Govanhill - 'you don't know if your in Bengal or Donegal' - is
situated in the South side of Glasgow within the Shettleson parliamentary
constituency. This is the unhealthiest constituency in the UK and at the
last general election had the lowest voter turn out in Scotland and the
second lowest in the UK. Govanhill Pool is an Edwardian Baroque building
with three swimming pools, a sauna, gym and Turkish suite. Purpose built
and part of the area since 1914, it is still in excellent condition. In
January 2001, Charlie Gordon, leader of Glasgow City Council, announced
that the pool was to be closed. The Council set a date of closure for
31st March that same year despite a petition signed by twelve thousand
citizens protesting the decision.
The Council gave the local community and the South side of Glasgow just
fourteen working days to respond to this proposed closure.1
No formal announcement was made. The closure came to light in the Council's
annual budget proposals that were not made available to the community,
though a snippet about the proposed closure appeared in the press. In
response, local people formed the 'Glasgow's Govanhill Pool: South
Side Against Closure' (SSAC) and began a sit-in of the building on
the 21st March. The Council enlisted the support of the police to break
into the building and effectively closed it on the 29th March. Soon after
the Council drained the water from the pools. SSAC's occupation of
Govanhill Pool lasted one-hundred and forty-one days before finally being
forcefully and violently brought to an end by Strathclyde Police on the
7th August 2001, acting on the orders of Glasgow City Council and in support
of the Sheriff's Officers. Throughout the occupation SSAC maintained
a picket line outside the building. This became the "hub of the community"
and continued after the eviction until March 2002. SSAC continue in their
fight for Govanhill Pool to be re-opened as public swimming pools with
a health living centre for the benefit of the whole community.
In the autumn of 2001, after a good eight months of campaigning, SSAC
decided to do what the Council had failed to do: consult the local people.
'Govanhill Pool: the impact of closure and a consultation with former
users, a study' was designed by SSAC members who were working in academia,
local government, planning and health services, and who were experienced
in research methods. Resources did not allow for a 'scientific sampling'
of respondents. However, as the study proceeded and the results were analysed
the method of 'distributing' and interviewing revealed that a cross-section
of the South side community and pool users had in fact been effectively
included in their survey. The survey therefore contained the best of both
methodological worlds: it was a survey based on and contained 'hard' data,
whilst it built a qualitative picture of what people really felt at the
time. In this sense, the findings and the interpretation of them can be
taken to be rigorous and valid.
The survey's questionnaire2
took account of age, gender, health, employment and ethnicity. Of all
those surveyed 55% were no longer swimming. The results showed that the
closure had a greater effect on those over 60, with 69% of survey participants
over 60 no longer swimming compared with 54% of 41-60 year olds, 52% of
26-40 year olds and 40% of 16-25 year olds.
Within the small sample of Indian and Pakistani swimmers the survey revealed
that since closure 90% of survey participants had not used other facilities.
Throughout the campaign the Council had been made aware that the new facilities
which people had been directed to were particularly unsuitable for much
of the Asian population: the glass walls and open design of pools at Gorbals
and Bellahouston are prohibitive to Muslim women in particular. Govanhill
Pool as an Edwardian enclosed swimming pool permitted both private and
segregated swimming for men and women, a feature which led to the pool
being identified in a SportScotland3
study on 'Ethnic Minorities and Sport' as a best practise example of breaking
down barriers to participation in sport.
77% of survey participants who were unemployed were no longer using other
facilities, compared to 40.7% of those in full-time employment. 68.7%
of those who were sick or disabled and not fit to work were no longer
using other facilities, and 75% of those retired.
Car owners were more likely to be using other swimming facilities than
non-car owners and most car owners were in full or part-time employment.
Car ownership did have an influence on whether full-time employees were
So, the closure of Govanhill Pool has most severely effected the old,
the poor, the sick and disabled, the unemployed and ethnic minorities.
So much for social inclusion.
