A hundred years ago, on 26th January 1914, a bomb exploded at Glasgow’s Botanic Gardens, one of many attacks on parks, gardens and artworks carried out by Suffragettes during their long campaign for votes for women. It’s not for me to wonder why anyone would want to bomb a park but 100 years on, the threat posed to the Botanics by militant feminists has subsided somewhat. There are however, many modern horrors which befall any Glaswegian who goes to the park and with this in mind, Glasgow City Council have now revealed their proposals to “manage” our dear green places by ridding them of the scourge of…well… everything!
I can’t read the proposed “Park Management Rules” without imaging an officious teacher before a school trip, reeling off a list of things we’d never thought of but would now definitely be doing, just because we’d been told we couldn’t. It has never crossed my mind to race a remote controlled car round Alexandra Park but I’m tempted to run out and buy one, just before the Council bans it. My mum often recounts a teacher warning her class before one outing, “this time, there will be no behaviour.” If the council gets their way, “no behaviour” signs may begin appearing in parks across the city.
You can and should read the whole horrendous thing for yourself but since we love a list, here are a selection of things the council want to ban:
Freedom of Assembly
People who’ve had a drink or a joint are completely banned while more sobers Glaswegians (whoever they are) must refrain from ever being near more than 18 other people. That any such baying mob could just occur naturally, on the rare occasions that the sun comes out, is beyond council comprehension. Of course, we should be incredibly concerned that they’ve made clear that asking your pals on Twitter whether they fancy a day trip could mean you fall foul of the rules. They actually say you’re not allowed to “organise or take part in any assembly.” That could mean you are basically not allowed to meet anyone or even really be there under any circumstances, ever.
If you manage to negotiate the complex matrix of rules and sneak your way in, what you’re allowed to do in the park is pretty limited. Don’t ever sing or dance, that might be classed as a performance and we’ll be having none of that. Don’t say you’re going to the park “for a day in the sun” lest it be fall foul of the ban on “events.” Again, scarily vague.
If you happen to have an ipod with an FM radio, make sure it has a “safe mode.” As well as a ban on singing, music and instruments, there is also a ban on radio equipment. Does this mean massive transmitters and walkie-talkies? – or does it mean just the radio? Who knows…
Building a dam
One for the eager beavers amongst you, just in case you were wondering.
Recruiting for your paramilitary organisation
Quite why armed insurgents would be particularly perturbed by the mighty force of Land & Environmental Services is unclear but we’re sure the council must have some special intelligence. With ALL the other rules against doing anything (and the fact that it would be illegal), it really is quite puzzling why there is a prohibition against both recruiting and drilling your personal army. Coincidentally, the Tollcross Tigers Queer Liberation Front is seeking a new venue if anyone’s got any ideas…
With the left cheek of the council’s arse belching about the Commonwealth Games and how sporty we’re all suddenly going to be, now they demolished loads of the East End, there’s some right cheek going on with this rule. “Organised sport” is to be banned – there are already separate provisions for any kind of commercial activity, so this actually just means organising to be sporty. No running club, no Monday night kick about, stop being active and organised.
Learning things outside
They say knowledge is power, so the new provisions make clear that the acquisition of knowledge is off-limits. “Outdoor education provision” makes the shalt-not list. If you’re going to learn, make sure you’re indoors.
Shaking your articles
In the “don’t do your washing” section – itself a bit of a riddy when you consider the history of Glaswegians going to Glasgow Green for this purpose – there is a specific ban on the shaking of your article. Hmmm…
All joking aside, these rules are a further attempt to codify the council’s complete mismanagement of our public spaces and our city more generally. As if to hammer home the point, the rules make clear that the council reserve the right to convert any park into a commercial enterprise, should they so desire.
This is an attack on our shared space; an unnecessary “solution” to problems which don’t exist. Our parks are for everyone and that means jugglers and joggers and cocks with four dogs (who’ll have to leave one at home if GCC goes through with this) just as much as it means anyone else, whether I like that or not.
There are already ample laws and by-laws which protect our parks and us against people running a militia, a large assembly or even just having a fly can, without handing even more of our basic rights over to the council and its quangos. We’ve been capable of not bombing the Botanics for a hundreds years now without a set of ludicrous “don’t put beans in your nose” style proclamations from the City Chambers. We must resist any move to further banish sport and music and remind the council that we need many more spaces for these things, not less.
I’m not being hyperbolic when I talk about attacks on our human rights – these rules prevent people from doing very basic things. It’s not that I think the Council is about to set up an arms length organisation of Park Terminators to eject anyone caught whistling but the fact is, these rules give them the power to do that and that’s a power they simply don’t need. Who benefits from these rules? Certainly not ordinary Glaswegians.
I kept reading the rules and wondering – who or what is it they are really scared of? Then you realise, it’s just us. The council are terrified of people not just going to work and going into town, they’re scared they’ll be something they can’t commodify or count or make into a job for one of their cronies. They don’t want us listening to free music or being outside with our pals, because we’re not spending money. If you’re going for a jog with your mate, then you’re not over at Glasgow Life on the treadmill. If you’re sneaking a can on a sunny day, you’re not in the “East Merchant City” (lol) splurging your wages in a trendy bar. The sole concern of those running our city is enriching themselves, removing the less tourist friendly locals from view and making sure we’re all in the shops or in the house.
This is our city and these are our parks, the council are fortunate enough to manage them for us – we must now allow them to manage us out of them. I’d recommend you sign the petition and more importantly, read the rules and raise your objections to the council – but we also need to think about other kinds of resistance, should the need arise. I’m not suggesting we go for the full-on Suffragette thang but when the Council tells us not to assemble and shake our articles, we need to think about whether we need to do just that.
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