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TV review: The Street takes an unexpected turn

Is Glasgow really 'Scotland With Style' or is that sentiment best reserved for banners on the George Square lampposts?

The Street, BBC 1, is a new documentary series about the people who work - and drink - on busy Sauchiehall Street and it opens with scenes of a particularly unstylish Glasgow.

On Saturday nights the women go barefoot, trudging through the puddles and the crisp packets, shoes tucked under their arms. It's impossible to tell if the men also adopt this strange custom as they all seem to be pinned beneath struggling policemen, foaming and bucking and swearing.

Every reality TV programme about nightlife will feature staggering women and beefy-faced oafs and The Street was no different but in amongst the drunkenness were small flickers of hope; the programme did show there's more to Sauchiehall Street than vomit and king rib suppers and so it saved itself from simply being tiresome reality TV and instead told us stories of the small businesses and entrepreneurs of Sauchiehall Street.

It was refreshing to see a narrative of a high street which wasn't all about boarded windows and loathing of Amazon. Other problems exist for the high street retailers and The Street eventually shoved the drunks aside and got down to business.

We saw plotting and intrigue at The Savoy Centre as management struggled to persuade the tenants to open on Sundays. Ian, the shoe shop owner, was furious at the change and declared his fellow tenants to be 'spineless bastards' for agreeing. Management threatened him with eviction unless he complied. How absurd, to be objecting to Sunday opening, when the centre should have adopted this obvious strategy years ago. These were stubborn businessmen fiddling whilst Rome burned. Why should they get out of bed on Sunday for the bloody customers? Why indeed, but when every other shop around you is packed on Sundays it's time to surrender your roast lamb and open up shop.

As the Savoy Centre slouched towards modernity you couldn't help but feel the battle was already lost. Who is going to journey into town just to browse in the tatty shops in the Savoy Centre, where everything seems steeped in the dim light of the 1970s?

At the opposite end of the spectrum was Nick. Irrepressible, energetic and straight-talking, if Nick was in charge of the city Glasgow would have got its airport link, and we'd have had Edinburgh's trams too, thank you very much.

Nick was a chef in London and returned to Glasgow to open a tiny cafe called Taste. He told the camera, with admirable honesty, that he'd worked at the five-star venues, but had become hooked on cocaine and 'a house and a Ferrari went up my nose.' He beat the habit and came home to open his new business which is packed every lunch-time, with the queue spilling into the street.

We see the depressing 'To Let' signs drooping from the building next door, so there is room for his business to expand, but no doubt the rent and rates are excruciating so he remains in his tiny space whilst empty shops echo around him.

The city fathers should be falling over themselves to assist people like Nick, instead of allowing Sauchiehall Street to become a Wetherspoons theme park. This tired street needs people like Nick. In fact, it needs a whole new identity - one which isn't tied to the availability of booze.

Glasgow city centre is shrinking to being just the posh shops of Ingram and Buchanan Streets and a warren of chain stores everywhere else. Sauchiehall Street, despite once being a grand thoroughfare, has no identity. It contains the McLellan Galleries, The Centre for Contemporary Arts, the famous Willow Tea Rooms and has the GFT peeking round the corner, but it's known simply as a jumble of cheesy pubs, kebab shops and ugly throwbacks like the Savoy Centre.

People who want culture will head to the West End and those looking for trendy bars will go to the Merchant City.

But it is possible to revive a district: look at the futuristic quayside by Finnieston; that sprang to life on the empty ground left by the Garden Festival which was itself built upon the redundant industrial space. There is hope for the street if it finds a purpose - and more people like Nick.

And The Street does suggest hope. Shots filmed from above show the stunning buildings and the plentiful trees, reminding us of Glasgow's history as the 'dear green place' and of our wealth of hefty Victorian architecture, but then we zoom in on the chaos below and see the barefoot drunks. So it's fitting that the programme is called The Street and not The Architecture, The Trees, The Industrial Past, The City That We Used To Be, because 'the street' is where the problem lies; Sauchiehall Street shows a Glasgow which produces cocktails not ships, kebabs not locomotives.

One particular image symbolised The Street's vision of Glasgow: a scabby pigeon is seen scratching amongst the coffee cups and crumbled biscotti of a pavement cafe. This is Scotland With Style colliding with No Mean City and producing something else entirely.

TV film shows vicious racist attack on busker on Sauchiehall Street

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