Leave our Lane Alane!


Photo by Kitty Lappin

UPDATE: ‎1 abstention, 6 against, 9 for. They’ve ignored their own planning guidelines, and common sense. It’s not over yet though! http://saveotagolane.co.uk/


Otago Lane, the last surviving hub of independent culture and life in Glasgow’s West End, is under threat from a massive 163 flat development which would bring about the closure of such institutions the second-hand and antiquarian bookshop Voltaire and Rousseau, the wonderful Mixed-Up Records, and the Tchai-Ovna tea house, all important independent centres of culture. The Planning Committee visited the site at 9am this morning, when shops are not normally open for business, but Otago Street was not caught napping! Supporters swarmed down to the cafes and shops which were specially opened early for the day. They are now picketing the City Chambers, where the decision is even now being made as to whether to allow the planning application to go ahead. Please, if you are in Glasgow and able to get down there, support them, or if not, at least post online and sign the petition! http://saveotagolane.co.uk/

Voltaire and Rousseau, run by brothers Jo and Ed McGonegal is an unassuming treasure trove of literary delights providing book service in the West End for the past 30 years. Voltaire and Rousseau not only provides an affordable way for students to purchase course materials, a range of literature from French or Gaelic poetry to gardening manuals, but is also renowned throughout Scotland and the world as a place where    discoveries can be made. Not long ago an original copy of Blake’s Poetical Sketches, complete with engravings was found after some digging about in the book filled crannies of the shop. It is perhaps the higlety-piglety piles of roughly genre-fied books where one can unabated while away hours in bookwormish pursuits that really creates the magic of the shop. It seems that the owners of V&R are unaware of the real gems they have because they are too busy shoring up the walls of books from collapsing!

There are some quite notable and varied book worms who frequent or have frequented V&R. Alistair Grey, A.L. Kennedy, Bernard McLaventy, Tom Leonard, Barry Humphries, Dennis Healey, Pat Kane, Rev. Ian Paisley, Alexander Trocchi (deceased), Margaret Attwood are just some of the more famous people who have been customers.

After purchasing a tome then what better than to pop round the corner and pore over it with a cup of tea in Tchai-Ovna, again another hang out for writers, poets and bookworms. You can sit for hours over a pot of tea with a book in one of the comfy chairs and again no one will bother you, continuing the relaxed, unassuming ambience of the lane.

Here there are also literary events and poetry readings, such as my own and my brother’s legacy, the Magic Carpet Cabaret, introducing the latest in new writers and musicians to the Glasgow Scene, including Christie Williamson, The Grey Earl, Chris Floyd and David Manderson, and the long-established “Reading the leaves”, which attracts writers and enthusiasts from around Scotland, with such writers as  Alan Jamieson, Anne Donovan, Dave Manderson, Loiuse Welsh and Tom Leonard to name just a few, making appearances and performing.

The loss of the lane will not only be a loss of livelihood for those who work in these establishment, it will mean the loss of the literary hub of Glasgow, a virtual cultural eclipse.


About Pedalling Poetry

Writer Ellen McAteer is founder of Tell It Slant poetry bookshop in Glasgow, General Manager at Poetry London magazine. She was a visiting lecturer at the Glasgow School of Art, and a mentee of the Clydebuilt Verse Apprenticeship Scheme, under Alexander Hutchison, and a singer with the band Stone Tape, as well as a solo singer who won a BBC Radio competition with her song Blue Valentine. She was Director of the Poetry Trust, which ran the Aldeburgh Poetry Festival, a director of the Scottish Writers’ Centre, a visiting lecturer at Oxford University's MSt in creative writing, and a member of the core group of performers at the Hammer and Tongue spoken word collective in Oxford. She is a qualified Librarian.
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