Thursday, 28 July 2011

Guest Blogger - Alec Galloway

We've invited a number of people who are supporting or involved with the campaign to write pieces for the blog about their own ideas, experiences and suggestions. First up is Greenock born artist Alec Galloway who has a long standing connection with the Sugar Sheds. Alec provided stained glass artworks for the sheds a number of years ago, and most recently worked with local schoolchildren to create banners celebrating the areas sugar trade, which were hung during the Tall Ships as part of an arts project for Sail Inverclyde. Here, Alec outlines one suggestion for future activity in the sheds...

Artist In Residence
As an artist, I would like to be given the opportunity of working with the Sugar Sheds before it finally succumbs to the developer’s makeover. It is wonderful that the building will continue to be a part of Inverclyde’s geography and that future generations will come to know it, but as it stands now it still resonates with something of the atmosphere of the distant sugar industry even though the building is now disused. The aroma of molasses still seeps from the walls and floors and I would like to try to draw out some of those energies in a series of focused initiatives. A body of work would be produced and stand as a lasting record of the building before the architects move in and the scaffolds are erected. Once this stage is reached the building will be beyond the reach of artists and be transformed forever…

As part of this scheme we would

  • Highlight the historical significance of the building through a series of creative initiatives across all artistic media that will stand as a legacy to the history of the building.
  • Raise profile of public art as part of the regeneration scheme, focusing on creating new work as well as displaying and using past commissioned work already in place.
  • Announce the importance of the structure as the centrepiece of new James Watt Dock development.
  • Create a new portfolio of original work as a historical document to be preserved in Inverclyde.
  • Create an outward focus that would publicise and celebrate the sugar sheds as a world-renowned structure, a genuine “unique selling point”
  • Implement a new blog and webcam where people from around the world could tap into updates on the progress of the art and artists, as well as gaining an insight into the regeneration project itself
As with all artists in residence programmes the idea would be to stimulate interest and focus on an iconic building through a series of art initiatives driven by a central artist. The programme is very personal to me as my family were all sugar people and indeed I have direct family connections to the space.

I also feel sure that I could involve a number of high profile artists/writers /songwriters to help celebrate the sheds in other ways.

Central to all of this would be connections with local schools and community groups to invite the areas younger aspiring creative forces to become involved, to see that there is a future in being creative locally.

Tuesday, 26 July 2011

Sam Says Save Sheds

Here we see, Greenock's very own Uncle Sam getting behind the campaign. See him wear his Sugar Sheds Campaign teeshirt with pride. This poster can be downloaded here if you fancy putting it up in yer house / shop / workplace to encourage family and colleagues to show their support for the campaign by signing the petition. Paper copies are also available from Volunteer Centre Greenock (in Westburn Centre, Dalrymple Street, across from Tescos Car Park) or at 7 1/2 John Wood Street in Port Glasgow. Paper copies of the petition can also be picked up / returned at these venues, or just signed online here.

If you're interested in the history of one of the most famous recruitment posters in history, and its journey from Kitchener to Uncle Sam to more current uses in anti-war / peace movements, have a wee look here on "yesterday" or even at the sheer range of variations here.

Monday, 25 July 2011

A Celebration Ode

A wee reminder about our online "battle of the bands". We're looking for local bands to interpret and record Greenock's "A Celebration Ode", first written to commemorate the inauguration of the James Watt Dock and the laying of the Greenock Town Hall foundation stone. The lyrics are here.

6th August 2011, will be the 130th anniversary of this momentous event. We feel the song really captures an upbeat and forward thinking Greenock, looking to the future, daring to think big.

For the anniversary we want as many re-recordings and interpretations as possible from local bands and performers. Ska, rock, folk, pop, dance, spoken word, interpretive dance...we want to see as wide a range as possible. Then, send us what you have from shaky uploaded youtube phone footage to nicely mixed garageband mp3s...we'll listen to them all and get the best ones up on the blog, the facebook page, soundcloud and our youtube channel.

You have just under a fortnight, The White Stripes recorded their classic number one album "Elephant" in around the same time. Go for it.

Frequently Asked Questions...

There are a number of very reasonable, recurring questions that folk have been asking us about the campaign, we'll keep adding to this as we go...keep em coming...

Where can I get paper copies of the petition?
You can download a copy to print off right here.

Where do I hand them in?
Greenock - You can drop them off at The Volunteer Centre in Westburn Centre, 175 Dalrymple Street, (right across from Tescos car Park)

Port Glasgow - You can drop them off at 7 1/2 John Wood Street.
We do not currently have a pick up / drop off in Gourock, we'd love to hear from you if you can help us out there.

How can I help?
Mostly by helping us keep awareness up by sharing the page, petition and blog.

You could also volunteer to take a stack of petitions away to get them signed. (we will provide these for you). To arrange that, you can contact us at

You could email your local councillor or MSP and let them know how you feel, politely and in your own words.

If you are a performer, you could enter our Celebration Ode online battle of the bands

We are currently trying to organise a few events throughout August, we'll let you know about this as soon as possible, and maybe you can help us out with those as well...

