ON September 30, the OVO Hydro celebrates its 10th anniversary.

The Glasgow Times is marking the milestone with a week of special features dedicated to the famous venue and its impact on the city.

GLASGOW has always been a “music city”, agrees Debbie McWilliams, director of live entertainment at the OVO Hydro.

“We have the Barrowland, King Tut’s - and people still talk of the legendary Apollo,” she says. “The Hydro has taken things to another level.”

In her office, tucked away inside the maze of backstage corridors and rooms which fill the Clydeside venue, a table has pride of place. Under its glass top, lovingly preserved, are tickets from dozens of gigs over the years. There is a story behind each one.

“It’s always a conversation starter,” says Debbie, smiling. “Every single one brings back memories.”

Glasgow Times: Debbie McWilliams is head of live entertainment at the OVO Hydro, which celebrates its 10th birthday this weekDebbie McWilliams is head of live entertainment at the OVO Hydro, which celebrates its 10th birthday this week (Image: Colin Mearns/Newsquest)

(It is also a reminder of a time when you could see the likes of Dire Straits, Peter Gabriel and Take That for a little less than £20.)

Signed photos, from a galaxy of stars including Bette Midler, the Osmonds, Lionel Ritchie, Katy Perry and Elton John line the walls, just a small selection of the big names who have performed at the venue over the last decade. More than 10 million people have visited the Hydro since it opened its doors in 2013.

“What a 10 years it has been,” says Debbie, with feeling. “Whenever I talk to people who live and work in Glasgow, in shops, or taxi drivers - everyone is so proud of the Hydro and what it has brought to the city.”

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Debbie, who is from Dennistoun, came to work at what was then the Scottish Exhibition and Conference Centre 34 years ago as a temp, and has worked up through the ranks, watching as first the Armadillo (Clyde Auditorium) and the £125m Hydro took shape beside the original SECC.

“It was so exciting for me,” she says. “It still is. Working in live entertainment has its challenges, of course. But I feel like I have been part of the evolution of the campus, from a junior position in a young team, to where we are now. It’s been an honour to be part of something so special, which means so much to so many people.”

More than 10 million people have come through the doors of the Hydro since it opened on September 30, 2013, for concerts, comedy, sports events, awards ceremonies and more.

Glasgow Times: Rod Stewart opened the Hydro in 2013Rod Stewart opened the Hydro in 2013 (Image: Mark Mainz/Newsquest)

Rod Stewart had the honour of being the first act to take to the giant stage, followed by the Jesus Christ Superstar UK Tour, Fleetwood Mac and Bruno Mars. Around 80,000 people attended those events in the first week alone.

Debbie has a long list of “favourite” gigs - too many to mention - but among the highlights are Prince, Elton John, Bette Midler and Rod Stewart.

“Prince was mesmerising on stage,” she recalls. “It felt so special just to be there. And of course, we did not know it at the time, but it would be his last performance in Scotland.

“Elton was just spectacular - it was a real privilege to be hosts for his last arena show in Scotland on his farewell tour. Bette Midler was incredible. And that first concert with Rod - that was a very emotional night.”

Debbie adds: “It’s not just music, of course. Events and conferences have grown exponentially. We played a part in the Commonwealth Games in 2014, the MTV Awards have been held here, BBC Sports Personality of the Year, the World Gymnastics championships, COP26 and most recently the UCI Cycling championships….the Hydro is part of the life of the city.”

The venue has also had an impact on Glasgow, particularly in the surrounding streets of Finnieston. Stylish new bars, restaurants and hotels have sprung up in an area historically connected to the shipyards and heavy industry.

“People come back time and time again to the Hydro, they know what we mean to the city and I think the impact we have had on hotels, local restaurants and bars is greatly appreciated,” says Debbie. “It’s a social destination, not just a venue, and there has been a real vibrancy in the area since the Hydro arrived.”

It may have been her day job for more than 34 years, but Debbie still relishes the walking into the venue every morning.

“There is a real buzz about the place on concert days,” she says. “People talk of a honeymoon period after a new venue opens, which eventually comes to a stop. At the Hydro, the honeymoon period has never ended.

“That’s because of the fans. They’re the ones who make this place special.”

She pauses.

“As for the next 10 years? The world is our oyster,” she says, with a broad smile. “We aim to build on our success, and to keep bringing the biggest and best names to Glasgow.”

Don't miss tomorrow's Glasgow Times as Finnieston residents and businesses share their views on the impact the Hydro has had on their community.