Showing posts with label Saltmarket. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Saltmarket. Show all posts

1 Aug 2010

A Fare Cop

Sunday Herald Magazine

 I was between interviews for the post of Photographer in Residence with the National Theatre of Scotland- grilled by photographer David Eustace before being roasted by Roberta Doyle, Head of External Affairs. In the interlude I'd arranged to meet Barrie who was accompanied by vendors Scott and Rab. We were on our way from the Big Issue office in the Saltmarket to their pitches when police appeared from out of the blue and pulled us aside. The boys were drinking on the street- an offence in these parts of Glesga. Barrie shrugged off the incident- he'd amassed a pyre of fines. The belt around the policemen's waists drew my attention. The usual tools dangled; telescopic truncheons, cuffs and mace- nothing out of the ordinary. It was the taser and pistol that jolted my senses. Armed police handing out tickets to alcoholics- a sobering thought.

It's a fare cop!

23 Apr 2010

The Office

touch: Kamikaze

Kamikaze felt a firm affinity towards Barrie- they'd scaled the walls of the same dead end streets. This was their last chance to meet before Kamikaze set sail for the South Pacific.
  On the Saltmarket Kamikaze’s smile didn’t fail to mesmerise. Before reaching Barrie’s pitch we heard an almighty stichie coming from around the corner. It was Barrie hollering at his foe-pal Andy to get a “faaken’ moove aan.” 

touch: Andy

Barrie glided towards us like a speed-skater on quicksand. Kamikaze and I stood our ground – he’d have passed through us if I hadn’t put my hand out.

The two embraced like re-conjoined twins - estranged spirits reunited. We escorted Barrie to his pitch and took in some of the city’s salacious sights...

touch: Gordon

Gordon softly wraps his words in Welsh, his voice is a tonic for the guttural assault of Glaswegian. He is a street sage who stands incongruously outside a cosmetic surgeons – one hand swaddled like an amputee, the other clutching a copy of The Big Issue. Gordon is up to chapter 14 of his autobiography – he’s writing it in longhand. He is fond of the staff at the surgery; their respect for one another is reciprocated, they’d never move him on.
  As we parted our ways Gordon vowed he’d always remember Kamikaze’s “wonderful smile.”

The Office

Barrie retraced his steps to one of his off-street drinking dens.
 The suffocating stench of stale ale and piss chokes your senses when you enter ‘The Office.’ The city-centre siding is a convenience-refuge for sub-urban abusers. 

The Office, a shooting gallery where users steal a moment to refuel, is adorned with some of the most eclectic street art found his side of the Camp Nou. 

 Kamikaze concluded, after taking only a few hours to establish a life-long friendship, that Barrie had a “wonderful spirit. 
 We left Barrie to sober-up and set off in search of an unsuspecting all-you-can-eat buffet. Proprietors wince when they see Kamikaze’s metal masticators enter the restaurant. Kamikaze takes ‘All You Can Eat’ personally - he sees it as a challenge to his consitution. He’s barred from sushi bars in Austria for consuming his bodyweight in fish roe and Curry’s eletrical stores for grazing on the halogens. Tonights unsuspecting prey would be a regular curry house.

Constitution restituted and gorged to gouchin’ point, we set the GPS for Govan.
 On Paisley Road Toll the stifled strains of the Verve’s melancholic anthem The Drugs Don’t Work escaped the walls of a fortress bar. Inside the nae-go pub, a straw-bleached blonde with an inseparable grip on the mic was spilling her bleeding heart over a cranked-up karaoke. The sublime soundtrack was the perfect accompaniment to a dreich Govan nicht. This was her moment, and she made it her own.

