Govanhill Showcases a Universe of Verse

On the 30th of January, in the brightly coloured studio space on top of the Gallery of Modern Art Glaswegians from across the world performed poems and songs to a full crowd.

The majority of performers were either from or had a strong connection with Govanhill and for some, it was the first time that they had performed in public. The poetry and songs explored a variety of topics – everything from love, loss, homesickness and heartbreak to belonging, Scottish rain and a child’s love of scooters!

Performances were in 13 different languages, including Bengali, Czech, Arabic, English, Romani, Polish, Somalian and others. And it turned out 29 languages in total were spoken by the members of the audience – still fewer than the number of languages spoken in Govanhill, the most diverse district in Scotland. 

The Verse Universe event, organised as part of Thriving Places programme by Govanhill Community Development Trust, gave Glaswegians the opportunity to come together and appreciate each other’s cultural heritage and languages spoken across the city.

The event was initially planned to be held among Karen Gordon’s Everyday Racism photography exhibition, however having outgrown that venue, it was moved to a larger space. 

The night was hosted by radio broadcaster John Cavanagh and Marzanna Antoniak, who introduced the performers and gave a brief outline of the subjects of each of the poems. 

Event organiser, Marzanna – Community Connector for Thriving Place Govanhill, who is originally from Poland says

‘At a time when Britain is disconnecting from the rest of Europe, when wars are looming over Yemen, Somalia and Syria, when there is turbulence in Iran, Iraq and Lebanon, it was beautiful to see Glaswegians from around the world come together to connect in Verse Universe – a multilingual celebration of spoken word and music. 

The performances in Hungarian, Romani, French, Arabic, Bengali, Persian and other tongues proved that it is possible to be moved by a message without understanding every word. Such is the universal power of connection that art and music have. ‘

If you live in Govanhill or have a strong connection with the neighbourhood and would like to share a piece of your cultural heritage via poetry or song, please contact Marzanna at to be added to her Verse Universe mailing list. 

Photography by Karen Gordon. You can find more of Karen’s work, including Everyday Racism here.