WELL, did you evah?
Supremely gifted songwriter that he was, even Cole Porter would have struggled to sum up the party that was the Glasgow Summer Sessions concerts in Bellahouston Park. Somehow, swellegant and elegant do not quite do justice to the dozens of arrests, the shifting continents of litter, and the generalised mayhem, including concertgoers mistaking residents' gardens for toilets.
But perhaps we should not do a mass Meldrew here. Maybe we should follow the example of the Prime Minister and chillax. There were, after all, tens of thousands at the gigs and the promoters, DF Concerts, said the number of arrests was about par for such large-scale events. As for the general wild behaviour, that, too, is only to be expected when rappers such as Eminem combine with strong drink and youthful high spirits. Glasgow is a vibrant city, opening its doors to the world next year for the Commonwealth Games. It knows how to put on a party. The police, too, have extensive experience in bringing order to what would otherwise be disorder.
Yet not for the first time, the good time had by a minority meant a hellish time for the majority. To borrow a phrase from that temporary Glasgow resident Eminem, will anyone with a backbone on the city council or Police Scotland please stand up and admit they called this one wrong?
Residents near the park had a grotty time of it. Some are still cleaning up their gardens. Besides the litter there was the noise pollution. One householder said he had lived in the area all his life and knew of hundreds of concerts that had taken place in the park, but he had never heard the likes of this. Another Glaswegian, miles away in the west end, said the bass notes were so deep he could almost feel them in his bones.
Nor did the fun stop there. Over at a city hotel, a Mr Bam Margera, who makes his living appearing in a reality show, was being rather too real for the receptionist who had to deal with him on Tuesday night. On being told there was no booking in his name, he swore at her and lay down in reception. The police were called. After a night in a cell he was fined £500 at Glasgow Sheriff Court. Reports of his appearance mentioned no word of apology to the poor receptionist. While her precise income is not known, I'll bet the farm she earns a fraction of the cash that comes the way of the doltish Margera. Bam by name, bam by nature.
Doubtless, the council and Police Scotland will have joined residents in waving a mighty cheerio to the departing circus. Why it was welcomed in the first place to that location is the real puzzle. Pressed on the complaints received, spokesmen and women for this and that agency lined up to stress that meetings had been held before and during the event, residents consulted, extra toilets installed, and so on. But throughout it all there was the assumption that the event would go ahead. No-one, bar the residents, wanted to say no. This is Glasgow, after all, the city that likes to party hearty.
Certain cities in the UK appear to be engaged in a party equivalent of the arms race. Come one, come all to Glasgow, Liverpool and Newcastle. Roll up, roll up for your stag dos, hen parties, football derbies, and concerts. Give us your tired and emotional masses yearning to drink all day and throw up on the pavement. The usual reason for laying out the welcome mat if not the sick bucket is that such visitors are good for business. Before the Bellahouston concerts, Gordon Matheson, leader of Glasgow City Council, was looking forward to "a significant economic boost to the city". Perhaps he would now like to give a profit and loss account, bearing in mind the cost of the police time and the bill for the clear up. One assumes these bills will fall on the taxpayer rather than the talent who appeared at the concerts.
Throwing open the doors for people to throw up in other's gardens used to be the preserve of cash-desperate cities in post-Soviet states. Now the likes of Riga and Tallinn are trying to shut them again and attract a better quality of visitor. It pays cities to host events, but in some cases the price, as with the Summer Sessions concerts, is too high.
From its City ofCulture days, Glasgow has worked hard at being a place capable of hosting world-class events. While Edinburgh had its festivals, Glasgow went out to grab everything else. This is a city that has shown it is up for a good time. Yet in too many instances a good time is not being had by all. In its desperation to seem hip and happening and hustling, the city has a tendency to forget that its first duty is to the people who live there.
The police and council can only take the rap for so much, though. Cities are as much about flesh and bone as bricks and fancy paving, and even the proudest of Glaswegians would have to admit that the city does not have to look far to find its own worst enemies. In successful, high-functioning cities such as New York and Sydney, residents find a way to share the space in which they live, to rub along, giving and taking. Here, parts of the city give more often than they take. On any match day, for example, mass invasions of the east end and the south side take place. Cars jam the streets, litter piles up, and too bad if you want to walk along a pavement in the opposite direction to the sea of bodies heading towards the ground. It would never happen in the west end, but it does in the east and south.
In the city centre on a weekend, the party animals have been allowed to turn the place into a jungle, all to boost the profits of bars and clubs. Housing and retail were mixed in the likes of the Merchant City so that one would complement the other. Yet it is not uncommon to find residents who admit to evacuating the place every weekend to stay with friends, so sick are they of near riots in the wee small hours and doorsteps full of detritus. And it is a brave soul who walks Sauchiehall Street alone when it is closing time. Despite the talk of crackdowns over the years, and more visible policing, the streets have not been reclaimed but surrendered further.
Glasgow needs to decide whether it wants to be a world-class city worthy of the tag, or whether we are simply playing at it for a quick buck here and there, as at Bellahouston. Next year there will be not one but two landmark events, the referendum and the Commonwealth Games. The latter belongs to Glasgow. Is the city ready to make everyone feel they belong?
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