City Stories: Festival Time in Glasgow

City Stories: Festival Time in Glasgow

With Christmas coming up and all the markets replacing festivals for a while, it seemed like a good time to take a look back at Glasgow’s festivals this year.
Events mean a lot to me, they have been part of my studies, I have worked in the industry in a variety of ways, been on the inside and watched from the outside. This year’s festivals have been especially important, as they were a big part for developing my photos but also using them as a means for analysis.

Say what? Well, the city’s festivals have played an incredible part in my research at university, both for my undergrad and my postgrad. Last year in summer, I documented large parts of the Commonwealth Games and every programme aspect that came with it, and this year I concentrated on the Merchant City Festival. Over time, my focus has shifted from how we can create event structures that are respectful towards tourism stakeholder needs towards how we can integrate local community needs, instead of putting profits first.

Enough of my research now, moving towards the end of the year, let’s take another look at the festivals I have managed to attend and my takeaways from them. Let’s get started, shall we?

The West End Festival


Probably one of the best known festivals the city has to offer and certainly the one with the best weather this year. I was surprised to see so many short outfits and expected clouds and rain to set in any minute. Luckily that didn’t happen. Instead, the sun posed quite the challenge, with me taking my camera out to photograph people for the first time. With the amount of people around and obviously not wanting to keep any small kids from seeing what was happening, I did my best to catch the action.


I have to admit, at some points I just wanted to dance along, after all, much of the music actually reminded me of carnival in Germany, and there, people dress up as well – except in fancy dress only, while Glasgow offered quite a few traditional outfits, too. Unfortunately, I seemed to be the only one in my group of people that got all excited about the brass bands, drums and whistles. It certainly isn’t everybody’s cup of tea.


Overall, I really enjoyed the parade and the street food after. Due to the large crowds, we ended up on Ashton Lane, grabbing a burger at Ketchup before people spilled into that area, too. With the great energy adding to the lovely weather, I will definitely be back next year.


Glasgow Mela


What happens when you go to a festival though you’re not feeling well? You’re not gonna have a good time. That’s exactly what happened to me during Glasgow Mela, so I can’t give much of an account of what was going on during that time.

Set in Kelvingrove Park on a lovely, sunny weekend, the Mela celebrates the city’s diverse cultural backgrounds, with a special focus on Indian culture. The cultural offer is as diverse as the colours people wear and I really recommend giving it all a try. Having never seen anything like it, I was positively surprised by the shows and especially the food – except that my mood was low and I had to go home early…


Merchant City Festival


This one’s probably the most important one to me, because I had to do research – well, ‘research’. I decided to grab my camera and chronicle every performance I could catch and try as much food as possible. Good thing that I had 2 weeks for that!

While I did have to do work, interview visitors, stall owners and locals, I really enjoyed my time at the festival. People were in good spirits, especially on the days that did not consist of constant rain and storms. The performances were probably one of my favourite parts, very varied, from fashion shows to comedy and of course the street theatre performances of the SURGE festival. I met a yelling kitchen prince that flirted with a girl in the audience by offering to ‘make her pancakes’ just before running into a group of secret agents. One of them kissed my hand and left his mustache on it – quite embarrassing.



One of the shows that impressed me the most though was Fragile, a collaboration between Conflux and Motionhouse that involved not just acrobatics with cages but also a number of JCB diggers. I would have watched it twice but the second show was rescheduled due to the weather, oh well, maybe another time.

If anything was missing, I’d say it was the connection to the Vintage Festival that happened last year. Back then, the streets were bursting with people and the various vintage and secondhand traders, the 50′ and 60’s music and especially the colourful variety of people dressed to the nines were a huge draw for me and my friends.

I have to admit though, that talking to locals, stall owners, performers and organisers has once again opened my eyes for those moments in life when we just keep talking past one another, dismissing a lack of knowledge and information as a lack of interest. With my dissertation, blogging and networking, it became obvious again and again that a lack of interest in tourism among locals does not exist. The only thing that does exist is exhaustion, the feeling of not being appreciated by the public sector and – in some cases- resent based on that.

IMG_2757There wasn’t much time to be complain and be sad, though. I’d even say I made some new friends during the festival, thanks to my research. The Heverlee and Fish Plaice pop-up on Tontine Lane was one of the best things that could have possibly been added to the lineup and I ended up dragging as many friends there as I could: First, I visited all by myself for ‘research purposes’, then I sampled all beer varieties on offer with my classmates and finally, I dropped by for dinner and beer with a friend – each and every visit was a dream, we were made to feel right at home. Good thing the same guys are currently doing a pop-up at the Bierhalle to get over the winter weather!

Have you been to any festivals in Glasgow this year? What festival would you recommend?


See you around,




Glasgow’s Festivals

Glasgow has a number of festivals, almost one every month. There are no entrance fees to the festivals in general but some shows or events held in conjunction with them can have admission fees. It’s best to check the respective festival websites for up to date information.

The West End Festival and Glasgow Mela run shortly after one another in June, while the The Merchant City Festival traditionally occupies a week in July.

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