Burn out and fade away

Sometime last week on a day I foggily remember, the dulling December skyline of Glasgow’s city centre lit up. As I looked on, safely perched three storeys up in a history soaked tenement, I realised with dismay that yet again another one of Glasgow’s most original buildings was burning itself out.

A week later, with black scabs licking up its grey sides, the structure is still recognizable as being the old, well renowned Co-Op Funeral Services building. It is quite possibly otherwise known as “that building you pass when yer aff to Harry Ramsdens or The Quay”, since these recent erections are now more commonly in use and are often occupied with happy customers.

Not that anyone in their right mind would use a funeral service gleefully. But the sorry point of the matter is that The Co-Op building, standing for as long as I can remember, has been sorely neglected for a long time. The derelict structure has always fascinated me a little bit. With its eerily serene whitewashed facade and a clock on top that’s probably been dead since Thatcher flew into the House of Lords, the place has a strange presence. Built in the 1870s, it has survived heavy usage as a warehouse, two world wars, and hosted many funerals right until the motorway snaked itself around its frame.

Now, after it has been gutted out by a very angry fire, its fate hangs in the balance. Amongst the scattering of media coverage, it has now come to pass that the building will be demolished. And this one goes out to all the pun lovers – the company carrying out the operation are called Burnfield. How swell.

Sadly, this building’s days are numbered. Its dignity and old world grandeur have been stripped from the inside out, and all that remains is a carbon shell that will be hitting ground level in the near future. I walked past it the other day and its sooty windows looked straight into my heart – I’m pretty sure it would’ve cried if all the water hadn’t been spent putting the fire out. I had to just walk on, because a dying building breaks my heart more than watching Titanic on a plasma screen ever could.

There’ll be a grace period for berveavement, I’m sure, but on to progress! In its place I can only imagine a pants-itchy property developer, standing there with his well-fed face turning into the most inane of the MSN emoticons – the 😀 face – ready to get his gums and palms and legs over this acre of land. He’ll have The Vision and Clear Foresight to turn it into a multi multi bajillion award winning LUXURY HOMES venture, with Exciting New Business Opportunities on the ground floor. Which will end up flooding really easily, or have walls made out of soft cheese and cardboard.

Et voila. Of course I’m not suspicious of any kind of ulterior motives, because neglected historical landmarks in this city rarely fall prey to mysterious fires. In all seriousness I don’t know enough about the owner to make such a claim, and wouldn’t, but if you look for threads on Skyscrapercity and Hidden Glasgow you might salvage some interesting tid bits of information. What I have learned since our dearly beloved recession is that B-listings don’t quite make the grade. Buildings like this beautiful example are too high maintenance, and so turn to dust. My love for this building has indeed become a funeral pyre. The land this building was laid on will, in contrast, become a goldmine from which scanned copies of Houses We Should Be Living In can emerge from the ashes.

The skyline of the city is changing, which is nothing new. What I would urge properly builders to consider is the longevity of development. When you consider how many high rises are being pulled after just 30 years of existence, you’ve got to admire buildings like the Co Op building which have tenaciously stood the test of time. Look on your works, Ye mighty, and Despair.


(And before you do that, check out this stunning picture by Stuart Crawford of the blaze: http://www.stuartcrawfordphoto.com/fire/e147a855c)


What becomes of the zombie walkers?

In 2009, Colin Armstrong had a dream – for the zombies of Glasgow to have freedom to roam the city without threat of armed forces blasting their heads off with a sawn-off shotgun.

Along with a team of apt accomplices, Colin & company used their BRAINS! (sorry) to bring the American-born tradition of the zombie walk to the city on Halloween 2009. After a grapple with the council about potential disruption, the family-friendly event had hundreds of people dragging their limbs from Glasgow uni’s Queen Margaret Union through Kelvingrove Park. It was a rousing success. So much so that 2010’s walk saw the park hoaching with zombies young and old; with baby mutants cruising on the hunched-up backs of parents and couples holding severed, bloody hands as they shuffled to the finish.

