The Workers City group, Glasgow 1990: In What Sense, if any, an image of the future?

Discussion and film screenings with Leigh French & Neil Gray of the Strickland Distribution the 29th of January, 18.30
Autonomous Centre of Edinburgh
17 W Montgomery Place EH7 5HA
“The Workers City group point towards the future. It is of groups like ours the future will be made.” (Farquhar McLay, The Reckoning, 1990)

During the Glasgow-held year of European City of Culture 1990, the Workers City group provided the first and arguably most striking antagonistic collective response to the now ubiquitous ‘Culture Year’ city phenomenon. Notably, Glasgow was the first old industrial city to host the event and the first to explicitly tie it to urban regeneration policy. For their efforts, the group (comprised of long-term political activists, writers, younger artists and other figures from the cultural, political and literary scenes in Glasgow) were detested by the Left as much as the Right, as various members have affirmed.

Starting out from Farquhar McLay’s assertion above (as editor of the Workers City volumes) this point of provocation will provide an opening for French/Gray’s presentation, followed by two short film screenings and discussion. In looking at the Workers City group’s praxis, achievements and possible limitations, this event intends to re-examine the relevance of the group’s position towards the ‘Culture Year’ in light of the subsequent transfer of ‘cultural regeneration’ and ‘creative class’ policy scripts globally.

French/Gray’s reflexive reading will draw on their own engagements through Variant magazine with Glasgow’s cultural, social and economic conditions, in combination with their recent research (alongside Anna McLauchlan) through Strickland Distribution’s online archiving of the Workers City volumes – Workers City: The Real Glasgow Stands Up (1988) and The Reckoning: Beyond the Culture City Rip Off (1990) – as well as the group’s scabrous newssheet The Glasgow Keelie, all now publicly available at:

French/Gray will suggest that the name Workers City itself is somewhat paradoxical given the group’s interest in political activity outside the formal workplace, and their recognition of the political implications of mass unemployment and precarity: a reckoning well in advance of the traditional Left in Glasgow. This position will be explored by examining the composition of the group, their actual positions and practices, their critique of the Left in Glasgow, and their incipient politics of space and social reproduction, alongside other interwoven concerns such as:

• The re-activation of history and histories from below
• Working class articulation
• Problems of nostalgia and claims to authenticity
• Workerism and anti-workerism
• Class re-composition
• Glasgow’s proto-typical neoliberal urban policy model and the material basis of its alleged art ‘miracle’
• Questions relating to the independence referendum and the kinds of institutional aggregation that are emerging with the foregrounding of national sentiment

The two films to be screened investigate Glasgow’s post-war urban re-development from the perspective of residents in the notorious peripheral housing schemes of Easterhouse and Drumchapel. These films provide a concrete context for the Workers City critique of the Culture Year, producing and documenting articulate forms of working class antagonism to abstract master-planning, paternalistic state mediation, alienation and poverty:

Whose Town is it Anyway? Easterhouse: People and Power, T Freeth, 1984, 30 mins. Shows a working class community after 25 years on the receiving end of Labour Party urban policy. The film includes interviews with local activists, a meeting in a pub, workers with ‘The Voice’ community newspaper, and a discussion with unemployed young people. It lucidly conveys their articulate sense of anger and their attempts to self-organise following the failure of the authorities to deal with the housing and social needs of their area.

Drumchapel: The Frustration Game, De-Classed Elements, 1989, 22 mins. An absolutely devastating portrayal of Labour Party duplicity and chronic housing and social conditions. It provides a withering critique of mediating pseudo-‘community’ initiatives which have since become the norm, often defended by the Left. It resonates profoundly in the current ‘Big Society’ era. Possibly the angriest film ever made on a housing scheme in the UK.

