Thursday, 3 August 2017

The Barras. Calton. Trongate. Saltmarket. Murals. The Future Age.

                                              ALL PHOTOS CLICK FULL SCREEN.
I had no idea the Merchant City festival was on in Glasgow until a chance conversation with Alex revealed it had been going on for a week and the coming weekend was a last chance to catch it. As the weather over the last month and a half (i.e. the Scottish summer) has been woeful and unpredictable- as usual-with heavy showers almost every day, coupled with a winning blend of either sticky humidity or cold un-seasonal temperatures I had been looking for something sheltered and low level close at hand.
Alex was going with family so I phoned up Alan to see if he fancied it and he was keen.
Above is a mural in the Barras District by popular street artist Rogue One. Alan and I both agreed that we had never seen a bad street painting around Glasgow by this talented individual who has a growing collection of art murals scattered around the city.
It was supposed to be a wander around the Merchant City Festival, seen above, but when we got there, around mid-afternooon, we couldn't really see much in the way of entertainment. To our eyes not much was happening here although it was busy with visitors. A few free bands were playing in various venues but the main theme seemed to be geared around eating and drinking. Dozens of market stalls selling bespoke takeaways, upmarket burgers, assorted beverages,and the like with little in the way of actual street entertainment going on. This could be because of frequent heavy showers and everything had been moved undercover so maybe I am doing it a dis-service but we didn't see that much here to suit our tastes.
So we ended up in the nearby Barras District instead, a short walk away to the east. Since the early 1900s world famous covered markets have existed here. Warrens of narrow passageways await inside with more than a hint of Dickensian gloom and poverty lurking under the various roofs. It used to be the place to go in Glasgow for a cheap bargain but nowadays with increasing competition from pound shops, discount supermarkets, etc the place looks even more downmarket than I remembered it.
Having said that I did pick up a mobile phone here with camera and internet connection at a knock down price I'm really happy with so there are still bargains around.
It's also a good place for murals and just general interest in a Fagin like way. Although the covered markets have seen better days since their glory years the surrounding district of the Calton is slowly changing. Run down shops rub shoulders with more upmarket eateries and old abandoned buildings sit side by side with unusual new projects.
New apartment blocks. Gallowgate/ Calton district. The Calton is one of Glasgow's oldest and poorest districts, originally a heavily industrialized area of small factories, workers houses, cottage weaving sheds and places producing noxious smells that were best kept to the east of the old town where prevailing winds would carry them away: animal rendering and tanning works, slaughter houses etc....
It also has a heritage trail as many fine old buildings exist in the Calton. It's a bit of a schizophrenic place at the moment with some still rough streets tourists would feel really uncomfortable in yet it also has many elements of a past era and way of life fast disappearing elsewhere.
Interesting link here to its darker side.,_Glasgow
We popped into The Saracen's Head bar for a pint and a look around this traditional pub. Seemingly, tourists do come into this bar to take photos as it is one of the oldest pubs left in the city but then many leave without buying anything which doesn't do much to increase the income or pay the bills. Probably because gentrification and poverty side by side always make uneasy partners with each trying to change the other to its ways.
Stylish buildings in the Calton as many of the early Glasgow Tobacco Lords had grand mansions here.
Personally, I really enjoyed my tour of this district as Alan knows this area much better than me so it was a pleasant change to be guided around my own city by a non Glaswegian and it was also a nostalgia splurge as some of the places hereabouts I last visited with my Mum as a nipper getting dragged around by the hand.
Down a short lane off the Saltmarket was this memory booster. Not visited this fresh fish shop since my teenage years but it is still here. If my parents were in town they always visited this little lane to buy their fresh fish along with thousands of other Glasgow folk as this was the place to come before local district supermarkets took hold in other areas. With no fridge freezers in working class homes, just a cool larder and marble shelf, obtaining the freshest fish possible was essential in those days. Also folk had no option other than to come into the city to buy most items as outlying suburbs and estates had only small rows of local shops then and no large supermarkets or retail parks. Also woman had to shop almost every day as meat, fish etc didn't keep long so it was only with the introduction of fridge freezers to households that they could work full time. Advances in technology changed lifestyles profoundly overnight.
On a similar theme 30 years ago who would have thought everyone would be connected to a worldwide information source a click away or that everyone would be glued/ addicted to handheld gadgets that would take up most of their daily attention on pavements, buses and trains 24/7.
This is one of the older murals hand painted decades ago inside the Barras indoor lanes complex detailing the history of the place starting with the first stall holders who rented 'barrows' or carts- hence The Barrowlands, or Barras for short. Some of the stall holders here still sell goods outside but that is a chancy undertaking given Scotland's notoriously soggy climate. The reason why the blog is called Blueskyscotland in the first place is that it is a major achievement here to go eight years outdoors every weekend without getting soaked.
