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James

SECC and the city

SECC and the city (© Evening Times)



For 25 years the SECC has been Scotland’s biggest and best-known venue,
attracting the biggest names in rock and pop, from U2 to the Rolling Stones
and from Girls Aloud to Lady GaGa.


Starting today, the Evening Times looks at the history, successes and the
future of the famous venue...

On an otherwise quiet August Sunday in 1985, thousands of Glaswegians
piled into their cars and set off to see a new building that had taken shape
on a derelict old dock on the Clyde. It didn’t really matter they were going
to see was an empty building. It had intrigued them over the long months
it had been growing alongside the Clydeside Expressway. Now they were
longing to see what it looked like.

In the event, around 36,000 people, some from as far afield as Dundee,
made the trip – 1000 of them for every million pounds the Scottish Exhibition
and Conference Centre had cost. “The open day was fantastic,” says Shirley
Hunter, who has worked at the SECC since the year before it opened. We
were all on hands on deck that day. People had only seen the building if
they were passing on the Expressway. Nobody knew what to expect, but I
think they were astounded by the scale of the venue.”

It was the first public event staged by the £36m Scottish Exhibition Centre.
The following day, the Evening Times’ verdict was that the visitor number
was “a measure of the interest and optimism” that the centre held for Glasgow.
The centre’s beginnings can be traced back to 1979, when the then Scottish
Development Agency (SDA) supported the idea of Glasgow getting a
purpose-built exhibition and conference centre. It badly needed a slice of
the lucrative conference business. No fewer than 50 sites were examined.
Eventually 49 were discarded, and the Queens Dock at Finnieston emerged
as the winner. Plans for a nearby hotel were also included in the project.

By 1984, Glasgow was shaking off the memory of the moribund 70s and,
buoyed by the success of the Mr Happy logo and the Glasgow’s Miles Better
campaign, was embracing a future that would include landmark events such
as the 1988 Garden Festival and the 1990 Year of Culture. The new SECC
would also act as a shot in the arm for Glasgow’s live entertainment scene.

In 1984, the city had the Pavilion, and the Kelvin Hall, but that was pretty
much all. The new building would free the Kelvin Hall up to be turned into
an international-class indoor sports arena, and to accommodate the Museum
of Transport. But it was also the final nail in the coffin for the elderly Apollo
in Renfield Street which, realising that it just could not compete, announced
it would close in the summer of 1985.

The budget for the SECC was fixed at £36m. The £11.5m site development
costs were split between the SDA, Glasgow District and Strathclyde Region.
All three bodies shared the £24.5 building costs with the private sector – pension
funds, banks and other institutions – which put up a third. Once the docks had
been infilled, ground stabilisation began in January 1983. That summer, the
building works got underway. By the following January, the SEC works were
making such good progress that they could be seen a mile away in the sixth
floor city-centre office of Chris Garrett, the 50-year-old Londoner who was
chief executive of SEC Ltd. When the development began it was known as SEC,
Scottish Exhibition Centre, it was only later that the second C for conference
was adopted.

In August 1984, Jimmy Gordon, chairman of SEC Ltd, and managing director
of Radio Clyde, claimed: “I believe the SEC will not only be a success but could
prove to be the most significant development in the West of Scotland since
the war”. He said its role as a “shop window for Scotland” could tempt visiting
industrialists to locate their next expansion here.

Builders Bovis finished the construction work on time, on August 2, 1985, and
celebrated by hiring the Waverley paddle steamer to take the workers on a
night-time cruise. Shirley Hunter didn’t even know the place was being built
when she applied for a job in 1984. “I had just gone along for an interview
through an agency,” she said. “I was sent to the SDA offices, and got the job,
and that was the first I’d heard of the place.” Shirley was taken on as an
administrative assistant. The staff, she remembers, was tiny – she only had
about four colleagues. “It was a very exciting time,” she says of those early
days. “We were inviting exhibition organisers up all the time to view the place
and taking them on tours. All Glasgow had at the time was the Apollo, the old
Green’s Playhouse. There was nothing compared to what the SECC could offer.”

The very first event was a gala classical concert on September 6 by the Scottish
National Orchestra, as it then was. The first exhibition was the Commercial
Interiors and Shopfitting Exhibition, followed by Sounds of Our Times, an Evening
Times-backed look at coming trends in TV, video and hi-fi, then the Modern
Homes exhibition, opened by Andy Cameron.

The first rock concert was by UB40, supported by Simply Red, on October 26,
and on November 27, the place was officially opened by the Queen during the
Scottish Motor Show. She said the SECC would bring “great benefit” to Glasgow
and Scotland. Twenty-five years on, the SECC has become, in its own words,
the country’s premier national venue for public events, concerts and conferences.
During that time it has put on nearly 4000 events and welcomed in excess of
28million visitors – more than five times the equivalent of the entire Scottish
population.

Its conference and exhibitions side attracts fewer headlines than say, a
sold-out concert by U2 or Lady Gaga, but it has been a money-spinning success
in its own right with food, golf and trade shows, emergency planning conferences
and medical conferences. When it comes to rock and pop, almost every
mega-selling act, save Madonna and Barbra Streisand, has played here – mostly
in the cavernous Hall 4, which can seat up to 10,000 fans.



James H
Doog Doog

Like the bit ...."There was nothing compared to what the SECC could offer"


.....Apart from good acoustics!
discominer

Doog Doog wrote:
Like the bit ...."There was nothing compared to what the SECC could offer"


.....Apart from good acoustics!


Too true! How can it be compared to Greens/Apollo?
Doog Doog

discominer wrote:
Doog Doog wrote:
Like the bit ...."There was nothing compared to what the SECC could offer"


.....Apart from good acoustics!


Too true! How can it be compared to Greens/Apollo?


It hasn't even got the atmosphere like you got at the Apollo,mind you....
it hasn't got the infamous 'uber-bastard' bouncers either!
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