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Archaeologists hope to recover remnants of Glasgow Garden Festival

The 27-tonne concrete and steel Floating Head sculpture was one of the artworks created for the Garden Festival (Andrew Milligan/PA)
The 27-tonne concrete and steel Floating Head sculpture was one of the artworks created for the Garden Festival (Andrew Milligan/PA)

Archaeologists hope to recover remains of the “huge spectacle” that was the Glasgow Garden Festival at a new dig on the riverside site.

A team of staff and students from the archaeology department at the University of Glasgow started work on the project on Monday, using a geophysical survey to identify what remains of the Festival beneath the ground.

It comes more than three decades on from the 1988 Garden Festival, which transformed a plot of land on  the south bank of the River Clyde from a declining dockyard into green spaces, a theme park and adventure playground.

The festival, which was opened by the Prince and Princess of Wales, attracted millions of visitors between April and September that year, with a rollercoaster and a miniature railway, as well as various pavilions and garden areas.

With much of the 120-acre site having been redeveloped since, After The Garden Festival – which is led by Dr Kenny Brophy – will base its investigation in the area of Festival Park on Govan Road.

Surviving visible remains of the event will be surveyed, with some small-scale excavation work also due to be carried out.

Dr Brophy, a senior lecturer in archaeology at the school of humanities at the university, said: “The place we will be surveying is now called Festival Park and it hosted some features many visitors will remember, including a miniature railway line, the replica Roman Bathhouse, the pavilion of Bowmore Distillers, a Highland-themed restaurant, and artworks such as scarecrows and The Ancient Forester.

“We want to see what remains, 34 years on, of that huge spectacle – what can be detected of the attractions and the people that visited them, and did visitors leave anything behind?

“It is also a great opportunity to show that archaeological techniques can help to shed light on our contemporary world, and not just the ancient past!”

As part of the project, which is being supported with funding from Glasgow City Heritage Trust, the public are being encouraged to watch the team at work this weekend.

Dr Brophy said: “We want to encourage everyone to come and see us at work on Saturday May 28 between 10am and 3pm. We also hope that members of the general public can bring along their memories and photographs of the Festival.”

People with memories or photos of the Garden Festival are also being urged to submit these to the team via the website www.glasgowgardenfestival.org or by emailing info@glasgowgardenfestival.org

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