Govan is in danger of losing one of its oldest communities. Show families who have lived in the area for generations fear they are being pushed out to make way for developers despite legislation which should enable them to buy their land. Show people bring shows to fairs and events around the country and have been doing so for hundreds of years.
At a meeting called to promote – Behind the Scenes at the Fair ! a three day family fun event at Glasgow’s Riverside Museum on 6,7 and 8 December highlighting the culture and heritage of Show people – some very serious concerns of Govan Show people surfaced.
Said Sheldon Johnstone who lives with ten, related, family groups in one of only two Showmen’s yards in Govan: ‘My father was born in Govan. I’ve lived here for 30 years and am on the Scottish Guild of Showmen. But we are only allowed to stay here on a monthly lease. Originally it was a six month lease. We want to be here permanently but we all worry that we’ll be put off this land and have to go and find somewhere else to live.’
Jimmy Stringfellow, who has the other Showman’s yard in Govan, told the meeting of around 30 people: ‘We have no security. I’ve been served with eight eviction notices and have had 50 visits from the police in the past three months. The CID has visited me 18 times, and the Council’s case against me was thrown out of court. I’m having a hell of a time living here in Govan. But I’m not leaving. I intend to die here!’
The meeting was held in Govan Old Parish Church which is recognised as the church for all Show families in Scotland.
‘I was married here on 24 November 1964,’ said Christine Stirling whose maiden name was Colquhoun. ‘It was a double wedding with my husband’s brother. My daughter Cindy was married here in February 1994. All my four grandchildren were christened here and the funerals of two babies who died also took place here. This is a special place for me and my family and for all Show people in Scotland.’
Six beautiful stained glass windows were installed and dedicated in the Church in 1991 to ‘show the devotion’ of the Show families.
But in the church’s meeting space near the ancient sarcophagus stones dating back to around the 9th century, today’s art works were the intended matter of discussion.
Tara S. Beall, Artist in Residence at Glasgow’s Riverside Museum promoted the culmination of months of research done in conjunction with Scotland’s Show families. This is part of her PhD work. ‘On Friday 6, Saturday 7 and Sunday 8 December at the Riverside Museum we’ll have three days to enjoy a traditional fun fair,’ she said. ‘Attractions include a steam traction engine, a carousel, chair-o-planes, swing boats, game stalls and food stalls.’ Enthusiastically she added: ‘Visitors can learn how rides are packed and transported around Scotland, how they work and even try setting up a showground game.’ She said: ‘The Riverside is a transport museum and the Show people who have contributed to this, know how to transport, pack, fix and engineer all the equipment you see in a fun fair. They’re the experts and this three day event will help spread that knowledge as people can ask any of the experts about the fairground equipment. It will be family fun too.’
A key speaker at the meeting in the Church, was Professor Mairead Nic Craith, Chair of European Culture and Heritage at Heriot Watt University. She explained the differences in language between heritage in old Irish Gaelic – from the soil, the roots, values, traditions, principles, sense of values and the new Gaelic form – legal rights, what one is entitled to.
‘These differences are obvious in Gaelic but not in English,’ she said. Further differences in meaning were explored in English speaking cultures where heritage generally applies to something tangible – ‘like a castle,’ said the Professor. ‘In some Asian cultures it can refer to the skills required and handed on to create – and re-create – a place.’
This led to the observation that tangible cultural heritage could be recognised more easily and so World Heritage sites were protected. But intangible cultural heritage was more difficult to codify. While music might be intangible, it would have the tangible element of the instruments used to make the music. Social practices, festivals, fairs and events were intangible and craftsmanship such as that used to make Arbroath smokies would also be intangible.
She noted that the United Kingdom Government has not signed the UN Charter to protect cultural heritage which would go some way to protecting intangible elements important to Show people. The Scottish Government was in favour of signing it but cultural heritage is not a devolved issue so it cannot do so.
Alex James Colquhoun, Chairman of the Showmen’s Guild, Scottish Section, outlined the difficulties the Guild has encountered in having the work and heritage of its members recognised.
