The Work Room and Merchant City Festival Residency

By Aniela Piasecka on 21.08.18

I was interested in working with the Candleriggs Square demolition site in order to make a piece of work around notions of decay and consumerism without leaning into urban nostalgic idealising. I spotted the site in question during the first part of The Work Room and Merchant City Festival Residency, the placement at 2017’s festival, which I spent watching shows in different areas of the neighbourhood and attempting to hunt for less easily found sites within this part of the city.

The idea came whilst on the rooftop of a car park overlooking the site. I could see a wasteland from the roof, of operatic scale. I thought it looked like a better stage than many real stages and decided that the focus of the project should be opening up this site to the public who do not usually have access to it.

The second part of this project was a reading week at Glasgow Women’s Library which I was able to do thanks to funding from Creative Scotland. I went there in January 2018 in order to read articles and books on histories of Glasgow, debates around public/private space, and theories of feminism and psychogeography. During this week I started to formulate notes for my collaborators (Paloma Proudfoot, Isabel Palmstierna and Olivia Norris who make up Stasis, and Ailie Ormston artist and musician) to read and contribute to. We debated theories of friendship and working friendships.

One of the threads from this second part went on the inform the third part of the project at The Work Room and its final outcome: we ascertained that it is difficult to make performance visible to the public when behind the closed doors of a theatre or a gallery. We also decided that paying for tickets is the biggest obstacle to people coming to see a performance, particularly of our income bracket and age. We thought we would rather have a dance ourselves than go see others dance and concluded we couldn’t be alone in these feelings.

Before the week at The Work Room in February, we started an informal week at my own studio, talking first about contemporary feelings of anger around gender and identity and more in depth conversations were had around the topics of health and contraception. During this week Ailie sent us her first demos and we began making movement patterns based on her stark repetitions.

The piece took a lighter turn when we took a lighter approach, messing around and coming up with comedic responses to the music, freeing ourselves of its darker tendencies. We worked around imagery of being on a night out with friends and the peripeteia that could stem from that: drunken chants, having nowhere to go for a wee, losing shoes, starting a fight.

Lucy Suggate kindly provided mentoring support during our week at The Work Room and helped us develop all of the aforementioned images into the Work In Progress piece we showed at the end of the residency. The comments made by friends and the extended artistic community that attended the event helped us feel confident that what we had made struck a chord.

We went on to show the WIP at The Place’s Resolution Festival, Glasgow International, and David Dale Gallery – all of which served the purpose of enriching and further developing the work ahead of the final outcome for the project in situ on the demolition site on the 10th of August at Merchant City Festival.

Furthermore, the site was kindly opened to us in April where we filmed the video we released this month on Nowness, an additional outcome of the residency that we decided would help show off the site and the work in the site to a larger audience:

Overall, this experience was multifaceted and beneficial to us as a group in many ways. The time that the project was allowed to have in order to fully come together, the different elements coalescing during the final performance served to justify, in a way, its ambition. It is not everyday that you get to make work for such an awe-inspiringly big space! It was a pleasure to make a work that could exist in order to open up a private space within the city centre that the audience had never seen. The Work Room and Merchant City Festival’s hands-off approach served us particularly well, we were given the support we needed without any directional guidance that felt intrusive. We felt trusted and valued throughout and this was particularly helpful in order for the work and ourselves to gain and maintain confidence. I’d strongly recommend a continued collaboration between The Work Room and Merchant City Festival and for dance artists in Glasgow to apply in the future. Can’t recommend enough.

With special thanks to Sara and Anita, Lorenzo and Rhea, and Liam at JCJ.


Nuar Alsadir ‘At the Peephole’: 2017

bergman & Montgomery, ‘Friendship is a root of freedom’: 2017

Celine Condorelli, The Company She Keeps: 2015

Rosalyn Deutsche, ‘Evictions, Art and Spatial Politics’: 1998

Angela McRobbie, Feminism and Youth Culture, from Jackie to Just Seventeen: 1991

Doreen Massey, Space, Place and Gender: 1994

Nuala Naughton, Glasgow’s East End, from Bishops to Barraboys: 2014

Linda M Scott, Fresh Lipstick, Redressing Fashion and Feminism: 2005

Daphne Spain, Gendered Spaces: 1992

Gender Matters Roadmap, towards women’s equality in Scotland: 2017

Only in Govan, a collection of Govan memories


Image: Daniel Cook

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