A visit to SECC in Glasgow to attend the 2014 Commonwealth Games business briefing gave an opportunity to do the 25 minute walk from Central Station along the river Clyde to the venue. Something I had never done before despite, in 2009, working as part of a team reviewing Clyde tourism for Scottish Enterprise. This was Glasgow’s tourism pillar that was yet to perform, despite flagship developments along the riverside. SECC, Science Museum, Pacific Quay, and the new Riverside Museum are all impressive offers of national and international significance. There was also a strategic partnership, Clyde Waterfront, and a major annual festival.
The issue was, in essence, connecting it all up in a navigable package, and connecting that to the city centre. This is relatively straightforward on paper with a great cluster of activities and attractions on a map where train, bus, cycle and pedestrian linkages look fine. Investment in river transport infrastructure also looked promising. The reality is more challenging. This is a large river and the wind whistles down it. The potential to populate a riverside walk with pleasant stopping off points and eateries is very limited given the likely footfall and the mostly narrow strip of public walkway. Comparisons with London’s South Bank, where determined political and business leadership have seen the pedestrian walk opened up, closely followed by a blossoming of activity and commerce, are not really that useful. There is now an initiative called Creative Clyde (www.creativeclyde.com) that is working to animate the creative economy and a new Pacific Quay masterplan.
Where comparisons with London’s South Bank may bear fruit is in the relationship to local communities. The role of Coin Street Community Builders was at the heart of the South Bank developments, and social housing, community events, and small local businesses established an impermeable footprint on the riverside. While animating the bleaker ‘in between’ bits of the river in Glasgow may seem daunting, just offering local communities and creatives opportunities to populate the area is a good starting point.