With over half a million people enjoying gigs in its iconic venues every year, Glasgow is internationally recognised as Scotland’s music capital.

It was also the first city in the UK, and only the third in the world, to be named UNESCO City of Music in 2008. 

Now, with the city working towards a target of achieving carbon neutrality by 2030, researchers and students at the University of Glasgow have created a map overlaying the city’s music venues with its public and sustainable transport infrastructure, in the hope it will encourage audiences to cycle to their next concert.

One of the researchers, Dr Matt Brennan, Professor of Popular Music at the university, hopes the ‘Glasgow Music City’ map will inform conversations with venues and policymakers about how the city’s cultural life can align with sustainable transport planning as the city works towards net zero.

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The map, which was created in collaboration with Creative Carbon Scotland and Glasgow City Council, contains information on over 220 spaces in Glasgow that host live music, layered with sustainable transport infrastructure such as cycle hire stations, parking racks and the city's recommended cycle paths. 

It forms part of an ongoing project Prof Brennan is working on called 'Imagining a just and green future for music cities: the case of Glasgow as a UNESCO City of Music', which is being done in partnership with Creative Carbon Scotland and is being funded by the Royal Society of Edinburgh and The Natural Environment Research Council. 

Prof Brennan told The Herald: “I work in the music department at Glasgow University. As such I've got a real interest in Glasgow’s status as a music city. I’m from Canada and I originally moved to Glasgow because of its music scene essentially. I was drawn to the city because it had this very vibrant music scene. 

“I’ve always been interested in trying to do a research project on Glasgow’s musical heritage but also current challenges that the city might be facing from a music perspective, and also from a climate perspective, as one of the other things I research is environmental sustainability.

The Herald: Dr Matt BrennanDr Matt Brennan (Image: Uni of Glasgow)

“The rationale for the map is that, since 2008, Glasgow has, deservedly, held this UNESCO City of Music title, but I think with all the challenges that local authorities have faced in the last 10 years - austerity and the pandemic, it’s been a rough ride. That’s quite an aspirational identity. And then in 2021, Glasgow also hosted COP26 of course and as a consequence of that, created this thing called the Glasgow Green Deal and an ambition to become a Net Zero city by 2030. I think, by the council’s own admission, that is also an aspirational identity. 

“There are a lot of issues facing the live music sector at the moment as we recover from the pandemic also achieving net zero is something that many cities around the world are trying and struggling to achieve. This project is really about putting those two identities of the city into eye lock with one another, because that’s something that I haven’t seen done very much.”

Despite admitting he is a “recent convert” to the bike, Prof Brennan believes that, as well as the city’s cycling infrastructure, attitudes towards cycling in the city have also changes significantly. 

Prof Brennan said: “I’ve lived in Glasgow since 2006 and I didn’t own a bike until 2021. I don’t own a car either. My wife and I both got bicycles to try and expand where we could go under lockdown. 

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“I’m not a very confident cyclist and when asking pals if it was worth getting a bike in Glasgow. 10 years ago people were saying that it was quite difficult. But a lot has changed in those 10 years. 

“There’s lots of great cycling paths that have been created recently that puts you sort of out of the line of road traffic and it’s becoming an easier city to cycle in and increasingly easy with each passing year.”

Prof Brennan said the map “would not have been possible” without the contribution of his students, who, in being in their early 20s, “love music and are also very concerned about climate change”. 

The Herald: The music and cycling mapThe music and cycling map (Image: Uni of Glasgow)

He hopes the students will be able to add to the map to allow people to further explore Glasgow’s rich musical heritage and view the city’s music sector from a range of perspectives. 

He said: “The map is something we are hoping to build. At the moment we have this music and cycling focus but in the Autumn we are hopefully going to get students to flesh out the historical aspect of it. I’ve got a student starting in October who is working on disability access to music venues and she’ll be contributing to the map. 

“Hopefully this will be a resource that kind of grows over time. Cycling is a kind of initial focus at the moment but we hope to have a really rich and layered map that kind of shows how you can think through all kinds of social issues through music. That’s the longer term goal I guess.”

To view the map, click here