Geoff Ellis, CEO of DF Concerts Blog: Glasgow. The city’s slogan says it all. PEOPLE MAKE GLASGOW. | Glasgow Chamber of Commerce
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Geoff Ellis, CEO of DF Concerts Blog: Glasgow. The city’s slogan says it all. PEOPLE MAKE GLASGOW.

Glasgow. The city’s slogan says it all. PEOPLE MAKE GLASGOW.

And it’s true, but on a number of levels. Anyone who’s been to a concert - at Barrowland especially - but in truth, at any of the city’s many venues will tell you, that what really makes the gig or the club night so incomparably amazing is the atmosphere created by the audience. Passion, energy, exuberance, they are all there in abundance. That’s true for football too –in Milan, Manchester, Madrid – they don’t live & breathe football anymore than the folks in Glasgow do.

But it’s not just the fans of Glasgow’s culture and sport - it’s the disproportionately large number of artists emanating from, or living in, the city. On the stages. Or on the gallery walls. Look at the number of Turner Prize nominees based in Glasgow. 4 times Royal Glasgow Institute of Fine Art winner, Ryan Mutter, is now the talk of the town with his stunning, evocative representations of the city’s shipbuilding heritage. The number of independent galleries providing a rich tapestry for visual art in the city is impressive.

No-one can deny the ever increasing number of fantastic musicians who have blasted their way out of Glasgow from Alex Harvey, Simple Minds, Texas, Deacon Blue, The Wets through to Primal Scream, Mogwai, and Chvrches. In clubland the likes of Slam are as respected worldwide as other pioneers of Techno music from Berlin or Detroit are.

It’s also the network of people behind those artists, the entrepreneurs, the risk takers, the innovators, the envelope pushers, the disruptors – but not just in music and visual art but in the bar and restaurant trade too. The transformation of Glasgow over recent years is laudable and no more evident is that transformation than in the burgeoning food & drink sector, primarily from small, entrepreneurial and very passionate operators.

Finnieston has become to Glasgow what Williamsburg became to Brooklyn. The south side of Glasgow and Dennistoun now attract people in to the boroughs rather than see locals depart them into the city centre.

With restaurants in the city like Caill Bruich, Porter & Rye, Crabshack, Six & 111 by Nico, etc joining long established eateries such as The Buttery, Gandolfi, Le Chardon D’or, Rogano, The Ubiquitous Chip and a plethora of Asian choices, old and new – we deliver comparably with other European cities with more long-standing reputations for food & drink.

The quality of the culinary offering, the delivery and the relative affordability compared to some cities is mouth-watering. The signature cocktails and aged beef at P&R, the themed tasting menus at six by Nico the creative innovation of food collectives such as The Dockyard Social in Finnieston, Platform at the Arches or The Big Feed in Govan should be celebrated like the Time Out Market in Lisbon, The Food Hallen in Amsterdam (in an old Tramshed) and the Mercado San Miguel in Madrid.

We have a fantastic micro-brewery in the east end called West making award winning craft beers just down the road from Scotland’s oldest surviving brewery, Tennents. Glasgow has a wide variety of bars too that value a premium and adventurous product range with a quality serve high on the menu along with thoughtful and tasteful design and ambience from Republic Bier Halle to The Finnieston and everything inbetween.

We have exciting, internationally renowned clubs and venues like The Sub Club, my company’s own King Tut’s where acts such as Coldplay, Paolo Nutini, Muse, Calvin Harris, Radiohead, Oasis and The Killers all had pivotal gigs at the start of the careers. Also, The Killers returned to King Tut’s for a secret show immediately after their TRNSMT headline appearance – I’ve never seen Brandon Flowers enjoy a gig more, he was literally grinning throughout the hot and sweaty set in the packed out venue – just how rock n’ roll should be! These venues play a crucial role in the external image of the city to tourists and business visitors as well as being at the heart of Glasgow’s cultural offering.

Glasgow also has other staple club venues like The Garage, Nice ‘n’ Sleazy and Oran Mor and relative newcomers such as St Lukes, Broadcast and BAAD along with the varied and versatile spaces at the wonderful SWG3. These are complemented by some of the busiest venues in the world such as the SSE Hydro – usually in the top 3 busiest arenas in the world after the O2 in London and Madison Sq Gdn.  

You may not be aware but there are only 5 UK venues In the top 100 club venues in the world based on ticket sales (criteria is venues under 3k cap)  – and 4 of these are all in Glasgow – The 02 Academy; Barrowland; King Tut’s (which is the smallest capacity venue in the top 200!) and the recent victim of the Art School fire, the 02ABC which will be sadly missed. Glasgow’s music scene is definitely punching above!

As I’m sure you are aware however, Glasgow has an enviable selection of parks and open spaces that also host live music – thankfully! Those concerts and other colourful, organised events taking place in them (Mela, Pride, World Pipe Band Championships, etc) really contribute to the city’s vibrancy. The council should be applauded for making good use of it’s parks – other cities are green with envy!

Glasgow does have some great venues but we need to support and protect them whilst also encouraging city centre living - all contributing towards a vibrant, buzzing city centre. And let’s not forget Scotland’s National Stadium, Hampden – the city can’t afford to lose all those huge gigs with the likes of Beyonce, AC/DC, Coldplay, Take That, Robbie, Rihanna, Springsteen, Ed Sheeran, etc. And that’s without the impact of losing the football from Hampden! The SFA, will tell us all the Hampden Roar on that subject soon no doubt?