‘The Guild will be 125 years old next year. It promotes education and lobbies for our way of life, our heritage. At a meeting in Brussels sit was made clear we can’t be a part of European cultural heritage schemes or protection because the UK has not signed up to it.
‘We are not looking for money. We are only looking for the recognition we think we deserve for our intangible culture and heritage.’
One of the reasons the UK government has not signed the UN Charter is because heritage is used as a political football, suggested Dr Alan Leslie, of Northlight Heritage, a Glasgow based archaeological Trust for Excavation and Research.
He suggested ways to tie-in the intangible with the tangible. ‘Culture needs weight and force to tie-in with other things around,’ he said.
An example of a Fair that has been held in Kirkcaldy for 700 years was used. Alex James Colquhoun said it was in danger of stopping because of official objections. ‘Establish whether it is an issue about the location or the Fair itself,’ advised Dr Leslie who instanced other cultural entities which lost out to commercial development.
In Europe a similar ancient Fair was revitalised through the UN Charter and the European approach because it received status, out of which came sponsorship.
The Govan event was orchestrated by Liz Gardiner of Fablevision. She is one of the people behind a gathering momentum in culturally sensitive and place-based regeneration. She said: ‘Behind the Scenes at the Fair! is an amazing project. It is important to Glasgow and Scotland. And interestingly, by holding this meeting in this church and by the involvement of Govan Show people and young film makers at Fablevision, and the commitment of Chris Jamieson of Glasgow Life Open Museums, all roads lead to an important intangible project.’
A forceful Facebook campaign resulted in almost 200 people attending a ‘gathering’ to discuss the state of Govanhill and Crosshill on Saturday 16 November in Holyrood Secondary School. At the end of the day, Westminster MP Anas Sarwar and local MSP Nicola Sturgeon answered questions.
Angry local residents said it was a repeat performance of five years ago when a similar event showed how run-down the area was and what the main problems were.
But the Restore Govanhill Community Group who set up the Facebook initiative with co-operation from Glasgow City Council, Govanhill Housing Association, Govanhill Community Development Trust and Police Scotland, delivered some straight talking.
Neutral chairperson Jonathan Coburn of Social Value Lab set out the plan for the day which ended with a free lunch but not a free-for-all. He conceded there were ‘lots of tensions,’ and that ‘Glasgow City Council was not the best at listening.’
Pressure of time obliged Gordon Smith of the Govanhill Partnership to give a very fast presentation on local service provision. A powerpoint presentation provided a great volume of facts and figures which, he said, proved the area had ‘moved on considerably.’
He touched on the £1.5 million provided by the Scottish Government to reduce the density of private landlord provision with 500k of that due to be used in 2014/15.
Improvements in backcourts were highlighted. ‘But this is not finished. Nothing like it,’ he added. ‘There are nine backcourts to go.’ Front garden improvements in Allison Street were about to start and a community training garden was included in the Development Trust plan.
He detailed how much had been spent already on tenement repairs and controlled entry systems. ‘But they’re not much use if people don’t bother to use them,’ he commented. Another £5 million was committed to housing stock repair. And 500 tonnes of fly tipped rubbish was cleared away from the area last year. Around 80 bags of street litter are picked up locally, daily.
Gordon Smith went on to say increased Police visibility had reduced anti-social behaviour.
Despite all the improvements, five of the 12 datazones were ranked in the bottom 10% in Scotland for health. Another four were in the bottom 5% for addiction and mental health problems. While drug related health issues were down, low birth weight was only ‘improving.’
The success of 600 children from four local primary schools enjoying the ‘Big Noise Orchestra’ established by Sistema Scotland was important, he said, as a long term intervention.
Assessing the level of poverty, Govanhill had half its datazones in the 15 bottom ranks in Scotland. All but two datazones were in the bottom 30.
Other statistics he gave were that people in the area were 150% more likely to be unemployed, 50% were on benefits and 75% on job seekers allowance. Of the 2600 properties owned by private landlords 2300 were now officially registered.
His outline of Govanhill differed from the survey carried out by the Restore Govanhill Community’s survey.
