Oh, I do LOVE a good old summer festival. And now we are through the dark skies of 2019 – 2022, pass me my sunscreen and bandana. For this June it’s galas galore!
Halcyon days and balmy nights with good friends, great music, delish street food as the palm trees of California wave above me. Oh wait. One, two, three and she’s back in the room!
Coachella we may not have. Weather – a tad more changeable. And the only palms are in the Botanic Gardens. But this Summer, comes a festival that a mere splodge of rain can’t dampen. A festival so much better. A festival with its heart in our community.
WestFest is Glasgow’s newest Cultural and Community Festival. The inaugural event will run from Friday 2nd – Sun 25th June.
WestFest was founded by Brendon McIlroy and his team, most of whom had been involved for many years with The West End Festival. Post pandemic in 2022 when it became clear that there were no immediate plans for a revival of that festival, the team felt that something had to be done.
With many of the events we know being around in some shape or form in previous incarnations, having them all under one umbrella and under the wing of one organisation benefitted all concerned. And so, the brand new WestFest was borne. Dipping their toe in the water last year the “WestFest” name was probably something you overheard, as there were some fabulous events around. Events such as the Kelvingrove Ceilidh were a roaring success.
Brendon says ‘When these things come to an end, it’s just the public that miss out and besides, we had worked so hard for many years to build a strong, diverse programme of accessible community events and didn’t want all the time, energy, and hard work to go to waste. People need events, fun and levity; things in their lives more than ever after the pandemic and with all that’s going on in the world!’
Need for Community and Cultural Events
Encouraged by the enthusiasm and passion that the team have for community and cultural events they are confident they are responding to a community need. In light of broad funding cuts across the board in arts and culture, there was a real concern that if the team, If WestFest didn’t fill the void, who would?
Brendon himself has a fantastic CV ranging back 20 years in delivering and organising events. Indeed, as well as the West End Festival, there’s the Edinburgh Fringe Festival and Pride Glasgow; his pedigree and passion for giving back to the community shines through. Brendon says,
“I’m the co-founder of Halo Arts who were formed in 2015 and who have gone on to become one of Glasgow’s most prolific community focused production companies. Halo run a programme of year-round events and productions as well as nine youth theatres, our schools’ projects and our annual pantomime.”
So, a man well placed for the job!
The West End of Glasgow has a longstanding tradition of community events, outdoor festivals, and cultural diversity. As WestEnders we all feel that connection to our community. We’re a lucky bunch. What is it about our little micro-area of Glasgow that our sense of community lends itself so well to these events? Brendon has his own thoughts on the matter.
The Big Weekend
‘People like to do things in the West End- which is evident in the large audiences we usually have at our events. I think the West End is particularly attractive to event organisers due to its gorgeous parks, large public spaces and quirky venues. There’s definitely something about the West End and I read that it’s been named the coolest place to live in Scotland!’
I think we would all agree!
The team were further encouraged to get WestFest properly launched in 2023. This was following their first event ‘The Big Weekend’ in September last year. On that Autumn weekend 20,000 people attended the two-day programme. It took place at Kelvingrove Bandstand and Amphitheatre and along Kelvin Way.
“It was a fantastic, jam-packed weekend”, says Brendon, ‘with everything from our big gala day on Kelvin Way to an outdoor ceilidh at Kelvingrove Galleries, brass band, choral and drag shows at the bandstand. It was quite a debut for us and hopefully got people familiar with the WestFest name.’
The First Official WestFest
So, what can we expect from the first official WestFest? Brendon knows that there will be questions around bringing the parade back. But unfortunately, with road closures no longer being free, organising a carnival parade is simply too costly. But diversifying the many community events which were traditionally all on the opening Sunday, means there is a fantastic programme across June, not condensed into one day. Therefore, it is hoped around 100 events will take place across 40 venues in the form of concerts, performances, recitals and galas. With music, theatre, comedy and visual art, it’s fair to say the programme is diverse and eclectic.
The bigger events are really taking shape too. Indeed, the Big Sunday at Kelvingrove Bandstand and Amphitheatre sounds like a belter. On the day look forward to enjoying 3 course menu. For starters, the Big Sunday Gala will be a colourful, fun filled celebration with the odd samba band thrown in for good measure. For mains, the Voice at the Bandstand will see choirs from all over the country taking to the stage. And for dessert? The fabulous Brass Bands at the Bandstand will fill Kelvingrove with the ba-boom of the big bands.
Fun in the Sun
Besides the Big Sunday, Vinicombe Street Gala is a chance for a great Sunday afternoon of fun (hopefully) in the sun. Mansfield Park and Queen Margaret Drive Festivals are back. They return with music, street food and loads of activities for kids.
In addition, look out for outdoor ceilidhs, yoga, and a live music programme. There’s also Bard in the Botanics and the West End Vintage Bus Fest to name but a few. All accessible and under the colourful umbrella of WestFest!
Phew, you might need a brochure to keep an eye on all the shenanigans. Well funny you should mention that. Because no fewer than 50,000 printed brochures will be around and about. Pulling together all the festivities in one handy prospectus.
And the last word from Brendon on what’s ahead for us this summer?
‘It starts with an idea, a group of people sharing thoughts. Soon it’s funded, sponsored and people are engaging with it. There is something quite intoxicating about that.’
It all begins with a thought.
And genuine people investing their time, energy and heart into our community. Now? it’s a vibrant and colourful three and a half weeks of fabulous friends and family fun!!!!!
For more information on Westfest in Glasgow –
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