Tenement life in the spotlight in new Glasgow heritage podcast

EVERY day, people in Glasgow can go in and out of historic buildings for business or pleasure.

From the Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum to the City Chambers, the Barrowland Ballroom to the Theatre Royal these are welcoming treasures to be savoured – but what do we think of these structures and what do they mean to us, individually?

This month, a new podcast series is being launched to explore the relationships, stories and shared memories that exist between Glasgow’s historic buildings and places, and the city’s communities.

Glasgow City Heritage Trust (GCHT) is producing “If Glasgow’s Walls Could Talk” with each of the ten episodes focusing on a specific area, type of building or aspect of Glasgow’s renowned heritage.

This will not only be from a historical and architectural point of view, but also from the perspective of the community, drawing on the guests’ personal experiences, thoughts, knowledge and memories.

GCHT wants to hear from the public, to get what they think about the buildings they rate for inclusion in the podcast.

“We are trying to collect the thoughts of people about the buildings and places they rate and what makes them so special,” said Silvia Scopa, Community Engagement Officer for GCHT.

“Buildings create experiences, thoughts, knowledge and, of course, memories and that is what we aim to tap into for these podcasts.

“We would like the podcast to be informative, yet informal in style so we have suggested a wide and varied range of topics to be covered to appeal to as wide an audience as possible, such as the city’s murals, the mapping of queer heritage, tenement living, heritage and disabilities and many, many others.”

One episode planned will be an exploration of historic music venues and ballrooms as great meeting places.

The period between the start of the First World War and the mid-1950s is known as the golden age of social dancing in Glasgow, when the city had at least 80 dance halls.

By the mid-1950s onwards, ballroom dancing declined in popularity and a lot of the best-known ballrooms had to be turned into music venues to survive and to adapt to the ever-changing times, while successfully continuing to be spaces of social gathering and fun.

Silvia said: “How many people have favourite memories linked to a ball room or a music venue, such as the Locarno, Barrowland Ballroom, or Dennistoun Palais?

“We are looking for people to get in touch and share their views with us.

Someone’s favourite venue might have gone out of business so maybe someone could say how they felt about that. What did it feel like when that place closed?

“There is no doubt that buildings can shape lives and relationships.”

Countless thousands of Glaswegians have lived – and still do – in tenements, a significant architectural feature of the city.

One of the episodes will take an in-depth look at tenement life, past and present.

“We will be exploring the story of tenements in Glasgow and tenements as communities,” said Silvia. “We are looking for people to tell us their favourite aspect of living in a tenement, what memories does it stir up and why they think living in a tenement is so special.

“Maybe someone can share one special, significant highlight linked to tenement living.”  Any major city undergoes architectural, structural and social transformations through time and in one podcast the GCHT will highlight Glasgow’s “convoluted history of demolition and redevelopment” in the second half of 20th century and how this affected people’s lives.

The GCHT pointed out that after the Second World War, many of the houses built during the Victorian period were considered a “housing problem” because of the high density, poor sanitation and structural deficiencies that characterised them.

“The most common solution adopted to solve Glasgow’s ‘housing crisis’ in the second half of the 20th century was to demolish the old tenements and re-house some of the population,” said Silvia.

“In later years, due to a change of the political, social and economic climate, the effect of the demolition of entire areas became clear and there was a new awareness of the loss of ‘the community spirit’ that was left in the old, now gone, tenements flats.

“We would welcome contributions by anyone affected by re-housing and/or demolition of certain areas, and if people have a special memory linked to an area/building that has now been demolished.

“Maybe there is something in Glasgow’s past that they miss or is there any way it can be brought back? The changes through the years must have affected the spirit of communities so that’s what we are interested to learn more about.”

The GCHT – an independent charity and funder formed in 2007, whose grant programmes help projects promoting the understanding, appreciation and conservation of Glasgow’s historic built environment – has detailed the various ways the public can become involved on its website.

The best messages will be included in the podcast that is being launched on October 28.

“We live our lives in notable and famous buildings,” said Silvia. “It will be so interesting and exciting to discover what people have to say about them. We really look forward to hearing from them.”


The Herald Scotland

The Herald Scotland

The Herald is a Scottish broadsheet newspaper founded in 1783. The Herald is the longest running national newspaper in the world and is the eighth oldest daily paper in the world. The title was simplified from The Glasgow Herald in 1992