Reach 08: Africa in Motion

Africa in Motion | Afraga a’ Gluasad

Dr Lizelle Bisschoff was a South African postgraduate when she came to Scotland to study African Cinema. It wasn’t until her research began that she realised just how difficult it would be to source African-made films. When she contacted the then UK Film Council asking for some statistics on distribution of African cinema she discovered that a regrettable nine African films had been on general release in this country between 1995 and 2005. Bisschoff had to make do with the few VHS tapes and DVDs she could purchase, at extortionate prices, otherwise her only other option was to travel to Parisian archives to see African voices and stories, produced and directed by Africans, on the silverscreen.

Bisschoff saw the need for a platform for African Cinema and Art in Scotland, and so, the Africa in Motion (AiM) Film Festival was born. The first film festival was organised in 2006 and the event was hosted by the Filmhouse Cinema in Edinburgh. Since then the festival has grown into a hugely beneficial and influential platform for the African arts community internationally, consisting of screenings and complementary events such as masterclasses and Q&A sessions with directors, and discussion sessions with academics.

In 2015 the festival spanned twenty eight venues across Edinburgh and Glasgow including Summerhall, the Glasgow Film Theatre and the Centre for Contemporary Arts in Glasgow. This year marks the festival’s tenth anniversary. Bisschoff claims that since 2006 the festival has screen nearly five hundred African films. The festival is not only committed to showcasing African voices, but in promoting gender equality in the industry. Over thirty percent of the films screened at AiM have been directed by women, which is impressive considering that only eleven percent of film directors are female internationally. Some of the films’ subject matter concerns difficult issues facing Africans today, and so each of the screenings feature an introduction to the historical and cultural contexts of the films.

The festival is making strides to tackle the lack of diversity rife in the film industry by giving a platform to African films, fighting for gender equality in film-making more generally, and dealing with tough issues. Those are benefits felt by artists, but what about the general public? There are African diasporas across the UK, and there is a significant African community and cultural network in Glasgow particularly. One 2015 audience member commented that ‘I am Kenyan, so these events and screenings are very close to my heart.’ Suzi McIver from the Scottish Refugee Council said that the festival offers  ‘An opportunity to support refugees in other ways, by engaging with such powerful and insightful films.’  Data shows that the AiM screenings have reached 30,000 people thus far. Bisschoff hopes to increase the outreach and engage with African communities in Scotland and on the continent.

Creative Scotland have been the main partner and supporter of the festival since 2007, but AiM has a range of partners from venues to societies, cultural groups and charities such as, the African and Caribbean Network, the Swahili Clubs and Into Film. These partner groups have assisted AiM to set up pop-up screenings in the community, such as the Calabash Kenyan restaurant in Glasgow, which hosts fantastic ‘Dine and View’ events combining African films with dishes from the same nations. Into Film has helped AiM to screen African films to primary and high school children.

These outreach efforts have fostered new ventures in visual art, namely ‘Ways We Watch Films in Africa’ photography exhibit. This was an exhibit which showcased photographs of Africans from all over the continent watching films, from outdoor screenings on the dunes of the Western Sahara to a mother watching a film on her laptop while her children sleep in the background. You can see more of the photos here at the Africa in Motion website. The exhibit was hosted by galleries in Edinburgh and Glasgow, and has now gone on tour to Morocco and several European cities. The photographs were also featured in an article in the Guardian.

If you wish to support the festival or to become involved with Africa in Motion please contact the Festival Manager Justine Atkinson.

Reach 08: Build n Burn

Build n Burn | Tog is Loisg

Dr Kenny Brophy’s perspective on his own place within the field of archaeology admittedly perplexes some of his colleagues. Brophy’s research is largely concerned with prehistoric monuments from the British Neolithic period, and yet rather than referring to himself as a ‘prehistorian,’ he considers himself a ‘contemporary archaeologist’ with an interest in the traces of prehistory and how it is used in the modern world. He is particularly interested in how the prehistoric past can have an impact on peoples’ lives today.

