For those who have visited down the years, and for those who have only seen it as the gritty and grim backdrop to thrillers and crime stories, Glasgow’s nickname would come as something of a surprise. It does have its share of open green spaces, but then so do a lot of British cities; the name comes from before the urban sprawl and industrialisation of the last 200 years or so.
Indeed more people might be familiar with the ‘Glasgow kiss’ as an image of the city than any greenery. And then there is the Red Road Housing Estate which has come to be synonymous with urban decline. BTW if you haven’t seen the film of the same name, catch it. It is excellent.
All of which fails to do justice to as vibrant and edgy (in all senses) city that is Glasgow.
I like Glasgow. I don’t think it is a town you love easily, in the same way you don’t love the mad uncle who first takes you on a bowel-lessening motorbike ride as a kid or the reckless friend who encourages you to jump off a rock into a pool of uncertain depth. You admire, respect and envy them perhaps and you certainly want to spend time with them, for the thrills. But often those same people sometimes surprise you with their sophistication, cultural awareness and open mindedness that is often lacking in others. That’s Glasgow for me. It’s a city comfortable with itself, able to take the mick out of itself. It had the courage to be the first one to give Nelson Mandela the freedom of the city when a lot of the rest of the world wanted to see him as a violent terrorist because it was easier in a tense and distorted cold war world.
Her posts have prompted me to do something similar with Glasgow. If we went there I’d show you
the legacy of Charles Rennie Mackintosh and, especially the House for an Art Lover, the School of Art and the Willow Tea rooms (I don’t think they belong to Willow but I’m sure she’ll put me right!) and how his art (and that of his wrongly unsung wife Margaret McDonald) helped shape a lot of 20th century creative thinking;
- the football rivalry between Celtic and Rangers, currently somewhat suspended through the bankruptcy of the latter, and try and explain its religious backdrop and why it puts in the shade other same town rivalries such as those in Manchester and Liverpool;
- the MOMA and its small but beautifully proportioned collection – one of my favourite museums not least because there I first encountered Bridget Riley and was entranced;
why Glasgow’s importance in the history of the modern world is second to none: its impact on the success of Britain in the 19th and 20th centuries through the industrial and intellectual capital it generated is extraordinary, as is Scotland’s generally. There are too many to name but consider two: Adam Smith without whose ‘The Wealth of Nations’ and economic insights we might not have developed the world we enjoy today; and James Watt whose steam engine transformed the world’s industrial growth.
But mostly, right now, I’d show you its human side through its hosting of the Commonwealth Games. I will be there for a few days from this weekend with the Textiliste and I will report back with some posts and some pictures. Hopefully it will inspire you to put Glasgow on your list of ‘must sees’.
So, with that thought in mind I will leave you with one of the great modern loves songs, which has many reasons to like it, not least because there aren’t any bloody bagpipes anywhere near it….