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

Chik Collins, Ian Levitt

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaperpeer-review


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.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 14 May 2018
Externally publishedYes
Event(In)visible Stories: An Investigation into the Status of Intangible Cultural Heritage in Scotland - University of the West of Scotland, Ayr Campus, Ayr, United Kingdom
Duration: 14 May 201814 May 2018


Conference(In)visible Stories
Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom


Dive into the research topics of 'Glasgow’s ‘intangible cultural heritage': ‘Workers City’ and the European City of Culture'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this