Up river city
Ahead of the fifth annual Glasgow River Festival, Eve Barlow discovers why the nautical look is big this year.
Ah, the Clyde. Major ship-building site of the British Empire, foundation of the River City, and, er, belly dancing venue? It’s an awful lot of work for one river this fortnight, as the fifth annual Glasgow River Festival rolls around. The Festival has rapidly become one of the biggest events in Glasgow’s cultural calendar: they’re expecting a record number of visitors this year and have pumped up the programme of aqua-tastic activities accordingly.
The idea behind the Festival is to renew and reinvent the Clyde’s importance to the city. ‘The River Clyde was always the beating heart of our city, and now it’s being regenerated,’ says Baillie Liz Cameron, former Lord Provost of the city, now an organiser of the River Festival. ‘It’s an imperative part of Glasgow’s future success, so it’s really important that the festival is this vibrant entity.’ And following Glasgow’s success in winning the bid to host the 2014 Commonwealth Games, the organisers intend to celebrate.
‘The symbolic things are important, but mostly we want families to have a wonderful weekend. The Festival highlights the number of ways that we can enjoy our river,’ says Cameron. They’ve certainly found a large number of watery wonders to pack in, as the area around the Tall Ship and Pacific Quay will be crammed with events.
New this year is Seaforce, a powerboat training school, while those who prefer to be driven can feel the wind in their hair as returning favourite the Zapcat (don’t worry, it’s a speed boat) whizzes them downstream. Those who prefer their aquatic action a little more sedate can hop on for a tour of one of the many visiting – anchored – ships instead. And if messing about in boats doesn’t, er, float your boat, there’s plenty to do onshore.
‘You name it, we’ve got it,’ says Cameron. ‘BBC Scotland will have a marquee bursting with activity. People can read the news with the Reporting Scotland presenters, or pretend to football commentate.’ Meanwhile, the Royal Marines are promising an abseiling display down the Glasgow Tower, and those feeling the Olympic fever can watch the Scottish Masters Volleyball Tournament on a man-made beach at the SECC. There will be bellydancing classes on the Quay, which Cameron herself has promised to take part in. Oh, and almost all the events are free, so get down there and throw yourself in. Not literally.
Glasgow River Festival, Sat 19 & Sun 20 Jul. See www.glasgowriverfestival.co.uk