The Privatization of Public Space and the Commonwealth Games

Glasgow’s having a ball hosting the Commonwealth Games at the moment. As everyone here is going around saying to one another, there’s a real buzz about the place.

However, that buzz comes at a significant price.

I had a wander down to Glasgow’s great public gathering place by the Clyde yesterday – Glasgow Green. I was surprised to be frisked going onto the Green and even more surprised to read what was and was not allowed there during the Games celebrations.

It was very noticeable that in all the hullabaloo, religion had been written out of the picture. To a certain extent the churches have colluded with keeping themselves hidden during the Games period. I don’t particularly have a problem with that but it was striking that amidst all the festivities in this city in which both the glories and the shame of religious life are vibrantly practiced there was nothing at all to refer to that reality.

More troubling to me is that people on the Green were apparently being told to cover up YES badges indicating their support for Scottish Independence.

I’m not a supporter and have every intent to vote no and encourage others to do so. However, I don’t like the idea that the authorities were asking people to cover up their allegiance to a political movement on Glasgow Green – a place where political opinion and protest has often flourished.

There’s other things you can’t take onto the Green too which are perplexing – the ban on wifi routers being one particularly worrying one. Fortunately those doing the frisking seemed oblivious to the fact that one can use a mobile phone as a wifi router if one so desires.

There’s other things you can’t bring in too – drinks in large bottles was one restriction, I think.

There’s a lot of buying and selling going on down on Glasgow Green. But no protest. No dissent. No freedom of expression.  No freedom to use new technology.

This glorious public space has been privatized and the Live Zone on Glasgow Green is a triumph of authoritarian capitalism.

Amidst all the celebrations which rightly surround these Games, we should not be blind to what is being done to us.


  1. We were there yesterday as well – you should use Swarm and I might have known! But we left after the first gate for the same reasons as you’re complaining here – that feeling of being in school, or a prison, perhaps. Not a good move, Glasgow!

  2. Robin says

    > More troubling to me is that people on the Green were apparently being told to cover up YES badges indicating their support for Scottish Independence.

    What about people with NO badges? Or was no-one wearing one?!

    Seriously, a good post and I agree with it.

  3. Matthew Pemble says

    I was not only frisked each way walking from Douglas St to “The Hub” (back of the Science Centre) but, on the way back when I was actually going to stop in the BBC’s carnival to buy some (in the end, over-priced and under-nice) lunch, the security weasel suggested that I might like to opt out of walking through a public right of way and go some 500m elsewhere so I wasn’t an inconvenience to her and her colleagues.

    A. She wasn’t a volunteer.
    B. The restriction of individual liberty is the first and most desired recourse of petty British officialdom.
    C. Unlike petty French officialdom, whose first and most desires recourse is Madam Guillotine.

  4. After a PR blunder involving a local Guru of ethnic minority (technically the majority) Herod was anxious to be seen to be benevolent. “5K” had a historical precedent; the concept was simple, marketable and had obvious corporate tie-ins with opportunities for merchandising. The Vizier sourced another Guru, a cousin of the dead one but with better ratings and demographics (and a lot more camera-friendly). Generic ads (CARING/ SHARING/ WEALTH CREATION) went viral on social media, the venue was booked and tickets (£15) sold online.
    Jesus proved difficult from the start. He wanted it free and couldn’t see the need to fence the Table. He couldn’t even see the need for the Table. “Okay” said the Vizier (whose eyes kept glazing over as Security patched in on his Link-Up) “we love you, we love the robes and sandals, we love the concept – yeah? Let’s just keep the synergy flowing and focus on half-full, blue skies – sorry – Mike? Yeah PR here, how’s that bulldozing going? Yeah? Flat. And can you schmooze the protesters off-camera? Yeah. We’ll need the whole space for carparking. Sorry – so, Jesus, right? Cool. Just some Health & Safety details to go over:
    • Bread ‘n Fishes shrinkwrapped 5K pax must remain in the corporate cooler till distribution by authorised personnel only – all in Hi Viz.
    • No healing or blessing, it’s just too big a crowd and we don’t want a crush at the barriers (also healing kinda spins our plucky human interest stories outta line).
    Your slot is 3 mins max, Jesus, we’ve drafted your mission statement, here. Any vocab issues? We want the tone local, down with the Palestinian people, not too obviously Roman. Let’s just go over it:
    1. Render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s (we don’t do God)
    2. Yes you can! (can you avoid the whole structural poverty rant? it comes across as patronising and we want to emphasise equal opportunity)
    3. The parable of the talents (just as it is)
    Everything went smoothly on the day. The whole area had been cleared of undesirables and Herod’s helicopters, horseguards and hounds kept the peace in the huge crowd packed between the steel barriers, happily clutching their tokens for Bread ‘n Fishes; tasteful woven willow miniature food baskets (blessed ones £5 extra) and leaflets for voluntourism. Alternating muzak and plucky soundbites on the massive LED screens kept the crowd amused while they waited for the main act.
    Which never came. Jesus had slipped through the crowds and walked away.

Speak Your Mind