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Modern Times: 1950s to The Present Day

Theatre Royal Glasgow has come a long way from the post-war black and white days of austerity and has successfully reinvented itself as a vibrant city of pubs, clubs, restaurants, excellent shopping, sports facilities, museums, art galleries, theatre and regular musical festivals. It is home to Scottish Ballet, Scottish Opera, the Royal Scottish National Orchestra, BBC Scotland and Scottish Television, Radio Clyde, three universities, the School of Art and the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama.

City of Culture - City of Architecture

Mackintosh Chair The City gradually changed its grim post-industrial image during the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s, reaching high points when it was designated European City of Culture in 1990 and UK City of Architecture and Design in 1999. Small steps were made at first in creating a city in which access to leisure facilities was widened, by measures such as the opening of municipal parks to Sunday sport and the relaxation of licensing laws. Larger strides followed when the city re-valued its Victorian inheritance, resulting in the systematic cleaning and restoring of the impressive sandstone three- and four-storey tenements and the city centre's grand Victorian edifices, and the rediscovery of Glasgow's greatest artist/architect, Charles Rennie Mackintosh.

Burrell Collection The 1980s were a time of growing confidence for the city. In 1983 the Council opened The Burrell Collection, "a world class art gallery" (Fodor's) housing the private collection gifted to the City by shipping magnate Sir William Burrell. Mayfest grew beyond its roots as an annual community-based arts festival to national prominence. From 1980 to 1984 Lord Provost Michael Kelly took on the role of roving ambassador for the city and his "Glasgow's Miles Better" campaign was of major importance in changing the world's perception of the city. The 1988 Garden Festival was a tremendous success, continuing the tradition of the great Industrial Exhibitions of 1888, 1901, 1911 and 1938. Fondly remembered by Glaswegians as a shared experience of public leisure, it was also a significant tourist attraction.

"Tomorrow the World" Glasgow was a surprise winner of the 1990 European City of Culture title. Being the first non-capital city to win the award, Glasgow was also the first to run a year-long festival, making full use of the opportunity to launch itself world-wide as a tourist destination. In the early 1990s there was a sense of anticlimax but momentum began to build up again with the Visual Arts Festival of 1996 and the Year of Architecture and Design 1999. The city is now committed to a long term strategy based on year-round events with strong local roots, improving the quality of the cityscape and renewing existing leisure facilities so that visitors and locals alike get a first rate experience.


Glasgow Film Theatre The pre-war pastimes of going to the dancing or to the cinema continued to be popular in the 1950s. The two following decades saw a downturn in cinema attendance as it gradually lost out to television and many cinemas closed or became home to the new bingo craze. However the Glasgow Film Theatre (originally The Cosmo) survived and is now one of Britain's leading art-house cinemas. In recent years there had been a revival in cinema attendance despite videos and DVDs and Glasgow's reputation as a city with a passion for film has been fully restored through the provision of many new comfortable cinemas with multiple screens.

King's Theatre The popularity of social dance has developed from ballroom through disco into the lively club scene at venues such as the Sub Club and the Arches. During the 1960s Glasgow lost two of its major theatres - the Empire and the Alhambra. Other smaller theatres were created from the 1970s including The Tron, Gilmorehill G12, The Cottier and The Arches. In 1975 the Theatre Royal, which had been home to Scottish Television for a number of years, was restored to its full theatrical glory as the base for Scottish Opera and Scottish Ballet. The Pavilion continues to flourish as Glasgow's oldest variety theatre and the Kings Theatre will celebrate its centenary in 2004 having recently been taken over by Ambassador Theatre Group from Glasgow City Council. The Citizens Theatre founded in 1943 recently celebrated its Diamond Jubilee. For the past thirty years the city's theatres have gained a major international reputation for innovative and exciting programming.


Glasgow Royal Concert Hall Music has always played an important part in the lives of Glaswegians, whether it be traditional, folk, jazz or classical. The Royal Scottish National Orchestra is based in the city's Royal Concert Hall which was built as part of the European Capital of Culture programme. The Glasgow Royal Concert Hall is also home to the award-winning Celtic Connections Festival and features an extensive programme of international classical music. Glasgow's music festivals include The Royal Bank International Jazz Festival, The World Music Festival, The Big Country Music Festival and the Triptych popular music festival. Contemporary and popular music can be found in smaller venues such as King Tuts Wah Wah Hut, where Oasis were discovered, and major international venues such as the SECC (Scottish Exhibition and Conference Centre). The city hosts many thriving music-making groups and organisations including the National Youth Orchestras of Scotland, the National Youth Choir, The National Youth Pipe Band and "Call That Singing" Community Choir.

