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Home is where your heart is

This feature is about 9 years old

Housing is central to all our lives and is worth fighting for says veteran housing campaigner Maggie Graham

Everyone called it a slum but when we were growing up in the Gorbals we just knew it as home. I lived in the notorious multi-storey tower block development, Hutchesontown Area E, and can remember emptying buckets full of water every day which had dripped through in the living room and hall.

Hutchie E, as we called it, was two 24 multi-storey blocks alongside 12, seven storey blocks.

Strangely we just took the dampness and disrepair as part of life. Yet when we first moved in my parents thought it was bliss: a panorama across the city in a brand new apartment with good neighbours all round. It was really exciting.

That all changed. Housing became symbolic of deeper-rooted issues such as drugs, violence and unemployment. They replaced the turn-of-the century slums for modern day ones. And we were just expected to accept it.

For too long we did. It was as if the people of the Gorbals were being told: this is what you deserve. We knew different. It wasn’t long before we realised poor housing and amenities were leading to many of the area’s problems. So we started campaigning against the damp, telling the council we wanted rehoused.

That was a battle - back in the 1980s the council really didn’t want to listen. Party politics were rife and councillors were more interested in point scoring than actually addressing the problems facing their constituents.

Despite never campaigning on anything before, something inside drove me to campaign on housing. I loved the Gorbals. I loved the people. And I wanted to live in a place where I was proud to bring up my family.

So we pushed and we pressed and eventually our group – best described as disparate group of angry parents – started to get assurances, then promises, and finally action.

The smaller blocks were torn down in 1987. I remember it well. We stood, our arms joined, with tears in our eyes. It was a watershed. Here the blocks that had caused so many problems were finally gone, heralding a new area for the place we loved.

Today the Gorbals is regenerating – and it’s great to see. It has taken time and some problems remain but the transformation is astonishing: people now want to live there and now see it as a central location to access the city – much how our parents first saw it.

Crucially, developers have learned from the problems of the past. We have green space, play areas and a thriving community council.

Against this backdrop activism flourishes. With a mix of social landlords – both Glasgow Housing Association and others – people have a say in the planning and developments before they commence.

Local people are more engaged, meaning we can learn from the mistakes of the past.

Some locals lament the demise of the community. They say the Gorbals isn’t what it used to be with outsiders buying up all the pristine new builds and creating a new middle class - ousting out the original families.

That’s not actually the case but there’s no doubt the area has gone through what you might call gentrification.

Is that a bad thing? All I will say is I don’t know anyone who would replace it for the problems of the 1970s.



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almost 9 years ago
I'm sad that no one except I have commented on this. poor quality housing has long been a problem and it is to the shame of the governments and councils that this problem remain in the 21st century. I believe that if the desire to deal with this problem was in the hearts of the governments and councils we would see undeniable evidence. but instead all we see is delay after delay and constant squabbles over funding. what good is that for the people in need? the authorities should lower their heads in shame.
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