SPIRITS were high in the city centre this afternoon as the Merchant City Festival returned to the streets of Glasgow. 

The event kicked off in style with a carnival party featuring stilt walkers and dancers celebrating Baroque Venetian carnival traditions.

For the first time since 2019, striking artworks were installed in the area, including a fountain, archway and Saints in an Alcove.

Glasgow Times:

Glasgow Times:

Lorenzo Mele, Festival Director, said: “I’m so excited for this year’s festival. Due to coronavirus, we carried out an online version so it is great to be back on the streets and in real life again.

“I think for us, we have always been an outdoor festival so we have always been Covid-safe.

“We’re really emphasising that this year – we are here, we are outdoors, it’s safe, fun and it’s something nice to do after the last 16 months of being locked inside the house."

Glasgow Times:

Glasgow Times:

The weekend-long event will see cabaret performances at Surge Festival at Barrowland Park and Walkabout in Merchant City, which will showcase acts on the city streets.

George Square will also be used for performances from 11am until 6.45pm from Friday July, 9 until Sunday July, 11.

Due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, some of the festival's activities seen in previous years will be restricted, with markets, food trucks and live music stages excluded from the programme.

Glasgow Times:

Glasgow Times:

Mr Mele added: “It feels great to take the festival virtual and back to real life again. It was good to do the virtual event last year but we are an outdoor festival. We’re about people in real space, having excited feelings in the street and in the squares.

“Even though it is a slimmed down festival this year, it is the right place to be.

“It has been important for us to support the local businesses here in the Merchant City. We're encouraging people to book a table at one of the outdoor bars or restaurants to watch the performances over the weekend.”

Kamal MacDonald, who is a stilt performer, told how he "cannot wait" to bring a smile to peoples' faces.

The 21-year-old said: “We’ve not had performances like this for so long now so it will be exciting to put a smile on people’s faces again. We can't wait to see everyone smile.

“It’s going to be so fun to see everyone’s reactions again – we’ve missed that. I think the highlight for me is just having the chance to perform again and to see everyone’s joy from the art.”

Glasgow Times:

Artwork will be displayed at five points theoughout the Merchant City with short bursts of pop-up performance between 4pm and 8pm each evening.

All events, with the exception of the Walking Tour, will be free-to-attend to the public, but spaces for performances at George Square and Barrowland Park are required to be booked in advance.

Festival visitors are also being encouraged to pre-book tables for pubs and local restaurants.

For more information and a full list of event, visit merchantcityfestival.com.