Concern has been raised that Glasgow’s rich gable end mural landscape could be at risk from creeping commercialisation. 

The plethora of vivid and exciting murals dotting gable ends and vacant sites have had a major impact on the city, helping to rejuvenate streets, revitalise buildings and boost tourism, while supporting local cultural, historical and traditional identities

It mirrors a Scotland-wide explosion in the appearance of landmark street art murals in recent years, one which has spawned events such as the much-loved Nuart Aberdeen street art festival, which sees street artists from across the globe converge on the city each year to transform walls into works of art.

Yet worry has been expressed that Glasgow’s position as a world-renowned mural art mecca could be in danger of being lost if the appearance of commercial murals in the city becomes commonplace. 

The Herald: Billy Connolly mural - Credit: Newquest Billy Connolly mural - Credit: Newquest (Image: Billy Connolly mural - Credit: Newquest)

It follows the appearance of a new mural in Dennistoun on the gable end of one of the area’s oldest tenements, Commissioned by shoe retailer Clarks to advertise their desert boots as part of their new ‘For the World Ahead’ brand campaign, the mural is the work of London-based artist Josephine Hicks. 

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Since appearing on the gable end a few weeks ago, the response to the advert has been mixed. 

Dennistoun Conservation Society, which showcases the history and heritage of Dennistoun as a designated conservation area, took to Twitter to quiz how the gable end was given over for a commercial mural, tweeting: “New mural on Duke St on the gable of one of Dennistoun’s oldest tenements featuring a pair of desert boots! Not quite sure how Clark’s got the gig but it adds a splash of colour to the area.”

Joining them was BAFTA Scotland award winning photographer and filmmaker Chris Leslie, who tweeted: “Hate the fact that its an ad. No matter how colourful it is. It could have been a mural that was relevant to Dennistoun, Glasgow..(or just not an ad). Slippery slope to massive semi permanent ads across the city…”

Labour MSP for Glasgow Paul Sweeney said it would be “of great concern” if the Clarks mural ushered in a new era of commercial murals appearing on gable ends and vacant sites across the city. 

He told The Herald: “Glasgow’s mural art has traditionally paid tribute to our city’s heritage, our local heroes and to pioneers who have put Scotland on the map. On that basis, it is sad to see them commercialised in this manner and it would be of great concern if this was to become the norm.

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 “As a city, we have a huge amount to be proud of. Whether it’s the invention of household staples like the television or the fridge; the developments of the steam engine or the cash machine; or the achievements of our sporting teams who have brought joy and celebration to our city.

“Those are the achievements we should be drawing attention to; achievements that put Glasgow on the map globally.”

The Herald: St Mungo mural - Credit: Newsquest St Mungo mural - Credit: Newsquest (Image: St Mungo mural - Credit: Newsquest)

Glasgow’s street art mural project and the success of the City Centre Mural Trail has attracted widespread interest, with the Council receiving inquiries and organisations across the globe who are keen to implement their own street art activities and who see the Glasgow murals as a successful example which may be emulated, either in whole or in part, in their own locations.

While the last five years has seen a vast number of murals appear across the city, Glasgow’s gable end mural history dates back to the 1970s, in the wake of an intensive programme of regeneration work influenced by the Bruce Report which saw a vast number of city tenements half or a quarter demolished. 

The Herald: John Byrne mural - Credit: The Herald John Byrne mural - Credit: The Herald (Image: John Byrne mural - Credit: The Herald)

The first gable end mural to appear in the city is believed to have been that of Scottish playwright and artist John Byrne’s 1974 work ‘Boy on Dog’, which was commissioned via a Scottish Art Council scheme.