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Remembering The Big Day 30 years on

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Remembering The Big Day 30 years on


Glasgow in 1990 was awarded the European City of Culture, a city in steep decline at the time in terms of industry and morale, most of the shipyards and other major industries closed down and a record number of people were out of work, with nowhere to go.

It was warmly received by Glaswegians and it had a massive effect on the transformation, confidence and regeneration of the city.

Glasgow enjoyed a whole year overwhelmed with gigs and cultural events, such as Glasgows Glasgow at the former Arches venue, The Dome of Discovery at the South Rotunda and of course The Big Day, a free festival hosted in Glasgow Green, George Square, the Broomielaw and People’s Palace.

It was the largest live music event Channel 4 had ever broadcast with 250,000 people from all over Britain tuning in to watch.

It hosted a wide range of Scottish acts such as Big Country, who were dominating the UK charts at the time, Wet Wet Wet, Eddie Reader, Deacon Blue, Average White Band, The Associates, Goodbye Mr Mackenzie and Sheena Easton.

The organizers originally had The Pogues on their list for potential acts to play that day, but they were persuaded not to by police over fears of sectarianism.

The festival had its share of infamous moments, Deacon Blues Ricky Ross making a rant on stage about the Labour Party due to the imminent closure of the Ravenscraig Steelworks in Motherwell, concluding "This concert is for the people of Glasgow who have no homes to go to".

However the incident that most people remember of the festival was when Scottish born musician Sheena Easton came to the stage, and a few members of the audience were not particularly happy with the fact that she had lost her Scottish accent, she was booed throughout the show and even had objects thrown at her. It was the last time that the singer played in her native country and she vowed never to play in Scotland again.

Aside the negative things, this festival was a message to everyone that Glasgow was about to make a comeback from industrial decline as well as its reputation for being a violent, poverty stricken city.

Burnistoun star Robert Florence was present at the festival and was just 13 years of age at the festival, he still remembers the event very fondly.

"My strongest memory is of seeing The Associates live – they were a band I’d grown up hearing, thanks to my sisters." Florence said

"Almost every time I’m in George Square I think of Billy Mackenzie up there, how cool he looked and how amazing he sounded. We wandered around for the rest of the day, catching wee bands like Hugh Reed and the Velvet Underpants somewhere down by the Clydeside. But I was in a daze after Billy Mackenzie."

"It was an amazing gift for a wee guy, to see a legend smack bang in the middle of the city, for free. It was a beautiful day. There was music everywhere."

In a recent poll, 70% of people said that The Big Day was the greatest gig to ever take place in Scotland.

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