- Kirstin Innes
- 17 August 2011
Undercover activities, city secrets and grassroots organisations
Parks, gardens and tours
So, you think you'd like to get to know the city a little better? Glasgow City Council's website offers a number of downloadable heritage trail guide packs. We particularly recommend following the Bridgeton Tour, which takes in the area to the East End around Glasgow Green, the People's Palace and the former Templeton's Carpet Factory, and as such is steeped in the city's industrial history, with some utterly gorgeous architecture to find out more about. Also on the council website there's info on everything from the history behind each of the Clyde bridges to a properly guided tour of the Necropolis.
If you prefer to live on the edgier side, get into graffiti. We mean legally, of course. The city-wide Rudimentary Perfection project, organised by street art-friendly gallery Recoat, is an excellent way not only to discover parts of the city you might not know, but also to brush up on the burgeoning Graffuturism movement. Rudimentary Perfection is the first exhibition of Graffuturism in the UK, bringing ten international artists to the city to paint large-scale outdoor murals. A Google map of the locations (ranging from Woodside, through Nelson Mandela Place and all the way to Govanhill) is available.
Once you've got yourself a taste for outdoor art, wander out to Bellahouston Park, which cleverly manages to combine two of Glasgow's most contradictory passions. It's close enough to Ibrox to soak up a fair few blue-shirted fans on match days, but it also hides House for an Art Lover, preserved as a shrine to Charles Rennie Mackintosh, in its grounds. House for an Art Lover's gardens are what really set Bellahouston apart, though: the Art Park, which opened in 2000, is a little-known, ever-evolving collection of outdoor sculpture. Essentially, it's an adventure playground designed by visual artists (in collaboration with local school children).
If you want to go even wilder, off beaten tracks where tourists don't dare, the tangle of forums at Urban Glasgow is always worth dipping into for unusual and exciting locations.
Secret societies and under-the-radar organisations
Perhaps you've decided it's time to make a difference, and you'd like to connect with some like-minded free-thinkers. Glasgow Open School is a completely non-hierarchical group dedicated to the sharing of knowledge and freedom of information. They run seminars, workshops, performances and parties, usually from a shared house in West Princes Street, but the best way to catch up with them is to have a look at their free-edit website.
Glasgow Occupied, based at the Free Hetherington in Glasgow University, and now the longest-running student occupation in UK history, are currently running debates, summer schools and occasional live literature events featuring the likes of writers Louise Welsh and Zoe Strachan in support of the Free Hetherington's aims. See their Facebook group for the most up-to-date info.
Speaking of authors, if you are one, and you're trying to make connections in what can be a rather lonely industry, you should pop into regular writer's networking club, Weegie Wednesday, held at the Universal (57–59 Sauchiehall Lane) on the third Wednesday of every month. It's been going since 2006, is run by a dedicated steering group of wordsmiths, and offers everything from talks on e-publishing to advice groups. The next event is on Wednesday 17 August.
Believe it or not, that apparent oxymoron social gardening is on the rise all over the city. Interested parties should connect with SAGE (Sow and Grow Everywhere), whose cleverly-designed mobile allotments (created in conjunction with environmental arts organisation NVA) can be seen all over town and can grow everything from courgettes to small trees in constricted spaces.
And yes, we said 'social': SAGE are particularly involved in the annual Glasgow Harvest, a great city-wide festival of home-grown nosh, food sharing, and workshops, happening throughout September and October. If you've got green-fingers, but no space to grow anything, Glasgow Guerrilla Gardening organise regular meet-ups to bring blooming, bursting life back to disused or dilapidated sites all over the city. This fertile (sorry), friendly environment created Kabloom Seedboms, now beloved of Gwyneth 'Goop' Paltrow amongst others.
Prefer to do your crafting indoors? Make It Glasgow, which opened in September last year, is part-café, part-handi-bod's haven. You can rent sewing machines by the hour, take part in workshops in everything from felting to making items of clothing, or just get your needles out and enjoy communal crafting.
In recent years, temporary fashion events and fairs have become de rigour for Glasgow's most stylish. Two – fairly different, but no less exciting – gatherings of chic really stand out: Granny Would Be Proud, a twice-monthly market on the upper level of studenty hangout Hillhead Bookclub (17 Vinicombe St, not an actual book club) with a decidedly retro outlook, attracts the younger West End crowd and sells excellent vintage homewares and clothes (next events Sun 21 Aug & 18 Sep).
Bold Souls is much more focused on buying direct from Glasgow's contemporary designers, and given that it's been popping up around the hippest bars and venues in the city centre for a year now, tends to attract a less twee crowd of fashion insiders: stylists, photographers, writers and muses. They'll be celebrating their first birthday at the Arches on Sat 6 Aug.
