Crane and Distillery

‘It’s not that what is past casts its light on what is present, or what is present its light on what is past; rather, image is that wherein what has been comes together in a flash with the now to form a constellation.’

Walter Benjamin [Arcades Project, N2a, 3]

Everything points to the crane. The crane, the regeneration workers tell us, is the focus of the development. The challenge is to link up the waterfront with the town. But private developers own a patch of land between the crane and the town. The deal was done during the boom and the developers were meant to build houses for sale. But this hasn’t happened and now the developers want to build a supermarket instead – which the regeneration people worry will suck people and money away from the town. For now, the crane stands on one corner of a big triangle of unused land containing only a pile of dirt that we are told just keeps getting moved around. At the far side of the triangle sits a further education college and a little further up the road, a small well-designed block of Housing Association flats. But because of the empty patch in the middle, none of these things fit together in the way that was anticipated. Standing on the top of the crane my stomach rises into my neck- it’s only when you are back on solid ground that you are aware of its slight motion. I shuffle around the edges of the jib, following the reassuring blue line that lies under the metal grid. Looking east, the Clyde twists around back to Glasgow. It is getting harder for these projects to the west of the city to access money as the Commonwealth Games have turned heads eastwards. Down below, the physical traces of ship-building are still written on the river, the slip where the QE2 was launched has been left in place. The developers gave the regeneration project the crane, but 4 million had to be spent on its renovation. Everything points to the crane.

In another town up the road is another remant of the industrial past, although this one is not restored. The whisky distillery stands with a patch of wasteland on one side and the river on the other. Across the river is ‘the rock’, popular with climbers and home of an under-promoted castle – the oldest fortified castle in Scotland, apparently. The ground that is wasteland and occupied by the distillery was meant to be covered in houses by now but the developers went into administration. The council want the distillery to be pulled down in order to create sightlines to the rock from the town. This ruin has not taken on the role of symbolising an inheritance, rather it is cast as a blotter-outter of views, the obstruction between the town and ‘real’ history. Looking across from the football ground towards the distillery, glowing orange, in front of the town and with a snow-covered Ben Lomond in the background, while listening to the aspirations of the regeneration workers for this place, pulling down the distillery seems not only like an act of vandalism but also at odds with their aspirations. They want to get the climbers to come and spend money and for tourists en route to Loch Lomond to stop by. The distillery looks like it could be converted into any number of things that could serve that purpose but maybe the issue is money rather than sightlines? We drive down a road that we are told is the success story, a private development of houses and flats, only the flats have declined 30% in value and have not proved popular.

The high street has a lot of vacant shops. One empty shop-front is mocked up as a deli. ‘It could be yours!’ promises the poster over the backdrop of pretend rows of olive oil.

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