Visiting Spaceport Glasgow

We are now just under a year away from the next Glasgow Worldcon. A lot of excitement is building up on this side of the Atlantic. However, as is usual for a Worldcon, lots of people are keen to know more about the location. Obviously we had a Worldcon in Glasgow in 2005, but a lot can change in 18 years, and some of our 2024 members would not have been born then. As I had been asked to give a talk at the University of Glasgow this month, I took the opportunity to scout out the site and take a few pictures.

The first thing to note is that you may be able to save money by staying away from what is now called the SEC (Scottish Event Campus). In 1995 I stayed in student accommodation on the other side of the city. It was possible to get to the convention and back fairly easily, though I did have a car. If you are somewhere in the city centre, you will probably want to travel by train.

The University put me up in the ABode, which is about 10 minutes walk from Glasgow Central. Queen Street is closer, it Central is where you catch the train to the SEC. The hotel isn’t hugely accessible, but if you have accessibility issues you’ll probably want to be on the campus anyway. It is a lot cheaper than the big hotel chains, though if you are collecting points there’s a Hampton Inn right next door.

A feature of the ABode is this splendid cage elevator. The building itself is lovely too.

There are loads of restaurants in the vicinity, and the hotel does a fine Scottish Breakfast. The smoked salmon and scrambled egg on sourdough toast is very good too.

The hotel serves milk in these cute little milk churns.

Glasgow Central is huge, and finding the train to the SEC can be challenging. As you look at the platforms, you want to head as far to the right as possible, and look for the stairs/escalators down to platforms 16 and 17. Trains are cheap and very regular, and it is only two stops. Despite just missing one train, I still made it from the hotel to Exhibition Centre station in half an hour.

Scot Rail has signage in both English and Scottish Gaelic. Sadly there are no signs in Scots, the English-like language mostly spoken in Lowland Scotland. If they had them, visitors would find it much easier to understand the locals. The Scots for Glasgow is Glesgae.

The station is about a 5 minute walk from the station to the SEC. It is mostly covered, but just to make sure you get the full Scottish rain experience it stops just short of both station and exhibition halls. You can see the end of the covered walkway to the right of the picture below.

The bulk of the convention will take place in the main SEC halls. However, in 2005 the Events Division were given the Armadillo in which to play. This is a large, purpose-built auditorium which is exactly the sort of space that things like the Hugo Ceremony and Masquerade need. In 2024 I believe that all programming will take place in either the SEC or the Crowne Plaza hotel, but Kevin and I ran Events for 2005 and I couldn’t resist going to see the old place.

In keeping with the convention’s theme of Spaceport Glasgow, we made the Armadillo an interstellar cruise liner operated by White Star Federated Spacelines (WSFS) with Kevin as the captain and me doing my best Susan Ivanova impression as First Officer. This is why you will sometimes see Kevin wearing a ship’s captain uniform at conventions. The header image for this article is a part of the painting of the spaceport that Jim Burns did for the convention, shpwing the Armadillo taking off. It was great fun. We even put together an in-flight magazine for the ship, and this issue’s cover is the art Frank Wu did for that.

This year there is a new ship in the spaceport: the OVO Hydro. Outer Void Operations is an adventure holiday company that promises to take you where no sentient lifeform has been before. Thanks to its somewhat risky flight plans, the Hydro often has to hire private security. Earlier this year they were using the notorious space pirate, Simon Le Bon, and his Wild Boys gang. However, they seem to have moved on. There is no word as yet as to who you might find aboard the Hydo next August.

Across the car park from the SEC and Armadillo there is a bevy of hotels, and also the giant crane that Iain J Clark has made famous in his art for the convention. Here you can see the Hilton Garden Inn, the Radisson Red, and the Campanile.

Here’s another view with the Radisson, Campanile and the Courtyard by Marriott.

Across the river there is a Premier Inn. Thanks to the footbridge, it is closer to the Crowne Plaza than the hotels above. Of course it may be full of BBC Scotland people.

The Crowne Plaza is tucked away behind the Armadillo.

There are plenty of tourism opportunities, starting with the Glasgow Science Centre which is next to the BBC Scotland building. The odd-coloured lump between them is an IMAX cinema.

Loch Lomond is apparently 20 minutes miles from the Crowne Plaza by bicycle.

Not so far away, and walkable for most people, is the Riverside Museum and a lovely Tall Ship.

But the most exciting new development is this building. You can see the rear of the Armadillo in the background, so you can see how close it is.

And what is that building? It is the Clydeside Whisky Distillery!