The Edwin Morgan Trust is delighted to be supporting Joey Simons through The Second Life Awards 2023. Simons will create a psychogeographical film that uses the poetry of Edwin Morgan and the nineteenth-century pedlar poet James Macfarlan (1832–1862) to investigate and critique the latest phase of urban redevelopment in Glasgow. 

In his poem ‘The Ruined City’, Macfarlan presented an apocalyptic vision of ‘the dust of perished things / that form the city’s blasted heap.’ A century later, in the Glasgow Sonnets, Morgan undertook his own battle with the complexities of a place caught between life and death. Macfarlan’s vagabond figure, ‘smelling of whisky but lucid, intense’, haunted Morgan’s politics throughout his life, the slum dweller’s challenge to comfortable nationalism: ‘He said What is the use of independence / If you are living on potatoes and black bread?’ (Kossuth).

I will work with members of the tenants’ union Living Rent to take the poetry of Macfarlan and Morgan to the streets, performing readings as we wander through a city again being riven by speculative development, demolition and dispersal. Working with the video artist Siri Black and the sound artist Lisa Fabian, these readings will be incorporated into a montage of sounds and images, including Morgan’s original landscape photographs of Glasgow. I want to unsettle official narratives of urban regeneration, and see what ghosts haunt a city intent on burying all traces of its radical past. As Morgan foresaw, ‘No plaques will be forthcoming, only poems / only the voices you hear in poems.’

Joey Simons

The film will be shown at Platform in Easterhouse as part of a longer, on-going project to create a living archive of the area’s hidden history, and at the CCA, alongside further research on Macfarlan and his final pamphlet The Attic Study: brief notes on nature, man and books.

Joey is a writer, artist and WEA tutor from Glasgow. His practice examines subaltern aspects of the city’s history and its relationship to political organising today. Previous work includes The Fearful Part Of It Was The Absence (2022) for Collective’s Satellites programme, two publications on the radical history of Easterhouse for Platform, and a public archive project on Tillie Olsen for the GWL. He is currently undertaking research on James Macfarlan for the CCA Annex. His writing has been published by Gutter, The Common Breath, MAP, and Speculative Books. He is an active member of Living Rent and the Red Sunday School.

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