21 August 2019
The Scotsman

An artist who received Β£15,000 in public funding to stay in Glasgow for a year has told how the “social media ****storm” inspired her to write a book about the controversial project.

Ellie Harrison said she wanted to respond to the “visceral blacklash” she suffered online after announcing The Glasgow Project on Facebook accompanied by a picture of a plate of greasy chips.

London-born Harrison, who teaches at Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art and Design in Dundee, she said also wanted to write it to explore her “love hate relationship” with the city in the book, which features her original Facebook post on the back cover.

Harrison travelled only by bike in Glasgow during her year-long experiment, funded by Creative Scotland, which she described at the book launch as “an attempt to slash my carbon footprint.”

She says she has emerged from her experiences “stronger and with more conviction than ever” that individuals must reduce the amount they travel in order to address the current climate emergency.

Harrison, who came under fire at the time for naming The Glasgow Effect after the term often used to be described the poor health and life expectancy of Glaswegians.

Now 40, she suggests in the book that the original project may have been prompted by her own “mid-life crisis.”

She writes how she starting writing it “for therapy, for clarity, for closure on the project,” but insists she has self-funded the book, which has been published by Edinburgh-based Luath Press.

Launching the book at the Edinburgh International Book Festival, Harrison suggested she suffered thanks to a “cocktail” of being seen as an English artist “parachuting” into Glasgow and “taking the mick” out of the city.

She recalled how the “social media ****storm” was triggered when she was accused of “parachuting” into the city on a publicly-funded “poverty safari” by Glasgow rapper Darren McGarvey and pointed out how would go on to write his own book and use the phrase as its title.

Harrison said: “I launched the project on 1 January 2016 with a Facebook event page which had this portion of greasy chips. It was those chips that provoke this kind of visceral backlash from many people across the city and around the world.

“When I found out about Darren’s book and read it I thought it was great and thought: ‘Maybe I should try and write a book.’

“It had never occurred to me in a million years that I could write a book, but I had to much I wanted to say about the project.

“On social media, you’ve only got a small number of characters to be able to articulate what you’re doing. It’s not the format for trying to explain something something complex.

“I kept going back to the idea of being parachuted into a situation, which really annoyed me because I had been living in Glasgow for more than seven years by that point. Also, even if someone has just moved to a city, does their whole life experience up to then count for nothing?”

“During that whole experience of being in a social media ****storm I learned a lot about Scottish culture. The way that things kicked off… only in Glasgow could it have happened.

“There was something about that particular cocktail of someone who was being perceived as parachuting in from England and taking the mick.”

Brian Ferguson