Nobody’s Home in Glasgow


52 hours in Glasgow: a tale of two radio interviews, an exhibition opening, chatting on the telly and wasting time in the clouds above Benbecula.

Wednesday July 20th
6.00am: set off to Stornoway airport to catch the 8.25am direct flight to Glasgow. The plan was to arrive in Glasgow at 9.25am, head straight to The Lighthouse to oversee and help hang all the prints for the official opening of Nobody’s Home the following day. I get to Stornoway airport in plenty of time, only to be told the flight has been cancelled for ‘technical reasons’. No big deal – I’m put on a flight to Benbecula instead, to catch a connecting flight to Glasgow, which will arrive three hours later than the original schedule. Coming in to land at Benbecula, the pilot aborts the landing due to poor visibility. He announces we have sufficient fuel to circle above Benbecula for 30 minutes, in the hope conditions will improve. Fifty minutes later he’s back on the tannoy. Apparently the weather has worsened. We have to return to Stornoway.

Eventually land in Glasgow at 2pm. I get a taxi to The Lighthouse and spend 15 minutes figuring out where each print should be hung before being taken to the BBC Scotland studios at Pacific Quay for a live interview with Janice Forsyth on her Culture Studio radio programme.

Coincidentally, as you’ll hear in the interview, it’s 40 years to the day since Buzzcocks played their first gig – supporting the Sex Pistols at Manchester’s Lesser free Trade Hall.

BBC Radio Scotland – The Janice Forsyth Show

Thursday July 21st
Back to The Lighthouse to continue the job of hanging prints. My thanks to Michael, who was hired in by Architecture & Design Scotland for a couple of days to do all the hard work. He did a great job! Also had a team meeting with The Lighthouse staff to tell them a little about the images in the exhibition, so they could pass on info to inquisitive visitors.

Blue Room diptychNew for the Glasgow show: Blue Room diptych. Total size: 100 inches wide, 96 inches tall

The doors open at 6pm. All 100 tickets to the opening were snapped up in advance. The event was introduced by Karen Anderson, chair of Architecture & Design Scotland. My talk was followed by an excellent presentation from Brian Whitington, project manager of Tighean Innse Gall (the Western Isles’ housing body). Brian is the man behind using my images to attract the the Carnegie Trust and a grant of £50,000 to kickstart a project that aims to put some of the abandoned homes scattered around the Outer Hebrides back into use.

This little booklet, Living Demonstration Homes for the Western Isles, neatly summarises the scheme. Based on recent discussions I’ve been a part of, it’s looking increasingly likely work will start on the first house in the near future.

Living Demonstration HomesLiving Demostration Homes for the Western Isles. This 12 page booklet summarises the project.

Brian also showed this short video, which was put together by the project’s architect, SBA Architects, to illustrate how one of the derelict houses could be transformed to provide super insulated, energy efficient housing.

Eco-renovating a derelict island home

Following Brian’s presentation, we had an informed and entertaining Q&A session with an enthusiastic crowd. It was a great event!

Nobody's Home - official openingQ&A session. Facing the audience (L-R): Karen Anderson (A&DS), me, Brian Whitington (TIG)

Friday July 22nd
Up bright and early for a radio interview with Gary Robertson on Good Morning Scotland. Surprised to hear the interview start with a verse and chorus from Orgasm Addict, considering this was being broadcast live by the BBC at 8.40am!

BBC Radio Scotland’s, Good Morning Scotland. Includes a snippet of Orgasm Addict

An hour later, I get a call from BBC reporter Huw Williams. He wants to do something for that evening’s TV news, Reporting Scotland. We meet at The Lighthouse and film a short piece about the photos and the renovation project. While I’m waiting for Huw and his cameraman to turn up, a little old lady taps me on the shoulder and asks if I’m the photographer. She’d heard that morning’s radio interview, and hearing mention of the ‘Outer Hebrides’ decided to check out the exhibition, never having visited The Lighthouse before.

[youtube height=”HEIGHT” width=”WIDTH”]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mjd1GZSoMy0[/youtube]
TV: BBC Reporting Scotland

TV interview over, I had just enough time to visit Street Level Photoworks, Glasgow’s main photo gallery and workshop before heading for Glasgow airportand the flight home. After a guided tour of SLP, director Malcolm Dickson guided me round the corner to peer through the window of Mohair: a barbershop specialising in beards only. City life.

