Last Saturday, while travelling eastbound on the M8, I notice some weirdness going on in Stanley Street, these days a prime billboard site. Never one to miss a trick, I exit at the Tradeston/Kinning Park off ramp – bizarrely two inner city areas unrecognised by the city’s local newspaper, the Evening Times.
Moments later I discover that the Gray Dunn Biscuit Factory, a place that looms large in my memory, is being demolished. Incompetently and dangerously. The reporting of this, with no byline, was published the following Monday in the aforementioned Evening Times which ran the story on its front page.
Today – Saturday 26th January – is bright and cold. Walking the length of Stanley Street I’m confronted with a flimsy mesh partition spanning its width. It seems as if I’m in some kind of a crime scene but luckily I have my camera kit to hand and in a Weegeesque manoeuvre – a nod to the New York photographer, not this city – I set about gathering evidence.
At the M8 end of the street, the modern end, erected during the1950s/60s and attached to the revamped construction after another famous Glasgow fire in 1894/5 destroyed the 1882 original, I note yet again how a once-intact building, now vacant, but located in a prime city centre site (see also – The Co-operative Funeral Building at Morrison Street) – is being selectively razed. If the news reports are credible, the building has been prey to scrap metal thieves, doubtless members of the skiving classes, as other news reports would have us believe. On the upside, the ex-biscuit factory, given its proximity to the M8 and M77 has been spared a fire, arson being too weighty and dangerous an accusation.
Circling the mesh barrier, I spot a gap. Hunter Demolition, whose sign adorns the fence, is plainly not at work today. But dare I enter? Not that there’s anyone around to witness any such breach of security. Besides, I’d put money on the CCTV cameras not working. Even if they do, the odds on an urgent dispatch to detain me is unlikely since if the standard of demolition – which by appearances consists of kicking out bricks and not picking them up – is anything to go by, any chance of an integrated network of vigilant professionals looking for the bad guys is shot to bits, at least not on a minimum wage. The precious metals have already been turned to cash.
So what am I looking at? Certainly not a wholesale blowdown, in the manner of Safedem whose artistry of demolition cannot be faulted and, given their output in this city, ought to be a shoo-in for a Turner Prize. The pile of rubble I photographed last week was still there when I drove past a week later, and for a fleeting moment I experienced a flashback, a memory of the nearby Milnpark Street swingpark, on the site of which now stands an anonymous tin shed warehouse. I doubt if a photograph of the park exists but as I stood there, aged 4, I couldn’t fathom why anyone would put gravel in the drinking well. And that’s how I still feel.