A Message From Our Chair

A Message From Our Chair

My political and professional life is dedicated to bringing people together through culture and sport, activities which get to heart of humanity. 

Culture makes us who we are – regardless of who we are. Art challenges perspectives and articulates pain, beauty and grace. Sport creates discipline, fitness, skill and provides social connections.

However, as Covid gripped our city, reflecting publicly on the value and purpose of culture and sport could have been ill-timed, inappropriate or even indulgent. Particularly so in a city like Glasgow, where so many already lead challenging lives.

But it was remarkable how quickly many organisations and individuals adapted to the difficulties of confinement and social distancing. Whether it was online musical performance or virtual choirs, cultural expression provided connection, purpose, resilience, and solidarity. So too did physical activity and sport, as the need to move around and push oneself as a means of feeling better and gaining a level of calm became ever more important. 

Last month Glasgow Life surveyed residents who use our services. We primarily wanted to know what our citizens required to have the confidence to return to our venues. But we also asked what they’d missed during Lockdown.  Here are a selection:

  • “You don't know what you've got 'til it's gone and we simply cannot do without these services. They are the fabric of our city both its rich history and its future too”

  • “All of these are vital to appeal to the widest possible demographic. To promote mental and physical well-being the arts, sports, events etc. all play an essential role. We need this now more than ever.”

  • “We need somewhere to go that isn’t the shops, shopping centres, expensive outings such as the zoo, somewhere to go that is good for our mental health and learning.”

  • “Without cultural and sporting activities, life would not be worth living”

Today Glasgow City Council will debate the impact of culture and sport in our city. Glasgow’s transformation over the last 35 years is in no small part due to public investment in culture and sport. Cultural-led regeneration has been adopted by many post-industrial cities across the UK, Europe and North America.

It isn’t lost on me that this is the 30th anniversary of Glasgow’s year as European City of Culture in 1990. Or, for that matter, how quickly the transformative work Glasgow began all those years ago has been shaken.

As the custodian of an internationally significant museum collection - and the provider of a wide range of cultural, sport and learning programmes and activities – we have far reaching obligations and responsibilities. For example, we must use our assets to reflect and challenge key aspects of historical and contemporary racism and all forms of oppression and discrimination.   But this needs to be about more than just the museum collection. It needs to be about enabling all our communities to shape culture and sport services.

All of this informs the vision of culture, sport and heritage that I want to set out now. This is about harnessing the resilience, care and solidarity we have shown as individuals and communities. It is a vision of the kind of city Glasgow can become. 
As the mass vaccination programme rolls out early next year it will take time to extend the physical radius of our lives. The increased focus on home, neighbourhood and community will co-exist with a desire to celebrate and socialise. Glaswegians, after all, have a renowned sociable character. So we need to have the capacity to enable, support and manage both of these recovery trends. We need local cultural and sport services which are run safely. 

Longer term Glasgow Life must become an enabler which addresses the city’s ongoing needs. Financial resource will of course help. But people will make this change happen and innovation will allow good things to happen.

We need to massively upscale and harness the potential of our communities. We need to integrate sport and physical activity solutions across community, health and social care. Many of the challenges Glasgow faces, be that our ageing population, poor mental health and social isolation, often transcend medical solutions.  The potential of community sport and physical activity to nurture positive ageing, build well-being, meaning and connection is enormous.

And we need to be creative. We’re recognised by the European Commission as the UK’s top city for creativity, one brimming with artistic talent which the city can support and facilitate.
Culture, sport and physical activity must be built into how citizens feel better connected to their neighbourhood and the sense of control they have over their own lives. We will re-design our services around these principles, working with experts and local people to transform delivery and upscale programmes that we already know work.

Even in this virtual world people still crave - and need – the social connection and cohesion only real experience delivers. Culture, sport and physical activity in our shared civic spaces offer that rich experience.

This past year has shown us what happens when we are denied social connection, when many of the things which create Glasgow’s vibrancy are switched off. As we look to next year and to new beginnings let’s look to the hope that culture and sport can offer us.