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.
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