A discussion about The Glasgow Effect chaired by Roanne Dods & Gerry Hassan with Darren McGarvey, Katie Gallogly-Swan & Ellie Harrison, held at the Glad Cafe as part of Imagination, Scotland’s Festival of Ideas.

Transcription

Roanne Dods: Hello, good evening everybody. My name is Roanne Dods and it’s my great pleasure to welcome you all this evening for a discussion around The Glasgow Effect. We did have a completely full house with a massive waiting list and we will know who hasn’t turned up [laughs], we have your names, which is a shame because there were a lot of people I know who were just really, really desperate to come.

I’m really thrilled to have you here and I’m particularly thrilled with the group of people we’ve got here, coming to talk. They’re very, very brave people who’ve kinda put their necks on the line in very many ways. And I’m really grateful to them for that and also for coming to talk this evening. As we all know, this covers a whole range of issues, so I’m really pleased that Loki is here, Darren McGarvey, who’s a well-known rapper and activist and does some amazing work with the Violence Reduction Unit. And Katie Gallogly-Swan who is going to be working at Govanhill Baths and is an activist and who has worked for the Common Weal. And for course, Ellie Harrison who’s the artist whose project started this whole conversation. And my co-producer and mischief maker Gerry Hassan on the Festival of Imagination, who are hosting the event tonight.

[housekeeping]

We will certainly be going for a couple of hours, but I’m going to introduce Ellie first whose just going to say a little bit about how we’re going to plan the start of the conversation, and there will be plenty of time for a good robust discussion a bit later. Thanks, Ellie?

Ellie Harrison: Thank you. Can you hear me all right? OK… I thought this would be the one time in my life when I’d have a full crowd [audience laughs] and I’m so disappointed, I cannot believe it! [laughs] OK, so anyway, thank you lot for coming out.

It wasn’t my idea to organise this event. It was Roanne and Gerry’s. They got Loki to agree to it first, and they got Katie to agree to it and then I thought that it would be really rude and perhaps look slightly cowardly if I didn’t come along myself. And, you know, through all of this I’ve been thinking why the hell should I feel scared in the city where I live? Why should anybody have to feel scared in the city where they live? So I’m here [laughs], and I’m here despite the fact that actually all I really want to do for the next six months at least is keep a low profile, hide in my studio and get on with some bloody work. That’s what I really want to do, because it takes time to do good work. And one thing that I’ve really noticed over the last month is how our social media driven culture has completely lost all sense of patience. And it makes complete unrealistic demands for quick answers and results and totally undermines considered and thoughtful debate in the process. And the whole notion of doing anything ‘durational’ is that it will unfold slowly over time.

But The Glasgow Effect isn’t just about me any more. It’s not just my project. It’s all of your projects as well. It’s Loki’s project, it’s Katie’s project and… if you can see here [points at projection] it’s the 1 million people [laughs] who this event has passed by in their Facebook feed. It’s all of their projects as well. And it probably means something slightly different to every single one of you. And for me, that is the amazing thing about art and why it’s different from any other form of language, is that it can be interpreted in so many different ways, in order to create meaning in every single person’s individual mind, from their own perspective. So hopefully we’ll hear a lot more of your interpretations of this project later today. But before that, I just wanted to tell you a little bit about what this project means to me.

So, this project was, for me, more than was contained in this Creative Scotland funding application, which I wrote last summer for a project called ‘Think Global, Act Local’. ‘Think Global, Act Local’ is a phrase than I’ve borrowed from the famous Scottish thinker Patrick Geddes, which perfectly sums up how we should be addressing big global challenges, such as climate change. That is by shortening supply chains, reducing our need for travel, relearning important skills locally and helping to create strong resilient communities in the process.

But this title felt, to me, a little bit too worthy. Because I knew there was a darker side to what I was doing. And I can’t solve all of the world’s problems on my own no matter how hard I might try. So I decided to fit ‘Think Global, Act Local’ within a larger frame called ‘The Glasgow Effect’, and in doing so, to ‘zoom out’ and to try to make visible the wider social and economic forces at play. So it is a complicated and provocative project, and I’ve spent the last month trying to unpick exactly what it is I think I’m doing, and also trying to understand why it had the reaction that it did have at the start of the year. So I’ve now published a text on my own website, which tries to encapsulate what I see as my own personal motivations and what I hope to explore over the course of the year.

