The Nation//Live: WORK
National Galleries of Scotland and Visible Fictions
Lead Artist and Writer/Director: Martin O'Connor
Our first encounter began in Autumn 2011 in Clydebank, coinciding with the fortieth anniversary of the Upper Clyde Shipbuilders’ (UCS) Work-in of 1971-72. For The Nation//Live – Work, we selected sculptor Kenny Hunter’s 1999 portrait bust of the celebrated trade union leader Jimmy Reid, (1932-2010), to inspire a conversation about what work means today on Clydeside.
To generate a community-wide, cross-generational discussion, we commissioned writer Martin O’Connor from Visible Fictions Theatre Company to create a dialogue between three participating groups. Our aim was to examine Reid’s life and legacy in relation to Clydebank and its situation today.
School students from St Peter the Apostle High School investigated Reid’s portrait and the context of his life, and developed their own photographic work, before taking a replica of the bust and its supporting table on to the streets of Clydebank to gather the views of the public.
Two veterans of the UCS Work-in, Bob Dickie and Jimmy Cloughley, were integral to the project. Their first-hand accounts of events proved invaluable to the creative process and resulted in a conversation between Jimmy, Bob and BAE apprentice Julia Wallace, on the derelict site of John Brown’s Shipyard in Clydebank. This conversation appears in Daniel Warren’s film, Work (left), alongside interviews with project participants, shop workers from Clydebank Shopping Centre, members of Osprey Boxing Club, and staff and customers from Rosie’s Hair Salon.
A dramatic performance of Work – A Reconstruction of Clydebank Voices was performed on the evening of 7 May 2012, the Mayday Bank Holiday, at the entrance to the former John Brown’s site. Written by Martin O’Connor and the people of Clydebank, this drama is an impassioned dialogue between past and present, combining quotes from local residents with sections from speeches by Jimmy Reid which had once galvanised a workforce.
An audience of 120 Clydesiders showed enormous commitment by braving terrible weather to witness the performance by drama students from St Peter the Apostle High School and retired members of the Clydebank Life Stories Group, and the first public screening of the project film.
The project was exhibited in The Back Door Gallery, Dalmuir Library, Clydebank from 19 December 2012 – 19 January 2013. A public evaluation of the project was held during the exhibition, extracts from which can be found below.
Work was produced in partnership with West Dunbartonshire Council and Visible Fictions Theatre Company.
Work received the Joint Highly Commended Award for Project on a Limited Budget, at the Museums and Heritage Awards 2013.