Leith Walk

Leith Walk. Our share of the profits.
research project and exhibition
Interview Room 11, Edinburgh

9-30 June 2017

Video installation that consists on 3 synchronized videos installed as windows. The videos show a landscape in which a performer enters and gives a speech acting as a guide.

13min length.

A piece of bread painted green was the symbol of the strike that took place in the port of Leith in 1913. Along with the bread was a banner, “Our share of the profits”, making evident the precarious work that faced the dock workers. They demanded an increase in wages and an improvement in working conditions, as well as the request that only staff belonging to a union could be recruited. The call was an unprecedented success that mobilised the entire community of Leith. Despite that, workers from other cities filled positions and the strike was suspended without having fulfilled its expectations. It is the history of the workers’ failed attempt to defend their rights, but they had to try, and it needs to be told one century later. Sometimes, the history
of a street, the history of this neighbourhood, also tells us the history of a country. In the 1980s, during Margaret Thatcher’s tenure, another major crisis came to the port industry. The mass unemployment that devastated the United Kingdom, especially Scotland (Leith included), provoked an emigration that was not new in the history of this country. Nowadays, the neighbourhood seems to have recovered and an attempt at gentrification may become the next threat. New urban plans have changed the profile of Leith and its port. However, the current period of ideologically driven austerity cuts has resulted in a further stagnation of these developments and some of the areas seem closer to a dystopian future than to urban revitalization. Carme Nogueira knows the city by walking the streets, reading books and looking for experiences. She rebuilds the place by rescuing its history and its tracks, analysing the communities and their interaction with its immediate context. Three people connected with Edinburgh’s artistic community have been chosen to read texts related to the history of the neighbourhood in front of a camera: a speech addressed to the strikers, the words of a worker and a paragraph of a song which regrets forced emigration. The chosen places are key points in the history of Leith, although they have been modified by the passage of time, as well as the social and political context. The meaning of each word bring new resonances but it is still the story of Leith, this time told from our present: struggles, victories and disappointments, and a tribute to its neighbours, who have managed to maintain the spirit of this place, so close and so far from the rest of Edinburgh.

Ana González Chouciño

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