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West End Festival’s Liz Scobie on 20 years of celebrating the arts

By on May 27, 2015

In a live periscope broadcast by @westendreport yesterday, Liz Scobie, chairman of the West End Festival, explained why this annual celebration has now become “embedded in the psyche of local people”, writes Ginny Clark.

As someone who knows the West End Festival inside out – a Glasgow and RSNO Chorus member, she sang at venues in the early years of the festival – Liz has been involved almost from the start.

Sitting in Epicures, in Hyndland, Liz chatted about how this month-long celebration has now become a real focus for bringing together communities and neighbourhoods in a celebration of the arts across the west of Glasgow.

Can you tell us a little bit about the background to the festival and what it means to local people?
“This is our 20th year so I think we feel we are maturing. When we had our 18th we felt that was a coming of age but now we’re 20! It has grown from what started off as a long weekend of arts activities to the whole month of June, lots of events and activities in a very eclectic programme. Its essentially for people who live in the west end but very much also for people who want to come to the West End, not just from other parts of Glasgow and further afield in Scotland, but also people who we know choose to travel here from down south and overseas during the festival to come and celebrate with us.”

What makes the West End Festival so special?
“We’re very blessed with a fabulous location. We have some wonderful parks, I think Glasgow is renowned throughout the world as the Dear Green Place, and apparently in Glasgow we have more green space per capita than any other city in Europe, which is fabulous. Here we have two wonderful bookends in the Botanic Gardens and Kelvingrove Park, which of course now has the wonderfully restored bandstand, which is again going to be a big feature of this year’s festival. So the location is part of it, but also the friendliness, the bonhomie, of the people who live here, who want to welcome people to join in with the celebrations.”

You have been chairman for 11 years now, so have seen how the festival has grown, and like many other organisations, of course, part of that is working hard to get funding and support. On a positive note, in Hillhead, local traders have established the Byres Road BID, and the West End Festival have opened discussions with them that could lead to some interesting collaborations in the future?
“That’s right, funding not just for us but for any festival or arts organisation is a continuous challenge, particularly in the current atmosphere, fewer commercial supporters are willing to support the arts bed ch they hv. We’re very excited that the Byres Road traders has been set up, and this has now developed into the BID, the Business Improvement District, which takes in Byres Road and all the associated lanes. They have just formed so we’ve already had some meetings with them, and are certainly very encouraged by their willingness and enthusiasm about future support.”

There are going to be more than 400 events at this year’s West End Festival. The big one for many people is the parade day, on June 7, but you have another item you would also like to highlight, that you are particularly proud of in this year’s programme …
“Most people associate the big Mardi Gras parade on the Sunday down Byres Road as being the showpiece of the festival. But it’s a hugely exciting programme. But one item I particularly want to mention is on Friday, June 5th. And it’s one we are particularly proud of as it’s a world premiere, where Lousie MacDonald will be presenting a world premiere of new works by three contemporary composers, Judith Bingham, Dee Isaacs and Eddie McGuire, and they have set songs to newly discovered letters and writings from Mary Queen of Scots. It’s very exciting and after the West End Festival it’s being taken to the Oxford Lieder festival, an internationally renowned festival, so we’re absolutely delighted that the programme is starting off in the West End Festival.”

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