SSAC's study concluded that:
the public want the baths to be reopened
all three swimming pools should be reopened
the rest of the building should be developed into a healthy living
the facility should remain in public ownership but with real local
representation to avoid the problems of the past
To have the local resources and personnel to take on the responsibility
of carrying out your own survey is to the credit of the inspired 'South
Side Against Closure Campaign'. Other organisations have also contributed
their support to the campaign, such as 'Glasgow Letters on Architecture
and Space'4 - who provided
publicity for the survey at the 'Making Waves' two day conference
organised by SSAC in March 2002 5 - and
students from Glasgow School of Art.
Earlier on in the year in February 2001, Glasgow City Council, under pressure
from campaigners and after announcing the pool's closure, announced
a budget of £30,000 for their own study: 'Feasibility Study of the
Pool Complex'. A study that would be put out to tender and would take
two months to complete. In June 2001 the multinational company EDAW in
association with Page and Park Architects were appointed to do the Council's
study. In January 2002, almost a year later, EDAW confirmed to SSAC they
had delivered their report to Glasgow City Council. SSAC asked to see
copies of this study but were told that there were some technical problems
with it. SSAC already had problems with just how well EDAW had consulted
local people: questionnaires had been found lying in closes, community
sessions and discussion groups were cancelled because Glasgow City Council
said they would be hijacked by SSAC members. The Council finally published
its study in late June 2002. The EDAW/Park&Page report concluded that
the Govanhill Pool should be developed into a centre which uses the two
small pools and redevelops the main pool into a healthy living centre,
it included the proposed funders for the project which would cost £3.5
The report was given to the 'Southside Regeneration Group':
a local group made up of representatives of the housing associations,
voluntary groups and heads of local schools. No one is quite sure what
the criteria is to be represented within the group and SSAC had lobbied
long and hard to get involved without success. The 'Southside Regeneration
Group' appointed a sub-committee to examine the legitimacy of the
Council's feasibility study's figures as they appeared not to stack
up. It was to the credit of this sub-committee that a representative of
SSAC was invited to become a member. It was agreed at meeting, that an
independent consultant should be called in to examine the figures. A further
£7,000 of public money was given for the task. The consultant Archie
Fairley was appointed in August 2002. In his interim report in November
2002, Fairley reported that he had contacted the various funders suggested
by EDAW/Park&Page and found that they had not actually been consulted,
and that the £3.5 million which they suggested for the regeneration
of the pool was wildly off the mark. He estimated that there was in fact
an outside chance of being able to raise £1.2 million, and that
would be on the basis of half of that being "matched" by those
bidding for finance. His formal conclusion in his final report states:
"The main conclusion of the report is that the indicative capital
funding package in the EDAW/Park&Page report is not well founded and
is not feasible under current or foreseeable circumstances..." He
concluded at the meeting that: "My own professional standard would
not have allowed me to put my signature to such a Study."
So in December 2003, a year and a half after the feasibility study was
commissioned by Glasgow City Council, it turns out not to be not worth
the paper it's written on. Many users of the Govanhill Pool and most community
members had from the beginning believed that the Council's feasibility
study commissioned after the pool was closed was a "whitewash"
and a cynical ploy by Charlie Gordon and the Council to buy time whilst
the protest died down. But SSAC have not gone away!
Most of SSAC's time recently has been taken up by the process described
above and by court cases 'relating' to their campaign. On the
night that the campaigners were violently evicted by Strathclyde Police,
many ordinary men, women and children were physically and psychologically
injured. SSAC called for a full public inquiry into the behaviour of Strathclyde
Police. This was refused but an "independent" inquiry was set
up. This involved the investigation of Strathclyde Police by Fife Police,
the Chief Constable of which was until three years ago the Assistant Chief
Constable of Strathclyde Police. On the night of the eviction no charges
were brought against any members of SSAC. However, in January 2002 after
the report by Fife Police was given to the Procurator Fiscal, nine people - all
members of SSAC, seven of which are Muslim - were charged with various
offences relating to the night of the eviction. SSAC made eighteen complaints
about Strathclyde Police behaviour to the Fife Police Inquiry, twelve
of these have been abandoned and six are under review by the Procurator
Fiscal. SSAC don't believe that the six under review will go any further
until all the court cases against SSAC members have been heard.