In her first ever public speech, Jade Ansari Murphy, who started the Facebook campaign, said: ‘No one said the place was getting better. The vast majority said it is getting worse and a few said it was about the same.’
‘Living conditions here are not acceptable. People are leaving because of crime and lack of cleanliness.’ Pictures posted on the Facebook pages showed how bad some streets and backcourts were. ‘But why has it needed a Facebook campaign before anything is done?’ she asked.
‘This is our community. We want a clean living environment. We want to be happy to live here.’ Her passionate speech was followed by details of the survey given by Fiona Jordan, another of the Facebook campaigners.
Restore Govanhill Community had asked nine questions which were answered by more than 220 people in a seven day period using online internet technology and going round local businesses such as hairdressers to ask people not on the internet, for their views.
When asked: ‘How strong is the sense of community in Govanhill?’ 54.07% said not strong; 31.10% said strong and 15.79 said very strong.
When asked: ‘How safe do you feel in Govanhill?’ 81.11% said ‘not safe’, 15.21% said ‘safe’ and 3.69% said ‘very safe.’
When asked: ‘How clean is Govanhill compared to other areas in Glasgow and the rest of Scotland?’ 100% said ‘not clean.’
Said Fiona: ‘We thought we’d made a mistake when we got 100%. We laughed and said that couldn’t be true and certainly would not be acceptable in any university dissertation. So we went back to check all the figures. From the comments we found the word ‘clean’ was the problem. People said we should have used – manky, boggin’, minging – compared to other areas.’
Comments ranged from ‘a disgrace,’ to ‘a hovel’. This illustrated the great frustration people felt and their sense of shame. We urgently need more resources. All residents need to know the process to dispose of anything. How come the entire contents of a house can be dumped in the street and no one knows who did it?’
Continuing with the analysis of the survey she said the question ‘How proud are you to say today, you live (or have lived) in Govanhill?’ had 70.42% saying ‘not proud’ 13.62% saying ‘proud’ and 7.98% saying ‘very proud’ with 7.98% saying the question didn’t apply.
When asked: ‘Overall, are you satisfied with your experience jof living, working and visiting Govanhill?’ 79.81% said ‘not satisfied,’ 16.90% said ‘satisfied’ and 3.29% said ‘very satisfied.’
Summarising the changes need to improve Govanhill, the survey said the area needed ‘a vision.’
‘Government at both national and local level must show leadership and come together with the local community to provide that strategic vision. Many people now look to neighbouring communities such as Gorbals and Oatlands and feel that in comparison, their area has either been abandoned or ignored. At best, Govanhill has received ad hoc, fragmented investment and improvements to the physical built environment and any attempts at improvements to local services such as cleansing have been short term and inconsistent.’
Some people surveyed saw ‘demolition of the area’ as the only solution. Others said that strong leadership and investment from Scottish Government and Glasgow City Council was an ‘absolute requirement’ to ‘re-awaken the spirit of Govanhill.’
Said the summary: ‘This leadership must have the capacity to create and deliver a regeneration strategy that utilises joined up thinking and services from all areas and aspects of government and local agencies. That strategy must implement legislation to prevent slum-like properties, unscrupulous landlord practices, unsanitary cleansing conditions and a feeling of threat to safety from ever prevailing again in Govanhill.’
The ‘snapshot’ survey had been printed out to distribute on the day. But two of the Facebook Restore Govanhill Community Group were confronted by five police officers before the event started and warned that if they did distribute it they’d be liable to be prosecuted for some racist comments it contained.
Said Jade: ‘We were very careful to delete anything we thought was unacceptable and we don’t know how the police got a copy of the survey.’
Another member of the Facebook Group was visited by two police officers on the morning of the event to be questioned about a person who’d lived at that address 13 years before. They also asked where the current householder was going that morning? When asked for their badge numbers, the police officers left.
Following workshops where people vented their strong feelings on the issues, the politicians faced the diminished crowd.
Commented Jade afterwards: ‘We feel we’ve been met in a positive, constructive manner and look forward to meetings promised soon.’
