A woman hold her hands up in the air to make the shape of a heart. She is in the midst of a crowd at a concert.
Credit: Anthony Delanoix

Glasgow’s social gig for young people

By Olivia Marrins

How to find a friend in the UK city of culture’s music spaces.

Young people make Glasgow. The significance of Glasgow’s history in the music scene is one of world-class recognition. There are no limitations to the richness of Glasgow’s cultural scope, whether that be an intimate gig at the back of a West End pub, or thousands of students screaming along to a chart favourite at the O2 Academy. The history of each concert hall or hidden theatre is lined with tales from those who used to frequent them, and is now an area waiting to be delved into by the younger crowds of today. 

There is not one Glaswegian, or even Scotsman, who has not heard of the Barrowlands or the Barras. A frontrunner in architecture and world-famous design; Glasgow’s performing spaces carved a unique environment for culture, diversity, and tradition to be celebrated. Dodgy haircuts, shoulder pads stitched into blazers, and experimental make-up looks have all waltzed under the bright bulb lights of the Barrowland Ballroom. The stage has been filled with couples lost in the lust of a jazz dance, 90s rock leaders and traditional fiddle bands; the venue is truly one of Glasgow’s most diverse. Glasgow was not always so revolutionary in its arts scene, but the controversial shift from industrialism to creativity allows the grit of Glasgow to still be relevant in its spaces. It is the music scene specifically which allows the city’s individuality to thrive.

Arguably, Glasgow stands as the country’s culture capital, hosting highly regarded arts and culture events each year, such as the Glasgow Film Festival, or summer sessions at the Kelvingrove bandstand. The arts scene of Glasgow is a whole subway line in itself, and it even holds the title of UNESCO city of music. Dating back to the 17th century, the Merchant City is derived from a circus of food markets, and was launched as a hub for the city’s most popular spaces. Take the street of Trongate: the Britannia Panopticon Music Hall is the world’s oldest still-standing music hall, while the bespoke cafes on each diagonal street open doors to Glasgow’s range of sub-cities. The music scene in Glasgow interplays with generations, with new and old movements merging to signify the comfortability and familiarity one can find in music venues. 

Gig venues are not just a capacity for those to enjoy art or music; they are an open invite to express individuality and meet new people, something that can be difficult to navigate as a fresher, or as online learning persists. Conceiving culture in a new social space when a student in a new city can leave many lost in their identity or following the crowd. Student life is the time many come to terms with their own tastes; Glasgow’s spaces will be those formative experiences for so many young people. 

The best movements happen unexpectedly. Student events can be one way to get involved, but while many are lucky in finding a set of like-minded people to attend a Firewater Thursday with, some are forced into the realm of standardised student nights out, bingeing lukewarm cans of tennants around a tedious ring of fire before hitting the Sauchiehall strip. Alternatively, you can find legal graffiti walls and car park-esque dancefloors in the West End’s SWG3. One of Glasgow’s biggest and most sustainable venues in decades; students can jump between clubs, art spaces and gigs in this one warehouse building. Situated only minutes away from Cairncross House and Kelvinhaugh Gate, this month would be the perfect time to wander out of student halls to this intersection of work and play, offering creative programmes and fairs for art lovers, or sought-after warehouse gigs under every genre. 

Finding the right crowd at uni so often depends on going to the right places. Arts spaces have been at one with students for years, particularly in Glasgow. Take Orange Juice: Edwyn Collins met the rest of the band whilst studying at Glasgow School of Art, leading to headline tours and top debut albums. Though the goal of studying is not always music fame, it is proof that Glasgow is home to a pool of talent which converges so well in these venues. See the hidden nook of Stereo, one of the city centre’s more recent café-gig establishments, which offers intimate music nights with independent artists and old favourites, as well as club nights by SubCity Radio. Venues like these explicitly support students, opening the underground music world up to young people directly.

Culture is one of life’s gateways into understanding identity. As a young person or student, the spaces which we delve into give us the skills to navigate life. Glasgow possesses no limitations in the diversity of events it hosts, and its strive for distinct recognition in the arts world is a vulnerability students should involve themselves with. The possibilities are endless.


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