Splashes of colours in the city: exploring Glasgow’s murals

For the last six months, since the very beginning of 2021, we enjoyed exploring various murals around Glasgow on our social media, using the hashtag #glasgowmuraloftheweek.

This successful social media series proved to be a great way to appreciate and enjoy the historic built environment through an unusual and very colourful lens, particularly during months of restrictions that saw museums and galleries shut to the public.

Almost all the murals featured on GCHT social media were funded by Glasgow City Council and their City Centre Mural Fund. We interviewed John Foster, Project Officer, City Centre Regeneration at Glasgow City Council to find out more about the Council’s work to support murals. 

Detail of “Saint Mungo” by artist Sam Bates aka Smug One, High Street

Can you tell us a bit about the City Centre Mural Fund? 

The City Centre Mural Fund (CCMF) is an initiative undertaken by Glasgow City Council  (GCC) which enables artists to apply for funding towards the creation of murals within Glasgow city centre. The resulting street art is then promoted by Glasgow City Council as the City Centre Mural Trail (CCMT), offering participants an opportunity to develop their artistic visions, and providing a high-profile platform for their work to be discovered, thus enabling greater public recognition. 

CCMT and CCMF rely entirely on the active participation of local landlords and artists, as well as the goodwill of residents and the general public. To encourage this positive participation, GCC promotes these projects through various media channels and through the wider Glasgow Family, including its ALEOs such as Glasgow Life, and other relevant project partners. 

How popular is the fund – do you get a lot of applications? 

GCC regularly receive enquiries from prospective artists, community groups, landlords, event planners and other interested parties. GCC try to facilitate as many requests as possible, whilst acknowledging inherent budgetary restrictions and project scope limitations. 

It should be noted that there are a variety of factors that might prevent a proposed mural from taking place, the vast majority of which remain out with GCC control. However, despite these issues, around 20 artists have contributed works to the mural project since it began in 2014. The diversity of their backgrounds is reflected in the variety of the final works. 

GCC also receive enquiries from other local authorities and organisations, not just in the UK but around the world. These are groups who are keen to implement their own street art activities and who see the Glasgow murals as a successful example which may be emulated, either in whole or in part, in their own locations. 

Can you tell us more about the City Centre Mural Trail? 

Glasgow City Council originally introduced street art to the city’s urban landscape as part of its Clean Glasgow initiative which was intended to help combat instances of urban blight, graffiti and flyposting. When this programme ended, many of the lessons learned were taken on board by the City Centre Regeneration team, including the benefits gained from the continued use of street art to tackle ongoing issues which were more prevalent and high-profile within Glasgow city centre. Whilst addressing this environmental need, the additional creative and cultural aspects of this activity were also being recognised. Despite being a temporary measure, by 2014 the number of installations had grown, and it was felt that their collective presence could be packaged and promoted beyond their original purpose. The City Centre Mural Trail and City Centre Mural Fund were officially launched by Glasgow City Council in a campaign fronted by then Leader of the Council, Councillor Gordon Matheson. Since then, the CCMT has continued to grow in profile. 

Detail of “The art of Motherhood” by artist Molly Hankinson, SWG3

What impact do you think the murals have? 

Not only do the murals add splashes of colour to Glasgow’s city centre, as a “catalyst” project, the CCMT underpins various other strategic activities undertaken by Glasgow City Council, such as the High Street Area Strategy, and the City Centre Lane Strategy. By forming a foundation for further environmental enhancements, this street art encourages visitor footfall to areas out with the principal retail areas with related benefits to local businesses and the communities they serve. 

Furthermore, as the murals are freely accessible art installations, they become significant landmarks which help support local cultural, historical and traditional identities, whilst also encouraging active travel, thereby supporting the city’s healthy living, climate resilience and sustainability objectives and aspirations. 

Finally, GCC have developed a range of helpful resources to highlight and promote the mural activity. This includes an Audio Map, an interactive online tool which enables people to participate in a “virtual” guided walking tour of the murals without leaving their homes. GCC also understands that many private organisations provide their own guided walking tours of the murals and so the online resources contained within the free web-app remain available as helpful support aids for these businesses. 

What is your favourite mural in the city and why? 

This is an interesting question, and not an easy one to answer! Without sounding pretentious, I think they are all fantastic and they each add something special to the city. Selecting just one mural is really difficult, so I’m going to fudge my answer a wee bit! 

I’m probably more inclined to select a mural which I personally had the opportunity to see develop over time. For instance, Rogue’s “Shadow Puppets” mural at Cowcaddens Underpass was the very first mural I was involved in through the City Centre Mural Fund initiative, so it holds a bit of a special place for me. 

I also got the chance to see Klingatron’s “Glasgow Tiger” mural (now sadly lost) at Custom House Quay, and Smug’s “St Enoch” mural on George Street progress and develop in more detail than I normally might, and both were great experiences. 

Finally, I’m also a huge fan of the art style used by Conzo and Globel, so I love their “Are Ye Dancin’” and “Good as Gold” installations (at Argyle Street, and Buchanan Street, respectively). 

Explore the Mural Trail

We are lucky to be living in a city that is home to a number of fantastic murals that showcase Glasgow’s many tales and people. 

Since January we have researched and photographed 17 murals…and we’ve only scratched the surface!

Why not join us on social media @GlasgowHeritage and tell us your favourite mural in the city using hashtag #glasgowmuraloftheweek.

Or you can download a free copy of Glasgow City Centre Mural Trail and get out and explore them yourself! 

Charles Rennie Mackintosh by artist Rogue Oner, Clutha Br

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