Interview: theatremaker Bruce Downie on The Battle of Calder Street
Verbatim theatre piece about the 2001 Govanhill Baths protest
Bruce Downie is directing The Battle of Calder Street – a verbatim piece about the Govanhill Baths protest of 2001 – in the place where it happened. He explains how Govanhill Theatre Group came to become one of Govanhill Baths' cultural tenants.
What inspired the creation of the company?
Govanhill Baths is such a beautiful building: I could see the potential right away – I knew we had to start a theatre project here. There are a number of different performance spaces, there's storage space, workshop space and unexplored space waiting to be adapted. There were creative people already working in the building – upcyclers, costume makers, designers and musicians – a theatre project could bring all these elements together.
Does the company have any particular style?
We're still very much in the formative stages: earlier this year, we put on an all-female Hamlet in association with the RSC. Then we had the premiere of a new work, a translation and adaptation of Eminescu's epic poem Luceafarul, which was a way of reaching out to the Romanian community. In July we had a sell-out run of Tony Roper's The Steamie in the old steamie at the back of the building, the last one standing in all of Glasgow.
What is the battle about?
The last night of the Govanhill occupation in 2001, police and sheriff officers moved in to reclaim the building and a lot of people were injured that night. The police came in for heavy criticism for their behaviour that night. We're not quite ready to recreate a pitched street battle, not this time anyway – maybe for the revival. I was also very keen to create a piece of verbatim theatre: it's really exciting to use words spoken by real people about real events. It's passionate, poetic, and political. It feels like one of the most important plays I've ever brought to the stage – a story that needs and deserves to be told.
Govanhill Baths, Glasgow, Mon 22–Sat 27 Sep.