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.
Engineering apprentices from BAE Systems, operators of the last shipyards on the Clyde, also met Martin to discussion their experiences of the shipbuilding industry today. After a visit to Kenny Hunter‘s studio, and guided by Anniesland FE College staff, they also produced a sculptural representation of the cross-section of a ship’s hull, naming it the SS Reid in honour of the man. This was intended to be act as a platform for speakers inspired by Reid’s oratory.
This studio visit was filmed by students from St Peter the Apostle High School and is available to watch on the project Facebook page. A PDF outlining the construction of the SS Reid is downloadable on the right.
Two veterans of the UCS Work-in, Bob Dickie and Jimmy Cloughley, were integral to the project. Their first-hand accounts of those events proved invaluable to the creative process and resulted in a conversation between Jimmy, Bob and BAE apprentice engineer, Julia Wallace, on the derelict site of John Brown’s Shipyard in Clydebank.
This conversation appears in Daniel Warren’s film, Work (below), 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.
The project culminated in a dramatic performance 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, Work – A Reconstruction of Clydebank Voices, was an impassioned dialogue between past and present, combining quotes from local residents with sections from the historic speeches by Jimmy Reid which had once galvanised a whole workforce.
An audience of 120 Clydesiders showed enormous commitment, braving terrible weather to witness the performance and the first public screening of the project film.
Short video extracts from the performance and rehearsal are available below. The script of Work – A Reconstruction of Clydebank Voices is available to download on the right.
This project is a partnership with West Dunbartonshire Council and Visible Fictions theatre company.
Work – A Reconstruction of Clydebank Voices
- WORK – A Reconstruction of Clydebank Voices
Interviews with workers, Clydebank, screened during public performance at the site of the former John Brown’s shipyard, 7 May 2012. Director Daniel Warren.