Aye Write: Tribes of Glasgow review by Pat Byrne
I went along to Aye Write at The Mitchell Library to hear Stephen Millar and Alan McCredie talk about their book ‘Tribes of Glasgow’ (Luath Press) The book arose out of the writer Stephen Millar’s quest to rediscover Glasgow and capture its essence. Born in Glasgow but having been brought up in and lived in England, his mission was to reconnect when he returned to Scotland. Initially his idea was that the book would be more about photography but the writing developed as he discovered so many fascinating people immersed in a multitude of sub-cultures that make up ‘The Tribes of Glasgow’. He had little trouble enticing Alan McCredie, a freelance photographer, to collaborate on the project.
The event was hosted by Alistair Braidwood from’Scots Whay Hae‘, who is an excellent host with the knack of asking the right questions. He wondered if it had taken much persuasion to get Alan involved in the project; apparently he was up for it right away. ‘Sometimes you just know something is right.’ – ‘People are always good to photograph.’ He found it was ‘A complete pleasure from start to finish.’
Stephen and Alan’s enthusiasm was tangible and it was obvious that they had a lot of fun researching and producing the book. As they took to the streets of Scotland’s largest city they encountered groups both old and new, including goths and gunslingers, bikers and barras traders, cos players, martial artists, mods, miners and lovers of Northern Soul. In total 39 groups.
Alistair asked if everyone approached had been open to participating. Stephen said that only a few groups, the Freemasons, Orange Lodge, Art Students and Vikings, had shown disinterest. Mostly people were very open to talking about their lives and their interests, although, there was difficulty in finding particular people. Stephen pointed out that: ‘Being a dominatrix carries considerable social stigma so finding one willing to speak to me was difficult. Mistress Megara Furie was the exception.”
Another question Alistair asked was whether the groups shared characteristics. Stephen answered that there were some groups such as the bikers and the gunslingers that tended to attract middle aged men, who had often been in the armed forces. He surmised that perhaps they missed the camaraderie or even rules. For some members of the sub-cultures, such as Aranel a well-known cosplayer, it is about a love of fantasy and escapism. However, no matter how flamboyant or outlandish they may appear, Stephen’s impression was that they were ‘normal people’.
At the event Alan talked us through a wonderful slide show of amazing photographs. I particularly liked the one of the old mining pals sitting together in a pub looking very at ease with the world. Some of the photographs are very richly coloured and full of life, including those of the Roma community at their festival in Govanhill.
The inclusion of different ethnic groups such as the Roma, the Poles, the Italians and the Gaels illustrates the diversity of the city’s population. Quite apart from showing Glasgow’s cultural richness, what I loved about this event was the questioning of preconceived views and the prejudice directed at groups such as the Roma.
It is much more than an illustrated guide to the people of the city – the book successfully captures the stories of the people and the sub-cultures. It also turns many notions on their heads – I mean whoever thought that witches would be ‘gentle’, that the cosplayers love to be called ‘nerds’.or that the dominatrix would have a client who just came ‘to be tickled’. Stephen said that he ‘never met such friendly people as the gunslingers’ and that the whole experience of creating the book had opened his mind.
I am thoroughly enjoying ‘Tribes of Glasgow’ and it certainly won’t be a one-off read. I’m delighted to see mentioned people I already know, such as the poets Samuel Tongue and Jim Carruth and I’m amazed to discover so many of our city’s wonderful characters.
It was a super event and I can absolutely recommend ‘Tribes of Glasgow’ (Luath Press) .
Pat Byrne, March, 2019
Stephen Millar is the author of the London’s Hidden Walks series. He has written and provided photographs for a number of books and magazines, including the Independent on Sunday.
Alan McCredie has been a freelance photographer for 10 years, working with most major agencies in Scotland and beyond. He has specialised in theatre and television but is perhaps best known for his documentary and travel photography. A member of Documenting Britain photo collective, he is a Perthshire man now living in Leith.
Tribes of Glasgow – Waterstones Sauchiehall Street, 11 April, 2019
Catch Stephen and Allan talking about the book plus Q & A at Waterstones Sauchiehall Street, Glasgow on 11 April, 2019 . (Book tickets at Eventbrite)
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