Ah, free holiday. Well, in a sense: I do have to do a few interviews, have my evenings dictated to me (though that’s not so bad when that means going to gigs) and have to write a whole loads of articles about it when I get back, but that could hardly be called a chore. State set up the Glasgow trip through Visit Scotland, who’ve put me up in the Radisson Blu and generally treated me like a full on, serious professional journalist. Which is how I try to see myself, but let’s be honest, I’m hardly all over the national papers, and it’s been a really special experience.
I’m here in large part because of the Celtic Connections Music Festival, which is a yearly event and, apparently, the largest winter music festival in the world, though considering that it’s more of a combination of gigs than a real festival, that’s a bit of an odd claim. Glasgow was made a UNESCO City Of Music last year, and does seem to have a great scene, and my role in it is to spread a bit of word over in Dublin, through a selection of live reviews and an article or two on the city itself. I can only assume that Visit Scotland value my writing far higher than any editor I’ve ever met, considering the cost of the hotel, plane tickets and concert tickets clock in at very nearly £1000. So thanks, guys!
I’ve been really pleasantly surprised by Glasgow. For a city that’s biggest cultural legacy is arguably the Glasgow Kiss (and is largely seen as Edinburgh’s poorer cousin), it really is quite beautiful, especially in the centre. The first night I just went for a quick walk around the city, walked down the main street and then headed to a contemporary jazz gig at King Tut’s. The place is tiny, I always expected King Tut’s to be huge, considering it’s national level reputation, but it’s a room that would probably struggle to fit a thousand and it’s just upstairs from a nice little pub. It was a decent gig (especially Llandra Chapman, who I’d never heard of, but was very impressive), but nothing spectacular, particularly the Dutch headliner Hamel, who was frankly dreadful.
It’s hard to be negative about anything, though, when you’re coming back to a £210 a night hotel room with plenty of Sky channels (mmm, football), its own high-end coffee machine and dinner and breakfast included. Awesome. I actually feel ridiculously spoiled, the Radisson is the kind of place I just wouldn’t contemplate paying out for myself (way out of my budget), and it’s right in the centre of town.
As for the ‘bad side’ of Glasgow? I haven’t seen anything that’s convinced me it’s a big thing, though the suburbs coming on from the airport did look fairly rammed with dodgy looking skyscraper apartments. At first glance, though, it seems an affordable and friendly city well worth spending time in. I have two more days to find out, one in the city, and one taking a tour out to Stirling Castle, Loch Lomond and a Whisky Distillery for the day, as well as two more gigs to review.
Let’s hope there are plenty more press trips to come!