I really enjoyed writing this guide to Glasgow, just wish there was a longer word limit as there is so much to say.
To see the whole article on RealTime visit realtimearts.net or read this blog post.
place: glasgow, scotland, united kingdom
traveller: robert walton, director, live artist, lecturer in theatre at vca
reason for travelling
Returning, for the first time since emigrating Down Under, to the city where I lived for 10 years to catch up with friends and family, and celebrate Hogmanay (New Year’s Eve).
Glasgow was the inaugural European City of Culture in 1990 and remains a hot(gritty)bed for all the arts, punching well above its weight with major artists (including the 2009, 2010 and 2011 Turner Prize winners), bands and big ideas. Though only separated by 70kms centre to centre from Edinburgh, there seems no end to the rivalrous banter between the posh, ancient, touristy and better-looking capital and Scotland’s larger, harder-working, catalytic, slightly dangerous, sardonic cultural powerhouse, Glasgow.
I cringe at using “cultural” as Scotland is so caught up in its own distinctiveness from England and its proud history (and there’s lots to be proud of) that everything can become a little tartan-tinted. But Glasgow bucks that trend by looking outward and is genuinely awash with contemporary, vivid and living culture. That’s why I lived there for a decade and why so many artists stay despite the weather, the history of violence, the areas of abject poverty and, let’s face it, the food, but that, at least, is getting better. You can get stuff done there, enjoy the banter and wicked humour, it’s cheap to live, and the housing (lots of grand Victorian tenements) are great to live in. Glasgow is also an exciting place to visit.
dear green place
Glasgow in Gaelic is Glas-ghu, meaning ‘dear green place.’ It’s great all year round, but spring into summer is my favourite time. Yes it can be cold, but wrap-up under the bright blue sky and go for a walk around the beautiful Victorian city centre and creepyNecropolis, or Queens Park and Shawlands on the Southside, or Kelvingrove Park, The Botanical Gardens and Byers Road in the Westend.
Kelvingrove Museum is the most visited in the UK outside of London and is worth a visit. It is the best exponent of those great British city museums that seem to have one of everything and something for everyone. Enjoy the mix of classy taxidermy and an eclectic art collection including the stunning Christ of Saint John of the Cross by Salvador Dalí. Like all of Glasgow’s museums, Kelvingrove is free to enter.
When in the city centre, visit the Glasgow Museum of Modern Art (GoMA) and the Centre for Contemporary Art (CCA http://www.cca-glasgow.com/home). Further out, but worth visiting are the new Riverside Museum and The Burrell Collection.
Tramway, on the Southside, is a vast visual arts and performance venue that you should definitely make the effort to visit. Home of some of the best work I have ever seen, this venue programs the best of international theatre and dance. The Turner Prize will be held here in 2015. Call ahead to check whether there is something on before making the trip South of the river; sometimes it is dark between shows.
The Arches, a cavernous super-venue underneath Central Station, is the place to find Glasgow’s extraordinary performance and experimental theatre scene. Like a bunker for the arts, the warren of theatres, galleries and bars comes alive when fully utilised during festivals like Behaviour and Arches Live. It’s also a great live music and clubbing venue.
The emerging arts are what it’s all about in Glasgow. The Glasgow School of Art (GSA) and The Royal Conservatoire of Scotland (RCS) have a lot of good to answer for. Their students graduate and stay, and the amazing artist-run galleries (Transmission, Market Gallery, SWG3 etc.) and performance festivals—Buzzcut, Into The New etc—are a testament to these institutions as well as the city. Thus it is worth checking out the degree shows of the GSA and RCS if you are around in June and January respectively.
for a wee swally (drinky)…
…head directly to Stravaigin, the iconic Glasgow bar and eatery, for excellent locally sourced food, roaring fire and fine cocktails, whisky and beer. This is the best place to try haggis. There is no shortage of fine bars and pubs in Glasgow. If you can’t pick one, try them all.
In the city centre, check out Stereo on Renfield Lane which has a great selection of beers, vegetarian food and gigs downstairs. Up on Bath Street, The Butterfly and The Pig serves amazing cakes upstairs during the day and is a great pub downstairs at night, also with good food.
For dancing head to The Buff Club or see if there’s something more exciting happening at SWG3.
At the end of the night it is tradition to stand in the taxi cue at Central Station for an hour, cold and a little scared, but enjoying the banter, outrageous clothing and jovial atmosphere.
CitizenM is a concept hotel that is pretty comfy and very central. The Brunswick Hotelin the lovely Merchant City is nicer, with a great tapas bar, and often gigs and parties. Nicest of all is One Devonshire Gardens, in the West End, but it’s pricey—great for a special occasion though.
haste ye back
If you are staying more than a few days it is well worth making the pilgrimage to Loch Lomond; it’s not far and you can get there by train. If you have a car try exploring the eastern bank—less busy and more beautiful. A trip to Oban or The Isle of Arran is also really worthwhile as both the journey and the destinations are amazing. If you have longer, go island hopping. And if you’ve exhausted everything else, you could always visit Auld Reekie (Edinburgh).
Parks and Gardens www.glasgow.gov.uk/index.aspx?articleid=3350
Glasgow Necropolis www.glasgownecropolis.org
Kelvingrove Museum www.glasgowlife.org.uk/museums/our-museums/kelvingrove/Pages/home.aspx
Glasgow Museum of Modern Art www.glasgowlife.org.uk/museums/our-museums/goma/Pages/home.aspx
Centre for Contemporary Art www.cca-glasgow.com/home
Glasgow Museums www.glasgowlife.org.uk/museums/Pages/home.aspx
The Arches www.thearches.co.uk
Transmission Gallery http://transmissiongallery.org
The Market Gallery www.marketgallery.org.uk
SWG3 (Studio Warehouse Glasgow) www.swg3.tv
The Butterfly and The Pig www.thebutterflyandthepig.com
The Buff Club www.thebuffclub.com
The Bunswick Hotel www.brunswickhotel.co.uk
One Devonshire Gardens www.hotelduvin.com/locations/glasgow/
Loch Lomond National Park www.lochlomond-trossachs.org
Robert Walton is a Melbourne-based director, live artist, writer and educator. He is Co-Artistic Director of Fish & Game. In 2011 he left Glasgow and moved to Melbourne to take up the position as Lecturer in Theatre at Victorian College of the Arts. robertwalton.net, fishandgame.org.uk;vca.unimelb.edu.au/performingarts/theatre
liberation and/or annihilation
john bailey: fish & game; hayloft project; malthouse
RealTime issue #109 June-July 2012 pg. 24
RealTime issue #66 April-May 2005 pg. 45
© Robert Walton; for permission to reproduce apply to firstname.lastname@example.org