Eating and Drinking

Rab C Nesbitt Eating out has become a central part of popular culture over the past forty years. The Chinese were the first to bring specialist cuisine to Glasgow and Chinese food is still very popular. However, Glaswegians' great love is for curry, which came to the city with the arrival of the Indo-Pakistani community in the 1950s and 1960s. Many other cuisines have become popular in the city throughout the last three decades - Italian cafes had been long established providing fish teas and ice cream but they were joined by restaurants serving Italian cuisines as well as French, Spanish, Thai and Greek (not to mention Mongolian, Russian and Slovenian) restaurants, and others specialising in Scottish dishes using fresh local ingredients.

Doors for the Willow Tea Rooms The traditional Glasgow tearoom suffered in the face of competition from fast food outlets and big coffee house chains but many survive, notably the Mackintosh-designed Willow Tea Rooms on Sauchiehall Street.

Atholl Arms Pub culture has also seen many changes since the 1970s. Later opening hours have led to a more relaxed attitude to drinking and pubs are no longer seen as merely a place to drink. Pubs began to offer food to customers, and provided entertainment such as live music and quiz nights. However, one of the most popular forms of entertainment to be introduced was the karaoke, a modern twist on the traditional and ever-popular sing-song.

Museums and the Arts

St Mungo Museum Since the 1970s the People's Palace local history museum has reflected the changing face of Glasgow, sometimes controversially. Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum has remained a firm favourite, and at the beginning of the 21st century was still the most visited museum outside London. Its Victorian grandeur was visibly fading from the 1980s, however, and it closed from 2003 to mid-2006 for a £27 million refurbishment and renewal. The opening of the Burrell Collection in 1983 played a key role in transforming Glasgow into a cultural tourist destination. In 1993 the St Mungo Museum of Religious Life and Art was the first museum devoted to this subject in the United Kingdom, one of only three in the world. Like the Gallery of Modern Art (GoMA), it was controversial when it opened but both have developed as key elements in the local cultural landscape, with important tourist audiences as well.

Christ of St John of the Cross The Third Eye Centre promoted contemporary art from the 1970s until the early 1990s, in particular celebrating the Glasgow Boys who emerged from Glasgow School of Art in the 1980s - Ken Currie, Adrian Wisniewski, Stephen Campbell and Stephen Conroy. The Collins Gallery in the University of Strathclyde shows both contemporary and historic art, while the Hunterian Art Gallery in the University of Glasgow combines its old masters, Whistler and Mackintosh collections with a lively contemporary art programme. The second flowering of contemporary art in Glasgow favoured less official spaces and the artist-run gallery Transmission played a major part in the early 1990s in showcasing conceptualist artists, also emerging from GSA, such as Christine Borland, Ross Sinclair and Turner Prize winner Douglas Gordon. Glasgow's reputation as a home of the visual arts artists is greater than ever before, and the City Council's support for Glasgow's artists is reflected in the redevelopment of tenement buildings in South King Street in a way which retains the complex of galleries and studios which contributed so much to the regeneration of this area.


Athletics at Scotstoun Glasgow has gained an international reputation in recent years for the provision of sport, having been given the accolades of the UK City of Sport and, in 2003, awarded European Capital of Sport. These awards are in recognition of the investment that has been made in public sports facilities such as the major new leisure centres in Tollcross, Gorbals, Springburn and Scotstoun. At the same time there have been great improvements in football facilities in the city, whether it be at the professional level with vastly improved stadiums at Celtic Park, Ibrox, Firhill and Hampden or at the community level, with the Glasgow Green Football Centre already established as a model for community football provision with its natural and synthetic grass pitches.

Whitehill Swimming Pool The awards also recognise the contribution that sport is making in the City to improving health with initiatives such as the introduction of free swimming for all children and the over-sixties in Glasgow, and Glasgow's GP Referral initiative to provide exercise prescription and lifestyle counseling as an alternative to medicine.

The success of Glasgow-based athletes such as Lee McConnell is in large part a testimony to the pathways being established in the city, allowing potential athletes to progress to elite level.

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