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by Kirsteen Paterson
25 May 2022
Glasgow Life boss defends aleo status as Burrell Collection visitor numbers are revealed

The Burrell Collection closed for refurbishment in 2016 and reopened in March this year

Glasgow Life boss defends aleo status as Burrell Collection visitor numbers are revealed

Debate over future of city culture and leisure charity

The head of culture body Glasgow Life has defended its aleo status as visitor numbers in the reopened Burrell Collection hit 125,000.

As many as 124,034 people have visited the A-listed museum in the 50 days since its reopening on 29 March.

The number is the same as the total figure for 2016, before the site shut for a £68.25m refurbishment.

Around 5,000 people visited on Good Friday alone.

Susan Deighan, who was announced as the new chief executive officer of the Glasgow City Council aleo (arm's-length external organisation) two months ago, told Holyrood the visitor surge is "good news not just for Glasgow, but for Scotland" and "reinforces those international cultural credentials" that boost the creative and tourism economies.

The success follows debate over the future of Glasgow Life, which operates sporting and gym facilities as well as cultural assets. The organisation and council came under fire over the delayed reopening of some local libraries as Covid regulations lifted, with community campaigns organised to 'save' the facilities.

There have also been questions over the future of assets like the People's Palace and Winter Gardens, St Mungo's Museum of Religious Life and Art and medieval Provand's Lordship. All of these remain closed, but the latter two will reopen next month and a consultation will take place on the next steps for the former.

During the election campaign, the Greens - who have now formed an administration with the SNP - called for reform of Glasgow Life to return "some or all of its functions to direct council control", while Labour - who emerged as the second largest party - said it was "open to potential alternative futures" for the charity, including restructuring.

On the future of the aleo, Deighan said the "major charity" has delivered for the city: "What we have done over the past 15 years is saved Glasgow's taxpayers about half a billion in terms of our ability to generate income and source savings, down to the charitable status. You would have to have a good reason to bring us back in. 

"We have continued to grow audiences, we have continued to grow participation, we have continued to attract investment into the city's cultural and sporting infrastructure. For me, I would have to ask, what would the benefit be?"

Deighan says she is "happy for people to scrutinise us on our performance but at the moment we are opening, we are restarting". She continued: "It would be more disappointing if people didn't care what we did. We have that outpouring of passion to make sure local libraries and museums are open, that has to be a good thing. It's a pretty amazing package that we provide."

The Burrell Collection is home to the artworks amassed by shipping magnate Sir William and Lady Constance Burrell. These include Persian carpets, medieval armour, 200 tapestries, and what Glasgow Life says is "one of the most significant collections of Chinese art in Europe".

Deighan said: "The popularity of the Burrell Collection, coupled with the positive reaction from visitors, demonstrates the affection for the museum and collection. Visitors are able to appreciate more works than before, in a sustainable and significantly enhanced environment which gives the collection even greater protection for generations to come. The relationship between the museum and Pollok Country Park is stronger than ever, allowing visitors the opportunity to spend more time enjoying this part of Glasgow."

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