Saturday, 29 October 2011

Candy Apples

It was Greenock’s very own Abram Lyle who discovered Golden Syrup in 1883, back in the days when civic leaders and businessmen were also pioneering inventors, adventurers, philanthropists and general all rounders.

Golden Syrup is beloved by many, and at this time of year, is an absolutely critical ingredient in right good Candy Apples for Halloween. (It’s also very useful for making Gingerbread Sheds..but more of that nearer Christmas..)

30 apples
5 cups of white sugar
½ cup Golden Syrup
1 ½ cups water
2 tsp blackcurrant syrup

Place lollipop sticks or wooden craft sticks into each apple at the stem end. Set aside.

In a heavy saucepan, mix together the sugar, golden syrup and water. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to medium and continue to cook until the mixture reaches 300 to 310 degrees F (149 to 154 degrees C), or until a small amount of syrup dropped into cold water forms hard, brittle threads. This will take a good 45 minutes!

Remove the sugar mixture from the heat and stir in the black currant syrup. Quickly dip all of the apples, holding them by the stick. You can let them cool by inserting the other end of the stick into a thick sheet of foam board. If that is not available, set the coated apples onto waxed paper or aluminum foil. Make sure they don't touch each other.

Nomm. Nomm. Nomm.
If yer after a more traditional recipe, or don’t actually want to make 30 Candy Apples at one go…try here.

And don’t forget that before giving any visiting Galoshans Candy Apples, they must perform The Galoshans Play.

The Galoshans Play

Friday, 28 October 2011

"Heritage + Development = ?"

Yesterday we were fortunate enough to attend the Scottish Civic Trust's conference on heritage, regeneration and development, a great opportunity to hear from the people leading the field in placemaking and civic pride.

We heard social, cultural and crucially, economic arguments for use and redevelopment of older buildings; historic building restoration uses fewer resources and creates more employment than new builds. It was incredibly refreshing to hear architects and government agencies commenting very clearly on the measurable benefits of involving the community in development of projects and programmes, beyond the superficial and passive notions of simply commenting on plans which have already been drawn.

There is a renewed emphasis too on energy efficiency in historic building adapatation, with grants currently available for buildings like The Sugar Sheds to explore the feasibility of sustainable energy use as part of any redevelopment.

From the Chord Projects just over the water in Helensburgh, through to Govan's redevelopments and the Govan Folk University and on to Maryhill Burgh Halls Trust...none of these are projects and processes a million miles away..all of these wonderful places and ideas are within half an hours drive. Those communities, agencies and architects have worked collaboratively to realise their shared vision. Surely we're not talking such a massive cultural leap to make similar things happen down here. Though obviously, what was clear from all involved was the time effort and energy that has been invested by all partners in making these ideas a reality. Here are projects which have developed with imagination, vitality and risk, daring to push beyond the minimum expected standard, and creating something all the more special as a result. The question we should ask ourselves and our civic leaders is not "why not here?" but "when do we start?".

More than anything, we came away convinced that such regeneration and development is possible when all parties involved are able to sit down respectfully and work together to be greater than the sum of their parts. It can happen, it can be done. Even here. And wouldn't it be great, if in the future, Inverclyde's regeneration of The Sugar Sheds was able to be recognised as an example of innovation and best practice in the same way that these projects and programmes are now.

Next, we're off to visit Out of the Blue through in Edinburgh, a former Drill Hall, now the centre of a thriving cultural community...

If you are feeling like getting inspired by bold new building designs in old spaces, you can read a great new document from Historic Scotland and Archticture and Design Scotland, "New Design in Historic Settings" which was launched at the conference.

An inspiring day, thank you very much to the Scottish Civic Trust.

Monday, 24 October 2011

Event Management Opportunity?!

Check it out! James Watt Dock LLP are offering Event Management organisations the opportunity to propose events and programmes within The Sugar Sheds. Could this be the beginning of The Sheds being utilised longer term as an events venue? This is what many, many people who had signed up to the campaign wanted to see.

Certainly, following the success of the venue at The Tall Ships, we're really glad to see the recognition of the space in this way. Hats off to RI for taking the time to explore other opportunities. I also don't think it is at all unfair or unreasonable to say that without so many peoples suggestions, interest and efforts and the subsequent national coverage of the Sugar Sheds campaign, the market might not have been getting tested in this way at all.

A lot of events management teams and promoters, local and national, got in contact with us in the weeks following the start of the campaign. I really hope some of them take the opportunity to explore their suggestions for The Sugar Sheds further. We'd certainly be interested in helping that happen in any way we can.

Critically though, we would continue to hope that there is also room for local investment, involvement and employment in the ongoing development of The Sugar Sheds...after all, the local community will be the lynchpin in the sustainability of the space in the longer term.

Recently, I had a "robust debate", with someone who was not convined by the notion of The Sugar Sheds as "a community space". His feeling was that we had enough community centres and "places for junkies and old folk to go to". As someone who has managed a community centre in my day job, I take a wee bit of exception to that...but I think I understand what he was piledriving at. Our notion was never that the sheds be turned into a big giant subsidised community centre, that isn't how we would define a community space; art galleries are community space, swimming pools, theatres, museums, playparks...and this is the sort of space we hope the Sugar Sheds will become, a place where people feel they can go safely to enjoy themselves, and that also provides a direct benefit to our community, whether that is through jobs or the activity that happens there.

We sent some outline suggestions to Riverside Inverclyde a few weeks ago around the community opportunities available (none of which would clash with the above development opportunity), and we are assured of a response soon.

