The theme of the 2021 Being Human Festival is renewal, and renewal is what the modern story of Glasgow’s Sighthill is all about. The cycle of development and demolition and development here between 1900 and 1921 is both a microcosm of the city of Glasgow itself, whose centre is located a short walk away, but also something else. This is a place that has renewal encoded in its recent history: urban regeneration, energy revolution, and a megalith that got a second chance. This is a tale worth telling.
Right here, right now in the Glasgow of 2021, we have COP26. But we also have the Sighthill Transformational Regeneration Project (TRA), “the biggest such project in the UK outside of London” (Glasgow Housing Association), the radical transformation of an area that for decades had been dogged by poor quality housing stock and a legacy of industrial pollution.
Sighthill is the biggest show in town, with commuters creeping past on the M8 motorway daily spectators, their journey in part being delayed by the development infrastructure.
The short history of Sighthill (an area also once known as Broomhill) can be told through two monuments: the Pinkston cooling tower, part of a power station that loomed over the area until 1975, and the two incarnations of the Sighthill stone circle (1979-2016), designed by astronomer and author Duncan Lunan. These are not monuments typically associated with urban living; the community must have had their own forms of reactions to the juxtapositions offered both conceptually and visually.
The TRA is the second incarnation of Sighthill, the first a housing estate dating back to its construction in 1964 to 1969 as part of the programme of slum demolition and population movement in the city at that time. Sighthill was part of the Springburn Comprehensive Development Area and its establishment, including high rises and associated facilities, was largely on reclaimed industrial and polluted land, a problem stored up for the future.
Sighthill is a place of second chances: a land reclaimed from chemical poison, a stone circle reborn with greater functionality, houses fit for homes, a new community. This development is also indicative of a move from dirty energy to clean energy embodying the spirit of the University of Glasgow’s Dear Green Bothy initiative.
This online exhibition tells the story of Sighthill in 24 images. We like to imagine that this exhibition might be used as an induction for the incoming residents of Sighthill as they move into their new surroundings. Because Sighthill may look new – and even the stone circle is new – but this is not a new place. It has heritage, history, time depth, and a story. This is the story of Sighthill, one that connects old Glasgow with new Glasgow, generational Glaswegians with recent Glaswegians, the old with the new, renewal.
The story of Sighthill may also be your story, and this exhibition only gives one detached view of a landscape changing. We would be happy to hear from you about your own experiences or see your photographs of Sighthill for an ongoing research project conducted by Helen Green and Kenny Brophy on the history, present and future of the Sighthill stone circles. So please do get in touch especially if you have photos and memories of the stone circle, old or new! You can contact us via email@example.com or use the hashtag #Sighthill on twitter.
Image sources have been given where we have them; if an image has been wrongly attributed, please let us know.