NGS Thinks...

January 2017 – Style Mile vs. Geek Street

Glasgow’s international subcultural destination

Union St has been becoming increasingly, and visibly, run down in recent years – at least in terms of conventional commercial activity. The one factor compensating for this has been a parallel rise in vibrancy as subcultural elements colonise the area between Gordon and Argyle Street, and the area has become a destination for those interested in video, board and war-gaming, gadgets, pop culture and alternative music.

Presently, and within the one-block span of Union Street, these premises already exist (many of them appearing spontaneously as the character of this part of the City Centre has changed):

  • The Cathouse (‘Glasgow’s premiere rock club’)
  • Fopp (music, vinyl, film retail)
  • CeX (trading of video and computer games, gadgets, etc.)
  • Tokyo Toys Manga (Japanese pop-cultural items)
  • Game (video games retail)
  • Skint (clothing alterations)
  • Geek Retreat (comic book store, cafe and gaming events hub)
  • Vixen and Lucifer (alternative clothing)
  • G-Force Games (trading of video and computer games)
  • Games Workshop/Warhammer (wargames and miniatures)
  • Rebel Rebel (hipster barbers)
  • Stuff (cult items, collectables, retro, gadgets)

We propose that it would be a far-sighted move for Glasgow City Council to embrace and assist the cultural change happening in this area, and divert a small proportion of the efforts expended on stimulating Glasgow’s ‘Style Mile’ towards Glasgow’s ‘Geek Street’. Help with rates, support for start-ups, and inclusion of its promotion in international publicity (via the City Marketing Bureau, for instance) would be likely to be repaid plentifully as this subcultural destination is established. The city would benefit from colour, quirk and interest right in the City Centre, and – if managed sensitively – a part of Glasgow now vaguely threatening for some could become much more open, cosmopolitan and welcoming. That handling, of course, is crucial – careful enough to prevent further deterioration, yet hands-off enough to avoid stifling creativity and vibrancy.

At one end of Union St, the corner outside Mcdonald’s has been a meeting place for young people for some years, and the rowdiness of crowds here can reach an antisocial level, creating a negative experience for pedestrian traffic on the busy Central Station/St Enoch Subway corridor. The establishment of better social spaces for those coming to meet in the area would mitigate this phenomenon and enable it to more co-operatively managed.