Paddy’s Market

Over the span of 18 months, I meticulously chronicled the saga of Paddy’s Market as its vendors and a small cohort of supporters waged a gruelling battle against closure amidst a relentless onslaught from Glasgow City Council and the media. Their concerted efforts aimed to eradicate the market from the city centre.

The council and local media spearheaded a smear campaign, branding the market as a relic of a bygone era, out of step with the trendy bars, bistros, and shops of the Merchant City catering to a burgeoning and diverse cultural scene. It was depicted as having outlived its purpose, deemed past its prime, and in need of rejuvenation.

In essence, the market fell short of fitting into the vision of “Glasgow: Scotland with Style,” the city council’s then-infamous slogan. To justify the closure of Paddy’s, Glasgow was tantalized with the promise of a vibrant new market akin to Camden Market, replete with ethnic art stalls, second-hand goods, and antiques, catering to both the city’s underprivileged and middle-class denizens. Market traders were encouraged to apply for licenses to operate in this supposedly upscale market, offering Glasgow yet another retail paradise.

Ultimately, this vision never materialised, and no concrete plans were ever set in motion. When Glasgow secured the honour of hosting the Commonwealth Games in 2014, the campaign to shutter the market intensified, focusing on purportedly high crime rates in the area.

Newspaper headlines sensationalized Paddy’s Market as a hub of drug dealing, prostitution, violence, and even attempted murder. However, it was conveniently overlooked that these crimes occurred after the market’s closure when the site was a public thoroughfare adjacent to a homeless hostel for drug addicts. Documents obtained under the Freedom of Information Act revealed that Strathclyde Police themselves acknowledged in April 2008 that the market traders were not responsible for the area’s crime.

Chief Inspector Alan Spence attributed the crime to the general demographic the area attracted, singling out the homeless hostel as a significant contributor. Nonetheless, the chief inspector asserted that closing Shipbank Lane, where Paddy’s Market was situated, would substantially reduce crime levels.

It became evident that Paddy’s Market and its traders were being unjustly scapegoated for the area’s crime, yet there was no opposition from the City Council. The relentless negative publicity had succeeded in convincing most Glaswegians of the market’s alleged blight. The final nails were hammered into the coffin, rendering futile even a televised appeal by Alex Kapranos from Franz Ferdinand to save the market.

Five years after its closure, the site of Paddy’s Market in Shipbank Lane remains an abandoned ghost town, enclosed by imposing steel fences. The grandiose plans touted by the council for a modern, vibrant Camden-style market never came to fruition, resulting in the loss of jobs and livelihoods. Some traders attempted to relocate, with a few settling in the Barras Market. However, the Barras Market itself was already experiencing a decline in patronage and support.

The council claimed a decrease in crime in the vicinity of the market, possibly attributed to the closure of the adjacent homeless hostel in 2011. However, there is scant evidence to support this assertion. While there were isolated instances of counterfeit and contraband at Paddy’s Market, the majority of traders were not involved in such activities. They consistently advocated for managing the market rather than dismantling it entirely.

The cost of leaving Paddy’s Market dormant for five years amounts to £500,000 in rent paid by the City Council to Network Rail, the site’s owners. Perhaps if the city had embraced the ethos of its new strapline “People Make Glasgow” earlier, Paddy’s Market could have endured in some capacity. As buses ferry visitors through Glasgow during the games, one can only hope that the view from their windows justifies the city’s decisions.


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