So, “it’s part psychological experiment (I’m definitely getting that!), it’s part protest, it’s part strike. The Glasgow Effect was initiated last summer in order to explore the relationships (both constructive and destructive) between the individual and the institutional structures (and in my part, those include the family, higher education, the artworld and the media), also the communities (both offline and online) and the economies (both local and global) within which that individual is forced to operate. The central provocation of the project is that I will refuse to travel outside Greater Glasgow for a whole calendar year.”

So that’s my take on it. But in order to open things up now, and to recap on a number of the different voices and arguments that emerged during that first week in January, we’re now going to collaborate and re-present some of the key texts in the order that they appeared in that first week in January. Because there are so many ideas contained within these, that we thought it would be useful for everyone in the room to hear them again, so that we’re all on the same page when we open-up into discussion. So, we’re going to start with want kicked it all off on the 4th January 2016 at 19:14 when the Daily Record published an article, which Gerry’s going to read for us.

Gerry Hassan: Well yes, fortunately I’m going to read you an extract of the Daily Record article. Not because it’s so long, as everyone will know that Daily Record articles are seldom long. But the headline on the 4th of January was “London artist paid £15k public money to spend a year in Glasgow for research project branded ‘poverty safari’.” Now that was under the by-line of Aiden Kerr and in the first paragraph of that said article, it said “Many have expressed further anger at the decision to name the project ‘The Glasgow Effect’, a term used to describe the poor life expectancy of working class Glaswegians.” So that’s the Daily Record.

Ellie Harrison: Then, [laughs] on Tuesday 5th January at 9 o’clock there was a phone-in on… [looks at Roanne] we can’t do the phone-in?

Roanne Dods: No, it’s too difficult.

Ellie Harrison: Oh, that’s a shame.

Roanne Dods: But do you want to keep explaining what happened?

Ellie Harrison: OK¸ so there was a phone-in, which we were going to play, [laughs] on BBC Radio Scotland, which lasted for an hour with people calling in, expressing their views – both positive and negative on the project.

Then, quickly followed Creative Scotland’s statement at 11 minutes past ten.

Roanne Dods: “Ellie is a recognised artist with and MA in distinction from Glasgow School of Art. Her idea articulated in a strong proposal with the working title ‘Think Global, Act Local’ met all criteria for Open Project Funding. It focussed on exploring whether it’s possible for an artist to generate an existence for themselves by living, working and contributing to a single community, as opposed to being constantly on the road because of the need to earn money from commissions from different places that incur costly travel and accommodation costs and high carbon footprint usage. Ellie’s project is based on the premise that if society wishes to achieve global change, then individuals have to be more active within their communities at a local level. In restricting herself to staying within the city boundaries she is keen to explore what the impact of this will have on my own life and her work as an artist with national and international commitments. Our funding will support Ellie’s creative practice in Glasgow and we will be interested to see how the project progresses. As part of our funding conditions we will require and evaluation of the project once it is completed.”

Ellie Harrison: OK. Meanwhile, I was in my pyjamas in my bedroom [laughs] getting rather stressed by all this whole experience, and feeling an immense amount of pressure to say something. So, I wrote a statement which I’m just going to read sections of. Probably quite a lot of you will have seen it. But there’s a lot in here, that… anyway:

“Hi everyone! [laughs] Thanks so much for your interest and engagement in the project [audience laughs], both positive and negative. Glasgow has been my home for seven and a half years, and to suddenly have a response like this to one of my projects has been quite overwhelming. You have given me so much material to digest that, it will take a whole year to do so and I hope to follow-up by meeting many of you face-to-face when all the fuss has died down. But before I sign of Facebook for a while, I would like to address the important questions raised about money. Anyone who’s done any research about me will know that I’m interested in the undesirable consequences of certain funding systems and I am working to set up a radical alternative: the Radical Renewable Art + Activism Fund, which will form the bulk of my workload in 2016 whilst in the city…