Glasgow has a long tradition of independent record labels too from Postcard through the - still going strong - Chemikal Underground and Soma to the new labels keeping Glasgow’s music output to the world avant garde.

We have museums and galleries that are the envy of many – and they are free to boot!

We have impressive universities that attract young people from near and far.

We have become an inclusive, a diverse and a welcoming city.

We are a city of innovation.

At DF Concerts, last year we launched the new TRNSMT festival with a capacity of 50,000 people per day right in the heart of the city. A truly metropolitan festival winning a Best Festival award in it’s first year. The audience was wonderful, passionate, gregarious but well behaved – a shining, representative example of the People who make Glasgow – with a good number of visitors thrown in too for good measure. This year, with expanded days we brought over 200,000 people into the city centre with the resultant huge economic impact- all at no cost to the counciltax payer. The BBC TV & Radio 1 coverage showed millions of viewers how great this city is to live, work & play in. All conceived, created, curated and delivered in Glasgow – we are very proud of it!

We see an important part of our role at TRNSMT to help nurture local talent too. Both behind the scenes with invaluable experience given to event management students working on the festival and on the King Tut’s stage with exposure for new local artists like Gerry Cinnamon and Lewis Capaldi both of whom returned for big Main Stage slots at the festival this year.

The innovation that Mutley and his team have done at SWG3 is amazing. For example, the renowned Grafitti Works festival there, attracting graffiti artists from around the world was certainly inspirational.

We have a lot of strengths in the city but there are many threats too. None of us, in any walk of life, can afford to be complacent. We can’t rest on our laurels. Not ever. Not as businesses, not as practitioners, not as individuals and certainly not as a city. We have to overcome obstacles – we all face them, some may seem insurmountable. That’s the purpose of an obstacle. To deter you. To make you doubt that you can reach your objective. If there weren’t any obstacles, it would all be easy and everyone would be doing what you are doing and you wouldn’t be in the room tonight – unless it was a very big room!

Its crucial to always stay focused on your goal and either go over, round or even straight through that obstacle. Lead from the front and stay committed and true and your team will then follow you and run through walls for you.

We have to take risks – if we don’t take risks we don’t innovate. If we don’t innovate, we stagnate. If we stagnate we fail. Risk can be financial, emotional, reputational or other forms. Cities aren’t built on nor do they progress on administrators, analysts, legislators, enforcers -  we need strategists, risk takers, innovators, disruptors.

Finally, there are still a lot of opportunities in Glasgow. We are not the complete article yet! By and large, we are still very much a weekend city and that limits us all. During the week we are fairly quiet in the city unless there is a major concert on or football game – and even then people tend to go home straight afterwards.

There is a huge opportunity to get people out during the week but we are not going to achieve it unless we create different offerings and to different markets. Money is tight for sure, it will get tighter as a result of Brexit and harsh austerity measures that benefit the very few at the expense of the many.

I think Glasgow only touches the surface of what the offer to students could be (outside of attracting them in the first place that the universities do a very good job of). We need to shift the balance so that we still have busy, exciting weekends but that we become vibrant throughout the entire week. Retail, the arts, sport all needs to play a part in this as well as food & drink, culture and entertainment.

There is a need to create and to innovate – but there is an opportunity too. For example, Museums & galleries could all open late one night a week, tied in with music; retailers could offer discounted purchases across the board on, say Monday evenings followed by a food offer across a wide cross-section of establishments.

I don’t have the solutions but some of you in this room may have and Glasgow needs you to get creative!

A future city slogan could be Monday, Tuesday & Wednesday Makes Glasgow.

Glasgow needs effective connectivity, adequate late night public transport (why do we let transport providers off with this?!)– maybe even free transport one night of the week to any sports facility, theatre or music venue?

The city could support independent fashion designers and retailers – we need more of them - people like William Chambers Millinery, Brazen, etc perhaps in an incubator type space with a gallery, food outlets, pop up bars, specialist shops, etc in some unused buildings. Lisbon’s LX Factory is a great example of what can be done in former industrial premises with creative, driven people. Initiatives like this can help regenerate areas in the city and become tourist attractions in themselves as well as serving local communities and other local businesses too.

We should also listen to the younger voices around us – we can all learn something from them. A fresh approach, a creative solution, a challenge to the traditional way of thinking. Talk with them, listen to them, employ them, trust them – take a risk on them! They wont always be right but the journey will never be dull and sometimes you will see a spark that ignites everything.

Glasgow is undeniably an exciting, dynamic, culturally rich city to live, study and work in. The experience is true for tourists too as a destination to visit and also as a gateway to Scotland itself – no wonder then that NY Times rated Glasgow as the 10th best place to visit in 2018.

Congratulations to all tonight’s winners and nominees. Take inspiration from wherever it appears to you – even if it only comes from within, from your own deep rooted resolve. Be inspired. Innovate. Create. Take risks. Don’t give up. Be tenacious. Be a disruptor.


DF Concerts CEO Geoff Ellis speaking at the Inspiring City Awards 2018 


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