“Bright blue skies and gi­ant fluffy clouds above our own wee ver­sion of Hol­ly­wood” The 1988 Glas­gow Gar­den Fes­ti­val re­mem­bered


The Herald Magazine - - CONTENTS -

YOU can spend a divert­ing few min­utes read­ing the ad­verts in the sou­venir brochure for the 1988 Glas­gow Gar­den Fes­ti­val. It’s a prod­uct of its time, of course: there are ads for the Scot­tish De­vel­op­ment Agency, Cen­tral Re­gional Coun­cil, Farah slacks, Glas­gow Zoo Park and the “NEC 9A mo­bile cel­lu­lar phone”, the bulky size of which would doubt­less as­ton­ish to­day’s mil­len­ni­als.

Thirty years have elapsed since the fes­ti­val but count­less peo­ple who at­tended have vivid mem­o­ries of it. “Bright blue skies and fluffy clouds above a Glas­gow ver­sion of Hol­ly­wood,” in one per­son’s fond words. (Many oth­ers re­mem­ber the sunny weather but, this be­ing Scot­land, it wasn’t al­ways a given: the Glas­gow Her­ald, look­ing back on the fes­ti­val, re­ferred to “the mis­er­able weather of so-called high sum­mer” and

the “end­less rain of July and Au­gust”). Oth­ers re­mem­ber see­ing Ea­monn Holmes and Viv Lums­den (sep­a­rately) get­ting lifts on a golf buggy, and ask­ing Mark (Tag­gart) McManus for his au­to­graph.

They re­mem­ber the 240ft-high Cly­des­dale Bank An­niver­sary Tower, the Coca-Cola roller­coaster, the bon­sai gar­den, the sci­ence and tech­nol­ogy dis­plays, the pic­turesque land­scaped ar­eas, the en­ter­tain­ments, the fes­ti­val rail­way, the sheer bus­tle and friend­li­ness of the place.

And many of them re­gret that, apart from Fes­ti­val Park, there’s lit­tle to com­mem­o­rate the fes­ti­val now.

GLAS­GOW got the go-ahead from the Gov­ern­ment in early Novem­ber 1984 to stage Bri­tain’s third Na­tional Gar­den Fes­ti­val four years hence, on a 128-acre site at Princes Dock. Af­ter con­sid­er­able work by the SDA, lo­cal au­thor­i­ties and pub­lic and pri­vate groups, Scot­land’s big­gest event in half a cen­tury got un­der­way at the end of April 1988, when Prince Charles and Princess Diana jour­neyed north for the royal open­ing.

And be­tween then and late Septem­ber, 4.3 mil­lion peo­ple, a mil­lion of them from over­seas, saw the fes­ti­val for them­selves.

“It was ut­terly bril­liant,” re­calls Dr Alis­tair Ram­say, who runs the Glas­gow Vin­tage Ve­hi­cle Trust. He has worked as a city tour guide and at­tended the fes­ti­val. It’s his copy of the brochure we’re look­ing at.

He re­mem­bers turn­ing up one day at the fes­ti­val site. “My fa­ther was try­ing to get the car parked down in Go­van and you couldn’t get any­where near the place.

“We had a huge walk once we parked the car. It was so big that you couldn’t take it all in.

“I re­mem­ber ap­proach­ing the turn­stiles and hear­ing all th­ese screams. I won­dered, ‘What on earth?’ It sounded like some­one get­ting mur­dered. And, of course, it was the squeals of the peo­ple on the roller.”

He re­mem­bers the Glas­gow trams (in­clud­ing one from 1922 and an­other from 1947) that ran on the site, and the Cly­des­dale tower, too. “It had a ro­tat­ing ‘dough­nut’, a glass, ring-shaped cabin, which rose and re­volved at the same time, and it was hugely pop­u­lar.”

Dr Ram­say says the fes­ti­val was im­por­tant be­cause it kicked the city off as a tourist des­ti­na­tion. “Peo­ple wanted to come here. It also showed how good Glas­gow is at or­gan­is­ing th­ese big events. Two years af­ter that, we were the Euro­pean City of Cul­ture. In 1999 we were the UK City of Ar­chi­tec­ture and De­sign.

“By the time it came to the Com­mon­wealth Games, the city was so good at stag­ing th­ese land­mark events. The Glas­gow peo­ple also em­braced the Gar­den Fes­ti­val, and they showed this in 2014 when 96 per cent of seats for the Com­mon­wealth Games were sold.”

