For half a century, the very name of the city conjured up visions of decaying 19th-century tenements, public drunkenness and mindless acts of violence committed by roving gangs of razor-wielding hoodlums. Now, however, residents of Glasgow, on the River Clyde in Scotland, have a new civic pride. During the past 10 years large-scale private development and a massive government cleanup have succeeded in transforming the
once pollution-choked city into an attractive, lively urban centre. “People who have not been here for 10 years are astonished at all the changes,” said deputy town clerk Theo Crombie, 56. “Glaswegians have regained their sense of pride and dignity.”
Glasgow’s fortunes have waxed and waned over the past 400 years. It has been, alternately, a major market for the tobacco trade, a world textile centre and, at the height of the Industrial Revolution, the so-called “second city” of the British Empire because of its dominant role in shipbuilding and heavy industry. But as the empire began to crumble, so did Glasgow’s importance as an industrial city. During the 1940s there were 31 shipyards employing 60,000 workers; currently there are just four active shipyards employing 6,500 people. Light manufacturing
is now the city’s economic mainstay, but thousands of jobs have been lost as Glasgow’s heavy industries have declined. But now, despite continuing economic problems—the local unemployment is 22 per cent—Glasgow’s renaissance has impressed not only its own residents but also outsiders. And to emphasize the city’s changing fortunes, officials have even embarked on a publicity campaign to attract more tourists to the Scottish city of 750,000.
Over the past decade government agencies have restored more than 10,000 derelict inner-city homes and constructed 3,000 new ones in a part of Glasgow’s east end that was once a squalid, crime-ridden slum. In the downtown core, developers have converted 19th-century warehouses into stylish apartment buildings and offices. New hotels, shopping centres, art galleries and restaurants have sprung up throughout the city. And the rejuvenation has encouraged thousands of Glaswegians, including many young professionals, to move back into the inner city from the suburbs. Said Margaret Sherry, 24, a public relations officer who two years ago moved to a renovated Victorian house near the riverbank: “I remember when I was a child thinking how horrible it must be to live in this area. But everything has
changed. Young people are attracted back to the neighborhood because it is so close to the city centre.”
Even the loss of heavy industry has had one beneficial effect: most of the smokestacks that used to belch thick
clouds of soot into the atmosphere have disappeared. Said Patrick Lally, 59, leader of Glasgow’s district council: “When I was a boy, we used to look forward to July because that was when the factories would shut down for two weeks. By the end of the second week you could actually look across the city and see the hills in the distance—the rest of the year there was just thick black smoke.” Currently, Glasgow’s only major source of pollution is the traffic that streams through the heart of the city on elevated expressways.
Glaswegians are now trying to spread the word about the city’s transformation with the aid of a $1.8-million publicity campaign tied to the slogan “Glasgow’s Miles Better.” Said Michael Kelly, 47, who first proposed the campaign while serving as the city’s lord provost, or mayor, in 1982: “I realized that everywhere I travelled, people had this appalling image of Glasgow as being dirty and dangerous. The problem was that after modernizing and cleaning ourselves up, we left out the most important part, which was to tell the rest of the world about it.”
The publicity appears to be working. According to Lally, the number of visitors increased to two million in 1986 from 700,000 in 1984. And the Greater Glasgow Tourist Board predicts that as many as five million tourists will visit the city in 1990, the year in which Glasgow will be designated Eu-
ropean City of Culture. That honor is bestowed annually by the 12-member European Community, which promotes the chosen city’s rich and diverse cultural life throughout other member countries. Previous recipients have included such centres as Athens, Amsterdam and Florence.
Still, city officials and local businessmen say that the city still needs a great deal of improvement. Declared Kelly, who now runs a private public relations firm in the city: “How can anyone afford to sit back when unemployment in some housing projects is as high as 30 per cent? There is still an enormous amount of work to be done.” But for the first time in decades, the mood in Glasgow is one of optimism rather than despair.
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