Given the spatial cutbacks facing the gallery the name sort of worked as a bad pun, implying liberation from a bad situation: to avoid becoming victims of the Royal Mail’s property profiteering in the Dennistoun area. In terms of the forums actual content, both Neil Gray our first speaker, and Laurie Macfarlane on the last day can be said to have considered free market economics in different ways. Gray’s talk was titled Between Art, Rent & Urbanism, which provided a historical, highly critical perspective on the wider social and economic issues of culture in Glasgow. Macfarlane, an economist at the New Economics Foundation, also provided a bigger picture context in his talk Privatisation: The story so far, the journey ahead. If the forum can be described as having multiple layers, then for me these two talks provided the bedrock, the intellectual framework for the rest to work within (which is only to say that they were more abstract and academic). Gray’s analysis of local governments’ successive profit driven urban redevelopment strategies, and it’s unseen negative impact upon local communities made for a sober starting point. His class based Marxist critique indirectly implicated the audience and the gallery committee as members of the “creative class”, who are in one sense unbeknownst actors, instrumentalized by aggressive private enterprise and gradual gentrification. Gray traced the roots of this part-governmental, part-private urban regeneration back to the Glasgow East End Renewal project in 1976, through to the 1988 Myerscough report, and other policy reports surfacing around the time Glasgow won the 1990 European Capital of Culture. He spoke of how these reports argued for “the economic capture of Glasgows cultural assets”, and were inspired by similar U.S-based redevelopment methods that entailed highly segregated, uneven development across rustbelt cities like Baltimore and Detroit. He convincingly described the negative consequences that occur when governments and local councils replace long-term structural, socially oriented investment with short-term free market fundamentalism.

Neil Gray’s talk:

Tom Holland (ex committee member)