Scottie's Diary

- Glasgow's Winterfest

While we may sometimes bemoan the commercialism behind many of the activities in the weeks before Christmas, there is no doubt that there is a benefit in the middle of winter (in the northern hemisphere at least) to have lots of bright lights and activities to counteract the short daylight hours and cold, gloomy weather.

These days, local government is increasingly seeing the potential for laying on attractions to bring shoppers and tourists into their city centres at these times, especially as there is growing competition from out of town, covered shopping malls. Glasgow, which prides itself on being the most important shopping Mecca after London, makes a special effort with Christmas lights and free entertainment.

Of course, the culmination of all this is the Scottish Hogmanay on 31 December when revellers gather in George square to bring in the New Year with style!

Christmas Lights

It used to be the main department stores in the city centre that put on attractive displays over the festive season - I can remember gazing with delight at the large window displays in Lewis' store in Argyle Street and the "posh" shops in Buchanan Street. For some years now, however, it has been the role of Glasgow City Council to create increasingly more impressive street lighting displays.

George Square, with its backdrop of the City Chambers has always been the centre-piece of these decorations. In 1990, when Glasgow was awarded the title of "European City of Culture" a new lighting display was installed using innovative computer animation techniques which rivalled anything to be seen in London's Bond Street or Oxford Street. In those days, the 60 foot high Christmas tree was donated to the city by the King of Norway as a continuing reminder of the hospitality offered to Norwegian forces during the Second World War.

Just a few streets away from George Square is the "Ceiling of Light" created by LED lights stretched between the Gallery of Modern Art and buildings across from the imposing Grecian-style mansion built originally for an 18th century tobacco merchant who had made his fortune in America. These lights are not specifically switched on for Christmas but brighten up that part of the city at night for most of the winter months.

Retailers in the city centre made a special request this year to the City Council to have special Christmas lights installed in the so-called "Style Mile" of Sauchiehall Street, Buchanan Street and Argyle Street to create a more festive shopping experience. These will also be in place over the same longer timescale as the Ceiling of Light.

There are far more Christmas lights than I have space for here, so if you want to see more of many of these festive decorations in the centre of Glasgow, see the Windows Media Video Slide Show accompanied by background music. If that link doesn't work for your browser, then go to the main Slide Show Index and right click on the link to download it to your own PC.

Glasgow on Ice

There has been a large ice rink in George Square since the Millennium celebrations back in 1999/2000. Surrounded by all the Christmas lights and with food and drink (including mulled wine) available from nearby outlets there is a great atmosphere. Tens of thousands of skaters (some rather unsteady on their feet, not just because of inexperience at skating) glide and totter round the ice which is claimed to be one of the largest outdoor ice rinks in the UK (Edinburgh's ice rink in Princes Street Gardens makes the same claim, of course). The rink is open from November to 3 January.

In the "Big Stage", also in George Square, there's series of free entertainment ranging from festive films on Wednesdays and Sundays to live music every Thursday. Throughout December, there are also four sessions featuring the best folk and roots musicians as a taster for the Celtic Connections festival next month (from Thursday 14th - Sunday 31st January), in venues across Glasgow.

Concerts, Pantomime and Carnival
Throughout the festive season theatres and concert halls are providing their usual wide variety of programmes, ranging from a Christmas Concert by the Royal Scottish National Orchestra and Scottish Ballet to traditional pantomimes such as "Aladdin" at the King's Theatre (with Gerard Kelly as Wishee Washee and Karen Dunbar as Widow Twanky), "Cinderella" at the Citizens Theatre and "New Magical Adventures of Pinocchio" at the Pavilion theatre. There is also a large Carnival with all the usual rides and entertainment at the Scottish Exhibition and Conference Centre. The carnival features over 60 fun attractions from ghost train to dodgems and plenty of more adventurous rides for the thrill seekers. And there are plenty of rides and game stalls more suitable for younger participants too. The Carnival also features "Boogieheads," apparently the latest craze from America where you can star in your very own music DVD.

More Information
There are lots of web sites with information on all these attractions. The main one is Glasgow's Winterfest (which includes Webcam views of George Square in all its festive finery). See also Glasgow Winter Festivals and What's On In Glasgow for a wider view.

Since I try not to have any Glasgow/Edinburgh bias, there is an equivalent page to this one covering Edinburgh's Winter Wonderland.

Where else would you like to go in Scotland?

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