One month in… Some thoughts from the Beyond Stigma project

It has been a very quick month and an excellent start to the Beyond Stigma project that is currently exploring the lives of people living and working in the East End of Glasgow. The research team have been overwhelmed by the support and interest that people have taken in the project.

One of the aims of the project has been to explore the everyday challenges that people have in their lives. These challenges have come in different forms within the diaries – from taking family members with dementia on holiday, having to use food banks to road closures stopping people getting to work. However, despite these challenges there have also been very positive experiences being discussed in the dairies such as receiving volunteer training and uniforms for the Commonwealth Games, to helping plan community events and attending mural openings.

What is striking is that these experiences are the complete opposite to outside perceptions of life in the East End of Glasgow. No diary participant has shown any connection to ideas such as the ‘Shettleston Man’ that personifies ‘Glasgow’s ills’. In an RTO meeting in Helenslea Community Centre, this idea of being judged and internalising negative discourses was discussed. Councillor’s George Redmond and Frank MacAveety were in attendance and noted that being from the East End, and then being seen as a success, could also lead to negative connotations and judgements from others. They noted that accepting these negative labels such as the ‘Shettleston Man’ had been a mistake.

The reality behind this area-based stigma is something completely different. Crazy Horse*, one of our participants who was also attending the meeting, emphasised that the family make-up of those living in the area is very far from outside negative assumptions. Efforts were made by her and her family to ‘get-on’ in life, and their children are not only successful but ‘brought-up right’. Peter*, another participant in attendance, went so far as to say these assumptions make him angry as someone who has dedicate a lot of time to his community. The result of which can lead to a ‘reverse snobbery’, where your actions emphasise the negative aspects of the area in order to take ownership of that discourse. All in the meeting agreed that these discourses have to be challenged and when possible rejected.

So these are some of the thoughts and discussions that have been taking place in the first month of the project, but watch this space as we enter July and the Games begin!

Blog by Vikki, project coordinator.

*This is a pseudonym

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