A former local councillor, John Flanagan has now gained a law degree and is working as a solicitor. But he wishes to continue his work on behalf of the Govan community. Here is his text:
John FLANAGAN, No Bedroom Tax – No Welfare Cuts
As the only candidate with previous Local Government, Public Office and Legal experience I would be in a position to act as a Councillor from day one and would set up my office, contact details and surgery dates to ensure that I would be accessible to constituents immediately.
Having been involved personally in the regeneration and investment work already carried out in Govan I would place myself at the centre of the second stage of this ongoing work and campaign for further investment.
As the UK Government’s austerity measures continue, my voice would be heard in challenging the unjust cuts and impoverishment of local people. I oppose the Bedroom Tax and Welfare Cuts and provide advice and representation to constituents. The Commonwealth Games sponsorship by ATOS is an unacceptable arrangement I oppose. I would support employability initiatives, job creation, community policing, safer and cleaner streets and home owner grant support.
Tomorrow is Decision Day in Govan. Those with a vote have 14 candidates to choose from to elect a new councillor in Ward 5. The by-election follows the death of much respected Allison Hunter, SNP Councillor and former SNP Group leader in Glasgow City Council.
Aiming to be her party’s successor is 20-year-old Helen Walker who has been a worker within SNP for some time.
Here is Helen’s statement:
Helen WALKER, SNP
‘After speaking to hundreds of local residents these are the priorities they want me to pursue.
- More jobs and continuing regeneration with better opportunities for young people.
- More effective action and tough penalties to tackle antisocial behaviour, flytipping, littering and dog fouling.
- Action to improve poor roads and pavements.
- Better consultation with residents.
- Better local access to childcare.
- A moratorium on the closure of day centres for people with learning disabilities and an end to disproportionate cuts affecting disabled people and carers.
- Funding for the Riverside Ferry.
- Strong opposition to unfair Tory policies like the bedroom tax.
I will be a strong voice for Govan in the City Chambers and will speak out if the administration takes decisions that are wrong for our area. Without a strong SNP voice, Labour would take Govan for granted- and that would be bad for everyone.’
The £25 million Clyde Gateway (the East End Regeneration Route) opened to traffic on Thursday 26 April 2012. It is a key piece of infrastructure associated with Clyde Gateway Urban Regeneration Company and the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games and the expectation is it will bring jobs and economic advantage to the East End of Glasgow – Shawfield and Dalmarnock in particular – by improving accessibility.
The four-lane, 2.6km carriageway links the Oatlands and the M74 junction at Polmadie in the south to the Forge Retail Park in the north. Designed by Gronmij and built through a joint venture between Farrans and I&H Brown, it will give easy access to Celtic Park, where the opening ceremony of the Commonwealth Games will be held, the Commonwealth Arena, Sir Chris Hoy Velodrome and the Athletes’ Village.
This will be a critical route to transport some of the 18,000 athletes and support staff and hundreds of thousands of spectators expected during the Games. Afterwards, the roadway will be a legacy for the benefit of the local community.
Traffic congestion on existing local roads should also ease, especially during peak times. Recent traffic modelling studies have shown that there will be a reduction in traffic across the major east/west arteries crossing road around London Road and Gallowgate and in association with the new M74 link, this will free up road space to allow for additional walking, cycling and bus routes to be put in place.
Phase 1 of the road opened in April 2007 as part of the development of new housing in the Oatlands area and was officially re-named- New Rutherglen Road. Phase 1A followed in April 2010, running from the Polmadie junction of the M74 and Shawfield Stadium. This stretch totals 1.5km.
Phase 2 is the longest section, crossing the Clyde at Rutherglen Bridge and passing Dalmarnock Railway Station, the Commonwealth Arena and Celtic Park before joining the Parkhead by-pass at the Forge Retail Park
Brian Devlin, Executive Director for Land and Environmental Services said: ‘The Clyde Gateway creates a new, direct link between the completed M74 and the heart of Glasgow’s East End. This will offer fantastic new opportunities for people and business either currently living or based in this part of Glasgow or looking to move there. This is part of the wider regeneration of the city.
