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Last Updated: Wednesday, 4 June, 2003, 10:39 GMT 11:39 UK
Boosts continue from culture win
As Liverpool wins out over five other UK cities for the title of European Capital of Culture 2008, the last British winner Glasgow tells of the fruits of its success.
Glasgow came out top in the survey

It is 13 years since Glasgow was named European City of Culture. But the repercussions of this win are still being felt, according to city leaders.

The title may have changed to European Capital of Culture, but the promise of a boost to tourism and economic regeneration remains the same.

Many of the UK cities who bid for the prestigious title visited the Scottish city to pick up tips.

Instead of a ghastly city, people saw they were coming to a vibrant cultural city
Glasgow City Council spokesman

City councillor Liz Cameron said: "When I was a young girl in the 1970s if you came to Glasgow as a tourist you were probably on your way to somewhere else."

Better known for its industrial past as a shipbuilding centre, Glasgow had an image problem to overcome.

But now Glasgow is the third most popular tourist destination in the UK for overseas visitors behind London and Edinburgh, according to tourist board figures.


There were undoubtedly a few raised eyebrows among Glasgow residents when the city was named in the same breath as Athens, Lisbon and Paris, said Ms Cameron, the council's convenor of cultural and leisure services.

"The culture has always been there in Glasgow but it was as an industrial city that we were known."

But the surprise win helped restore the city's confidence.

"When you lose your industry you lose your self-esteem. Glasgow had lost her self-esteem," she said.

The 1990 success marked the next stage of the city's transformation. Work was already under way to improve the city. Victorian buildings, previously hidden under grime, were being cleaned up to reveal architectural gems.

But the title from the European Commission provided a further catalyst for regeneration. New infrastructure was created - for example in the shape of a concert hall.

Ms Cameron said the win gave the city a new profile. Attention was paid to Glasgow's many museums, art galleries and three universities.

A Glasgow City Council spokesman agreed the title had helped alter public perceptions.

"Instead of people thinking they were coming to a ghastly grimy city they could see that they were coming to a vibrant attractive cultural city," he said.

And this regeneration has continued, for example with a 500m investment in new riverside offices and housing on the River Clyde.

Conference success

The successful rebirth of the city appears to be reflected in its tourism statistics.

The industry now employs more people in Glasgow than shipbuilding did at its height - about 53,000 compared with no more than 38,000.

When Glasgow put in its bid in 1983 visitors numbered tens of thousands. It now attracts four million tourists a year. It also boasts it is Europe's fastest-growing conference destination.

In the past four years the tourist board has increased annual conventions sales by more than 200%, from 15.3m in 1997/98 to 51.1m in 2001/02.

But for Ms Cameron, a city choir set up in 1990 demonstrates the success of the title win better than any statistics.

All these years on, the choir Call that Singing is still going strong and performs public concerts in the city three times a year.

While she is only too ready to admit Glasgow continues to have its share of deprivation, she believes the experience of winning such a prestigious title has proved a positive one.

"We are still reaping the benefits," she said.



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