People power & an appetite for change
Cities are full of paradoxes, and Glasgow is no different. So on the one hand whilst it is a city that is endlessly creative, inventive and innovative, it also has some of the biggest and most chronic social challenges faced in the whole of the UK. In the north-east of the city, 35% leave school with no qualifications, whilst in other parts of the city, the life expectancy is below 60.
We were invited, by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, Big Lottery Fund Scotland and Nesta, to host the Unusual Suspects Festival to Glasgow in 2015, as it is an excellent space to discuss and develop new partnerships to tackle some of the city’s social challenges. The Glasgow festival was the first to take place outside of London and demonstrated the flexibility and wider application that the model had. The Glasgow festival proved that there was a need everywhere for people to be collaborating and discussing outside of their usual circles.
Connecting to movements around the world
Over the course of the three days, the festival helped to not only helped to raise the profile of projects that were going on in Scotland, but also connect these projects to other similar ones around the world. We found that in the wake of the independence referendum and particularly the Yes movement (53.49% of the city voted Yes), that high levels of hope, optimism, forward thinking and planning, as well as an willingness to discuss and debate remained and persevered. The festival aimed to tap into some of this optimism and energy and take it into discussions and events.
The Festival sessions touched on a variety of different themes. Bad Idea collaborated with the Make a Difference Institute from Hong Kong to run an event around young people as change makers and creative, connecting them to movements around the world.
Local artist Matt Baker and Peter McCaughey held an event at a coworking space which used art as a tool to help participants reimagine place as well as a means to view their city from a different angle. Whilst at the Barras Art and Design centre, Festival participants experienced a discussion about the festival and the role of developers in gentrification, in a renovated events and community space carved out in one of Glasgow most iconic areas, the Barras Market.
A cursory glance at the city’s past reveals a place that has always prided itself on being a pioneer and doing things a little bit differently, as well as somewhere that is always up for a discussion. So it should be no real surprise that the Glasgow festival mirrored these strong elements of the city’s past.