Monday, 3 September 2012

Sweet Dreams...

In June this year, the Identity project run by Inverclyde Community Development Trust, worked with Riverside Inverclyde, James Watt Dock LLP and Inverclyde Council to secure the use of the Sugar Sheds for a one day performance of a locally produced drama. The script was written with pupils from St Columbas High School with the assistance of scriptwriter Danny McCahon (Casualty, Waterloo Road, Emmerdale). The drama retold the stories of local migrants who have passed through the area over the years and was produced as part of a project supported by Heritage Lottery Fund Scotland. I am lucky enough to be involved with this project, and the whole day was an exceptional experience, certainly amplified by the atmospherics of the Sheds. The performance will be available online and on DVD later in the year, but for now, here's a taste of the show...

Having been involved in the organisation of the Identity production, I better understand many of the difficulties of staging any event in the building - power, toilets, security, safe walking surfaces - all that doesn't magically appear; the space has none of these basic services - and none of it is cheap to hire in. But it can still be done. Likewise, the health and safety considerations of moving people in and out of the building are...challenging, with approval required from the Police and Fire services. But it can still be done. For us, it certainly helped the process that our one day event did not feature a bar - but equally, I know from talking to people over the last year, that's always one of the things most folk would like to see in there alongside live music.

A year on from the initial flurry and interest of the campaign, the marina continues to be busy, with hopes for new business development and local jobs there and The Sugar Sheds and the James Watt Dock continue to be a focus and inspiration for arts and cultural activity; Cardboard Bay based on the Russian social arts project Cardboardia, has been funded to happen in the Sheds in the near future. The life and work of sculptor George Wylie will be celebrated across the West of Scotland by The Whysman project, there's an exhibition at RIG Arts Gallery and the project culminates in a massive steel question mark being suspended from the Titan Crane at the dock. Local music, one of the things people wanted to continue to see in the Sheds most of all, is being promoted by a new website which takes it's name from the buildings; The Sugar Sheds, provides free listings to all local musicians, tutors, studios and events and is fast becoming one of the most well used local websites. And at least one other major arts project involving the Sheds is currently in development. As a space, it continues to inspire me personally - I wrote a few wee haiku the other week for my own blog Stramashed while I was walking down there and I've another wee ghost story on the go as well. For a real taste of how that inspiration can produce wonderful creative pieces, check out Alistair Cook's filmpoem The God of Sugar.

And now? In the short term, it would be nice to see more cultural opportunities down at the Sheds; with funding, time, genuine partnership working and resources, the Identity drama has shown that it can be done - in one small part of the Sugar Sheds, for one day. But what else can be done beyond these enjoyable, opportunistic events - is a long term plan for sustainability even possible now? The landscape locally and nationally for "regeneration" has changed dramatically, even in the last year. Any solution for the buildings lies, as it always did, in people, communities, agencies and organisations putting aside personal agendas, ideaologies and maybe even short term profit in favour of actually sitting down together to make things happen. That ship has yet to sail.

For now, while we wait, a shameless plug for another local project I'm involved with, The Dutch Gable House, which will be opening up on Doors Open Day on Saturday 8 / 9 September - you'll be able to get free copies of our Heritage Lottery Fund supported Graphic Novel on the day - which includes a few wee Sugar Sheds pages. Come one, come all.

And Magic Torch, the originators of the Sugar Sheds campaign have a new storytelling project starting later in September as well.