Sunday, 6 April 2014

All Very Sweet...

White Gold is an ambitious, site-specific performance set in Greenock’s iconic Sugar Sheds. Brought to the warehouse for storing, sifting, refining and presenting, White Gold is woven together from vivid and touching stories gathered across Inverclyde.

As audiences walk through the show, artists, performers and 200 volunteers will bring narratives to life through drama, movement, original music and breathtaking aerial performance. Surprising, poignant and deeply moving, White Gold gives the community of Greenock top billing as the nation’s stars.

An original creation conceived and overseen by Mark Murphy, directed by Simone Jenkinson and Joseph Traynore of Cuerda Producciones. It is produced by Iron Oxide and includes Cuerda Producciones from Argentina, All or Nothing Aerial and DJs/musicians Tigerstyle. Part of the Glasgow 2014 Cultural Programme.

Volunteer cast and crew

Volunteers are currently being sought to join the White Gold cast and crew, working with a talented team of artists and theatre professionals.

Cast Members, Assistant Stage Managers, Runners, Lighting Design Crew, Site Crew and Stage Crew are all required. The positions are accessible to anyone 16+, with a willingness to learn and there are a number of roles available, depending on how much time each volunteer has to give.

To find out more please come along to our Open Evening at the Beacon Arts Centre, Greenock, on Mon 14 April from 7.30pm-8.30pm. You’ll have the chance to talk to the team, see the aerial performers in action and find out how you can get involved with White Gold.

For further information or to request a pack on the opportunities above please email 


As well as the White Gold project, Absent Voices continues to tell the story of the Sheds and our community in beautiful, interesting ways. One of the project artists, Alastair Cook will shortly be teaming up with The Dutch Gable House for a short residency in the historic building.
And Magic Torch's  own Commonwealth project 13 Commonwealth Tales, has begun, preparing two books for publication later in the year, retelling commonwealth folklore. The books will launch late Summer.

Wednesday, 29 January 2014

Mr Cube Strikes - A Sugar Sheds Snack

Inspired by the work of the Absent Voices project, looking at the history of the Sugar Sheds and the associated industry to create new artwork, Magic Torch have produced a very short comic strip featuring former Tate n Lyle stalwart, Mr Cube. You can see him below exploring his own feelings on the sheds before hooking up with what we are very confident is Inverclyde's First Superhero Team (full spinoff story coming soon!). Above, he is in more terrifying form on the cover of a Tales of the Oak comic. All courtesy of Andy Lee. If you are of a mind to support your local folklorists, you can help support our future projects by purchasing a special digital version of Tales of the Oak from Comixology.

While the Sugar Sheds campaign is no longer a focus for Magic Torch, it looks like it may be a busy year ahead for the Sheds, with new parking, the continuing Absent Voices project and also White Gold, a performance which will be staged at the sheds during the Commonwealth Games. Sweet.

It's almost as if, maybe using the space for arts, heritage and community events longer term wasn't a bad idea after all... ;-)

Thursday, 23 January 2014

White Gold Needs You

White Gold, an incredible large-scale performance, will transform the Sugar Sheds in Greenock this June as part of Culture 2014, the celebrations surrounding the Commonwealth Games.

The project
 is led by arts organisation 
Iron Oxide in partnership with the Beacon Arts Centre. It's an original creation by Mark Murphy and includes Cuerda Producciones from ArgentinaAll or Nothing Aerial and DJs/musicians Tigerstyle
Bringing personal stories to life through music, drama and breath-taking aerial performance, White Gold gives the community of 
Greenock top billing as the nation’s stars. The performance can only be realised with the public’s support and input and we are delighted to announce the following opportunities:
Volunteer cast and crew

Volunteers are currently being sought to join the White Gold cast and crew, working with a talented team of artists and theatre professionals.
Cast MembersAssistant Stage Managers, Runners, Lighting Design Crew, Site Crew and Stage Crew are all required. The positions are accessible to anyone 16+, with a willingness to learn and there are a number of roles available, depending on how much time each volunteer has to give. To find out more or request an information pack on any of the above roles please contact by Fri 15 February. 

Free aerial performance workshops  

Hang, climb, swing and suspend your way through a free taster session in aerial skills with 
Edinburgh's All or Nothing at the Beacon Arts Centre. 
Each session will start with a warm up before moving onto the aerial equipment with a chance to try out rope and material trapeze. You will learn how to get on & off the aerial kit leading onto basic moves, climbs, wraps and tricks and a wee bit of hanging upside down.

Suitable for all abilities - you just need to be willing to give it a go - this is a great introduction to the air and aerial skills.  We'll explain what the White Gold project is all about and how you can get involved in the final performance at the Sugar Sheds in June. 

