Scotland the what? Scotland the theme park. History hardly has time to happen before it’s embalmed-in a museum. But Glasgow‘s Glasgow. based in the brick-vaulted arches below Central Station. is different. It‘s an experience.
Sara Villiers unfolds its story.
Like Liverpudlians. Glaswegians are
stubbornly and vociferously proud of
theircity; the dear green place. the jewel ofthe Clyde. their no mean city which fought off all contenders andiscurrently basking in the glow OfEuropean cultural approx at. The rest ofthe country. subset-ed to a Saatchi/Charles Rennie Mackintosh onslaught, has queasin tolerated the Second City‘s brash self-aggrandisement but their patience maybe stretched taut next week with the stepping up of the hype which will accompany the opening of Glasgow’s Glasgow. This will be the biggest event on the 1990 calender and the largest temporary exhibition ever to be held in the UK.
As Glasgow‘s retail industry has adapted to American-style shopping. with giant centres like St Enoch‘s. the upmarket Princes Square and the awaited Buchanan Street development. so Glasgow‘s Glasgow sees the arts embracing the ethos ofthe mall. Like the South Bank it conveniently provides a cluster offacilities under one roof; exhibitions. cinemas. theatre. media studio. restaurant. cafe. bar and shops. Unlike its London counterpart these have a congenial setting— in the recently discovered and refurbished arches beneath Central Station. an atmospheric and attractive venue.
Originally titled The Words And The Stones. Glasgow‘s Glasgow is the largest audio-visual programme ever devised in Britain and Douglas Clelland. the visionary who initiated the project three years ago. has claimed that it is the biggest thing of its kind outside Disneyworld. The comparison has startled many who fear that with the growing proliferation of tourist-friendly visitors” centres in Scotland the country is destined to become one big ('aledonian theme park. its history subjected to rigorous marketing ploys. But the Presbyterian suspicions oy er Glasgow's Glasgow's slick. hi-tech enhanced presentation of the city are being allayed.
Alison Miyauchi. Assistant Curator. emphasises the analogy of ‘A (.‘ity within A (‘ity‘. ‘We‘re helping people to discover (ilasgow in a dynamic way. it‘s like wandering through a city. turning a corner and discovering something new.‘
The story of Glasgow is not told chronologically but geographically. The 60.000 square foot area has been divided to represent the North and South of the city. with Midland Street bridging both. as the Clyde. Josie Stevens. the press officer elaborates on the concept: ‘Essentially it treats Glasgow as the centre of the world with ever- increasing concentric circles surounding it; thus the ‘Northern‘ area starts with the city centre and moves out towards the Highlands. then out to Glasgow‘s connections with the Northern hemisphere. It‘s an unconventional way of looking at things but a more exciting one.‘
Glasgow’s Glasgow‘s staffing policy has provoked criticism with the typical Glaswegian knee-jerk accusation that ‘outsiders' have snatched the jobs. As a Sassenach Josie Stevens raises a weary eyebrow
and points out that all the architects who designed the space are either Glaswegian or Glasgow-based. Alison Miyauchi succinctly tackles the complaint. "1 he event looks at people who have come into the city and inﬂuenced it and the staff reflect that too.‘
At a Cost ofoycr £5 million the issue of funding has also been a controversial one. with grumbles from Elspeth King. the curator of the People‘s Palace over Glasgow's Glasgow’s vast slice (£38 million) of the District (‘oiincil's cultural cake. ‘In essence that sum isa loan.‘ says Stevens. ‘which has to be repaid.‘ The event hopes to be cost-effectiv e by charging an admission fee of £4 (£2.50 concs and £1 1.50 for a family card). Surely the Scottish public. used to wandering gratis round museums and galleries. will baulk at this'.’
‘Yes. it is unfortunate and I can appreciate that people may feel uncomfortable at having to pay to look at thinng says Stevens ‘but this is not simply looking. it is a massive integrated eyent‘
There are many fascinating. novel and often humorous displays. A large sewer-pipe proclaims Glasgow’s iniiovatory sanitation system. an archaic bottling machine for ourotber national drink and a shiny w hite loo are testimony to the respective contributions of Barrs and Shanks to ( ilaswegian industry. The l Old Firm rivals are both
represented with Rangers amongst the city‘s wealth-making institutions and Celtic in the mass-entertainment section. Priceless artefacts with a collective insurance value of£8 million have been gathered from around the world. including a Faberge egg. commissioned by (,‘zar Nicholas II to mark the purchase ofa yacht designed by Glasgow naval architects. G.L. Watson.
Fifty monitors will display a montage of five hours ofarchive film. with everything from Grierson‘s documentaries to Connolly's anecdotes. Perhaps one ofthe least stimulating experiences will be the screen showing 305 days ofGlasgow weather— a dreich spectacle guaranteed to dent the tourist industry.
The social areas provide Glasgow with two new venues in time for Mayfest; the cafe ’bar where band and late-night cabaret will perform regularly and the llZ-seater Arches Theatre. Ifthe events planned are up to the standard of their press conference all augurs well. Unlike the usual turgid hack bashes it was a noisy and exuberant affair. with raucous music from rockabillies The ('ottonfield Boys and droll announcements from the Arches Theatre's Artistic Director Andy Arnold. Forthcoming theatrical events include (‘Iyde Unity Theatre's Will Ye Dance At My Wedding and May fest highlights such as 7284's Govan Stories. theatre from Georgia. l'SSR. and music from the Frontline States.
The Funny Farin's rep Stu Who (who looks as if he was in the right place at the right time when Mrs ()rbison chucked out Roy"s gear) cracked a few chestnuts about ('ulture (‘ity and closed the proceedings. ()bvioiisly' deciding that you can't get too much of a good thing he launched into a lil' ol‘ (‘t‘s’c W refrain ‘(ilasgow ( ilasgow‘.
And to that terrace-type chant we filed out.
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