The woman instrumental in bringing the Commonwealth Games to Glasgow has described it as an “absolute honour” to have led the city’s sport and culture organisation as she announced she is to retire.
Bridget McConnell will step down as chief executive of Glasgow Life in May after 24 years running the council charity.
Mrs McConnell, 63, said it had been “an incredible honour to have spent almost a quarter of a century working on behalf of this fantastic and unique city”.
“I could have scarcely imagined helping bring a handwritten original manuscript of Auld Lang Syne to the city or seeing Celtic Connections become a global brand, or winning and hosting the Commonwealth Games when I came here,” said Mrs McConnell, who is married to former Labour first minister, Jack McConnell.
“Glasgow’s reputation has grown around the world as a city ambitious for itself and for its unrivalled culture and sport, and has so much to look forward to, including the reopening of the Burrell Collection in March, the World Cycling Championships in 2023 and the World Indoor Athletics Championships in 2024.”
Glasgow Life delivers cultural, sporting and learning activities on behalf of Glasgow City Council.
During her time at the head of the organisation, Mrs McConnell had a significant role in major city projects including the £35m refurbishment of Kelvingrove Art Gallery and the building of the £74m Riverside Museum and £113m Emirates Arena.
But the coronavirus pandemic has seen the charity’s income suffer massively.
Last year, Glasgow Life announced hundreds of jobs were to be cut having lost £38m due to the closure of venues during the pandemic.
The city’s 33 libraries were closed for months due to the coronavirus pandemic but only 28 were then scheduled to open again.
A fight to save the historic libraries from permanent closure was won after the Scottish Government agreed to fund their reopening.
On Monday, four more libraries reopened but campaigners are concerned the money is only a temporary fix.
In a leaked draft budget, Glasgow City Council officials outlined proposals for Glasgow Life to make more than £1m in savings to help plug a £34m funding gap.
In 2019, before the pandemic struck, Scotland’s biggest city welcomed some 2.5 million domestic and international visitors, boosting Glasgow’s economy by £774m.
During the pandemic, Mrs McConnell had been steering the redesign of Glasgow Life and advocating for its role in the economic and social recovery of the city.
Councillor David McDonald, the chairman of Glasgow Life and depute leader of Glasgow City Council, thanked the outgoing chief executive for her “exceptional and dedicated work” and said she had been “one of Glasgow’s greatest assets for more than two decades”.
“Glasgow Life has become one of Scotland’s biggest charities under her leadership, helping people in Glasgow to live happier, healthier and more fulfilled lives,” he said.
She was made a CBE in 2015 for services to culture, was named a fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh in 2017, and is also a director of Festival UK 2022 Ltd.