Barras Market: Heart of Glasgow
Founder of the Barras Maggie McIver wanted the market to sell everything from “furniture to a needle”.
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1921 was the year Margaret McIver “Maggie” and her husband James purchased the land that lines the Gallowgate in Glasgow’s East End, on which they developed what is still recognised today as the Barras Market. By this point the couple were veterans in the trade having spent their married life selling fruit and fish and renting out stalls to acquire a living. However, their entrepreneurial spirit was driven by a passion for community, and they sought space for all kinds of products and all kinds of people. Their aim was to sell everything “from furniture to a needle”, which continues to shape the market’s persona.
As climate consciousness increasingly implores the world of fashion and sustainability becomes prevalent on our collective purchasing habits, second-hand has never been so appealing. The issue is, sellers are largely capitalising on the popularity of “vintage” meaning it’s no longer necessarily the affordable option, at least to the extent it used to be. Boutique sellers are finding success on apps such as Depop and eBay by reselling pre-loved garments at inflated prices which has translated into the physical stores. For a traditionally working class city such as Glasgow, this phenomenon can be isolating to its natives, the people of whom hand-me-downs were innate before they became trendy.
While gentrification has been threatening local cultures across the UK for years now - places like London and Edinburgh almost fully succumb to the plague - a recent trip to the Barras proved that it hadn’t quite pierced through here yet. The Barras exists for everyone, of every age, from every financial background, and to people with all kinds of interests. It has remained true to its roots, its founding purpose and retained a traditional sense of community even while the streets around it mould to the modernised world - a world crippling against financial uncertainty.
The Barras is the only place I know where you can buy a three piece suit of considerable quality for less than five pounds. Where traders not only expect a haggle, but will respect you for it. Where you can furnish your house, fill your wardrobe, buy a bike, nik naks, badges, artwork, a hunting jacket, a kilt, affordable records, something to play them in, have a tarot reading and eat food from a variety of cultures all in the same location.