James Grant is one of the most renowned and respected songwriters and performers Scotland has ever produced and RIG Arts were delighted when he became the Musician in Residence for the Broomhill Project based in the Broomhill Area of Greenock from March to September 2017.
When James first started the residency his initial ideas were that he should speak with local residents and record their stories of living in Broomhill to establish a creative bedrock from which to start. He felt that this would be the best way to get to know the place and the people who live there.
His initial contact with the community was through attending public meetings and through the TARA (The Residents Association) He also tapped into the existing RIG Arts network of participants attending pre-existing workshops as part of the Broomhill Project.
James threw himself into the role meeting people on their terms and at their convenience. Through informal chats over cups of tea he recorded people’s experiences of living in the Broomhill area. These stories were great snapshots of their lives… little oral histories.
In and of themselves, these stories are great but James felt that they could also have a musical strand to them that could be further developed.
He managed to achieve this development by engaging local songwriters and musicians. James asked them to respond to the Broomhill stories, working with them to hone and develop the results and he recorded the songs and the pieces of music created.
Throughout the residency James established a small and productive songwriting group based at the projects Art Flat which is based in one of the areas tower blocks. The weekly songwriting sessions became an intergenerational group with older and young aspiring musicians supporting and inspiring each other. With James’s guidance they developed their song writing skills and musical ability. James was very impressed by the groups talent and commitment, commenting that the quality of the work produced was excellent.
These songs (along with the aforementioned songs/music) were recorded at the Art flat and at a local studio in Branchton Community Centre in Greenock.
James also created a four week master class programme and engaged with students from Notre Dame High School. Students were encouraged to write a song which will be recorded at a later date with the school’s musicians and recording facilities. The young people enjoyed the sessions so much the music department are looking at building songwriting sessions into future lessons.
If Broomhill has a genre of music that it’s tied to; it’s punk rock… there was a vibrant scene with a direct link to the place(recording and rehearsal studios, many bands from Broomhill etc.).
As one of the outcomes of the project James had the idea of creating a punk rock nightclub circa 1979, featuring local bands from that era. This would have strong elements of design and also a photography exhibition running alongside.
We hope to be staging this, with Greenock legends The Cuban Heels as headline act, in 2018!
James would like to thank; all the artists and interviewees involved, Karen and Jason and everyone at RIG, Rikki Payne, Jenny Speck, Lynette Beaton and the music department at Notre Dame High, The Beacon Theatre, Creative Scotland, River Clyde Homes.
The Broomhill Project is the overarching banner which encompasses various other RIG Arts projects linked to the area, collectively creating synergy in working towards the regeneration and improvement of Broomhill, Greenock, an area of high social and economic deprivation but rich in social and industrial heritage.
The Broomhill Project is an ambitious socially engaged arts project that has connected local residents and professional artists in collaborations to create inspiring artworks, events and performances. The themes are deeply rooted in the place’s culture with strong emotional resonances. The work is accompanying the regeneration of the area currently being led by River Clyde Homes and is also assisting the environmental improvement of the area. RIG Arts has utilised traditional and experimental approaches to engage people and they continue to work hard to widen access to the arts amongst local people.