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BAME Rep – Nathan Update

Well, well, well what a busy and exciting start I’ve had to my tenure as Strathclyde’s BAME Rep! We were inducted on April 1st and lots of good work has been done so far!

There’s been some important training, a partnership with the National Theatre of Scotland and all the conferences you can think of! Oh, and I think we’re getting a branded hoodie, I do love branded hoodies.

Training

Training is an important part of my role, having reps who are well trained will make a massive difference to the contribution we’re able to make to student life. I’ve been enjoying getting into the weeds with Bystander training that all reps took on over a 3-part series. We focused on how we can all be more effective and conscious bystanders in many contexts at university, such in cases of rape, sexual assault, rape culture, creating healthy social norms and relationship abuse at university.

It was some intense but brilliant training that really helped us see that not only can we often help ourselves and others avoid such situations, but to use our tactics and awareness to intervene if necessary and protect those who are subject to such horrible behaviour on our campuses.

I feel much better equipped to notice, see, and call out behaviour that is unacceptable in our society, and to understand that as we are all part of the prevailing culture at Strathclyde, we all have a responsibility to shape it for the better.

Partnership with The National Theatre of Scotland

So, literally, on my first day “in office” – if that’s what I’m calling my bedroom desk now, I was sent an email that noted that the NTS was preparing to release an augmented reality experience app. This app dramatises the brutal connections Glasgow has to the Transatlantic Slave Trade, mainly through the tobacco trade.  This app was due to be released in the next couple weeks.

As part of my manifesto was to see the creation of a virtual, always available tour of Glasgow’s slave trade past, I had to get in touch and see how we could work together. After some emails, we had some very productive discussions with the NTS Team and learned more about the GHOSTS app and why it was made and what the idea behind it was. We agreed to a very generous donation of discount codes from the NTS to allow some students on a first-come-first-serve basis to use the app for free – otherwise £4.99.

National Theatre of Scotland Ghosts Image from the Experience at Merchant Square

NTS – Ghosts Experience

But in either case, having used the app and taken the tour myself, it was worth it. Taking the tour in the drizzly Glasgow rain, I started at the Ramshorn Kirk on Ingram street – aptly so, considering that building and graveyard are owned and operated by Strathclyde university now, as the SCILT/CISS headquarters. This building used to be the Kirk and graveyard of past tobacco lords who held property, traded tobacco and slaves, and built grand homages to their dynasty in Glasgow City Centre – other stops on the tour included the Hutcheson Hospital on John St, Virginia Place and Court (all part of Merchant City), the Gallery of Modern Art (GoMA) in Royal Exchange Square, as well as Buchanan Street and then finishing down at the River Clyde. At each stage of this tour, we are powerfully forced to reckon with this brutal history of our beloved city. The AR overlays are spectacular and really add to the experience.

National Theatre of Scotland Ghosts Image from the Experience

NTS – Ghosts Experience

Alongside the poetry, spoken word and descriptions of the lives slaves could have lived really brings to life the idea that we need to hear the souls of the oppressed sing, to play a new song to what can often seem like a tired, sheltered recognition of Glasgow’s darker past. We may not know about the slave trade apart from certain stats, certain placards or statues, or maybe even some street signs and latent homages in architecture. But I felt, taking this tour, the need to hear this period of time expressed in the hopes, dreams, pain, and nightmares of the slaves who were carried away to start a generational cycle of oppression, abuse, fetishization, and death during the slave trade. But also, this app does more than just remind us of the past but connects us to the present day also, especially when the tour reaches the river and with your phone facing the clyde, the AR overlays a multitude of names and faces of those who have lost their lives in modern day, to police brutality, to racist stereotypes, to a society that has not yet fully rid themselves of the same racism that took millions into slavery throughout history. It’s a real shame that the app was only available for a few weeks, but I sincerely hope that those who took the tour saw it as a powerful wake up call, I certainly did.

National Theatre of Scotland Ghosts Image from the Experience

NTS – Ghosts Experience

In addition, on 6th May there was also a live zoom discussion on the themes of the tour. This was a powerful conversation with Director Adura Onashile, Consultant historian Dr Peggy Brunache and Artist Sekai Machache. This conversation really places us in the here and now, and was an enlightening discussion on such things as being black creatives in a generally white space, how to best approach creation and art based on sensitive or difficult subject matter, and the progress and challenges in making multimedia art. It was a wonderful meeting of minds.

We’ll be trying to make more resources like this available to students and staff as the weeks roll on, so let us know (drop an email) if there’s other things like this happening that you’d like me to know about. I’m all ears.

Written by BAME Rep Nathan 
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