Who is running this campaign?
The campaign was initiated by local heritage group Magic Torch, we first came together in 1999, at the time of the last Tall Ships and have worked to promote and celebrate local heritage ever since. Many more local people have been helping us since the start of this campaign.

What do you hope to achieve?
We want to stimulate a debate on the use of the Sugar Sheds, convince the local regeneration agency that the community do care what happens in their community spaces and that by working with that enthusiasm, we can achieve far better results and impacts than we ever could working alone. We want the community to have a meaningful place at the table in terms of this local regeneration, and ultimately, to see space in the Sugar Sheds given specifically for community usage across a range of ideas and areas, from galleries, to music venues and markets.

Is there a sound business case for this proposal?
Nope. Not yet. Is there a sound business case for the current regeneration proposal? If so, how is that any more definitively workable than what we are suggesting here. Frequently changing financial markets and economies mean that investment opportunities are more challenging to pin down. This is the difficulty facing all regeneration initiatives. Some areas have chosen to grapple with this by more actively involving community groups and organisations, as this opens up avenues for funding, tax and rate relief which may not be available to developers. We would want to work with the URC on being part of a sound business proposal. We have formally requested a meeting with members of the board.

Isn't the new Arts Guild (The Beacon) going to be our new community venue?
The Beacon is an excellent development, and in fact it is a good example of local agencies and a community organisation working collaboratively to make something big happen. However first and foremost, it is a theatre space. It would not offer the sorts of opportunities for bands, markets, large scale gallery installations etc. We do not see the two spaces as mutually exclusive, however we do think they could work brilliantly together.

Who would run the building?
Well as it stands, the building is owned by James Watt Dock LLP. We are optimistic, upbeat folk...but we are not naive enough to hope that the building would just be given to the community or Magic Torch to "do things" with it. Certainly, there are many successful examples and legal models for community ownership of buildings...but at this stage, what we are asking for is for the community to be actively involved in the current regeneration proposals, that the space be given over to some community usage over the next few months, and that longer term this would lead to dedicated community space within the Sugar Sheds. There are many formal structures community groups and organisations can adopt to help them manage and resource themselves effectively, these could be explored as appropriate, involving a wide range of community membership.

Saturday, 16 July 2011

Keep Greenock Sugar Sheds A Community Space

On Wednesday morning, following the Tall Ships weekend, we put a facebook page up suggesting that we should Keep Greenock Sugar Sheds A Community Space. Since then, thousands of people have liked the page, and hundreds have signed the online petition.

For many years we have expressed our views on how the Sugar Sheds could be used more creatively, even before the arrival of the current regeneration initiative.

Since Wednesday, a group of around half a dozen new volunteers have been involved in keeping the page up to date, collecting petition signatures, running a twitter account and generally attempting to gather support.

We have been totally delighted with the positive response and also the optimism of the people who have been commenting.

Sometimes in Inverclyde, we are too ready to be told what can't be done. What's been so great about this, is that people have not felt so confined or restrained, as a result we've seen some genuinely creative thinking.

We feel it would be wise to try and harness some of that thinking for the good of the community.

The Sugar Sheds currently have planning permission to be developed into offices, a cafe bar and restaurant. This is not the same as community space. "Public access" does not mean community space.

Yes, these suggestions offer the traditional opportunities for investment and employment, something we also want to see for our community, but there are other ways. Have a look here at Maryhill Burgh Trust, or here at Penicuik House. There are other ways to regenerate. What we are asking is that this be seriously explored and that our community have the opportunity to be involved in that discussion.

Let's be clear, Inverclyde Council no longer own this space, it is owned by James Watt Dock Limited Liability Partnership, a partnership between Riverside Inverclyde and Peel Holdings. However, some of our local councillors, MPs and MSPs have positions on the boards of these organisations. Currently they are our best method of representation to this company, and some have already agreed to meet with us or put our views forward including Duncan McNeil MSP and Stuart McMillan MSP.

In the last two days we have had funders, promoters, businesses, artists and performers all come to us to offer support and suggestions. The key now is to build on that momentum, which I am sure our local Urban Regeneration Company would want to do. Equally, James Watt Dock LLP clearly places community at the heart of the development.

We have asked to meet with them to see if we can take forward discussions on more formal community involvement in the further development of the building. With the community on board and actively involved as partners, a whole range of funding and development opportunities can be opened up which the URC would not generally be able to access.

We are also exploring the possibility of a public meeting at an appropriate venue.

We've heard a few folk criticise the campaign for "raising expectations", in Inverclyde, that is precisely what we need to be doing.

In the short term, here's what we're suggesting

- Keep signing and sharing the petition

- Express your support for the campaign, in your own words to your locally elected representative

- Lets keep the pressure on to get back into the Sheds to run some more community events. August 6th is the 130th Anniversary of the James Watt Dock, September 10th and 11th are Doors open Days.

In the meantime, if you have a particular expertise you feel may help the group, you can contact us on