Commonwealth City : Synopsis
‘There wont be a better documentary series this year. Brilliant’ (Daily Record)
When Glasgow won the right to host the 2014 Commonwealth Games, the city saw an opportunity to showcase itself to the country and the rest of world by placing the heart of the games in the city’s poorest area.
This documentary series, filmed over five years, follows the lives of the people of Dalmarnock, in Glasgow’s East End. Charting their ups and downs, the series reveals what happens to a community when it has to make way for the biggest show in town.
The East End, once a flourishing area of industrial growth, slid into decline in the 70s and 80s. Some 20,000 local jobs in heavy engineering plants at Parkhead and Cambuslang were lost. With the arrival of the Commonwealth Games it could all change. But in Glasgow, memories are still raw. In the 1960s, when the Gorbals were regenerated, tenements were torn down to be replaced by modern flats and the spirit of the area was destroyed forever.
Winning the right to host a sporting event like the Commonwealth Games is a huge accolade for any city, and with it comes the dream of positive transformation. But with the emphasis on building new stadiums, athlete’s villages and ensuring the games run smoothly, the long-term benefits for society from these events are often forgotten. The decision to develop the £1/2 billion games in Glasgow’s east end, promises to breathe life into Scotland’s most deprived area. The government and Glasgow Council have said that 10,000 jobs will be created and a further £2.7bn of public and private investment will be made in the area. Later when the athletes leave the Athletes Village the area will be used for social and affordable housing. But before you can build a new future, you need to get rid of the past.
It’s 2010 – four years to go to the games. Dalmarnock in Glasgow’s East End looks pretty ropey – but within four years it will have had a £billions spent on it. Right now though the area that once had 10,000 residents now has less than 2000.
Making his own bid to repopulate the community is local entrepreneur Darren, who has 5 kids and another on the way. Darren is determined to secure a good life for his family, and dreams of setting them up with a private education. In this episode Darren is hoping for a big compensation deal for his row of shops and cafes due to be demolished to make way for the Athlete’s Village. But as the shops are boarded up ahead of demolition, the community is left without amenities and Darren without compensation.
Across the street another story unfolds. Margaret is the only resident living in an otherwise derelict row of tenements. The buildings are also due to be demolished to make way for the Athlete’s Village. Margaret, however, is not budging. She’s fighting the compulsory purchase order of £30,000 – which is far from being enough to buy her a similar property in the area. As Margaret digs her heals in deeper, the battle lines are drawn. The closing, dramatic scene, filmed with exclusive access, has nearly 80 Police and Sheriff Officers battering down Margaret’s door after a 7-day barricade in which Margaret and her family tried to fend off the bailiffs.
Meanwhile Stephen, an eager 18 year old, is making the most of the opportunities brought about by the multi million pound Games development. Having left school with no qualifications, he’s dreaming of becoming an Engineer, and is hoping he’s on the road to success by enrolling as an Engineering Assistant for Sir Robert McAlpine, the construction company behind the new Sir Chris Hoy Velodrome – the jewel in the Games’ crown.
Dalmarnock’s beating heart is its community centre – now the only public venue where locals can meet. But the council’s plans reveal there’s no planned replacement for the community centre, once it’s been knocked down to make way for a temporary bus terminal. But behind the hub is local activist Yvonne – passionate, highly driven and determined to do the best for her community. Yvonne soon scales up her ambitions, and tries to get a community buy out off the ground.
Yvonne works with local youths, trying to keep trouble out of their lives. Meanwhile Darren’s brother 29 year old Brian, who’s spent a most of his adulthood behind bars, is hoping to make major changes to his violent life, and shrug off his troubled past.
In the meantime Margaret’s tenement block, and that of the last surviving tenement over Darren’s old shops are demolished. But Darren faces a much more devastating blow when his brother, Brian, is brutally murdered.
It’s 2013. Twenty months to go till the Games. Now an elected local councillor, Yvonne’s dreams are finally realised. She’s secured funding for a community centre with impressive add-ons, including a GP centre and crèche. The fancy new building will be barely complete for the Games, before being handed over to the community after the Commonwealth Games.
Darren has also turned a corner. With the aid of the compensation money, he’s enrolled his eldest daughter Cameron at a top Glasgow private school, taken over the local pub and opened a new shop. Life for the entrepreneurial 34 year old has just begun.
And one of Yvonne’s top protégés, 21-year-old David, has been selected to become a ‘Clydesider’ – one of 15000 volunteers who will help make the Games run smoothly. Born and bred in Dalmarnock, David’s dream is to own a share in the future of his homeland, by buying one of the brand new homes built for the athletes to stay in during the Games, but designed to be transformed in local housing after.
As Glasgow’s east end transforms over the next four years, this documentary series charts the affect that it has on peoples lives and wonders if the 2014 Commonwealth Games will be the ‘shot in the arm’ that Scotland’s most deprived area needs for long-lasting change.