The Govan tribute to women carers in the pandemic – through art

IT is the unique Scottish project that aims to give voice to the women carers who helped the nation combat Covid-19.

It comes by way of a group of artists who have joined forced to create works by way of tribute to those working in healthcare.

The artworks are aimed at illustrating the increased care burden of women during the pandemic.

The commissioned artists have created Woven in Govan – a project that has had a major airing at the Wheat Cafe in Linthouse, Govan.

BAFTA award winning actor Iain Robertson, who portrayed Lex in cult Glasgow gang film, Small Faces, was on hand to launch the Creative Scotland-funded initiative’s event.

The idea began in February when seven artists began working alongside each other on six commissions, creating work after speaking to local people working within healthcare or the care sector.

Audrey O’Brien, Donna Rutherford, Deirdre Nelson, Ursula Kam-Ling Cheng, TS Beall, Alex Wilde & Ailie Rutherford’s have all created their own personal tributes to women during the Covid crisis.

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TS Beall, an American artist based in Dumfries and Glasgow, used the Mary Barbour statue outside Govan underground station for her own tribute, dressing the statue in nursing uniforms and PPE.

The statue was the result of a long fight by Labour MP Maria Fyfe and the Govan community to have the legendary figure of the 1915 Rent Strike recognised in all her glory.

Originally designed by Andrew Brown, the statue celebrates Mary Barbour in her element on the day in November, 1915 when she led a 20,000-strong protest through the streets of Glasgow to the sheriff court.

She campaigned to improve housing and conditions for working people, exposing and protesting against the greedy landlords who took advantage of the wartime economy to hike up rents for workers.

With landlords seeking to evict those who would not pay, a co-ordinated response by Glasgow’s women, who became known as ‘Mrs Barbour’s Army’, ensured bailiff’s officers were thwarted at every turn. The city-wide rallies and demonstrations forced a change in the Government’s rent legislation.

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Organisers of the new exhibition said: “In the history of Govan and Glasgow, Barbour rose from obscurity to prominence by a combination of an indomitable spirit, humanity and acumen, yet until relatively recently, she was a figure almost lost to history.”

Performance artist Donna Rutherford, another of the artists to take part in the project backed by community cultural development company Fablevision, created an audio piece called Natural Born Carers featuring interviews with women on their experiences over the last year in the Covid climate and the effect the pandemic has had on them and their lives.

The drop-in event in Govan will be followed by a full exhibition later this year at the Queen Elizabeth University Hospital’s new exhibition area.

Mr Robertson said: “I come from a family of formidable Govan women who are activists and I have loved seeing an exhibition that acknowledges all the hard work done in our communities during the pandemic and in our past. It is also great to see the Wheat Cafe re-opening as a centre for local culture. I am proud to be a Govan boy and proud to celebrate our matriarchs.”

Liz Gardner from Fablevision said that that Woven in Govan is a part of the larger international exhibition platform, Woven Network – with theirs being the Scottish contribution.

She said: “Each of the artists have delivered in their own style of story-telling to capture the essence of women’s contribution throughout the pandemic.”

Ursula Kam-Ling Cheng created an installation featuring quotes and key themes relating to the care burden placed upon women with the use of what is described as “beautifully designed” graphics on milk cartons, leaflets and posters.

Audrey O’Brien created a series of curated Breathing Planet Walks to highlight how nature and getting outdoors was our saving grace during the pandemic and highlights how people have reconnected to nature.

Deidre Nelson has made soaps with words embedded to capture the choreography of hand washing for care givers and home carers.

Alex Wilde & Ailie Rutherford have, meanwhile, created a series of napkins that detail a feminist manifesto for wants and needs for women to survive, covering affordable housing, parenting rights, community activism and self-care.

The Herald Scotland

The Herald Scotland

The Herald is a Scottish broadsheet newspaper founded in 1783. The Herald is the longest running national newspaper in the world and is the eighth oldest daily paper in the world. The title was simplified from The Glasgow Herald in 1992