Like any provocative artwork, The Glasgow Effect has been devised to operate on many levels at once and the questions being raised about ‘community’ on/off social media in the last few days is certainly one of them. As much as I do care sincerely about the environmental issues raised by the project, as my previous work should testify, I also want to highlight the absurd mechanisms at play within higher education, which were its initial impetus. In the interests of transparency and to provide a more detailed context for the project, I will shortly publish the full text from my application to Creative Scotland…

(I was planning to do that anyway actually! I was planning to put out a lot more text about the project on the Monday morning before all of this happened. But I’ll explain more about why I was delayed doing that later if people want to know.)

The application was written over the course one month in June 2015 in order to fulfil one of the criteria for my three-and-a-half year probation for my lecturing post at the university. I was required to ‘submit a significant research grant application’… (I’ll just skip through this next little bit to this bit that I finish with…) The fact that this university, like most others in the UK now requires it’s lecturing staff to be fundraisers and is willing to pay them to be absent from teaching as a result, should be the focus of this debate.” That’s what I wrote. And then, it was over to Loki [laughs].

Darren McGarvey: Good evening everyone. My name’s Darren. Can I just start by saying that I definitely recognise having kinda looked back on the manner in which I approached certain things, I can see that I also got caught up in that sort of gathering snowball of outrage and hysteria. What I’m trying to do is give people an understanding of where I think some of that comes from. I’m aware that you’ll have things to say and thoughts to share, so I’m just going to read kinda one long paragraph out of my piece. How many of you read the thing that I wrote? [many hands raised] Fuck, cool, nice one. [audience laughs] OK, well you won’t need to hear it again then. I’ll just read this one paragraph:

“We have to get honest with ourselves about where scepticism of certain forms of art and culture comes from. It comes from the fact that we are now living in two different worlds. In working class communities, symbols of culture and identity are ripped out, renamed, sold-off, mysteriously burned-down, gentrified and/or demolished routinely, in the name of progress. This progress usually comes in the form of a road, which connects affluent towns and suburbs to shopping destinations in cities. Then there’s the constant back drop in which schools are closed, regardless of what local people think, common land is handed to private developers regardless of what people think. And public spaces are locked up at weekends due to funding cuts, while suburban Scotland now frequents the swanky shopping village, now perched on the periphery of these criminally under resourced communities. These shopping districts superimposed on the receding cultural landscape are hailed as the solution to poverty and are always given new names, which subtly disown the history, heritage and culture of the local people in that area, who now work there for peanuts. So when Creative Scotland decides to bankroll one person’s investigation into how being stuck in Glasgow with no road out affects your social life, career and mental health then you can understand why some Glaswegians are going to be fuming about it.”

So my piece was… well I guess there was a number of reasons why I chose to come in the way that I did. First I want to explain the term ‘poverty safari’, which I thought was a brilliant fucking term to be honest. Because it sums up for me something fundamental in my experience as a young person in an area like Pollok. Pollok is a place I talk about so much, I’m actually like a parody of myself when I do it, because you can’t be from anywhere except ‘Scotland’ these days. But anyway, that’s another debate for another night [audience laughs].

So ‘poverty safari’, but in that I meant even if you’re not coming to investigate poverty, if you’re truly going to immerse yourself in the milieu, then you’re going to come up against poverty, because that is, as evidenced by the title of the project ‘The Glasgow Effect’, as evidenced by the work of Harry Burns who came up with the theory, then poverty, unfortunately, and all the social ills that come with it, is Glasgow’s defining characteristic. Therefore, if you’re going to do a project for a year and it’s not about poverty, that’s an issue in itself. But a lot of this stuff gets lost in translation, because what we’re doing essentially is we’re speaking across a widening gulf of experience, which I’ve tried to kinda outline there in that paragraph. But like I said at the start, I do recognise I’m extremely sensitive to it and I’m sorry for anything that I might’ve done to upset anyone, in particular, Ellie. I just follow my instincts like any person would. And my instinct told me, this is an opportunity to get the issue that you’ve been representing since you were a young person in Pollok back onto the agenda. I’ll just leave it at that.

