Regeneration X: Glasgow’s modern day east end needs housing and jobs, not trendy upmarket bars


Poet Victoria McNulty wonders what’s happening to Glasgow’s legendary east end

A BRA strap fell off a leather-limbed shoulder. He could go a little lower, or throw a few pork chops in for free. He hung from his serving counter and handed my gran a blue-striped polly bag, full of dead animal carcass. It was to be frozen, annihilated and served to her victims on a plate for the next fortnight. 

Joking aside, the Barras in Glasgow was integral to our family life: my grandad browsed antiques and vinyls through the brick a brac; our dogs were happily fed Markies from pet stalls; our halls were decked in questionable lace curtains purchased in the indoor market.

In later years, my mother and I would wander the same market every Christmas Eve, searching for traces of my grandparents in its brickwork. Tears would cascade down my nose watching Henrik Larsson interviewed following a defeat in Seville – that same nose had been volleyed multiple times in epic mosh pits on the Barrowland’s floor. I kissed my love on London Road. Carried piggy back, I begged him not to make his flight in the morning.

The great Barrowland Ballroom accommodates an increasing roster of ageing rebel bands. An area that once bustled presents a final death rattle.

But it’s a dirty old town, after all, and the Gallowgate has become increasingly bare, the pubs sparse and faces more forlorn. The great Barrowland Ballroom – once host to everyone from Oasis to the Rage Against the Machine – accommodates an increasing roster of ageing rebel bands. An area that once bustled presents a final death rattle.

Enter A’ Challtain – a fish restaurant situated in the centre of the Barras. Its name, to quote The List website, means ‘the hazel wood’. One could be forgiven for assuming that due to the apparent lack of hazel woods in the area, the moniker is a nod to the area backing onto restaurant, The Calton, an area that has hosted generations of working class and immigrant families. 

For talking sake, let’s call A’ Challtain a chippy. A chippy where a simple battered haddock will cost a patron twelve quid.  The latest edition to this pantomime is The Van Winkle. Opening in November, the pub promises an “impressive selection of bourbons” and a BBQ. 

In an area where the average life expectancy for a man is 54, his odds won’t be greatly increased by copious amounts of imported spirits and chargrilled red meat. But let’s be honest, the Van Winkle is not for these men. 

These men can be confined to the local pubs that one Facebook follower of Glasgow Living, without retribution, called “Fenian ****holes”. Never let it be said that Glaswegian patrons will stand in the way of progress.

Now, I’m not saying if bourbon is your thing you shouldn’t indulge. I’m not saying if you want to spend upwards of a tenner for a fish supper you shouldn’t be able to. But, as a community we must consider what is meant by regeneration.

Rather than an overpriced pub in an area already riven by alcoholism, or an artisan chip shop when many residents fall fowl to benefit sanctions, the east end of Glasgow needs something concrete to replace the iron forges, markets and fish stalls which once provided employment in the area. It needs housing to accommodate families who are being priced out by private landlords. 

Mind you, the Commonwealth Games did deliver us the Barrowlands Path I suppose – made from plastic, of course. On a dry day the karaoke from the pub Mackinnon’s can be heard blaring from the side door. 

So, for now, I’ll get you in Lynch’s before it is turned into a pulled pork joint. Mine’s is a whisky with no ‘e’ and certainly no ice, and I’ll eat when I get home. 

One thing’s for sure, my gran’s cooking has put me off charred meat for a lifetime, and I certainly won’t be caught spending twelve quid on a chippy.

You can find out more about Victoria McNulty’s poetry here on her Facebook page.

Picture courtesy of Adam V Chesire

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