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Performing Arts

Glasgow has long been Scotland’s creative powerhouse, obtaining accolades such as European City of Culture, UNESCO City of Music and most recently the UK’s top cultural and creative city (European Commission, 2019). Today, the city continues to be the driving force in Scottish culture and is known as a performance arts powerhouse.

The variety of performances on offer each day and week in the city is amazing. You can be wowed by the physical theatre and circus skills of festival performers; take in the elegance and beauty of world class ballerinas; join sell out audiences for smash hit touring shows at one of the city’s renowned theatres; or smile as you watch a mine or puppet artist entertain an intimate crowd.


Did you know?

Did you know that Glasgow is home to five of Scotland’s six national performance art institutions which regularly wow audiences at home and abroad?

Since it was established in 1891, The Royal Scottish National Orchestra (RSNO) has played an integral role in Scotland’s cultural scene and regularly tours around the globe. The orchestra has received numerous Grammy award nominations and continues to attract renowned conductors such as George Szell, Sir John Barbirolli, and Stéphane Denève, underpinning its ever growing international reputation.

The National Theatre of Scotland (NTS) have garnered international acclaim since launching as a ground-breaking ‘theatre without walls’ back in 2006. Their shows have been as equally cutting edge as their model with notable productions including Black Watch, which won four Laurence Olivier Awards and a radical reimagining of Macbeth starring Alan Cumming, which was first presented at Glasgow’s Tramway before going on to critical and popular success on New York’s Broadway. 

BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra was established in 1935 and is based in Glasgow’s oldest purpose built performance space, the City Halls. The Orchestra regularly holds a series of events and performances at its Glasgow base as well as performing to audiences across Scotland and undertaking a continuing schedule of recordings and broadcasts for TV, radio and online.


As Scotland's national dance company, Scottish Ballet relentlessly pushes the boundaries of dance through its reworking of classic tales, performances of pivotal 20th Century works, new commissions and experimentation with digital technology. From their headquarters at Tramway, the company continually creates award-winning performances that they tour across the UK. 

"Everything Scottish Ballet does seems to be characterised by vibrant engery, brilliant coherence and an effortless visual elegance."

The Daily Telegraph

Scottish Opera has a reputation for producing pioneering work and makes their base in the city’s stunning Theatre Royal. In late 2016 it staged the UK’s first dementia friendly opera performance and continues to expand on the success of its work to inspire children from as young as 6 months old.

As well as being home to five of Scotland’s national performance organisations, Glasgow is also home to the third highest ranking performing arts education institution in the world (QS World Rankings 2017) – the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland. Standing alongside the likes of New York’s Julliard, the Conservatoire offers a world class education, with famous alumni including, Alan Cumming, Alison Brie and David Tennant.

With such esteemed organisations, based within world class venues, it is no wonder that Glasgow has become a performing arts powerhouse. Creatives converge here because it is an exciting city in which to make, create and perform and as a result Glasgow has become a magnet for talent and audiences alike.


Where can you see it?

The city’s performance arts scene is not confined to grand venues, it also spills out into the streets, lanes and parks of the city, particularly throughout the summer months, when the city's neighbourhood's are brought to life in glorious technicolour with peformances as part of the Glasgow Mela, West End Festival and Merchant City Festival

The city has some of the UK’s oldest and most beautiful theatres, such as the Theatre Royal and The King's, as well as some of the UK’s most cutting edge and contemporary spaces, such as Tramway - which hosted the second edition of Scotland’s leading contemporary dance festival, Dance international Glasgow in 2017.  The city’s expansive parks also host their share of performances. There is Bard in the Botanics which takes place in the month of June in the beautiful Botanic Gardens and the Kelvingrove Bandstand set within Kelvingrove Park is the scene for many performances and music festivals, such as Summer Nights at the Bandstand.

Glasgow is home to the UK’s most successful lunchtime theatre programme – A Play, a Pie and a Pint. Taking place at the stunning Oran Mor in the city’s West End, the show is prolific in its output, producing 38 new plays a year. A truly unique treat is a visit to the Sharmanka Kinetic Theatre, where you can watch shows of hundreds of carved figures and pieces of old scrap performing choreography to haunting music and synchronised light. And just next door to the kinetic theatre is another hidden gem in Glasgow’s cultural history – the Britannia Panopticon. Opened in the 1850s, the world’s oldest surviving music hall was where the city’s workers would cram in to to be entertained. Take a tour and hear the astounding stories of this venue, including tales about the future stars (including Stan Laurel and Archie Leach aka Cary Grant) who dared to tread the boards to perform in front of the unforgiving audience. 

 Check out our what's on guide to find out what's coming up. 


Article last update: November 2019