'South Side Against Closure' have now been in existence for
almost two years. They are fighting for local democracy, for their voices
to be heard. They have lost all faith in local Councillors who are meant
to be in power to represent them. Councillors are furiously rubbishing
the survey SSAC carried out and accuse them of wanting to hijack council
tax money for their own ends. It is obvious to anyone who has come in
contact with this campaign that rather than taking from the community
they continue to give: their time, their expertise as individuals, their
intellect and creativity. At the time in Glasgow when there was demonstrations
against the murder of Firsat Yildiz Dag, a Kurdish refugee - where
demonstrators had to run a gauntlet of local white youths and adults in
Sighthill - across the city Asian youth, white housewives and children,
elderly Asian men, shopkeepers and professionals were all coming together
to fight for their community.
SSAC meet every Monday evening, for more information on their continuing
campaign see: www.saveourpool.co.uk
1 In fact it transpired that the Council made this decision in October
2000 and told no-one. Local Labour Councillors although aware of the proposed
closure simply kept quiet. No assistance was given to the community or
users to argue a case against closure and the only "offer" was
to relocate and "direct" users to "state of the art"
pools 3 and 4 miles away.
2. A questionnaire was piloted extensively in the community in order to
be sure the questions were both appropriate to the task and technically
viable. As a result community members themselves made suggestions and
assisted in the development of the instrument and study design. Every
attempt was made to ensure that the questions allowed all views to be
expressed from the wide range of community members. There emerged a strong
view that the questionnaire should be administered on a face to face basis
so that an opportunity could be given to respondents to explain or expand
on their views as they addressed specific questions. A team of local people
involved in the campaign were given training in face to face interviewing
in order to ensure rigour and consistency.
3. State of the art pools are being built with European and government
money and through SportScotland government money. SportScotland has given
£21.5 million to Glasgow for sport and recreation facilities. It
has produced major statements about the need to regenerate communities
and implement social inclusion strategies - in association with the
Scottish Executive, the documents 'The Role of Sport in Regenerating Deprived
Communities', and what it calls "the settled will" of the Scottish
people in a document called 'Sport 21'. Both are replete with statements
about social inclusion, health, recreation and sport.
The Glasgow strategy of closing old pools and building new ones (with
SportScotland money) has ignored the advice and recommendations of its
funders. For example the document above states clearly: "All providers
should evaluate current programmes and the extent to which they are addressing
all aspects of social inclusion." In the case of the Govanhill Pool
closure Glasgow City Council has not done this. The council did not conduct
a social audit as to the consequences of closure. It ignored all of the
research evidence about the need to keep local and recreational sports
facilities open particularly in urban areas in a context of social inclusion.
It can be easily demonstrated that the action to close runs counter to
the Council's own policies, SportScotlands' targets on social inclusion,
those of the Scottish and Westminster Parliament's. Guidelines and recent
research on local community consultation from the Scottish Parliament's
Executive have been ignored.
4. Glasgow Letters on Architecture and Space Ltd.
31a Errol Gardens, Glasgow ,G5 0RA
Tel: +44 (0) 141 429 6891
Fax: +44 (0) 141 429 6891
"GLAS are a Glasgow based co-operative of architects, teachers, writers
and urban activists who are committed to fighting all manifestations of
socio-spatial inequality, exploitation and deprivation." They produce
the magazine GlasPaper.
5. Making Waves, 23rd-4th March 2002, Langside Halls, Glasgow
Two day community conference reflecting the impact campaigns can make
locally and globally.