That’s why Brophy began a collaborative project with Dr Gavin McGregor at Northlight Heritage, and a Corinna Goeckeritz a National Trust forest ranger at Brodick Castle on Arran to organise a prehistoric festival. The festival took place on Arran in the summer of 2013, and it involved designing and building a huge Neolithic style timber circle. The circle was built specifically using Forestry Commission timber, and it took the team a full week to construct the monument. Then they burnt it down. Now, whilst this may sound extreme, the burning of the monument was not just a spectacle for festival-goers, the burning mirrored prehistoric rituals and so the burning was accompanied by a talk from Brophy on the meaning and purpose of these monuments in prehistory.

McGregor believes that; ‘Through fiery performance, our Build N Burn approach is designed to engage a wider audience in co-production of memorable events.  By actively exploring how sites may have been built and used, through the associated experimental archaeology activities, we also create opportunities for informal learning about archaeology and heritage.’  Building upon the success of the first festival on Arran, Brophy was keen to build upon the idea of creating events which could transcend the traditional learning experience, engaging the audience in a memorable spectacle, whilst also sharing ideas about Neolithic life and archaeology.

A second, larger ticketed evening event was held in 2014 which included a ‘Walk with the Shaman’ journey from the Arran shoreline to the timber circle site. This time the monument and pyre burning was also accompanied by all sorts of performance, even opera singing.  In 2015 they took the ‘build ‘n’ burn’ performance idea to the next level in Caithness as part of a festival celebrating of the 150th anniversary of Scottish archaeologist Joseph Anderson’s first excavations in the area. In collaboration with Cara Berger from Theatres Studies, and Brianna Robertson from the Music Department, a three hour long performance was scripted and choreographed around the building and burning of the monument. The performance itself was based upon the timber monument designed Gavin McGregor and based on the stone Neolithic monuments discovered around Caithness. This performance was exciting blend of theatre, archaeology, music and of course, there was fire.

The festivals have proven hugely popular in local communities, but Brophy now questions how they could actually evidence the impact of these events on spectators. For instance, do the spectators remember what they learned about some of the mysterious and strange qualities of Neolithic life, or do they simply remember being impressed by an enormous burning pyre? The team are keen to broaden the scope of these events to include more interactive learning experiences, such as offering prehistoric skills and crafts workshops. Another future plan is to try and organise a build ‘n’ burn event in an urban setting, instead of the countryside. Brophy believes these events can have an impact on local communities beyond simply exchanging knowledge based on academic research. He argues that such an unexpected and exciting prehistorical festival could bring visitors and boost the local economy too.

If you would like to support or to become involved with an archaeological ‘build ‘n’ burn’ event in the future, email Dr Kenny Brophy.

 

The Big Questions: Philosophically engaging with illness, disability and identity

Na Ceistean Mòra: Feallsanachd a’ sgrùdadh Tinneas Ciorramachd agus Fèin-Aithne‌

Philosophers are not sitting in dusty old offices writing books in dense, archaic language for a specialized academic audience, although ‘philosophers can be their own worst enemies’ in that respect, insists Professor Michael Brady. As a professor of philosophy particularly interested in the philosophy of emotions, morality and human suffering, Brady sees philosophers as having a crucial role in getting to the heart of some the biggest issues and questions regarding what makes us human and the formation of our very identities. Yet all too often, he admits, philosophers probing these big questions about our identity don’t ask ordinary people what they mean by identity.

That is one of the reasons Brady has endeavoured to apply his philosophical expertise in a way which engages with the wider community, and not just academic circles. His current research is focused on suffering, as part of a three year Templeton-funded project, based at Glasgow, and working with co-PI Dr. David Bain. Brady’s work on this, and his earlier work on emotion, has led him to become a philosophical adviser for a number of theatrical productions by Quarantine, an independent theatre company based in Manchester. Brady has since been approached by the director of SICK! Festival and was asked to form an advisory group to discuss the relationship between illness, suffering and identity. Launched in 2013, SICK! Festival is an event ‘dedicated to exploring the medical, mental and social challenges of life and death and how we survive them (or don’t).’  The festival organisers attest to their own philosophy of talking about the bad times in an ‘unflinching, informed, irreverent and humane’ way, through partnerships with arts organisations, charities, community groups, medical and academic institutions.

