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The other G20

Images from Maryhill

By Jon Kelly
BBC News

World leaders are preparing to discuss a way out of the global recession at the G20 summit in London. But there's another G20 that doesn't just melt away after a few days - in Glasgow. Meet the residents of an unlikely postcode lottery.

There are no TV crews assembling in Glasgow's Maryhill district, no hushed security sweeps for international dignitaries.

The bakeries, tanning salons and bookmakers which pepper the area's main drag are not about to host any discussions which could transform the world-wide economy.

But it is not just the G20 abbreviation that this traditionally working class corner of inner-city Glasgow shares with the gathering of the planet's top heads of government.

Here, too, the talk is of little else besides the economic slowdown. Except that in places like Maryhill, unemployment, poverty and the credit crunch are more than just abstract terms.

John Torrance
It's time for them to get their fingers out and really do something about it
Labourer John Torrance

An ominously high number of shopfronts are boarded up. The busiest premises on the Maryhill Road is easily the Job Centre Plus. Next door to the local police station - the setting for ITV's long-running detective drama Taggart - is a pub called The Politician. Its shutters are pulled firmly closed.

Maryhill, like much of west-central Scotland, knows all about recession and hardship. During the 1980s, the region underwent the trauma of rapid deindustrialisation and soaring joblessness that was termed "shock therapy" when it was repeated in Eastern Europe a decade later.

There were, undoubtedly, many winners here. Glasgow's transformation from a manufacturing heartland to a service economy saw its spruced-up city centre transformed into a Mecca of boutiques and style bars. The handsome Victorian sandstone apartments of Maryhill, too, drew some middle-class gentrifiers, attracted by the area's proximity to Glasgow University and the fashionable West End.

But the dilapidated 1960s high rises which loom over the landscape are a stark visualisation of those who have not prospered.

'Stupid money'

Sitting by the Forth and Clyde canal, groundwork labourer John Torrance, 31, has been waiting hours for his foreman to pick him up. However frustrating he finds hanging around, John cannot afford to walk away from a potential pay packet.

Rising bills have hit his wallet hard. He wants to sell the two-bedroom flat he shares with his wife and three children, but the depressed housing market is against him.

John admits he knows little about the agenda for the G20 beyond what he has read in the papers. But he knows what he wants it to achieve.

Maryhill
Glasgow city centre has prospered but areas like Maryhill have not

"All that stupid money, all that carry-on with RBS," he says with a shake of the head. "It's the government's fault for letting the banks get away with it in the first place.

"It's time for them to get their fingers out and really do something about it - make it better not just for their class, but for the working class, for everybody from the bottom up."

For an area in which 29% of the population are already classified as "income deprived" by the Scottish Index of Multiple Deprivation, it is the impact of rising costs which is hitting hardest.

Outside the local Tesco, Janice Doran, 55, shakes her head when asked about the G20. But she only has to peer into her shopping bag for a reminder that a recession is under way.

"The prices of everything are going up - not by 5p or 6p but by 15p," she says, peering into her carrier bag. "If you're out of work, you really notice that."

'Iraq waste'

It is barely easier for local entrepreneurs hoping to generate wealth. The sun is shining outside, but newsagent Zak Khan, 43, has had to stop selling ice lollies from his shop.

His last energy bill from Scottish Power nearly doubled to £410, making his deep freeze too expensive to run. In the grand scheme of things, it might be only a minor illustration of the economic slowdown, Zak acknowledges. But it is the credit crunch's most petty frustrations, he believes, with which the gathering dignitaries are least equipped to empathise.

"Do you really think the G20 leaders understand these sort of decisions?" he asks, frowning. "They'll sit around their table, but they won't be talking about the things that affect people around here.

"These are the people that got us into trouble in the first place. They should have been saving during the good times, but instead they wasted all that money on the war."

Kim Dellanzo
As a society we're very consumerist. Very me-ist
Kim Dellanzo

But outside on Maryhill Road, Kim Dellanzo, 42, a nurse and mother-of-one, disagrees.

Although she has seen Maryhill improve for the better in the decade she has lived here, she believes the crisis can only be solved by addressing the assumptions that have underpinned development here.

"We're all kind of responsible to a point," she admits.

"As a society we're very consumerist. Very me-ist. We just want everything without realising that there are things you have to do - you have to work for it and you have to save up.

"We don't make anything. We're not self-sufficient. We're dependent on investment - but if there's no investment and no money then we're stuffed."

Maryhill might not be used to the outside world paying attention to what it has to say.

The voice of this G20 might be all too rarely heard. But it is in communities like this that the actions of their more powerful namesakes will be tested.

Map showing G20 in Glasgow


Below is a selection of your comments.

Kim Dellanzo is spot on. I don't remember hearing anyone complaining about getting a 110% interest only mortgage two years ago. If you borrowed more than you could afford, why is that the bank's fault?
Scott, London, UK

I moved into G20 in June last year. Two streets south of my flat is affluent, attractive and bustling, with the university campus, the subway and Kelvingrove park; two streets north are the boarded-up shops and run-down streets. The schizophrenia of the postcode is emphasised by a local running joke: those originally from Glasgow who live in G20 say they live in Maryhill; those who have moved to G20 to the middle-class developments refer to it as "North Kelvinside".
Rod Fleming, Glasgow, G20

Hardship and recession are not new in Maryhill, but it's also an area with history, character, and people here want to see it regain its dignity. The 1960s tower blocks may look dilapidated at first glance but this misses the huge investment being made in their future. Tenants have chosen to have new kitchens, windows, bathrooms, central heating, front doors and security services before improving the look of the outside. Well done for raising the need for regeneration in Maryhill, just don't overlook the local spirit and what it's already achieving.
Lynn McCulloch, Maryhill

Not helping factors is that one of the local primary schools, Wyndford Primary, is being threatened with closure by Glasgow City Council. So not only is the area suffering from economic gloom, but removing the school also means there will be even less of a community spirit, which especially in the poorer areas is extremely important.
Steven Lynch, Glasgow

Those in Maryhill understand being out of work and watching the pennies - the area is quite deprived but the community is quite upbeat. I agree with Kim Dellanzo. We as individuals are also to blame, we want everything now, regardless of whether the money is there for it or not. We need to get back to living within our means - a hard feat in the UK. Obviously the govt and banking system are also to blame for lending silly amounts to people who obviously aren't going to find it easy to pay back.
Steph, Glasgow

While this is a worthy story it does paint quite a grim picture of G20 in Glasgow . It should be noted that areas in G20 such as Kelvinbridge are among the most cosmopolitan in Scotland. Some of the best bars, delis, restaurants and boutiques in the west of Scotland are present in this area. It's not all boarded-up shops and high rises, come to G20, you might like it.
Jonathan Kennedy, Glasgow



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