Glasgow City Council prides itself in making the city a key destination for cultural and sporting events. This summer sees a succession of concerts and music festivals in Glasgow parks, the World Pipe Band Competition and the Cycling World Championships amongst others, authorised and overseen by Glasgow Life. The city centre is regularly used by filmmakers because of its apparent resemblance to American cities, aided by the Glasgow Film office which provides free advice. SANE has no wish to prevent people from enjoying these events, but in this month’s short blog we examine the implications and the balance of costs and benefits for the city.
The Council website describes its policy on events as follows:
“Our events provide opportunities for us to connect with our city, enjoy time together and celebrate the diversity of our culture; Through our event management and venue hire services, we are committed to maintaining Glasgow’s reputation as a global events destination and world-class city.”
The Glasgow Tourism and Visitor Plan goes further:
“Glasgow is a successful tourism destination and it is our ambition to grow the economy by increasing overnight leisure tourism visits delivering an associated spend of £771 million to the city’s economy.”
“To deliver this target, Glasgow’s biggest opportunity for growth has been identified as leisure tourism. Glasgow is Scotland’s cultural powerhouse. As a UNESCO City of Music and one of the world’s top five sporting cities, Glasgow is home to world-class museums, galleries and attractions; a rich architectural heritage and a thriving and diverse food and drink scene. Its outstanding programme of events and festivals is recognised globally and the city is a first-choice destination for more than two million tourists every year.”
This emphasis on the role of sport and culture for the economy of the city is a common phenomenon used by cities around the world, often investing heavily in arenas and concert halls at the expense of other services, as well as hiving off public space for the use of promoters.
For example, Glasgow City Council has committed £15 million to the cycling championships in the anticipation that this will make a profit for Scotland. Roads will be shut off making travel and business operations difficult, and a superficial filling in of potholes has been undertaken. As the 12k subscribers to the Potholes Make Glasgow Facebook group know, this will do little to remedy dangerous road surfaces. Extra tube services are being put on for visitors, a service that is denied to residents at other times.
A series of concerts in Bellahouston Park, whilst providing free music for most of Glasgow because of their sheer volume, has proved to be difficult for local residents as roads have been closed off, and local residents have had to prove their identities to private security guards. It has been reported that Glasgow Life makes just £1.50 from each ticket sold which at £73 a time provides a likely hefty profit for the promoter. Similar difficulties have been evidenced at Glasgow Green.
Research into the impact of large scale events such as those summarised here have almost exclusively tended to focus on economic benefits, which are often only short term and with considerable question marks over who exactly reaps these benefits. There appears to be less emphasis on evidencing the social, political and environmental consequences. In a city with 52 foodbanks, it is important to consider whether all the investment and emphasis on large scale events has any positive outcome for people experiencing food poverty. Further, if the economic benefits are so great, then it is shocking that those staff who sustain the cultural life of the city are under major threat of losing their jobs – Glasgow Life planning to shed 30% of the jobs in its Museums and Collections section.
Decisions about the use of Glasgow as space to attract tourists are not the subject of an open and transparent discussion with those of us who live here so once again, we invite you to comment on the content of this blog and augment any of the information that is included.
Sources of Information