Cookschools and street stalls
As our own Eating & Drinking Guide testifies, Glasgow's restaurant scene is pretty darn strong just now. But what if you just want to play with your food – or at least learn to cook it? Tapa Organic, with its two branches tucked away in the Southside (Pollokshaws Road) and the East End (Whitehill Street), has quietly become a favourite foodie haunt in the city, with no less an authority than The Guardian claiming they produce 'the best bread in the UK'. They offer summer baking classes from their East End Bakery, where you can learn to make the various organic breads, pizzas, bagels and pastries they're famous for with your own fair hands.
Rachna Deer has been running Ladyfingers Cookery School in Glasgow for over a year now. Its location? Your own kitchen: Deer comes into your home and teaches you how to make authentic Bombay dishes with your own utensils, so as to increase your confidence. If you'd prefer to try out the sort of dishes she makes before you start your lessons, you can catch her every weekend, running her Babu Bombay Street Food stall from either the Partick or Queen's Park farmers markets. See citymarketsglasgow.co.uk for full details of all Glasgow markets.
Home grown galleries, gigs, festivals and parties
As you may have worked out by now, Glasgow means art. Never mind the razzle-dazzle, fully-funded and prize-grabbing big venues and galleries you've already heard of, get to know the scene from the inside. Follow artists collectives and studios across the city on Twitter or Facebook – the Chalet, in Govanhill, for example, may not have regular events on, but is occasionally involved in local festivals. IRONBBRATZ is a new studio complex packed full of younger artists. A walk to the East End is highly recommended too: on Duke Street the Duchy Gallery and the Market Gallery usually have exhibitions of emergent work and are great examples of artist-run organisations managing to stay afloat on shoe-string budgets and talent.
Right over the other side of town, SWG3 is our absolute favourite hidden venue, well versed in the art of parties. Carved into the old warehouses under the railway arches just out of Partick Station, and right slap bang in the middle of absolutely nothing at all, the Studio Warehouse houses a fertile nest of artist studios year-round, but also takes out an occasional events and bar licence for some absolutely storming pop-up gigs and warehouse parties. Something about the complete isolation of the area, combined with the excellent connections of SWG3 supremo Mutley, makes this one of the hippest spots in the city, as anyone at the recent and now-annual Electric Frog Carnivals will testify. Events are by no means regular, although the exhibitions are.
If you'd like to take things a little less hedonistically, why not try to find a hidden conFAB performance? Rachel Jury's team of performers and poets create works designed to be heard or experienced live in hidden locations around the city. They most recently ran 'mini-interventions' around the Merchant City as part of the Merchant City Festival.
A number of the really interesting pop-up events recently have been designed as rallies or fundraisers around good causes. The Govanhill Baths, currently unable to be used as a swimming pool, has hosted film screenings, experimental sonic gigs, a pop-up charity shop and even a dry swimming gala.
Burlesquey saucepots tend to flock to the Britannia Panopticon, the former music hall on the Trongate end of Argyle Street, for a variety of cabaret nights aiming to bring it back to its former glory (take your coat, though, the building has no heating). And the ever-growing team behind the yet-to-open Glad Café have put together the sort of programme most full-time venues would kill for (see below).
Finally, although it's not really an event, nor in any way young and new, any tour of Glasgow's hidden gems ought to take in the show at Sharmanka Kinetic Theatre. Seriously beautiful, intricate sculpture, dancing, singing and disturbing, in a tiny dark room at the back of Trongate 103. Such a wonderful collection of work shouldn't remain a secret for much longer.
Rachel Smillie has lived in Pollokshields, one of the most ethnically diverse areas in Scotland, for almost 35 years. She's only recently realised what the area is missing, though.
'About two years ago, I was in London visiting my daughter. She had a café in Dalston that she particularly wanted to take us to. They did music every night of the week, often quite experimental music, and it had such a diverse clientele – people of different ages, different backgrounds. Turkish, West Indian, white. By the time we left that café, I was on a completely different career trajectory.'
She came home determined to create a similar space for Glasgow: serving food, playing everything from cutting-edge electronica to world music and acting as a meeting point for the various communities in the area. Over the past two years, Smillie has raised a volunteer army of Southside-based DJs, musicians and artists, who have both acted as an unofficial steering group and run fundraising events. The growing secret of the Glad Café (which, we're now allowed to say, will open in a former industrial site on Darnley Street later this year) has built up over a series of gigs, club nights and clothes swaps designed to raise awareness and funds. Supporters include some of the LuckyMe, Detour and Numbers DJs (who have run a couple of gigs and put a Glad Café fundraising album together), Radio Awaz are going to run comedy nights from the café, and novelist Alan Bissett and Teenage Fanclub's Norman Blake have already signed on as patrons. Get involved in the next couple of fundraising events, and you could be part of a new, growing community project.
'Yes, it's definitely come about through the community: through our connections, through new connections we're making in the area all the time. A lot of people have said to us that this is what the Southside really needs.'
Glad Rags Clothes Swap, Sat 20 Aug, Pollokshields Church Hall, 11am, £5; La Roche Rumba (all-day fundraising gig with eight live bands, plus DJs), David Cargill Club, Sun 25 Sep, 3pm–1am.