The Fish That Never Swam

Kirsty Mackay

2016 - Ongoing

Scotland, United Kingdom

The Fish That Never Swam is a story of trauma - trauma on a large scale inflicted on a city by central and local government policy, felt by individuals, that in turn ripples through generations. Glasgow has the lowest life expectancy in western Europe, for men this lies at 7 years below the UK average. Research published in 2016 into Glasgow's Excess mortality pin point 3 main causes, all evoked by policy. Taking the research as my starting point I am traveling around the city photographing, interviewing and listening to a diverse group of people's lived experience. I am finding communities alienated from the rest of the city, people searching for meaning and purpose, stress and poverty that goes hand in hand, effecting mental and physical health, neighbourhoods sitting side by side with life expectancy discrepancies as great as 16 years.

Throughout the making of this work I am seeking to answer questions relating to my own experience. I was born and lived in Glasgow until my twenties. I lost my dad to Cancer at the age of 62. Was he one of the 5000 extra deaths that occur in Scotland each year?

This story remains untold and is only fully understood in academic fields. My aim is to get this information into the public realm. I'd like to see the blame shift from the individual to the legacy of political policy. Only then can we initiate a conversation about change.

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  • Kirsty Mackay pictured with her parents in Maryhill, 1971. This was the first place I lived. It was a victorian tenement flat called a 'room and kitchen'. We had this room and one other. The toilet was on the landing shared with the neighbours.

  • Drumchapel looking across the now empty streets where council housing once stood.

  • Debbie with her new born baby, Anderston.

  • Heather stands in her kitchen. "I've had mental health problems since I was 17. It's been recorded with the doctor. So when I was young I didn't treat myself well'.

  • The view from a victorian tenement in Govanhill.

  • Liz lost her partner Andy to suicide in 2015, and is pictured here wearing his jacket. "He died about a week before his 28th birthday. If he'd have had professional help things could have been a lot different. I think there is help out there, but its very hard to access".

  • In Glasgow premature mortality is 30% higher than in English Cities.

  • Debbie's newborn baby asleep in the Scottish baby box, which provides a safe place to sleep and comes full of baby essentials. Th box was introduced by the Scottish government in 2017 to take infant poverty rates and is designed to give each child born in Scotland ' the best start in life'.

  • Taylor age 7, stands in her grandmother's close in Easterhouse.

  • Billy age 19 lies on the ground where council housing once stood, Easterhouse.

  • Ellen, 51, Easterhouse.

  • A young man shows off his 'carry out' outside Drumchapel shopping centre.

  • The view from the high rise flats in Castlemilk, looking over Glasgow.

  • A balloon release for Declan McNicol, 18, who was found dead in his flat by his partner Amy.

  • Kaitlin, 23, at home in Springburn. "I've been diagnosed with a chronic illness, been through two blocks of therapy, left uni, started a new job. I feel it in my bones good things are going to happen for me soon. I am powerful amazing and ready".

  • Abby and Chris, Govanhill. Research on the 'blue zones', those areas with the highest life expectancy, attributes human connections as the second most important factor contributing to a long and healthy life.

  • Kids at the Women Against Capitalism event in Castlemilk. Researchers found social integration to be the most important signifier of life expectancy.

  • Wee John on the border between Drumchapel and Baersen, where life expectancy for men varies my 16 years depending on which side of the divide you live.

  • Kirsty Mackay with her parents, 1971. We lost my dad to Cancer in 2011. He was 62.