Sunday, 24 August 2014

The Barras are better.....

So, living it Glasgow you'd need to be pretty dense not to know about the Barrowland Market, or as we all lovingly call it, the Barras. 
The Barras is situated between the Gallowgate and London Rd as you leave the city centre and enter East End and has existed for a century. It is both famous and infamous in equal measure and boasts a somewhat varied history. 

A once bustling market place, it is now far quieter than even just a few years back. Much of it's infamy comes from its oldy worldy charm being diluted by people selling illegal software, tobacco, pirate DVDs, and counterfeit designer ware. The  recent closure of the nearby Paddy's Market did noting to help, as many of its more determined traders moved their bed sheet covered in random rubbish 'stalls' to the Barras. However, the Barras found it's darkest hour in the late 1960's as the Barrowland Ballroom was the hunting ground of  Bible John
The main building consists of a street level where the traders are and the upper level is the Barrowlands Ballroom. In by gone years the Ballroom was one of Glasgow's premier dance halls, with young people from all over the city and beyond flocking there to dance the night away every weekend.  Unfortunately in 1968/69 it fell pray to Bible John. Thought to be Scotland's only serial killer for many years, he earned his name by frequently quoting the bible. He is strongly suspected of sexually assaulting and murdering 3 women, although there are many who think him responsible for other killings. Despite the efforts of the police Bible John was never caught, although it is speculated that he and Peter Toban are one and the same (and it's pretty hard to argue with).

Dark as this past may be, the Ballroom is now turned around. Nowadays the ballroom is (in my opinion) one of Glasgow's finest gig venues. It has a charm that no other venue can touch. It still boasts the many of the features of it's dance room hay day....some may call it shabby, but what do they know!! Plus, the old ladies that work there are lovely!

As for the 'rouge traders', don't be fooled into thinking thats what the Barras is all about! I have bought some AMAZING stuff there, none of it dodgy knock offs. It breaks my heart to see how quiet it's become. There may be the guys out and about selling rubbish track suits, but theres so much more to it than that! Lets think about it...

I got this Singer in the Barras for a fiver!
When I lived in a tenement and something when wrong with the fuse box, where did I go to find extra fuses; the Barras, when my Dyson got a bit worse for ware & needed parts where did I go; the Barras. There's definitely a practical side to the place that we all seem to forget until we need it! Just think of Bill's Tool Store,; I think most of us have lost our boyfriends in there for an hour at one point or another.....& I've bought many a craft supply there.
There are also still lots of traders selling second hand goods. When I was there last weekend I was drooling over some of the furniture. Betty's Arcade has some of the nicest, and fairly priced, vintage furniture I've seen in a long while. There were original 60's 3 piece suites, dressers, coat racks, side tables.....just...everything! There are a few antique pieces in there also. One of the traders is selling custom homewares too, they had some lovely lamp shades cushions.

In the Square Yard across the way there's now a vintage clothes shop as well as one of my favourite stalls selling what you might call ob-je-da .....mirrors, dollhouse bits, jewellery, lace, bags. I love it! 
And there's the classics. The stall selling all the incense and smoking paraphernalia, the military stalls selling collectables and some rather fantastic mess jackets, the vintage jewellery stalls, the tea room and that whole jumble section in the main building (& don't be fooled, there's some wee gems to be found in there).
In recent years there have also been new development in the form of the B.A.A.D Centre. Now, I won't pretend to be an expert on it but it is resident to some Glasgow fashion designers and it has hosted Menergy parties before. I imagine they'll be a lot of development there in the future.

I got this bangin' wee bag for a fiver down the Barras just the other week

If you're not into the stall action there's also all the surrounding shops. Fabric Bazaar is there, and it's the first port of call for most of the dress makers and crafters i know for affordable fabric and haberdashery. The wool shop is there, and despite the resurgence in the popularity of knitting, I don't even know of another wool shop! There's also the usual fashion outlets and a few furniture shops and shops specialising in Polish food, a music shop and even a wee sports shop selling roller boots! The old Bairds Bar is now closed down (sorry Celtic fans) & is apparently being converted into a big furniture shop!

I got this little vintage bag in the jumble section of the main building under the Ballroom. I was looking at it and the trader lady just gave me it! how nice was that.....

There's still so much to be found, its always worth a wee wonder down there. I've seen so much you just wouldn't get anywhere else. Is there another place where you can buy a genuine ships wheel at one stall, human glass eyes at another then some house plants at another? The Barras is ingrained into Glasgow; it's history, it's culture, its giging for gods sake! It shouldn't be allowed to slip through our fingers. Its future is forever a matter of debate and speculation, recent stories I have heard are that its being made into a 'proper' market with a farmers market and the like, that it's being made into a large car boot sale and, God forbid, that it's getting levelled to make room for real estate.
I'm a strong believer that the latter should not be allowed to happen. I can see the others working, so long as most of the essence of the Barras (the indoor parts, in my opinion) is kept.
I got this vintage painting on glass down the Barras for a tenner.
I know a lot of people will look at this blog with a sense of cynicism, but I think if you haven't been down the Barras for a long while, or if you're put off by the thought a bunch of guys wondering about the street shouting 'fiver lighters fir a poun'' at you, think again. I'm not saying don't make sure your purse is well secured at the bottom of your handbag when your there, but don't be put off, the ol' place still has a lot going for it.
I've never been anywhere else where you can buy a giraffe table and and a bong within yards of each other.. Now that's like seeing a sign for two headed snake pull over, cos surely that's gotta be worth a look!

Still unconvinced? Well, here's Public Enemy giving a wee bit of Barrowlands praise.......'nuff said

Thank you for reading. And always remember...Lady Bon loves you...

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