So what role can a Philosophy Professor from the University of Glasgow play in an ambitious, large-scale festival? Well, the notion of identity was one of the themes for the upcoming Sick Lab held in Manchester in March 2016, where Brady will be contributing to discussion panels and offering his academic input on the content of the Lab. He argues that the question of identity is indeed a philosophical one, meaning that if the Lab questions the impact of illness or disability on identity, surely one must question and discuss with academics and non-academics what we mean by ‘identity’ first.  For example, how much is our identity shaped by our circumstances, such as our economic background, ages, religion, morals or gender? Secondly, Brady argues that suffering is hugely relevant to identity because ‘one suffers when things that matter to one are threatened or harmed,’ and the things that matter are linked to our identity. For instance, being denied promotion might be devastating to someone who cares very deeply about – indeed, defines herself partly in terms of – her career.

These types of questions are real world issues which are relevant to all of us, and the input of a philosopher can help to clarify the questions themselves. Brady believes the impact of his input will be to help the wider community fully engage with important questions about our relationship with suffering, illness and disability with our identity as individuals, and as members of society. Part of this engagement will focus on the moral elements of these questions, concerning our relationships with people who are not like us.

Brady hopes that his contributions to SICK! Festival will further encourage philosophers to aim for greater public engagement and to collaborate with those outside of the academy, and in turn encourage the public to see philosophers’ work as relevant to their everyday lives. Even though philosophy does not have the immediate, physical and practical outcomes of a field like medicine, questioning the world around us aids our understanding and ability to answer some of life’s big questions. If you would like to find out more about this article please contact Prof Michael Brady.

Reach 08: Situating barkcloth production in time and place

A’ Suidheachadh Dèanamh Clò-Rùisg a’ Chuain Shèimh ann an Tìm is Àite

Barkcloth

Misa Tamura (centre) Research Conservator, displaying barkcloth at a Centre for Textile Conservation and Technical Arts History open dat, 18th March 2016. Photo by Sarah Foskett.

Barkcloth has been used to make clothing, furnishings, garments and ritual masks in the tropical islands of the Pacific, such as Samoa, the Cook Islands and Hawaii for around 5000 years. It was made by beating the raw tree bark until it became a soft, tactile, non-woven textile. Although Western styles and fashions are now more common in the Pacific, the material is still used across the region as an expression of cultural identity. Yet very little is known about the material itself, and about how best to display, store and preserve barkcloth collections.

Frances Lennard, a Senior Lecturer in Textile Conservation, is leading a new AHRC funded project to study bark cloth as an art form. Lennard’s team includes Misa Tamura, a specialist in the conservation of ethnographic collections, material scientist Dr Margaret Smith who is studying the material properties of the cloth, and art historian Dr Andrew Mills who will be placing the artefacts in their historical context. The broader aim of the project is to ‘find out whether materials, techniques and designs originated from particular islands, how they were transmitted around the region and the effect of globalisation on this tradition.’ Cutting edge techniques will also be used to try and identify which plants were used to make the barkcloth, including protein and DNA analysis and isotope analysis.

The team at the University of Glasgow are focused on studying the Pacific art collection at the Hunterian Museum believed to have been collected during Captain Cook’s first voyage to the Pacific. There are also barkcloth objects donated by the missionary Reverend George Turner from his travels in Samoa. They will also be collaborating with botanists and curator Dr Mark Nesbitt, a co-investigator in the project, to study the raw plant materials and finished bark cloth artefacts in Kew Gardens’ Economy Botany Collection.

As Mills pointed out, one of the inherent problems with the barkcloth collections donated to museums is that the Europeans who collected the art were often either uncertain or uninterested in asking the Pacific islanders questions such as: what materials did they use? How did they use dye or pigment to make the barkcloth? Often curators don’t even have access to such basic information as what island did the artefact come from or when it was collected. Understandably this is a concern for museum curators and Pacific communities alike.

