Friday, 12 February 2010

The Exotic East End of Glasgow

The East End of Glasgow has an unenviable reputation. A couple of recent Westminster by-elections have casued metropolitan commentators to spill much ink caricaturing the heavy smoking, heavy drinking, pie eating and drug taking 'Shettleston Man', mythical denizen of the East End of Glasgow, who at 63 (59 in some areas) has the lowest average life expectancy in Britain.

With all the negative press, you'd be forgiven for thinking that the whole East End is a giant no-go zone. But the area is huge, a third of Glasgow, and there are plenty of nice spots. Take a look round the East End yourself.

Handsome tenements that would not look out of place in the West End and an Art Nouveau church:

a Tobacco Lord's temple:

and of course, the earliest reason for Glasgow's existence, the cathedral with its associated necropolis:

A part of the East End's problem (and it is the same with the South Side), is that it is separated from the centre of Glasgow by a mile of no-mans-land, of wasteground, warehouses and low windowless pubs. Nobody would think of walking to either the East End or the South Side for pleasure, whereas the West End is still connected to the centre by busy residential streets, uninterrupted by gap sites. People who live in the West End (affectionately called 'Wendies') have a fear of going south of the Clyde or east of High St. Both areas are well off their mental map, and these blanks are filled not with dragons, but a mental image of Shettleston Man, shooting up in a high rise.

It is nonsense to think of all the East End like this. But look carefully at a map of Glasgow from the 1960s, compare it with today's map, and the justification for the Wendies prejudice becomes clear. Large parts of the city south and east of the Clyde have become wasteground, with former factories and housing knocked down. The West End, in comparison, has continued to grow, with new flats along the Clyde near the SECC.

Glasgow has become Wendified, and Shettleston Man has had to look (or live) further afield for employment.


PurestGreen said...

I always find I feel intimidated whenever I visit Glasgow. This has helped me understand it better- thanks.

Robert Craig said...

It has to be said, not all of the East End is as nice as the area around Dennistoun. There are some grim areas still. And not everyone in the West End would appreciate being called a Wendy.

David Stewart said...

Be very careful in the East End, I'm sitting here and literally can't think of anyone I'd recommend someone to visit. The majority, if not all, of the areas fill up in the evenings with knife-carrying teenagers drunk and devoid of rationality.

The pictures here are of Townhead, west of Dennistoun, this is a historic area with very few residential buildings or clubs. It's practically the City City Centre.

Areas such as Easterhouse, Dalmarknock, and Ruchazie are't even safe to walk through during the day. It saddens to me to say that I would not advice tourists in Glasgow to visit the East End it all. Anyone attracted by the areas rough reputation will very soon find the novelty wearing off an altogether more dangerous reality setting in.