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Scotland with Style

Maggio 2006
Un tempo era talmente brutta e sporca che un bombardamento nucleare, secondo un comico, non avrebbe fatto alcuna differenza. Oggi Glasgow è una città elegante, raffinata, su misura per l’arte, lo shopping e il design.

di Julian Earwaker

File audio:

Mark O'Neill
Mark O'Neill

There’s a saying in Scotland that “Glasgow made the Clyde, and the Clyde made Glasgow.” The city earned its early fortune as a port on the River Clyde trading tobacco and sugar with the Ameri-cas and later exporting cotton, coal and steel. By the end of the nineteenth century, Glasgow had become the “Second City” of the British Empire – an industrial giant second only to London in population and wealth. By 1914, two-thirds of the world’s ships were Glasgow built. Scotland’s biggest city had also exported more than 50,000 locomotives across the globe. Today, Glasgow is more famous for its arts, museums and shopping than for its industry – but the city has retained a unique urban atmosphere, says Mark O’Neill, Head of Arts and Museums in Glasgow:

Mark O’Neill (Standard Irish accent):

I think Glasgow is different from many cities in the whole of Britain, in that it is intensely urban. English culture is very ambivalent about cities, the ideal English home is a cottage in the country and you can get there on a motorway that destroys the country, but your ideal home is a cottage in the country. Glaswegians live in four-storey, brownstone tenements, very like New York or Boston, and it’s an Atlantic city, it’s proud of being a city, lots of people don’t have gardens, they don’t want gardens, they wouldn’t know what to do with gardens! In the nineteenth century Glasgow had a density of population that was second only to Naples, and that intensity of urban living has created a very intense identity, a strong sense of being Glaswegian, that is about the city, about the architecture of the city, and about a way of relating to people. Unlike Edinburgh, it’s an immigrant city: lots of Irish people came here, but also German Jews, Eastern European Jews, Italians, Pakistanis, Indians, Chinese people, so it’s like other port cities, like Liverpool, or, again, New York. Glasgow is very much an Atlantic seaboard city. A lot of film-makers use Glasgow to represent America now, because the Glasgow streets look more like nineteenth-century America than American streets.


Last year Glasgow was used as a location for two major movies: The Jacket, which was produced by George Clooney, and Danny the Dog (or Unleashed, as it was called in the USA), which was scripted by Luc Bresson. In the 1990s the city played a part in the revival of the Scottish cinema, in addition to helping launch the career of Ewan McGregor. The Shallow Grave was shot here, as was Trainspotting, even if the story was set in Edinburgh. For tourists coming to Glasgow, there’s certainly plenty to see. One of the city’s chief attractions is the work of Charles Rennie Mackintosh. One of eleven children, he was born in Glasgow in 1868. He studied art and design and went on to develop a distinctive fusion of Scottish tradition, Art Nouveau and Japanese style. There’s a great Mackintosh exhibition at the Kelvingrove Museum, and you can enjoy other examples of his work following the tourist board’s Mackintosh Trail around the city. Visitors to Glasgow are also likely to receive a warm welcome, says Nancy McLardie, Head of PR at Glasgow City Marketing Bureau:

Nancy McLardie (Glaswegian accent):

The big tip that I give to people when they come here is be sure and strike up a conversation with a Glaswegian because they’re very knowledgeable and passionate about their city and funny with it. If you happen to be standing beside someone at a bus stop and ask them, you know, what are the things that I must see, then, you know, that individual will spend, you know, 20 minutes of telling them about their own personal favourites and, on occasion, might actually take you there.


Glasgow’s image has improved dramatically in recent years.  After the decline of its heavy industry, it suffered high unemployment, poverty and inner-city decay. The comedian Billy Connolly, who started his working life as a welder on the Glasgow docks, once joked that it wouldn’t matter if someone dropped a nuclear bomb on the city – it would look much the same after as before! This kind of attitude changed when Glasgow became European City of Culture in 1990, joining Florence, Athens and Paris. Today the city is enjoying a building boom, with exciting new projects under way. Work will soon begin, for example, on the futuristic £60 million Transport Museum, which was designed by the world-famous architect Zaha Hadid.


One person who has witnessed Glasgow’s transformation is the novelist Denise Mina, whose “Garnethill” novels explore the city’s contrasting character, as well as its working-class, socialist roots:

Denise Mina (Glaswegian accent):

I came back to Glasgow when I was about 20, and really fell in love with it and really, really fell in love with the city because it was a very dirty city for a long, long time and it… all the buildings were black and it was really very depressing. And then during the... it must have been the ‘70s and ‘80s, a lot of the buildings were cleaned up and underneath all the black soot from the industrial... from the factories and everything, they were yellow and red, all the buildings are yellow and red sandstone, and they’re absolutely beautiful and they clash with the sky and, I mean, it is just an absolutely beautiful city. And I couldn’t believe it because, you know, we always thought Glasgow was the ugliest place in the world! And so it was a completely different city than the one that I’d been familiar with as a girl.

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trading - commerciando.

coal and steel - carbone e acciaio.

wealth - ricchezza.

in that - in quanto.

four-storey brownstone tenements - palazzi eleganti di quattro piani (brownstone è il tipo di pietra usata).

an Atlantic seaboard city - una città costiera, affine alle altre affacciate sull’Atlantico.

scripted - sceneggiato.

The Shallow Grave - tit. ital, Piccoli omicidi tra amici.

tip - consiglio.

is be sure and strike up a conversation - fare in modo di entrare in conversazione.

they’re very knowledgeable - sono molto informati.

has improved dramatically - è migliorata in modo eccezionale.

high unemployment - alto tasso di disoccupazione.

inner-city decay - decadenza, abbandono del centro cittadino.

comedian - comico.

welder - saldatore.

docks - zona portuale.

to witness - assistere a.

roots - radici.

underneath all the black soot - sotto tutta la fuliggine.

factories - fabbriche.

sandstone - arenaria.

they clash with the sky - contrastano con il cielo.