The Glasgow Effect: A Tale of Class, Capitalism & Carbon Footprint


SKU: GE Category: Tag:


  • £10.00 – £14.00 (including postage in UK)
  • 129 × 198 × 28 mm (portrait)
  • Softcover, First Edition 384 pages, Second Edition 400 pages
    (with 26 b/w illustrations)
  • First Edition published in November 2019 by Luath Press, Edinburgh ISBN 978-1912147960
  • Second Edition published in November 2021 ISBN 978-1910022795
  • Typeset by Main Point Books, Edinburgh
  • Cover illustration by Neil Scott, Glasgow
  • Full Bibliography & Online Resources
  • Index of Artworks (see below)

How would your career, social life, family ties, carbon footprint and mental health be affected if you could not leave the city where you live?

Artist Ellie Harrison sparked a fast-and-furious debate about class, capitalism, art, education and much more, when news of her year-long project The Glasgow Effect went viral at the start of 2016.

Named after the term used to describe Glasgow’s mysteriously poor public health and funded to the tune of £15,000 by Creative Scotland, this controversial ‘durational performance’ centred on a simple proposition – that the artist would refuse to travel beyond Glasgow’s city limits, or use any vehicles except her bike, for a whole calendar year.

“It’s horrendously crass to parachute someone in on a poverty safari while local authorities are cutting finance to things like music tuition for Scotland’s poorest kids. I don’t know the artist personally but I think we’d all benefit more from an insight into what goes on in the minds of some of Scotland’s middle class.”
― Darren McGarvey, Daily Record, January 2016

“I’d already lived in Glasgow over seven years when the ‘chips hit the fan’ in January 2016. It was frustrating how the media took everything out of context. The Glasgow Effect was an epic undertaking resulting from years of research – a project which has shaped my thinking, action and life course ever since. This book is that hidden story.”
― Ellie Harrison, March 2019


A simple proposition – to attempt to live a ‘low-carbon lifestyle of the future’ – put forward by an English artist living in post-industrial Glasgow cut to the heart of the unequal world we have created. A world in which some live transient and disconnected existences within a global ‘knowledge economy’ racking up huge carbon footprints as they chase work around the world, whilst others, trapped in a cycle of poverty caused by deindustrialisation and the lack of local opportunities, cannot even afford the bus fare into town. We’re all equally miserable. Isn’t it time we re-thought the way we live our lives?

In this, her first book, Ellie Harrison traces her own life’s trajectory to examine the relationship between literal and social mobility; between class and carbon footprint. From the personal to the political, she uses experiences and knowledge gained in Glasgow in 2016 and beyond, together with the ideas of Patrick Geddes – who coined the phrase ‘Think Global, Act Local’ in 1915, economist EF Schumacher who made the case for localism in Small is Beautiful in 1973, and the Fearless Cities movement of today, to put forward her own vision for ‘the sustainable city of the future’, in which we can all live happy, healthy and creative lives.

Praise for The Glasgow Effect

“This is a most excellent book for anyone interested in public transport, local democracy and seriously addressing the climate emergency and socio-economic inequality in the world… Ellie analyses her own personal experiences to better understand the world and its injustices. As a self-confessed privileged person, she bravely steps out of her comfort zone, acknowledges her naiveties and limitations, navigates complex social situations, reads shitloads and critically dissects and reconnects all of it. She breathes new life into slogans such as ‘Think Global, Act Local’ and ‘Small is Beautiful’, at the same time as asking such obvious questions as, why do cities spend millions on branding exercises while ignoring obvious solutions to social problems?”
– Helen Varley, Goodreads, October 2019

The Glasgow Effect by @ellieharrison is the most relevant book I’ve read this year. A creative(’s) insight into bringing about climate and social justice (from a Glasgow perspective) that would put the majority of our politicians to shame. Positive, honest and inspiring.”
– Caroline Smyth, Twitter, December 2019

“What a journey. Epic yet intimate, meticulously researched and brilliantly synthesised. Great to see Cathy McCormack, Ada Colau and Carol Craig rubbing shoulders with Geddes, Schumacher and the like. I found it illuminating and challenging in equal measure. It is a timely wake-up call to all who care about our Dear Green Place to awake from our slumber, emerge from our silos and work together for a municipal takeover. Count me in!”
– Babs Nicgriogair, December 2019

