Last week the Hip Hop Marionettes, familiar faces on John Street and a part of the City Centre Mural Trail, disappeared as the redevelopment of the site started as part of the ongoing investment in Glasgow. While they were here, they made a piece of unused city centre land something that people came to see, share and helped send out really positive messages about Glasgow.
The use of murals to tackle graffiti, anti-social behaviour and to brighten up areas suffering from environmental blight while awaiting future redevelopment was first introduced as part of the Clean Glasgow initiative in 2008, with the very first one being the Swimmers at the Kingston Bridge. In 2013 the idea of the Trail was developed along with the brochure and the web-based app, both launched in 2014. The Mural Trail very quickly became something that people living in and visiting Glasgow City Centre enjoyed, and they were keen to let us know. This quote is pretty typical of the reaction they get, ‘Didn’t have enough time to see all of the street art but did see seven of them. What a great way to see a city!’
The Trail is in the top ten “things to do” on the People Make Glasgow site with over 60% of the traffic received here coming directly from Google. The murals are clearly an attraction which people are already aware of or are looking for more information about. More importantly, the Trail is an activity which people want to participate in when they are in the city centre. And this exemplifies one of the great things about our city centre; it works for so many different types of visitors and in so many different ways.
The Hip Hop Marionettes mural was painted in February 2016 by Rogue-One working in collaboration with Art Pistol. Rogue has described how the inspiration for it came from the “thought that an interesting concept would be to have body-poppers or break-dancers in puppet form. I took my influence from a Beastie Boys cover and a Run DMC picture.” You can still see other work by Rogue-One in the city centre in such examples as the Billy Connolly murals (undertaken as part of the BBC’s commemorative programme “A Life in Portrait”), the “Hand Shadow Puppets” at Cowcaddens underpass, and the new CR Mackintosh mural above the Clutha pub at the Briggait.
Given that murals are viewed as temporary interventions until underused space is redeveloped, the emphasis of the project is always on change. This year alone we have welcomed the following new murals: “St Enoch” (in George Street), “CR Mackintosh” (at the Briggait), “Crazy Cat Lady!” (in Sauchiehall Street), and the second “Woman in Black” (in St Andrews Street). The day that St Enoch launched it was the most viewed image on any public sector website the UK!
Finally, another critical feature of the City Centre Mural Trail is that it is artist-led and open to everyone through the City Centre Mural Fund. Anyone wishing to submit an application should be aware of the basic requirements; find a space (in the city centre), get the owner’s permission, come up with an artwork concept, and present us with a workable plan. If it meets with the judging panel’s approval, we can progress accordingly.