Find ACE:

‘… never neutral’ Saturday 1 June 2013, 6pm

KINN-general-image_w‘…never neutral’

Saturday 1st June 2013, 6pm @ Transmission Gallery

A review and reflection upon ‘knowledge is never neutral’ by The Strickland Distribution – the series of projects organised with Transmission that took place over the last year within and outside Transmission gallery space.
The projects included a public walk, co-research inquiry, facilitated workshops, film screenings, reading and discussion groups, publication launches. Taken together, these projects set out to explore the circumstances that surround cultural and knowledge production. In doing so, Strickland Distribution sought to situate this production within a wider set of social and historical relations, and to self-examine our practices across these relations.
This is a chance to review the projects, informally, individually and collectively, with Strickland Distribution. We welcome project participants, and all those with an interest in the projects to discuss and reconsider these projects, how the various elements developed, how they inter-related, and what they might potentially offer forthcoming projects.


materials . articles . explorations of competitive cultural nationalism . workshop



This post assembles the material we drew on for our recent ‘explorations of competitive cultural nationalism’ half-day workshop with/atTransmission Gallery, Glasgow, 30/3/13.

The articles originate from one academic [writing in collaboration with artists] and three curators working in Estonia, Finland, Iceland, Norway/Sweden and beyond:

Rael Artel – (2010) Let’s Talk About Nationalism! Between Ideology and Identity – The curator’s foreword to the exhibition ((download pdf: Rael_Artel_2010_LetsTalk)

Tinna Grétarsdóttir, with artists Ásmundur Ásmundsson and Hannes Lárusson – (2012) Creativity and Crisis: Cultural Politics and Neoliberalization of Art [paper given at: The Icelandic Meltdown – A Workshop on the Causes, Implications, and Consequences of the Collapse of the Icelandic Economy]

Power Ekroth – (2007) PISSING ON THE NORDIC MIRACLE – published in the ‘Lights On Norwegian Contemporary Art’ MoMA catalogue (download pdf: Power_Ekroth_2007_NordicMiracle)

Marita Muukkonen – (2012) Between a Rock and a Hard Place: Art Institutions and Creative Industries (download pdf: Marita_Muukkonen_2012_RockAndAHardPlace)

These articles were companions to the workshop presentations which consisted of extracts from the following documented talks:

Rael Artel
‘No Money. No Honey’ – Playing Chameleon/Seminar About The Survival Strategies For Art Initiatives
The Latvian Centre for Contemporary Art (LCCA) – Riga, Latvia, 2009

Cross Border Experience – The Role Of The Civil Society (Organisations) In Europe – Supplement Or Substitute?
KITCH – Ljubljana, Slovenia, 2011

Marita Muukkonen
OVERVIEWS – Alternative North – Symposium
Listasafn, Reykjavíkur – Reykjavík, Iceland, 2010

Curators’ Network – Meeting
Hablar en Arte – Madrid, Spain, 2011

Power Ekroth
Pissing On The Nordic Miracle – The Nordic Art Scene In The Global Society Today
TOK [Creative Association of Curators] – St. Petersburg, Russia, 2011



Co-research : subjectivities & conditions of culture as labour. Part 3. Public workshop

Co-research : subjectivities & conditions of culture as labour

Part 3. Public workshop, Saturday 9th March, 2-6pm

at Transmission Gallery

co_research_setup_wkinn co-research
This project (in three parts) is organised by The Strickland Distribution as part of its knowledge is never neutral programme with Transmission Gallery.
The project revolves around cultural and knowledge workers concerned with understanding more about our working conditions and practices. The project consists of three complementary parts: a reading/ discussion group; a co-research inquiry; a workshop on the inquiry’s findings.
We started from the basis that cultural production – such as visual art, performance, sound – is itself a form of knowledge production.
If knowledge is never neutral, any form of knowledge production and distribution deserves our critical exploration; so as to understand its relation to how economic and social values are assigned, and to understand our own conditions of doing, not least in relation to one another.
As a collective self-inquiry into culture as labour, the co-research project began with a series of discussions based on a short succession of readings. These readings introduced and the discussions explored the themes of research and learning in settings outside of academia or formal arts education. As a group of ten co-researchers we proceeded to conduct a three-month self-inquiry into our own positions and practices as cultural workers. Coming to the end of this exploration, we want to continue some of our inquiries within the context of a larger public workshop.

  • What are our experiences of culture as labour?
  • How, where and when is what we do work or not-work?
  • How are these marked by precarity and insecurity?
  • In what forms do and can we self-organise, co-research and be active subjects in these processes?
  • What effects do these experiences have on experiencing ourselves and others as embodied subjects?

