Pollokshields Playhouse


Building owner/client:

Pollokshields Community Council

Architect or lead designer:

Lee Ivett and Rachel O'Neill

Local Authority Area:


Nominating Body:

Pollokshields Heritage

Project Description

Located on a stalled site opposite the Tramway, the Pollokshields Playhouse came about as a result of concerns by Pollokshields Community Council (PCC) about the Turner Prize coming to Tramway and how this would reflect on both Pollokshields and Glasgow given the rundown surroundings. The PCC had been pressing Glasgow City Council and Glasgow Life about this but was conscious of limited resources. Ultimately, the PCC felt a more ambitious community sponsored grassroots approach might help build capacity as part of the regeneration of the PCC ward and that this could extend beyond the duration of the Turner Prize 2015. The stalled site was formerly part of Tramway but had latterly been used by a builders’ merchant. Working with the land owners the PCC secured a year-long lease with the aim of providing outdoor and covered space to any individual or community group creative enough to use it. Funding was secured from Glasgow City Council’s Stalled Spaces, Southside Housing Association and Glasgow Life with support in kind from the land owners. The proposal was the result of a collaboration between architect Lee Ivett and artist Rachel O’Neill with East Pollokshields Quad founder Ria Din acting as client on behalf of the community. Pollokshields Playhouse is to be a blank canvas whereby the community can generate and share new ideas for the future of our community. A place to celebrate, a place to meet. A place to perform, sing, dance, show, make and talk. Through the temporary animation of this derelict site the project will provide a unique opportunity for testing new possibilities for the future of Pollokshields and Port Eglington with the idea being that the community itself creates place & programme. The project is not just about building things, objects or places, it is also an opportunity to create activity and bring people together though the creation of a shared vision for Pollokshields. We have local people and groups suggesting ideas and helping create a programme of social, cultural, creative, productive and performative activity for the site. The activity will inspire the development of the site whilst keeping it active and alive through, colour, sound, tastes and movement. The Playhouse’s first big event – a Winter Festival – on 20th December 2015, was well received with a programme including live music from a ukulele band, satirical singers, indie pop, a story-telling detective trail to find the ancestors of the Playhouse, a cafe run by local young people supplying Indian food and soup made on an open fire, Pollywood Pop-up cinema showing winter animations with popcorn, and Wordsworth – an interactive activity to find out what people felt made a community. The Playhouse group are now continuing to build relations with local individuals and groups e.g. they are currently working with local out of school care children and running design sessions for them to then come and construct their ideas at the Playhouse. Other groups approached include the Southside Film Festival, the Southside Fringe, Glasgow City Heritage Trust.

Supporting Statement

The Pollokshields Heritage committee are unanimous in our support of the Pollokshields Playhouse and in nominating it for a My Place Award. Since demolition took place the site has been a blight on our neighbourhood and has been particularly noticeable as it is directly opposite the main entrance to Tramway. While many local people welcomed the announcement over two years ago that the Turner Prize was coming to Tramway there was also real concern about how the surrounding environs of Albert Drive would be perceived particularly by the London Media. We were therefore fully supportive of the Pollokshields Community Council’s endeavours, led by chair Bill Fraser, to bring this to the attention of both Glasgow City Council and Glasgow Life. Unfortunately, though there was cross party support from the local Councillors, MP and MSP, it rapidly became apparent that though the agencies shared local concerns there simply wasn’t the money available to do anything about this at such short notice. However, rather than give up the PCC instead got creative and put feelers out to the many artists, creative professionals and community groups who are based in Glasgow’s Southside to see if there were alternative solutions to the problem. This was the genesis of the Pollokshields Playhouse and has resulted in the transformation of this stalled space. Where once there was blight now there is colour and life. The results of the collaboration between architect Lee Ivett and artist Rachel O’Neill can clearly be seen in the colourful Pollokshields Playhouse signage and dazzle paint wall mural that now adorns the remnants of the red sandstone and brick wall of the former warehouse building. The site has been partially cleared with containers providing both shelter and an armature for further sheltering structures. The Winter Festival was a particular success with over 300 people turning up on a particularly dreich Glasgow afternoon to participate and enjoy food, song, dance and story – telling. The ‘Pollywood’ cinema was particularly inspired. The aim now is for further groups to take ownership and extend and develop the site thereby forming a year-long festival of ideas for the community. The space will also be used as part of the upcoming East Pollokshields ‘Make Your Mark’ charrette towards the end of February 2016. Pollokshields Heritage looks forward to seeing how the Pollokshields Playhouse develops but the reason for the nomination at this stage was for how the transformed site made such a huge difference to perceptions of our neighbourhood during the extent of the Turner Prize 2015 exhibition. It seems incredibly prescient that such a community endeavour should take place directly opposite the Tramway when the decision was made to award the 2015 Turner Prize to Assembly for a community led grass roots project. Therefore, Bill Fraser of the PCC, Ria Din, Lee Ivett and Rachel O’Neill should be heartily supported for their creative efforts that have filled the vacuum left by the impact of austerity on local government.