Wednesday, 20 August 2014

The Glasgow School: Introduction

2014 has been a challenging year for performance in Glasgow. The deaths of Ian Smith, artistic director of Mischief La Bas, Adrian Howells, a pioneering maker of intimate theatre and David MacLennan, member of 7:84 and the founder of the successful A Play, A Pie and A Pint programme, have robbed Scotland of three imaginative and dynamic creators. The arrival of the Commonwealth Games, and its attendant cultural season, alongside the approach of the Referendum for Independence, has seen performance expand into new public spaces and become part of a dynamic debate on the future of Scotland.

In this context, Glasgow's performance communities have been presented to the world, and the importance of its arts as a tourist attraction and a way of defining the city's identity have become part of the council's strategies. In the visual arts, the Generation series of exhibitions has emphasised the growth of artistic endeavour and success over the past 25 years, while the selections made for the Commonwealth Games Culture strand have included writers, performers and venues that have a strong connection to the city's diverse traditions of theatre. Supported by a consistent calendar of festivals, performance in Glasgow has many strands, from the experimental live art influenced work often seen in The Arches through to the bold interpretations of classic texts at the Citizens.

The parallels with the visual art scenes are evident: performance takes many of its cues from the vitality of music communities and is confident in crossing boundaries of genre. New spaces, such as The Pipe Factory, continue a long-standing tradition of finding unusual spaces and curating different forms in a single event and artists like Raydale Dower frequently include a performance aspect in their gigs or exhibitions.

Dr Sarah Lowndes, now a lecturer at Glasgow School of Art, wrote a comprehensive study of the visual art movements in Glasgow in the years running up to the turn of the century, Social Sculpture. This book not only provided a context for the successes of many Glasgow conceptual artists, who have dominated the Turner Prize in the past twenty years, but also traced the connections between the bands and visual artists that have given the city its distinctive aesthetic identity.

There has not, however, been a comparable study of the performance scenes in Glasgow, and this project hopes to take a snapshot of the communities that make events that are rooted in theatrical processes.

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