Copyright 2016 © Chris Leslie

The Legacy

Dalmarnock

“Dalmarnock was forgot about, it’s lain derelict for years and years and no-one bothered about us. You could see money being poured into other areas, but Dalmarnock was always forgot about.” As she stood outside her ground level flat on Ardenlea St – of a row of derelict, smashed and boardedup Victorian red sandstone flats, you could see that the wifie, its sole resident, hanging out her window, had a point.

When I started documenting Dalmarnock in 2007, much of it was a ghost town. Deindustrialization in the 1960s and 1970s had left the area in ruins. Once a thriving community, and the engine room of Glasgow’s industrial might, its population decreased from 50,000 in the 1950s to around 2,000. In late 2007 all that was to change as Glasgow had just been awarded Host City of the Commonwealth Games and Dalmarnock was to be the main development site.

Immediately there were media reports of jubilation on the streets of Glasgow, headlines of job promises and apprenticeships in the wake of the construction boom and politicians falling over themselves promising dynamic change ahead and a lasting legacy. On the ground in Dalmarnock the announcement was met with a little less fanfare. They had lived with decline for 30 years and at this stage it was hard to imagine anything different.

The young people I met, whilst sceptical of others ‘moving into their territory’, were excited about the prospect of these new jobs and apprenticeships. Tony, aged 14 explained: “There is nothing here, it would be hard to imagine more people wanting to come here when there is nothing, but for sure, aye, an apprenticeship would be good.” No-one at any stage seemed to be offering the youngsters the chance to be managers or engineers – it was as if there was a certain level of expectation placed upon them and the area.

The pensioners in the Dalmarnock Community Centre, meeting for their bi-weekly bingo, were just thankful that finally something positive was planned for the area. Local councillor, George Redmond, told me that the area was on the cusp of something great. Dalmarnock, we were told, was to rise from the ashes and “the people of Dalmarnock needed to see positive change”. It was clear that Dalmarnock was ripe for regeneration, and that few people would stand in its way or argue against it.

There were, however, a few lone voices who dared to question. That woman hanging out the window was Margaret Jaconelli and she and her family had lived here alone in the dereliction of Ardenlea St for the past five years. All of the other residents had been moved or rehoused but Margaret, who purchased her home in 1976, was not eligible for rehousing and, when her home was valued at £29,000 by the district registrar, she couldn’t afford to move elsewhere.

With the Commonwealth Games announcement and subsequent land deals taking place across much of the wasteland that was Dalmarnock, Margaret and her family presumed that they would get a reasonable payment for their home. But the City Council and the Commonwealth Games organising committee had different ideas and, for the next five years, she fought a long campaign against a Compulsory Purchase Order served on her property.

People in Glasgow were divided about the Jaconellis. Some elements of the local media branded Margaret as greedy and claimed she was ‘holding back the games’. Councillor Redmond told me that the area was in dire need of regeneration. Its people had suffered 30 years of decline and no-one should prevent the positive changes. He concluded that “someone had to take it on the chin”.

In her defence Margaret argued that serving a CPO on her property was not actually legal, because there was no evidence anywhere, even from the many ‘successful’ mega-sporting events held across the world, that the Games would benefit the local population.

In the end her last appeal was rejected and on the 24th March 2011 she and her family were evicted by over 100 police and sheriff officers. A few weeks later, her home was demolished along with the rest of Ardenlea Street and the last remnants of old Dalmarnock.

In July 2014 the Commonwealth Games rolled into Dalmarnock and two weeks later everyone left. The Dalmarnock landscape has been transformed with a shiny new velodrome, a new train station and a new athlete’s village. But substantive evidence that mega sporting events like the Commonwealth Games actually ever benefit the local populations of the areas they transform remains elusive. One local pensioner noted that this was the third ‘new Dalmarnock’ that he has lived through in his lifetime. Dalmarnock’s residents continue to question what exactly this ‘legacy’ will mean for them.