OVER five million concert-goers in five years have visited the SSE Hydro...a figure which has exceeded the expectations of the woman responsible for bringing some of the world's biggest acts to Glasgow.

Debbie McWilliams has been at the helm of the Scottish Event Campus operation for the past three decades - and her crowning glory is clearly, the Hydro.

"The amount of people who are buying tickets to come and see shows at the Hydro demonstrates that we needed that building," explained Debbie, who is Head of Live Entertainment.

"We built it, the artist and audience comes, and we have achieved global success in the city as a result," she continued.

She added: "We have consistently topped the Pollstar charts, and that level of success probably surpassed our expectations.

"But we knew instantly after night one when the doors opened. There was a big crowd in there to see Rod Stewart, who was the ideal opening act.

"And the building just came to life, it was obvious we had something very special."


The 13,000 capacity Hydro, which was designed by Fosters + Partners, opened its doors on September 30, 2013 with Rod Stewart, Bruno Mars and Fleetwood Mac among the first acts to play.

Since then, the arena, which was designed on ancient Roman and Greek architecture concepts, similar to amphitheatres, has hosted more than 373 events - and Debbie is the woman tasked with making that happen.

She said: "An artist can come here and be pretty much guaranteed success in terms of ticket sales.

"The Hydro is going to be part of most tours. We have become very much a must play destination, and part of that is down to the Glasgow audience."


Last year, Debbie earned top spot in Billboard’s Arena Power Players, in the 10,001-15,000 capacity venues category, and it is no wonder given some of the acts she has been able to attract to the city.

She said: "I am proud of every single event. Each event delivers something for somebody.

"Prince playing the Hydro was by far a really special night and getting Celine Dion back to Glasgow after 20 years was a proud moment."

She continued: "It is a bit special every time we secure an act that has never played before.

"We want to get to that place where we can say every single touring act has played our building."


Stevie Wonder

With that goal in mind, Debbie has a wish list of artists she hopes will one day take to the Hydro stage.

"Stevie Wonder, it is big aspiration to try and get him," she smiled before adding, "Barbara Streisand is another one."

Getting the acts here is one thing but having to deal with their diva demands is quite another as Debbie explained.

"An artist wanted us to bring a hot tub into their dressing room and I am pleased to say that there is no challenge that we have not been able to meet," she laughed.

She added: "You get a whole host of different requests but one of the funniest stories was a really high profile artist had no hairspray.

"We had to try and locate hairspray at the oddest hour, and it turned out someone in here had it from the Poundshop but it did the trick.

"There is also the crazy ones that I can’t really talk about."

She can, however, talk about how much the artists love the venue when they come here to perform.

"The artists love the uniqueness of the building, the shape, the iconic exterior and how the building looks on the inside as well," she said.

She added: "When most artists are touring, the majority of arenas have that hockey-style, long shape whereas we have got this atmospheric style colosseum, and what it does, it gives intimacy."


The artists are also given the most Scottish welcome possible with backstage signs featuring phrases such as 'Gie it laldy' and 'Haste yer back'.

"Everybody in Glasgow knows what that means," Debbie beamed.

She added: "It is funny when some of the artists try and pronounce it. It is a talking point for sure, some will even reference on stage.

"There is little bits and pieces backstage which encourages the artists to engage with the venue, to get the message out about where they are and how much they are liking being there."


And it is clear from Debbie, that there is not much she doesn't like about working at the Scottish Event Campus.

"It will be hard to find things that I don’t love about this job," she admitted.

She added: "It will sound very obvious but being part of a really exciting industry and being able to influence whether an artist could maybe play this city is quite an incredible experience.

"There is always a lot of adrenaline going when you take that call about potentially an artist coming."


That feeling is bound to stay with her in the coming years with the future looking as bright as ever for the city venue.

"We are probably going to see artists who are no longer with us, performing live," she said.


She added: "Technology will play a huge part in live entertainment. . We will start to see a more immersive experience with virtual reality becoming a big part of a show. You'll come in, wear goggles and feel like you are on stage with the artist.

"Touring doesn’t seem to be diminishing, artists want to work. They want to tour and they are touring more often."