The women who started the Barras in 1921 hiring out carts to traders and some of the early raconteurs as folk used to come here for the clever patter as well with rival traders putting on a real show to attract customers- juggling numerous plates, banging pans together, demonstrating a variety of the latest products etc... Anyone of a certain age will remember the really busy times here but it is still entertaining now, mainly as so few of these traditional places are left.
Still in the same area is this small local park reclaimed from an unsightly patch of waste ground which was built for the Commonwealth Games to tart the place up a little presumably. This is a major improvement in what was an ugly corner so I was surprised to find this park is only temporary and could be used for housing in the future. Of all the areas in Glasgow the East End feels as if it has the least parks, mainly due to its low income population. Which makes this a real local asset I would think- a quiet space to sit and relax right in the heart of the city. I have no idea what it cost to transform it to this green oasis but £100,000 to £200,000 might be a fair guess. Maybe more.
As far as I can tell the idea of the park really exists to showcase this art installation pavement running through it highlighting all the bands who have played at the nearby Barrowlands Ballroom and Music Venue over the years.
Although I like the concept and idea of this pavement which must have looked stunningly vibrant when new, being a pavement many of the names have faded to the point of not being able to see them suggesting this was only ever meant as a temporary feature as the Commonwealth Games took place in 2014, just three years ago. Waste of public money or not? Only my opinion but I think if they keep it here it would really improve the entire district.... it makes it feel a whole new area with this sylvan rectangle when coupled with Glasgow Green. Encourages more tourists into the area I'd imagine as it looks a safe enticing place to invite people to explore who might not otherwise venture this far off the main shopping streets. Safe in daylight hours anyway :o)
We then visited the Trongate district, also nearby, and took in the various art galleries and shops here. This is a set of back streets below the trendy Merchant City area that I rarely visit but Alan has a background in art and sculpture going back decades so he knew this section really well.
An independent art gallery off the Trongate was our first stop. Luckily modern art was not featured on our visit but a black and white exhibition of photos of the remoter Scottish islands. Many professional photographers like black and white shots but I prefer colour myself. The pictures themselves were fine but I found myself thinking I could take just as good images myself for free rather than the prices asked- which were steep to my way of thinking. That's the problem with art photography nowadays when everyone has a camera on their phone, tablet or can access millions of great photos for free online.
What we were more keen on was the children's gallery. The art world can be very pretentious and clique ridden at times. It's often not how talented you are to get noticed but who you know, your background, if you fit a certain profile, and various other factors. The BBC and media are like that as well.  The recent scandal about how much presenters are paid at the BBC with men earning more than women is something of a sideshow compared to the real issue that it is a closed shop in many ways, similar to a whole range of well paying industries. It is a fact that working class people, no matter how capable, well spoken or highly educated will rarely find a position at the BBC or other entertainment media. There are a few exceptions but in the main it's the old adage
" One class to rule them all and in the darkness bind them."
 The same often goes for the arts, politics and the entertainments industry. There is an old series on You Tube called 'Survivors,' that's worth a watch to illustrate this point. For it's time its a good show, script, and worth a watch. After a virus is released in the UK most of the population have been wiped out. Funny thing is its only wiped out the lower classes by the looks of it and everyone on the show has a really posh accent and often a large mansion in the countryside to fall back into. Presumably because the BBC at that time only had posh actors available on their books to make it. The only person who isn't turns out to be a shifty murderer from the lower classes in the end... the same casual stereotyping they used to use routinely in TV dramas. in the 1970s 1980s 1990s...i.e. any time you see a Scot on TV then he's always a drunk, in a kilt, or angry. Not much has changed in 50 years since then and the table is still heavily slanted with all the money, power, any goodies and food sliding down into the arms of the elite.Maybe that's the norm though and the way it should be.
I'm not someone that has any axe to grind against rich people in general but it is so obvious in society at the moment that inequality hasn't changed a jot and probably never will despite attempts to alter the status quo. If anything it's got worse in the 2000s.
Smart meters and renewable energy are other examples of this tilted table effect. Smart meters have loads of faults from what I've read, spy on you, are not any better than the old type and in many cases are worse. The big companies make even bigger profits by getting rid of meter readers while we pay higher bills for the installation roll out to take place. Folk with big money to spare can save hundreds on their own energy bills by installing renewable energy devices but also get the poor to pay for their subsidy and solar panels in the form of higher charges for the rest of the population. That's smart alright.
Anyway, we both agreed we liked the children's gallery the most. Children are more honest in the main and paint or make things they see around them without any artifice or intellectual
pretensions. Although crude that's part of the charm and you don't usually need an art expert on hand to tell you what you are looking at or how you should feel about it. They were for sale. Average price £5. If I had any spare room in my house or tables without junk on them I would buy this type of art.

