Kate O’Shea

Kate O’Shea’s work in Where We Stand is a series of scarves that can be worn, flown as flags, and have been made into jackets for the Travelling Gallery team and exhibition visitors to wear. The text and images on the scarves are drawn from interviews and conversations with people in Govanhill, Glasgow and the Isle of Eigg in northwest Scotland. Where We Stand is also influenced by the richness of the archives of both places.

Govanhill and the Isle of Eigg are two very different locations united by their high-profile community activism in the late 1990s and early 2000s.

After generations of neglectful private owners, the people of Eigg worked together to take the island into community ownership in 1997. And in 1997, the Isle of Eigg Heritage Trust became community owners of the Isle of Eigg, providing Eigg residents with security of tenure and the opportunity to transform the island and their future. Eigg’s population has grown from 63 people before the community buyout, to 110 today. Homes and infrastructure have been built. New private and community businesses have started, including a brewery, tree nursery, and oyster farm. Eigg Electric provides all of the island’s electricity from renewable sources, supporting a thriving and increasingly diverse economy and Eigg’s ambition to reach carbon net zero by 2030.

The 140 day occupation of Govanhill Baths in 2001 was the longest occupation of a public building in British history. While it was violently evicted in August of that year, it eventually led to the creation of Govanhill Baths Community Trust in 2005. Partial refurbishment allowed it to open the front suite of the Baths in 2012 to deliver health and wellbeing projects. Since then the Trust has raised more than £10 million to take forward Phase 1B of the refurbishment. Govanhill Baths Building Preservation Trust was established to take ownership of the building in a Community Asset Transfer and to manage the refurbishment. The building is now windproof and water tight and other funds are being raised to complete the interior work. The baths will reopen in the near future as a wellbeing centre run by the community, for the community, in Scotland’s most ethnically diverse neighbourhood.

Kate O’ Shea is an artist working across printmaking, large-scale installation, community development, and publishing. She is a member of artist collectives Broken Fields, and Red Wheelbarrow Productions. Céist Na Talún (The Land Question) is central to the international networks of solidarity that Kate threads together with others. She recently co-published HOW MUCH IS ENOUGH? (2023), founded Gravity Express with Dr. Ciaran Smyth, Vagabond Reviews (2021), and co-founded independent publishing house Durty Books with Victoria Brunetta (2018).

Above image: Portrait of Kate O’Shea. Image by Shane J Horan.