Buchanan Street – Nestling the Past and the Future
The cosmopolitan ambience long associated with Scotland’s biggest city has grown over the centuries. For me the River Clyde provides the bloodline for the city and it grew long before it was recognised as the workhorse and second city of the British Empire. The Red Clydeside with its revolutionary, ideological politics, had always striven to bring social change for the city and further afield. This, unsurprisingly, has always struck a chord with me. Glasgow has always been at the forefront of industrial, social and economical change as well as developing a centre for innovation and the creative arts. A fact recognised across the globe. These characteristics, which help to give the city its identity, alongside its multicultural inhabitants, have a strong resonance for me.
Looking south from my vantage point at the top of Buchanan Street I sense that I am encountering the modern backbone of the city. A backbone that allows Glasgow to stand tall amongst many other global shopping destinations. The Glasgow Royal Concert Hall, perched at the head of the shopping paradise, welcomes singers, songwriters & performers, from around the world, all year round and remains a critical part of the hugely successful Celtic Connections music and arts festival held at the beginning of every year. If you’ve never pressed that ‘BUY’ button to purchase a ticket for one of the festival’s events I urge you to do so next time around. I’ve never been to a show I didn’t enjoy.
Onwards, and a short stroll down the shopping thoroughfare, just beyond the south boundary of Buchanan Street on the banks of the river Clyde is a poignant reminder of the sacrifice many people made to help fight the rise of Fascism in 1930s Spain. The La Passionara, a statue created by Liverpudlian sculptor Arthur Dooley of Spanish Republican Politician. Dolores Ibarruri, stands proudly, with outstretched arms, bearing the inscription “Better to die on your feet than live for ever on your knees”. It is a fitting tribute to the thousands of volunteers from the United Kingdom who fought Fascism in Spain. The statue is one of only a few in the city dedicated to women, It’s a personal favourite of mine and yet another aspect of the city which gives me cause to pause and reflect on my own deeply held beliefs.
From the pedestrian walkway of Buchanan Street, I turn into Mitchell Lane and step into the world of one of Glasgow’s most famous sons. The works of Charles Rennie Mackintosh are recognised across the world for his innovative architectural designs and artwork. Here, The Lighthouse, Scotland’s centre for design and architecture, showcases many of his works in exhibitions and events across all six floors. The third floor of the attraction displays a number of beautifully stunning architectural designs by Mackintosh that featured as part of the Great Exhibitions held during the late 19th century. These are complimented by the furniture designs which are instantly recognisable and treasured by art lovers (and my good self alike!).
The Lighthouse has two vantage points providing breathtaking views across Glasgow. Those energetic enough can climb the spiral staircase, (and I ‘only just’ count myself amongst them!) will enjoy the open-air panorama of a city that continues to flourish. Believe me, it is worth the climb. The smoking chimneys that represented our industrial past have dwindled, replaced by cranes building multi-storey institutions. The historic and architectural beauty of the old Glasgow is met with confident, expanding designs of structures which will support trade, financial services, universities and housing for years to come. I made the trip on an overcast day but was still enthralled by the architectural masterpieces across the city.
The only way to round off an afternoon in the presence of Mackintosh is to pay a visit to the Willow Tearoom located on Buchanan Street (I think I’ve earned it), no more than 2 minutes walk from The Lighthouse. The tearoom opened out to me, a tasteful and elegant setting for a light bite to eat or a meal in the opulent surroundings of the re-creation of Kate Cranston’s tearoom of the early 1900s. Circle, square and rose designs are on show along with the iconic high back chairs to help Mackintosh lovers unwind and plan the next part of their day in our dear green place.
As a proud Glaswegian the city is more than a place where I live and work, it is the epicentre of my world, but I have missed so much of my wonderful city as I hurry from one place to the next. Whether you love music and sports or shopping and the arts; Glasgow offers everything. There is no better way to see the city in all its glory than walking through the streets and uncovering the cultural jewels around almost every corner. And always remember, LOOK UP!