Kirstin Innes finds out about a new event aimed at making Glaswegians think politically about their city
The skyscraper-crammed stretch of city centre basking in the title Glasgow’s International Financial Services District is a strange place at the best of times. During the day, the tower blocks are full of call-centre workers; at night the street corners shelter sex workers, but very few city residents actually live there. To tie in with Simon Yuill’s current CCA exhibition, the excellent Fields, Factories and Workshops, which looks at the way the city’s communities organise themselves, the artist collective Strickland Distribution, of which Yuill is a member, are organising a ‘critical walk’ through the area this weekend.
‘It’s not just going to be a lecture, with me walking about and telling people what I think,’ explains Neil Gray, the filmmaker and writer who will be leading ‘Reading Landscape Politically’, and who recently created a similar event in and around the Merchant City, looking at that area’s historic links with the slave trade. ‘We want people to get involved and collaborate on the discussion, as well as expand some of the ideas in Simon’s exhibition out into a practical domain. The International Financial Services District, which runs from the Clyde to the M8, has had enormous amounts of money from the public realm pumped into it, and yet the public themselves get very little value, use, or even aesthetic interest out of it. Public subsidy is being pumped into an area that’s only used 9–5: there really isn’t anybody there. We want to question that privatisation of public space; the financialisation of the urban realm that seems to have occurred.’
The walk is not a protest, more just a first attempt to engage critically with the area; a variety of artists, academics and psychogeographers will be on hand to stimulate discussion as the walk wends south, past the old Victorian tobacco factory fronts still standing in the area, to the Clyde.
‘We’ll be crossing the river at one point,’ says Gray, ‘because the new bridge there is a really deliberate attempt to bridge between the investment on one side and the other. We hear this rhetoric in Glasgow’s civic life just now, people talking about ‘a return to the river’, but you still have that feeling when you walk along the Clyde that it’s almost a no-go zone in the evenings, and they actually stopped the funding for the River Festival recently: that area is being deliberately run down for profit just now, and it’s having a detrimental effect on conditions of life for the people who actually live there. There are places on the south bank where you can’t actually walk along the river because it’s gated, private land: all urban space that’s been negated after the decline of the shipyards.’
Gray, Yuill and Strickland Distribution hope to create regular events like this, getting Glaswegians to start feeling ownership over their urban landscape again.
‘We want to make sure that the political ramifications of how we explore the city are very much up front,’ Gray says. ‘We want to concentrate on that.’
Sat 21 Aug, 12.30–5pm. Meet outside the Radisson Hotel (corner of Argyle and Hope Streets). Free. For further information on The Strickland Distribution, see www.strickdistro.org