But, like many oth­ers who at­tended it, Ram­say be­lieves it’s un­for­tu­nate that so lit­tle of the fes­ti­val re­mains. “Maybe if we had had a Glas­gow Mar­ket­ing Board back in 1988-89 we could have been left with a per­ma­nent struc­ture to com­mem­o­rate the fes­ti­val.

“If the pavil­ions built for the fes­ti­val had been more sub­stan­tial, they could have been kept on. They would have been a

tremen­dous longer-term bonus for the city.”

Elaine Camp­bell, of Shaw­lands, also has vivid mem­o­ries of the event. Her fa­ther, sadly, had not long died. “I was 13, 14 at the time and my mum and I both got sea­son passes. I used to go ev­ery day. If I went at week­ends I’d meet up with friends or would go with my mum,” she says.

“The fes­ti­val was in­cred­i­ble. I couldn’t get enough of it,” adds Camp­bell, 44. “One of my most vivid mem­o­ries is from when they filmed an episode of [TV com­edy] City Lights at the fes­ti­val and I met Andy Gray and Jonathan Wat­son and got their au­to­graphs.

“I went up the Cly­des­dale Bank tower about ten times a day and re­mem­ber think­ing that Princess Diana was a bit of a jessie – she had gone up it and she looked green. My mum said, ‘Maybe she’s preg­nant again.’

“I re­mem­ber the big band­stand in the mid­dle of the fes­ti­val site. You’d go in­side and it would be packed be­cause there would be a band play­ing.

“There was one band called Sam and Ella. I saw them a dozen times be­fore their name sank in. I re­mem­ber the High Street, where all the shops were, and there were repli­cas of lots of Glas­gow build­ings.

“Look­ing back, I think the fes­ti­val was a form of ther­apy for me, get­ting me back into the world af­ter my dad had died. I could go to this re­ally colour­ful place on my own, if I

Princess Diana had gone up the tower and she looked green. My mum said, ‘Maybe she’s preg­nant again’

wanted to. There were quiet bits you could go to, like the Ja­panese wa­ter­gar­dens, or the for­est area at the back, where the Sci­ence Cen­tre is now.

“One of my big­gest re­grets,” she adds, “is that they weren’t able to keep any of it on. I know it was ex­pen­sive but it had been amaz­ing to see a large, derelict area be­ing trans­formed into some­thing that peo­ple trav­elled to from all over the world.

“That’s the sad part for me – it’s a pity that there’s noth­ing tan­gi­ble left. No one seems to have had the fore­sight to have saved parts of it. We’ve also lost a num­ber of beau­ti­ful build­ings over the years the same way.”

The fes­ti­val was where Katy Loudon, then at pri­mary school, had her first celebrity sight­ing: Viv Lums­den “get­ting a wee hurl on the back of a golf buggy”.

Broad­caster Ea­monn Holmes, re­spond­ing to Katy on Twit­ter, said, “I was on that buggy too … but I wasn’t a celebrity so you wouldn’t have spot­ted me. It was a won­der­fully ex­cit­ing time and one which gave me a great bond with Glas­gow. Happy days.”

Loudon, now a South La­nark­shire coun­cil­lor, says: “My mem­o­ries of the site are fuzzy and cen­tred on in­ter­est­ing-to-kids things like the gi­ant teapot. I also re­mem­ber the buzz around the city when it was the City of Cul­ture … In com­mon with the

City of Cul­ture sta­tus, I think the fes­ti­val gave Glas­gow a chance to shine on a na­tional and in­ter­na­tional stage in the same way as the Com­mon­wealth Games did more re­cently. And it has left us with many fond mem­o­ries of Glas­gow at play.”

DOROTHY Aidulis was in her third year at univer­sity in 1988. “The fes­ti­val was so colour­ful – some­thing go­ing on ev­ery­where you looked, and it al­ways seemed to be sunny,” she emails. “Bright blue skies and gi­ant fluffy clouds. It was like our own wee Glas­gow ver­sion of Hol­ly­wood!

“One of my favourite bits was the Al­ice in Won­der­land sec­tion; I can’t re­mem­ber ex­actly what was there, I think some gi­ant tea cups and Al­ice. I loved Al­ice in Won­der­land as a child, we had all the books, and used to play the record at night go­ing to bed. It was mag­i­cal to see all that brought to life.

“Most peo­ple I knew had a sea­son ticket for the fes­ti­val,” she adds. “It was like a Tran­scard but with a much bet­ter des­ti­na­tion.

“My mum was a pri­mary teacher and they were look­ing for vol­un­teers to help with a school trip to the fes­ti­val so I went with my boyfriend and my uni pal. We each got as­signed five weans to look af­ter. I had the bright idea of the three of us join­ing up groups so we could talk to each other.

