Today’s unconventional advent calendar celebrates our cultural venues, formal and informal, and their place in the life of the community.
I personally feel quite at home in arts venues but to some they can be alien spaces with an unwelcoming or elitist feel. Living in Glasgow, I am very lucky to have a huge range of free museums and galleries on my doorstep, so I do make an effort to see the wonderful range of free events which are on. I feel that free facilities and events are really important for people to be able to have the chance to see new cultural events and explore their area without the added barrier of cost. That can be one reason why I don’t tend to visit the theatre or cinema much, I have to really want to see something to justify spending money on seeing something which is not free! It is also why I love events like Doors Open Day, every September buildings are open for tours and events at no cost throughout Scotland (and Europe!).
Independent cafes and other small community halls or spaces can be really important in what makes the cultural map of a place work, where activities and get togethers are easy to organise and local groups or artists can sell or showcase their newest creations. It’s not free to have coffee, of course, but I’ve seen some great free events at local cafes.
Do you have a favourite free venue?
The Mitchell Library… Wonderful source of inspiration and information. A beautiful place by day or by night, as anyone who has passed by whilst it is illuminated would agree. The famous landmark dome is part of the 1904 fabric, and I did not know until today that it is rumoured to have been included after Council requests, not as part of the original design which was undertaken after a competition (heritage leaflets, another great thing within the Mitchell!).
Part of the library has a huge cafe, where one can browse the newspapers and use the wifi. There is a good selection of food, from simple snacks to more substantial mains, and some particularly tasty coffee. Adjacent to the cafe there are public computers, free to use, and really handy even if you have your own at home, because these give access to a huge range of electronic resources; I did a lot of family history research here as part of my most recent art project, you can research worldwide records at no charge. Glasgow libraries also subscribe to online magazines, so back at home you could download electronic versions of your favourite magazines; I love that I can read .net, Countryfile, Marie Claire and Olive on the move from my iPad now, Zinio is so handy!
If you are more of a paper fan, head upstairs where one can browse technical journals and magazines from a wide range of publishers. I have spent many a happy hour lost in obscure but fascinating articles.
The Glasgow room is a wonder, part book store and part archive. Have you ever wanted to see street plans for before your home was built? Photographs or postcards of Glasgow transport? Wondered what that shop looked like many years ago? This is the place to find out. You may even find original plans to a famous building, or your house! The Virtual Mitchell gives you a taste of some of the digitised resources to discover. The staff are all really knowledgeable and will help you find what you need, just ask!
The main hall of the Mitchell is home to temporary exhibitions, some of my favourites have been George Wyllie, Alasdair Gray and also a history of Loch Katrine. The Hall and some reading rooms also play host to Glasgow’s literary festival, Aye Write.
Always something to discover, a quiet place to stop and spend time browsing, a place for some serious study or just popping in for tea, happy days at this lovely landmark. This is part one of a series I intend to post about what I love about some of my favourite places, just look out for the “things I love about” category on the side of my blog. I’d love to know what you love about your favourite places too!
Today I went to three museums… the Architecture Centre (well, I would, wouldn’t I.. the planner and conservation-ist in me can’t help it!), Arnolfini and M-Shed. I also wandered along the river and took lots of photographs.
At The Architecture Centre they have an ever changing programme of events and exhibitions, sited in a harbourside building. The current exhibition focuses on what the future of the city could look like, and invites lots and lots of post it note contributions to add ideas to the city map. There are showcases of successful environmental schemes and projects, I was amused and intrigued to see “The Bristol pound”, first of all it looks really aesthetically pleasing, but secondly it is run on the basis of community good and helps support local businesses. Great idea! A small display on “Bristol Opening Doors” was really interesting as it invited people to contribute stories and “favourite buildings”, and also showcased a new app which is a walking trail (available on www.bristolopeningdoors.org ). I enjoyed the illustrations and design of this, and of course the wonderful buildings! I am starting to recognise more and more of the streetscape and landmarks here, and this will help discover more. Chatting briefly to the friendly staff there I also was given a flyer for a website called “Know Your Place: Learning and Sharing Information about Historic Bristol”, run by English Heritage and Bristol City Council. I am looking forward to exploring this properly, as yesterday (on my visit to the City Art Gallery and Museum) I was fascinated with the historic maps… this site lets you overlay and integrate different maps from various eras. Oooh! Just what I am after, as I can spot the places where my ancestors lived. Ideal for “Are You Here” research!
This was my first visit to Arnolfini, I have walked past it many times but always en route to somewhere else or whizzing past on my bike. I enjoyed the Susanne Kriemann’s Modelling (Construction School) exhibition, it brings a little of an “art- planning- environment” discussion into a contemporary art environment. The photographs of quarries were quite spectacular, many of the works are designed to provoke discussion on archives, and also problem solving in design education.
M-Shed could keep me amused for hours, it is full of all sorts of historical bits and pieces, I really did get lost in history. Interestingly for me, there was a whole section on Bristol people and families, saying “it’s important to know where you’ve come from so that you know where you’re going”… the question was posed “why did you leave?”.
In the case of my family I suspect it was for work as it would have to be a fairly major reason such as this to move to the opposite end of the country. There are themed galleries at M-Shed, Bristol people, Bristol life, Bristol places (and a special exhibition, currently on chocolate!), all of them have real objects to explore, some thought provoking interactive displays (I loved the one on “what makes a Bristolian”.. very funny mixtures of answers come out of that!), video and multimedia and also lots of transport to explore. No “please keep off” signs here. I am even starting to recognise the different Bristol districts, having passed through them by bike or bus at various points of my several visits over the years, it is nice to recognise things in a “technically not home” city! M-shed cafe is worth a visit, local produce, family friendly, vegan friendly and lovely views.
Oh, and did I mention the view from the roof terrace….
Cafe’s with character in Glasgow… a short but pretty post pondering architecture and cafés.
Queens Café, 530 Victoria Road, Glasgow has lovely art deco style glass and some interesting interior fittings (and does its own ice cream). This is a Southside beauty.
University Café, 87 Byres Road, is a Glasgow institution… great folding seats, certificates adorning the walls from all sorts of awards and lovely Italian goodies to enjoy.
Tchai Ovna, Otago Lane, Glasgow is perhaps the ultimate place to go for tea, poetry and arts events; enjoy the eclectic atmosphere of the Lane (perhaps also go to the wonderful second hand bookshop nearby) and have loose leaf tea from all around the world or try one of the delicious home cooked dishes (with vegetarian specials). It is a lovely little hide-away, overlooking the River Kelvin.
Siempre Bicycle Café, 162 Dumbarton Road, Glasgow is a relatively new café which is next to Kelvin Hall subway. A little gem of a café which welcomes cyclists (hooks and places to hang your bike are provided, along with a huge selection of funky bike supplies from the latest fashions to the “must have” techny gear). The café is in the ground floor of a tenement and there is even a small hatch off the subway lane if you are in a hurry.
éSo four suggestions for a little creative diversion 🙂
I had mentioned that I do enjoy cafe working every now and then… here are two sketches which I did from the window of Waterstone’s cafe in Edinburgh… it is on Princes Street and lets you look through a giant bay window towards the castle and Tollcross. Lovely stuff. These were done with a Pilot V5 pen in black ink, and a random pen I had in my bag which was very thick and not my usual choice, in a TeNeues half lines half plain workbook. This is not my usual sketchbook either, I was in the middle of freeing my brain up to do some more thinking… but it worked OK.