So...still worth sticking in there for now on all fronts...


Sunday, 16 October 2011

Mr Cube's Roots

"Mr Cube's Roots - The Story of Sugar" was passed to us recently; it's a booklet produced in 1962 by Tate and Lyle. While the book is interesting from a time capsule perspective, the real story is that of Mr Cube himself.

Mr Cube was the personification of the British Sugar Industry, among his many other claims to fame, he headed Tate and Lyle's campaign to avert the nationalisation of the sugar industry in Britain. He first appeared in July 1949 in a period of post-war rationing and austerity. Friendly little chap isnt he? Kind of like a proto Sponge Bob. Except that his popular appeal almost helped lose Clement Atlee's government the 1950 election just after they had founded the National Health Service, the Welfare State and nationalised a whole range of other industries. Cheers Mr Cube.

The booklet is a wee bit vague on the trades links with slavery, Mr Cube apparently had nothing to do with that. But it does explain how sugar is crystallised in great detail.

In other news, you may be aware of a new Artist in Residence Project being organised by Alec Galloway and delivered in the Sugar Sheds over the next few months. Alec blogged about his vision for the project back in July and has permission from Riverside Inverclyde to proceed We're all looking forward to seeing how it develops.

Check out the facebook page here.

Thursday, 6 October 2011

National Poetry Day - Ballad In Blank Verse

To celebrate National Poetry Day, we are publishing poems across all our blogs.

John Davidson was a poet who spent much of his life in Greenock, working as a teacher at the Highlanders Academy, a school which he himself attended. 

This poem has recently been quoted and reprinted on the panels surrounding the statue of Ginger The Horse in Dalrymple Street

Davidson, and later WS Graham evoke a proud, working Greenock, when the Sugar Sheds and shipyards were not simply part of daily life, but an intergal part of the landscape...

from A Ballad in Blank Verse

All summer and all Autumn: this grey town
That pipes the morning up before the lark
With shrieking steam, and from a hundred stalks
Lacquers the sooty sky: where hammers clang
On Iron hulls, and cranes and harbours creak
Rattle and wing, whole cargoes on their necks;
Where men sweat gold that others hoard or spend,
This old grey town, this firth, the further strand
Spangled with hamlets, and wooded steeps,
Whose rocky tops behind each other press,
Fantastically carved like antique helms
High flung in heaven’s cloudy armoury,
Is world enough for me.

Tuesday, 4 October 2011

Guest Blogger - Innes Carmichael

Innes Carmichael shares a recent cultural exchange experience with us, showing how another brick built warehouse has been converted for community use in a way that combines heritage, art and live music...

Estonia's Traditional Music Center
Recently, I visited Estonia through a cultural exchange with ArchNetwork Scotland funded through the Leonardo programme.

I was part of the exchange through my work as a trainer of textile techniques (spinning and natural dyes) and through my membership of Sgioba Luaidh Inbhircluaidh and the connection to Gaelic culture and song, our work at Auchindrain especially. (read more about the work of Sgioba Luaidh Inbhircluaidh – Inverclyde Waulking Group – here)

It was a fabulous experience and I learned a lot, saw amazing things-but the visit to the Estonian Traditional Music Center in Viljandi just fit so well with the sugar sheds I thought it only right to let you all know about it.

What really impressed me was the echoes with the situation in Greenock-and the speed, elegance and “can do” attitude with which the Estonians got this project off the drawing board and into reality- in 2 years!

There seems to be far less of the “100 reasons why we cannae dae this” attitude in Estonia, we could really learn from that. They are a wee country of just one and a half million people and have been independent for 25 years after singing the Soviets out of their country. They make full use of European funding resources – a lot of funding through LEADER for instance, which usually focuses on rural funding. Best of all, they used almost exclusively Estonian architects, acoustic engineers and craftspeople. The old vodka warehouse is a listed building but they worked around this with elegant simplicity.

Here is an extract from my report for Arch Network on my return.

“Housed in an imaginatively restored former vodka storehouse the Centre has transformed what was a seedy part of town into a vibrant hub of music and performance art. Using mainly Estonian architects and technicians it serves as a beacon to other countries in the speed and efficiency of the restoration and the elegant simplicity of the design and function.

All the fittings and textiles are made by local blacksmiths, woodworkers and students from the Culture academy.

Our guide and Events Manager at the Centre, Silja Soo told us of the Famous Viljandi Folk Festival hosted by the Centre, an event in the last weekend of July that pulls around 20,000 visitors into Viljandi. We also visited the Library of International Folk Music in the basement and I left two cd’s of Scottish folk music to add to the collection.”

Here is an extract from the report a fellow exchange member did charting the development of the project.

“This 18th century storehouse belonging originally to a mansion had been used to store potatoes, wheat and vodka but was in a dilapidated state in the 1980s.

A four day music festival was started by Ando Kiviberg and some other students of the folk music course at the Cultural Academy in 1993. This grew to a major folk festival from 1995 onwards. They began to develop the idea of restoring the old storehouse to make a folk music centre. They gathered funding from various sources, including the EU and the local council with donations and a loan to finance a superb folk music centre with a small (80 seat) performing space and a large (400 seat) concert hall at a total cost of over 5M Euros. The building opened in 2008. The acoustics have been particularly well developed. Decoration of much of the dressing rooms etc has been done with traditionally inspired patterns by students of the Cultural Academy.

A library and archive of CDs and sheet music has been begun in the basement . We were all very impressed by this project, by the vision, and the way it has come to fruition.”

You can view more photos from the exchange here and here.