There is currently a strong revitalisation movement to bring the barkcloth collections back to the Pacific communities, as they are an integral part of Pacific heritage and ethnography lost through the processes of colonialism. Hawaiian scholars and bark cloth makers are enthusiastic about studying the collections themselves. However, in order to offer access to the collections it is crucial that we learn more about how to identify when and where the artefacts were sourced

To understand the materials, the project is informed by the work of the second co-investigator, Dr Adrienne Kaeppler, the curator of Oceanic Ethnography at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History in Washington D.C. Conservator Michele Austin-Dennehy from the NMNH has trained Tamura in the conservation techniques they have developed thus far, in order to continue sharing the knowledge about conserving this significant and delicate art form. The ultimate goal is to be able to share findings about barkcloth with Oceanic and Pacific communities and museums, so that it can become more accessible. A barkcloth exhibition is planned for the end of the project, but meanwhile the team hopes to foster future partnerships with Glasgow Museums and the National Museum of Scotland. They also plan to contribute to the Museum Ethnographers Group Conference to be held in Glasgow in 2017. The theme is textiles and costume, and they hope to host a panel on barkcloth and form a dialogue with those researching African barkcloth in the National Museum of Scotland.

To find out more about the ongoing research, or to contact investigators involved, you can visit the project website.

 

Reach 08: Religious Life

Religious Life: Beatha Chràbhaidh

Religious Life 11 In memory

‘In Memory’ stone memorial garden St Ninian’s Chapel, Isle of Whithorn. Photograph by George Pattison.

Stand at a bus stop in Glasgow and you’ll see a series of familiar images—a bird, a tree, a bell, and a fish, the four symbols of Glasgow’s patron saint, Saint Mungo. As in many aspects of British life, including many universities and schools, our present bears witness to our religious past. But what part does religion play in the present and what part should it play in the future?  A generation ago, many commentators believed that religion would soon be a thing of the past. Over the last 20 or so years, however, many have discerned what has sometimes been called ‘the return of religion’ in intellectual, political, and cultural life.  Not everyone welcomes this, of course, and this ‘return’ has often been the focus of heated debate. And, undeniably, religion has played a problematic role in many of the wars that have raged in our time, in the Balkans, in the Middle East and Afghanistan, and in the Ukraine. Indeed, it is arguable that many of the policy errors of Western governments in this time have been due in part to their failure to acknowledge the religious dimension.

Religion, it seems, often motivates the worst elements in human beings. Yet, at the same time, religious leaders such as the Dalai Lama or Pope Francis enjoy global superstar status, whilst religion continues to inspire endeavour in all areas of human activity, including, art, literature, and music. Many sporting figures celebrate their victories with gestures of prayer and thanksgiving to God.  Religion contributes powerfully to people’s sense of individual and community identity, and often inspires self-sacrificial lives of service to others. And while many Victorian churches are being made over into private homes, theatres or furniture stores, Glasgow has recently seen a striking new Sikh Temple spring up. Even if public policy is increasingly shaped by secular assumptions, it now seems clear that religion in the UK is not going away any time soon—but it is certainly changing. Overlapping and interacting with culture, politics, and ethical life, religion is not identical with any of these.

When he sat down to meditate on the problem of time, Saint Augustine famously said that time was one of those things that he knew a great deal about—until someone asked him to define it. Religion too is ‘one of those things’, and therefore how we define ‘religion’ and how we distinguish between ‘religions’ or between the various aspects of religious life (belief, worship, social service, etc.) is always an ongoing challenge in any university department of religion. But however we define it, religion is a phenomenon that goes to the heart of the questions we ask about ourselves.

Glasgow’s Theology and Religious Studies staff work on a wide range of issues that relate to the wider social place of religion. These include development work in Africa with the UN and Catholic development agencies, involvement in NHS training, developing an archive of Jewish life and history in Scotland, and helping museums develop the religious elements in their collections as well as wide-ranging involvement in Church life, including training for ministry in the Church of Scotland and the development of policy in a range of areas in the Church of Scotland, the Scottish Episcopal Church, and the Church of England. Members of the department have spoken on Radio 4’s ‘In Our Time’ and contributed to a number of radio and television broadcasts.

If you would like to find out more, or if you are interested in developing or supporting a project in collaboration with the subject area of Theology and Religious Studies please contact Professor George Pattison.

