“The Glasgow Style”

Glasgow unveils £1.5m rebranding

“It is indeed a great delight to oppose an all powerful enemy, and this is precisely the reason why Charles Rennie Mackintosh is working in Glasgow.”

-anonymous writer, in DERKORAATIV KUNST, 1906

Second stroll: Dalmarnock

The “Glasgow Style” is right enough “..the icy perfection of the mere stylist hardly even fits the bill when Glasgow gets around to reinventing itself. Are the Glasgow City Council thinking about turning the art school into luxury flats or something? Is there something I’m missing here? 1.5 million pound cosmopolitan image? Why are there all these posters around saying “Glasgow Style” on buses and things that look like adverts for college courses?

To celebrate “the legacy of designer Charles Rennie Mackintosh in the way Barcelona celebrates Gaudi.” Is this a bad dream? Not at all-just the Council discovering more ways to make money from ideas that are about 30 years old. Ideas that they were too stupid to see, or use, when they were busy destroying Glasgow’s architectural heritage. Why does Glasgow City Council take great pleasure in making people who have been to Barcelona, and who have seen and appreciated the architecture there, cringe?

“Glasgow is the new Berlin” is a good one. Glasgow has more in common with the worst parts of East Berlin. Get in your car or go on the bus if you are brave enough and look at Dalmarnock, Bridgeton or Milton. Talk to the people there about the “new Glasgow Style”, social inclusion and architecture and see how the the “new and confident image of the city” fairs there. Stroll into Dalmarnock community centre and talk to James about how his city is on “the up and up”. And quote from the bumf “People tend to forget how far the city has come in 20 years,” and about how, “The days when people have to apologise for this city are over.” Describe to James how the new luxury apartments along the Riverside are for his benefit – that the million plus being spent on PR will magically bring back the local shops that have closed down, and a computer for his community centre.

You see the problem is (and James is well aware of it) “The powers that be”, as he calls them, have other things on their mind before getting to him or his community. Their job, their mortgage, their car, their kids, their holidays, their lifestyle. Only when these things are looked after will James be taken into consideration. And only then on a nine-to-five basis. The coordinators of James’ estate do not know, nor have never experienced, the streets in his area after five. They shut up shop and go home the same as every other shopkeeper in his area seems to have done. They deliberate at meetings where he is absent, and expertly decide what is good for James. They design projects that keep them and their associates in a job, and James is confused as to how these ideas will help him.

And James struggles, like all reasonably sane people, with the abstractions that are being leveled at him by the purveyors of style that totally ignore his needs. While he is being robbed of his taxes he is also being blamed for his situation. And yes, the new style has reached James’ area in some sense – the new style “Dole Fraud” poster. Nothing has changed in this part of town apart from the style of the dole fraud posters. Is it OK for the Council to use up his tax money to give to businesses as development monies or what ever fancy title is used to describe a government business hand-out?

This should also be called dole money. only it is financial aid given to those who do not deserve or need it.

It will be James’ tax money that will be used to persecute his class and his kind. He will sponsor the dole fraud posters as well as the hand-outs to business. But he will not see a business man or woman being jailed for dole fraud. What he may see is the guy up the road, caught earning a few pounds over his dole money, being incarcerated, which will probably cost a lot more money and heartache than the fraud itself. But then it is not economics we are dealing with here, it is putting the It IS ecomonics… blame firmly on the shoulders of the scapegoat, on those least able to deal with it, while the real fraud is obscured by public relations.

What I was really trying to say to James, as he rightly treated me with the skepticism reserved for those from the other side of town, who know nothing of what it is to live among the ruins of a once thriving community and have the tenacity to pontificate on his problems, is that

The “powers that be” don’t give a damn and will change nothing for you – only YOU can change things for YOU and YOUR community. The powers that be know this, and will do everything to maintain your’ position and protect their own. The only way that you can change their minds is to hurt what “they” hold dear,ie: THEIR bureaucracy, THEIR judgment, THEIR institutions, THEIR value systems, THEIR reward systems, THEIR profits. In the pursuit of this goal, communities need to learn from each other if they are to repair what the markets have destroyed. No one says it will be easy, but is there another plan? Communities only survive when there is collaboration: shared resources, cooperation, effective actions, reachable aims and targets, learning from past mistakes and achievements. It seems to work for resourceful business interests – why not community? Possil needs to know what Milton is doing; Milton needs to know what Dalmarnock is doing. All these places are duplicating each others efforts. They need to find out each others strengths and weaknesses, share the work together and coordinate plans, creating a movement that is strong enough to effect change, and durable enough to challenge the status quo. Let’s create a genuine “across city effort” to create “Glasgow City of Principals”

I wrote the Small Fish thing about eight years ago after walking around Dalmarnock. All that has happened there is that it has gotten worse. The deprivation has increased as public land in Glasgow is sold to developers with the promise of the profits being channeled into social inclusion. How can we allow, in this day and age, people to live like this, then blatantly throw in their faces all this “City of Style” nonsense? Are Glaswegian’s incapable of feeling shame any more? Are the poor of the city completely out of the debate? If not, I defy any of the apologists of “the New Style” and “social inclusion” to have that debate in Dalmarnock. I would happily set it up for them. I started with a quote so I will leave you with another:

“There is hope in the honest error, none in the icy perfection of the mere stylist.” –

C. R. Mackintosh, quoting J.D. Sedding

As for, Glasgow.The New Black” I will leave you to fill in the spaces yourself.


Catch the small fish