Plans are afoot to “rebrand” the “closure-threatened” Barras Market as a “specialist destination”; with the Barrowlands music venue as the “trump card” in City Council plans to ‘regenerate’ the area. In the plans, the Barras cafes, stalls and pubs would be marketed together with the Barrowlands venue in a “Camden-style regeneration package”.
Councillors say that the moves could boost visitor numbers, and contribute to the expansion of the ‘Merchant City’ into the East End. Councillor Ryan – who has already put the boot into Paddy’s Market – has said that if the Barras moved away from it’s “seedy reputation” and became a “quality market”, it could be used as a “good pull for tourists”.
But we’ve heard all this before haven’t we? The City Council – with the unstinting support of the Glasgow press – are intent on stigmatising the area in order to justify property development and gentrification (the removal of poorer communities for higher rent and rate paying incomers). Running an area down brings land and property values down so that developers can buy cheap and make a tidy profit.
When Councillor Ryan talks of the Barras Market’s so-called “seedy reputation”, he is only doing the same hatchet job he did on Paddy’s Market with the despicable Councillor Matheson. Paddy’s Market was shut down to make way for gentrification and the ‘arts-led property strategy’ in the ‘Merchant City’.
Ryan said: “What we want is to create a mini-Camden Market in Glasgow city centre. We see this as a tourist destination, an arts and crafts market and a cultural venue… we will not be dragged down by a blight which detracts from our efforts to regenerate the city…Paddy’s Market does not fit with that ambition”. Meanwhile, Matheson infamously called the market a “crime-ridden midden”, and was a key force in it’s closure.
Snobbery and disdain for Glasgow’s poorer citizens was expressed most brutally by Ryan: “It is the death-knell for the anti-social element. We want to move all that out. We want to up the bar of what we expect of a market right in the heart of the city. We want to bring in a better class of retail there”.
An Evening Times editorial recently warned Barras traders that if they don’t “clean up things” at the Market, it might “go the same way as Paddy’s”. By stigmatising the Market as “criminal” and “seedy”, the intention of the City Council is the same as it was at Paddy’s Market – to get rid of the working-class from the city centre, extend the middle-class enclave of the branded “Merchant City”, sterilise the city centre for tourists and shopping, and help subsidise the property market for developers by making the area pleasant for affluent house buyers.
Divide and rule is the oldest trick in the book. In a city with 40% below the poverty line, people need cheap goods and a place to socialise and chat. The Barras is one of the few public places where working-class people still gather in the city centre. The problem is not the people who are forced to bend the rules to make a living, but the Councillors who have flogged the city centre for property development. No one is saying the Barras doesn’t need change, but Camden is an expensive yuppie market for tourists – change must come from the people who live and work in the Barras area, not from above.