Glasgow’s ‘intangible cultural heritage': ‘Workers City’ and the European City of Culture

Chik Collins, Ian Levitt

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaper


Between 1988 and 1993, a ‘Workers City Group’ contested the narrative of the ‘new’, post-industrial Glasgow promoted from the early 1980s by Glasgow District Council. Counter to the ‘opportunistic politicians’ and ‘entrepreneurial admen’ who had secured Glasgow’s designation as ‘European City of Culture’ (ECoC) for 1990, ‘Workers City’ claimed to represent the “authentic voice and identity” of “the working class city par excellence”. This presentation draws on extensive research into the political economy of Glasgow in the later 20th Century to re-evaluate this ‘culture war’. It shows how central government in Scotland (based in Edinburgh) saw Glasgow’s ‘intangible cultural heritage’ as an unfortunate legacy of a troubled history, impeding the economic and socio-cultural progress of central Scotland more widely. From the early 1960s, government had embarked on a sweeping, centrally co-ordinated plan to transform this situation, with many well-understood, deleterious impacts on the City. Indeed, in the later 1980s government placed a reservation on Glasgow’s designation as ECoC, on the basis that it might rekindle belief in the City of old. Neither side in the ECoC controversy seem adequately to have grasped all of this, even as central government was embarking on a much wider attempt to re-engineer the culture of Scotland as a whole – from ‘dependency’ to ‘enterprise’. Indeed, the internecine local struggle between the ‘boosterists’ and the ‘workerists’ can be seen as exemplifying a long-standing, central government strategy for managing the social and political consequences of the latter’s continuing policy agenda for the City.

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  • Activities

    • 2 Invited talk

    Modernising Scotland: 1945-1992

    Chik Collins (Speaker), & Ian Levitt (Speaker)

    18 Jan 2018

    Activity: Talk or presentationInvited talk

    Research Output

    History, politics and vulnerability: explaining excess mortality in Scotland and Glasgow

    Walsh, D., McCartney, G., Collins, C., Taulbut, M. & Batty, G. D., 1 Oct 2017, In : Public Health. 151, p. 1-12 12 p., 1.

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

    Open Access
  • 8 Citations (Scopus)
    111 Downloads (Pure)

    Recovering the social and historical causes of Glasgow’s excess mortality: public policies and ‘personal’ troubles

    Collins, C. & Levitt, I., 4 Apr 2017, p. 185-186. 2 p.

    Research output: Contribution to conferencePaper

  • Cite this

    Collins, C., & Levitt, I. (2018). Glasgow’s ‘intangible cultural heritage': ‘Workers City’ and the European City of Culture. Paper presented at UWS Conference on Intangible Cultural Heritage, Ayr, United Kingdom.