We are inviting you to come along and take part in a facilitated workshop, jointly exploring these questions and others in a variety of ways.

We are also interested in hearing from you, anonymously, about actual experiences within cultural production of:
– precarity and insecurity and/or
– definitions of work or not-work.

To submit your accounts follow this link here
Place: Transmission Gallery, 28 King Street, Glasgow G1 5QP
Space may be limited, please RSVP:

The flier for the workshop: Co_research Part 3_A5

Images of the material used and added to during the workshop can be found by viewing this post

We want to hear about your experiences of working conditions in culture and/or the arts

We want to hear about your experiences of working conditions in culture and/or the arts

For the past few months we have been exploring our own conditions and
experiences of working within culture and/or the arts, and are interested to  hear from others:

  • What are your experiences of culture as labour?
  • How, where and when is what you do work or not/work?
  • How are these marked by precarity and insecurity?

We are seeking examples of peoples’ experience of any of the above in culture and/or the arts to inform a public workshop in Transmission on 9th March 2013.

Examples will be available online and, to ensure confidentiality, people are asked to use pseudonyms where appropriate so that individuals cannot be identified. To safeguard confidentiality administrators may amend blog posts.

The examples would also, along with our own, inform a discussion among workshop participants. For this they may be shortened.

Examples can be submitted anonymously using the form below: if you would like us to be able to contact you please include your email address, or put contact details in the message (these will not be made public).

You can also email it to

Please let us know if you are willing to have your experience published online. If you choose not to have it published online your experience would then be included as workshop material. All names and contact details will be removed to keep them anonymous for both online and workshop use.

This public workshop is organised by people involved in Co-research: subjectivities and conditions of culture as labour, an on-going research enquiry held in Transmission since October 2012. The Co-research is part of knowledge is never neutral, a series of projects organised by The Strickland Distribution (September 2012 – June 2013) within and outside the gallery space.

[contact form no longer active]

A Future at Our Backs! Autonomy on Film

A Future at Our Backs! Autonomy on Film

Transmission Gallery: 7pm, Wednesdays – December 5th, 12th and January 9th, 16th

Following a series of readings, films, and co-research enquiries by the Strickland Distribution in the area of autonomy, this film block charts the relation between production (the workplace) and social reproduction (the home, the community, schools, etc) in 1970s Italy. The films index a theoretical and practical break from the role of the male factory ‘worker’ and the domestic role of ‘the housewife’ in the sexual division of labour. In doing so they suggest the means by which social reproduction and work might be reconceptualised to take into account relations of care and forms of value production that are non-economic.

For Michael Hardt, Italy in the 1970s presents us with a model because it constituted a kind of laboratory for experimental thinking and living that can help us conceive of new modes of collective being in our own times. Likewise, Manuela Pellarin’s The Suspended Years suggests a period of intense experimentation in the 1970s that can, “perhaps be seen as ‘suspended’ in time and space, separate from what came before and after, waiting for something new ahead, but not yet in focus or determined… perhaps”.

From the factory to the social factory – where are we now? Is the future behind our backs?

The films will be preceded by a brief introduction, and followed by an open, informal discussion. Optional additional readings can be found below.

All films start at 7pm.

Publicity Flyer

Publicity Poster


Week 1 – 05.12.12, 7pm:

The Working Class Goes to Heaven (La classe operaia va in paradiso)

Elio Petri, 1971, Italy, 125 min.

The Working Class Goes to Heaven depicts a worker’s realisation of his own condition as a ‘tool’ in the process of production. In Italy at this time, one who worked hard and pushed up quotas for everyone was known as a ‘ruffian’. This film viscerally examines the conflicts between productivity and ‘the refusal of work’; the machine and the body; production and reproduction; order and desire.

I was a piecework laborer, I followed the politics of union, I worked for productivity, I increased output, and now what have I become? I’ve become a beast, a machine, a nut, a screw, a transmission belt, a pump!

‘1962-1973: Worker and Student Struggles in Italy’, Sam Lowry,  here

‘Italy 1960-1970s: Reading Guide’, Libcom, here

Week 2 – 12.12.12, 7pm:

The Suspended Years: Movements and Political Journeys in Porto Marghera

Manuela Pellarin, 2009, 49 min.

