West End Festival

West End Festival

Photo: Sean Groundwater

The West End of Glasgow is currently gearing up for its yearly festivities. David Pollock meets the festival’s founder and finds out what’s new for 2009.

‘When I founded the West End Festival in 1996,’ says Michael Dale, ‘I wanted to create something that could make use of the West End’s best characteristics: the parks, the streets, the university. I believe that festivals have to have a firm sense of place, which is why so many successfully occur in towns or small localised areas.’

Dale knows what he’s talking about here. Prior to moving to Glasgow in the early 1990s he was director of the Edinburgh Fringe, so he knows just how much activity and intelligent use of space can be wrung from a very small built-up area. ‘I was also keenly conscious of the fact that the West End is the kind of place where people with a certain attitude to life come to live. The locals are quite bohemian, there are a lot of students and people who are involved in the media, so I thought this would be the best pool of local talent to draw upon,’ he reveals.

He also points out that the West End Festival is Glasgow’s only general, all-embracing arts festival - while the city contains festivals dedicated to theatre, music and dance, no other encompasses them all - and that performers are drawn from open applications rather than chosen simply by the edict of the director. It is, contends Dale, a proper community festival.

‘By its very nature,’ he says, ‘a lot of what we do will recur each year. We have concerts in bars and church halls, we have guided walks, there are theatre shows and events with authors. Beyond that, we do try to do things which are a bit unusual where we can. One of the biggest highlights of the last 13 years, in my personal opinion, was the free Belle and Sebastian concert staged in the Botanic Gardens in 2004.

‘It was just the most sensational event, the sun miraculously came out, and there must have been 15,000 people there. That couldn’t have happened in any other context; Belle and Sebastian’s roots are firmly in the West End of Glasgow.’

This year there are a few new and exciting shows which Dale is excited to see. ‘We have a theatre show called The Garden of Adrian at Gilmorehill G12,’ he says. ‘It’s a piece by Adrian Howells, who has been the dramaturg and writer-in-residence at G12 for two or three years. He’s going to build a garden inside the theatre and then do performances every day of the week, every hour from 11am until 9pm, with just a single audience member.

‘Also on the theatre front we have Corona Classic Cuts, which will be a series of lunchtime plays at Oran Mor. They’re stripped-down versions of classic plays like Romeo and Juliet, Cyrano de Bergerac and Medea, told in 45 minutes by two or three actors.’

Although this year won’t see the traditional parade along Byres Road, a similar event named Festival Sunday will still be happening in Kelvingrove Park. ‘That’s a beautiful location in itself,’ says Dale. ‘It was originally laid out in 1888 for the first of the great Glasgow exhibitions, and then expanded in 1901 when the Kelvingrove art galleries were built. So they sprang from these great events which were designed to show off Glasgow as a city, and I hanker after a bit of that for the West End Festival myself.’

The West End Festival will be held in various venues around Glasgow from Sat 13–Sun 28 Jun, 0141 341 0844, www.westendfestival.co.uk


Festival Sunday
Relocating just for this year from Byres Road to Kelvingrove Park, the ‘Scotland’s Mardi Gras’ parade will launch the festival, alongside other events and food stalls. The atmosphere will still reach Byres Road, though, as certain side streets will be closed off for barbecues and performances. Sun 14 Jun, noon, Kelvin Way and Kelvingrove Park, Glasgow.

Fete de la Musique
Celebrating Midsummer’s Day and the French music festival, Ashton Lane bars Brel, Vodka Wodka, Jinty McGinty’s, The Ubiquitous Chip and The Loft will be hosting a range of free concerts from folk, indie and jazz artists like Le Reno Amps, Big Black Taxi and the Marco Cafolo Quartet. Sun 21 Jun, 1pm-10pm (DJs until 3am), various bars on Ashton Lane, Glasgow, free.

