Students fight for bandstand

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Ross Mathers

Students from the University of Glasgow are uniting with local people in the West End in a campaign to have Kelvingrove Park’s bandstand restored to its former glory.

The restoration of the bandstand and surrounding amphitheatre has been the subject of a sustained campaign in recent years and is now joined by a new group, set up by Glasgow University students in May, called the Amphitheatre Restoration Committee (ARC).

The bandstand was built in 1924 and was a popular outdoor venue for musical and theatrical productions until it gradually fell into disuse in recent years.

Philippa Mannion, a founding member of ARC and a Theatre Studies student at Glasgow University, explained how the restoration of the bandstand would benefit the West End.

“ARC is hoping to raise awareness of the issue and enable people to realise the bandstand’s potential as an arts and science venue.

“The amphitheatre can be used all year round by keen thespians, musicians and visual artists in the summer months and by groups of scientists for observations and astronomy lectures in the winter.

“The space has been ignored for too long and with bands, theatre companies and festivals clamouring to use the bandstand, there could be no better time to prioritise the restoration of this brilliant venue which once brought so much to the people of Glasgow.”

However, recent years have seen Glasgow City Council failing to take decisive action on the fate of the neglected site.

The Council have carried out a feasibility study in which they stated: “A large number of cultural organisations have been involved in the consultation related to the operational aspects of the bandstand, and the outcomes have been extremely positive.

“There appears to be a robust business case demonstrating financial stability for the bandstand operation, post-renovation.”

Despite this, a council spokesman, Paul Kane, said: “While it is true that the Council and a number of the organisations involved have discussed the future use of the bandstand, no decision is imminent.”

He added: “This is a complex issue with several other proposals failing to come to pass for a variety of reasons, but the Council is aware of the importance of the bandstand.”

Friends of Kelvingrove Park have been leading the campaign in recent years.

Secretary of the group, Ed Gillett, explained why the process is taking so long.

He said: “There were so many years spent trying to persuade the Council it was a good idea. They’re talking to us now because of the 2014 Commonwealth Games, and the bandstand is next to one of the Games venues.”

Philippa Mannion has called for Glasgow students to assist ARC by joining them on Facebook, where they already have 374 members, and in writing to local councillors in a bid to garner much-needed support.

Pauline McNeill, Labour MSP for Glasgow Kelvin, has openly backed the campaign, having worked with Friends of Kelvingrove Park in previous years.

She told Guardian that the venue should be multi-functional to justify restoration.

She said: “Restoring amphitheatres will not be a priority for any council in this climate. You have to make it a more modern facility and maximise what you can do with it.”