Community Activism in Castlemilk, Part 2 Castlemilk Writers’ Work Shop and Castlemilk’s Local History Groups
As well as producing their own newspaper (Castlemilk Press discussed in Part 1), people in Castlemilk also got involved in community activism through education. Castlemilk Writers’ Work Shop, was funded by the Workers’ Educational Association (WEA). As much as the class was about education and creative writing, as Alison Miller, the tutor for the group stated in Castlemilk’s Writing:
The people in the group also offer each other friendship, support and encouragement and help that go well beyond the group meetings themselves
So it was an important place for the members to express themselves through their writing but it also provided a forum to discuss issues in the community.
Many of the poems and stories, in Castlemilk's Writing (their second publication, the first was entitled Mud & Stars), considered the realities of life in Castlemilk and Glasgow in the 1980s. ‘Christmas Party’ by Janette Shepherd, also reprinted in Farquar McLay (ed), Workers City (Glasgow: Clydeside Press, 1988) is particularly effective in exploring gender relations, single parenthood and the hopelessness that could be experienced by women in poverty.
Local History in Castlemilk
The People’s History Group was established in the late 1980s and was similarly funded by the WEA. The group produced The Big Flit in 1990 which included the written testimonies of early Castlemilk residents on their memories of moving to the scheme and the early years of community life. Simultaneously the Castlemilk History Group, which was also funded by the WEA, published The Incomplete History of Castlemilk (with their tutor Catriona Burness) in 1993. This book traces the history of Castlemilk House and estate from its early beginnings to the construction of the housing estate in the 1950s through to the then current day of the early 1990s. Both books are available on Castlemilk History facebook page, which continues the work of these two local history groups in telling the history of the area. This page also provides a virtual space for residents and former residents to reminisce and share memories of growing up in Castlemilk, the games they used to play, the schools they went to and the ‘characters’ they remember. The page currently has over 4,500 ‘likes’ which attests to the quality of the page and also the appetite people have for telling their stories of life in Castlemilk.
By composing poems and stories about their lives, or about imagined people within their community or similar communities, the authors featured in Casltemilk’s Writing challenged and complicated the simplistic stereotypes of Castlemilk in the local and national media. Similarly by reclaiming the history of Castlemilk, both of the housing scheme and the pre-existing estate of the Stuarts of Castlemilk, the local history groups were able to tell their stories, make links and establish the history of their community within Scotland’s history. Both endeavours made the people of Castlemilk visible and told their stories in their own words. But perhaps more importantly the Writers’ Work Shop, The People’s History Group and the Local History Group brought people together for debate, discussion and friendship.
For those who want to find out more about Castlemilk’s history see the Castlemilk History facebook page which contains an extensive resource of photographs, videos and posts on all aspects of Castlemilk’s history.
Also for a history of the WEA see Steven K. Roberts (ed), A Ministry of Enthusiasm: Centenary Essays on the Workers' Educational Association (London: Pluto Press, 2003).
For those interested in the community publishing movement of the 1980s and its historical legacy see B. Jones, ‘The Uses of Nostalgia’, Cultural and Social History, 7:3 (2010), pp. 355-74.
For those interested in reading more about Workers City all three books published by the collective are available online - http://www.workerscity.org/