This weekend the Radical Film Network Scotland hits Glasgow, and I’m going to be profiling some of the individuals and organisations involved.
First up, Frances Higson, one of the festival’s organisers, who is well-known as a filmmaker and activist.
Frances Higson had a successful career as a film producer, noted for her work with actor/director Peter Mullan, guiding his first two features Orphans and The Magdalene Sisters to the screen and acclaim. However, she would find her interests gravitating to activist filmmaking, leading to her setting up Camcorder Guerillas, and making a film about the occupation of Govanhill Baths, United We Will Swim… Again.
How did Camcorder Guerillas come about, and what are its aims?
Camcorder Guerrillas was formed in 2002 by a group of activists and film makers who were attuned to the aims of Indymedia (a global open publishing network that originated during the Seattle anti-WTO protests). We organised a screening at the GFT of Genoa Red Zone, a documentary exploring the bloody and brutal days of protest around the anti-G8 protests in Italy in 2001. After the screening we called a meeting for anyone who was interested in helping to organise a grassroots media network here in Scotland. More than 70 people gathered in the sun outside the Kinning Park Centre – there was a small group of us with film making skills and experience – so we decided to host a weekend of film screenings and workshops under the banner of Camcorder Guerrillas. The aim was to create a non-hierarchical collective linked to the movement against global capitalism in order to make and show films about issues affecting our local communities. Since then we’ve made more than 20 campaigning films, put on hundreds of screening events and provided training for dozens of campaigners and activists.
The film business is full of crazed ego-maniacs on power-trips – I needed out and my politics found a safer home with Camcorder Guerillas. I love film, all kinds and shapes and forms – but most of all I love documentary. Having said that I wouldn’t rule out working with drama again – sometimes it’s the only way to tell a story that needs told. Magdalene Sisters as a documentary would not have had the same impact or received the attention that it did.
Yes – the Govanhill Baths story is a microcosm of the wider story of Glasgow City Council selling off community assets on a massive scale and putting private interests ahead of those of the community – particularly impoverished communities who are struggling within a system that is hell bent on maximising profit above the well being and empowerment of it’s citizens. I would love the opportunity to tell the bigger story.
The occupation and ultimate success of the ‘Save Our Pool’ Campaign is something that we can and should all take strength and inspiration from – it’s a classic David and Goliath story – and its massively significant in Glasgow’s political
Govanhill Baths is an amazing building. Do you know what its future is? Do you think it will eventually reopen as a pool?