Roanne Dods: Thank you.

Katie Gallogly-Swan: “Disclaimer: because neither of my parents finished high school, because I’m from Coatbridge and have seven brothers and sisters, grew up in a series of schemes as the Coatbridge high-rises were successively flattened and only ate my first raspberry at the age of twenty, I’m allowed to voice the following opinions. Disclaimer: because I ride a bicycle, order a veg box from Locavore, have a humanities degree, make my own homemade gnocchi and dabble in ironically old-fashioned hobbies like knitting and hiking, I’m allowed to voice the following opinions.”

I started my article with this sort of dichotomy, because I felt like a lot of the conversation was about these ‘two worlds’ that Darren was referencing. Two worlds that I feel like I straddle myself sometimes. And it was frustrating to me that that sort of texture in a class debate wasn’t being had, that sort of complexity that you find in an increasingly complex class system in Scotland, wasn’t really being allowed in this debate. Rather it was an ‘us versus them’, or a ‘we are this group’ and ‘they are that group’ and very combative and not about finding a common ground.

And, I understand why that might have to be the way that the argument is set up, but for me it didn’t feel like it represented my experience and that kinda frustrated me. I don’t think it’s as simple as that in Scotland, as I said. I think it’s almost policing about proper ways of behaving if you are from this sort of background and proper ways of behaving if you are from a different sort of background. And then the ways that those two people should be interacting. And I don’t think that’s good enough. I’m not satisfied with it.

I have a lot of solidarity with a lot of the concerns that Darren has brought up, because I also sometimes feel locked-out of a conversation about arts in Scotland and only used when my voice suits the agenda of the person who needs it. But then at the same time, I don’t think that this is just about publicly-funded art, and a lot of people voiced their opinions about that and revealed a conflicting… some people were for it, some people were against it. And I think there’s a whole host of reasons for that too. You know, a systematic alienation of people who feel devalued by the wider mechanisms of capitalism. But it’s not just about publicly-funded art. It’s also about women in the media. It’s about monstering people. It’s about social media and that snowball. It’s about a lack of empathy and being able to understand that human on the end of that social media. And it’s also about the ‘Scottish cringe’ [audience laughs].

“How Scottish are you? Did you grow up on a scheme in the central belt? Have your home demolished several times through ‘regeneration’? Ate a pizza crunch for lunch cos that’s all your tuck money could get you and you were too ashamed to accept the free ticket your poverty afforded you? Learned to hide from the TV licence man, the tax man, the polis, the council, and obviously, the provvy?”

I said this because for me I sometime feel like there’s sort of alternative privilege in Scotland that we don’t really talk about all that much. And I use it as an armour myself. I use it to gain authority, to gain the upper hand in a conversation. Because I feel like that experience lends me that authority and allows me to say what I want about Scottish Culture or the experience of poverty in Scotland. And I don’t think that’s necessarily a good thing. And I’m saying this coming from a very specific experience. Just to give you a bit of gratuitous background. I come from Coatbridge. Those things I said about myself are true, but I also, when I was seventeen left Coatbridge and went on a scholarship to Harvard in the US and spent four years on a scholarship there. So as someone who studied anthropology, I almost did my first ethnographic fieldwork with some of the most privileged people in the world [audience laughs]. And that experience gave me, at first a lot of bitterness and frustration at the lack of understanding in my experience. But by the end of that, a very large and well exercised empathetic muscle. And I don’t think that using my own pain or experiences in poverty… directly or inadvertently… experiences in poverty gives me the authority to tell someone else to shut up.

“You see in Scotland we do this really funny thing that I used to think was unique but turns out a lot of places all over the world do this. We simultaneously oppress and silence the working classes while using the ‘authentic’ sound of our voices to legitimise and explain our ‘culture’. As well as this, we eradicate the middle class stake in a Scottish identity (because they haven’t experienced all that pure authentic stuff like alcoholism or domestic violence, right?), while enshrining in the country’s education and labour infrastructure their dominance in administering and king-making in the national cultural ‘scene’. And what does this mean? They both lose out. The working classes are very obviously the most disadvantaged, since their lack of economic freedom means they have limited access to not just basic needs, but the levers of power and participation that would allow them self-determination.”

