Dr Bridget McConnell CBE to retire as Chief Executive of Glasgow Life

Dr Bridget McConnell CBE to retire as Chief Executive of Glasgow Life

Dr Bridget McConnell CBE is to retire as Chief Executive of the charity Glasgow Life in May.

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The Board of Glasgow Life was informed yesterday (Wednesday 26 January) of Bridget's decision to retire after almost 24 years leading the delivery of culture and sport in the city on behalf of Glasgow City Council.

Bridget has been Glasgow Life’s Chief Executive since the charity was formed in 2007. Under her leadership, culture and sport attendances grew by a third to more than 18 million in the year before the pandemic. Glasgow Life Museums became the most used and visited museums service in Scotland; Glasgow Club became Scotland’s largest health and fitness network, doubling its membership from 20,000 to over 40,000 between 2007 and 2018; and Glasgow Life Libraries welcomed 4.5 million users in 2019/2020.

Bridget has played a significant role in major city projects, from the £35m refurbishment of Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum; and the £35m refurbishment of the Kelvin Hall; to building the £74m Riverside Museum and the £113m Emirates Arena. 

She was also instrumental in bidding for and delivering the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games; the 2015 World Gymnastics Championships and the inaugural 2018 European Championships. She will see the city’s world-class Burrell Collection reopen in March this year, following a c£70m refurbishment, before she retires.

During Bridget's time as Director for Culture and Leisure at Glasgow City Council and then as Glasgow Life’s Chief Executive, Glasgow became the UK’s first Unesco City of Music and was named European Capital of Sport in 2003. The Riverside Museum was named European Museum of the Year in 2013; Tramway hosted the Turner Prize; and in 2019 Glasgow received the prestigious title of the World’s Leading Festival and Event Destination.

Additionally, the Glasgow International contemporary art festival was established; Celtic Connections grew and became more widely appreciated around the world; Aye Write Book Festival helped build new links between people and libraries; Glasgow was named as one of the top five Ultimate Sports Cities in the world; the largest ever and most popular exhibition of works by The Glasgow Boys was staged and Glasgow bought Robert Burns’ original hand-written manuscript of Auld Lang Syne.

Glasgow Life also welcomed new partnerships with the The Royal Scottish National Orchestra at Glasgow Royal Concert Hall; the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra at City Halls; The Glasgow Warriors at Scotstoun; Scottish Ballet at Tramway; Macmillan Cancer Relief at Glasgow Life Libraries; The Glasgow Rocks and Strathclyde Sirens at Emirates Arena under Bridget's leadership.

At the same time, Glasgow’s cultural and sporting successes have propelled the city’s global reputation as a first choice leisure and business tourism destination. In 2019, before the pandemic struck, Glasgow welcomed some 2.5 million domestic and international visitors; boosting the city’s economy by a record £774m and supporting thousands of jobs across every part of Glasgow’s tourism and hospitality sector.

That same year, Glasgow was named the world’s leading event destination. Last year, Glasgow was named by influential travel publication, Condé Nast Traveller, as the 'UK’s best city break destination', and was again voted the 'world’s friendliest city' by Rough Guides. Today, Glasgow is recognised as Scotland’s cultural powerhouse; a vibrant, world-class city with an unrivalled visitor experience that stretches from outstanding museums, galleries and attractions to an unsurpassed architectural heritage and an incredible year-round programme of major events and festivals.    

During the pandemic, Bridget has been steering the redesign of Glasgow Life and advocating for its role in the social and economic recovery of the city. She also chairs the Health and Wellbeing group of the Events Industry Advisory Group, set up by the Scottish Government to provide advice and support to national recovery planning efforts.

Bridget received a CBE in 2015 for Services to Culture; was named a fellow of The Royal Society of Edinburgh in 2017 and is a Director of Festival UK 2022 Ltd. 

Bridget said: “It has been an incredible honour to have spent almost a quarter of a century working on behalf of this fantastic and unique city. I have met so many wonderful people over the years who have been huge advocates for culture, sport, their communities and the city of Glasgow.

“I could have scarcely imagined helping bring a handwritten original manuscript of ‘Auld Lang Syne’ to the city or seeing Celtic Connections become a global brand, or winning and hosting the Commonwealth Games when I came here.

"Glasgow’s reputation has grown around the world as a city ambitious for itself and for its unrivalled culture and sport, and has so much to look forward to, including the reopening of The Burrell Collection in March this year as well as the World Cycling Championships in 2023 and the World Indoor Athletics Championships in 2024.”

Councillor David McDonald, Chair of Glasgow Life and Depute Leader of Glasgow City Council said: “Bridget McConnell has been one of Glasgow’s greatest assets for more than two decades, building new partnerships and helping to find new, imaginative ways of delivering services across the city.

“Glasgow Life has become one of Scotland’s biggest charities under her leadership; helping people in Glasgow to live happier, healthier and more fulfilled lives. On behalf of the Board of Glasgow Life, I thank Bridget for her exceptional and dedicated service for Glasgow and delaying her retirement for a year while we faced the worst days of the global pandemic. We wish her a long and happy retirement.”

For full details of Bridget's career, writing and directorships, visit https://www.linkedin.com/in/bridget-mcconnell/.