EXCLUSIVE: Gibson Street Gala WILL NOT happen this year as council charges soar

By Tony Inglis at

The West End’s Gibson Street Gala will not go ahead this year after organisers said they were hit by restrictive costs just to stage the event.

The popular annual spectacle will take a break in 2017 after the event’s manager, Catherine Hardy, was told by the city council it would take as much as £4,000 to gain the public entertainment licence and road closures required to allow the gala to take place safely.

Ms Hardy, who helps manage the event while running the street’s popular bar and eatery The Left Bank, said: “The implementation of the licence increased the workload needed to put on the gala exponentially.

Popular: The weekend carnival draws several thousand people every year. Photo credit: Sam Boyd.

“It is a grassroots operation. All our funding comes from local businesses and we rely on volunteers who are able to devote time and knowledge to spread the workload.

“The council was always non-committal about how much we would have to pay and, with our budget, there was no guarantee we could pay the high costs, making the event untenable.”

The Gibson Street Gala, which would have been in its 13th year, offered free live music, arts and entertainment to West End residents of all ages.

The bureaucratic barriers put in front of the festival have caused disillusionment amongst its organisers who have dedicated their own time and money to making the packed programme a success.

Entertainment: The Gala includes street bands and live music. Photo credit: Sam Boyd.

Ms Hardy said: “Often the council wouldn’t make it clear how much we would have to pay until months after and wouldn’t confirm if we had been granted the licence until the day.

“I have been doing it for years and the process has gotten clearer, but it made it stressful and eventually it became thankless.”

Local people and businesses have reacted with sadness that such an integral part of the West End summer will be absent this year.

Martha Wardrop, Green party councilor for the Hillhead area, said: “The Gibson Street Gala has been a highlight in Glasgow’s events calendar over the last decade. 

Poster: This is how last year’s event was publicised. Image courtesy of Gibson Street Gala.

“A huge amount of dedication and voluntary effort has been made by residents, local groups and businesses to support the gala every year. It is disappointing to learn that it will not go ahead this June.

“I understand that the organisers are concerned about the demands placed upon them in terms of meeting the costs of a road closure for the Gala.

“I would hope that a solution can be found to reduce the costs of putting on this event so it can go ahead next year.”

Carol Wright, the proprietor of Gibson Street cafe and bar Stravaigin, said: “We are disappointed that such a community spirited event is not being held this year primarily due to lack of funding.”

Ms Hardy also expressed her frustration at the health and safety restrictions placed on the gala, from charging high amounts for public toilet facilities to be put in place in the form of Portaloos, to requests by the council that a wind meter be installed.

Community: The Gala brings together local businesses, residents and organisations.

She said: “While the health and safety of our attendees is of the utmost importance, all of these pressures seem so unreasonable.”

While Glasgow City Council refused to comment on the specifics of the Gala’s case, a spokeswoman insisted that the circumstances were the same for all event coordinators.

She said: “We charge all event organisers the cost associated with closures.

“They are also required to provide traffic management when necessary. This will vary depending on the event and the extent of closures required, however there is a charge for the Traffic Regulation Order advertisement which is legally required to close a road.”

Ms Hardy hopes that a year off will highlight the factors that are making it difficult for her and her fellow organisers from doing the best job they can to deliver the event.

She said: “It is so community-minded – by the people, for the people. It’s a day when every one can come by and enjoy themselves, and people want that to continue.

“We are hoping to get a response from the public and, hopefully, they’ll feel strongly enough that they’ll miss it.”

* Tony Inglis is a freelance writer based in the West End of Glasgow. You can read more of Tony’s work here. Title image: photo credit Sam Boyd.