Scottish Poets “Pool Together” For Govanhill Baths
A group of poets and spoken-word artists in Scotland have written and recorded poems specially written for the historic Govanhill Baths project in Glasgow’s Southside. Inspired by the Nationwide Building Society’s series of TV adverts the writers, including Stu Who, Victoria McNulty, Leyla Josephine and Liam McCormick, have come together to help the Baths with their Community Shares campaign.
Govanhill Baths, a 100 year-old Edwardian swimming pool and wash-house, was closed by Glasgow City Council in 2001. Famously, the local community refused to accept the closure and occupied the building, leading to what is still the longest continuous occupation of a public building in UK history. In 2012, Govanhill Baths Community Trust (GBCT) returned to the building and have been operating a community centre and arts venue in the near-derelict building, repairing as they go. Earlier this year they opened the first of three swimming pools, The Learners’ Pool, bringing swimming back to Govanhill for the first time in 16 years.
Ambitious plans to renovate the full building into a Health & Wellbeing Centre are close to coming to fruition. The Community Shares are the final part, allowing the community to not only invest in the protect but to take ownership through a Community Benefit Society that will be formed by the shareholders.
Poetry and spoken word have played a major role in the development of the campaign, the Baths is home to regular events including the annual “Govanhill Poetry Splash” that has featured top acts such as Hollie McNish, Liz Lochhead, Tom Leonard, Iona Lee and others over the last five years. Hollie McNish was inspired to write a poem for the campaign. “Govanhill” tells the story of her grandmother’s memories of using “The Steamie”, the Glasgow word for a public laundry. Hollie said: “I love visiting and performing at the Baths, it’s a magical place.”
Veteran poet Jim Monaghan, Arts Coordinator with the project, said: “Earlier this year, on National Poetry Day, Glasgow’s Poet Laureate Jim Carruth wrote a poem dedicated to the campaign. Talking to other poets about Jim and Hollie’s poems led to a discussion about the Nationwide poets, the themes in those adverts were very similar to our own campaign, sharing and communities working together for mutual benefit. So, a few of us decided to write and record our own little films in the Nationwide style.”
So far, eight poets have got involved with more busy penning specific poems for the cause. Jim Monaghan kicked it off with his poem “building society”, Colin Poole, legendary comedian Stu Who, Victoria McNulty, Jane Overton, Leyla Josephine, Liam McCormick and Tickle have all recorded work that will be released on social media, one per day for the duration of the Community Shares campaign.
Julian Dawydiak, Marketing and Campaigns manager said: “Poetry is such a great way of reaching people and spreading the message. We hope these poems will encourage more people to get involved and invest in the project, buying shares in Govanhill Baths. Community Shares are not just great way of funding projects like this, they are also good for the individual too with the 3% interest we’re offering on their investment along with 50% tax relief available for eligible UK income tax payers. And no matter how much a person invests everybody will have an equal say in the running of the Baths.”
Govanhill by Hollie McNish
as we strolled around the People’s Palace
as fast as any 90 year old can manage
muttering below her breath
holding on my arm for strength
at every sign we read
‘it wasnae like that at aw’
The washing section was where she stalled the most
A museum sign explained the days
Where poor poor folk came to wash
And scrub their dirt away
People who were paid a pittance
Piling washing wet and dripping
To get home
The steamy was a hard life
The steamy was a nightmare
The steamy this, the steamy that
Declared my gran
Not moving on this time
Grabbing on my arm to stay
As she described to me in near sobs
her favourite childhood days
a holiday for us
Running to the steamy to be warm
and full of suds
and us kids could splash in bubble fights
as mum and mates all gossiped shite
and we ran around the baths
laughing in the bucket rain
My arse hard times!
The steamy was our break
And if she could
She would still wash