 

Reach 08 – Runaway Slaves: Exploring Britain’s Multiracial Past

Tràillean a Theich: Rannsachadh Eachdraidh Ioma-Chinneach Bhreatainn

Runaway Slave advertisment (see bottom central column): 'London', Caledonian Mercury, 8 June 1786. Image copyright The British Library Board. All rights reserved.

Runaway Slave advertisement (see bottom central column): ‘London’, Caledonian Mercury, 8 June 1786. Image copyright The British Library Board. All rights reserved.

In 1752 an enslaved teenager named Jamie was brought from Virginia to Beith in Ayrshire, where he was trained as a joiner. Then in 1756 Jamie’s master decided to send him back to Virginia and sell him, at which point the young man escaped to Edinburgh where he found work as a journeyman carpenter, before being captured and imprisoned. Jamie’s story raises some significant questions: was he exceptional, or were there other enslaved people in Britain who chose to escape, and why would he and others choose to pursue a life in Britain rather than a return to their families and communities in North America and the Caribbean? As Professor Simon Newman has discovered, there were a significant number of enslaved people in eighteenth-century Britain, and a good many of these did try to escape and seek out new lives for themselves.

The Leverhulme Trust has funded a large scale research project entitled ‘Runaway Slaves in Britain: bondage, freedom and race in the eighteenth century,’ which aims to enhance our understanding of those who escaped bondage in the British Isles prior to the legal ending of slavery. Newman is joined by two co-researchers, post-doctoral research Dr Stephen Mullen, and postgraduate research assistant Nelson Mundell. When Jamie escaped, his master placed advertisements describing the runaway and seeking his return in both Glasgow and Edinburgh newspapers, and other slave owners routinely did the same thing. The first stage of this project has involved a great deal of research in the newspaper archives of Edinburgh, Glasgow and Liverpool, to locate, transcribe and photograph these kinds of advertisements.

In many cases these short advertisements constitute the only surviving documentation about enslaved people who were brought to Britain during the eighteenth century. The advertisements include details about the slaves’ physical appearance (including occupational injuries, West African ritual scarification, and whip scars), clothing, demeanour and mannerisms, age, gender and the motives for and circumstances of their escape. Not all enslaved people in Britain were of African descent, and some of the advertisements depict Native American and Indian slaves. Newman believes that research into runaway slaves can illuminate the multi-racial nature of eighteenth-century British society, and the various ways in which Britons interacted with enslaved people of other races, both as masters and as allies in their efforts to secure freedom.

Blow up of image above. All rights reserved.

Blow up of image above. All rights reserved.

Runaway slaves provide a window onto Britain’s long and complex historical relationship with racial slavery in the early modern era. Slavery helped build eighteenth-and early-nineteenth-century Glasgow, and the profits of the plantations helped shape and name the Merchant City. Nevertheless, people have little knowledge or understanding of this darker chapter in our history, or the multiracial and multicultural nature of British society almost three centuries ago.
The Commonwealth Games in 2014 was a huge catalyst for change in this respect, as museums and cultural institutions sought to highlight Glasgow’s imperial history, including its historic ties with slavery. During the games period Newman and Mullen consulted on the ‘How Glasgow Flourished’ exhibition at Kelvingrove Museum and Gallery, helping to ensure that slavery was featured. Mullen also received a major grant from Glasgow Life in order to adapt his book on Glasgow and slavery into a series of dramatic performances in and around the Merchant City. Mullen’s work on this, and his participation in the Empire Café (which was co-organised by Professor Louise Welsh) reinforced his belief in the importance of detailed historical research when dealing with such a controversial and sensitive topic as slavery and its place in our history.

There is great popular interest in this subject. BBC Radio will devote an entire episode of their forthcoming ‘Blacks in Britain’ series to the research of the Runaway Slaves project (to be broadcast during Black History Month in October 2016). Prof. Newman spoke about several of these runaways, including Jamie Montgomery, in Glasgow University’s first James McCune Smith Lecture. Dr. McCune Smith was the first African American to receive a medical degree when he graduated M.D. from Glasgow in 1837.

