Archive for June, 2014

Beyond Stigma, Beyond Apathy

As part of the research we want to represent the diversity of the East End so are keen to have people involved from each of the neighbourhoods. We didn’t have anyone involved from Easterhouse yet so we paid a visit to the Shandwick shopping centre to see if we could remedy that. This shopping centre was lamented as having:

 “A sense of despair [that] pervades thousands of residents, half of whom live in social housing . . . The Sandwick Square shopping centre in Easterhouse epitomises a lot of what has gone wrong with Labour’s great post-war social experiment – the area’s sprawling mass of council estates. A sad collection of shops – Pound Saver, a pawnbroker, a bookmaker, Farm Foods”

(Johnson, 2008 in Mooney, 2009).

Shandwick Square if oft cited in media articles when painting a dreary and negative picture of Easterhouse. Symbolic of depressed economy servicing the flawed consumer rather than the glossy shopping meccas lauded as regeneration. Added to this grim imagery, Gerry Hassan referred to Easterhouse “a political apathy hotspot”.

Vikki and I experienced a different reality, as I’m sure many other Easterhouse residents also do. We only had an hour and half in the Shandwick and in that time we had a coffee, went to the beautician, the butchers, the bakers (for supplies of lorne sausage and empire biscuits which I can’t get south of the border) and I had a zip mended at the alternation shop. While doing this we spoke to lots of people and they had plenty to say about their neighbourhood and the Games. There was a fever to people’s chat when we told them about the research. They wanted to talk about the Games, their neighbourhood, it’s future.

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There was hopefulness. It was tentative but definite. Local business owners, workers, shoppers welcome the Games and the people it will bring to the East End. Easterhouse residents were rallying for the Games. One guy we spoke to said he felt proud of Glasgow and the East End but the area was under chronic economic pressure. He hoped this could be lifted by the Games.

So the folk of Easterhouse may be rallying for the Games but who is rallying for them? There was a clear disconnection between this public effort and their personal lives. It was clear it was affecting their personal lives directly. One woman told us she could no longer go to her Zumba class. Local road closures which support the Games mean that she can’t access her weekly fitness class at her local community centre as the bus she takes there can’t follow same route. It could seem a minor issue but the pressure on individuals to take responsibility for their own health is not only a message from the Games ‘legacy’ but part of wider policy discourses. I would guess she was in early 50s so is part of that targeted demographic for health messages. And she’s keeping fit while also having a social life and involvement in her local community life.

Local places matter to local people. This is far from being apathetic. Yet it seems like they are damned if they do and damned if they don’t.

Blog by Kirsteen Paton

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Hope & Hardship in the East End: Some thoughts from the first project meeting

Around 30 people from different parts of the East End of Glasgow came along to our first meeting in Parkhead Library in late May 2014. Together with a number of others who could not attend but are keen to be active partners in this research project, we have already been struck by the feelings and voices that are being expressed about the impact of the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games on different areas in the East End and on the people who live therein. There are, understandably, strong opinions and views, and differences in outlook and perspective also and it was good that these different views where articulated at our first meeting. There was a clear sense of hope from those attending the meeting that East End will have a legacy, but on the other side it has had a real impact so far in disrupting people’s day to day lives.

There was a strong sense that despite all the talk about involving the local community in the Games, people were not being made to feel part of the event. Promises made by organisers and politicians in the past have either not been borne out in practice, or have been somewhat diluted. Beyond this, few could have predicted that in addition to the periodic disruption of water and electricity supplies, together with the demolition of the few shops that were remaining in the once more populated and busy Dalmarnock area, meaning that local amenities were now few and far between.

A strong sense of grievance was articulated at the meeting – and perhaps even of resentment. But these were couched more in terms of questions: why are local people being marginalised – almost ‘kept-away’ from the Games? As one participant put it:

“At the moment, we feel like the game organisers want to keep local people away from the people coming to see the games. With all the fences around the buildings”

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(Photo sent in from one of our particpants. These are the security barriers at the end of Sorn street at Springfield Road)

Dalmarnock will host the athletes’ village and adjacent Parkhead is the location for the opening ceremony at Celtic Park, sitting alongside the newly built velodrome and indoor games arena. But the ordinary people of Dalmarnock, Parkhead and the wider East End are being made to feel that while this will happen in their districts – they are not part of it. Most importantly: how will Glasgow look after the Games? At the end of the Games – what happens to these areas?

“It’s about renewing the community spirit of Glasgow. But not letting it disappear – it’s how we harness it”

Building a different sense of community on the back of such grievances and feelings of being excluded offers another vision of what might be possible in the East End. It was notable at the meeting that many of those attending argued strongly that there is much that is good taking place in the area – lots of positive stories and examples of people coming together to campaign for things and to celebrate different facets of life in this part of Glasgow. This is the East End that participants want visitors to see. We hope to capture much more of these throughout the project.

Gerry, Vikki and Kirsteen

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Road closures

The project has begun to gain momentum after a very successful meeting on the 29th May.  The discussions were interesting and wide-ranging.

One topic that came up again and again are the impact of road closures.  To start us off, here is a diary entry from Horace, to lives in Bridgeton, that captures the frustration that ongoing closures are having on residents:

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Just spent 17 minutes trying to find a way in to Dalmarnock. After following diversion signs twice because I thought I was stupid, I asked police who were in surveillance van, to be told ” I haven’t a clue ” but there’s cars in there so there must be a way.

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Asked guy with high visibility jacket and safety helmet ( no ID badge by the way) he directed me to a new slip road they have made for entry. I said to him but there’s no right turn signs there, he said ” don’t worry about that”

Unbelievably frustrating.

Horace*, from Bridgeton

*All names are pseudonyms to protect participants

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