'All shadows...': the creative process

The creative process behind Esther Draycott's research project catalysed by Glasgow Green's drying area.

Esther Draycott - Slide 15

Esther’s presentation at the Symposium situated her research project in the context of fascination with Glasgow, the mythic-symbolic sacred waters of The Clyde river and the city’s old waterways. How might city life might be discovered through pipelines, pools, culverted streams, ‘water rushing beneath the city in silence’, a conceptual power servicing community spaces like the steamies? She sees this fluid latency as a metaphor for the lost everyday spaces and stories of the city, particularly those where women were outside. 

Esther Draycott - slide 16

Esther noted her fascination with women watching, listening, washing, and how the city, or a site like the drying poles on Glasgow Green, might be understood to be watching back, an uncertainty and essence of the unsaid. Photographs as a form of witness inform her ongoing PhD research into working class women’s style in 1970s and 1988s Glasgow. She shared how in this project she has been working with the first hand, often discarded information from social media community groups (such as Lost Glasgow, Glasgow Chronicles etc) which enable access to public memory and undo shorthand reductions of ‘working-class experience’ as singular and homogeneous.

Esther Draycott slide 17

In concluding her research, she commissioned Sean Patrick Campbell to take photographs of and around Glasgow Green, to accompany her written text. The printed book ‘All Shadows are alive: narratives of the drying green’ visually assembles Campbell’s black and white photographs, Esther’s text, extracted lines from Morgan’s poem, and selected phrases from the social media sites. 

The Researcher-in-residence project has offered her a way to interrogate conventions and limits of academic research principles and sources. Why is content on social media dismissed as too intimate, too emotive, not factual enough? She described her surprise at the scantness of documentation in official archives such as The Mitchell Library, which contains regulatory and organisational aspects of the Glasgow steamies, but little information that offered clues into these as community spaces, as social, environmental, communal experience. Where does knowledge about the wetness of hands reside, the jaw/jaw of working your laundry alongside another? She has worked with the visual banners of social media groups, interleaving words from social media sites with images, and 'anonymising' archive photographs in ways that text may be de-personalised. Observing that sitting with conflicting views and experiences, ambiguity and the ‘mixed feelings’ of historical research, highlighted by Elizabeth Wilson [The Sphinx in the City] and others, may bring us closer to retrieving some of the ‘lost’ everyday spaces of the city.