A pub mural in the Gallowgate.
Billy Connolly mural in the Barras. A recent three mural gable end tribute to one of Glasgow's famous sons.
By chance rather than design we also found this one near St Enoch's Square. In a pub near here (soft drinks for me, and I don't wear a kilt, eat much haggis, or play bagpipes either, thank you) we found two of the new breed of  jobs created in the city. One was a guy paid to open the pub door for us (sadly, we have arms so it seemed very unnecessary as I've always managed to get into pubs unaided before... though coming out again is an entirely different matter :o) and yet another lurked down in the toilets to hand out paper towels. This seemed to be his main, maybe only, task and folk were meant to tip him something for the service presumably. Never encountered this before so I've no idea how common this is in city centre pubs these days. Weird!

As is this. I watched three fascinating programmes recently. Codebreaker about Alan Turing. Mechanical Marvels about the mid 1700s early 1800s craze for elaborate lifelike toys and lastly Hyper Evolution: the rise of the robots.
All three opened my eyes to a brand new model of the universe and the future. The latest robots are very sophisticated and have advanced at an astonishing rate recently.
Here's two examples.

One of the reasons I'm inspired by modern open world computer games is not to play the games themselves but to try and understand the technology behind the graphic artwork which is getting ever closer to reality year on year. As you can see here robots are also getting far more advanced. They now have robot animals in every size; robot ants, robots that can run, jump, swim and fly. Are robots a new species altogether? Will they have rights to protect them? All sorts of ethical questions will arise in the future as people adapt to a world with them in it. Rather than the Terminator scenario of being a threat to humans they are already being used/exploited in the sex trade and I can also predict a time, not that far away, when many people will fall deeply in love with robots and even choose them as lifelong companions over humans, if they can afford them. Maybe that will solve the human population problem:o) Just as we can now create an artificial  landscape or entire universe using equations and numbers to built imaginary but realist looking worlds we may also have a simple recipe/equation for making people fall in love with machines. That would give them and us real problems perhaps. Just a thought. Interesting times we live in. Lets face it, humans have so many irritating character traits, flaws and faults: people in general are moving further apart from each other as a society yet still desire friendship and company. Imagine a companion that can have a wide range of different bespoke personalities to suit any taste, programmable interests and shared goals, no flaws, no bad habits,unless required, great in bed, and low maintenance, regarding nights out, food and time. People will fall in love with them.. (or hate and fear them with equal passion) and may even choose to save their cherished robot over a human life if pushed. Guaranteed. One of many ethical dilemmas we may face :)



Linda said...

