The Barra’s market in Glasgow’s East End is close to Glasgow Green and the Gallowgate area of the City Centre and the Barrowland’s Ballroom. It’s an instution in Glasgow. Originally traders would bring their wares in wheelbarrows – hence the name.
The Barras is split into individual covered markets, each owned independently, and outdoor stalls. The large amount of space and sprawling nature of the stalls means that there are often large items such as bar fruit machines, signs and industrial items as well as boxes and baskets of books, trinkets and toys.
Here are some reasons to visit:
1.The Barras is one of the few fleamarkets that hasn’t been bulldozed for flats or revamped to the point that the original traders can no longer afford the shop rents* There is admittedly a huge amount of junk to sift through but one person’s junk is another person’s treasure and there are always hidden gems to be found in the fabrics, textiles and vintage clothes dens including a seemingly endless supply of military items.
2. The rough and timeless charm of the Barras is it’s simplicity. In the past, people would bring wheelbarrows, now some bread delivery baskets have found their way from the delivery vans to the streets…
3. The Glasgow Humour. Yes, it’s a no parking zone and these trader citizens have decided to uphold that law.
4. The street art. Across Glasgow, street art has become more and more prevalent and the Barras is no exception. Aside from the more modern, commissioned pieces, the old handpainted signs of former stalls and shops are a lovely sight.
5. See artists at work. The Barras has taken on a more artsy revival, with funding from Glasgow School of Art and art & design entrepreneurs taking over some of the old stalls, as well as using the old warehouses as artistic spaces. You can wander around, but best to use your library voice.
6. Have a tea and roll n square sausage at the Yard Cafe. There are a few cafes in the Barras and it’s a great place for people watching and chatting with strangers. If you feel self-conscious in a Deli or a Starbucks and just get on with it if there’s too much sugar in your tea, the Barras cafes are the place for you.
7. If you’re looking for something unusual, retro, specific or rare, the Barras is the place for you. Everything has it’s price and if one stall owner doesn’t have it in stock, they’ll definitely know who will!
8. Seafood in the City. A visit to the Loch Fyne seafood bar is a must. Eating whelks or mussels whilst wandering the Barras is a Glasgow tradition. You cover them in vinegar and pick them out with a pin or a toothpick. They’re fresh daily so they do run out and it’s not a surprise to find a queue from the shop so get there early.
9. The Architecture – old buildings, factories and warehouses. Some are now flats, some derelict, some artists residencies.
10. The Barrowlands Ballroom. I couldn’t miss THIS out could I ?
The Barrowlands Ballroom. Even the mention of it brings a nostalgic tear to a Glaswegian’s eye. The building has market stalls at street level and a gig venue above which was originally a ballroom / dancehall. The neon sign lights up every night. Gigs are still held in the Barrowlands which has a smaller capacity than some of Glasgow’s other big clubs, but the acoustics and atmosphere are unbeatable and artists are only considered to have “gigged Glasgow” when they’ve headlined a Barrowland’s slot. Bands like Oasis, Simple Minds, The Clash, the Stranglers, the Smiths, Brand New, the Foo Fighters, Arab Strap, have all graced the sweaty stage on the sprung dancefloor. The full list of bands is here. Music fan or not, the experience of a gig at the Barras is well worth it to get a feel of old Glasgow!
Oh, but one last thing to remember:-
Did you find any treasures at the Barras?
*By the way, it’s an area that locals suspect has been earmarked by the local authority for demolition and sale to a property developer – is this a good idea to “clean up” the area? or should the traders be helped to hold on to their spots?