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Glasgow City Council

Views sought on Famine Memorial

Glaswegians are being asked to contribute to the development of designs for a city memorial to victims of the Highland and Irish Famines.

Work carried out by art students at four city schools to research the famines, emigration to Glasgow and their influence on every aspect of life in the city will go on display this week.

Guided by experienced artists, students have also developed a series of concepts intended to be incorporated into a landscaped memorial - using the land itself, as well as artwork, to reflect on the experiences of those who fled famine.

Visitors will be asked to give feedback on everything from design, to the type of materials to be considered - and even the use of poetry.

The work will be on display at Govanhill Library, Partick Library, The Bridge in Easterhouse and the City Chambers until the end of June.

Chair of the city's Memorials Working Group, Cllr Matthew Kerr said: "The Glasgow we know today simply could not exist without immigration - and the people who made their way to the city from all over Ireland, the Highlands and the Islands in such desperate circumstances are a huge part of that story.  

"Like others who have sought refuge from persecution, hunger and poverty down the decades since; their experiences and their journey will always be part of this city; and Glasgow a richer place for it.

"I think the young people that have contributed to the project have really grasped that - and that is reflected in the concepts and the ideas they are exploring, down to decisions over using materials native to Ireland and the Highlands."

Famine ravaged huge swathes of Europe in the mid-1840s, following the failure of potato crops and millions died or were displaced over a number of years. Ireland suffered particularly badly and it is thought that more than a million people were forced to emigrate - with as many as 100,000 arriving in Glasgow.

Tens of thousands also arrived from the Highlands and Islands due to the blight, either settling in the city, or continuing their journey abroad.

Following a motion by Cllr Feargal Dalton, which was seconded by Bailie James Scanlon and received overwhelming support from around the Council chamber, Glasgow's Memorials Working Group was asked to begin exploring the feasibility of creating a memorial within the city.

In doing so, the group has established a broad and inclusive membership - both in terms of political groups within the council and community representatives.

It asked pupils from four city schools to work together and with the support of artists to explore not only the famine, but its influence on Glasgow - right up to the present day.

The new displays present that work and invite the public to add to it; rather than choose between competing final designs.

Young people taking part attended Rosshall Academy, Lourdes Secondary, St Thomas Aquinas Secondary and Sgoil Ghàidhlig Ghlaschu (Glasgow Gaelic School) and worked together at the Tramway's visual arts studios.

They propose a landscaped memorial; using the land itself, native plants and materials along with structures and sculpture. This is a relatively common approach in developing memorials where people are encourage to stop, spend time and reflect.

Public comments and contributions will be fed back into the final design process, allowing those attending the exhibitions to help steer the development of the memorial.

Cllr Dalton said: "The enormous human tragedy that was An Gorta Mór/The Great Hunger had a major impact here in Glasgow and has left a lasting legacy. Many of us are the children of the survivors who sought refuge in Glasgow.

"This memorial will provide the citizens of this city with an opportunity to remember, reflect and re imagine our role in the world as a city that welcomes those who seek refuge. I hope as many people as possible from all backgrounds will visit this display in Partick Burgh Hall."

Cllr Kerr said: "The young artists have brought forward some very thoughtful ideas on how we can remember the victims of famine, but also honour the way they and other refugees and immigrants from near and far have helped shape this city and what it means to be Glaswegian.

"Today, we're asking the people of Glasgow to think about those same questions as we move towards finalising a design for the city's famine memorial."

The construction of the memorial will be funded by public subscription.

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