Out with the old in with the new – well not exactly!!! Here at Govanhill Baths Archive we treasure the rich, diverse, fascinating and ever-changing stories, people and events which have shaped the history of Govanhill Baths.
On the 28th February 1917, Calder St Baths and Wash house opened it’s doors to the public for the first time – watch this space over the next few months as we celebrate this momentous occasion.
This week I continued with my box listing assignment, steadily working through the collections, creating excel sheets and describing all the items. I was examining a box relating to the ‘Save Our Pool’ period of the Baths history, when I came across a number of Christmas Cards.
These cards serve as a reminder of the fantastically creative approach of Save Our Pool activists downs the years. The cards were commissioned by the Govanhill Baths Community Trust in 2008 to raise money and awareness for the cause. Local primary school classes were encouraged to submit designs, the very best being chosen to be printed and sold in the area. I think you’ll agree the designs are fantastic!
Moreover, the children who created these wonderful designs epitomize the diverse community which the Baths serve, being of South Asian, Middle Eastern, Scottish and Eastern European heritage.
When people think of archives, they most likely would think of old manuscripts, or weighty, dusty tomes. However, these Xmas decorations richly deserve their place in the Govanhill Baths Archive, documenting as they do the nature of the local area and the actions that people have taken in order to protect their community.
This week I’d like to introduce some of the challenges that we face in trying to run and preserve the archive here at Govanhill.
Though the building is spectacular architecturally, an Edwardian municipal bathhouse is far from a conventional archive space. Our archival collections are stored in the former ‘Ladies Hot Baths’, on the upper floor of the building, with our ‘office’ being kept in a cubicle!
As renovations are an ongoing process, this part of the building is currently without heating , so it can get pretty chilly. Moreover, the roof is somewhat insecure and so conditions are at times damp. The fluctuation in temperature and moisture is a particular concern, as stability of climate is key when attempting to secure the long term preservation of paper records.
What’s more, due to broken windows I’ve even had the pleasure of being visited by local pigeons whilst sorting through materials!
Despite these challenges I believe that the archive at Govanhill is a great example of how community projects can flourish in even the most tricky of circumstances. We have decent storage in the form of two large shelving units and protect the items through the use of watertight plastic boxes. The shelves are then covered by a tarpaulin to protect them from the worst of Glasgow’s weather. We also have a number of ‘standard archival boxes’, which meet international regulations. Within each of our boxes are ‘Silica gel’ pouches, which combat moisture.
These materials were procured by our chief archivist Paula Larkin, with the help from a grant provided by the ‘Heritage Lottery Fund’. It was this endowment – gifted as part of the Bath’s centenary celebrations in 2014 – that allowed for the archive to be established. Though not a large sum, this money has provided a decent and stable facility for the keeping an archival collection.
The heritage money also allowed Paula to buy a laptop and scanner, which will hopefully in the future allow us to digitize our collections so that more people can have access to them!
It goes to show that with ingenuity and a few modest resources local groups can safely store precious items. At Govanhill we’re able to secure items to a professional standard and keep them close to the people who care about them most.
Morning all! As promised, if a little late, here’s one of the tunes from ‘The Song Factory’ album mentioned in last weeks blog. It’s a rendition of ‘The Wild Rover’ re-imagined by Alistair Hulett as ‘The Bold Swimmer’.
Alistair was a key figure in the Save Our Pool campaign, using his talents as a singer and songwriter to raise awareness of the cause. There’s barely a song on the album which he didn’t have something to do with! Alistair was a gifted musician and political activist who sadly passed away in 2010. He had a long and distinguished career which spanned five decades, writing music which encompassed the best of folk, punk and rockabilly. I don’t have room here to do justice to the man’s achievements, but please do take a look at his website.
During the early occupation of the Baths, Alastair’s songs played an important role. Every Wednesday, in order to commemorate the start of the occupation, the 21st of March 2001, people would gather outside of the Baths and sing campaign tunes. These musical demonstrations helped the movement gather momentum, not to mention raising the spirits of the activists inside!
Welcome back to the Archivist’s Blog! This week I’ll be sharing with you some of the musical treats we have here in our collections.
My task right now at the archive, and for the foreseeable future (!), is to create ‘Box Lists’ of the collections. Essentially this means creating a written record of all items we have in our stores, with the aim of making them easier to access.Yesterday I finished sorting through my first box, which is part of the ‘Save Our Pool’ series. These items all relate to the political actions launched by the Govanhill community between 2001 and 2004 to protest closure and gain support for reopening the pool. The materials are fascinating, ranging from flyers to legal documents, collection boxes to surveys.
However what stood out most to me was the wealth of musical items from this exciting time of the Bath’s history.
By late April 2001 the occupation of the Baths was well underway, the community having first taken control of the building on March 21st. To commemorate the success of this direct action, ‘Southside Against Closure’ decided to publish a book of protest songs. The result was ‘The Govanhill Official Souvenir Songbook Volume One’.
This booklet consists of 17 songs, a mixture of original compositions and re-workings of pop and folk songs. It’s a fantastic example of the British political musical tradition, and captures the excitement and energy that galvanised the community at this time.
Also contained within the box are several rough drafts of songs found in the songbook. One that stands out is a tune addressed to the Labour Councillor Charles Gordon, the then Leader of Glasgow City Council. The song, though untitled, is sung to the tune of ‘The Wild Rover’, and uses humor to pressurise the politicians to act. Particularly funny is the chorus:
“So it’s come on Charlie, Gonna Gie Us a Swim, Cos I’m a wild swimmer, Won’t put my trunks in the bin”.
Later in 2001 many of the songs featured in the songbook were recorded and put onto an album entitled ‘The Song Factory’, released through Red Rattler Records. We have several copies of the album in the archive. I’ll try and upload one of the songs to the blog later in the week.