12.2.05

Friend of the Festival


This image was inspired by one that Gavin took last week of Glasgow's Science Centre and the affectionately named Armadillo Conference Centre. As most of you will know, I lived in Glasgow for many years, and consider it to be my home city. It is where I bought my first house, married and divorced my first wife, where I had my first job, where I attended university, where I met Linda, where Liam was born and where my favourite football team hail from. Quite simply, although I was born down south and brought up on Bute, I consider myself to be a Glaswegian. I love the place, and I miss it terribly. So, when I saw Gavin's image, it took me back to 1988 and the Garden Festival, which was one of the high points in the redevelopment of the city and its 'cultural rennaisance'. Throughout the 1980s, Glasgow District Council put a lot of effort into reinventing the city. The sandstone buildings were sandblasted clean, stripping away a century of pollution. Buildings that once were black were transformed - none more so than the Glasgow Central Station Hotel, which emerged from behind the protective plastic sheeting and scaffolding as a beautiful blond sandstone building. The city was completely renewed as one architectural gem after another emerged from under layers of soot. More than this, however, the streets that seemed so dark and menacing became bright and welcoming. Along with this, the Council gave grants to the owners of tenements to repair and clean their properties. For ten years, Glasgow was wrapped in scaffolding. The Council's campaign 'Glasgow's miles better' was an international success. Derelict land, such as the Queen's Dock (Anderston) and Prince's Dock (Govan), was completely redeveloped with the construction of the Scottish Exhibition and Conference Centre (SECC), which attracted international hotels to the centre of the city, then came the Bell's Bridge (the first bridge erected over the Clyde at Glasgow in 120 years) linking the SECC with the newly constructed Garden Festival site in 1988. I was proud to be a Friend of the Garden Festival, with a season ticket that gave me unlimited access, although I only went twice! Success followed success, and in 1990, Glasgow became European City of Culture, followed in 1999 as European City of Architecture. The opening of the rebuilt Royal Concert Hall in the early 1990s (just before I moved to Dundee) marked a high point in the reinvention of the city, as Glasgow - the industrial centre of Scotland, and much to the annoyance of Edinburgh (we like to annoy Edinburgh!) - became home to Scottish Opera, the Royal Scottish National Orchestra and Scottish Ballet. One day I would like to move back to Glasgow.

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