Pollokshields Heritage

Cart blanche

Representatives of Pollokshaws, Shawlands, Pollokshields, Mansewood and Strathbungo met under the aegis of GLASGOW - UK CITY OF ARCHITECTURE & DESIGN 1999.

Inspired by Bob McLay's notion of a riverbus, they formed a steering group to investigate and promote the re-connection of the riverbank communities and the improvement of the waterway environment.

THE GLASGOW SCHOOL OF ART PRODUCT DESIGN ENGINEERING DEPARTMENT was awarded a grant from '99' for final year student Martin Brown to develop the idea of an environmentally-friendly craft. Designed to transport passengers, or perhaps to accommodate a travelling exhibition capable of appreciation from the riverbanks, it has already begun a life of its own! - Martin's design for an 'amphi-bus' is not confined to the Cart river.

The major objective is to redirect attention towards the river:

  • to link the development of a wide variety of sustainable human and wildlife activities embracing heritage, the arts and crafts, walkways and cycle paths
  • to encourage commercial interests to participate in riverbank development that will contribute to and enhance the conservation and regeneration of the area
  • to create a new 'added value' southside experience for riverbank residents and workers, that will equally service the relatively isolated tourist attractions of the Cart's cultural heritage.

Artist-in-Residence ALASDAIR BANKS completed the first profile-raising project with children from the local St Conval's and Sir John Maxwell's Primary Schools. Their stylised mooring posts interpret and reflect some of the wildlife the river nurtures. An auspicious start to what could be achieved in their lifetime - through the productive commitment of resources and the imaginative inspiration of having cart blanche!

cart blanche

at Pollok House on 30 June 1999

Bob McLay Chairman, cart blanche
Dagfinn Aksnes Product Design Engineering Course Leader, Glasgow School of Art
George Wyllie Iconoclartist!
Tim Mitchell Conservation Group Leader, Development & Regeneration Services, GCC
Jim Coyle Environment Group Leader, Development & Regeneration Services, GCC

Bob McLay welcomed delegates as the instigator of the riverbus project, which was funded by Glasgow '99, on behalf of the "gang of five" (Alasdair Banks, Karin Currie, Kevin Kane & Liz Thomas), the steering group focussed on the need to regenerate the river as an amenity and a resource.

Dagfinn Aksnes introduced the computer-animated presentation compiled by the 'amphibus' designer, final year student, Martin Brown. The presentation included details of the problems to be addressed and the design requirements of the craft, as well as the technology, environmental impact and proposed market, and illustrated the features and stages of the craft's development. Dagfinn further added that the craft utilised existing technology and that it would therefore be worth pursuing the finance to build a prototype.

George Wyllie spoke of the need to regenerate interest in and the use of our waterways, and the benefits that would achieved. Here in the west of Scotland there is the expertise, and while ships may have gone out of Scotland, they have not gone out of fashion. Scots have always been good at ideas and at engineering ; the hardest part of developing ideas is to "get past the negative". Much energy is required to assert ideas, to make connections that can turn an idea into a reality. He said the Clyde needs a waterborne 'subway' - perhaps a version of the amphibus could service such a need? - linking attractions on the Clyde. What has happened to our attitude to ships? The cart blanche craft itself could be seen as an icon towards galvanising development possibilities for water transport. We need to harness the expertise before it is too late. "The fine art of seamanship once gone is like the cry of a destroyed wild bird…." (Joseph Conrad). It is part of our own environment that we relinquish to our cost. His own current regenerative sculpture/project 'The Crystal Ship', is also an icon relating to discovery and communication. We must use 'zitetic synergy', interconnecting energy, work together to insist that innovation happens.

Bob McLay said the original motivation for the setting up of the cart blanche steering group had been to look at new ways of using the river to reconnect communities, adding value to what is in place or planned. Most of the south side of the city is touched by the river, but we have lost touch with it.

Tim Mitchell has been involved with the White Cart Water for a long time. He outlined the context, both geographical and in terms of ongoing developments, for the cart blanche initiative. The City Council, the National Trust and Cathcart Old Parish Church are all currently involved in different ways, e.g. the White Cart Walkway which provides a potential link with a number of features of interest along this three mile stretch, including the Snuff Mill, Millholm, the conservation areas and the history of the Maxwell family, as well as Pollokshaws, Holmwood House and Pollok House. Another aspect of the Council's involvement was in flood management, for which there was now a budget. But he emphasised that it is the council's duty to assist and enable organisations to be the doers as well as the generators of ideas. "Power" he said "must come from the communities." The tourism potential of the south side of the city has been much neglected. Cart blanche could provide an exciting focus, should widen its horizons, create linkages, and contribute to the City's strategies for the Stirling Maxwell Forest Park, for tourism, for transport and the City's Local Plan.

Jim Coyle described the city's Biodiversity Action Plan, the excellent public response to their consultation paper, and their sell-out workshops and seminars! He highlighted the scarce habitats and declining species in Glasgow and the need for their protection and development. A good environment is not only good for public health but good for investment in the city. The city is concentrating on wetlands, grasslands and woodlands, and first management efforts have already seen an increase in some scarce species. Echoing George Wyllie, he reminded us that if you lose a species you can't get it back.
And reinforced Tim Mitchell's comments on the need for community involvement.

From the floor:

  • much discussion regarding the environmental impact of the 'amphibus'; importance of keeping the balance (Response: cart blanche is not "promoting" the amphibus per se, but rather using it as a catalyst to focus on what needs to be done to create an amenity corridor).
  • concern about the condition of the waterway between Pollok House and Holmwood House, and pollution beyond, and the responsibility for clearing it up
  • flood limitation - the use of the Cart for its management; the dramatic changes in water levels
  • the need to identify the barriers that have to be overcome to restore access to the riverside, the requirements to make the waterway a focus for community amenity, the arts, tourism
  • concern about the pedestrian route at Holmwood
  • concern that the Tourist Board seems scarcely to know that the Cart, one of Glasgow's major rivers, exists! - is not referred to on their computer system. (Response: Glasgow Tourism Strategy now being put in place!)
  • scope for possible tourist trail; guided walks; walkway; cyclepath
  • widen perameters to link with Paisley Abbey, Crookston Castle, social history, e.g.
  • willingness of Carts River Valley Project to support the broader aims of cart blanche, rather than the 'amphibus'
  • campaign group could consider a non-statutory plan for the river - need to involve local people; primary schools project a good starting point.

Robert Ferguson on behalf The National Trust for Scotland commented that so many of the features of the area being discussed in this forum were attributable to the foresight and planning of Sir John Stirling Maxwell. He also said that the Trust could identify with the challenge of bringing people to the south side and welcomes this opportunity to strive together to make it happen, in the same way that the Charles Rennie Mackintosh trail has succeeded.

Bob McKay expressed appreciation of the speakers and all participants and the conference retired to a lively lunch!

Questionnaire responses will be collated and a meeting for those willing to evolve a working group to progress achievable objectives will be held at a future date TBA.



Material content:

  1. Video of cart river between Holmwood House & Pollok House (Alasdair Banks)
  2. 'Mooring' posts designed and created by pupils at Sir John Maxwell & St Conval's primary schools (Alasdair Banks)
  3. Nature drawings by pupils at Sir John Maxwell & St Conval's Primary Schools (Alasdair Banks)
  4. Computer animation of 'amphibus' product design engineering project (Martin Brown)
  5. Display boards detailing 'amphibus' product design engineering project (Martin Brown)
  6. Video 'notebook' of conference (Tony Currie)