Remembering The Big Day: The 1990 Glasgow city centre festival that saw political rants, huge Glaswegian artists, and much more

A free festival in Glasgow City Centre that saw massive gigs, political rants, and a crowd on the verge of rioting after hearing an American accent - what more could you have asked for?

Long before the days of T in the Park and TRNSMT - Glasgow had The Big Day, a one-off summer concert in 1990 that saw tens of thousands of music fans descend upon George Square and Glasgow Green.

Glasgow in 1990 really had it going on, we were named the European City of Culture in 1990 and the city really celebrated that fact - and The Big Day was just one of many events that justified Glasgow’s cultural status within Europe.

It’s almost crazy to think that Glasgow City Council would allow an event of such a scale to happen in the city centre nowadays, but 1990 was a real transitional era in which Glasgow transformed from a lost post-industrial city, to a city with stuff going on, a place people wanted to be, with some of the best nightlife, clubs, and lifestyle avaliable in the UK (or at least we think so).

Around 250,000 people turned up between the stages at Glasgow Green, The People’s Palace, Riverside (Custom House Quay), and George Square - you can see the full scale of the event from the photos below, if you were there then you know that it was absolutely mental.

The line-up included some of the best Glasgow had to offer: like Texas, Big Country, Wet Wet Wet, Deacon Blue, Hue and Cry and The Hothouse Flowers. Billy Bragg also played live on stage with two special guests, Natalie Merchant and Michael Stipe of REM.

The best part? It was all free, it was even broadcast on Channel 4 live, making it the biggest live music event that the channel had broadcast at that point - meaning people all across Britain could tune into Glasgow City Centre live.

It also had its share of controversial moments, but that’s to be expected when you put so many Glaswegian rockstars on-stage on the same day. The Pogues were even banned from performing, out of fears of sparking a sectarian riot in the crowd at a time when tensions (and knife crime) were much higher than they are in present-day Glasgow.

Bellshill legend Sheena Easton fell out of public favour as she realised she had lost her West of Scotland inflection due a new life in Los Angeles as an international superstar. Her new mid-Atlantic accent was met with boos and even projectiles chucked at the stage which forced her to close her set early. She never played in Scotland again.

Deacon Blue closed the giant festival on Glasgow Green - and very much still in the spirit of the 80s, frontman Ricky Ross couldn’t help but embark on a political rant.

But it wasn’t about the Tory’s Poll Tax as you might expect, instead it was about a steelworks in Motherwell called Ravenscraig, which was preparing to cease production for good.

As fireworks blew up and filled the night sky above Glasgow Green, Ricky Ross said to a crowd of tens of thousands:“This concert is for the people of Glasgow who have no homes to go to.”

He then dedicated a song to “the people of Motherwell and Ravenscraig who soon won’t be able to afford a home, and to the people of Scotland who have been lied to and sold down the river by the Labour party who don’t ask questions on their behalf in Westminster”.

It truly was one of the best festival’s Glasgow has ever seen - check out our picture gallery below to remember The Big Day with us.