So you can see that I’ve got a lot of things in common with Darren in my opinions on this. But I also think that someone who is a practising artist who has developed her craft, who’s showed a dedication to her work also has the right to a living wage. So maybe in more ways than one I straddle these two identities and I don’t think it’s quite as simple as some people would want it to be… or want it to be simple. But, I don’t think it should be fitted in a box. And I think that any conversation moving forward in this needs to be enriched with that complexity, needs to be full of empathy, because I’m not satisfied in having an ‘us and them’. Because that takes no account of the larger structures which allows that inequality to grow. And that’s what I’ve got to say, thanks.

Roanne Dods: Thank you very much.

Ellie Harrison: Shall I just finish up with this? OK, and then, so that was the 6th of January that Katie… Where were you when you were writing that Katie? At work? [laughs]

Katie Gallogly-Swan: I was coming home on the bus from Edinburgh.

Ellie Harrison: You actually wrote it on the bus?

Katie Gallogly-Swan: I was just so angry! [audience laughs]

Darren McGarvey: I have that effect on people.

Roanne Dods: Can I just ask people to sit down before? Sorry, if there’s anyone at the back that wants a seat there’s a few seats… but if you don’t that’s fine too.

[housekeeping]

Audience Member: We’re fine thank you.

Roanne Dods: Just checking.

Ellie Harrison: OK and then… On the… actually it was on the Wednesday night… I got bombarded by media invitations to speak on things… like I could have done a Skype link to Channel 4 News or Newsnight and all the rest of it and I just felt so overwhelmed by it… and I decided to do one interview and to do that interview with CommonSpace. And to address some of the questions around the title ‘The Glasgow Effect’. So, I’ll just read a little section of that, which was published on the 7th of January.

“For the last few years I’ve made a conscious decision to work more in the public realm. Whether that’s literally in the streets, online, or in the mainstream media. I saw this as a way of critiquing the elitist nature of many of our arts institutions and of reaching people from all sorts of backgrounds who would never normally set foot in a gallery. This is something The Glasgow Effect has clearly already achieved. I see it as the role of the arts to stick their neck out in order to raise important social and political issues and although I’ve had to deal with a barrage of personal attacks, making myself into a middle-class punchbag [laughs], I don’t regret the decision to use the title ‘The Glasgow Effect’. I was aware of the issue around class this would through up, but I wanted to expose the ‘tale of two cities’ which is highlighted by the two similar sounding phrases – ‘The Glasgow Miracle’ which is commonly used in the artworld to refer to Glasgow’s post-industrial renaissance as a global centre of culture, and ‘The Glasgow Effect’, which as we all know is it’s antithesis in PR terms.

I have long-been amazed how little of the art this city chooses to spotlight in its major venues has self-reflexive ability to acknowledge or deal with this. As a citizen of Glasgow, I sincerely hope that the discussion provoke by The Glasgow Effect will be constructive for our city, if it helps in anyway to highlight persistent inequalities and to democratise the artworld. We are still faced with problems and contradictions which simply should not exist in a city with such a proud socialist heritage. I will conclude, by using this once in a lifetime platform, to flag up just one of these, which as a public-transport geek, is a personal bugbear. Having campaign for the last six-and-a-half years for the re-nationalisation of our railways with Bring Back British Rail, I would love to see the people of Glasgow take a step towards transport equality by standing up and reclaiming our shambolic, rip-off bus network from First Group and the other profiteering bus companies, which many people simply cannot afford to use. I’ve got a year to help do it, so who’s with me?”

Step forward bus geeks. Watch this space. OK.

