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Glasgow Scrapbook reveals a true image of the city

Whether what the world saw on the television from Celtic Park on Wednesday night was a good and true reflection of Glasgow will be debated long and often.

To employ a weary sporting metaphor, there is no doubt that Danny Boyle's London 2012 extravaganza raised the bar to a height that made competing a tall order, and some fine ingredients in the Commonwealth Games opening ceremony did not coalesce into anything like as compelling a narrative.

I preceded my viewing of that part of Glasgow's big day with the first concert at the renovated Kelvingrove bandstand where Belle & Sebastian were the perfect openers for the demographic of that postcode area. The somewhat over-the-top airport-style security measures to gain admittance were contradicted by the family atmosphere inside, a little like the SAS running a creche. The music of Stuart Murdoch and his cronies seems to bring out the child in everyone, and the frontman filled his stage with clapping, dancing grown-ups indistinguishable in everything but size from the toddlers running about the arena. The West End can seem a long way from the East End the Games is helping to regenerate, but it is part of Glasgow too.

Not far from where that once-definitively West End institution, the BBC, has moved to on the banks of the Clyde, the National Theatre of Scotland has created its own arena in the derelict South Rotunda for its contribution to the Glasgow 2014 Cultural Programme, The Tin Forest Festival. Built around Graham McLaren, Gavin Glover and Iain Heggie's adaptation of Helen Ward and Wayne Anderson's book - reviewed by Mary Brennan in yesterday's Herald - the venue is also hosting performances by 10 groups of young theatre makers from across the Commonwealth, working with Scottish Youth Theatre, and most of them were there when the whole season was launched with a concert and performance on Tuesday evening.

Also directed by McLaren, and "edited" by playwright Peter Arnott, A Glasgow Scrapbook was a wonderful hour that was unarguably a good and true reflection of the city. A seven-piece band onstage, directed by Michael John McCarthy from the accordian, played songs from the pens of Billy Connolly, Aidan Moffat, Hamish Henderson, Matt McGinn, Michael Marra and others, and four actors - Barbara Rafferty, Morven Christie, Gary Lewis and Paul Riley - performed speeches and texts that illustrated the social history of the city that hosts the 20th Games.

There were illuminating stories from the pages of The Herald and the Evening Times, famous addresses by figures like Upper Clyde Shipbuilders shop steward Jimmy Reid and fiesty testimonies from the women who led the Govan rent strike. Rafferty and Lewis in particular can deliver this sort of material to a band playing, which was what happened here, and the repertoire began with a Connolly song and ended with Riley narrating one of his shaggy dog stories.

The whole event might have been designed to commemorate the legacy of two men who created the most distinctive strand of 20t- century Scottish theatre, John McGrath of 7:84 and Wildcat's David MacLennan, and perhaps it was in some ways. The NTS has not been shy of using that theatrical language, particularly in two of its most exportable shows, Black Watch and The Strange Undoing Of Prudencia Hart, but this was even more clearly indebted, just as it was politically unambiguous.

Never mind the current debate on Scottish autonomy, A Glasgow Scrapbook was a joyous celebration of the proud socialist heritage of the city and brooked no argument about it. It was a narrative that would have made a fine framework for a much larger event than this and would have been recognised by everyone who knows anything about Glasgow, whether by repute or personal experience.

I was glad that the 90 young Commonwealth participants got to see it, but couldn't help wondering if the city has recently become less enthusiastic to boast about that past on a larger stage.

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