 The Grand Ole Opry is a cultural haven in the heart of Orange County - all colours and faiths are welcome here. Inside its muralled walls we’re safe from harm - save the occasional burst eardrum, tongue lashing and scathing wit. We’d come to shoot stragglers I’d missed on previous outings. I bagged myself (from top): a showman, a Greek gunslinger, a German Cowgirl and a Duke of Hazard – something for the connoisseurs.

touch: Sandy

touch: Michael

touch: Eva

 touch: Alan
We left Glesga with our ears ringing to the sound of laughter, gunshot and the unsung chantreuse fae Govan echoing “I know I’ll see your face again...”

Gateway to the Pyramids of the M8 - and home.

15 Mar 2010

On the Saltmarket you've got to side-step the soused alchies and gouchin gangrels as they dance the sidewalk tango. Half-way along there's a wet and a dry filling station - their first stop when re-fueling.

Mark sits like an endangered species stuffed in a display case for it’s own protection - as the CCTV tapes testify. For many of his customers Mark is their first port of call before embarking for oblivion. His box is a toll booth - hard cash is fed through the hatch and hard liquor is dispensed for the journey.


Fortified wine, lager, spirits and heavy flow from behind the barricade while undisturbed bottles of tomorrow’s vintage plonk gather dust in a glass cabinet. Mark has been confined for eight years but it's not a sentence, he loves the view of life from his watch-tower.


George’s general store keeps the Saltmarket troops fed and fragrant. He provides the locals with their basic provisions - fags, mags and messages. George is the king of his emporium and a lynchpin of the community. He needs no perspex for his protection but every corner is covered by CCTV. Everyone get his personal touch - a gallus mix of Glesga charm and guile.

8 Mar 2010


There’s a new manager at the helm of The Big Issue distribution office. Dougie is charged with boosting revenue and morale. He is enthusiatic and keen to glean any info I might have picked-up along the way. After half an hour of reeling out my observations Dougie was reeling from information overload.


Out of the corner of my eye I caught sight of an urchin burying herself into a Romani. My efforts to coax her from his shadow only made her withdraw deeper into his coat-tails. With her brother’s reassurance she stepped into the open. I had to kneel to catch her name as she whispered “Gabriella”. Just turned sixteen, Gabriella was ready to learn the ropes and follow in the steps of her family vending the Big Issue. With pride she lifted her head and, my hand.


I accompanied Andy to his pitch at Glasgow’s Queen Street Station. Andy’s story is a sobering reminder of how vulnerable we all are to becoming homeless. A car crash had left him and his girlfriend unable to work due to the injuries they sustained. They couldn’t pay the mortgage... The money he raises goes towards the renewal of his professional driving license, not board. Tonight he’s skippering – sleeping rough.


Ivaylo stands outside Buchanan Galleries like a municipal sculpture on it’s pavement plinth. He’s 69, from Bulgaria, warm natured and shivering. In his wonderful, thick Slavo-Scottish accent, he tells me he’s been in here for eight years and he truly ‘loves’ the Scots. Eight years skippering - I cant help feeling that he’s pitched his love on a one-way street.

27 Feb 2010

Viral Junkies

Overheard conversation on the train from Edinburgh to Glasgow. Woman, 50+ on her mobile phone, oblivious;

"Hey hen, 'am gonna git rid o' this phone, ken? Aah had seven messages askin' if ah'd kenned where oor Billy wez? Someone wez stabbed and shot ootside Jock's Lodge... Aye! Ah was watchin' 'Dancin' on Ice!' Summut o'er cocaine... cowards... got nae balls... think they're gangsters... the wee shites. They're takin' plant food, it makes 'em go raj. Aye, plant food, they call it methlydome... methanome... summut like methadone, ken? The junkies an' the halfwits... shud put 'em on an island; all the bams together, aye! Wha' hen? Aa'm goin in a tunnel"

At the Saltmarket the word on the street is 'anthrax'. A tally of ten users have died tortuous deaths in Scotland from injecting heroin laced with the deadly bacteria. Dealers in homeless hostels and on the street are knowingly pushing the infected drug on their prey. Terrified addicts are turning to, and being turned away from, the methadone clinics. Some are choosing, in desperation, to break the law, knowing they'd be guaranteed the substitute in prison - "on the island..."