Roanne Dods: Thank you very, very much everybody. That was very powerful. We wanted to do that, so that we were all talking from the same place. And before, we just kinda go into the discussion I want to just try… just to get a little bit of a sense, before we go into kinda big statements and questions, just to get a little bit of feedback on what you’ve heard, what you’ve noticed about… just to get a little bit of something going… what did it make you feel? Just from what you’ve heard just now has it changed things? Just before we go into the kinda meaty stuff. It’s called ‘Statements of meaning’. It’s a critical feedback process used in the arts world. I use it all the time. But it’s just gets people just talking a little bit without making big statements yet. Anybody?

Audience Member: Can I say something?

Roanne Dods: Yeah, please.

Audience Member: The idea that you stand by saying, you know, that you like the idea that you called it ‘The Glasgow Effect’. Um, something that some of you know, Glaswegians know, is a lot of loved ones and relatives die in that process, and suffer. If you went to a Jewish city, would you be brave enough to call it ‘The Holocaust Effect’?

Roanne Dods: That’s a provocative way to start [audience laughs].

Audience Member: Is that bad?

Roanne Dods: It wasn’t quite what I was looking for but, OK.

Katie Gallogly-Swan: I thought it was great! [audience laughs]

Darren McGarvey: Well there’s a part in my article where I talk about that, and simply just say:

“For a minority this term is mechanical; describing how industrial-scale poverty finds expression through the population’s infamously poor health. But for most people in Glasgow, the city’s effects plays out in the creaky stages of unnaturally short lives, punctuated by incidents of violence, social exclusion and the all-consuming dread of life-long economic insecurity – while their entire existences are caricatured, vilified and misrepresented in every form of art, media and culture you can think of.”

Roanne Dods: Yeah, and can I just, for a little be of clarity about ‘the Glasgow effect’… now we may have some public health people here and we deliberately didn’t get public health people here tonight… but I just wanna say a couple of things about ‘the Glasgow effect’, which is that the Glasgow Effect came out of a piece of research from the Glasgow Centre for Population Health, where they were looking at a number of cities across the UK, including Manchester, Birmingham, Liverpool, Glasgow that had a very similar demographic and the same sorts of class issues, but the issue for ‘the Glasgow effect’ is that the health impact was having an impact across all aspects of the demographic and nobody can understand why specifically in Glasgow that is the case. Does that make sense? So, it’s not just… it is about poverty, but it’s not just about poverty. It’s the fact that the whole of the city of Glasgow, the health across all sectors of society is worse than it is in other cities in the UK. And, there are more than seventeen different scientific theories for why that reason might be. Some of them around kinda emotion and confidence, some around self-esteem, some are sort of infinitely more scientific. But I just wanted to say… and to kinda acknowledge that it’s actually quite a specific term.

Before we go into the discussion because I know you’re all ready, I would just really love any sense about what you’ve noticed today, that’s different to what you thought or expected. Or just responding to, yeah?

Audience Member: I think Loki’s sounding kinda apologetic and I think like, maybe like a lot of people he kinda went off on one and made the same assumptions that the Record used. And maybe realises that those assumptions weren’t really that well informed.

Roanne Dods: Yeah.

Audience Member: And I think it’s quite helpful to hear him speak in that way.

Roanne Dods: Thank you, that’s lovely. Thank you very much. Yep?

Audience Member: I think to hear the origin of it as the Geddes statement ‘Think Global, Act Local’ has actually clarified… although I know you wrote it, I was taken away with all the other stuff as well. I think that’s clarified it much more for me, and I actually wish you’d just stuck with that title [audience laughs]. And I’ll just add an extra bit and that is, why is local Glasgow? Why not just a little bit of Glasgow? Because I think that was more what Geddes was talking about.

Roanne Dods: One or two other comments, just like that? Yep?

Audience Member: The stuff that Loki wrote, was taken out of context. I’ve been following his stuff for a few years and it was a sort of ongoing theme and this was a sort of headline that brought that sort of thing to the fore. So a lot of the sort of criticisms of Loki’s thing was more a criticism of the people that commented on Loki’s thing and took up the thing, rather than what he was saying, because what he was saying, he’d been saying the year before and he’d been saying the year before and he’d been saying it every time a question comes up about Creative Scotland in the past and he’s said it before and it was in a context of this, it was a sort of combination of the debate… and it got a lot of headlines but the debate’s been ongoing…

And, can I just point out about the guy at the back about the Holocaust thing… I was a young rebellious artist who thought about the Sex Pistols and ‘Belsen Was A Gas’… artists sometimes do that stuff.

