Unemployment. Rising prices
Never bothered me before.
Now, struggling for subsistence
I slowly realised my wasted years
steeped In ignorance" 1
A few lines from John McGarrigle express with painful simplicity the feelings of despondency and disappointment, the feeling of a missed opportunity due to circumstances out with your control; as a kid dreaming of all the things life could bring and the things you could be, only to slowly realise that this house, this scheme, this day-to-day 'coping' might be all that you will have. Glasgow was also a city of great promise, but seems to have missed the boat according to many subject to the hype surrounding its role as Culture City 1990. The relocation of a large part of Glasgow's working class to sprawling big estates on the outskirts of the city from places like the Gorbals and Maryhill must be one of the biggest mistakes post-war municipal socialism has ever undertaken, if it wasn't all carefully planned with the aim of isolating people, dividing them and grinding them down through long-term unemployment and environmental sterility. The organisation and spatial segregation of the environment is one means through which modem society structures oppression to further alienate and atomise human subjects. It would have been difficult to foresee the alienating effects that such social segregation has eventually but quickly brought, and now, the schemes have been abandoned by the Labour Party, abandoned by the trade unions, ignored by the city fathers, excluded from the city's cultural festival, and the people themselves have lost any ability to occasionally say 'no, not his time'.The Specials If Ghost Town" is a fitting, theme tune and it said more than the lyrics expressed. More recently, Pat Kane suggested a new motto for the city; "From workshop of the world to craftshop for a year" . (2) This Is supposed to be ironic.
"Two men looked out from their prison bars. One saw mud and the other saw stars " says the closing statement to "Mud and Stars" a video made by Drumchapel based group De-Classed Elements. II expresses the polarisation In Glasgow,a city of contrasts, where grinding poverty exists side-by-side with plush city centre developments: " ...a city polarised between the haves and the have-nots, between those struggling to exist on next to nothing , those living with the realities of Thatcher's Britain, those with nothing to lose - dressed up to Impress everyone but those who live there."
from 'Mud and Stars' video, De-Classed Elements.
The city planners have ignored the outer areas for developments inside the centre, or what is now called the Merchant City, within a policy of attracting tourists to the city which has been fiercely promoted by the District Council since 1985. Class divisions will come as no surprise, but it is the rhetoric that accompanies this about a new renaissance and a city reborn, not rediscovered, but re-modelled in a mutant shape dictated to by the ethos of Capitol and the commodity. It is understandable that a bitterness has been created among Glaswegians who see all this as a PR exercise and as the foisting of an artificial culture upon them. In some cases, however, bitterness is not sell-defeating but empowering, and more working class voices are speaking out and various projects are becoming visible, the publications of Clydeside Press (3) and the videos of De-Classed Elements being parts of it.
De-Classed Elements emerged a few years ago within a community centre in Drumchapel, which is funded by Urban Aid. Within that an Employment Project was started with the aim of giving people 'training' ('keeping them off the streets'),but rather than spend the money on woodworking or bead classes, they decided to buy video equipment and set up a print workshop in order to facilitate the expression, anger and fears of locals who would make use of it (the video equipment comprises of Lo-Band Kit 2 machine Umatic editor with TBC). De-Classed Elements was made up 01 politically minded individuals, of anarchist far left inclination and it was through discussions they had in the centre that the video group was built up and from which the ideas for "Drumchapel - the Frustration Game" were formulated. It was from that political base and through discussions that the script was written by John Calder, a resource worker, at the centre and main executor of the project. They are in all respects, however, independent producers and the videos receive no funding. "Drumchapel - The Frustration Game" was made in 1987 -88 and it was a response to the ineffectuality of Projects such as the Drumchapell initiative, set up to ' revitalise the scheme', with little-to-no-effect and " was also an attempt to confront how people were becoming de-classed in such places, with no representation (and with no desire of having any). It exposes Drumchapel as a 'testament to failure', where the locals are brutalised by poverty and unemployment which is supposed to be disguised by a multitude of projects and layers of bureaucracy manifesting themselves in the social work department housing, education, business initiatives, community workers; all working to conceal the obvious - that nothing is going to change under present circumstances, except go further down. "Mud and Stars" is the more recent video and continues in a similar polemical manner to .....Frustration Game" and is an attempt to take a look at the realities of Culture City 'from a working class perspective'. The critique is unrelenting:
" With the death of Glasgow's industrial working class we are now In an age of averageness, the day of the middle classes....
