History and modernity will combine when Scotland’s first ever Drinks Festival takes place next month at Glasgow’s A-Listed former fish market, The Briggait.

The iconic setting has been chosen to host the cultural event which will run over two days on August 5 and 6 providing an abundance of drinks, pop up street food and acoustic music.

In an area which has benefitted from extensive upgrading and gentrification over the last few decades, the festival will not only showcase the best in food and drink, and by being held at the Briggait on the banks of the Clyde it will also pay homage to Glasgow’s hard-working heritage.

The Briggait which has medieval connections has gone through many incarnations over the centuries and proudly presides over the Merchant City, the ancient centre of Glasgow leading out to the east end. The east end stretches from the Merchant City along High Street and out to the many neighbourhoods off Duke Street and Alexander Parade, historically areas of poverty and deprivation with large families crammed into tenements – often just a room and kitchen. But it was also an area of hard graft and true Glasgow grit.

So it’s great that this section of the city just around the corner from Glasgow Green has undergone a renaissance, with the Briggait re-inventing itself as an arts and events hub. Despite the motto “the fish that couldnae swim” – fish was very much the currency of this colourful area, alongside tobacco. Many wealthy tobacco merchants made Glasgow flourish and furnished grandiose apartments around the dear green place.

But it was the largely working class families who got down and dirty, catching, gutting and selling fish along the Glasgow waterfront of the Clyde, that gave the area its backbone. The Briggait which is a truncation of Bridgegate was at the centre of this industry and was a flourishing purpose-built fish market for over 100 years. As market stalls sprung up, including the world famous Barras selling anything from junk to jewellery, generations of Glasgow fishermen and fishwives and their children got up at first light to make the catch of the day. The vestiges are still apparent in the Saltmarket next to Glasgow Cross.

The Clyde was a bountiful waterway and to this day seafood is still big business and Glasgow’s fish market now flourishes out of a site at Blochairn. One of Glasgow’s architectural gems, the Briggait has been a part of the River Clyde skyline since the nineteenth century and is said to resemble Les Halles in Paris another fish market in a previous incarnation.

Glasgow’s original fish market bustled in the Briggait’s courtyard, designed by architects Clarke and Bell and opened in 1873. Additional buildings were added in 1889, 1903 and 1914.

But its roots go back much further, the Bridgegate road from the River Clyde to the Cathedral can be dated back to the 14th Century and later in the 15th Century it was not uncommon for fishermen to dry their nets on Glasgow Green, the city’s only green space at that time. So the nets would lie next to family bed linning, cattle grazing areas, and medieval washing lines. A modern day health and safety nightmare.

The Merchants’ Steeple dating back to 1655 soars above the Briggait with the ship on a globe at its apex tells the story of its maritime origins as part of the Merchants’ House and hospital. The iconic steeple is all that remains of the Merchant’s House and is one of the few reminders of medieval Glasgow. Hard to believe now but in Victorian times there were some health standards and that’s why the Briggait opened its doors to fish merchants in 1873, which took them off the streets and offered a hygienic hall in which to prepare their wares.

The fish market survived into the 20th century upholding traditions while just a short walk away the bustle of Argyll Street provided modern distractions.Sadly in 1977 the galleried cast iron, glass-roofed hall was converted into a retail development. During the 1980s the site was yuppified and was briefly a boutique shopping centre, however, this was ill-fated and the beautiful hall sadly soon fell into disuse and disrepair for a couple of decades.

In the dawn of the new millennium eventually, salvation came in 2009 when Wasps (Workshop and Artists Studio Provision Scotland) set their sights on bringing the building back to its former glory while offering modern world class facilities for artists. They had already worked their magic in some of the East end’s other abandoned buildings…

A £6.5 million redevelopment soon gained momentum and was designed by award-winning Dundee architects, Nicoll Russell Studios and supported by Scottish charities, The Wasps Trust and Wasps Studios. Much of the work involved the stripping back and undoing of the ugly 1980s shopping centre look. With a commitment to tradition and the original aesthetics, the elegant hall was carefully restored and some modern touches added to provide practical workshop spaces for painters, sculptors, designers and dancers.

When the Briggait revamp was completed a jewel in modern Glasgow’s crown started to shine once more! Wasps moved into the beautifully restored building in 2010 complete with 45 studios for visual artists, five shop front units, two street-front project and exhibition spaces, a new public space in the courtyard, and an internal gallery surrounding the ancient steeple.

In the time between the excesses of the 1980s and the present day, the Bohemian East end is now an affordable haven for artists across many mediums and has enjoyed a trendy coffee shop and ethnic food boom. Some of the tobacco factories have likewise been redeveloped, and the nearby Fruitmarket is a popular concert and events venue. Fruit merchants are also now selling their wares out at Blochairn.

What better place to showcase the life and style of modern Glasgow with a very contemporary event bringing foodies and drinks aficionados from across Scotland and beyond.

On the first weekend in August 2000 people will flock to the Scottish Drinks Festival over four sessions to get a taste of this truly intimate experience…

Scotland has a remarkable worldwide reputation for producing world class drinks from whisky to gin to craft ale and more recently rum and fruit wines. The evolution and tales of the drinks industry are woven into the fabric of Scottish history. We want to let you taste these tipples and hear these stories.

 

 

Over 150 different types of drinks will be available to sample including Old J Rums, Makar Glasgow Gin, Strathearn, Rock Rose, Fraiser of Scotland, Fallen Brewery, Deaths Door, Aviation gin, Evan Williams, Elijah Craig, Glengoyne, Tamdhu, Smokehead, Shetland Reel, Brockmans, Arran Malt whisky, Deanston, Ledaig, Bunnahabhain, The Scottish Gantry, One Gin, Fevertree, Spey Malt Whisky, Beinn Dubh, Elephant Gin, Fire Starter Vodka, Molvino Prosecco, Tower of London Dry Gin, Paletta wines, Savanna Cider.

The experts will be on hand to let you sample the drinks and learn more about their speciality gin, whisky, rum or other tipple treats. Scotland’s latest, greatest and most exciting drinks brands will serve taster size signature samples and The Scottish Gantry, a new local specialist wine and spirits retailer will be the bottle retailer on the day should you want to grab a bottle to take home with you.

The festival will also feature fresh culinary delights from some of the city’s best pop up street food specialists. From the good eating and the familiar, with Scottish twists and beyond. There will also be an option for those with a sweet tooth or a passion for a palletizer. Bold new flavours and innovative combinations will enrich your afternoon’s drink sampling whilst tantalising your taste buds. But the entertainment doesn’t stop there as each tasting session will be accompanied by live music from some local acoustic artists. Each customer will receive a complimentary glass, and event programme, as well as some other surprises from the exhibitors on the day.

All sampled drinks are included in the price but if you want to pick up any extra bottles, glassware or street food you will need to part with a few pennies. Most suppliers will take card payment but it’s worth mentioning that if you prefer cash, there is no ATM in Briggait.

Tickets for both sessions can be purchased online from here:
http://www.scottishdrinksfestival.com/book/ The full programme and more information can be found at http://www.scottishdrinksfestival.com/ or follow @ScottishDrinksFestival on Twitter. You can join the Facebook event HERE.