitz of 1941.”



ARTISTS’ OWN SUGAR STORIES...


ALASTAIR COOK Photography and filmmaking

During the summer of 2014, award-winning artist, Alastair Cook, was artist-in-residence at Dutch Gable House in Greenock as part of Absent Voices. He was commissioned to create four projects for Absent Voices: Every Memory, Everything We Have Ever Missed, McArthur’s Store and three new films for Filmpoem.

He has also collected and curated the creative response to the sugar sheds in a new book, titled Absent Voices. This book shows the new work of a number of Absent Voices artists, alongside others who visited over the past year, with new poetry and writing by Scotland’s National poet, Liz Lochhead, as well as fellow Scots poets, John Glenday and Jim Carruth (Glasgow Poet Laureate), among others. The book will be available at the exhibition in the McLean Museum.

Throughout October 2014, Alastair exhibited Every Memory at The Beacon Arts, unveiling In order to win, you must expect to win, a new series of documentary and portrait photography with Greenock Boxing Club, alongside new large format photography for Absent Voices.

From September until November, he exhibited Everything We Have Ever Missed at Dutch Gable House, showing large format print photography for a book with accompanying work by poet, John Glenday.

Alastair produced double exposure photographs made using 35mm film: there is no digital trickery, the film is sent through the camera twice, hiding the resulting images until processing. All this work was made in the Sugar Sheds; working with the poet in Greenock over a period of months. Limited numbers of the book will be available as part of the exhibition.

To reflect Greenock’s origins as a fishing village, Alastair is also exhibiting McArthur’s Store at 6Art in Greenock, running concurrently with the Sugar Archive exhibition at the nearby McLean Museum. McArthur’s Store is a series of wet plate collodion tintype portraits of fishermen who work from McArthur’s Store, a creel store on the Old Harbour in the small east coast fishing town of Dunbar. This photographic process dates from 1851 and was used until the 1880s.

Alastair was also commissioned to make three new films for Absent Voices: Alba, Greed and The Fishermen and the Weather Wife. These films will screen in Greenock at a special event to be announced.


ALEC GALLOWAY Glass artist and painter

Greenock-born Alec has a deep family connection with the sugar industry in his home town. An award-winning stained glass artist and lecturer in architectural glass, most of his glass creations develop from ideas taken from sketches and observational drawing. As part of Absent Voices he has looked at how the craft of traditional stained glass has declined as an expressive art form and contrasts the profile of stained glass in the 21st century with Victorian Scotland when the art form flourished.

Alec hosted stained-glass workshops in Greenock in which participants were taken on an historical journey to observe windows in the town made by the finest exponents of the art-form; including Edward Burne Jones, William Morris and Gabriel Rossetti. His hands-on workshops went on to explore traditional glass painting techniques, with students creating their own works in the spirit of those important artists.

He has also explored his own personal links to the sugar industry which employed most of his family from the 1900s onwards. This included researching the story of his great grandfather’s death while working at the Walkers refinery on the night of May 4th 1941 when Clydeside was targeted by German bombers during the blitz.

Alec has unearthed images and stories relating to this incident and produced a very personal body of work exploring themes linked to both family and the wider sugar trade.

As well as creating works in glass and paintings, he has projected images shown directly on the interior walls of the sugar shed building.


RYAN KING AND ALAN CARLISLE Soundscape

Alan and Ryan, who play in The Alphabetical Order Orchestra together, began working on a soundscape for Absent Voices at the beginning of 2013. Focusing on the community, history and the trade that connects them, they set out to give the Sugar Sheds ‘a voice’.

Using the sounds of the building, the rhythms of the trade and lives of the people who passed through the doors (including Ryan’s grandfather, Jim King, who worked at the sheds), they have researched the sounds the building makes.

Ryan says: “We’ve taken sounds we've bounced around its walls and recorded them. We've interviewed and collected interviews with members of the community, and had discussions to understand what life was like around the dock and in the sugar trade. We enlisted the help of sound engineer and musician, Jim Lang, and another member of our band, Gary Deveney.

Together we formed an experimental and exciting group approach to writing and recording. We have recorded music in the studio and taken it to the Sheds and sent it out into the building and re-recorded it, used fusions of Caribbean and Celtic rhythms, and evoking moods and atmosphere though sound. Ultimately we hope to encapsulate the sound of the sheds to record the past, present and future of the building as a soundtrack, giving it a voice.”


YVONNE LYON Singer and songwriter

Greenock-based singer-songwriter, musician and teacher, Yvonne, has been busy writing new material based around the sugar industry while encouraging aspiring songwriters of all ages to make and create their own songs.

Together with Anne Mckay and Kevin McDermott, she took part in a series of workshops with P5/6 at Whinhill Primary in Greenock throughout March/April 2014. The theme was The Folk Of The Sheds, bringing characters that would have worked in there in 1900s to life through songwriting and visual art.