It wouldn't be easy to dismiss such vehemence since it is executed so effectively on video, which despite having no clever structural tricks or anything which might differentiate - in the way that it is made are in no uncertain terms strong political videos, and their capacity to engage you with every word, every sordid image never falters - you have not already left the screening throwing up your hands in horror at such desecration of Glasgow's new image. "Frustration Game" begins with tracking shots of Drumchapel to give way to static shots with unobtrusive pans and zooms of various scenes of the scheme, which despite their repetitiveness, never become boring. The sound reproduction is also of primary importance an atmospheric backdrop to the high rise flats and boarded up houses with a narrative read by Jean Calder which never falters In its flow. Scornful accusation is directed at the politics of reform of community groups and local authorities just as much as it is directed at the locals' resignation in the face of humiliation. "Mud and Stars" is also structurally similar - beginning with a slow track from a boat on the Clyde at the derelict splendour of shipyard cranes taking us into a tour of the gloss of Culture City - parks and art galleries, opera and theatre - "a spectacle for the few" . It uses some poetry read by the authors, the aforementioned McGarrigle amongst them, but Linda Henderson's "Sideshow" presents a perfect metaphor for Glasgow. ''They are dressing up the beggar for
covering her sores and scars with bright
scrubbing her face and hands
and plastering on make-up
de-lousing her hair
pleating It with ribbons.
Put the beggar on display now.
For the people who count In the real
the world of Garden Festivals and
The visitors will come from far and wide
to gawp at the beggar In her finery.
But don't strip her too soon
we don't want th em to see the true
The true Glasgow isn't a figment of the imagination, it's real and the facts are there for all to see. Peter Hetherington, (4) in writing an article on the publication of the "Workers City" book laid out the facts that of the 170,000 council houses in a city said to contain the largest public stock in western Europe, 40,000 are 'at risk' through lack of maintenance while another 62,400 need urgent treatment for dampness. Overall, one third of the city's houses - 97,400 - are classed as 'below tolerable standards' The true Glasgow with over 20% unemployed overall. It Is some surprise then to see culture promoted as the new industry,which means tourism - the arts are seen as an aid to business development, of boosting the confidence of the business community, of increasing property value, and improving the qualify of life for a few in the city centre. Business might claim that the arts have helped to offset the decline in the manufacturing base of ' the city, but more realistic interpretations might say it has acted as a distraction to the realities of the present problems. According to John Calder culture, the arts,writing, etc. have replaced real political' struggle because the political apparatus does not exist to focus dissent
A few years ago, says Calder, there were many active political groups in Drumchapel - Communist Party, Labour Party, Militant, SNP, even CND, all staging well-attended meetings from 20 to 40 people which suggests that some Questions were being asked, that some resistance was there, but now, says Calder, there's no activism, no fightback, its acceptance of everything...of all the wee things that are supposed to be wee rocks that people are hanging over the Residents Association, the Community Council. I suppose these are things that people can try and resist things with, or improve their conditions,but they don't The people who join them are all the respectable dross who aren't going to fight back, who are content to have tea and biscuits with the factor. They are the community worthies. Calder is one of the people who, despite having the political foresight, did not leave Drumchapel like some other activists, but widespread de-politicisation hasn't silenced him or the voices that speak through De-Classed Elements videos. There's no room for romantic workerist notions either:
''The scheme Is becoming more and more lumpenised. I've lived here since 1953 and I remember It being working Class.....people treated you with a little bit of respect. Not any longer, every street Is full of dope and drink and people getting bettered."
They're not in the business of making things comfortable for people, they are not a part of the mechanism of social control that many bureaucratic community organisations are whilst using the rhetoric of social liberation, and not surprisingly, their unwillingness to make any concessions to the authorities has inevitably ostracised them.
