ONCE a vibrant burgh built around the textile industry, with thriving small shops and a history dating back to the 1600s, today Pollokshaws seems to have lost its appeal - and sense of community.

What used to be the centre of community life, the Shawbridge Arcade, is now a derelict structure.

Glasgow Times: Shawbridge Arcade, in Glasgow's Pollokshaws, is due to be demolished to make way for flats.Shawbridge Arcade, in Glasgow's Pollokshaws, is due to be demolished to make way for flats.

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The old shopping precinct had hosted shops, bars and services, since it was built in the 1970s, as well as the Strathclyde Regional Council and, later, the city council’s housing offices.

But more recently, it has been a receptacle for litter and graffiti, with a William Hill bookmaker’s the only remaining business.

It is due to be demolished soon to make way for flats, after the sale to Wheatley Homes Glasgow earlier this year.

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However, a talented artist has taken it upon himself to turn the eyesore into a transitional art space, with surprising effects on the community.

Stephen Machin, aka Mack Colours, has spent the last 12 weeks painting animal-themed murals all over the complex - from colourful birds to acquatic animals and even a red panda.

Glasgow Times: Stephen Machin (Mack Colours) posing with his murals at the Shawbridge ArcadeStephen Machin (Mack Colours) posing with his murals at the Shawbridge Arcade

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“People were coming up to me as I was working asking ‘you know it’s gonna be knocked down son?’,” said Stephen.

“I always knew it was going to happen, but that’s the reason why I started doing it.

“The arcade had always been painted by graffiti artists, however, this really created a conversation with the locals.”

Glasgow Times: Stephen with his murals on the Greenview Street side of the ArcadeStephen with his murals on the Greenview Street side of the Arcade

The 32-year-old artist, who lives in nearby Shawlands, kicked off the project with seven murals on the building’s exterior pillars, on Greenview Street.

After enlisting the help of other local artists, he eventually transformed the whole precinct, with a total of 17 artworks and a further two in the making.

Pollokshaw's own mural trail

Stephen said the experience was an “eye-opener” on the benefits that street art can have on people’s lives.

As he witnessed locals engaging with the artwork, he became convinced that creating Pollokshaws’ own mural trail would help the “fractured” community regain a sense of identity.

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“The locals are really proud about the fact that they’ve got this space now, even if just temporarily,” he said.

“It used to be quite eerie, but now it doesn’t feel that way.

"There’s usually someone looking at the murals, people take their children, so I go down and brush up some litter when I can.”

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Stephen has been an artist for 19 years but only started painting murals during the pandemic.

Last year, he took part in the creation of the Shawlands mural trail, but said Pollokshaws missed out on the project as it was outside the area just by one road.

He now hopes to turn street art into a permanent feature in Pollokshaws, by painting the several bare gable walls in the area.

“I never started with that intention,” he added, “but the locals feel a bit fractured and forgotten about, and the area is split into different constituencies so I think everyone is a bit alienated.”

“The artwork would provide a sense of community, start conversations, and help people get to know their neighbours.

“I never knew anything about this until I went down there and spoke to the locals, and I’m really glad I’ve done it now because it has meaning, and it pushed me to keep painting and make it as good as possible.”

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'It feels like a no man's land'

Residents have already expressed their enthusiasm about the initiative.

Resident Siananne Boylan, who started a photographic project documenting changes in the area as a college student, said a mural trail would give the neighbourhood something that is “iconically Pollokshaws”.

While the 26-year-old heard her grandmother’s stories of community spirit, she didn’t get to experience the same atmosphere growing up there, and said the area now feels “like a no man’s land”.

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She added: “We don’t have that sense of community in Pollokshaws anymore.

“We’re getting all these new houses but there’s nothing else. It feels like no one cares.

“Shawlands got its mural trail and now Govanhill is getting some street art as well that brightens up the place, and it feels like Pollokshaws got left behind.”

Siananne said that while a lot of attention has been placed on Pollok Park and the recently reopened Burrell Collection, nearby Pollokshaws has been forgotten.

“Something needs to be there that draws people into the area, not just for parking their cars to go to the park.

“A mural trail would give us something to be able to say ‘this is Pollokshaws’.”