The ultimate goal of the Runaway Slaves project is the development of a fully searchable online database of eighteenth-century runaway slave advertisements, so that researchers, school learners and the public can access them. Furthermore, the project team will develop these resources for teaching, and Mundell, as a former teacher, is helping to foster links with a network of teachers. Greg Murray (St. Mary’s School, Edinburgh) notes that ‘Slavery is already one of the most taught topics in Scottish schools, but to many students it happened far away involving people very unlike them – runaway slave adverts will perfectly illustrate to our students that Slavery wasn’t just in the Americas.’ The team is also collaborating with a renowned artist from DC Comics in creating a graphic novel about a Scottish runaway slave, to be used in Scottish schools in conjunction with primary sources and teaching materials.

To access the growing Runaway Slaves database, learn more about the project or contact the research team, visit the project website.

Reach 08: Ownership of Scots Dialects

Wall or wa’ but not tall or ta’ – Ownership of Scots Dialects


‌Wall neo wa’ ach chan e tall neo ta’ – Seilbh air Dualchainntean Albais

Our speech gives away many clues to our identity, such as: where you are from, how old you are, who you spend time with. All of these factors affect the way that we sound. How we sound also impacts on what other people might think of us: posh, Geordie, young, not from around here. Professor Jennifer Smith is a sociolinguist who studies just how this happens, in other words – what is the interface between the social and linguistic in language use?

Over the past two decades Smith has been investigating the use of Scots and so she has recorded preschool children, grannies and everybody in between across a number of communities in Scotland. She has examined the structure of Scots through these recordings and finds that, just like standard English, these varieties have a set of complicated rules of use. For example, why is it that you might be able to say wa’ for wall and ca’ for call, but not ta’ for tall? And why might you say I cannae do it but not Cannae I do it? Despite these complicated rules of use, people often claim that speakers of such varieties are less intelligent and simply can’t speak English “properly.”

It is important to dispel such myths, and a starting point would be through the study of Scots in the classroom. However, Smith points out that one of the main concerns for teachers looking to integrate the study of Scots in the classroom is access to resources. The Scots Language Co-ordinators at Education Scotland and other education planners have done a tremendous job in developing such resources, particularly in the context of the Scots Language Award. Smith would now like to build on these resources by having pupils create their own resources for the study of Scots. This would involve three main stages:

  • 1. recording speakers
  • 2. transcribing the speech and
  • 3. describing what they have found

Such a process will have a number of benefits. By paying close attention to what they’ve recorded and transcribed, the pupils will begin to pick apart the do’s and don’ts of the language they hear around them, and uncover the systematic rules therein.  In addition, it would provide the pupils with a sense of ownership of Scots – it’s not something archaic, but alive and well all around them, whether spoken by themselves, their grannies and granddads or even on the TV. Finally this would demonstrate that there are many different varieties of Scots in terms of words, sounds and sentences, providing a rich tapestry of language use throughout Scotland.

Smith, in collaboration with other education planners, plans to trial this type of hands-on approach in a small number of schools. She realises that teachers are already extremely overloaded, thus the necessary tools and training in how to do this small scale research would be provided, with students from the University of Glasgow on hand to help. This would make a small contribution to the study of Scots in the classroom and will hopefully build towards a larger resource through a dedicated website populated by the recordings and transcripts gathered by pupils across Scotland.

If you are interested in hearing more about dialects in Scotland, please contact Prof Jennifer Smith.

 

Reach 08: Learning Polish is as easy as 1+2

Still taken from animation ‘The Star of Copernicus’ courtesy of The Animation Film Studio LLC

Still taken from animation ‘The Star of Copernicus’ courtesy of The Animation Film Studio LLC

Ionnsachadh na Pòlainnis cho furasta ri 1+2

There are currently over 15,000 Polish speaking children in Scottish schools. According to the Scottish government’s new education policy primary school children will now be taught two foreign languages as part of the ‘1+2’ scheme. The policy stipulates that children will be taught in their native tongue (1) and subsequently they will be exposed to their first foreign language in primary one and acquire some basic knowledge of their second foreign language by primary five (+2). For those 15,000 Polish speaking children that usually means learning three foreign languages, rather than two. There are ready prepared packages available for teachers to introduce their pupils to French, German, Spanish and Italian, but there has been no comparable Polish language unit and yet, Polish is now the second most common language in the United Kingdom.