A previous video De-Classed Elements made on behalf of the Scottish Homes Legislation concerning the privatisation of District Council property was banned from ever being shown in any Regional Council property (community centres, etc.) because, the authorities claimed they couldn't show an anti-poll tax poster (which was behind one of the interviewees), he couldn't refer to the Tories as the Tories and couldn't talk about poverty or refer to "democracy Thatcher style", so the video was never shown.
They tried to get money from the council to make a broadcast programme to coincide with 1990 on the subject of all the different communities in Glasgow, ethnic, Irish, etc but they refused the offer of a BBC executive producer who would have acted as a gag on the politics of it Urban Aid attempted to close them down three years ago after their evaluation because of misappropriation of funds - £20 given to Militant to help 2 unemployed young people to go to Manchester. This accusation was not substantiated when it was Investigated so they were reprieved, but Calder doubts if they will slip through this time (next September) nor do they intend to. The extent of their ostarcisation is displayed in the fact that they do not exist as a resource on the Social Work Dept data bank, a deliberate attempt, it is claimed, to prevent people from going to them. Says Calder; "we exist In Drumchapel In a vacuum we don't get on with the Drumchapel Initiative , the Social Work Department , the Housing Department. .. we don't participate In Youth Training Scheme, MSC or any other government scheme · except the one that gives us the money. We don't make any concrete Inroads Into the system".
Such a resilient position displays a political nerve rarely expressed by those working in the community sector, or by those unwilling to take a stand against the poll tax when they have nothing to lose except a 'minor' confrontation with the forces of authority in the form of letters. Such a radical conclusion couldn't fail to encompass a total critique of his own job;
"Community work doesn't work because Its all about levels of control It's their money and their rules and their games and you can 't play their game because you can't win It. We called the video " Drumchapel" - The Frustration Game" - It was originally going to be based on a game of monopoly which means you just go round and round and round, you never get to the end, you get nowhere, you finally expire In a heap of dashed hopes and dreams".
You have to be positive about being negative, but these Viewpoints can't really or reasonably be contested - and that is the pertinence of the video tapes. The video workshop will probably fold as those members move on to other things, back to politics, or to a different job,or may be out of Drumchapel if they're lucky. It takes more than an outcry of injustice to fight against present mystifications. These videos were not made solely against the Culture City label - they are for something, a fight for enrichment, fulfilment, compassion, honesty, understanding of your neighbours, some humanitarian justice, to destroy injustices, for some control over the mechanisms of life. It is those that will claim that these videos and this group are spouting the politics of failure, the bitterness of exclusion, that will hypothesise passivity and will mystify the lies of ideology. And it is them that have the most illusions about the disenfranchised of contemporary society due to their complete ignorance about the realities of the conditions imposed upon the new lumpenised proletariat, about the price they have to pay, every moment of their lives for the production of all that.
Calum Macintyre Notes 1 'Old Young Man' by John McGarrigle from his book of poetry "Glasgow's McGarrigle", Fat Cat Publication, 37 High Street. Glasgow. 2. From ''The cur' magazine, sometime early '89. 3. Notably "Workers City" anthology ed. by Farquar Mclay. Many of the ideas in "Mud and Stars" parallel that of the aforementioned book, though both were unconnected at the time. 4. The Guardian, 27 July 1988.
This is one of the questions that the newly established Edinburgh Old Town Development Trust , will be asking at its first public meeting this Thursday 26th November at Augustine United Church, George IV Bridge from 7.30pm - 9.30pm.
Catriona Grant a local resident and director of the trust, said today "Last week in Venice the last remaining long term residents held a mock funeral to dramatise the flight of residents from their city's heart. We may be holding one here soon, if we do not take action now. Like the Venetians we need affordable and also non HMO sized family housing, which encourages people, especially families, to stay or move into the area. Like Venice, prices are steep in the historic centre, and many landlords demand much more money, by advertising over the Internet to short stay visitors than with long-term rentals to residents."
She added "We however as residents then have to live with the consequence of these which are often large hen and stag parties. We have become unpaid concierges and are disturbed at all hours, it is only because of a loophole in the law that they are turning the Old Town into one big unregulated hotel. There are health and safety issues that no one has addressed yet, as well as the obvious almost daily loss of long term inhabitants, with the knock on effect of losing local shops and perhaps even the last remaining school, along with other vital community facilities which ensure a living neighbourhood."
