Jewel Of The Clyde 

On day 11 of NaPoWriMo my topic of choice is culture as I look back to 1990 when Glasgow was European City Of Culture and look at the legacy this has left us. I’ve given it the title Jewel Of The Clyde. I hope you enjoy the read.  

Jewel Of The Clyde 
I remember it well 

  1990 

when Glasgow was cultural capital of Europe 

and we were told by our so called betters 

we were the Jewel of the Clyde 

this marketing slogan for the middle classes 

never sat well with ordinary lassies like me 

well not at the time 

though we eventually got used to it 

maybe even liked it 

we never got excited at the prospect the big ticket events 

not when the prices were at least a month’s rent 

we weren’t in to Pavarotti or Sinatra 

but a bit of Love and Money went down fine 

there were lines to be drawn 

between the Scotia Bar and the Tron 

my dad said 

though  I must admit I felt at home 

in both 

well one had ambience the other had heart 

less than a mile apart they symbolised the contrast 

between new and old Glasgow

the geography of conflict 

between socialism and gentrification 

where culture wars real and imagined 

began to be fought 

1990 showed the haves and have nots 

were warring tribes on the hunt  for new recruits 

aspiration and tradition the badges of honour 

claimed by opposing sides 

you could have one but not the other 

in the world according to my mother 

I wanted both and believed I could have them 

I was never wedded to the idea of class as identity 

my view that it was a bigger social construct than nation 

sat well with my radical dad 

but not my socially conservative mum 

who heard distant drums

 as a symbol of her white Protestant Britishness 

the togetherness unionists still bang on about 

even though its days are numbered 

2014 saw generational cultures colide 

but the Jewel of the Clyde voted yes 

to independence

and did it for MacLean and Jimmy Reid 

greed  has never been our way 

the big ticket events have their place 

but if 1990 showed us anything 

it was that our communities 

are what make us strong 

there were lots Glasgowing On 

to give us a sense of belonging 

and a sentimental longing for yesterday 

but times moved on 

and we found our voice

telling stories with authenticity and dignity 

 in plays in community halls 

and poetry nights in bars 

the ordinary people were the stars 

of the Glasgow show 

the roots we planted have grown 

we have flourished beyond recognition 

aspiration and tradition have married 

and the Jewel of the Clyde 

 is the voice they gave to their children. 

 © Gayle Smith 2017 

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2 thoughts on “Jewel Of The Clyde 

  1. This a lovely poem Gail and it took me back to 1990 and Glasgow being the City of Culture. I like how you show that culture in Glasgow does not come from fancy slogans or highbrow concerts but from the people of Glasgow and their stories and as you say ‘stories with authenticity and dignity’.

    • Hey Angela I knew you’d like this poem. After all , you are no stranger to it having seen it performed both at the Four Ages Slam and at Express Yourself which was it’s first public performance. 1990 was a big year for me as well as Glasgow, as I toured Scotland with one drama group then joined a more locally based one and began to find my voice as I started to take my poetry more seriously. It was also in the April of that year that the Southside Writers began to host a performance night in the wee back room of Sammy Dow’s and created what is Glasgow’s longest running spoken word night. The name of that night is Words And Music I think you may have heard of it.

      Love And Best Wishes
      Gayle X

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