Nothing about us without us is for us

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Booklet published to accompany the public art project 'Nothing about us without us is for us,' based in Govan/Glasgow and led by Matt Baker and t s Beall.

Text of Nothing about us without us is for us

  • Saturday 28 April 2012, 1 4 pm

    You are invited to participate in the enactment of a public art event where language will be hurled, launched, wafted, and flown from either side of the River Clyde using a variety of obsolete technology. Communication methods include marine signal flags, lost languages, trebuchets, string-and-cup telephones, human megaphones, St. Kilda mailboats (The Govan Armada), and more

    Weeks of activity in the studios and workshops of Govan here culminate in a one-day celebration where the reality of failed communication is both celebrated and critiqued. This is a project grounded in locally rooted collective action, which acknowledges from the outset the potential futility of our desire for consensus. Envisioned as both action and mini-festival, it employs The Glasgow International Festival of Visual Art as a lens to critically examine the role of art in the transformation of places, in Glasgow and beyond.

    Nothing about us without us is for us has commissioned 13 artists to deliver 9 communication strands in partnership with 22 organizations, groups, and many individuals on both sides of the Clyde, in the glorious Parish of Govan.

    Transmissions will be attempted from both sides of the river. Success is not guaranteed.

    Nothing about us without us is for us

    Image: Window of Plantation Productions, Govan 2011. Photo Matt Baker

  • Nothing About Us Without Us Is For Us is led by Matt Baker and t s Beall and presented as part of The Glasgow International festival of Visual Art 2012

    Artists and MakersAlexandra BowieColin Thomas BeggFiona FlemingGeraldine GreeneGrant LeckieIngrid ShearerJim FergusonKate V. RobertsonMartin CampbellBelinda Gilbert-ScottSophie ManhireSteven AndersonTam McGarvey

    PartnersCrann TaraFablevisionGlasgow Housing AssociationGovan & Craigton Integration NetworkGovan & Linthouse Parish ChurchGovan Youth ProgrammeNorthlight HeritagePearce InstitutePlantation ProductionsPlatforumRiverside Community HallsScotland in EuropeThe GalGael TrustThe Riverside MuseumThe Tall ShipWhy?sman Festival

    Image: Window of Plantation Productions, Govan 2011. Photo Matt Baker

  • A fleet of small model boats were made from redeveloped rubbish (flotsam) collected from the Clyde each with a message in-a-bottle. The Govan Armada was inspired by the mailboats of St Kilda a remote Scottish island whose inhabitants knew the sea currents so well that they were able to post letters to the mainland in tiny model boats that carried a waterproof container an act of faith, knowledge and a need to communicate with a larger world.

    The Govan Armada

  • Flotsam was fished from the Govan Graving Docks, cleaned and prepared as material for a total of 12 group workshops hosted by The GalGael Trust. The workshops were facilitated by all the artists working on NothingAboutUs, staff and volunteers from The GalGael and led by Martin Campbell, Matt Baker, and t s Beall. In all more than 130 people made boats for the Armada, including 5 local youth groups, local community and cultural organizations and representatives of larger organizations like Glasgow Housing Assoc., Glasgow Science Centre and The Riverside Museum.

    12 Workshops130+ people attending72 boats builtThe Govan Armada will be blessed by Rev. Moyna McGlyn and launched on the River Clyde in Govan Parish at 3pm on Saturday 28th April 2012. Any messages found and returned will be logged on an online map at

    Huge thanks to all at The GalGael who embraced the Armada Workshops so generously especially Norrie, Helen, Tam, Rosie, Iain, and Gehan and to The Centre for Human Ecology for all their help in collecting flotsam.

    Image: St Kilda Mailboat, National Maritime Museum, London


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  • Main image: Armada Building Workshop (Govan Riverside Youth Group), at GalGael Trust. Photo Matt BakerFlotsam Graving Dock No3, Govan. Photo Matt Baker

  • String and Cup Telephones

    led by Kate V. Robertson

  • results, not causes.// The causes lie deep and simple//

    ,// multiplied a million times;//

    mind aching to grow,// to work, to create, //

    to take the clear lines// and form from conceiving.//

    // walks up the stairs of his con-cepts,//

    //when theories change and crash//,

    never the full step back.//

    And fear the time when the strikes stop//

    for a concept,// for this one quality

    ,// distinctive in the universe.

