Visiting the family, resident in Glasgow, three generations of us, including small grand-child, went to try out the Platform at Argyle Street Arches in the city. This complex is housed in the arched substructures supporting the railway station above. You enter directly off the Hielandman’s Umbrella. That is the name of the bridge over Argyle Street formed by the railway tracks and platforms of Central Station crossing the road at right angles.
The Hielandman’s - Highlander’s - Umbrella got its name long ago as the Highland folk who came to find work in Glasgow gathered there by custom, to keep up socially, as this was before the invention of Facebook groups. You can also deduce that it also rains quite a lot in Glasgow.
Under the Hielandman's Umbrella
The Arches was a nightclub and theatre venue (the former subsidising the latter). For some years, it was considered cutting edge, leading light, at forefront of club, gig, theatre scene - but ran foul of Licensing Authorities. Doesn’t matter why. Now it’s gone.
Anyhoo, at time of writing, March 2018, in keeping with Glasgow’s entrepreneurial spirit, the cavernous, rambling, atmospheric space had just become a venue for street food. Not just any old junky food but fare produced by ethical traders who adhere to Scotland’s Food Charter for Events (who knew?).
That means it’s locally and sustainably sourced, free range, fair trade and probably doesn’t harm dolphins or accidentally maim albatrosses either. In short, it’s aimed at middle-class families.
In downtown Glasgow
So the family decided it was a jolly enough way to spend an afternoon in downtown Glasgow. We easily found seats, chose from the outlets and brought our food to the tables, with the wee one playing in the thoughtfully supplied kids toys section (aka 'play area'.)
So far, so family friendly. If you were visiting Glasgow and just wanted to refuel without fuss, this place would be entirely suitable.
At time of writing it’s a venue that opens Friday to Sunday.
I was ahead of the others on leaving and the (typically Glasgow friendly) doorman, with a smile on his face, made a comment about maybe delaying my departure.
At the same time there was shouting in the street. Something was going on...
I said I’d go outside to take a look, just for the entertainment value - I mean, Glasgow is famous for its friendly banter, ‘crack’, repartee and so on.
Meanwhile out on the mean streets...
That same afternoon, two of Glasgow’s famous football teams, called Rangers and Celtic, had been playing each other - a local ‘derby’.
All that I was hearing was the aftermath of the game, spilling out on to the streets of the city. (Incidentally, no idea who won that day. Couldn’t care less, as a matter of fact.)
Across the street, there were men milling around. Most of the noise was coming from just a few individuals, howling invective at each other. Police vans were arriving, blue-lights glinting off shop windows, high-viz jackets beginning to dot the street.
Anyone having a quiet coffee or beer in the seated area at the front of the Radisson Blu Hotel just along the road must have been greatly entertained.
The hate-fuelled, foul-mouthed rants echoed in the busy pavement beneath the bridge, but started to subside as the police made their presence felt.
Finally, there was only one voice, obscenities at full volume, directed to some other dispersing group further along the pavement.
A young man standing next to me shook his head and murmured ‘Aye, only in Glasgow…’.
At this point, the noisiest of the humanoids was dragged away, cursing and resisting, while round the corner in Hope Street, a pool of pond-life still looked threatening. It was a Sunday afternoon. Just a typical downtown scene after an ‘Auld Firm’ game.
Seedbed for sectarianism
The Old Firm or Auld Firm is the name given collectively to the two Glasgow football teams who act as repository and seed-bed for the traditional sectarian hatred (mostly, but not exclusively) of the west of Scotland, now that nobody much actually goes to church. In simple terms, Rangers represent Protestant while Celtic, Catholic factions. Religion, eh? 'Rolls eyes'.
The ‘Auld Firm’ also dominates the game of football as it is played in Scotland. According to the University of Strathclyde, the two teams’ frequent encounters generate the equivalent of $170 million for the Scottish economy. Personally, I'm staggered. I hope that figure covers the police overtime bill. (See this objective Al Jezeera account. That's where I got the figure from.)
Maybe this also explains why unsettling post-match scenes are just part of the landscape hereabouts (I almost wrote ‘culture’.) Right in the centre of Glasgow.
People make Glasgow, apparently
Anyway, I went back inside, past the grinning doorman, picked up the family and said we should go back to the car now. They asked where I’d been. I told them I’d just been enjoying the ambience of the friendly and vibrant city.
After all, ‘People Make Glasgow’. All sorts of people...
For further information on one group that is fighting sectarianism in Scotland see Nil By Mouth.