All Lit Up

Company Name: Welfare State International
Location: Glasgow
Year: 1990

In 1990, Glasgow was selected by the European Community as the European City of Culture. Welfare State’s contribution was the centre piece of the community work. After recruiting a Scottish Team from a deprived ship building area, they worked for 18 months with 250 educational and community groups through the region of Strathclyde to produce 4 big lantern processions to arrive from 4 cardinal points in the city. 8000 lanterns paraded through the city making it the biggest Lantern Procession in Europe.

British Gas Scotland refused to make a contribution to the event unless Welfare State International agreed not to use it’s name, so they used the abbreviation WSI, and similarly abbreviated British Gas Scotland to BG.

Joyce MacMillan review The Guardian:

‘All the lanterns depict subject matter with a Glasgow, or more broadly Scottish connection. … There were beautifully made lanterns and weak, battered messy ones. There were boats and space ships and churches and Mutant Hero Turtles, and lots of simple  triangular lanterns with nothing gorgeous, blobby abstract patterns on. In recognition of Glasgow’s strange crest – the tree, the bird, the bell, the fish – there were hundreds of brightly coloured fish from huge sharks to tiny tiddlers; Lochgilphead primary school brough a whole shoal 30 –strong.

Later down at Glasgow Green, the ground was very squelchy and things went on a bit too long, as these events do. There were gorgeous 40 ft. towers of lanterns, ice-cream vans, hot dog stalls, and a big firework display; and Welfare State produced a kind of visual fantasia on the tree, bird, bell and fish theme, which ended with the tree burning down, and a gleaming white bird rising – rather limp-wristed, on account of the rain – from the ashes.

‘Why’s that tree burning and falling to bits, dad?’ asked a tot in the crowd. ‘Because it symbolises Glasgow, hen’ answered the dad, with feeling. But everyone laughed because we knew there would be a phoenix later.’

Back to Welfare State International