Paul MacAlindin on Govan Music Festival

The festival’s organiser and founder of Glasgow Barons on revitalising the local area through music

by Louis Camell, Images Campbell David Parker

Established last year, Govan Music Festival began with The Glasgow Barons, an orchestra started by festival organiser Paul MacAlindin. We catch up with him ahead of the next one to learn about how he hopes the impacts of community action will ripple out and change the lives of local creatives.

Hi, Paul. Could I hear just a bit sort of in your own words about Glasgow Barons in your own words? 

Back in 2016, I landed in Glasgow after coming home from Germany. I ended up in Central Govan because it was a roof over my head. I had a look at the assets around the area which were things like the Pearce Institute and Govan old parish church and I thought to myself, these gigantic Victorian spaces which have marvellous acoustics are just sitting there doing nothing. I couldn’t help but think, let’s put a concert on. And so that’s how it started with the Glasgow Barons. It is still an orchestra to this day. Although we have loads of community music strands built into and across the whole of Govan, largely as a regeneration project now to revitalise the area through music. 

So from that grew the Govan Music Festival, which happened in March last year and is set to happen again in 2024.

It’s March 13 to 16th. I’ve chosen March first of all because there’s not much competition for festivals in that month [but] also because we’re coming out of winter. With the cost of living crisis, there’s a massive amount of uncertainty. None of that is helping anybody to really get through it in a way that keeps their body and soul together. 

What sets your festival apart from a lot of festivals that do appear in Glasgow is that these are local community acts and not big names with no investment in the area.

Absolutely. I mean, the Glasgow Barons is itself a professional orchestra but on top of that, we have a mass choir made up of Govan Gaelic school, two Catholic schools, several non denominational schools, and I also include Hazelwood, which is the school for kids with complex learning needs and sensory impairments and that they’re on the south side of Bellahouston Park. It’s a wee bit outside Govan but they are a marvellous school who take music very seriously. 

We also have a variety show whereby loads of local Govan acts get in on the act and put their own shows together. In Particular, we have developed a very strong hip hop relationship with people in Govan. That’s an important voice because Scottish hip hop comes from very marginalised people. But it’s a very powerful expression of the lived experience of poverty, of addiction, of the daily grind of living in an area of deep deprivation. 

Hip hop is a genre that’s so moulded by the environment of the artists that create it, isn’t it? It’s actually astonishing that hip hop is often overlooked in Scotland, considering the parallels between its urban areas and those in America where the genre originated.

I mean, you’ve hit up the nail on the head. Hip Hop is now a multibillion dollar industry. But it was derided when it wasn’t making people any money. Yet it is really impregnated with a deep social conscience and awareness of the real hard problems of the realities of life. A lot of the turning point of Scottish hip hop came from Darren McGarvey’s Poverty Safari book. Darren’s story as a rapper was the classic one whereby nobody paid attention to him when he was rapping about poverty. They only paid attention to him when he wrote a middle class book about it. 

And now you’ve actually commissioned many Hip Hop albums as part of the festival.

We started in 2018 with two local rappers, Johnny and Jamie who are called CCTV. They’re a rap duo and I had them in the African Art Center, rock rapping over a string orchestra which was playing Renaissance dance music whilst African drummers were drumming to it. It was called Strings, Drums and Rap and it was a complete mash up that nearly fell apart, as you might expect with a project as bonkers as that [laughs].

But I just definitely wanted to see what happened when I introduced professional classical musicians in my orchestra to musicians who had never ever had any contact at all with the classical world and vice versa. And it worked from that point of view.

Then in 2021, possibly our most dangerous and risky project was commissioning 10 rappers to put together an album called Surface Pressure, which was about rappers rapping about the climate crisis because we had COP 26 in Glasgow. Here in Govan, where it was held, nobody can afford a carbon footprint. So how do you message this to people who are not responsible for the climate crisis but who are on the front end of suffering the effects of it? 

I know it’s early days but what can we expect to see from the programme in 2024?

We always collaborate with Freed Up, and The Scottish recovery Consortium who are a network across the whole of Scotland of service providers helping people on the road to recovery from drug and alcohol addiction. They organise sober events. Last March we brought in a local band called Sun Boy, whose singer is himself in recovery. 

Getting artists who are in recovery to perform is a really empowering and important part of the normalising of recovery because what we have in Scotland is the normalisation of addiction. Addiction is so second nature that it’s almost as if everybody’s given up the fight.

Govan is very heritage heavy and we’re creating a new tradition. One of which I hope will extend well beyond the activities of the Glasgow Barons. It’s really just about helping people to open that one small window in their minds to say, actually there can be something else to my life beyond what I’ve got. I can utilise the resources around me to open up all the possibilities to me. 

Govan Music Festival is set to take place from Wednesday March 13th till Saturday March 16th 2024. All details and tickets will be made available at

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