The Creative Survey

Led by Alec Galloway and Alastair Cook and including work by all Absent Voices artists, the creative survey will deliver a detailed creative record of the Sugar Sheds and its life. The Creative Survey will consider the architectural and social significance of these historic sugar warehouses. It will include interrogation through drawing, recording using early photographic techniques within the building and surrounding area, a digital photographic survey, general conservation and archaeological studies, physical evidence gathering, filmic narrative and detailed digital recording and an audio mapping and field recordings archive.

Sweet Tooth

Using a traditional photographic process established around the same time as the Sugar Sheds, Alastair Cook will focus on the heritage and history of the buildings and its ghosts: the workers, their descendants and their wider families. An established portrait photographer, Alastair will bring alive the past using a technique called wet plate collodion: a photographic process dating from 1851. It was the primary method of capturing images from the early 1850s until the 1880s and the process must be completed within ten minutes before the plate dries; this brings an involvement, an intensity, producing mercurial and unique images.

Walking in the footsteps of Spencer and Eardley

Anne McKay and Rod Miller share their passion for the work of Joan Eardley and Stanley Spencer, renowned artists who both painted the life of Greenock and Port Glasgow in the 1940s. Working with local schools, the two artists will attempt to reveal to young people – through drawing walks through James Watt Dock and the sugar shed building – how life was documented in the recent through drawing skills by artists such as Eardley and Spencer.

Glass – From Factory to Castle

This project, led by Alec Galloway, and supported by Alan Carlisle and Ryan King, will examine and introduce traditional glass making skills and the impact of sugar’s role and its impact on Scottish glass making. Great Scottish glass artists, such as Stephen Adam, were inundated with commissions as wealthy sugar barons filled their mansions and castles with glassworks. These works in private homes and public buildings will be catalogued and identified. Workshops in glass making for Inverclyde residents will take place over the months leading to November 2014


Yvonne Lyon will be leading workshops which explore ideas in producing a series of original songs based on songs sung in the sugar factories of Greenock. Yvonne will be conducting songwriting sessions which recognise the historical aspects of singing in the workplace, constructing new songs in the process.

Every Memory

Led by Alastair Cook, this project combines explorations of the Sugar Shed building in film, poetry and sound. Alastair will develop writer Sheree Mack’s poem about the slave trade, Every Memory, into a longer feature while fellow Absent Voices artists, Alan Carlisle and Ryan King, will write and perform an accompanying soundtrack. This will be premiered live inside the sugar sheds alongside the film. A number of short films will also be produced within the Greenock community and Alastair will also deliver children’s Filmpoem Workshops, following on from his highly successful Filmpoem Festival in Dunbar in the summer of 2013.

Family Ties

This project will initially be an interactive online initiative, gathering images and portraits of individuals across the globe with historical connections and family ties to sugar refining in Greenock. Large scale portrait images will be assembled before being projected onto the exterior window spaces of the sugar shed building and these images will be shared through the Absent Voices online community.