This week, Glasgow welcomes the world, Festival 2014 goes off the roof and getting into the rhythm of the Gymnastics at the Hydro.
It took me around three months to plan my last Burns supper and, as hoped, it was a pretty good night. This week, a party kicked off that's been seven years in the making. Seven years! And my goodness it's going to be one mighty shindig. On Wednesday, Glasgow said hello to the Commonwealth Games and around a million visitors who have come to join in with the fun… and the Games!
So, we've welcomed a lot of people into our home this week, including the Queen (thank goodness we got out the good crockery) but many more are watching worldwide. The opening ceremony on Wednesday drew a global audience of around 1.5 billion. It was a Scottish extravaganza of tartan, tea cakes, red-heads and ginger. There were also performances from homegrown (and adopted) kin, John Barrowman, Rod Stewart, Susan Boyle, Amy MacDonald, and Nicola Bernadetti.
So, did the opening ceremony have Glasgow written all over it? Well, aye and naw. The start was a little bit 'shortbread-tin' (for me) and, despite liking a bit of cheese, I think we could have been cheekier than that. It got better, though, and the production values were top notch: Europe's biggest plasma screen, lights, fireworks and fly-bys from the Red Arrows. Appropriately, given the city's slogan 'People Make Glasgow', it was the crowd and the hundreds of local performers who made it, dancing their wee hearts out for the entire show.
Other highlights, for me, were Des Clarke's warm up banter, Team Scotland's entrance, the crowd all jointly donating to UNICEF and holding up their mobiles to prove it and finally, the Commonwealth Games President, Prince Imran, struggling to open the Queen's Baton and Sir Chris Hoy saving the day. Not only is he our most successful Olympian, he's clearly handy to have around when you need to open a jar! Yes, Glasgow, the Games are here: Bring it on!
As well as all the sweaty, back-breaking, heart-breaking sport we're going to see over the next two weeks, Glasgow is also playing host to Festival 2014: a programme of cultural events across the city. One of the shows I was particularly excited about was Perch Carnival, a performance that promised to be off the roof! Quite literally.
A few weeks ago, I went along to meet and rehearse with the cast for the BBC 1 show I've been working on, 'On the Road 2014'. They even had me trying out a few of the dance moves. But Perch isn't just any old dance performance. On the night, a live link up with the same show being performed in Brazil (the wonder of modern technology) was beamed across the buildings of Rottenrow Gardens and, what's more, the performers leaped, hopped and jumped from the top of those very same buildings, in death-defying acrobatics.
It was an unusual theatre show: it was outside, there were no seats and the performers interacted with the audience like street performers. Thankfully, though, none of the masses were required to jump off the buildings. Also setting the Perch Carnival apart was that it included a community cast made up of folk from the city of Glasgow, as well as being accompanied by a specially written score performed live by the National Youth Orchestra of Scotland. With so much going on, it was a bit crazy at times, but there's no doubt that it captured both the energy of the Games and the heart of Glasgow.
As well as my radio show on Commonwealth Voices, I'm also hosting the gymnastics at the Hydro. I might be a little biased (ok, maybe a lot, gymnastics was my sport when I was wee) but I think it's going to be one of the must-see sports of the competition. The Hydro is looking incredible, it's been transformed from a gig space to a brilliant sporting arena, and it's truly a venue of which Glasgow can be proud.
There are two gymnastics disciplines in the Games, rhythmic and artistic, and the gym show kicked off yesterday with the individual qualifications for rhythmic. For many, rhythmic is the lesser cousin of the main event, it's image less popular, perhaps, because it's props (ribbons, hoops, balls and clubs) make folk think of it as less serious. With all gymnastics, however, there is an element of fun and entertainment; I think it's one of the things that makes it so watchable. The athletes ability to mix elegance, performance and strength - particularly in rhythmic gymnastics - is almost unparalleled.
And proving just how popular a wee bit of fun can be, the crowd went wild last night as one of the Scottish gymnasts - Lauren Brash - performed her routine to Donald, Where's Yer Troosers'. Per-fect for a performance in a leotard! Wee Bird Recommends
Wee Bird Recommends
News in this week: Glaswegians like a stronger cup of coffee than many of our pals in Europe. Aye well, we are made of sturdy stuff! So, Wee Bird would like to give a wee recommendation to Glas-gow's very own coffee roastery Dear Green Coffee. Brewed in a wee coffee den beside The Briggait, you'd be a mug not to give it a go!