Glasgow's West End Festival: Thinking On Your Feet

Feature by Claire Brunton | 27 May 2009

The West End, Glasgow's most fashionable address since the 1800s, may not be regarded as the best place to visit when in need of a cheap but entertaining day out. Though recognised for its free museums, and green areas including Kelvingrove Park, the area is considered relatively expensive with its high-priced boutiques on Byres Road and Ashton Lane's fashionably cosy but costly pubs and restaurants. And after months of being subjected to endless headlines concerning the dreaded recession, most Glaswegians and tourists alike are taking care of every penny.

Perhaps, however, we are too hasty to judge the West End as an area inaccessible to those with lighter pockets. Consider the West End Festival, one of Scotland's most vibrant cultural festivals, which returns to Glasgow this year.

Having attended the festival for the first time last year, I was pleasantly surprised by the number of free activities contributing to an array of musical, artistic, theatrical and literary events; a range which could rival the Edinburgh Fringe in terms of variety.

The festival traditionally kicks off with the free Mardi Gras parade, which ran along Byres Road last year, but has this year been shortened and moved to a route through Kelvin Way. There has been some controversy surrounding the move, with traders on Byres Road claiming that funding from Glasgow City Council has been cut, and that the move will have a damaging effect on their profits. Reasons for the move are unclear but the parade is set to continue its tradition of a lively and colourful carnival of floats and performers culminating in Kelvingrove Park.

Other cost effective events include the new Fête de la Musique, a free event where musicians of all genres can play in various venues in Ashton Lane, The Glasgow Mela, and the Gibson Street Gala.

Chairman for the West End Festival Board, Liz Scobie believes no-one will be disappointed by the extensive line-up: “The West End Festival has been a huge success since it started. It’s an eclectic mix with something for everyone. The festival will bring the best in cultural entertainment and community spirit to residents of and visitors to Glasgow promising a great day out for all the family.”

The festival runs from Friday 12 June to Sunday 28 June in venues across the West End, including Byres Road, Gibson Street, Great Western Road, Kelvingrove Park and the Botanic Gardens.

Top 5 West End Festival Events

1. Fête de la Musique, Ashton Lane, Sunday 21 June, 1pm-10pm, free entry

The largest cultural event in the French calendar is celebrated in Ashton Lane this year. The event, for which musicians of all genres and calibres will play for free, is new to the West End but has been held in more than a hundred countries worldwide on the summer solstice, 21 June. It is open to any amateur or professional who wishes to perform. Already confirmed are Le Reno Amps, Injuns, Big Black Taxi and the Marco Cafolo Quartet. Venues include Brel, Vodka Wodka, Jinty McGuinty's, The Ubiquitous Chip and The Grosvenor.

2. West End Indoor Art Market, Hillhead Library, Friday 26 June, 12pm-6pm, free entry

The West End Indoor Art Market sees 35 selected artists from across the city selling art at a price that’s of value to the artist and the buyer. Free rickshaw rides are available from the Botanic Gardens to the art market.

3. The Taming of the Shrew, Botanic Gardens, 24-26 June, 7.45pm, £8-£15

One of Shakespeare's most popular comedies takes to the main stage of Bard in the Botanics. The historic battle of the sexes is brought to life in a funny and touching production.

4. The Glasgow Mela, Kelvingrove Park, Sunday 21 June, 12pm, free

The city's biggest multi-cultural festival has gone from strength to strength, embracing the many cultures that make Scotland diverse. Music from bhangra to Russian folk is just part of an exciting programme of music and dance, puppet shows and visual art workshops.

5. Amnesty International's Songwriting and Poetry workshop, Hillhead Library, Tuesday 16 June, 3pm, free

Folk singer and songwriter Bella Hardy teams up with Amnesty International to host a songwriting and poetry workshop to mark Refugee Week. Participants have the opportunity to share their work at Amnesty’s Gathering on Thursday 18 June.

For more details visit