Just a short walk east from the old historic centre of Glasgow lies one of its enigmas - the Barras Market. It’s been home to bric-a-brac hunters for centuries, however as the winds of change have swept over this city - that was once one of the world's industrial powerhouses - de-industrialisation had left its mark on this part of town.
This brazen little market has survived a wartime blitz and its grand Barrowlands Ballroom and music venue has swung Glasgow (and much of Scotland) through the 60’s and beyond. However the rise of the High Street has seen the market stalls and footfall dwindle ... the Barras has been left searching for the next wind of change.
And it seems to be happening now. Yes, you can still buy a pair of “sports socks” for £1, knock off tobacco ... even a piece ‘n’ jam for 20p but in the last few years, following the 2014 Commonwealth Games, there has seen new life (and money) in the area.
Accessible, affordable units close to the “swankier” Merchant City have attracted a host of artists, start-up businesses, new bars and restaurants and it’s on Ross Street, in the heart of the Barras at Many Studios, that Nu Blvck has set up base.
After three months in the studio, we’re loving working alongside an eclectic mix of creatives and getting used to the Barras’ unique style. We thought it’d be nice to catch up with some of the people and businesses of the Barras and invite you to learn more about what’s going on “roon oor bit”…
Lisa Lawson - "the Barras as a place is charming, gritty, authentic, vibrant, exciting!"
Where better to start your day than Dear Green coffee? The founder of Dear Green, Lisa Lawson, set up the operation in the cavernous unit of new start-up hub the Glasgow Collective in 2015 which is, rather handily, just across the road from our studio and a short walk through the iconic Barrowlands archway.
We caught up with Lisa just before she hopped on a plane to Kenya in search of ethically sourced, speciality grade coffee to bring back to G-town.
“We source, roast and supply awesome coffee to the hospitality sector as well as selling online and hosting classes and events to promote our industry! We basically love coffee!”
A hive of activity, business seems to be thriving as coffee is being roasted, packed, delivered and sent out to the bars and cafes of Scotland from this team of passionate “roasters”!
“We’re a business that started on a shoestring and that was branded as Glaswegian (our name comes from the English translation from the Gaelic ‘Glasgow’). The East End was always an obvious choice for us due to its history and affordability."
Artisan coffee isn’t something you’d instantly associate with the East End of Glasgow, but that and stylish eateries have often signalled the ‘gentrification’ of an area. And it’s hard to deny this isn’t happening with the Barras when there is quite literally a “collective of art / creative collectives” popping up (Many Studios, Glasgow Collective, the Furniture Collective) and it’s sandwiched between two craft breweries (WEST and Drygate).
For me, gentrification far too often lacks empathy, with the old being flattened and replaced by the new. However, in the Barras the changing winds are much gentler, creating a new, interesting dynamic. There is no better example of this than St Lukes...
ST LUKES, THE RESTORED 1836 CHURCH IS NOW HOME TO A BAR/RESTAURANT (THE WINGED OX) AND A STATE OF THE ART LIVE MUSIC VENUE
Bar, restaurant and live music venue, St Lukes has led the way in changing the face of this area. Filling the leather booths are locals and folks dropping by the famous Bills Tool Store, however added to that are the many newer faces to the area from the neighbouring Barras Art and Design (BAAD). BAAD is a brand new venue which centres around a lovely indoor courtyard surrounded by a host of independent creative businesses, pop-up shops and galleries. It’s overlooked by fish restaurant A’Challtain on the mezzanine floor (as featured in Nu Blvck’s recent street style shoot below) which serves great Scottish produce and offers a unique dining experience at the heart of the Barras.
One of the gems to be found in BAAD is the Glasgow Furniture Collective run by Nicola Williams.
“We specialise in upholstery and wood finishing offering custom upholstery for modern and antique furniture as well as creating one-off, original pieces available to buy or commission.”
I often stroll by BAAD and see Nicola working on completely contrasting and interesting pieces. What we really admire is that she also shares her talents by teaching others how to upcycle their furniture. Nicola says, “Furniture doesn't automatically need to be thrown away if broken or damaged slightly. I strongly believe in the idea of repurposing, reuse, recycling and try to make my work and workshop sustainable and environmentally friendly.”
Nicola on the Barras - "its bold, brazen, creative, inspiring, characterful, animated."
Nicola tells me she actually lives two minutes away in the nearby Calton area. She commented on the changes in the area in a positive vain, however is quick to add that “nothing beats a good Barras cafe and there are still many to choose from! For a cheap drink and good chat there is also the Heilan Jessie.”
And she’s right, things are changing here but the charm of the Barras still lives on. Gig-goers lining up outside the jewel of Glasgow’s live music scene, its blinking iconic neon sign lighting up the pavements of the Gallowgate and market stalls popping up every weekend where you can still buy anything from antiques to work boots...
At Nu Blvck, we’re trying to challenge the status quo - bring about change in the fashion industry by celebrating independent designers and artisans. Being surrounded by the buzz of the Barras is really inspiring for us and being a born and bred Glaswegian, I love how the place still keeps its swagger and edgy, bold persona!
Whether you agree with the changing nature of this area or not, it seems to be happening. It’s the start of another chapter in the colourful history of the Barras, a chapter that Nu Blvck is proud to be part of.