In the past Glasgow’s East End suffered a bad reputation, but keen to show its transformation is community group Impact Arts. This group is working on a three year Representing Dennistoun project, using creative works to depict residents’ realities.
Representing Dennistoun is a collaborative project between Impact Arts and the Glasgow Centre of Population Health. Funded through the Arts and Humanities Research Council, it comes as part of a national project called Representing Communities.
Impact Arts Project Manager, Natalie McFadyen White said: “The idea behind Representing Dennistoun was that we wanted to make a new narrative for Dennistoun, because a lot of images of the East End (portrayed through film or books) are now outdated.
“Dennistoun is almost regenerating itself; it hasn’t had a lot of investment, but it is up and coming, with good housing, restaurants and a large arts community.
“There town also has a huge multicultural community, with people who have lived there for generations mingling with newcomers.
“Everyone we have talked to has said it is a very positive place to be, and when we asked the question: ‘what is Dennistoun’, the main answer ‘friendly’.”
This community spirit was showcased, during the Celebrate Dennistoun: Our 2014 Story exhibition, which ran in May 2015, at the Hanson Street Wasps studios.
The exhibition focused on Dennistoun in 2014; a pivotal year for the East End, with many Commonwealth Games events hosted there.
McFadyen White explained: “We asked professional and amateur artists to focus on 2014 and tell us their personal stories from that time and place.”
Participants told these stories through a mix of mediums, such as sketching, photography, film and writing.
McFadyen White said: “We worked with an artist called James Gow who delivered workshops to local primary schools; getting children to explore the community and create visual responses to it.”
Local community groups also got the chance to collaborate with professional artists. Film-maker Bash Khan formed a photography group in Dennistoun Library, and author Ellie Thom used stories – collated during the first part of the project – to create an original novel.
McFadyen White added: “We were also lucky to be able to include Eoin Carey photographs in the exhibition, because he and his partner Paula Morgan were running a ‘Washing Line’ show at exactly the same time as we were gathering our work from the community.”
She said: “The exhibition was great to be a part of; everyone involved has been super talented, and I have felt really privileged to work with them.”
During the exhibition visitors were encouraged to write on postcards, sharing their stories of Dennistoun by pinning them to a board.
McFadyen White said: “I was recently looking through all of these postcards, and we had some really funny local stories.
“Everyone who attended the exhibition loved it.”
Although no longer running in the Wasps studios; an online tour of Celebrate Dennistoun: Our 2014 Story will be stationed in the town’s library. The Representing Dennistoun wider project will continue through 2015, with a final showcase in spring 2016.
McFadyen White concluded: “There is still scope for people get involved in the project; they can use the Representing Dennistoun Twitter account, an Impact Arts Twitter, Facebook and my own email to get in touch.”