IT WAS a cold winter’s day with ice on the ground but people still flocked to the People’s Palace for the opening of Alasdair Gray’s exhibition The Continuous Glasgow Show.

His collection of around 30 paintings capturing people from all walks of life and places in the city opened on January 22, 1978 and it was also the first time the Winter Gardens was open to the public since closure for demolition 12 years earlier.

This Saturday campaigners fighting for the future of the Glasgow museum and Winter Gardens, which are currently closed, will pay tribute to the late artist and author on what is the 124th birthday of the People’s Palace.

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Friends of People’s Palace, Winter Gardens and Glasgow Green will hold an outdoor party to celebrate the anniversary of its opening “for ever and ever” by Lord Rosebery in 1898.

The People's Palace, operated by Glasgow Life which runs the city's culture and leisure services, reopened following Covid restrictions last June but closed its doors again in October for essential building work to be carried out, however the Winter Gardens remained closed.


The Peoples Palace, at Glasgow Green, is currently closed. Photograph by Colin Mearns.

The People's Palace, at Glasgow Green, is currently closed. Photograph by Colin Mearns.


The glasshouse and adjoining People’s Palace were closed in January 2019. The People’s Palace reopened later that year after a £350,000 refurbishment, but the Winter Gardens remained closed after the sealant used to secure the glass panelling was deemed to have “reached the end of its life”.

Lanark author Gray, who died two years ago at the age of 85, was a great supporter of the People’s Palace and campaigners announced the first ‘Gray Day’ in his honour will be held this weekend.

Former curator of the People’s Palace and member of the friends group, Dr Elspeth King remembers the opening of Gray’s exhibition which was hailed as a triumph for the venue.

“It was such a cold day and people were sliding about on the ice, and I wondered if people would come. They came in their droves,” said Dr King.

“I had been told the Winter Gardens would be written off even then, but the exhibition was the event that saw the doors open again after plans for demolition. It brought people in and was the beginning of Gray’s long association with us.

“From the likes of trade unionist Jimmy Reid to the then recently elected SNP MP Margo McDonald to former Glasgow Lord Provost Peter McCann and buildings such as the former Great Western Hotel, Gray captured life in Glasgow at the time. It was an amazing collection of paintings and it would be something to see them all on display there once again.”

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Gray had strong links with the venue and designed the logo for the Friends of the People’s Palace in 1977 and again for its reincarnation in 2018. He twice refused the Freedom of the City on the grounds that he disagreed with the way the city had neglected the People’s Palace.


Artist Alasdair Gray, pictured at work on his mural Peace and War, had a long-standing connection with the Peoples Palace. Photograph by Colin Mearns.

Artist Alasdair Gray, pictured at work on his mural Peace and War, had a long-standing connection with the People's Palace. Photograph by Colin Mearns.


Last year campaigners had a musical celebration in the sunshine. In 2020, they celebrated inside the museum with songs and a birthday cake. In 2019, the celebration was in West on the Green.

A spokesman for the friends group said: “This year we will tie a giant yellow protest ribbon round the building. It hugs our neglected social history collection and utterly destroyed Winter Gardens. The ribbon represents drawings that shows our anger against Glasgow Life and Glasgow City Council. It affirms that the building and its collections belongs to the people of Glasgow and that those in power must take bold action to restore it to us. It is not for sale, not for reimagining and not for repurposing. The yellow protest ribbon represents our immediate demands that they open the doors for full access now. We will not give up and we want to see it reopened for its 125th birthday."

Campaigners would also like people to bring along a birthday card with a message to Glasgow Life and the city council which they will send on to them on your behalf.

A spokesman added: “We are determined to see the building repaired, renewed and restored so future generations can both enjoy it and immerse themselves in the history and culture of Glasgow as well as basking in the healing warmth of the Winter Gardens”.

The Herald is currently leading a campaign, A Fair Deal for Glasgow, calling for more funding for the city's culture and leisure venues and its collections.


An image emerged last year of the inside of the Winter Gardens

An image emerged last year of the inside of the Winter Gardens


Glasgow Life lost £38m in income last year due to the pandemic and predicted income for 2021/22 is around £6.4m, and while Glasgow City Council has reached an agreement for it to receive a guaranteed £100m a year for the next three or four years, Glasgow Life opened just over 90 of its 171 venues. Without further funds, it cannot open any further sites.

A spokesperson for Glasgow Life, said: “Remedial works are ongoing at present to repair a section of damaged plasterwork on the top floor of the building. In the meantime, Glasgow Life is undertaking a regular programme of building and collections checks to ensure the People’s Palace and its displays are safely and securely maintained. We remain committed to reopening this invaluable heritage asset and to preserving it for future generations. We will update visitors regarding any proposed reopening date through our website and social media channels as soon as we’re able to do so.”