For Glaswegians, and indeed Scots of a certain age, the Glasgow Garden Festival was a landmark event that lives long in the memory – like the City of Culture or more recently the Commonwealth Games. People traveled from across the country to the Clydeside for what became a celebration of much more than simple horticulture.
But for those not lucky enough to be around then there’s little evidence it existed – which is why Jamie Scott has released an album commemorating the events of that summer 30 years ago.
“It seems amazing to me that such a large scale event, that was such a huge success, and seems to be remembered so fondly by all who attended, has been erased from Glasgow’s fabric,” says the musician – born in Inverness during that five month run in 1998, he found little evidence remaining of the festival when he moved to the city.
And indeed, apart from the Bell’s Bridge and a handful of flats, there’s little there – the flora and fauna gone, and even the Clydesdale Bank Tower now residing in North Wales (although we now have a similar structure at the Science Centre,albeit one beset by similar technical problems to its predecessor).
“It’s important for the health of a city for its occupants to see it from its highest point, and see their place in it, and imagine what their city could be,” Scott insists.
“It all seems like a wasted opportunity,” he continues, “and that was something I wanted to explore on ‘Glasgow Garden Festival ’18’.”
But despite his enthusiasm for the events of three decades ago, his new release is far from a nostalgia trip.
“There’s a history in Glasgow of the slave trade, there’s street names that bear merchant’s names whose success was built on exploitation. That’s a call for us to recognise Glasgow for what it is,” he insists, “without the rose tinted spectacles, to begin to change it for the better, and to build a better city.”
Scott, who has worked under the Save As Collective and MC Almond Milk monikers, is probably best-known as one half of Conquering Animal Sound, whose ‘Kammerspiel’ album was shortlisted for the Scottish Album of the Year Award in 2012. However, the new release sees him strike out under his own name for the first time.
“It felt like the right time. I believe this is is the best work I’ve ever done, and it just felt natural, with the weighty subject matter, to put my own name to it.”
The 10 tracks deliver the tale of the festival as an inimitable Scottish rap, but there are other nods to late ’80s culture – a line on ‘Cathedral’ borrows from the Blue Nile’s Tinseltown In The Rain’: “Did I love you? I think I love you”.
“‘Hats’ by the Blue Nile is one of my favourite albums of all time.” Scott
reveals. “And I’ve got a real soft spot for Simple Minds – strip away the slightly dated production, and there are some amazing, timeless songs from that period.”
But despite his enthusiasm for that halcyon period of music, and for the event he never visited, the singer’s real enthusiasm is for people to use the past as a springboard for the future.
“There’s a line in the closing track, ‘(Don’t You) Forget About Me’ – ‘If all we’re left with are memories, why wouldn’t we make them great?’,” Scott recounts. “It’s up to people to remember the Garden Festival, to celebrate and commemorate it, because nobody will do it on our behalf.”
This article originally appeared in the Milngavie & Bearsden Herald.