Brazilian Samba Masterclass
Brazilian teacher and choreographer Mariana Pinho will be educating aspiring dancers in traditional and modern techniques, adding to the festival’s interest in artistic styles from around the world. Put on your dancing shoes and get ready to shimmy and wiggle, Samba-style. Sat 13 Jun, 1pm-4pm, G12 Studios, 37 Ruthven Lane, Glasgow, 0141 552 2442, £15 (£12).

West End Indoor Art Market
Thirty-five selected artists and craftspeople from around the city have been invited to set up stall for the day and sell their works to the public. In the name of promoting green transport, the organisers are offering free rickshaw rides from the Botanics to the market. Fri 26 Jun, noon-6pm, Hillhead Library and Learning Centre, 348 Byres Road, Glasgow, 0141 276 1617, free.

West End Women’s Heritage Walk
Glasgow Women’s Library promises to show the histories of ‘pipe-smoking forewomen, revolting housewives, guerrilla suffragettes and other unsung woman who have helped to create Glasgow’s West End’ in this new version of their popular free walk. Sun 21 & Sun 28 Jun, 6pm, 0141 552 8345, www.womenslibrary.org.uk, free but ticketed (see website).

Sticky Fingers

Psychedelic pop from the Sydney, Australia, five-piece.

Academy, Dublin

Wed 1 May

Prices to be confirmed

O2 Academy Brixton, London SW9

Sat 4 May

Prices to be confirmed / 0844 477 2000

O2 Academy Glasgow

Thu 2 May

£21.20 / 0844 477 2000

Also at:

Athlete and My First Tooth

The laid back indie souls and Ivor Novello songwriting award-winners present their unplugged wares at this 'The Hits: Stripped Back' show.

West End Festival

Glasgow's West End arts festival returns once again with more theatre, music, exhibitions, film, and activities including the midsummer street party.

Emiliana Torrini

The singer/songwriter who penned Kylie's hit 'Slow', performs music combining sultry Mediterranean passion with an icy weirdness in the Oran Mor auditorium. 'Part of the West End Festival'.

The Glasgow Gospel Choir

The 25-strong choir sing a repertoire of gospel, soul, funk and Motown.

Oran Mor Acoustic Sessions and Open Mic

Free acoustic session and open mic.

Stretch Dawrson

Western Swing.

Auricle Ensemble: An Evening at the Cabaret

A concert of iconic showtunes and 20th century classics including Kurt Weill's 'Nanna's Lied' and Britten's 'Cabaret Songs' as well as works by Cole Porter, Gershwin, Edith Piaf and songs from 'Chicago', 'Moulin Rouge' and, or course, 'Cabaret'. 'Part of the West End Festival'.

De Rosa

Art-schooled De Rosa present their new part-folk, part-electronic delivery.

West End Festival - The Mill with Acryllic Iqon & Rossco

Free gig, must get tickets from www.themill-live.com

Ross Clark & The Scarfs Go Missing, Sparrow & the Workshop and There Will be Fireworks

A mighty line up of up and coming local bands completed by The John Knox Sex Club. 'Part of the West End Festival'.

Academia Salsa

Salsa classes. 'Part of the West End Festival'.

The Five Aces, The Bottleneckers and The Privates

Soul, R&B, funk and Hammond grooves. 'Part of the West End Festival'.

Chris and Thomas

Rustic Americana. 'Part of the West End Festival'.


One-man alt.folk act Peter Kelly.


1. Zephyr Cam4 Jun 2009, 4:22pm Report

Surely the West End Festival is greatly downgraded by the organisers (or is it perhaps the councils) failure to completely close Byres Road for the day. The multi-stage music day was, for many, the main highlight of the whole festival. During the course of the afternoon it was possible to listen to twenty or more glasgow bands strutting their stuff for big, appreciative audiences. I hope the Merchant City organisers take note and don't make the same mistake.
It must be just as disappointing for Byres Road businesses as it is for music lovers.

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