Participants can choose from one session on: Mon 3 February7.15pm- 8.45pm,
Tue 4 March5.30pm-7pm and Sat 5 April: 11am-12.30pm.

To book a place please contact
 or call 01475 723723. Places are limited so book quickly to avoid disappointment.

Friday, 20 September 2013

Check Out Absent Voices

This excellent new Heritage Lottery Fund supported project also has a very lively Facebook Page.
Have a looksee...

Thursday, 18 July 2013

2014 Commonwealth Games / Keep Corlick WIld

It has been announced that an amazing aerial performance will be staged at Greenock's Sugar Sheds as part of the 2014 Commonwealth Games Cultural Celebrations, perhaps further proof of its potential as a venue.

"White Gold will offer audiences a site specific, promenade performance experience.  A spokesperson for the project said: “Brought to the sugar sheds for storing, sifting, refining and finally presenting, White Gold is woven together from vivid and touching narratives gathered from across the nation."

You can read more about this performance and other 2014 Cultural Events here. Sounds really interesting.

While not directly related to the Sugar Sheds, there's some information below on a new local campaign and public event to discuss the proposed windfarm development.

There are many differing viewpoints on the proposal - will it create local jobs? If so, isn't that a good thing? Well, we've already seen this week how one local development agency has failed to make those sorts of jobs materialise; with so much red tape, procurement law and fiery hoops it's never as straightforward as is proposed.

People are often very cynical, assuming that decisions have already been made and deals done - to be absolutely honest, I've yet to make my mind up about the windfarm. However I appreciate that Keep Corlick Wild are at least trying to have a conversation - something which doesn't always happen, "consultation" on such developments is often undertaken on the developers terms, this at least takes an element of the discussion back into the public arena. So regardless of your view, you should go along - at the very worst, if this development goes ahead, a local pressure group could be instrumental in ensuring the promised community benefit materialises - surely something we can all agree on regardless of how we feel about the development.

Wednesday, 12 June 2013

Sugar Rush

It's been awhile, but here's a wee cluster of relevant updates...

We're delighted to hear that a new Heritage Lottery Fund project, Absent Voices, will explore the history of the Sugar Sheds. The project has been developed by Alec Galloway, a long time advocate of using the sheds creatively, and an early contributor to this blog. Can't wait to see how it all comes together.

There have been several new heritage projects kicking off locally...

Inverclyde Council has been given funding for a new coastal heritage trail and also a new youthwork programme. The Identity project, which staged a play in the Sugar Sheds this time last year, is drawing to a close, but is going out with a bang with a new book Kith and Kin and website launched in the last few weeks. And Magic Torch's own Tales of the Oak project launched a new childrens book, which introduces local folklore and legends to younger audiences (wee video and book link below).

Recently, a campaign against local windfarm development in an area of archaeological significance has kicked off...Keep Corlic Wild. The company involved in the development claims it will protect the nearby Roman sites. There's a petition you can sign against the development here.

Inverclyde Council has also launched its new local development plan for consultation, have a read and have your say.

And the Scottish Government have announced a new Regeneration Capital Grant programme, to provide new and improved infrastructure to benefit the economic, social and physical environment of communities. It would be safe to expect a bid from this area, and it would nice to see the community properly engaged in this process, as per the Scottish Governments own Achieving A Sustainable Future strategy which says future regeneration activity must take account of lessons learned and focus on outcomes which "put communities first, effectively involving local residents in the regeneration process and empowering communities". 

Progress, regeneration, development...all very familiar stories across the country. Earlier this year, the BBC ran a programme, Heritage!, which charted the pioneering campaign work of the individuals who set out to save so much of the built heritage we currently have left in this country. Indeed, Heritage Lottery have recently launched an excellent new funding stream Heritage Enterprise, to try and find effective new uses for old buildings, a way to perhaps assist the economy without the frantic and often unnecessary desire for new build - which threatens even the most historic locations. The model suggests private and social enterprises working collaboratively in a genuine partnership to unlock potential of local spaces...something we've always seriously advocated...

Anyway, here's a wee video from our storytelling project with some local monsters in it, you can download a free copy of the book here....and as ever, more regular heritage updates on our Tales of the Oak blog.

UPDATED 15 July 2013

There have been changes at local Urban Regeneration Company Riverside Inverclyde following a damning mid term report. Key staff have now left the programme, which has met only 7% of its local jobs targets in the 7 years it has been in existence, while levering in only 1% of the private investment it had projected. The "toxic" nature of the James Watt Dock site is mentioned in the report, which is not currently publicly available, but is referenced in this Glasgow Herald article. The "Riverside Inverclyde Fails" story is also covered on BBC news.

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.