Clydeside Stories: a district of divided opinion

For many tourists, athletes and officials, Dalmarnock station will be the second impression they have of Glasgow, after their first of the city centre. For an area that has been the epicentre of development in the lead-up to the Games, it is now a district of divided opinion.

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If so much funding has been ploughed into Dalmarnock as a whole, why is the view upon leaving the station itself so stricken?

Directly in front of you - wasteland. Grass seeds have clearly been sown but not in enough time, so that the effect is patchy and scrubby. As you approach the Emirates Arena and the Chris Hoy Velodrome - where Scotland has soared to victory over the past few days in cycling - a bus park to the right has been hidden from view by a series of large blue screens. Yet, these screens inexplicably stop short of a building topped with industrial barbed wire full of wispy rags, in clear sight to passers-by.

Of course, the Dalmarnock that greets you now is very different from the Dalmarnock that was here five years ago - aesthetically, at least. It is a place that has been dramatically upgraded and improved upon. And it is also a district of quite breathtaking beauty in parts: where Dalmarnock Bridge is undercut by the Clyde there are plentiful lilac trees and billowy overhanging oaks. Yesterday, on a hot July day, it could well have been provincial France.

But there were also big hints dropped into this pastoral scene to remind us that this is a real place, and not something from a book. Looking down from the bridge, a rusted shopping trolley lurked in the shallows of the river. Further along, just next to the colossal Tesco Extra in a patch of greenery, a solitary small roe deer blinked wildly in the midday sunlight. For a creature that ordinarily shuns the daytime, it was hard not to wonder what had forced this cameo appearance.    

Dalmarnock wants to remind us that it is still "building its legacy", that it is the "new East End" full of "investment and development opportunities". These are terms hoisted on to flags and proudly held aloft around the place. And for some, these advancements have brought only good things.

Katherine Jackson is a teacher living in Dalmarnock Cross who has welcomed the changes that the last few years have brought.

"I've known this area for years. One of the best things has been the flyover over Farmeloan Road, because it's been one of the biggest connections that we've got into the city. The infrastructure in terms of the traffic system has improved massively and from here you're only 10 minutes into the city centre, and 20 minutes to the airport.

"We've had a massive development in terms of business, as well. As you can see there's a huge building site to the right and new offices are being constructed further up the road in Rutherglen. There's been quite a lot going on to actually get people into the area."

Running parallel to much of the Clyde Gateway - that straight, sprawling road connecting the station to the stadia - is Kinnear Road. Residents keep small, neat gardens to the front of their properties - some, with well-kept wild flowerbeds, could teach planners a thing or two about how to approach green space.

Kinnear Road opens up to a quiet estate of houses directly behind Velodrome and the Emirates Arena, and it was here I met a resident who didn't want to be named. Her views of what the Commonwealth Games have brought to her town were quite different.

"No one knows what it's like to live here. It's terrible. They've taken off all the buses and we've only got one local bus to take us places.

"You can see what it's like where this bit is - it's not exactly close to the station, but the buses taken off were the ones going to the hospital, so what are we supposed to do now?

"I can't say they've not made it look better in the town, but what about us? Look at the dust coating our houses and streets - the big lorries going down to the Velodrome did that. The potholes on the road - they didn't used to be here.

"We thought our bit was quite nice compared to the tenements up the road. I've lived here my whole life and, to be honest, they've made it look like a slum. But what can we do?"

Georgina Dickson has lived in Dalmarnock for 30 years, previously next to the Velodrome and now directly besides the Athletes' Village.

"It's been a bit of an upheaval - they didn't really consider the residents when they were planning. We didn't realise the scale of things when they started - but other than that, I can't really complain.

"They promised that, in terms of the dust on the houses, they'd come back to wash our windows and make sure the streets were clean. But they didn't. We didn't get any compensation - not that we were promised anything, but we thought they might have offered us free rent or council tax or something, but no. They told us we weren't getting anything.

"Well - we got two free tickets to an event that we probably didn't really want to go to. But at the end of the day, it's here now and the athletes and police have been very friendly.

"They've got it bad round the back court. When my sister wants to come and visit she can't park, even with a permit. The back court is all shut off and they were told they could park on our court - but ours is too small. So it's like residents fighting with each other because of what the council have told us. We just think - but what about us?

"It's been a bit hectic that way. The majority of people staying round here are elderly. They've not considered how they're going to get out and about.

"There's a young autistic boy living close by, he couldn't get his taxi to the day care centre he goes to, to give his mum a break every day. They wouldn't let the taxi in to pick him up. He just went back into the house. He was dead upset, but I understand the situation has been sorted out now."

"As well, we're quite worried about who is going to move into the Athletes' Village. We've been such a close wee community for so many years, and I'm just a bit apprehensive about who's going to be moving in. Hopefully it does revamp it down here, but... there's no way of knowing."

There is sometimes a feeling in the centre of Glasgow - as with most cities - that because it is a such a transient place for many, real people don't live there. Not so in Dalmarnock. This is a place where residents live and breathe and sunbathe outside in their gardens overlooking the main road on which teams of cyclists hurtle up and down, because they have front row tickets. No matter if they wanted them or not.

Of course, the issue with the front row is that every tiny reality of an event becomes magnified. It is not some romanticised view from at home on the sofa watching on a 32" screen, or up the back of the Velodrome cheering and applauding with thousands of other people who can go home afterwards, sated by a day of excitement.

It is the low-grade disruption. It is constantly being late to work, despite leaving hours earlier. It is the dust and the noise and most of all, it seems that it is the feeling of not being listened to.

It will only last for 12 days - this we know. But perhaps the reality of life under the sporting spotlight has brought little joy for the people who have to live with the day-by-day minutiae of it. Perhaps their wishes should have been attended to better. 

Because, after all, and as we keep hearing, people make Glasgow. 

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