People, not Poverty: Unlocking the Story of North Glasgow

Scotland’s canals run through a number of areas that have fallen on hard times, but none more than North Glasgow. An area defined by horrifying health and social welfare statistics and plagued by drug and alcohol abuse, the average life expectancy for a man in North Glasgow is the lowest in the UK with mortality rates 43% above the national average. A baby born in Libya today can expect to live longer than one born in North Glasgow. But, with the help of our partners, funders and volunteers, we’re working to transform North Glasgow and secure a brighter future for the people who call it home.

North Glasgow is intrinsically linked with the history of the Forth & Clyde Canal and, knowing that the past informs the future, we set about capturing some of those stories – working to reconnect the community with the incredible resource on their doorstep and encouraging them to visit, explore, learn from and enjoy the canal which is today one of the city’s most important heritage, health, leisure and greenspace amenities.

Fifty years after the Forth & Clyde Canal closed, the communities of North Glasgow helped shape and celebrate their personal memories and connections to the world’s first man-made sea-to-sea canal through an interactive interpretation project, ‘Unlocking the Story’. The project explored, conserved and promoted the rich history and natural and cultural heritage of ‘Glasgow’s Canal’, which has played a defining role for the communities of North Glasgow from its industrial heyday, through the decline of the 1960s to its current renaissance.

A key part of the Glasgow Canal Regeneration Project, ‘Unlocking the Story’ saw the community share their personal stories, memories and photographs of the historic Forth & Clyde and its key role in the history of Glasgow. Largely thanks to the efforts of a network of local volunteers who gained skills in the collection and collation of oral history, the project resulted in the creation of a heritage trail that turns the towpaths into a tarmac time machine, bringing to life the many stories of the Great Canal and North Glasgow.

From Roy Rogers and his horse Trigger paying a visit to Maryhill to tales of giant meteorites hitting Possil, the project left us in no doubt that Glasgow’s canal is bursting with extraordinary stories. The development of an innovative smartphone app was also part of the project, giving an insight into the canal’s past and allowing visitors walking or cycling along the waterway to check out their location on an illustrated map, identify over 100 sights of interest and bring up archive photos, videos and audio clips at the touch of a button.

It was an incredibly rewarding project for all involved, from the volunteers collecting the many, many tales, to the people of North Glasgow itself. ‘Unlocking the Story’ brought vibrancy to the waterway, helped conserve and improve access to the natural and cultural heritage of the Forth & Clyde Canal and bring it to life for future generations to enjoy, and provided opportunities for the communities of North Glasgow to tell the story of their canal and what it means to them.

But it was only possible thanks to the support of people like you. We’re working to transform the future of North Glasgow, and the many areas like it, but we can’t do it alone. Whether you’re interested in leading a walking group along the new heritage trail, capturing one of the many still-untold tales of the canal, or helping fund our next big project, we want to hear from you. Get in touch and find out how you can help us create a brighter future for the people of North Glasgow and beyond.