We start by crossing the River Kelvin and dipping a toe into Maryhill. Some call this area North Kelvinside, where residential developments of the late 19th century crossed the river and were established on old estates, just south of the growing burgh of Maryhill.
A couple of minutes walk takes us to the Children’s Wood where along with numerous other volunteers, Andrea helps children to have fun in the outdoors of their city. Work and learn, explore and play in a small patch of wild within an urban environment. Here, Andrea run classes in outdoor skills for children with groups coming from all over Maryhill and beyond.
Yet the Children’s Wood sits within contended land. Part of North Kelvin Meadow, local residents established an area for the community from old disused playing fields. For many locals, it is an important open green space comprising allotments, a community orchard, a wild meadow and a wood.
The Council want to sell off the meadow and build houses. Local residents want to keep their wild green land. They are opposing the Council, fighting to keep their much-loved – and used – space.
The Children’s Wood itself sits on an old tennis court, where nature seeps in, takes back and re-establishes itself from the built and the man-made. Outdoors, next to the tenements of Maryhill, children can run free, play free, climb trees and build dens. They learn skills known to previous generations of children but sometimes little used in today’s measured childhood experiences. They plant, cook on open fires, tell stories, look for birds and flowers, use tools to cut and to build, create and play.
In this little bit of wild in urban Maryhill, kids have fun and leave with experiences that will remain with them throughout life.
More info: The Children’s Wood Website
In 1869, a battle of wills and money was going on in Glasgow. Before the building of the new suburb of North Kelvinside on the southern edge of Maryhill, two landowners could not agree on a mutually agreeable remuneration for their lands to join enabling a public carriageway. Thus, one of them built a ‘dead wall’ that stopped access to parts of the new suburb into neighbouring land.
Over 145 years later, Katy stands before this wall with her handmade placard, which she had taken to a large rally at City Chambers protesting at the overcrowding at her inner city school. Her school was built against much initial local opposition after the closing and merging of four local schools into a single ‘super’ one. Just three years after it opened, and with nearly 700 children enrolled, Katy stood in protest waving a placard in George Square.
For children like Katy, deciding to protest at City Chambers carrying their placards, making their voices heard, and taking a stand on their daily educational experience is an early lesson in activism. However, as restrictive conditions continued after the protest, another lesson can also be learned: that we can have a voice but it is not always listened to.
The dead wall is a local landmark of stupidity and selfishness, in deed and in action. A road was eventually built leading behind it and the wall became just an irritation, no longer an obstruction. Yet other historians assert that this is not the site of the dead wall but actually a wonder of architecture by Greek Thomson.
So perhaps what appears ugly and obstructive is actually towering and grand. Tall and proud like Katy and her placard.
How children act and react to the world as they achieve a sense of self is fascinating. An intriguing aspect of childhood is the (many) children who dress up as an “other”. A fantasy alter ego – ranging from sticking a tail on and becoming a T.Rex through to donning layers of fake silk for an elaborate transformation into a princess.
I wonder at the stories that happen in these worlds that we, as adults, are excluded from.
Boy who would be ‘Dr Who’ is a portrait of a boy who lives in Ruchill next to the Forth and Clyde canal which winds its way through Maryhill.
Ruchill is an area Glasgow City Council has marked as in need of regeneration, and since the 1990’s much new housing has been developed there.
Along with replacing old housing stock, a newer mix of large student ‘villages’, social and private ownership housing make up this canal side community where connections can
sometimes feel lost in a place which caters for car parking but not always for children.
It is within this landscape that a boy dresses up as the Eleventh Dr Who.
Ultimately, the question is whether play has become increasingly interior, both physically and mentally, not only for this boy but also for so many others.
Building housing but ignoring how a community would interact and how their children would play limits options for those who live there. Indoor toys, games and dressing up overshadow the outdoor experiences of local swing parks, playing rounders and football.
This is most likely true for many children in both urban and rural areas where a shift from the physical to the screen is happening. Yet, here in this newly built community along this stretch of the canal in Maryhill, it feels pronounced.