WEST END Festival director Michael Dale had a quiet laugh to himself recently.

On the radio programme The Unbelievable Truth, in which panellists try to sneak facts past each other amid a flurry of nonsense, David Mitchell mentioned Glasgow was the first city in the world to host a play for dogs.

“Everyone fell about laughing when he revealed it was true,” smiles Michael. “That was us. We put on Hopscotch Theatre’s Who Stole My Sausage? In 2007 for the West End Festival, and 180 dogs and their human owners came along.

“I’ve often thought of doing a follow-up. Who Stole My Vegan Sausage, maybe?”

Glasgow Times: West End Festival launch 2007 with Hue and Cry

A play for dogs is the kind of bonkers brilliant stuff the festival, which celebrates its 25th anniversary this year, is known for. For two and a half decades, it has been brightening up the west end with colour, charm and creativity, and has become a much-loved part of the city’s cultural calendar.

Glasgow Times: Bard in the Botanics 2008

It was a chance conversation that sparked the idea of a community, cultural festival in the west end, Michael explains.

“My career was in events – I’d been head of the Edinburgh Fringe for five years, 1981 to 1985, then director of the Glasgow Garden Festival, then chief executive of the European Special Olympics and I was looking for something else to do,” he says.

Glasgow Times: Michael Dale in 2008

“I was working in London and got chatting to a woman who was planning to stage an arts festival in Islington and I thought, oh, I’ll start the Glasgow West End Festival.

“One of the first images I had in my head was a parade because if you want something to have impact, you have to go for it.

“A local dance and drama company had funding for a carnival, but nowhere to do it, and that’s where it started. I remember calling the roads department and asking if I could close Byres Road for an afternoon.”

He grins: “There was a long silence and then ‘ ‘you’ve got to be joking, Michael’…..”

Glasgow Times: Tens of thousands turned up to the parade on Byres Road

The road closure did not happen in the first year but eventually, numbers grew so much that it became essential. Tens of thousands of people flocked to Byres Road and Kelvingrove Park to see the traditional opening event of a festival which encompasses everything from music and theatre to facepainting, funfairs and farmers’ markets.

There have been many highlights over the past 25 years – stars such as Dougie Maclean and Hue and Cry performing live, the landmark Belle and Sebastian free concert in 2004 which drew 15,000 people to the Botanic Gardens and the festival’s role in giving life to important events such as Bard in the Botanics, the Gibson Street Gala, the Cottier Chamber Project and the Mansfield Park farmers’ markets.

Since Michael came up with the idea in 1996, he has been at the helm, but the 2021 festival – held later because of Covid – will be his last.

“Things come to an end,” he explains. “And I am terribly old now. I still have things I want to do, but it’s the right time for me to step down.”

“I am incredibly proud of the festival and all it's achieved.”

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This year’s festival starts today with the Vinicombe Street Family Gala from 1pm, and Big Tunes@The Bandstand, also from 1pm; and tomorrow, from 2pm until 4pm, the Glasgow Folk Music Workshop Outdoor Ceilidh at Kelvingrove Art Galleries and the Cooperation Brass Band at the Kelvingrove Bandstand.

Next weekend, lookout for the outdoor ceilidh at Vinicombe Street on September 18, SambaYaBamba and Friends at the Art Galleries and Think Circus’s Autumn Solstice fire and dance show on September 19.