Who took part?

  • Primary six class at Blackfriars Primary School
  • Members of the Gorbalites 50+ Club
  • Ex residents of the Gorbals

What building did we look at?

Queen Elizabeth tower blocks, Gorbals, Glasgow

Children discuss Gorbals workshop
Video (2m:48s)

Final product

A short film

Introduction

This workshop reached a wide range of people in the Gorbals community from school children to the elderly. The film produced allowed those who had memories of the Spence building to share their thoughts and for those who were too young to remember the tower blocks to learn more about the history of the building and surrounding area. Students from a local primary school investigated the archive, created their own tower block demolition animation and interviewed ex-residents of the Queen Elizabeth flats. The film making experience allowed those who took part to share memories and discover more about the history of the Gorbals and Spence’s contribution to the area.

"Looking at the old drawings and photos was fun"

(pupil from Blackfriars Primary School)

Learning aims

Gorbalites interview
Video (1m:58s)

Pupils

  • To create a short film documenting life in a Gorbals tower block
  • To find out what life was like in a 1960s tower block
  • To engage with the planning and design process with a professional film maker
  • To develop an awareness of archive material
  • An opportunity to forge relationships with local community members

Residents

  • To create a personal history archive of life in the Spence tower block
  • To take part in creating a short film
  • To share memories and stories with young people
  • To develop an appreciation and greater understanding of archive material

Learning outcomes

Short animation
Video (32s)

Pupils

  • Practical understanding and experience of how to create a short film
  • Ability to plan and carry out interviews
  • Greater awareness and appreciation of their local environment
  • Understanding of archive material and how to use it
  • Stronger links with local community.

Residents:

  • Ability to interpret and understand archive material
  • Links with younger members of community
  • Experience of sharing personal experiences with younger age group
  • Experience of contributing material for short film

Methodology

1. Exploring archive material relating to the Queen Elizabeth tower blocks

As a group, students explored the archive material with the help of an RCAHMS staff member.

"I've learnt some funny stories about life in the tower blocks from people who used to live there"

(pupil from Blackfriars Primary School)

Student drawing of the Queen Elizabeth tower blocks

Student drawing of the
Queen Elizabeth tower blocks

Questions students considered when examining the archive material:

  • What kind of housing did tower blocks such as the Queen Elizabeth block replace?
  • What were the main differences between the new tower blocks and the housing they replaced?
  • What was it like to live in the tower blocks?
  • Why was the building demolished?

This session was very interactive and allowed students to consider:

  • What archive material is, and why we need to look after it
  • What old photographs can tell us about the past
  • How the Gorbals has changed over time

There are many innovative and rewarding ways to interpret and present archive material creatively across the curriculum. Activities such as those outlined here, which relied on students making informed choices and decisions, fully accord with the purposes of the Curriculum for Excellence in developing responsible citizens and effective contributors.


2. Creating a short film about tower blocks in the Gorbals

Students took part in a variety of activities which generated content for the film produced. These included:

  • An animation session where students recreated the demolition of the Queen Elizabeth tower block. Through this activity, students learnt the basics of how to create an animated sequence using video cameras and computers.
  • A storytelling session where several ex-residents of the tower blocks came in to share their stories of life in the tower blocks. Students applied the knowledge they had gained from looking at the archive to ask questions and then to create stories of their own about what life might have been like in the flats.
  • Interviews with a local community group who shared their memories of what the Gorbals was like in the time Spence designed the tower blocks. Students prepared questions and conducted the interview sessions themselves.
Filming the animation sequenceFilm showing at the Citizens Theatre, gorbals, Glasgow, attended by participants and their families

(left) Filming the animation sequence, and (right) film showing at the Citizens Theatre, Gorbals, Glasgow, attended by participants and their families

All these activities were filmed and incorporated into the final film piece which was shown to a full house at the Citizens Theatre, located in the heart of the Gorbals.

This workshop relied on shared memories and the experiences of a community, old and young, for a story to emerge. Creating a story about a community can be a particularly useful exercise for local areas facing change or a significant anniversary and allows the voices of different generations to be heard.

Materials & Equipment

  • Digital cameras
  • Digital video cameras
  • DV tapes
  • Tripod
  • Microphone
  • Scissors
  • Glue
  • Pens and pencils
  • Cardboard
  • Marker pens
  • Coloured papers

Further development

Spence built the Queen Elizabeth tower block in the Gorbals area of Glasgow as part of a large-scale programme of regeneration for the area. Consider the following questions:

  • What issues did Spence have to consider when he designed the Queen Elizabeth tower blocks?
  • What did his tower block replace and why?
  • How was a sense of community created within the tower blocks? Consider design features such as verandas and other social spaces
  • What problems did the tower blocks encounter over time? What were some of the reasons for these problems?
  • What impact can regeneration projects have on local communities today?