Wonderful photos, and I really like the murals. I had no idea Scots in kilts were that angry. Thank you so much for sharing.

blueskyscotland said...

Hi Linda,
Reg, angry men in kilts. Only if depicted in TV soaps/dramas or in peak midge season in the Highlands. Other than that they are usually happy and sober going to weddings or entertaining overseas visitors who expect a tartan sporran splurge on the streets and castles coming to Scotland and would be disappointed otherwise.

Kay G. said...

Robots ain't got no soul!

Linda W. said...

Another wonderful tour of your city. I'm wishing for some rain and cool temps! We've had a beastly hot week here in Portland. We hit 105 F (40.5 C) today. ugh!

blueskyscotland said...

"For one thousand dollars we can build you a soul." Jewish clockwork guild. circa 1770. (Mechanical Marvels.)

blueskyscotland said...

Hi Linda W,
Yes it's roasting hot in the Med as well. 45c in parts of Italy right now.

Rosemary said...

They had an 'Upfest' Festival in Bristol last weekend where wall artists travelled from all over the world to paint in a particular area of the city - it looked spectacular when I saw the images on the local news - graffiti has certainly moved onwards and upwards from its humble origins!

Anonymous said...

As per robots, here's a link to Max Tegmark's new book that addresses exactly what you are saying. He's the popular brilliant but really nice guy 'multiverse universe' MIT professor, who is very much into AI these days, as well as the future of humanity. His facebook page is a decent place to add one's comments but even more so to read others who are in the field as well. Good discussions even for non-science degreed humans (like me). :) Here is a review of his new book: That said, love seeing anything about Scotland, I was directed here from Robert Craig's latest posting and glad I clicked on the link!

Carol said...

I wouldn't say solar PV is particularly for the rich - I'm considering getting it myself. However, the better renewables, i.e. more efficient, e.g. heat pumps and wind turbines, are way outside the budget of ordinary folk unfortunately.

With ref to the 24/7 plugged-in generation - the times they annoy me the most is when they take a window seat (either on public transport or in cafes etc.) thus denying you the view - and then play on their silly devices instead of looking out of the window which is what I would, and would like to, do!

blueskyscotland said...

Hi Rosemary,
It is getting really hard to find old style gang name graffiti these days. Growing up surrounded by daubed walls in the old Glasgow estates I do miss it occasionally :o)

blueskyscotland said...

Hi Anon,
I've looked at some of his videos online. I'm not anywhere near smart enough to grasp the full meaning and implications behind this branch of science but I do find it fascinating- especially as it seems to merge in with 3D printing, open world game creations at a mathematical level, including fractals, and recent advances in robot technology. Strange new ideas/theories about the world we live in and how we perceive it rather than the hard graft of serious number crunching is what inspires me most.
Funny I'm inspired now as it never happened once with Maths or Algebra at school- my worst and least favourite subject.

blueskyscotland said...

Hi Carol,
I always knew you were minted! Only proves my point...."Money goes to money." :o)

Had my first real failure on the streets, cars, signs etc comments entry last night. Just could not get in so gave up eventually but first time that's happened to me trying to post a reply.

Anonymous said...

Some great images of the street art. Reminds me a lot of Berlin where I've just been although I didn't get chance to visit the famous East Side Gallery with art on a remaining section of the wall

blueskyscotland said...

Cheers Mike,
I had a grand tour of Berlin around a decade ago and was amazed at the levels of graffiti in the back streets there- (even worse than Glasgow in the 1970s and 1980s) the large numbers of kebab houses and the 6:30am rush hour into work. ( far earlier than ours and longer)
An interesting city I enjoyed but fairly austere and sober atmosphere and architecture- understandable given its history.