It seems a shame that this year the zombie walk has been regrettably quarrantined, and will sadly not be taking place. The reasons are being kept Top Secret, but it is hinted on the official website that the spreading number of people wanting to take part is “too intimidating for mortals”. At the risk of starting an epidemic, zombies are going to have to stay in isolation this year. I guess the local council has prepared for red alert, or come up with an antidote. Next stop: Paris!

Get on yer bike!


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On Sunday September 11, thousands of people saddled up to participate in Glasgow’s Skyride.

The nationwide cycling campaign has a self-proclaimed mission – to get 1 million Brits on their bikes by 2013. Judging by the enduring popularity of this event, they may achieve this goal in the not-so-distant future. Although the scheduled Sunday displayed typical dreary Scottish weather, full hardy families were still keen to cycle the car free, nine mile route around the city. With the roads cleared, those taking part had free reign of the land, and a relaxed path with no harassment from disgruntled drivers.

The event got me thinking about Glasgow’s emerging bike culture. I recently had a conversation with a friend who griped that everyone, apparently, had a bike these days. It is becoming the new, hip thing to do, to ditch the pub in favour of a fast-paced pelt through the city in the rain (much to his dismay). He doesn’t own a bike – yet. But more and more people seem to be crawling out the woodwork with bikes in tow; swarming through Glasgow in their wee helmets with steely determination written over their wind beaten faces.

Aside from the obvious health benefits, many of my pals have invested in a bike purely to save a bit of money. With fuel prices soaring and becoming a bit ridiculous, it’s simply too much hassle to constantly pump up the car. Thus, the roads are becoming a main vein for the cyclists to peddle around, whether drivers like it or not. Bikes are seen precariously leaning from lamp-posts all over the city centre, and the nation’s cycle networks are proving to be a serene, alternative day out for those wanting to escape the clutter of urban life for a day.

From an observational point of view, I have noticed a massive increase in the amount of people who use a bike. I personally couldn’t live without mine – it’s become an extra limb. The next step for the city council is to carve out some more pathways for cyclists, since currently we get abuse both on the pavements and on the intimidating roads. Once some space has been painted out on the tarmac, my pal’s just going to have to cope with the unstoppable force of wheels. Anyone against this movement can eat my dust.


Brad Pitt Brings Hollywood Undead to Glasgow


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My pal, Ruth, photobombing the production. Good effort!

During the last fortnight, Glasgow has experienced an identity crisis. For any tourists who have wandered through the central region of the city, the American road signs and military vehicles might have caused a bit of confusion. Not to mention the upturned meat vans, echoes of blood curdling screams and zombies raking through the remains…

Although this is usually a typical night out on Sauchiehall Street, this scene was not (for once) caused by the primal urges of drunk people scrabbling over kebab and chips. Glasgow is in fact masquerading as Philedelphia while Brad Pitt films his upcoming blockbuster World War Z. The movie, based on Max Brook’s 2006 book of the same name, has been adapted by Pitt’s production company Plan B and is set to storm onto the silver screen in December 2012.

Pitt reportedly picked Glasgow as a host for his film based on its exquisite architecture and its similarities to Philadelphia. With its Georgian structures, grand carvings and the scent of splendour in the air, the merchant city promotes Glasgow in a positive light at the best of times – not to mention making it the perfect venue for the forthcoming film.

Once the location had been decided, rumours of Pitt’s pending visit spread like a virus. Thousands of locals queued for hours in Caledonian University’s halls for a shot at securing work as an extra on set. Those selected have had a busy time, spending as long as 14 hours on set perfecting their undead shuffle. The crew rolled in during the beginning of August, covering up the Glasgow Coat of Arms from every building and replacing local quirks with American regalia.

Scenes began rolling in mid August, and the set’s assembly had the local population in a frenzy. For the past week, people have been congregating around George Square on the periphery of the set, peering into yellow taxis and snapping photographs from the sidelines. Despite the concentrated activity in this area, filming has seemingly gone without a hitch, and locals have had the chance to meander around parts of the set since the streets have largely been left opened for public access.

Pictures of Pitt have been surprisingly scarce, but an array of zombie dummies, crashed cars and street scene photos have been littered across the web. Feast your eyes on some of the leaked pictures from the movie – it’s not every day you get to see scattered cans of Irn Bru lying down 15th Street!