Glasgow’s People’s Palace receives huge restoration boost as search for extra funding begins

The refurb of the museum would begin next year with work expected to be completed in 2027
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A hunt for funding to restore Glasgow’s People’s Palace is under way, after a £7.5m lottery bid was approved.

Proposals for a £36m restoration of the social history museum and Winter Gardens glasshouse were presented to councillors on Thursday. The project could deliver a space that “celebrates Glasgow today, shares the city’s incredible stories, connects to Glasgow Green” and “safeguards the future of this significant cultural and historical asset”.

If a funding package can be put together, work would start next year and the new museum would be expected to open in 2027. Glasgow’s city administration committee approved a £7.5m application to the National Lottery Heritage fund. Only around £5m of finance has currently been confirmed, with Glasgow Life, the arms-length organisation running culture and leisure venues, now looking to secure £12m from public sector funders.

The idea of “palaces for the people” drew on the writings of John Ruskin, William Morris and Annie Besant. At the time, the East End of Glasgow was one of the most unhealthy and overcrowded parts of the city, and the People’s Palace was intended to provide a cultural centre for the people. Upon its opening, Rosebery from the House of Lords described it as: “A palace of pleasure and imagination around which the people may place their affections and which may give them a home on which their memory may rest”. He declared the building “Open to the people for ever and ever”. While you can still visit the people’s palace today, the Winter Gardens have been closed since 2018. The idea of “palaces for the people” drew on the writings of John Ruskin, William Morris and Annie Besant. At the time, the East End of Glasgow was one of the most unhealthy and overcrowded parts of the city, and the People’s Palace was intended to provide a cultural centre for the people. Upon its opening, Rosebery from the House of Lords described it as: “A palace of pleasure and imagination around which the people may place their affections and which may give them a home on which their memory may rest”. He declared the building “Open to the people for ever and ever”. While you can still visit the people’s palace today, the Winter Gardens have been closed since 2018.
The idea of “palaces for the people” drew on the writings of John Ruskin, William Morris and Annie Besant. At the time, the East End of Glasgow was one of the most unhealthy and overcrowded parts of the city, and the People’s Palace was intended to provide a cultural centre for the people. Upon its opening, Rosebery from the House of Lords described it as: “A palace of pleasure and imagination around which the people may place their affections and which may give them a home on which their memory may rest”. He declared the building “Open to the people for ever and ever”. While you can still visit the people’s palace today, the Winter Gardens have been closed since 2018.

The remaining £11m would come from a council contribution. An application to the UK Government’s Levelling Up fund was unsuccessful earlier this year. The future of the venues, originally opened in 1898, has been uncertain, with structural and safety concerns leading to closures. A council report stated “water ingress, plaster damage and ageing mechanical and engineering system” are putting the People’s Palace collection “at risk”.

Bailie Annette Christie, SNP, city convener for culture, sport and international relations and the chair of Glasgow Life, said the plans acknowledged “the council’s continued commitment and dedication to revitalising one of Glasgow’s most treasured spaces”. They would “deliver an outstanding new museum experience and provide a modern, inclusive and sustainable facility” which would provide a “unique insight into life and heritage of our city”.

She told councillors: “These are ambitious proposals and at today’s prices the project is expected to cost £35.9million. The full cost will be known when a comprehensive design and procurement exercise is completed.”

Cllr Jon Molyneux, Greens, asked officials about ongoing maintenance of a restored museum and glasshouse, and whether the council had “learned from mistakes of the past”.

An official said the council “clearly needs to learn from some of the lack of maintenance in the past”. Every effort would be made in the development phase to reduce the amount of maintenance required, he added. He pointed to a recent “successful restoration” of Tollcross Winter Gardens. The official said: “We believe there are loads of new products, tried and tested, especially from the offshore industry, that protect metal components in very harsh environments that we would be able to use.”

A spokesman for Glasgow Life said the organisation has been “working hard with Glasgow City Council on an ambitious plan” to “restore and re-imagine” the “much-loved” landmark. He added: “Glasgow Life’s innovative approach at The Burrell Collection; working with local people to remove barriers and create a truly accessible and inclusive museum, is a blueprint which we will continue to build on. The people of Glasgow will play a key role in designing a dynamic, community-led and more sustainable People’s Palace and Winter Gardens.”

The spokesman said Glasgow Life has a “successful track record of working with partner organisations and major funding bodies, whose support will be instrumental in realising our ambition to breathe new life into this treasured venue. We are at the development stage of the project and in discussions with a range of potential public sector funders and partners as we look to secure the funding model in a challenging financial climate.”