Onwards for the battle of the baths

Protesters who occupied Govanhill Baths in 2001 have shared their stories for a new theatre production
Protesters who occupied Govanhill Baths in 2001 have shared their stories for a new theatre production

One of the most memorable community protests in Glasgow’s recent history will be marked on stage this week — in the very building it tried to save.

The Battle of Calder Street is the latest production from Govanhill Theatre Group, detailing the 2001 closure and occupation of the Govanhill Baths building, used today as a community hub.

For GTG’s Bruce Downie, the original production is a new challenge — but a story which needs to be told.

He told The Extra: “The style is verbatim theatre, based on the words of people involved.

“There’s a film being made in which all the key people were interviewed — I’ve taken little excerpts from those transcripts about particular moments in the campaign.

“It’s interspersed with news broadcasts and newspaper articles presented as if live to camera, and all the drama will be punctuated by songs by folk singer Shambles Miller, paying tribute to musicians like Alistair Hulett, who adapted traditional songs to suit the campaign.”

Add in four poems by Baths activist Jim Monaghan — named after key players in the 2001 campaign — and the production is a nod to an ongoing community effort to reinstate the baths.

Bruce continued: “This is a story worth telling and one we can’t ignore while celebrating the centenary of Govanhill Baths this year.

“These people fought a brave fight. It was a little war. They were effectively jailing themselves for several months.

“It’s a challenge to present the words of real people, but it feels like one of the most important plays I’ve ever done.”

On ending a play about a project in progress, Bruce added: “The interviews covered everything up to the present day — but that would be a very long play.

“In fact, the Battle of Calder Street was lost in 2001 — but if you look at it from another point of view, that battle is still going on.

“Jim’s poems look ahead to a positive future — so even though it’s a sad ending, there’s an optimistic epilogue in there.”

The Battle of Calder Street runs at Govanhill Baths September 22-27, 7.30pm — tickets £10 (£8 conc) from Brown Paper Tickets.