Sean Bradley, a director of the trust and Chair of the Grassmarket Residents' Association said today
"A community's greatest asset is its residents. The Edinburgh Old Town Development Trust is an historic opportunity for the people of the Old Town to shape its future for the benefit of all - that means improving opportunities and the quality of life for everyone"
Last year's community research, The Canongate Project , showed that more support and facilities are needed for the residential population if a ‘living city’ is to be maintained in the Old Town. The research also highlighted the need for affordable housing, family sized homes, a better mix of local shops, community facilities, play space, public toilets, safe and usable green public space, along with residents having a say in future developments in the Old Town.
The meeting is to include discussion on the trusts possible projects and Ian Cooke, Director of The Development Trusts Association Scotland will give an introduction to the fast growing network of development trusts across Scotland, and highlight the real differences they are making to the communities in which they are based.
Catriona ends “So we are urging those who live in the area and outwith to come along and become a member of the trust. Help shape the future projects and the role the trust can play in an area, which is becoming increasingly dominated by tourism and the night-time economy often at the expense of those who call it home”
***Notes for Editors***
Contact Catriona Grant 07717204426
Meeting Details -
The Public Meeting of The newly formed Edinburgh Old Town Development Trust which also covers the Dumbiedykes area is on
Thursday 26th November `09 at Augustine United Church at 41 George IV Bridge EH1 1EL 7.30pm-9.30pm
The Development Trust Association Scotland http:/
Party Flats Edinburgh http:/
The Canongate Project http:/
|Andy Wightman - Who owns Scotland|
|Common Good Links|
|Dont back the bid! (Commonwealth games)|
|Save our old town (Edinburgh)|
|Games Monitor (Olympic)|
|Local People Leading|
|Blogs - Housing Community - camnpaigns|
|International Association for the Study of the Commons|
|Digital Library of the Commons|
|International Institute for Environment and Development|
The Reshuffle has been held at the Pearce Institute every January for the last three years. The organisation of this event has been shared mainly by City Strolls, The Radical Independent Bookfair and support groups.
What the Reshuffle offers is a loose format in which groups, individuals, community projects and the general public can interact and see what is going on in their patch - As well as highlighting what is going on elsewhere, in determining community participation.
We are open to ideas from a wide variety of sources. Our criterion is based on - Is this useful - enjoyable - enlightening - and does it point towards helping to strengthen a working-class base for positive social change.
We are experiencing in our cities and villages the erosion of our social base. That is the platform of community that supports and strengthens the confidence of ordinary people to do and act for themselves.
There are many reasons for this de-activation of communities confidence some will be highlighted at Reshuffle events. But an important one is how we entertain and interact with each other. How parents, children, friends and neighbours respond collectively to the multi and sometimes complex situations that they find themselves in.
The Reshuffle notion is, that the answers and skills to resolve most of the communities needs, desires and problems, lies within the community itself. “We only need to ‘reshuffle’ our priorities to learn where the answers lie”. The Reshuffles is there to introduce, exchange and encourage the use of as many tools as possible to help in this process.
Pollok Estate was given to the people in 1939,
Colin Macleod, Pollok Free State
'Given To The People' is a film telling the story of the Pollok Free State. The Free State was initiated by the actions of local resident, Colin Macleod, who began a tree top protest against the building of the M77 motorway through Pollok Park in the early 1990s. Over several years this grew into a series of camps across Pollok. It sought not only to block an unwanted motorway cutting through one of Europe's largest inner city public commons, land that had been gifted to the people of Glasgow, but also raised issues over the rights of local people to determine the use and development of public space - rights that many felt were being denied.
Whilst the Free State was unable to stop the motorway it nevertheless succeeded in giving the people of Glasgow something far more powerful: demonstrating the ability of ordinary individuals to come together in common cause, take responsibility for their surroundings, and realise their own initiatives for transforming them. One of these was the creation of the GalGael, a locally run boatyard in Govan which has been widely recognised as one of the most successful community projects in Scotland.
