Allotment for Govan Cross

02 Dec 2009

by Maureen Ellis, Evening Times

A group of artists is helping breathe new life into Govan by taking over a derelict shop unit.

The team of creatives from the National Theatre of Scotland have worked with local groups and businesses to put down roots for Allotment, an organic arts bar set in Govan Cross Shopping Centre.

The idea is to stage a regular showcase of life in the area through music, art and performance.

And this Saturday's event - the second of its kind - will allow audiences to experience an interactive retro gaming adventure.

Associate producer Angie Bual, 27, who cultivated the idea after spotting the empty unit, said: "Govan has everything going on in it - there's such a functioning circle of people.

"I've been really keen to move away from making a traditional play where people think they have to sit down, be quiet for an hour-and-a-half, and that's what theatre is.

"For me, this bar is a bar of surprises and can draw people into a narrative but on their own terms and their own level."

The arts bar is inspired and operated by local hostelry Brechin's, with entertainment hosted by reigning karaoke queen "Mighty" Maria Leahy or Ragdoll Maggie.

Key to the project's direction was gaining the support of the pub's licensee, Audrey Cardow, who has worked behind the bar in the Govan Road institution for 22 years.

Audrey, 48, whose two sisters and three cousins also work in the bar, added: "I've got to know the people of Govan - they're good people. Everybody's up for helping a new project, muck in and see what we can do.

"Working in a pub is like showbusiness - you go, put the face on, do your job, walk away and say that was good.

"I've worked in bars where it's just a bar. This is different - everybody gets involved."

Audrey and her staff will again aim to recapture some of the famous atmosphere of her own hostelry at the second event.

After hearing about Brechin's bulging entertainment programme - including theme nights, karaoke four times a week, plus its Stars In Their Eyes fundraising contest, which began as a one-off night and ran for four months - it was decided to incorporate a live music element into Allotment.

Angie, from Hertfordshire, who won a scholarship to work with the NToS, was bowled over by its popularity at the first night in October.

She said: "The karaoke was a massive success - loads of people took part and it really lifted the atmosphere.

"By the end everyone was dancing! There was a really jovial and warm atmosphere, and then you would go to the toilet and realise that you were in a shopping centre - it was bizarre.

"I think a lot of people were surprised by what we'd achieved and how it looked in there because it was such an unexpected world to come into off the street."

Like a traditional bar, Allotment is designed to allow people to drop in or out and can accommodate up to 250.

In total, the NToS will host four, one-off events each based on a different theme. The third will take place on February 19 next year.

For the gaming theme, the interior created by designer Rachel Mimiec has been painted black with neon computer graphics on the walls to give the illusion of being inside a computer game.

The audience enter at level one, and their progression is charted on monitors dotted around the space.

The idea is to take a walk down memory lane by playing traditional games such as ping pong, roulette, Space Invaders, giant puzzles or table football, while opportunities to play tricks and games pop up when least expected.


The setting includes work by theatre practitioners Kieran Hurley and Gary McNair, filmmaker James Houston, and electronic media artist Paul Maguire. The Allotment team have also established links with a handful of city charities which have been enlisted to pitch in their expertise.

Ibrox shipbuilding initiative GalGael, which provides traditional boat-building training to vulnerable people, has fashioned Allotment's bar, shaped like the bow of a boat.

For last month's event - which made the 200-strong audience detectives trying to piece together the events leading up to a fire at a flat - the unit was decorated by volunteers from the LUV Project in Linthouse and six people from the Bridges Programmes, an organisation that arranges placements for asylum seekers and refugees.

Meanwhile, second-hand store The Magpie's Nest, in Burleigh Street, has donated board games to be used in this Saturday's event.

The shop is the latest venture of Starter Packs, a furniture reuse project recently named Best Green Community Initiative at the Scottish Green Awards.

Development manager Sarah Findlay said: "In all the areas of Glasgow I've been to, I've never found anywhere that regards itself as lovingly as Govan - people are proud to be Govanites.

"Although at times when you are presented with the social problems you think 'I want to move', I'm still here.

"I'm certainly very proud to run a project based in such a vibrant community."

A public consultation took place at Govan's Pearce Institute on October 1 to find out how locals believe a £5.3million cocktail of funding earmarked for regeneration over the next five years should be spent.

Govan was awarded £1.3million from the Town Centre Regeneration Fund - with shop fronts and Brechin Bar set to benefit - following calls from the Evening Times' Ripped off Glasgow campaign.

Lisa McAlinden, centre manager of Govan Cross Shopping Centre, said: "Allotment is great for the community and for Govan Cross Shopping Centre. It gives the community a chance to be involved in something new and exciting."

Reproduced with the permission of the Herald and Times group.


  • Allotment for Govan Cross