Based on testimonies with militant workers, The Suspended Years charts the intense series of workers’ struggles which took place in and around the chemical production plants of Porto Marghera in north eastern Italy from the mid-1960s until the late 1970s.

The workers were emblematic figures in the whole experience of ‘workers autonomy’ in this period, expressing a widespread ‘refusal of work’ on a collective basis. The movement began in the factories but rapidly spread far beyond the factory walls to encompass and question the whole of social life under capitalism.

‘The Refusal of Work – Workers Committee of Porto Marghera’, here

‘Port Marghera, The Last Firebrands’, booklet here

Film made by members of Mouvement Communiste


Week 3 – 09.01.13, 7pm: School Without End (Scuola Senza Fine)

(With an introduction by Marina Vishmidt)

Adriana Monti et al, Italy, 1983, 40 min.

School Without End follows a group of housewives who had undertaken the ‘150 hours’ course – a contractual improvement gained by Italian workers in the 1970s whereby employers had to pay for 150 hours of learning activities every three years by employees – then continued their education independently with seminars on literature, the body, and the image among other things.

Watching the project develop was like uncorking a champagne bottle. The women’s writing matured and began to flow and sparkle […] science, philosophy, and linguistic analysis (visual, written, and body languages), filled page after page of their writing pads and exercise books, with personal reflections on culture, themselves, their families, nature, and feelings

‘Introduction to the Script of the Film’, Adriana Monti, here

‘150 hours’ and the ‘Free University of Women: Reflections on the Conditions for a Feminist Politics of Knowledge’, Paolo Melchiori, here

See also,

‘Human Strike Within the Field of Libidinal Economy’, Claire Fontaine, here

‘The City in the Female Gender’, Lia Megale, here

Week 4 – 16.01.13, 7pm: We Want Roses Too (Vogliamo Anche La Rose)

(With an introduction by Maud Bracke)

Alina Marazzi, Italy, 2007, 84 minutes

Through archive material We Want Roses Too portrays the change brought on by the sexual revolution and the feminist movement in Italy during the 1960s and 1970s. The film revisits these times from a female point of view, through the diaries of three women.

In this film, I chose to examine the history of women in Italy from the mid-1960s to the late 1970s in order to relate it to our current present so charged with conflicts and contradictions; I did this with the intention of offering food for thought on issues that remain partially unsolved, or are even radically challenged today”.

Film website, here

‘Manifesto’, Rivolta femminile, here

‘Let’s spit on Hegel’, Carla Lonzi, extract here

See also,

The Commoner, ‘Care Work and the Commons’, Special issue No.15, Dec 2012, here

‘Women’s Identity. Sex and Gender in Contemporary Italian Feminism’, Yasmine Ergas, here

‘The Modern Women’s Movement in Italy’, Bianca Beccalli, (requires access), here

‘The Power of Women and the Subversion of Community’, Mariarosa Dalla Costa and Selma James, here


Book Launch – All Knees and Elbows of Susceptibility and Refusal: Reading History From Below









Book Launch, Film Screening and Discussion

(Refreshments provided)

Saturday 24th November 2012

Transmission Gallery, 28 King Street, Glasgow, G1 5QP

The book All Knees and Elbows of Susceptibility and Refusal: Reading History From Below began as a discussion between two friends,  Anthony Iles and Tom Roberts, about the politics of writing history. Neither are trained historians. They have assembled a critical and necessarily partial picture of the practice of ‘history from below’: historiographical tendencies which sought to uncover the agency of ‘ordinary people’ in challenging capitalism and developing different forms of social organisation. All Knees and Elbows surveys the work of a number of British and international left historians and groups, including Silvia Federici, History Workshop, Eric Hobsbawm, C.L.R James, Peter Linebaugh, Sheila Rowbotham, Jacques Rancière and E.P. Thompson.

“The completed study is not intended to be comprehensive. We’ve veered towards the subjects, areas and materials which interest us. These include questions of sources and their uses, working class education and self-education, welfare and the wage, language, historical authenticity and literary inventiveness, and contemporary political instrumentalisations of radical history. The book attests to the importance of reading history critically against the present.”

