Investments in Glasgow’s cultural scene promise an expansion of the already existing audience for theatre and orchestra concerts in the city. They seem to overlook the fact that no amount of new buildings or outreach programmes will bring culture to ‘the people’ (well, the people who don’t usually get involved in these things), unless everyone is given an equal shot at it and unless it’s free. As a friend pointed out today, it would be lovely for us to be able to go to a Steve Reich concert at the end of this month, but the ticket prices are less than attractive.
So what’s the big idea?
I guess much of this financial investment is to support the fact that it is a UNESCO City of music, and was declared the 1990 European capital of culture, 1999 UK City of Architecture and Design, and 2003 European capital of sport. Of course, next year, Glasgow will be hosting the XX (20th for those unfamiliar with Roman numerals) Commonwealth Games.
Nobody wants to be ashamed when the eyes of the world turn to Glesga for that one summer. They want to do Scotland (well, mainly Glasgow) proud.
The bus network has already been changed; they want to make it simpler for non-Weegies to navigate, while inconveniencing most of the local population with the reduction in bus circulation outside the city centre. It seems a peculiar price to pay; compromising public transport in order to make the city more endearing. Nonetheless, it isn’t exactly a move that makes sense. Most of the city centre is accessible on foot, or by train, or by subway. The only forms of transport missing there are planes and boats…
What’s more, the enormous maps of Glasgow planted here and there (I will take a proper picture so you know what I mean) are actually quite useful. Just last week I saw a bunch of Italian tourists using one at 11pm after the Celtic – Juventus football match. They didn’t seem to have any trouble with it, even in the dark. How stupid are the authorities assuming these people are, anyhow?
Admittedly, getting around in Glasgow is not very difficult. I think the thing most people from abroad struggle with here is the accent. The Glasgow accent is very pronounced and can often cause English to sound like a foreign language, even for a native speaker like yours truly. Part of me is really curious to see what will happen when people from all over the world flock to the city, and attempt to hunt down the different venues, and pronounce the place names.
Also, as if this was not enough, Glasgow has also pitched in a bid for the Youth Olympic Games of 2018. While these are not quite as stressful or widespread as the Olympic Games, I still think it is a great feat and folly to want to host them. Will the city’s infrastructure be able to take it? Then again, the Commonwealth Games should give the council a rough idea of what to expect. Furthermore, it’ll probably mean a strong influx of tourism, with the city’s newfound status as a culture and sports destination.
But does everybody want to take it into the limelight? The art scene here is considered ‘alternative’ – well, certainly an alternative to London, as Tramway is hosting the Turner Prize in 2015 (the first time the award has gone outside London). Yet will that be the case for the Glasgow of the future? If the scene loses its alternative edge, and slips into the mainstream, where will current underground and alternative artists flock to? Then again, it might become like the Berlin art scene, that unique mix of ‘touristy’ venues and events, and underground art and culture scene.
On the other hand, influx of people from different countries is not a bad thing. It means influx of new ideas – or even old ideas with new attitudes. This could lead to very exciting exchanges between local artists and theatremakers, and those from abroad. This was demonstrated by Erottaa, an exhibition combining work by students of Aalto University of Helsinki and alumni of the Glasgow School of Art. Their nearly opposite approaches to art were expected to lead to heated debate and contrast, but of course, ideas travel, especially in the age of the internet. Consequently, it would be foolish to assume that certain concepts would not overlap.
As the adage goes: “A good artist copies; a great artist steals”, so perhaps Glesga-based artists will learn something new from others. Then again, they might not. It’s hard to predict human behaviour like that, especially when organisations seem to assume it is correct to align it with economic/financial investment, although money is not the only thing that motivates human beings.