Billy Connolly’s mural that he personally loves could be removed for student flats

Richard Bevan
Richard Bevan
3 Min Read

The beloved mural of Billy Connolly in Glasgow is under threat from a new student housing project. Developers claim they can’t save the 50-foot artwork on Osbourne Street. John Byrne painted the mural, one of three unveiled in 2017 for Connolly’s 75th birthday.

Interestingly, Glasgow City Council, currently scrutinising the plans, remarks that they always envisioned this illustrious mural as a fleeting masterpiece. The Connolly murals, deeply cherished by Glaswegians and tourists alike, are a vital segment of Glasgow’s city centre mural trail.

 Billy Connolly visited the mural in 2017, based on the artwork of Scottish artist John Byrne

The developer, the Ambassador Group, is keen to construct 270 flats on this long-vacant plot. This new development, rising to a commanding 10 storeys, indeed promises to infuse the city centre with modern living spaces. Consequently, when Connolly laid eyes on his mural in 2017, he was undoubtedly gobsmacked.

During the public consultation, many furrowed their brows over the mural’s uncertain future. However, Streets UK, acting as the developers’ voice, assert that keeping the mural intact is a tall order. A spokesperson explained, “Early in our design journey, it dawned on us that maintaining the mural, given its proximity to any potential building, would be a right pickle. Despite their temporary intent, people deeply love the murals.

The Gallowgate mural shows Billy in an outfit made from highlights in his career

Streets UK disclosed that brainstorming for an innovative art plan to embellish the neighbourhood is underway, and they’re all ears for suggestions about a fresh mural elsewhere. These trio of Connolly murals, a nod to his invaluable contributions, were part of a BBC Scotland documentary in 2017. On his jaunt to Glasgow, the Big Yin confessed that the artwork in person bowled him over.

Let’s not forget, the Osbourne Street mural owes its existence to the genius of Scottish artist and playwright, John Byrne. Additionally, Vettriano’s ‘Dr Connolly, I Presume?’ is on Dixon Street, while Maclean’s ‘Big Yin’ is near Gallowgate. However, a new pub annex might partly hide the Dixon Street mural.

 Another Billy mural Dixon Street in the city centre

Currently, the ball is in the court of the Ambassador Group’s planning application. Chiming in, a Glasgow City Council spokesperson commented, “These murals, from the get-go, aimed to breathe temporary life into spaces, pending future developments. Case in point – other murals, like the hip-hop puppets on George Street, have vanished as the city centre’s landscape transforms.”

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