Graphic Novels and Place: Paul Bristow talks about the Identity Project

Paul Bristow's Work
Category: Reading

Paul Bristow, from the ‘Identity’ graphic novel, written about Greenock and Gourock in Inverclyde, talks to us about his favourite place and the ‘Identity Project.

My favourite place seems a ridiculously obvious choice, and if you know it well, perhaps also an unlikely one: Greenock in Inverclyde, the town where I live. It’s not always an easy town to live in, not always easy to love, but every good relationship requires a bit of work.

On those transitory sunny days, the views across the Clyde are unparalleled, whether standing at the top of Lyle Hill, walking along the esplanade towards Gourock or exploring the moorland on the hills behind the town. Strangely, all these places and more will shortly become familiar to fans of BBC’s Waterloo Road, which has relocated to Greenock and been filming everywhere.

However, some of my favourite places in Inverclyde aren’t even there any more: the Castle of Easter Greenock, Crow Mount, Cresswell, Lurg Moor Roman Fort places that sound like they belong in fairytales, not the post-industrial town I grew up in. But I see them still, in old photos and etchings, or hear about them in the reminiscences, songs and stories that remain the ghosts of places.

For me, it’s really the stories and personal histories that bring any place to life, and I enjoy those stories wherever I go. In my hometown, though, those stories do something more; they connect me to people long gone, to demolished factories and castle rubble; they help me understand where I live today, to see an old town in new light.

Over the last year, I’ve been lucky enough to be involved with a project which is doing just that. Identity is funded by Heritage Lottery to work with the local community to explore the history and traditions of the migrants who have passed through Inverclyde over the last two hundred years. We have produced a graphic novel, ‘The Archivist’s Treasure,’ retelling some of those stories and exploring the heritage of our area created with the assistance of 13 local schools and employing four local young people for six months to research, illustrate and design it.

Each school had a few weeks to get their pages together, with our artists coming in to sketch ideas as the class explored their stories. Some classes chose to focus on the area surrounding their school, others worked with family members, a few came with us to our local archive at the Watt Library to get some ideas. We all learned things we didn’t know before. We’re really proud of the results.

The graphic novel will be available at The Dutch Gable House in Greenock on Doors Open Day – Saturday 8th/9th September. We’ll be making it available online later in the year. You can read more previews over the next few weeks on the project blog. 

The story linked here and below celebrate just one of the many ways the river shaped our town and our people. Everyone likes a good Fish Story.

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