Dr Elwira Grossman, from the School of Modern Languages and Culture, and her research assistant Iza Rudzka have been working in partnership with the Glasgow University Arts Lab (led by Professor Dauvit Broun) and Shona Hugh at Education Scotland to create an original Polish Language Unit for Scottish primary schools. Grossman attributed the growing interest in teaching Polish as a foreign language to ‘the pressure of the currently changing linguistic landscape. As you know, a lot of Polish migrants have come to this country since 2004.’ The intention is to introduce Polish as a foreign language taught to primary school pupils, which Grossman believes could have wide-reaching benefits for both Polish speaking and native-English speaking children.

Unfortunately young Poles growing up in Scotland are all too often made to feel like second-class citizens because they do not share the mother tongue of their peers. Not only are they given the impression that they should forget their native tongue in order to learn English immediately, their language is routinely marginalised in favour of Western European languages. Grossman argues that learning Polish in classrooms could actually improve Polish children’s self-esteem, as they would be in a position of knowing something their peers find worth studying. Furthermore, considering the majority of teachers might not speak Polish, native-speaking children could also assist their teachers, ‘we thought there could be an element of empowering Polish children through this particular exercise,’ she said.

As for Scottish children, learning Polish, in addition to their native English or Gaelic and a more pre-established foreign language unit like French, could actually help to dispel the commonly held belief most Scottish children have that if they can speak English, they do not need to learn other foreign languages. On the contrary, Grossman feels that learning languages is an enriching experience in itself, but Polish could offer young Scots a wide-range of job opportunities and a more cosmopolitan, European outlook. Scottish communities today are all the more vibrant because of their multiculturalism and multilingualism, and teaching school children Polish could help to enhance integration and feelings of community spirit.

Education Scotland were keen for the Polish language unit to be based upon a film, and thus Grossman and Rudzka began by identifying a film considered suitable for an audience of ten to eleven years olds which could be used as a platform for teaching. The film they selected is an animation entitled ‘The Star of Copernicus,’ based upon the astronomer’s life, which slotted into the primary five curriculum perfectly. The film will be used to introduce pupils to Polish vocabulary and basic phrases in a way that is fun and relevant to their class project on the solar system. The language unit will be available as a third foreign language choice for primary school teachers beginning April 2016.

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Reach 08 – College of Arts Industry Engagement Newsletter

The eighth edition of Reach is here! The KE team have worked tirelessly over the past couple of months to provide you with an insight into some of the exciting knowledge exchange and industry engagement partnerships which have recently been fostered by the College of Arts. You might notice that this edition is a little bit different to previous Reach newsletters. The case studies in Reach 08 don’t fall under the same thematic categories as previous editions, because we have decided to refresh these themes. This decision was partly inspired by the rich interdisciplinary nature of the projects featured in this edition, which we think reflect the ethos of the College of Arts itself.

As ever, the aim of the newsletter is to give you an insight into the range of ambitious projects and partnerships that academics from the College have been involved in. The articles cover a range of times and places spanning from the early 18th century until the present day, from islands in the Pacific and the South China Sea to Caithness and right here in Glasgow. These collaborative partnerships have involved a range of public, private and third sector organisations from all over the world.  The articles explore aspects of life in the past from pre-historic rituals and ancient performance, to the plight of runaway slaves in the British Isles. They pose questions about some of the  issues facing our society today, like how we engage with illness and disability, and what role religion could and should play in modern life.

In this edition you will find that the College collaborates with a range of external partners, from Glasgow Life, Education Scotland, Kew Gardens and Creative Scotland. Public engagement is also central to the being of the College of Arts as exemplified by the unique relationships we have with established venues like the Glasgow Film Theatre and the Centre for Contemporary Arts. Film-makers, engineers, musicians, the Forestry Commission, photographers, geographers, and even a Kenyan restaurant help demonstrate the broad range of partners that are considered vital to the College of Arts. Three of the articles are focused on enriching the educational experiences of children in Scottish primary schools and high schools by working directly with educators. Some of the projects aim to offer the next generation a more representative view of Scottish society. For instance, offering children an insight into the diversity of Scottish society in the past, an understanding of the complexity of their native dialect, and the opportunity to learn Polish as a second foreign language.