“Well, 15 kids be­tween us; I hadn’t quite thought that through. We spent the rest of the day count­ing heads con­stantly, ter­ri­fied we would lose some­one (we didn’t), but we barely saw a thing.

“My last­ing mem­o­ries of the fes­ti­val are of long bright colour­ful days, wan­der­ing around this amaz­ingly trans­formed river­side, care­free, and proud of my city. We had high hopes they would ‘keep’ the land­scapes. I didn’t un­der­stand how they could put to­gether some­thing so elab­o­rate just to let it all fiz­zle out again when it fin­ished.

“But fin­ish it did. Even though noth­ing ma­te­rial re­mains of our Gar­den Fes­ti­val to­day, it lives on in our mem­o­ries of that sum­mer; it most def­i­nitely helped to put Glas­gow on the map, and even more firmly in our hearts.”

“It was a mag­i­cal sum­mer. When can we do it again?” says She­lagh McHugh, who with hus­band Bryan went with their chil­dren James, seven, Alis­tair, four, and two-year-old Elaine.

“We made great use of the fam­ily ticket and James had his own pass. How­ever, his wee brother wanted one so I made a ‘forgery’ that the staff al­lowed him to show to gain en­trance.

“The days started with a rush to the Cly­des­dale Bank Tower be­fore it got too busy. It was a mag­i­cal time and we all re­gret­ted that some of it wasn’t kept. My hus­band’s aunt vis­ited from New Zealand. It was her first visit since 1960 when she em­i­grated and we all wore the T-shirts with pride. We bought each of them a Gnomosapien. We re­mem­ber Big Rory and Wee Malkie, the sen­sory gar­den, the play ar­eas, the pa­rades, all the huge sculp­tures like the tap and the fork. It was a mag­i­cal sum­mer (even when it rained).”

“It was the best £15 my col­league and I ever spent,” says El­speth Camp­bell of the ad­vance sea­son pass she bought. “We were there for the open­ing, the clos­ing and al­most ev­ery day in be­tween. We ne­glected our fam­i­lies for the 152 days. Al­ways some­thing new to see ev­ery time we were there – lovely peo­ple to blether to.

“Glaswe­gians do­ing what they do best, en­joy­ing them­selves and mak­ing sure ev­ery­one else was too. I watched my daugh­ter singing with the Scouts – or was it the Guides? It was a proud mo­ment.

“Got the bug and went to New­cas­tle, Wales and an­other one, but none of them were any­where as good as our dear old Glas­gow town one. Won­der­ful mem­o­ries.”

Mark Fal­coner sent in a pho­to­graph of him with his mother Agnes at the fes­ti­val: “I can re­call the ex­cite­ment trav­el­ling in from East Kil­bride to see this much-an­tic­i­pated fes­ti­val (be­fore fes­ti­vals were a thing). Ob­vi­ously the gar­dens were great, and I can re­call us both over­com­ing our fear of heights to take a trip up in the Cly­des­dale Bank Tower – I’m sure I held my breath for most of the time.

“I re­mem­ber the re­laxed at­mos­phere – it was a warm day and ev­ery­one just seemed to be out to en­joy the ex­pe­ri­ence and have a great time.”

When David Wad­dell asked his mother if she re­mem­bered the fes­ti­val, he says “her first words were, ‘Yes – Coca-Cola ride!’ ” He was 15 when the fam­ily drove through from Fife.

“It was prob­a­bly my last big fam­ily out­ing, all of us out, be­fore it be­came un­cool,” David re­calls. “It was a re­ally good day. Ob­vi­ously, at that age, you think,

How could they put to­gether some­thing so elab­o­rate just to let it all fiz­zle out again when it fin­ished?

Top: Huge crowds were drawn to the fes­ti­val by the bands, sci­ence dis­plays, the en­ter­tain­ments, the fes­ti­val rail­way and the sheer bus­tle and friend­li­ness of the place

Above: The Coca-Cola roller­coaster Left: Dur­ing the fes­ti­val, five for­mer Glas­gow Cor­po­ra­tion Tramways vin­tage trams were run­ning again in the city along the river­side

Top: Masked per­form­ers. Above: Pui Ling of the Glas­gow Chi­nese Dance Group with a Dragon and Mok Kar Style dancer at the Shang­hai friend­ship gar­den. Right: Mark Fal­coner with his mother Agnes at the fes­ti­val, ‘where ev­ery­one just seemed to be out for a...

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