AS AN exercise in re-branding, it is hard to imagine a tougher assignment. Easterhouse, the grim estate on the outskirts of Glasgow, wants to change its name.
What exactly to, has not yet been discussed. Perhaps it hardly matters. Community leaders just want to rid the area of the stigma of housing squalor, drugs, gangland violence and indolence.
Easterhouse straddles the M8 on the way into Glasgow from the east, an unprepossessing collection of post-war housing schemes with pockets of new homes where the worst tenements have been demolished.
The most obvious landmarks are three tower blocks at Cranhill, just to the south of the motorway. Allan Harper, Britain's youngest heroin victim, died, aged 13, in their shadow last January. The area was dubbed "crack city", another name the sorely tried population is trying to shake off.
When the estates were built in the 1960s to house Glaswegians from inner- city slums, there were no shops, no pubs and no community amenities. Frankie Vaughan, the singer, unwittingly fostered the area's reputation for gangsterism with a public appeal for peace while he was performing in the city in 1968.
There has been no shortage of well-meaning attempts to "rescue" Easterhouse. Tens of millions of pounds of public money pour in each year - the biggest contribution is always from the Benefits Agency. New homes have been built and the place is surrounded by business parks. But firms and owner-occupiers have been wary of moving in and unemployment remains at 30 per cent in parts of Easterhouse.
The Greater Easterhouse Partnership, the latest public-private regeneration body for the area, believes that a new name would create a more inviting image. City councillor Jim Coleman, chairman of the partnership, said it was "not really a traditional name" and people identified with their particular areas, such as Cranhill, Provanhall, Ruchazie or Barlanark. "There's nobody says `I live in Easterhouse'. Tellsomeone from Ruchazie they live in Easterhouse and they'll say, `Go to hell, I live in Ruchazie'."
Easterhouse's 32,000 residents will probably be asked for suggestions on a new name next year. According to Mr Coleman, the only one with a long history would be Provan, the name of the medieval arch-diocese of Glasgow.
Name changes, however, are not necessarily a panacea. The Labour Party's attempt to rebrand itself as "Scottish New Labour" provoked ridicule among traditional supporters. And the nuclear installation that changed from Windscale to Sellafield is still a rose that smells suspiciously the same.
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