It all began with Liverpool and Michael l—Ieseltine‘s inner city initiative. The first Garden Festival followed in the wake of the 'I‘oxteth riots and focused on 250 acres of some of the most derelict land in Liverpool. Confounding sceptics. it attracted in the summer of 1984 nearly three and a halfmillion visitors.
Suddenly. what had been planned by Government as a limited exercise was seen to be an idea that might have applications elsewhere. It hadn‘t however taken the Scottish Development Agency by surprise. They had already began planning for a Glasgow Garden Festival.
‘As soon as we heard that a Garden Festival had been proposed for Liverpool we had a presentation made to us by the people involved. We saw that it had potential for Glasgow‘. Edward Cunningham. Director of Industry. Enterprise and Development for the SDA told me. When the Government finally announced that it would consider
wraps came off the SDA’s plan. and working with Glasgow District Council a bid was put to government.
‘We always regarded it as extremely important that we won it at this time rather than at some time in the future‘. Cunningham says. ‘We saw that the renaissance in Glasgow was taking place — there was the beginning of the developments on the north bank of the river and we realised that ifwe
applications for further Festivals. the
could re-enforce the view of the river as an asset. we could really establish the centre of Glasgow as a growth area. At the same time we could see that without a project like the Gaarden Festival all our plans for Glasgow‘s revival were vulnerable.‘
Although there were two other objectives. reversing an arguany declining trend across Scotland in tourism and helping to improve one of Glasgow's most deprived areas. Govan. it was the wider plan for Glasgow that most demanded the Garden Festival.
To support his beliefthat the Festival has produced the extra momentum the City needed. Cunningham cites the increase in services industry over the last few years. "I‘he whole city centre strategy was predicated on Glasgow becoming a service city. We didn't see it in as grandiloquent terms as Post Industrial City. but rather more practical terms: We had better do something!‘
In Liverpool the local council and the Festival planners fell out badly but for some reason. whether it be the stability ofthe political makeup of the city or the personality of Glaswegians. the same never threatened in Glasgow. The vision of a post industrial. service-orientated city doesn't appeal to everyone. but local government and business community appear to have forged a common front now bearing fruit in a large number ofprojects.
Cunningham realises that for the unemployed of Glasgow‘s manufacturing industry this new
mood ofoptimism in a new role for Glasgow may seem hollow. He hopes that even the most depressed communities will benefit from the £35 million (its hoped that £20 million will be earned in revenue to be offset against this figure) being poured into the Garden Festival. In Govan itself there has been criticism that once the Festival is over and the business parks move in. there won‘t be many permanent jobs for those locals employed on the site. But Cunningham claims that the on-site training is designed to ensure that 80% of the 800 people employed by Manpower Services will by three months after the end of the Festival have permament employment.
The Garden Festival has come in for other criticisms. The first was that it has become a drain on SDA money which would have gone to other projects. Cunningham dismisses these claims while admitting that a ‘hiccup‘ in Government funding together with a break-down in communication may have helped create the impression.
The second area ofcriticism relates to Laing's involvement. Here Cunningham agrees that ifit hadn‘t been for the revised plans announced only in February jointly between Laing and the SDA. the ‘deal could have been questioned Under the new plans much more of the festival will be kept and much more will be put to business and leisure projects. and fewer Laing‘s houses will be built.
At least the Laing involvement probably ensures that there won‘t be
the same messy future for the Festival site that befell Liverpool and Stoke. As for the festival itself. Chief executive George Chesworth seems confident that despite teething problems with towers that developed faults. inflatable islands that deflated and subsidence on the railway. the Garden Festival is already a success. Admission figures are thought to be slightly ahead of schedule to achieve the 3—4 million target.
‘We never doubted it would be the best. Everyone in Glasgow has pushed the same way right from the M“ start'. Chesworth told me. ‘For me ' personally. getting involved in the regeneration of Glasgow has been worth it in itself.‘
One thing Mr Chesworth hasn‘t done is ridden the lethal looking ‘thrill ride‘. though he suspects his family might make him. One thing Mr Chesworth hasn‘t done is ridden the ‘ Garden Festival’s lethal looking l thrill ride. Perhaps when the Prime Minister returns— she saysshe wantsto I come back— he should take her along for the ride.
6 The List 27 May— 9 June 1988