Neil MacDonald, Chairman of Clyde Gateway Urban Regeneration Company said: ‘The M74 has already shown that new roads play a very important part in businesses choosing where to make crucial investment decisions and there is no doubt that Shawfield and Dalmarnock in particular will benefit from this new piece of infrastructure. Our on-going efforts to attract developers to the East End have been helped immensely by this road opening and I’d like to thank Glasgow City Council for again demonstrating their commitment to the long-term regeneration of the Clyde Gateway area.’
Prior to the formal opening when traffic started flowing, children from four primary schools in the east end were given the chance to try out the newest section of the road.
More than 100 Primary 6 and 7 pupils from St Michael’s, St Anne’s, Dalmarnock and Quarrybrae primary schools cycled around an obstacle course set up on part of the new tarmac running from new Oatlands over Rutherglen Bridge, through Dalmarnock to Gallowgate.
The children experienced, first hand, the road’s new cycling facilities including dedicated cycle lanes and extended footpaths that are provided along the full length of the route.
They also got the chance to brush up on their safety skills with Glasgow City Council road safety officers and Strathclyde Police cyclists and motorcyclists. Dr Bike offered advice on maintaining bikes and gave practical demonstrations to ensure they were fit for the road.
As well as providing better facilities for cyclists, the new road, funded entirely by the Council, will improve public transport links and accessibility around the East End.
With phase one opened as part of the Oatlands new neighbourhood development last year, phase two of the 2.4km stretch runs over Rutherglen Bridge, continues via Dunn Street, Poplin Street, Dalmarnock Road, Mordaunt Street, London Road and Camlachie to join the existing road network at the Parkhead by-pass, Forge Retail Park.
TheClydeGateway (Phase 2) Facts
1. More than 35,000tonnes of asphalt used to lay roads, footpaths and cycle ways.
2. 800m of 2.74m diameter tunnel used to alleviate storm water flooding.
3. More than 250 trees planted and 40,000 sq m of landscaping to the road corridor.
4. 10km of new drainage pipes installed for new roads.
5. 250 new traffic signal heads installed over seven junctions.
6. 330 new lighting columns.
7. Construction period 2 years (April 2010 to April 2012)
Wednesday 29 February 2012
Like the icing on the cake – the refurbished dome of the B-listed Olympia at Bridgeton Cross, was placed on top of the landmark building today.
The £10 million make-over of the 101 year old site across from Bridgeton Railway Station – is driven by Clyde Gateway, in close collaboration with local residents.
The wooden cupola measures 10 feet high by 15 feet in circumference and weighs 5 tonnes. It was removed in June of last year for restoration. Much of the original timber has been preserved and some new materials added. A 60ft crane operated by local contractors CCG, lifted the familiar dome into position.
Said local Councillor George Redmond: ‘This is a historic moment for both the East End community and Glasgow as well as being another major landmark of the Clyde Gateway regeneration.’ He added: ‘The feedback from local residents since we started work on the Olympia has been overwhelming. We already knew that this building means a lot to them. However, the interest people have shown throughout the project has exceeded all expectations and helped create a real buzz and added to the sense of pride in the area.’
Bridgeton resident Jimmy McLellan sits on a local community steering group which advises Clyde Gateway. He said: ‘It’s been amazing to see the speed at which the works have progressed. For someone who has lived in the area for so long, the fact that the original dome is being restored and much of the original timber is still a part of it, means a lot. It helps ensure the history of the building is preserved. Now we are all looking forward to work being completed and local people being able to use the new facilities which we believe will be the best of their kind in Glasgow.’
The premises are expected to open this autumn – ahead of schedule. They will comprise a public library and cafe; a high performance centre and the headquarters for the National Governing Body for Amateur Boxing as well as commercial office space to be let.
Built as a theatre in 1911, the building was a cinema for 50 years. It lay derelict for almost two decades and was severely damaged by fire in 2004. Clyde Gateway purchased it and developed its refurbishment in consultation with local residents and business people.