Music on the streets and in the schemes of Glesga is spread virally by lo-fi not wi-fi.  Phone-to-phone via Bluetooth is how the sounds are shared. The tune doing the rounds is Forehill Boys MC Kaii's 'Anti Screw Crew.' What would the woman on the train say? "All the bams together, aye!"

1 Jan 2010

Home Truths

  The decision to return to Scotland was taken in the fall of '99 as an epidemic of idolatry was twisting the face of portraiture out of recognition. A coterie of cuckoos had migrated behind the lens; actors, designers, super models, rock stars, and their fledgelings all flocked to get in on the act. The cult of celebrity spawned unchecked ego's that pimped photography and mocked erudition. The contempt and conceit of the Noughties was depicted through their ersatz eyes, portraiture was bankrupt. Probity and subjectivity were carrion for the magpies. My propensity to puncture inflated egos and prize the persona out of the celebrity sealed my fate. I had no choice but to fly the coup, my last editorial commission was in 2005 - below. 

 Ten years on the view from the 5th column is spectacular and the scene is impregnable. This outpost is mired in contradiction - I'm at home and in exile. The captains of Scotland's cultural industry are a tenacious cabala - a decade later and still no phone call, commission, invite...nada. My aspirations to lecture were dashed by the principals of photography, I couldn't impart my experience without an arbitrary degree. Promises of guest lectureships never materialised. 

 Erratic provisions continue to come from south of the border. Collaborations with extraordinary talent pushes boundaries and fuels the journey. Doubt is momentarily gagged by recognition from renowned artists who entrust me with their vision. It's time to take hold of the wheel and charter a new course. A powerful sense of humour will be our protection and Santo Pepto-Bismol will comfort us on our journey. Let the Fujiama Mamas* set the sail as 'Come Hell or High Water'* blares over the Tannoy. Vamos a hoy!

Barry Adamson

2009 was the year of 'Homecoming Scotland' - the promotion of Scottish culture abroad, cynically timed to coincide with the 250th anniversary of the birth of Robert Burns. For the past three months I've been privy to the plight of some of Scotland's homeless. For the vendors of The Big Issue

All they can do now is hold tight and wait to see if the government honours it's commitment to provide all of Scotland's homeless with shelter come 2012.
'Homecoming' was a painful anathema- a reminder of severed bonds and embargoed kinship. They were unanimous in their contempt for the baneful title and the merits of the celebrations. Homelessness was off the agenda and they were barred from the party. Ex-pats were courted with Golf 'n' Malt served-up with an extravagant display of fiscal pyromania. 2009 wasn't a time for home truths.

And there’s a hand, my trusty fiere!
and gie's a hand o’ thine!
And we’ll tak a right gude-willy waught,
for auld lang syne.















24 Dec 2009


Wisdom from The Bard:
'Address to the Toothache'

My curse upon your venom'd stang.
That shoots my tortur'd gums alang,
An thro my lug gies monie a twang,
Wi gnawing vengeance,
Tearing my nerves wi bitter pang,
Like racking engines!

A' down my beard the slavers trickle,

I throw the wee stools o'er the mickle.
While round the fire the giglets keckle,
To see me loup.
An raving mad, I wish a heckle
Were i' their doup!

When fevers burn, or ague freezes, 

Rheumatics gnaw, or colic squeezes,
Our neebors sympathise to ease us,
Wi pitying moan;
But thee! - thou hell o a' diseases -
They mock our groan!


Of a' the numerous human dools -
Ill-hairsts, daft bargains, cutty-stools,
Or worthy frien's laid i' the mools, 

Sad sight to see!
The tricks o knaves, or fash o fools -
Thou bear'st the gree!


