Dialectograms

Nothing is Lost was, I think, a very personal matter for all three of us who worked on it. For me it meant going back to the work I had done on my own community, Glasgow’s travelling showpeople. ‘We’ form the largest minority group in the schools of Shettleston and Carntyne, and before the new housing that came to Dalmarnock, its largest group of residents. Yet this community – one that has been in Dalmarnock for forty years, and associated with the wider East End for nearly two hundred – has rarely been discussed, despite being directly in the path of Clyde Gateway’s redevelopments. As Alex James Colquhoun, the former Chair of the Showman’s Guild (based just over the river at Cambuslang) noted, not one member of the community made it into Commonwealth City the BBC Scotland documentary on the changes taking place in the Dalmarnock area. Not even the aerial shots that swept over Springfield Road, Baltic or Mordaunt Street or Dalmarnock Road itself captured a single one of the twenty or so yards that line Swanston Street, just a few metres away from all of these thoroughfares.

The work we did in Dalmarnock and on the valleys of the Cuningar Loop offered a degree of redress to this. So you will find a lot of me in A Showman’s Yard in the East End, the first of the two dialectogram reproductions folded into the booklet. The drawing was made amid the uncertainty of exactly how many such sites would be lost – and major doubt as to whether alternative land could be found. It represents in a way, the anticipation – and fear – of what the Games would bring to the East End just as the second of them, Baltic Street Adventure Playground, made by architectural outfit Assemble engages with one of the more concrete and uplifting gifts from the Games.

All of these drawings represent distance travelled in settings familiar, unfamiliar and entirely new. They came from places I often believed I knew better than I did – Dalmarnock for instance, was a place I largely knew as the bit beyond the gates of the Showman’s Yards where I visited cousins and aunties. The Barras is a big part of how I imagine Glasgow, but I had never gone into its back offices, nor had I sifted through the debris of neighbouring Schipka Pass (now colonised by the Barrowland Brand). Going into the Barrowland Ballroom in its off-hours, free of the sweat and noise of a gig, revealed just how beautiful a place it is – an authentic East End architectural gem. I drew whatever I could, but never quite fast enough to capture everything that was going on around me.

So what then, did the Games bring to the East End? A degree of examination and scrutiny of the city’s true historical centre, its frayed edges, the backdrop to its most shameful statistics of poverty and conflict, a part of Glasgow with a deep-seated and firmly held distrust of its city fathers (and a long list of grievances to support it) did make its way past the boosterism and aggressive myth-making of the organisers. We came to it replete with our own conflicts and contradictions – Glasgow Life who supported our work being of course, a major player in the organisation of the main event.

As the baton arrived in the city in July 2014, under the veneer of John Barrowman, Usain Bolt and Tunnock’s Teacakes these complexities were stirring, issues forced out into the open. The Games had certainly brought re-development and investment, some of it very good indeed, much of it arrested, or in limbo. Glasgow opened itself up, the volunteers smiled, and the security guards operated the checkpoints in the vast labyrinths of swathes of security fences that carved up the East End. Money flooded into the city, but many local businesses complained of being priced out of this briefly-flourishing market. There is no single story of Glasgow 2014. There were many and, even a year on, they continue to unfold. You could say that’s ‘legacy’ all over; big bangs and long aftermaths.

Mitch Miller