This is part of a 20 year plan by Clyde Gateway Urban Regeneration Company to bring investment into the area and re-vitalise the East End. Part of that plan involves the legacy outcomes from Glasgow’s 2014 Commonwealth Games. And since boxing is one of the core sports in the Commonwealth Games, and has a rich tradition in Glasgow’s East End, it was appropriate that Amateur Boxing Scotland took an option to relocate their headquarters to the Olympia when it was ready.
Oatlands fundraising day
Sunday 14 AUGUST at 2 pm
There will be stalls selling all sorts of wonderful things, raffles tombola,
Also there will be a
bouncy castle, face painter, DJ, maybe some Hip Hop………..
All money raised is going towards activities for all and it helps keep our wee centre
open.. so please show your support and come along….it will be good fun for all!!!
all in OATLANDS COMMUNITY RESOURCE CENTRE – the blue hut!
photographs by Stuart Maxwell
The earth trembled in Gorbals on Sunday 3 October as two Norfolk Court tower blocks were demolished. The implosion reduced the 37 year old flats to 20,000 tonnes of rubble in ten seconds and was felt underfoot by the 600-strong crown of onlookers who congregated around Cumberland Street beyond the safety exclusion zone.
Said pensioner Mary McGuire who lives in one of the two remaining Norfolk Court blocks: ‘It’s sad but happy. The people who lived there used to be really nice folk. They’ve all long since moved to new homes.’ Her neighbour, Bridie Minto (82) said: ‘That block was still being built when I moved into my flat. It is sad to see them go.’
Anne Bunton who lived for 29 years in one of the 132 flats in one of the demolished blocks, missed the ‘blow-down.’ ‘She’s working today,’ said daughter Elizabeth. ‘That’s why I’m here to video the event.’ Born and brought up in the Gorbals, Elizabeth said: ‘A lot of history has just gone down. A lot of families have come and gone through those flats over the years. It is sad. But people have their memories even if the skyline changes.’
The 23 storey blocks cost around £1 million to be demolished. The blowdown was commissioned by Glasgow Housing Association (GHA) and carried out by contractor Safedem. Said GHA’s Executive Director of Development and Regeneration, Alex McGuire: ‘This is another step in the regeneration of the area.’ Around 200 affordable rent homes will be build in Laurieston South of the Norfolk flats in the next couple of years. The actual demolition site will be used for homes in a later phase of regeneration.
For more dramatic pictures and information see website: www.localnewsglasgow.co.uk
By Alan McCrorie
Glasgow Housing Association’s new chief executive celebrated his first day in post by helping front a major community regeneration plan targeting eight areas of the city.
Martin Armstrong joined Communities and Housing Minister Alex Neil MSP and Leader of Glasgow City Council Steven Purcell in Maryhill to announce eight ‘transformational regeneration areas’.
The partnership between GHA, the Scottish Government and the council aims to build thousands of homes in the target neighbourhoods. The first scheme, in Maryhill, should, if approved, provide 400 new homes. Initial plans are for 300 owner-occupied and 100 for tenants at Maryhill Locks.
There are plans in hand for 300 homes in Laurieston, mainly for rent. However, the partnership hopes to build a total of 1700 homes for rent, sale and low-cost ownership there.
The plans also call for new health and community facilities, as well as green spaces and commercial and retail properties.
The regeneration model would be rolled out across the city to include Sighthill and Shawbridge, Red Road, North Toryglen, Gallowgate, Ibrox and East Govan.
He said: ‘There’s more than just houses,’ said Martin. ‘We want to establish a sense of sustainability in the community that hasn’t been there in the past.
‘It would be wrong of me to put a timescale on it, but clearly what we’re going to do is to give urgency to the transformational regeneration areas. What we want to do is work with these eight communities and ensure there’s a realistic timescale that we can deliver.
He added: ‘GHA will be part of the partnership to make sure the houses are built to a good standard, they are retained at an affordable rent level, and also we will play our part in other initiatives surrounding employability to ensure we create a good, stable environment in which people can live and educate their children.’
Steven Purcell said: ‘This will be about building homes that people want to live in and creating employment in a time of recession. It’s good news for people in this part of the city who’ve waited a long time to see their community change in the way that other communities across Glasgow already have.’