Out of the chaos of the scheme an order was born - in the housing schemes people were disempowered, there was no responsibility ... in the Free State people re-learned how to take responsibility and re-learned how to articulate issues that mattered to them.
The story of the Free State is presented through a film combining original video footage from the camps, interviews with some of the many people involved, and specially composed music by the Glasgow band Foxface.
On Sunday 20th April there will be a special discussion following the film, looking at the legacy of the Free State and how that relates to issues of public space and the environment in Glasgow today.
Now that public space in Glasgow is once again under threat the story of the Pollok Free State is as important today as it was ten years ago.
'Given To The People' is a film by Simon Yuill with music by Foxface, 2008.
Special thanks to:
Presented as part of the Glasgow International Festival 2008.
'Given To The People' is distributed under the terms of the The Common Good Public License.
Conclusions: How We Organise - There is not enough being done to break down the barriers that stop people participating. While the "activist" is to busy and has no time for whatever reasons - there is a whole community out
there looking in. What they are looking at (generally) is something they do
not feel part of - something out-with their experience - or more troubles
to add to the ones they already have. If we are to get more people involved
(an imperative if we want things to change) we need to start using our
imagination and the type of tools that do not create more alienation - but
power and understanding for those who need it most.
The event attracted some new people interested in what is going on around them. The Common Good day event, also set out some of the benefits we could gain by more communication through our various groups and activities. A few highlights of the events and updates, follows.
Shopping ( Media day)
I worked with young folk during the week with the theme of shopping. We went for walks around town and the shops, took some pictures, wrote some essays and graphics on shopping and had discussions a the Electron talking about different aspects such as Needs, wants, branding, values, symbols, choice, propaganda (advertising) and the credit crunch
City Strolling was keeping everybody fit (Group from Adelphi centre) as we walked to Richmond Park under the guidance of someone who once lived near there. Noticing a big part of the park has been given over to a private housing development. Unbelievable that our young folk need to rely on a memory from someone for such vast areas of our city. Here any historical reference, and public institutions, has been obliterated - Our young folk are losing fast something they do not even know that they own as the common good fast becomes just another memory.
Common good day
CG day attracted a good diverse bunch of folk involved in various community projects and issues. We had Wyndford parents + waen, a group of artists doing a project in the Wyndford, (GogetGlasgow) Save Pollok Park, North Kelvin Meadow, New Social Art School, ASAP Scotland*, Burgh Angel news and others. Very interesting day. We agreed to do more.
Common Good Grant application
Below is a link to a grant form issued by a citizen of this city. On it is a brief description of the "Common Good" and an application form to apply for a common good grant. Remember the council only use the Common Good fund of Glasgow to fund junkets, mobile phone bills and fancy receptions - and who knows what else. Why cant it be used to fund a street party or celebration in your area?
Application form - or design your own for your town or village.
Go on try it.
I came across Stephen Koepplinger (After School Activities Scotland) in the Wyndford estate as he led a team in stripping of the overgrown top-soil from a red blaze pitch behind the schools that were closed down and are now being demolished. Steve is working with folk from the Wyndford who are creating their own regeneration.
If you want to help at the pitch. Every Saturday from 10 at the Wyndford pitch. Bring a ball a few of your friends and a few snacks. Video -- Website
Starting to organise for the January Reshuffle. If your group, yourself or anyone you may feel would be interested please let me know. Organising the Reshuffle is a lot of work mostly done by myself - so any kind of help is welcome. See here for last years program
Date for this years event will be 30 January - plenty time for people to organise, events stalls, discussions. 09 video
Common Good News
Hoping to start to put together at the beginning of the year a Common Good newspaper, for distribution nationwide - A kind of common Good awareness publication - setting out historical details of the CG, details of recent events, victories, and the CG as a tool for organising and enlivening our communities. This publication could also act as a precursor to a national Common Good Day, somewhere, sometime in 2010. (Reshuffle discussion?) Common Good for beginners
The Bridge network will endeavour to organise the connecting up of groups and folk connected with community organising everywhere. Feel free to join - create groups and tell us your news, views and events
Connecting communities everywhere