She said: “We have been encouraging imagination as a form of learning about the history of the sheds and touching on subjects such as the slave trade, trade triangle, working songs and folk songs of Africa, Scotland and the Caribbean. To date, five original songs, incorporating English, Gaelic and Scots have now been recorded with the P5/6’s as featured singers.”

The children also showcased their songs at an Absent Voices pop up event at the Beacon to resounding success.

In collaboration with fellow AV artist, Alastair Cook, Yvonne composed a Filmpoem score to poems by Angela Readman.

She hosted songwriting workshops for the community throughout September to encourage songwriting as a form of uncovering stories related to the sugar industry; looking at working songs, slave songs, folk songs as forms from which to write. Compositions are also being recorded to form part of the archived work.


KEVIN MCDERMOTT Singer and songwriter

Born and raised in Maryhill, Glasgow, Kevin started working life as an apprentice with Yarrow Shipbuilders before signing to Island Records and going on to forge a successful career as a musician with his band, The Kevin McDermott Orchestra, and as a solo artist. His anthemic Voices (from 2008 album, Wise to the Fade) has become the theme song for Absent Voices as the year of creating the Sugar Archive progressed.

Currently working on an album of songs which draw inspiration from the global reach of the sugar industry, Kevin has played several gigs this year, including one with Pretenders guitarist, Robbie McIntosh as part of Celtic Connections 2014 in Glasgow, and at The Beacon Arts Centre in Greenock.

He has also performed at two primary schools, Whinhill and All Saints, both based in Greenock. At Whinhill, Kevin took part in songwriting workshops with fellow Absent Voices artist, Yvonne Lyon and Anne Mckay, while at All Saints, he was involved in a sugar inspired project which saw the pupils making ‘sugar loaves’ and creating murals.


ANNE MCKAY Painter

Gourock-based Anne has collaborated with various community groups in Inverclyde, ranging from primary-aged children to the elderly.

Working with All Saints and Whinhill Primary Schools, through drawing and painting, children produced murals and 3d sugar loaves, investigating their heritage, through images and by looking at artists, Stanley Spencer and Joan Eardley, and depicting scenes relating to the sugar industry.

Together with with fellow AV members, Yvonne Lyon (and guest Kevin McDermott), the Whinhill project incorporated music and art as a means of describing the Folk of the Sugar Sheds.

Anne lead a number of Walking Drawing Tours of the Sugar Sheds with Rod Miller as well as hosting figure drawing, portrait classes at the McLean Museum, using their exhibition as source material.

Mural workshops were undertaken with Your Voices Community Care in Greenock. This group included middle-aged to elderly locals who have bee dealing with such issues as depression.

Anne also interviewed and drew 100-year-old Bertie, who worked in the sugar sheds as a boy. In her own own work for Sugar Archive, Anne is considering those who worked in the sugar industry and the processes involved in the refining process. Her work features the workers as spirits and their interaction with nature. She is also collaborating with poets, who are writing poems based on her personal AV drawings.


ROD MILLER Painter and photographer

Together with fellow Absent Voices artist, Anne Mckay, Rod has worked with P6/7 pupils at All Saints PS in Greenock on a project in which the children made ‘sugar loaves’ from sugar paper and painted them with designs/stories/images.

The inspiration for this was a series of talks which he delivered on the history of sugar from its initial discovery, ensuing world wide trade and its implications for slavery and the effect it had on our local town.

Anne Mckay and Rod also led Walking and Drawing Tours of the Sugar Sheds at James Watt Dock, together and then separately. On these tours, Rod gave a talk on the history of the building and challenged the participants to record the building using different drawing techniques such as thumbnail sketches, line drawing, shadow drawing and full detailed drawing using graphite and charcoal.

Rod also held figure drawing classes with models posed and dressed based on historic photographs of sugar refinery workers. Various drawing techniques were used including line drawing speed drawing, with attention to perspective and body proportions.

He also led photographic tours in and around the sheds.

Rod has been working on a series of oil paintings as his personal contribution to the Absent Voices archive. Influenced by his research into the history of sugar story, these paintings have a surrealist narrative which talks out the less-than-savoury aspects of the sugar story.


At Magic Torch, we are really looking forward to seeing what the project comes up with, Alec first shared his vision for an Absent Voices project with us during our (no longer active) Sugar Sheds Campaign in 2011

We were inspired by Absent Voices to create our own wee comic piece featuring popular fifties character Mr Cube which you can read here.

Monday, 10 November 2014

Uncommon Tales - Singing Bones

from the Green Old Oak Tree, art Andy Lee

One of our stories in Uncommon Tales is The Green Old Oak Tree, one of many tales which feature a murder, a bone from the murdered body being turned into a musical instrument, and the musical instrument telling everyone the grisly details of the murder every time it is played. Lovely. Oh wait...SPOILER ALERT.

You can enjoy our version soon, meantime, here's perhaps the most famous Singing Bone...



