....Research Topics and Speculation about Art and Public Space by Scottish Citizen and artist Matt Baker

Wednesday, 29 June 2011

Bridging the gap?

The new ferry between Govan and the Riverside Museum

The new Riverside/Transport museum opened to the public on 21st June…to coincide with this event the new ferry crossing from Govan to Partick was re-established. This is the first public crossing on his stretch of the Clyde since the last ferry closed in the 1960s. When I spoke to Glasgow’s river planner Ethel-May Abel (LINK) she spoke with great passion about the importance of publically accessible entrance launching points to the river. 
The former public slipway in Govan - where previous ferries have operated from...this slip way is now buried under the carpark in Water Row
Old Govan Ferries (vehicular and passenger) leaving from Partick
Unfortunately I’m guessing that Ethel May might be disappointed by the new ferry crossing arrangements….access to the landing pontoon is via a steel security gate which is padlocked by the ferry operator as each ferry leaves – the crossing is a highly controlled private enterprise. However on the positive side there is for at least now infrastructure in place that allows a boat to land at Govan (if permission can be negotiated with the relevant authorities).
People heading for the access to the new ferry pontoon in Govan - the red triangle indicates the locked security gate above the pontoon

It is amazing to see how the opening of the new Museum has instantly created a new atmosphere along the waterfront at Govan….suddenly there is the sound of people talking, laughing audible across the river and the new sound of the ships bell on the tallship Glenlee being constantly rung by excited children. There is a double effect here: a magnification of the sense that this new palace of fun is close but tantalising out of reach…but at the same time some of its positive energy reaches across the river and there is a palpable sense of relief that there is something ‘going on’ -something ‘alive’. I so remember my first years in Glasgow getting accustomed to the basic rule of life in the city that there must be noise and activity at all times….silence and stillness is not an option in Glasgow….people are hypnotically drawn to the noisiest and brightest part of any room/street etc.
The Riverside Museum and the tallship Glenlee - viewed from Govan side of the Clyde
I watched carefully the people using the ferry and can be fairly sure that the vast majority were Govan people….this based on the fact that they knew exactly where to go when they got off the ferry. I think anyone unfamiliar with the place would struggle with the current layout (though this will be improved by the Council landscaping/signage arrangements). I suspect that when the English school holidays start (always later than Scotland) then we will start to see if any museum visitors will be tempted across the river to experience this exotic place of so many legends – Govan. It will be interesting to see if the new Museum is ‘promoting’ Govan in any way….I have heard rumours of fibreglass replica of the Hogback stones on display.
And the word in Govan? – some discussion of the price of the ferry (£3 return trip) and the suspicion that this is a ‘Ned tax’ ie a deliberate policy to discourage ‘undesirables’ from visiting the museum (which itself is free to enter). Also the members of the Govan Reminiscence group (which I visited today…more on this in another entry) reported that people were wandering around the centre of Govan ‘looking for the ferry’ and that the walk down Water Row to the ferry was ‘muddy and filthy’…..not exactly the best start for Govan’s new role as ‘public transport gateway to the Riverside Museum’ – but hey…it is early days yet.
People heading back to Govan Cross from the ferry - across the 'muddy' carpark
As I looked about I noticed a new sign which seemed to be directing people into the Riverside Housing ‘To the Riverside Museum’ I checked that the sign had not been tampered with and then saw anther one…sure enough the official pedestrian route that avoids the  ‘mud and filth’ is through the Riverside Housing Scheme. Another sign of the community being drawn into  new public ‘visibilty’.
Pedestrian route from Govan Cross to the Riverside Museum - signed through Govan Riverside Housing scheme
I also spent a delightful 2 hours today with Glasgow artist T S Beall – Tara has a studio next to Govan Riverside and has made two pieces of public work there Govan Beacon and Govan Armada. We immediately found a wealth of common ground and passion for the paradoxes of Govan…hopefully it will be possible to work together in Riverside in the future. 
Govan Beacon - T S Beall and Ben Rush

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