Communities within the Community

Each artist has focused on particular demographics – benchmarking and monitoring progress with Police/Community relationships as the project progressed

As my practice has been based within the Govan Fair, and as I have been interested for some years in what Showpeople culture has to teach us as we move towards a post industrial future, I chose the Showpeople community at Water Row. One of two remaining Govan Show yards (there used to be 10), the Stringfellow and Johnstone settlement is an excellent example of how life/work/family can still be accommodated within an urban setting in 21st Century Scotland. In the Stringfellow yard alone, with 6 static caravans, space to store their massive touring fairground rides and yet more space on which to work/maintain their equipment, the community is self contained but makes a huge contribution to Govan life – particularly for the Govan Fair.

Showpeople are not well regarded by some, however, and there has been a history of tension between Showfolks and the Police (who are summoned to the yard regularly by neighbours/those with a reason to wish the Showfolks off the Water Row site).

Before this project,  Mr John James Robert Stringfellow (the leader of the Showpeople community at Water Row) was convinced that there is “institutional racism” within the Police Force which gives motivation to individual officers to “harass” the ethnic minority community members such that they will eventually wish to leave.

During the course of the We Are Listening project, however (and in no small way attributable to the fact that Mr Stringfellow is also the Chairperson of the Govan Fair Association) a new respect and relationship has developed between showpeople and Police Scotland.

At October 2014, Mr Stringfellow is convinced that there is no institutional racism within the Police force. Rather, the racism exists within certain factions of the Govan community: residents, locally based organisations and individuals who, almost unknown to themselves, have preconceived ideas and opinions about Showpeople. These individuals (Mr Stringfellow is now convinced) are using the Police to “do their dirty work for them” : calling the Police to fictitious incidents night after night – to which the Police are obliged to respond.

Whether or not this new interpretation of the situation is more accurate than  the “institutional racism” interpretation remains to be seen. The real transformation is in the dawn of a new partnership and understanding between Showpeople  and the Police which will have a ripple effect throughout Scotland. Showpeoeple are a tight knit community – word will spread.

Word will also spread to other ethnic minority communities in due course.