    //when theories change and crash//,

    never the full step back.//

    And fear the time when the strikes stop//

    for a concept,// for this one quality

    ,// distinctive in the universe.

    joy and some security,/ / multiplied a million times

  • Voices; protesting and comforting, describing and sensuous, amplified and intimate, professional and personal, instructive and entertaining, historic and present, transcending and rooting. Your voices with these voices.

    About usThe text announced by human megaphone is an extract from The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck.

    About us voices led by Steven Anderson

    featuring and with thanks to the members of; Voicebeat Choir, Govan All Sorts Choir, Arches Community Choir, Power Cut Choir, Govans African Church, and to; Maria Leahy, Fee McKenzie, Stuart Robertson

    About Us Voices


    From 23rd 28th April messages have been passed between The Tallship (moored on the North side of the Clyde) and 3 highly visible places in Govan around Water Row: Govan New Parish Church No 7 Water Row The Showpeoples site

    Flags will be hung on each of the above buildings, and the Tall Ship. Each grouping of flags represents a message, which can be decoded using the key on the right.

    The 3 locations in Govan display flags specially designed and made by 3 local artists, each in collaboration with a Govan based community group. Together they created messages to send across the Clyde. The Tallship has responded to these messages using a set of one of the many different types of marine signal flags in use by mariners today.

    The flag codes have been designed and made by:Alexandra Bowie + Govan and Craigton Integration NetworkFiona Fleming + PlatforumGeraldine Greene + Bead and Blether (Govan Portal, Portal Senior Film and Media Group / Plantation)

    Maritime Signal Flags

  • Govan Women one of three short stories based on the history of Govan by jim ferguson

    Just home from a meeting of women in the upstairs lounge of Brechins Bar. Mostly we talked aboot the work-in which has been going on for over two month now. I am all for it. It shows you what you can do. We didny have our meeting in the downstairs bar cause folk dont think its right for women to go into a bar if they are not accompanied by men. But thats bye-the-way, the main topic we debated was our objection to one of the slogans they had adopted at the shop-stewards meeting in June:- Not a Man Down the Road. As women who work in the shipyards and most of us taking our turn in the occupation some of us thought this slogan was out of order. Everybody laughed when wee Rena McIntyre shouted, Ill bet ye it was that eejit Reid came up wae that wan. Fact is it disny matter who came up wae it. Its the principle; it suggests that were no part of the struggle, no part of the fight for jobs. Our jobs are on the line too, no just the men. Ok so we dont lift and weld and rivet big lumps of metal, we dont actually build the ships, but we clean, we give out the wages, we make sure aw the necessary stock is in place so that the men can go ahead and build the bloody boats. Tony Benn was discussed favourably, though some reckoned he was trying to use the dispute to further his parliamentary ambitions. I dont care aboot his ambitions. Not that I wish the man any harm, far from it, at least he showed up and offered us support. And for aw oor men might be bad theyre no as bad as the Tories, though they should know better than to try to write us oot the picture. I mean, ye expect a bit of respect. Ye expect equal pay, equal rights, equality in all and every measure. And I expect oor working class men to fight for the ambitions of every woman who wants to live in freedom and equality. Ill accept nothing less than freedom and equality with men or women, black or white, and thats afore ye even think aboot class If ye thought of aw the cruelty that ever happened in the world it would drive ye aff yir heid. Im reminded of Lady MacBeth and her ambitions for her man, and how that ended up driving her mad as a brush. Shakespeare was a clever

    From The Diary of Linda Fitzgerald Friday, September 17th 1971

  • Laddie, from here you can get to anyplace in the world * Transformational Regeneration Area * The flag was borne on the field of Sheriffmuir * foremost among them was Mary Barbour * Dont look on move on * horizontal direct-acting condemning engines for screw steamers * wherever I stand is the birthplace of my nation * Our Fight is Your Fight * Laddie, from here you can get to anyplace in the world * Transformational Regeneration Area * The flag was borne

    bugger right enough, saw aw the angles, wouldve made a fine shop-steward and no mistake. Anyway, when the meeting was closing somebody proposed that we go doon into the mens bar and order pints. Ye shouldve seen the looks on the some of their coupons when we aw walked in bold as ye like. It was great. Wan eejit, who was completely steamin, shouts oot, Yeezir in the wrang place ladies. One of us shouts back, Were no effin ladies, were the women of the UCS. The whole place went quiet, totally silent, then aw the men in the bar started clapp