Ellie Harrison: I would like to comment on that. I think… in terms of this phrase ‘the Glasgow effect’, it’s important to separate out what it’s referring to and the catchphrase itself. Because the catchphrase itself… like you said there’s already seventeen different theories as to why this increased premature mortality happens in Glasgow, but what it is is a catchphrase that is being used to fuel an industry of overpaid academics coming to this city, writing countless reports, getting paid huge salaries and doing fuck all about poverty and that’s exactly what ‘the Glasgow effect’ is and that is what I want to challenge. And that is what I want to draw attention to. So, I’m sorry, OK [applause], but that’s another way of looking at it and that’s what I want to expose, that people are just talking, talking, talking and they’re not actually doing anything. These problems are getting worse.

Gerry Hassan: Ellie, you’re partly right there and I think, you know, there has always been a Glasgow industry about talking about Glasgow, and I mean Stanley Baxter’s ‘Parliamo Glasgow’, if people can remember that and heard the repeats of that – that’s a satire on a professor of sociology coming to Glasgow and taking the piss out of Glaswegians with fancy terms. Now, there’s a huge about of money in Public Health in Glasgow, a huge wealth of public services, but it’s not quite fair to say “academics coming to this city”. They are academics mostly in this city who are mining an industry that we can then talk about, a fact of note. What’s it doing? ‘The Glasgow effect’ in a sense, as Roanne was saying, came from Glasgow Centre for Population Health. Now, this was made by people like Dave Walsh, and David’s other researchers and propagated by Phil Hanlon, professor of public health and a whole host of other people, Harry Burns and there’s even a book by Carol Craig on Glasgow, which has popularised it, more to the extent that people think Carol Craig invented ‘the Glasgow effect’, which she didn’t. What we’ve got to talk about here a little bit is the perils of success, to an extent.

So ‘the Glasgow effect’ was trying to get to the point that we already knew poverty kills people, we don’t need to spend a single penny of public money on that, that’s self-evident. What has been happening in Glasgow is that something in the culture of Glasgow adds a missing ingredient, and so this then leads to people saying ‘the Glasgow effect’ kills poor people earlier. It doesn’t, it effects every demographic of this city. So if you are a rich person or an affluent person coming from London or the South East within twenty years you embrace the demographics of ‘the Glasgow effect’. There’s something going on here. And people think it’s about basically, the psychological response that we have to deindutrialisation and what happened from the mid-seventies to mid-eighties in Glasgow.

But what happens you see is when then we start referring to it… like how life is complicated… we all refer to things at times, because we can’t help it, we have to, that we basically don’t understand. We talk about you know, ‘the SNP’ or ‘Tories’ or we talk about ‘the Bedroom tax’ or things like that. And so ‘the Glasgow effect’ has become summarised to lots of people as ‘Glaswegians are killed by poverty’. And so what’s happened is the perils of success mean that a theory that began to try to break out of the pathologising of Glaswegians has ended up pathologising Glasgow, has ended up making poor people sound like, again, the victims of all these broader trends when it tried not to. Now that I think is something that is really, really problematic. It doesn’t give you a chance to take power. It doesn’t give you a chance to talk about structural inequality. And this has become so problematic as it turns full circle, that the people who invented the theory are now trying not to use the term ‘the Glasgow effect’ now, because they know, they know they’ve kinda ended up creating something that kinda devours its own children basically [audience laughs].

So that’s a success in a way, but it’s a problem and also as Ellie said, I mean Glasgow Centre for Population Health, which is – disclaimer: my partner worked for three years a couple of years ago – it hasn’t addressed, from this world class research, what the hell we do with it. You know. So poverty kills, but something in our culture kills as well. Right, great, we lead the world on it, what do we do about it? That’s the question.

… [transcription in progress]

Photo: Neil Scott