Thursday, 8 January 2015

Dig Where You Stand...

A hard time we had of it...sleeping in snatches, with the voices singing in our ears saying that this was all folly. But 2014 is behind us now...this is the all new, all action 2015. Totally different.

Over the last year, I had the chance to undertake a study into heritage and social enterprise, interviewing lots of interesting and clever folks from places like New Lanark, Falkirk Community Trust and the Scottish Storytelling well as clever and interesting folk from local heritage projects. I was mostly looking at the ways in which heritage can be used to generate income, either with a social purpose, or with the profits reinvested in ways which directly benefit communities - from the refurbished 18th Century watermills and looms of New Lanark, the bricks and mortar of old buildings finding new uses, to the intangible cultural heritage of Scotland's songs, stories and traditions. Often when looking at ways of using heritage to generate income, the natural inclination is to think no further than tourism, which is itself, fraught with challenge, but I was lucky enough to discover and hear about many other examples of heritage being used to assist with social end objectives.

Anyway, one of my favourite things I discovered while blethering with folk, was the principle of Dig Where You Stand, the community driven approach to exploring heritage, which is separate from academic historical research, and critically, no less valid. The phrase originates with Swedish activist Sven Lindqvist, who was initially talking about ways in which workers could empower themselves within workplaces...

“The experts might each be experts in his or her own field but when they are talking about your job, you are the expert. That gives you a measure of self-confidence and a basis for amateurs and professional researchers to meet on equal footing.” [...] Until workers understand where they stand...and how to use the resources/tools available to dig with (local library, county museum/archives, local/state labor history society), they will be forever in the background of the “official” version of events...[E]very worker in every country has the power and potential to create a new image for labor, one “that puts workers and their work in the foreground.”
[Sven Lindqvist, “Dig Where You Stand,” Meddelande Från Arbetarrörelsens Arkiv Och Bibliotek (Stockholm: Vol. 16, September 1980), pp. 42-47]

This is no less true within communities, as beautifully demonstrated by the Kist o Riches project, which challenges you to find your own folklore first. The community is custodian of that heritage, it determines how it should be best used and celebrated. None of this was a new principle, I was just really pleased that something we had been involved in for so long had a proper name ;) As such, I'm going to blog about it a bit more in the coming have been warned.

All of which is a long way round to talk about how Magic Torch will be digging where we stand this year...

Our first project, Time and Place will be running at Dutch Gable House in February and features a short ten minute film and exhibition, Restorations, recut from Greenock Plans Ahead with an exclusively produced soundtrack from the band British Sea Power. Visitors will also have the opportunity to reflect on how place and time have affected our community. We won't be putting Restorations online, its a one off installation.

Our other major project this year, is focussed on the attempts on Achi Baba during the First World War. A reportage style graphic novel telling the story of the battle through contemporary documents will be produced and distributed for free during the centenary this July. You can keep up to date on other commemoration plans on the Inverclyde's Great War site.

We have a few other potential publications and projects on the horizon too, including two comics, Galoshans, a horror tale with a wee sprinkling of psychogeography and Tales from the Kist, another of our vintage horror comics, but this time featuring national myths and legends. We are also hoping to publish Battle of Largs with the text of John Galt's poem and some new commentary alongside the artwork from last year's exhibition. We are also looking very closely at Maps...

I'm sure, just like last year, lots of other projects will be digging where we stand as well - and we'll keep you up to speed on those too. Keep digging.

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