There are plenty more to choose from though

Singing Bones is also a rather smashing album by folk band The Handsome Family, here's a wee tune from that album which is rather popular...


Monday, 3 November 2014

Within The Shadows...


Here's a spooky show that sounds right up our street, on at The Beacon later this month, In The Shadows...

A family move to Port Glasgow in search of a new start, but what they find is something more macabre than they could ever imagine. Why are the locals acting so weird? What is that tune howling in the wind? Who is that creature that tip toes around the streets of Port Glasgow in the dark?Rusty Boat Young People’s Theatre Company present an original modern fairy tale based on a local urban legend. 

Book it online or by calling 01475 723723.

Monday, 27 October 2014

What Sweet Music They Make...


We're obviously all very excited about Goth at the BBC this week on BBC 4, but meantime, a few tunes from unusual places...


Emily Jones and The Rowan Amber Mill take us to a place we feel like we remember...the half remembered terrors of the seventies folk horror TV series The Book of the Lost...



You can download the album via iTunes, amazon, or in deluxe versions via Rowan Amber Mill Bandcamp.


The group are one of the bands to feature on the equally eerie and inspired new album Songs From The Black Meadow...

"The Black Meadow is a piece of heathland located on the North york moors, just next to the early warning system at RAF Flyingdales. It is a place steeped in folklore and mystery. This is a place where many people have gone missing, swallowed up in the dense mist. Black Meadow is renowned for strange phenomena such as ghostly villages, time slips and bizarre transformations. You could find yourself trapped there, surrounded by horsemen, meadow hags, bramble children or creatures made from the fog itself..."

The mix below features recordings from the artists who feature on the album, to give you a flavour of what to expect.




The track below, Never Come Home, was created as part of a poetry competition which was won by Catherine Baird, inspired by drowned villages such as Bothwellhaugh in the Clyde Valley. The poem was set to music by Stuart Braithwaite of Mogwai and read by actress Shirley Henderson. You can read more about the project on the Scottish Book Trust blog.




Here's one of our own spoken word pieces with The Friends of the Gable...




And finally, to take the edge of all that darkness, here's a classic Beatles Halloween Cartoon...

Wednesday, 22 October 2014

Uncommon Tales - Inspirations

cover by Andy Lee
Our winter comic for this year is Uncommon Tales, in which Sir Glen Douglas Rhodes travels around various commonwealth countries, encountering creatures and monsters. The really horrible ones we left out of the 13 Commonwealth Tales book. As such, we're celebrating a grand tradition not only of storytelling, but of international monster hunting...

In our house, Scooby Doo is on near constant repeat. And it has been for over ten years now, each of the kids loving it in their own way, but especially loving the monsters. If you don't have kids under 8, or are not attempting to forlornly recapture your childhood, its unlikely you are watching Scooby Doo on a regular basis. But you should. From Owl Men, Ogopogo, Baba Yaga and Tikki monsters, via Yeti, alien abductions pirate ghosts and Goatsuckers, Scooby Doo and the gang have pretty much explored every popular folk legend there is. The programme moves from the early days of "science versus superstition" where all the bad guys turn out to be people in masks, through to the newer series, where the monsters are entirely real. A high watermark is the recent Scooby Doo Mystery Incorporated series, a 52 episode arc of horror, conspiracy and self referential cleverness which riffs on everything from the Saw films and the Velvet Underground to Twin Peaks and Cthulhu...and is still suitable for children!

Needless to say, any worldwide monster hunt owes a tip of the hat to Scooby Doo. Here's a topical clip from Mystery Incorporated..




Another, much more direct inspiration was from Alan Moore's run on Swamp Thing. In a storyline called "American Gothic", Moore has the titular Swamp Thing trudging around America encountering creatures and objects from American folklore and mythology, including Native American ghost shirts, boogeymen and South American cultists. It's a classic, and initially I wanted to call Sir Glen's adventures Commonwealth Gothic in the flimsy hope it would make it just as cool. But we went with Uncommon Tales instead. You can get copies of the American Gothic storyline online. The storyline's other claim to fame, is that it is the comic which introduced the British occultist John Constantine...here's hoping the new TV series, starting this week, features some of those stateside horrors...





Remember of course, you can still enjoy last years Tales of the Oak comic on scribd below, or if you are lucky enough to live in Greenock, by popping into the Dutch Gable House to be furnished with an actual real copy.


Tuesday, 21 October 2014

Uncommon Tales

Cover by Andy Lee

Rollicking along just in time for the darker months, comes Uncommon Tales, a terrifying selection of folk tales packed with unspeakable horrors from around the Commonwealth, featuring Sir Glen Douglas Rhodes. Meet Wendigo, Tokoloshe, Sharktopus, Anansi and more.

The comic was produced with the support of Celebrate funding, which also helped us to publish 13 Commonwealth Tales.

Uncommon Tales will be available digitally in November, but we hope to have a small number of physical copies of the 32 page comic available for free at a few special events throughout the month...we'll share some more pages with you soon.