No flight delays on the way home. Departed Glasgow on time at 5.25pm, arrived in Stornoway at 6.30pm. I stopped off at the Co-op before driving south to Harris. I was reminded of my scheduled appearance on that evening’s news programme, when a woman came up to me at the checkout and said: “Just saw you on the telly. It was good.”

[message_box title=”SPECIAL THANKS…” color=”red”]… to Morag Bain, Anja Ekelof, Danny McKendry and the rest of the team at Architecture & Design Scotland for all their hard work in making this exhibition happen. Thanks also to all the staff at The Lighthouse – a cracking venue, right in the centre of Glasgow.[/message_box]

To round off, a selection of photos I took in and around The Lighthouse during my brief but enjoyable stay in Glasgow.

The Lighthouse, Mitchell Lane, GlasgowThe Lighthouse, Mitchell Lane, Glasgow

Selfie takersSelfie takers. Duke of Wellington and horse sporting classic Glaswegian headgear

View from the top of The LighthouseView from the top of The Lighthouse’s Mackintosh Tower

IMG_3164Waiting to be summoned inside the BBC’s ‘Good Morning Scotland’ radio studio

John in front of Waiting RoomPhoto from the opening night by Stuart Robertson of the Charles Rennie Mackintosh Society

Nobody's HomeNobody’s Home, at The Lighthouse

Nobody's HomeNobody’s Home, at The Lighthouse

Blue Chair & 3:44amBlue Chair and 3:44am


4 thoughts on “Nobody’s Home in Glasgow”

  1. Hi John

    Many congrats for the continuing success of your abandoned croft houses photographic project and for raising the profile of housing in the outer Hebrides. It’s a few years ago now (2011 I think)that I was first inspired to take up night photography by a little flyer of yours in the window of the an clachan co-op in Leverburgh. Your blog posts were instrumental in getting me going and taking long exposure shots at night still gives me a lot of pleasure now, so thanks for that John.

    I often wonder about the abandoned houses on Harris and the other islands. Of course it would be good to see the houses regenerated but surely the underlying problem is one of a lack of jobs. I once saw an interview with an old guy who’d been a lighthouse keeper on one of the remote Western Isles and the interviewer was basically saying how lucky he was to live in such a beautiful part of the world. The old guy summed it up perfectly – ‘oh, the view is fine, but you can’t eat it and they don’t pay you for looking at it’. Without a sustainable economy the population inevitably melts away over time leaving only their abandoned houses in the landscape to eventually follow suit. Even in the short time since I was last there in 2012 the school at Seilebost and the one on the road to Huisinis have shut down. What’s the answer? is there an answer??

    All the very best John

    Mike O’Shea

  2. Ageing population, lack of jobs, young people leaving the island, houses purchased by the wealthy for use as holiday homes etc. None of the above is unique to the Outer Hebrides. Many remote locations are experiencing the same issues.

    It’s not all bad news in Harris: we’ve got the new distillery in Tarbert, North Harris Trust have built new houses and business units, West Harris Trust are building a new community centre, four business units at Seilebost, plus a number of new housing plots. The old school in Scalpay houses several small arts and crafts businesses. Part of Leverburgh school that was due to be demolished by the council may be turned into a multi-use facility, operated by the local community.

    Community ownership is helping stem the flow. Change won’t happen overnight. I believe slow but steady progress is the way to go and there are signs of that taking place.

    I think some of the people who’ve seen my ‘Nobody’s Home’ photographs assume they represent the island as a whole. That was never my intention. The pictures represent just one of the aspects I like about the place. There’s a lot more to the Outer Hebrides than an abandoned houses with a few ornaments on the mantelpiece. Maybe I need to address that in my next project.

    • Hi Agnes, I don’t have a gallery. An Lanntair in Stornoway, Lewis and Seallam in Northton, Harris both stock a selection of my prints. There’s a Harris exhibition in the pipeline for later in the year. No dates confirmed yet, so watch this space for further details.

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