Whare'er that place be priests ca' Hell,
Whare a' the tones o misery yell,An ranked plagues their numbers tell,In dreadfu raw,
Thou, Toothache, surely bear'st the bell,
Amang them a'!

O thou grim, mischief-making chiel,
That gars the notes o discord squeel,
Till human kind aft dance a reel
In gore, a shoe-thick,Gie a' the faes o Scotland's weal
A towmond's toothache! 

My teeth grieve for these tombstones. Beauty, youth and esteem are cannibalised by the toothless gurn. These cankered pusses can only savour the memory of a steak or apple. Balanced meals are off the menu for those who can't chew. Life sucks.

Q: What's got fifty legs and two teeth? A: The queue for a 'script.'

The punchline (25 people queuing for a methadone pre'script'ion) hits below the belt- it's the sugar that makes the acidic medicine and the gumline go down. 
 Dereliction of dental care is the catalyst for a spectrum of remediable and chronic illnesses. The symptoms of neglect are rooted in poverty, diet and phobia - in parts of Glasgow men are condemned to a life expectancy of just 54 years. Teeth are a crude litmus test; when the paper turns red society is at risk.
 So many of The Big Issue vendors I meet endure the torment of wracked mouths, gum gouging and bodged extractions. Vendors in Glasgow universally complain that access to free care is fraught with pit-falls - there's always a loop-hole ready to ensnare them.


  The counter-point to this rueful passage came when a vendor told me of a clinic providing free dental care buried somewhere in the catacombs of Edinburgh's Cowgate. Working from a surgery at the back of a converted chapel were a pair of Santos Dentistas. Dental surgeons Adam and Ania man the post at the Edinburgh Access Practice two days a week and provide free dental care to anyone unfortunate enough to qualify for their services. Both apportion their days between victims of the poverty trap and patients with blood-born viruses. Ania also works one day at a psychiatric hospital carrying the torch for Mary Seacole. Against implausible odds they are heroically plugging a septic health service. "If you're on benefits then you're entitled to free dental care" they conceded. And there was the rub; to qualify for benefits you need an address - a home!

 Neither break the rules, they'll treat anyone who needs their care out of hours.


You'll find Santa on Christmas Day working at the emergency dental clinic- ask for Ania.

Kamikaze has had another visitation from the "tattoo spirit". A sacred patch of virginal terrain on his ink-etched torso had been consecrated by another of my images. His chromium skirl, framed by the motto 'C'est la Fuckin' Vie', roars out from the encroaching crevice like a chrome Leo the MGM lion.

20 Nov 2009

Saltmarket Sting

The wind was coursing the Saltmarket like an ice-hockey stick in search of a puck. It had found David who'd torn-up the script "tha's it, nae mare drugs." David was homeless - again. He's used to being on his own, he'd lost his ma and tried to take his life but the branch broke- a hard lesson to swallow. His flat was torched, everything was lost: his music system, dvd's, even the freeview. Stood in all his worldly goods: trackie gear and unblemished trainers, he dug out 75p, all he had to his name - enough for one copy.


David pitched-up at Argos car park as the rain pecked through the polyester. It's tough to start over- again, he begins his day the Baron Sugar way: buys one copy, sells one copy, buys two copies... 

 Jimmy got unstuck at 12 with his first bag of glue. Drug and alcohol fueled abuse followed. Now he's re-born and recovering, seeing the world anew through fervoured eyes.
  "Can you bless me?" he asked sheepishly, "Put yer hon' on ma heed?" He paused and plucked-up courage "Can I return the blessin'? Can I put ma hon' on the camera?"

"Tell them 'am 'Healin Hons' Jimmy."

Jimmy's eyes are a slew-gate, metering the cycle of touching "hons." His life is on probation, sentenced to another night curfewed from society. He dreads going back to the hostel and fears the delinquent nights. It's been his shelter for fourteen years but he'd never call it home. He needs his faith and, he confesses, The Big Issue.