THE wee Govanite is about 11 years old and possesses what you might call belligerent curiosity.

“What are yous doin’ here then?”

“We’re writing about the sports centre for the papers.”

“Is that right? When will yous be finished?”

A small group of us – journalist, photographer, council officials – have just interrupted him as he was honing his keepy-uppy skills. It’s not that he’s being sullen or fractious. He just wants us to know that this is his place and, if it’s all the same to us, he’s not got all day.

We’re at the Glasgow Club in Drumoyne to observe a community ownership initiative that’s beginning to bear remarkable results. This is the People Make Glasgow Communities programme in action, a city-wide project providing local groups with the facilities and support to meet needs specific to their neighbourhoods.

The wee fella’s message is understood. And so we conclude our business and our chin-stroking and are quickly on our way. Earlier, we’d just inspected a full-size wrestling ring up the stairs.

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This club in Drumoyne had been run by Glasgow Life prior to the pandemic. Like several other such centres and community hubs, it was facing an uncertain future owing to post-pandemic budget constraints. This is where the People Make Glasgow Communities initiative was born. Why not hand them over to established local groups to manage and operate, but with the expertise and guidance of the city council?

The organisations involved cover sports; sustainable food-growing, and transforming greenspace. Some aim to provide childcare and support programmes to deliver financial and personal wellbeing. A report commissioned to assess its success has revealed astonishing results. Since its launch in February 2021, there have been around 600 expressions of interest.

Several have already progressed to the Development Phase of process, with occupation agreements finalised prior to commencing management of venue. Others are now successfully operating these venues, including the Glasgow Club at Drumoyne.

Julia Lapthorn is the programme officer leading the project and is delighted at how well it’s worked. She won’t use the phrase “exceeding expectations” but it’s clear that, across Glasgow, hundreds of community groups engaging with thousands of citizens, including many from disadvantaged neighbourhoods, are engaging with it.

“It’s a hand-holding process as well as a stepping stone for them. We try to work in partnership with these groups. The council felt a responsibility not just to hand over ownership and then wash our hands of it. We can help them by assigning a full-time officer to help them with grant-funding applications and attaining charitable status. We want to avoid them getting bogged down in processes and being passed along via officials and departments.”

The Drumoyne venue is now operated by Park Villa, the famous Govan amateur football club who have now extended their operations beyond football to provide activities supporting mental health.

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Park Villa is now hiring it out to many other community organisations who, in effect, are sub-tenants. As well as several football pitches – both grass and astroturf – there is a dance studio which is proving to be particularly popular. That and the wrestling department, of course.

Julia, who came from Germany to study here more than 20 years ago (“I fell in love and decided to stay”) is struck by how popular boxing and wrestling are in Glasgow, along with the city’s legendary attachment to football. “Often, you’ll find all three disciplines happening at the same time on our football fields,” I tell her.

“We support these organisations with skills, training and fund-raising,” she says. “We help them set up charitable status and with gaining expertise in grant-funding applications and business plans. We’ll bring in established organisations who have expertise and experience in various sectors: for example the Scottish Refugee Council if there are language barriers.

“Making these buildings available helps groups who can’t afford to run their own facility. It’s very inspirational to see groups working together and finding solutions. The increased sense of ownership instils a sense of community pride and we see this with a reduction in vandalism.

“Young people now see these places as their own. It’s very empowering and the council can learn from local organisations: they know their communities better than we do.”

Martin Currie is manager at Drumoyne and the football coordinator, having been a player and coach at Park Villa. He’s been amazed at the popularity of the dance classes. “We have dance classes for all ages and have a fully-equipped room with floor-to-ceiling mirror running along one wall.

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“We’re getting interest from groups as far afield as Erskine. This place has become vital for the health and wellbeing of the community.”

The results are evident throughout Glasgow. South Seeds, a community group in the city’s south side have been seeking to convert the derelict changing pavilion at Queen’s Park Recreation Ground into a community hub. Until now, they’d been operating the outdoor space as a gardening group. The People Make Glasgow process has enabled them to obtain a long-term lease to redevelopment the derelict pavilion.

In Glasgow’s east end, St Paul’s Youth Forum, attached to St Paul’s Parish Church, needed a larger facility to grow their core services. They’ve now started operating the Molendinar Community Centre under a Licence to Occupy.

In Easterhouse, the Phoenix Centre and Easterhouse Community Sports Hub have begun a partnership with Basketball Scotland, The Phoenix Centre and Easterhouse Community Sports Hub to take on the management of Easterhouse Sports Centre under the People Make Glasgow Community process. The newly-formed organisation “Easterhouse Henosis” will start operations later this summer.

Earlier this year the Child Poverty Action Group released figures showing that almost a quarter of Scottish children remain in poverty. In Glasgow that number rises to 34%. The fightback will require much more radical thinking than has been evident so far from our political elites in 25 years of devolution.

The People Make Glasgow Communities programme shows what can be done when the politicians cede some power to those communities most affected.

Yesterday, at Drumoyne, I attempted one more time to reach out to Govan’s pint-sized Pele in that slightly patronising way that adults tend to do with children who know their own minds.

“Do you like the wrestling, wee man,” I ask him.

“Aye, maybe. But not the legal kind,” he shoots back.

It’s not even lunchtime yet and I’m already 3-0 down.