How Glasgow seized its chance to put unsavoury image behind it

Click to follow

When Glasgow became European City of Culture, 13 years ago, the title helped to transform a depressed industrial city into one of Britain's most vibrant centres of artistic activity.

When Glasgow became European City of Culture, 13 years ago, the title helped to transform a depressed industrial city into one of Britain's most vibrant centres of artistic activity.

It was the pivotal moment in a process that has seen Glasgow's image of grim tenement housing and razor gangs replaced by a reputation for stylish bars, striking architecture and cutting-edge design.

In 1990, Glasgow's year as City of Culture, the number of people visiting its theatres, museums and galleries increased by 40 per cent to 6.6 million, from 4.7 million in the previous year. A further 3.7 million attended cinemas and pop concerts in the city. Liz Cameron, Glasgow's Lord Provost, said the year had been crucial in the city's, "strategy to find an alternative to the jobs that were being lost through the slump in manufacturing".

She said: "As a result of this strategy, the city has now become one of Europe's most popular tourist and conference centres and it is the biggest shopping centre outside London."

The clean-up of Glasgow had begun in the early Eighties, when the "Glasgow's Miles Better" campaign, with its smiley logo, helped to rebrand the city. In 1988 the Glasgow Garden Festival also helped to wipe away the grimy public face of a place Sir John Betjeman described as "the greatest surviving example of a Victorian city".

As soon as the Government awarded the city the title, the council sunk £32m into a series of projects to improve arts and culture facilities. Not only did the locals respond by turning out in their droves for shows and exhibitions, tens of thousands of tourists poured into the city from Britain and abroad.

Attendance by Glasgow residents at arts events increased by 31 per cent in a year and the number of tourists visiting such sites went up by 81 per cent.

Unlike Liverpool, Glasgow did not have to undergo a lengthy selection process to win its European award. The title has also been been changed to Capital of Culture. Whether Liverpool gains similarly from its award remains to be seen. But as the city looks forward to 2008 it can be fairly confident that, five years from now, the popular notion of the perm-haired, shell-suited Scouser will be as outdated as the idea that Rab C Nesbitt is a symbol of modern Glasgow.

Comments