For the 2018 Glasgow International festival, the Glasgow-based artist Mick Peter presented The Regenerators, a large-scale public artwork he put together in collaboration with young Glaswegians.
‘Most of the work I’ve done has been in galleries or institutional spaces, but The Regenerators was different. It was outside, and being part of the 18-day festival it was also quite brief. It also involved a lot of different people coming together and I wanted to do something that was equitable for everybody.
‘The work itself was essentially a huge hoarding on a derelict former gas purifier shed in Dalmarnock in Glasgow’s East End. The site was offered by Clyde Gateway and I worked with Glasgow School of Art’s Widening Participation Programme to involve young people, which was supported through the Year of Young People 2018.
‘I’ve lived in the East End of Glasgow for 15 years and there’s been a lot of contested things around regeneration, the Commonwealth Games etc – it’s not been a particularly happy history. It’s a sensitive thing to take on, which is why I felt the project had to be something that responded to the idea of regeneration.
‘The artwork references various derelict bits of Glasgow, from torn down tenements to the famous Bluevale and Whitevale flats which were very close my studio and I saw being brought down floor by floor. Part of the process of making the work involved a series of workshops with young people, and it was important that they were properly integrated and meaningful – I didn’t want them to be tokenistic at all.
‘We came up with this idea to ask a couple of artists that I could chose with the young people to work with GSA’s Widening Participation Programme to help to run the workshops. Once it got moving and gained momentum a core group of young people emerged – they were getting really empowered by what they were doing.
‘The frontage of the hoarding incorporated posters they’d designed and, thinking about the idea of public sculpture, they also created these little sculptures which we photographed and blew up as huge cutouts to be paraded in the open space in front. Ultimately we shaped their involvement together – it grew quite naturally.
‘In The Regenerators it’s drawings of people, drawings of buildings, drawings of familiar things in our world – things we all understand. I think that breaks down the barrier that people sometimes feel, that idea that my imagination is different to your imagination.’