Glasgow Women’s Library

Glasgow Women's Library

Ascending the cultural statusphere is a museum unlike any other. From its base in Bridgeton, Glasgow Women’s Library is blazing a trail for the rest of the UK.

“The Library has grown from a tiny grassroots organisation to become the only accredited museum – in the UK – dedicated to Women’s History. It is also a recognised collection of national significance,” GWL Enterprise Development Manager, Sue John, said.

GWL’s status of national significance comes not just from its records of society, but from its social action. The Library grew from an Eighties project titled Women in Profile, which highlighted the cultural achievements of Glasgow’s Women, in the run up to its European City of Culture award.

Since then the library has remained committed to social activism.

John explained: “Outreach programmes are something that Glasgow Women’s Library has always ran. For instance, we have a long standing adult literacy programme and its students often become involved in our other projects.”

Part of these projects has always been the gathering of artifacts on women’s history.

John said: “We collect items that tell the stories of women’s lives, whether it be things from the women’s liberation movement or more recently things collected at Trump protests.”

Throughout the years, as GWL projects grew in number so did its artifacts. Once an impressive collection had formed the GWL went through the robust process of becoming an accredited museum.

John said: “GWL has managed to keep grassroots ownership, because everything in the Library is donated; whether it be the 20000 books, 3000 museum items or 300000 archive items.

“We have kept all of the resources accessible and friendly, to maintain our core values of equality, diversity and inclusion.”

This democratic approach even extends to the museum’s curatorial choices.

John revealed: “We have a project called Women Making an Exhibition of Themselves that gets volunteers involved as the library’s community curators. This means that they help to decide which artifacts make it through to our permanent collection. The community curators pick items and find ways of interpreting their stories.”

Similar interactivity also lies at the heart of GWL events.

John explained: “We host speaker and workshop events that attract both men and women, old and young. For instance, we are hosting Open the Door, a Literary Festival that brings together women authors and aspiring writers. 

The festival will have workshops, performances and networking sessions. Headlining the festival will be writers including, Louise Welsh, Kirsty Logan, Sim Bajwa, Val MacDermid and Lesley McDowell.

John enthused: “The beauty of Glasgow Women’s Library is that we bring together people whose paths might not naturally cross. We have local people rubbing shoulders with Turner Prize nominee artists.”

GWL attempts to make culture accessible to all by offering free activities, Pay It Forward ticket schemes and disability friendly events.

John said: “As a society we are not placing as much importance as we should on the life-changing power of art, culture and heritage. We know that it can be a powerful vehicle in providing opportunities.

“When you improve the lives of women you also improve the lives of their families and the communities that they live within. That is how Glasgow Women’s Library has worked throughout the years to win hearts and minds.”

She concluded: “Everyone is welcome to come into Glasgow Women’s Library. Visitors are greeted with the offer of tea and a tour, they don’t have to spend any money or even have a reason for coming.”

[Photo credit: Keith Hunter]

The Only Way is Ethics

TOWIEtwit pic

 

Social conscience stirs as Glasgow plans its alternative lifestyle festival. The Only Way Ethics will busy the city, from November 29 to December 6, with ethical discussions focused on improving Glasgow.

Organiser Craig Tannock said: “Some of the issues the festival will cover include the energy crisis, anti austerity, women’s activism, ethical arts funding and organic food.”

 He explained: “The festival will cover issues in a range of ways, such as panel discussions, theatre events, film screenings and community meals.”

Food will also reign supreme at Vegfest Scotland, the Vegan exhibition that is partnering the festival. This exhibition will run in the SECC, during the last two days of The only Way is Ethics. Vegfest Scotland will offer information, demonstration and delectation.

Tannock explained: “Vegfest is a huge event, but for the rest of the festival we encouraged smaller venues to get involved. We wanted to make the festival accessible to everyone; so it has a variety of spaces for people to engage with experts and others on ethical issues.”

These spaces will be found in venues throughout the city, including The University of Glasgow, Chemikal Underground Records, Glasgow Women’s Library, and Toonspeak Young People’s Theatre.

While most venues are open to all ages, Tannock explained that some licensed events won’t admit children, and other events have adult themes.

He said: “Some events are for a more adult audience, such as the talk and screening of a film about vCJD in the food chain. This kind of event doesn’t make for easy consumption and people would probably decide not to bring children; however we will leave it to them to decide.”

As well as heavy discussion the festival will have light entertainment. Nowhere is this truer than in its opening gig at St Luke’s. The venue (near the Barrowlands) will host Radio 2 Folk Award winner, Karine Polwart and artist Ela Orleans, among others.

Then, after eight days of events, the festival will close in equal style.

Tannock said: “The closing night will be a real chilled out party at the Flying Duck; with some unannounced surprises. By this point there will have been plenty of chin- scratching, so it will be a purely social event, allowing people to catch up with others they have met.”

Encouraging everyone to come along, Tannock concluded: “The Festival of Ethics provides a space for free thought on social issues; it allows people to get involved in movements that can change lives.”