Glasgow Central Station is to become a music venue in a new scheme which will bring weekly jazz concerts, regular dance performances and other cultural events to its main concourse.
The station – the second-busiest in the UK outside London – is aiming to rebrand itself as a “destination” station, and hopes to persuade passengers to linger longer under the departures board before catching their trains.
Network Rail, which also owns Edinburgh Waverley as well as a number of English stations, including Birmingham New Street, Manchester Piccadilly, and London King’s Cross, said it would encourage other station managers throughout the country to adopt similar schemes.
“Our ambition is to make the station a cultural hub,” said Glasgow Central station manager Ross Moran. “We want as much music as possible, and as many events as we can. We want to draw people in and celebrate the station as a destination in its own right.”
The station has already hosted a number of recent events, including a jazz band that played under its famous clock during rush hour, a group of 1950s dancers who performed on Valentine’s Day, and Glasgow’s biggest Zumbathon, which featured more than 600 Zumba keep-fit fans working out on the concourse.
“If you compare us to airports, the romance has evaporated from air travel nowadays – you get treated like a criminal and forced to take half your clothes off,” said Moran. “But train stations are still romantic places, and they are particularly romantic places to meet. So we’d like to be able to cultivate that image.”
He said he was particularly keen on encouraging jazz musicians to come and play in his weekly “station sessions”.
“I’d like the station to be recognised as a home of jazz – to have a weekly music session based at the station on a Friday night. What better way to go home for the weekend than to come to the station, have a couple of drinks and a bite to eat, listen to music and then jump on the train home?”
Paul Towndrow of Glasgow-based jazz band Brass Jaw, which played between 8am and 9.30am and 5pm and 6pm last Tuesday to entertain commuters, said it was an excellent idea for both performers and travellers.
“It works really well for the city because places like train stations and airports are usually the first time when a visitor to a city sets foot in the place, so the first impression they get is really important. If it’s one of culture, music and vibrancy then that translates into, hopefully, a really strong experience of the city. It’s good in terms of enriching visitors’ experience from a cultural point of view.”
“On an ongoing basis we try to encourage people into the station – not just people who are travelling but those buying lunch or visiting a bar,” said a spokesman for Network Rail. “It can be viewed as more than just a place to catch a train. Stations across the country do their own thing and put on different events.”
Towndrow added that it gave a welcome boost for the city’s musicians. “It’s a great amount of exposure,” he said. “It’s the equivalent of a huge stadium-gig audience coming through at rush hour, so for us it’s great to be able to play our music for that number of people.
“When we played last week a lot of people stood around to listen – there were a lot of smiles, and of course there’s also the element of surprise – it’s not what you expect to hear in a train station.”
Glasgow is a Unesco (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation) City of Music and Central Station will be a major transport hub for next year’s Commonwealth Games in the city. The station also held a “flashmob” dance performance in February to celebrate Glasgow’s shortlisting for the 2018 Youth Olympic Games.
Svend Brown, director of Glasgow Unesco City of Music, said: “This is a great initiative that will bring music to commuters and help fill this grand city building. Glasgow’s music scene is already incredibly vibrant with an average of 130 music events each week – more than any other Scottish city. This addition will bring joy to the travelling public.”