You can read about all of these projects in the e-version of Reach 08 here. We hope that you find the articles featured in Reach 08 interesting and inspiring. These projects are ongoing, and some of them are only in their initial stages, and so we are still keen to develop future partnerships. If you would be interested in sponsoring or becoming involved in any of the projects you’ve read about in Reach 08, you can contact the KE Team at arts-ke@gla.ac.uk. To receive a hard copy of our newsletter and to be notified about news and upcoming events you can sign up here.

Curators of Cultural Enterprise

CEO Advisor session

In the UK, the creative industries have been on governments’ agendas for 20 years. Agencies have sprung up to make creative workers more business-like but we really know very little about them. In their path-breaking new book, Curators of Cultural Enterprise, three Glasgow academics have investigated how such new cultural intermediaries actually work.

The UK Government estimates that creative industries are worth £76.9bn, accounting for 5% of the UK’s total economic turnover. So they are now a central pillar of both the Scottish and UK governments’ plans for economic growth.

In the UK, most creative businesses are microbusinesses – employing fewer than 10 people. To increase these businesses’ chances of success, the UK and Scottish Governments have funded support bodies to pass on know-how. There are increasing numbers of intermediary agencies whose role is to support creative microbusinesses to survive and thrive.

Professor Philip Schlesinger, Dr Melanie Selfe and Dr Ealasaid Munro of the Centre for Cultural Policy Research have investigated one such typical body – Glasgow-based Cultural Enterprise Office (CEO). The Arts and Humanities Research Council funded their research project. Titled Supporting Creative Business,their study was part of the Creative Economy Knowledge Exchange scheme, so the team worked in close partnership with CEO’s staff to ensure they could maximise the impact of the project.

The research investigated the tailored business support that CEO provides to creative businesses in Scotland. It also shed light on the complicated set of policy pressures that influences the delivery of CEO’s services – a focus on the wider scene that has been largely ignored until now. The research team also spoke to CEO’s clients about whether the support they received had made a difference to their businesses. Clients were also asked about the difficulties they faced when attempting to build a career in the creative sector.

The team found that, irrespective of who is in power, intervention in the Scottish creative economy is modelled on received wisdom produced by policymakers, think-tanks and academics working in London – the pre-eminent centre of creative activity in Europe. The distinctiveness of the Scottish context is little considered north of the border as it is largely assumed that what works in London will work elsewhere. But the team’s research has shown that local economic, social and cultural conditions really do matter when considering the effectiveness of intervention.

CEO offers mostly ‘soft’ business support – advice and training. As only one of a number of business support agencies working in Scotland, it can be difficult to articulate its distinctive impact to funders. As a result, CEO’s position is inherently precarious, meaning a constant hunt for funding – much like the working lives of the clients that they serve. The team have concluded that for intervention in the creative economy to work, intermediary agencies need to be given stable funding so that they can operate much more strategically within the sector, building strong and trusting relationships with policymakers, other business support agencies, and their clients.

Curators of Cultural Enterprise is published by Palgrave Macmillan. The first in-depth study of its kind, it offers a detailed analysis of how Cultural Enterprise Office supports creative businesses and how it negotiates many pressures simply to stay in business.

Angela McRobbie, of Goldsmiths University of London says of the book, “Giving a close-up account of a key cultural organisation in Scotland over a period of almost 15 years, it provides detail and insight into issues which are of great importance to the cultural policy world as well as to those involved in wider debates on the creative economy and its workforce.” Justin O’Connor of Monash University thinks the research will be of wide use for those interested in the creative economy. He says, “This book is a rigorous, engaged and far-sighted attempt to present this experience and knowledge in a way that can be useful for academics, policy agencies and activists.”

To speak to the research team please call 0141 330 3806 or email Professor Philip Schlesinger.


Initially published Oct 2015 in Reach 07, the College of Arts Industry Engagement Newsletter.

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