August is going to be a busy month because it marks the 70th anniversary of Indian and Pakistan independence. Big plans are already afoot in both communities in Glasgow. Of course this is not just to mark Independence Day on August 14 1947 but to put together a number of festivals and exhibitions of arts and culture to showcase the best of both countries and what their people mean to Mother Glasgow as part of our city family.
The two major weekends are on August 14 and August 26 in the Royal Concert Hall. Media East are organising the Pakistan events. The August 14 event will be a big day in the Concert Hall with a huge music and dance programme and artists from Pakistan coming to Glasgow.
The Association of Indian Organisations (AIO) will be hands on for the Indian celebrations on August 26 and 27 again in the Royal Concert Hall. These will also feature music and dance and famous artists from India have already been invited.
In addition to the major shows at the Concert Hall, exhibitions and street festivals are planned for local areas. The City Council will be an enthusiastic partner for the extravaganza. Right now we are planning a photographic exhibition of the events of 1947 combined with modern day reflections. That is a work in progress at the moment. The plan is to stage it at the City Chambers.
In the late 1950s and 1960s men from the Subcontinent were the first to put roots down here working as bus drivers and, in those days, conductors. From those early days the Asian community in Glasgow has become more than 30,000 strong and makes a major contribution to every aspect of life in Glasgow - including the Chamber of the City Council. So we look forward to August in great anticipation. Long live India and Pakistan or as put it in Punjabi “Pakistan and India Zindabad!”
In 1888 a Frenchman, Louis Leprince made the world’s first known motion picture. Arthur Conan Doyle published his first Sherlock Holmes book and Germany had three Kaisers in one year. Wilhelm the First was succeeded by Frederick the Second, who in turn was followed by Wilhelm the Second. 1888 was also the year that the building of our own City Chambers was completed.
I suppose if you work in the Chambers for years, as I have done, it’s easy to become complacent about its awesome grandeur. Hundreds of Glaswegians must rush past it every day and make a mental note to go on one of the daily tours but never quite get that organised. I surprised the visitors taking the tour of the Chambers last Thursday and did the initial introductions.
It took five years to build the Chambers. It cost almost £600,000 in old money. That’s £40m in today’s money. And worth every penny if you ask me. Let’s do some more numbers. The building used five hundred cubic metres of granite, 10,000 cubic metres of stone and 10 million bricks. The Chambers was a statement of the power of Glasgow – then the second city in the British Empire after London. In my view it is the best in Britain.
I know these words well because I made a YouTube video of the tour the other day. If you don’t have the time to get to the official tour you can find out more about my passion for the Chambers on https://youtu.be/AP6-BZmyHf4. Here’s the banqueting hall in all its glory…
For the last couple of months I have been touring our schools to speak to young people about their City Council and how the decisions taken in the City Chambers can affect their life. The response has been nothing short of fantastic. Full classrooms and assembly halls of pupils who held me to account with a rigour that our city can be proud of.
Almost every pressing issue in Scottish life was covered with an enthusiasm and knowledge that was striking. I am Glasgow born and bred and have lived in our city my entire life. I must say these visits to Glasgow schools gave me such great hope for the city. Our future is in good hands.