Preview: Merchant City Festival

Preview: Merchant City Festival

Credit: Alan McAteer

Merchant City erupts into a carnival of performance art, dance, theatre, circus and live music

Edinburgh may like to pretend it has the biggest, brashest and best summer arts festival this side of the apocalypse, but Glasgow doesn’t take it lying down. To mark the Commonwealth Games last year, the bold and glossy annual Merchant City Festival (going strong for 14 years) was bumped up from its standard four-day affair to an 11-day whopper. This year they’ve scaled back a tad and the festival comes in at a slightly more restrained, but still juicy, nine whole days of outlandish, arty community fun.

Probably the highlight of the action will be Fragile, the world premiere of a large-scale street performance collaboration between Motionhouse, Conflux, The Merchant City Festival itself and Gulbenkian theatre at the University of Kent. The combined efforts of these arts world luminaries is a piece in which over 25 performers (a combination of locals and international pros) interact with ‘a host of machine-dancing JCB diggers’, according to Conflux director Alan Richardson. Clearly Edinburgh’s tram fiasco isn't the only project in Scotland taking the concept of roadworks to dizzyingly extensive new heights.

As well as pirouetting construction vehicles, visitors can enjoy plenty more outdoor events from SURGE, the festival-within-a-festival exploring street arts, dance, physical theatre and circus performance, this year focusing on the themes of friendship, fame, ecology and the absurdity of war. If the street art extravaganza all gets a bit too overwhelmingly conceptual, little ones and their guardians can shelter at the family zone in Merchant Square, while more adventurous souls enjoy a full programme of fashion and design events, dance, comedy, live music, guided walks, crafts and food and drink stalls.

The aim, as always, is to make Glasgow feel as vibrant, diverse and international as possible. The Edinburgh Festival may kick off immediately afterwards, but the Merchant City extravaganza is an increasingly tough act to follow.

Various venues, Glasgow, Sat 25 Jul–Sun 2 Aug.

Merchant City Festival

A diverse arts festival in Glasgow's swanky part of town. Previous years have seen comedy, theatre and art events cramming themselves into the area's fashionable buildings, while street performers add to the festival atmosphere.