Contact Us     |     My Account     |     Checkout



Decoding the Gorbals’ Girl With Rucksack statue


This is a place founded on being ‘on the outside’—sited just beyond the original city limits, the Gorbals built its formidable reputation on the ability to accommodate migrants from around the world, give them a start, and then watch them leave to make way for the next arrivals. A tight community that paradoxically eulogises those that were ‘determined enough to get out’ but who are the people who belong to and stay in such a place? They are those who remain to look after the stories and the myths, and welcome new arrivals, a little bitter about being left behind perhaps—understandably mistrustful of anyone who wants to join them and partake in the myth-making.
Matt Baker, Lead Artist for The Artworks Programme

At the crossroads between Cumberland Street and Jane Place, a few minutes’ walk from the Co-op Crown Street in the Gorbals, on a high pedestal stands Kenny Hunter’s Untitled. Girl With Rucksack.


Close-up photo of Untitled Girl With Rucksack statue in the Gorbals, Glasgow © Kenny Hunter
‘Untitled. Girl With Rucksack’ close-up © Kenny Hunter


The bronze statue portrays a young girl who looks around her as if pondering which direction she should go, or waiting for someone to come and show her around her new place.


The girl is caught in a momentary stop; she has put down her sack between her legs, and relieved her back from the weight of the rucksack, which now rests on her right shoulder. This suspended immobility concentrates a plurality of moves, as if in her short life, the girl would have kept moving, from this place to that place, from one community to another.


Photo of old building part-demolished with new Hutchesontown C flats behind, 1968, from Newsquest
Part demolished tenements with Hutchesontown C behind, 1968 © Newsquest


As it was created as a piece of public art that accompanied the redevelopment of the Crown Street area in the 2000s, Kenny Hunter’s Untitled. Girl With Rucksack is a powerful metaphor for the thousands of individuals who came to settle in the Gorbals since the industrial revolution, and who were then displaced during successive waves of urban redevelopment plans.

The population of the greater Gorbals area was 5,200 in 1811 but by the 1930s had reached 90,000, equivalent to that of a small city in its own right.


Area C flats photo of further development beside St Francis' Church, 1965, from Canmore archive
Area C and St Francis’ Church (Pugin 1881), 1965 @ Canmore / HES


The old tenements were cleared in the late 1950s as part of the Hutchesontown/Part Gorbals Comprehensive Development Area, which was formally approved by the Secretary of State for Scotland in 1957. These tenements had largely been built between 1860 and 1900, themselves replacing previous tenements built between the 1820s and 1840s.


To replace the slums and change the ‘No Mean City’ atmosphere of the area, prestigious architects were asked to imagine the city of the future, a brutalist utopia of modernised and standardised living that nodded to Le Corbusier’s Cité radieuse.


Area C. View of tower blocks. Completion Photograph.,1964, from Canmore archive
Area C. tower blocks on completion,1964 © Canmore / HES


Untitled. Girl with Rucksack is located at the site where the development’s centrepiece, Basil Spence’s Hutchesontown ‘C’ – also known as 16-32 Queen Elizabeth Square – once stood.


Comprised of two twenty-storey dark grey, monolithic tower blocks, its construction took place between 1963 and 1965 and it was opened by Queen Elizabeth II in person. But the utopia of a modern lifestyle was quickly replaced by damp and structural problems. It was demolished in 1993.


Photographic view of Hutchesontown Area C tower blocks. on completion, 1964, from Canmore archive
Hutchesontown Area C tower blocks on completion, 1964 © Canmore / HES


Architects CZWG won the competition for the replanning of the area. They proposed a postmodern project of low-rise urban blocks and oases of private communal gardens. A clause in the contract of all private investors in the Gorbals stipulated that they must spend one per cent of their total building budget on art. That’s how the Artworks programme came to life, founded in 1999 by artists Matt Baker and Dan Dubowitz.


Photo of 'Untitled. Girl With Rucksack' statue in the Gorbals by Kenny Hunter contributed by the artist
‘Untitled. Girl With Rucksack’ statue, Gorbals © Kenny Hunter


The programme commissioned over twenty local and international artists to respond to the new development plan with temporary and permanent pieces of public art. The artists were involved throughout the process of construction of the new buildings, on one side working with the architects to imagine an artwork strategy that directly responded to the built environment, on the other working with the local communities to perpetuate their memories and those of the neighbourhood.


Photo of 'Untitled. Girl With Rucksack' statue unveiling day 2004 © Kenny Hunter
Statue on unveiling day, 2004 © Kenny Hunter


During the creation of Untitled. Girl with Rucksack, Kenny Hunter worked closely pupils from the Blackfriars Primary School, with whom he did a series of workshops. The sculpture was launched in 2004, with eight of these pupils invited to unveil the statue.


Were you present at this launch? Were you, or do you know, one of these pupils? Were you in touch with one of the other artists?  We want to hear from you, get in touch and tell us your stories!


By Francesca Zappia

Published: 19th October 2022

Further information:

For more information about the Artworks programme and other artists’ commissions see Rhona Warwick, Arcade: Artists and Place-making, Black Dog Publishing: 2006, and the website of the project which was also awarded ‘best website’ by the Scottish Design Awards in 2005: http://www.theartworksprogramme.org/

You can also listen to oral memories of Basil Spence’s Hutchesontown ‘C’ [Interviews conducted 2015-2016 as part of the ‘Housing, Everyday Life and Wellbeing over the long term: Glasgow 1950-75’ project, University of Glasgow]: https://www.gla.ac.uk/schools/humanities/research/historyresearch/researchprojects/housingandwellbeing/onlineoralhistoryresource/#paul%E2%80%93queenelizabethsquare%2Chutchesontown(1966-1981)

More information about CZWG Crown Street Regeneration Masterplan can be found here: https://czwg.com/projects/masterplanning/crown-street-regeneration/

Images copyright of Kenny Hunter, Newsquest, and Canmore / Historic Environment Scotland.


About Kenny Hunter:

Born in Edinburgh in 1962, Kenny Hunter studied sculpture at Glasgow School of Art between 1983 and 1987. Since then, he has exhibited extensively in Britain and abroad including solo exhibitions at Arnolfini in Bristol, Scottish National Portrait Gallery in Edinburgh, Yorkshire Sculpture Park, and CCA and Tramway both in Glasgow. Hunter has also created a number of high-profile, public commissioned works including Citizen Firefighter, 2001, outside Glasgow’s Central Station, and Youth with Split Apple, 2005, Kings College, Aberdeen. In London he has created three major public works – iGoat, 2010, in Spitalfields, Blackbird (the persistence of vision) for Leicester Square, 2016, and most recently The Southwark Memorial to war and reconciliation, 2018.

With unexpected uses of scale, material and subject matter the sculpture of Kenny Hunter runs counter to the expectations of traditional monuments. His artworks avoid singular readings preferring to embrace ambiguity as a positive position that will encourage the viewer toward ethical engagement.
Hunter is a lecturer at Edinburgh College of Art and was the Programme Director of Sculpture from 2014 to 2017, then Director of Outreach from 2018 to 2021.



no replies

Leave your comment