Film Screening & Introduction – 4.00pm

The Luddites (53 mins) is a film directed by Richard Broad for Thames TV in 1988 as if it were a contemporary documentary. The Luddites were a social movement of textile artisans from around Northern England and the Midlands, who banded together in 1812 in secret societies and destroyed the machines which were putting them out of work.

Discussion – 5.30-6.30pm

A discussion of The Luddites led by authors Anthony Iles and Tom Roberts informed by some of the All Knees and Elbows themes, including: The definition and redefinition of the working class in History from Below • Critical re-examination of ruptures in the social relation • Techniques developed within struggles to control and convey their own history • Struggles over the marketisation of research • Critical struggles over authenticity • The market for working class memoirs and hardship porn • Determinism and/ or the potential for action.

Book launch – 7.00pm

Authors Anthony Iles and Tom Roberts will give a short introduction to their new book All Knees and Elbows of Susceptibility and Refusal: Reading History From Below critically appraising tendencies and debates in history from below.

A sample chapter is available here: Members_Unlimited

Copies of the book are available in shop and to purchase online at AK Press and Word Power Books.

Publicity Flyer

Visit online bibliography


Stefan Szczelkun, Access and Repulsion, Mute, 25th June, 2013

Dave Featherstone, Reclaiming the Past, Red Pepper, Issue 91, Aug/Sep 2013


Co-research : part 1; upcoming two remaining discussions (6 & 13 November)

This project (in three parts) is organised by The Strickland Distribution as part of its knowledge is never neutral programme with Transmission Gallery. The project revolves around cultural and knowledge workers concerned with understanding more about our working conditions and practices. The proposal is that we might do so through a project of three complementary parts: a reading/discussion group; a co-research inquiry; a workshop on the inquiry’s findings. Click here for a fuller outline of the project.


6 November 2012 : The researcher as subject and object in focus with forms of self-inquiry

Colectivo Situaciones, 2003, On the researcher-militant, Transversal (

download PDF : Reading 6 Nov Colectivo Situaciones 2003


13 November 2012 : Co-research into arts and culture as labour in the UK

A discussion based on a series of materials of the Precarious Workers Brigade (PWB)

As preparation, take a look/ read some or all of the following (the links will take you to the respective pages)

Ethics Code (Draft, April 2012), link here

Training for Exploitation? Towards an Alternative Curriculum. A Resource Pack (May 2012), PDF available here, and

Interview with Carrotworker Collective, published in FUSE, January 2012, read the interview here

There are various other resources and materials on the PWB’s website too


Time: 5.30-7.30pm

Place: Transmission Gallery, 28 King Street, Glasgow G1 5QP

Space may be limited, please confirm if you intend to participate:



learning/ practice Part 3 : personal (date change! now: Wed 10 October 2012)

learning/ practice Part 3 : personal

Note: date change to Wed 10 October 2012, 5-7 pm (location tbc, prob near Hillhead Subway)

Where do we practice? How do we act? Why do we do it these ways?

This series of four learning/practice discussions seeks to explore how we learn and educate, how we engage collaboratively in group work and how we conduct individual research. They explore how to locate the presence of ‘integrity’ within and across practices between the self and Others. Setting out with questions over what we do; how it is that we do it; and why we do it this way, these sessions are, unlike most previous learning/practice sessions, not premised on any one prior reading. Instead, we want to invite preparation and participation from personal knowledge and reflections of practice – be it educational, artistic, political or self-directed (or any combinations of these).
This dialogical encounter seeks not to build consensus over ’legitimate’ ways to act, but rather, to consider some of the ways in which legitimate practice is itself positioned as synonymous with integrity, allowing us to reflect more fully on the potential of practice and develop it.

Four themed but interconnected sessions are planned; each drawing on a variety of form for discussion and reflection on practice and its concerns with integrity. Part 3 is the next one:

Date: Wednesday 10 October,  2012
Time: 5:00-7.00pm
Venue: tbc (probably near Hillhead Subway, Glasgow West End)

For a list of all discussions, see earlier post here

The learning/practice group has been meeting, mostly frequently, for the past two years to discuss texts, practice and politics of our interest around education, self-organisation and emancipation.

For further info or questions,