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  • The Contested Role of Events in Public Squares: The Case of George Square, Glasgow

    David McGillivray, Séverin Guillard, Gayle McPherson

    Chapter from the book: Smith, A et al. 2022. Festivals and the City: The Contested Geographies of Urban Events.


    Public squares have played an important historical role in urban life; they are designed to accommodate a range of civic activities, including hosting markets, military events, protests and commemorative occasions. More recently, they have been used as venues for a wide variety of both civic and commercial sporting and cultural events, as they can showcase the important attributes of a city to a watching global audience. However, the use of civic squares as event venues can lead to access restrictions, changes in public space management and concern over the publicness of these spaces. In this chapter, we outline the role festivals and events have played in the design and use of urban squares, historically and in the present. We then introduce the Glasgow-wide conversation to discuss the future of Glasgow’s George Square, and the observational and interview-based fieldwork we carried out during this process. We present the results of our investigations with a specific focus on discussions dedicated to the issue of events. We explore what this process revealed about Glasgow citizens’ views on the role of events in the future of the square, highlighting tensions between institutional actors and citizens about its purpose and use and the sort of events which should be hosted there. We conclude by arguing that the city-wide participatory process for this square revealed two dimensions of the contested geographies of festivals in the city: the contested role of events in public squares, and the contested voices of urban residents about public space.

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    How to cite this chapter
    McGillivray, D et al. 2022. The Contested Role of Events in Public Squares: The Case of George Square, Glasgow. In: Smith, A et al (eds.), Festivals and the City. London: University of Westminster Press. DOI: https://doi.org/10.16997/book64.d

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    Published on Aug. 23, 2022