Ghost Signs of Glasgow blog: The Talisman Bar, Springburn -When is something worth documenting, but not preserving? by Rachel Campbell

Earlier this year the community in Springburn celebrated the news that the Talisman Bar would finally be demolished. By April 2021 this work has almost been completed. This victory comes after over 25 years of campaigning from local community groups who raised concerns over the health and safety of the building. Over the years it has become and eyesore and a target for vandalism.

The Talisman was first opened in 1966 under Scottish & Newcastle Breweries. The company has a fascinating history, dating back to 18th Century Edinburgh when the Younger family owned it. By the 19th Century Younger’s shipped globally and by the 20th Century it was making almost 25% of Scotland’s beers. The Talisman was run by manager W. McIntosh and his wife. In 1991 it was renamed The Baron. Despite being bought and sold on several occasions, the building has been left empty since 1994. 

Talisman Bar

The demolition of the Talisman raises important questions of building preservation and debates around when is something worth documenting, but not necessarily preserving?

Too many of Glasgow’s historic buildings are derelict. A 2018 report named Glasgow as the city with the highest number of empty buildings and spaces in Scotland, with 120 buildings placed on the Buildings At Risk Register. Within the past few years there have been several high profile campaigns to save buildings from dereliction, including the work being done to preserve the Alexander ‘Greek’ Thompson Egyptian Halls on Union Street.

In many cases these buildings are a part of a shared community history and more should be done to allow early intervention so that communities can reuse these spaces and buildings according to their needs. Councils should be doing more to allow historic buildings to be ‘recycled’ for different purposes. They are not only an important part of the community’s shared social memory but part of our cultural history, and should be saved to extend their legacy. In many cases the reuse of buildings is also a cheaper option in the long run.

Talisman Bar, ghost sign

It is important that communities have agency to decide when buildings are culturally significant, whether they are structurally reusable, and when, in some cases, demolition and replacement might be more appropriate. The collective memory of buildings such as The Talisman can be preserved in other ways, while communities themselves move forward. Derelict spaces can leave communities feeling left behind or forgotten, whilst giving a community agency over its own spaces and history can be empowering and uplifting.  For the people of Springburn, there was a long battle for the opportunity to decide on what they wanted to do with The Talisman bar, hopefully with its demolition, the community can now reclaim the space for its own needs.

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