“Just finished reading [The Glasgow Effect] by @ellieharrison. I was sceptical when the project was running but inspired now I’ve read this. So much to think about.”
– Dr Beth Williamson, Twitter, January 2020

“This book is a timely questioning of our priorities – inspiring debate about the practicalities of what can be done to foster a healthy relationship between our self and our environment.”
– Dr Anna McLauchlan, Social & Cultural Geography, February 2020

“I absolutely loved reading this and couldn’t put it down. I can’t remember ever reading such a deep and engaging documentation of an artist’s practice, going right through from their art school days. How she ties together a history of post-war Glasgow planning, discussion of her own practice and life as an artist in the 21st century, a family story, a critique of the international art scene – it’s brilliant. The interconnected-ness of everything is so fully realised.”
– RBH, Amazon, February 2020

“Ultimately, The Glasgow Effect was successful in fostering debate. Harrison’s commitment to reflecting on and sharing her experiences is impressive. It is clear that the artist needed to write this book to move beyond the distress she experienced…”
– Elinor Morgan, Art Monthly, April 2020

“Such an important book. I found it so interesting, easy to read, engaging, informative and inspirational! We need to know what’s going on that affects our lives on a daily basis!”
– Jean Macmillan, Facebook, July 2020

“To those who could not afford to leave Glasgow in any scenario, Harrison’s Creative Scotland-funded “lockdown” seemed in poor taste. But it touched on an interesting question: is the ability to move about and switch locations integral to advancement? Is staying in one place the same thing as being stuck in another sense?”
– Natalie Whittle, Financial Times, July 2020

“In 2015 when Ellie Harrison announced she received funding from Creative Scotland to stay within the boundaries of Glasgow and not travel any faster than 20 miles an hour, it caused a social media outcry but her work is an important and illuminating read. Many Glaswegians will spot some of the infuriating issues that face many of the city’s working class residents, such as the strange quirk of only being able to renew your SPT ZoneCard on a Sunday. Harrison attempts to explain the reasons why Glasgow suffers with excess mortality in an accessible way.”
– Lauren Gilmour, Glasgow Times, March 2021

“So well done Ellie Harrison, take a bow you have produced a bold, vital and thoroughly researched piece of work and this should be stocked in every library, book shop and place of learning throughout the length and breadth of Scotland.”
– Keen Reader, Goodreads, May 2022

“If you want to learn more about the importance of urban design and sustainable transport, we have compiled a list of both Glasgow and non-Glasgow-specific reads… Number 2 The Glasgow Effect. In Ellie Harrison’s excellent first book, she traces her own life’s trajectory whilst examining the relationship between social and literal mobility.”
– James Walker, Sunday National, October 2023

Full Bibliography

Index of Artworks

A chronology of artworks by Ellie Harrison referred to in the book:

Other Artists

A chronology of other artists, artworks and movements referred to in the book:

Sections on sustainable transport:

  • In ‘Dark Clouds’ section, p.58-59
  • ‘Bring Back British Rail’ section, p.66-72
  • In ‘Worst Inequalities in Western Europe’ section, p.125-126
  • In ‘First as Tragedy, then as Farce’ section, p.135
  • ‘The Elephant in the Room’ section, p.225-230
  • ‘Remunicipalisation!’ section, p.230-236
  • In ‘Back to the Future’ section, p.291-293
  • ‘World-class public transport’ section, p.310-312
  • In ‘Those things we all need to live happily and well’ section, p.321-322
  • In ‘Public Luxury’ section, p.332
  • ‘Car-free Future’ section, p.336-340
  • In ‘Equalising Mobility’ section, p.343-345
  • Note 5 on the Transport (Scotland) Act 2019, p.361

Page references above apply to the 2nd Printing onwards (the 384 and 400 page versions with yellow inside covers) available from November 2019 onwards (this is except for page references to Endnotes which differ in the 400 page Second Edition, available from November 2021 – the new page references are shown in brackets preceded by ‘2nd Ed.’).

The 1st Printing was a 368 page proof version printed in an edition of 200 for Edinburgh International Book Festival in August 2019.

Additional information

Dimensions N/A

1st Printing – August 2019, 2nd Printing – November 2019, 3rd Printing – March 2020, 4th Printing – November 2021, 5th Printing – March 2022, 6th Printing – January 2023