New sculpture for Gorbals

30 Aug 2008

by Alison Campsie, The Herald

You just can't take the boys out of Gorbals. Yesterday, a little piece of the Glasgow neighbourhood's well-documented social history was reborn and set in bronze and chrome.

A famous 1960s image by photographer Oscar Marzaroli, which shows three young boys playing in the street wearing high heels, has been recreated by sculptor and artist Liz Peden, a lifelong Gorbals resident.

Three young local lads - Lee Barton, 12, Joe Ridge, 11 and Nicky Giblin, 12 - were used as models for The Gorbals Boys statue and one of the original Marzaroli subjects, Ian Docherty, now 50, was at the unveiling.

Mr Docherty, a plumber who now lives in Motherwell, did not realise he had been photographed by Marzaroli until he was in his thirties and his mother bought a postcard of the print from Kelvingrove Museum.

"I said to my mum that photo will make me famous' and I think you can say that is true now," he said yesterday.

Mr Docherty, who said he thought he got the high heels from his mother's wardrobe, said: "We were just kidding on that we were women at the time, I promise I've not worn them since.

"We used to live in Kidson Street next to the shop that is in the photograph. I remember it well. We just made use of what we had then. Those were the best days.

"I am over the moon with what has happened here. I feel like putting an alarm on the statue to protect it or setting up a watchtower. I think it is amazing that me just playing in the street has ended up with this."

His mother Betty Docherty, 75, said: "The statues are good for Gorbals. Whatever happens, whatever changes, talk of Gorbals doesn't go away. My son thinks he is a right star now. I think he got the high heels from my wardrobe, but lots of things in those days were taken from the house to play with."

Reluctantly taking centre stage yesterday was the artist behind The Gorbals Boys, which sits on the junction of Cumberland Street and Queen Elizabeth Gardens. The figures rest in shiny chrome shoes, which are illuminated by little blue lights.

Liz Peden, 53, who teaches at the Gorbals Art Project and who worked with schools on The Gorbals Boys project, said the sculpture put the children back on the streets of Gorbals.

She said: "It has been quite a personal thing for me. I think as you get older, you start to reminisce. We had this public piece to do and I really wanted to do something about the past of Gorbals, while looking ahead to its future.

"I was looking through books of Oscar Marzaroli's photographs and came across the three wee boys in their mammie's high heels. The Gorbals has always had this reputation of the men with the big rough and tough image and this cut right through that. Also the children aren't on the street in the way they used to be back then.

"The older generation love talking about Gorbals and the kids, too, have been fascinated by its past."

Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said it was a "joy and a pleasure" to be invited to the unveiling and spoke with pride of the community's efforts in bringing the project together. She also praised Ms Peden.

She said: "She creates community treasures all over Glasgow and she herself is a community asset and treasure.

"These sculptures were inspired by that amazing photograph. I think what Liz has created is something which unites the past and the future of Gorbals. Regeneration is about communities, lives and people and the monument that she has created is a true reflection of that."

Anne Marzaroli, Oscar's widow, thought that her husband, who died 20 years ago, would have loved the sculpture.

She said: "It lives on. They the sculptures are very Glasgow, very warm. The thing that gave Oscar great joy was the people. He had an exhibition of photographs at the Third Eye Centre in Glasgow and all these people came from Gorbals to see it. Oscar loved that, that they had gone to a place where they would not normally have gone."

Lee Barton, one of the young models for the sculpture, said: "I thought it would be good to do this - just so everyone would know who I was.

"I had to stand up on a table and get measured. I had to stand in high heels - it was weird."

Reproduced with the permission of The Herald (Glasgow) © Newsquest (Herald & Times) Ltd.

  • 'The boys' in situ