Finnieston? It’s Artification not Gentrification.

photo from Vice

Finnieston in Glasgow has been labelled the new Shoreditch after coming top of a 20 hippest places to live list in The Times. Vice sent a reporter up to uncover the truth, cue a bit of fretting about hipsters and gentrification.

Gentrification is a rubbish term for what has been happening here. Ever since artists of all sorts colonised downtown Manhattan in the 70s and kicked off a process of improvement there’s been an shadow complaint that something inauthentic is going on. The appearance of start-ups and young people wanting to live somewhere affordable and hip should be a cause for celebration not denigration.

Finnieston’s emergence as a creative area owes a lot to the extraordinary number of Turner Prize winners and nominees who are Glaswegian, graduates of the art school, resident in the city or some combination of the three. They in turn are part of a lineage that can be traced to the art school grads of 1991 who were working in a city the year after it became European City of Culture. This key event in the turnaround of the then dilapidated post-industrial city was itself the effect of a process that began with artists, arguably when Alasdair Gray published Lanark, a novel about a city without art. That novel came out in 1981 just as Postcard Records was hitting its stride championing the Sound of Young Scotland. Two years year later and Orange Juice’s Rip It Up would chart as the band, along with stablemates Josef K and fellow Glaswegians the Pastels, all but invented bedsit pop. In the same year Aztec Camera would release their first album, and The Jesus and Mary Chain would form. The scene would later morph into dance with ex-Mary Chain drummer Bobby Gillespie’s new band Primal Scream. That process had its own peak event in 1992 when the Primal’s Screamadelica beat the Mary Chain to win the inaugural Mercury Prize. The bands by that time had moved south but Glasgow was well into a cultural renaissance. The art scene included those 91 art school graduates Nathan Coley, Martin Boyce and the first of the Turner Prize winners, Douglas Gordon. The pull of London was still strong but by that point Glasgow was beginning to look like a city that could be good for art. Some of the artists, like David Shrigley, stayed, more came along, new bands were formed, clubs became famous, films by directors like Lynne Ramsey, were made and a scene formed. As it did, cheap areas of the city were populated by the artists and their friends, studio space was found, start-ups in tech and fashion followed, cafes and bars got more interesting, students and young workers moved in and what was once a forgotten area became edgy. Then some journalist labels it gentrification and someone else grumbles about hipsters and the shadow complaint is there.

The point is language. The gentry had nothing to do with all of this so called gentrification. It’s never the gentry who take the first move into the run down area, it's artists and it's the young and skint. It’s not gentrification, it’s more like Artification and its better that for Finnieston or Berlin or Shoreditch than stagnating forever, unloved and undeveloped.

Artists create markets, not the gentry.

Also published here