Meet the Glasgow Garage DJ who has been spinning the hits for 25 years

Nicola Walker has been a DJ at the Garage for 25 years
Nicola Walker has been a DJ at the Garage for 25 years

A Glasgow woman is celebrating 25 years of DJing at city centre institution The Garage - 50 years after her parents met there.

Nicola Walker has been spinning tunes at the Sauchiehall Street venue since September 1997 and has seen it all from behind the decks.

She told the Glasgow Times: "I started off in PR. I was in Stairs - a Steps tribute band - and we did that in The Garage, then I started running the karaoke in The Garage as well.

“When I did the karaoke there was a guy who used to DJ and he basically said he was leaving. I’d been watching him and was like, ‘I can do this.’

“That’s basically how I got into it. I was basically self-taught and then gigged from there - 25 years in the institution that is The Garage.

"This is a really interesting thing I found out about The Garage as well - it turns out my mum and dad met in the Locarno Ballroom and, although the main entrance was the casino, the main hall of The Garage was the Locarno Ballroom.

Glasgow Times: Nicola Walker, DJ at the Garage
Glasgow Times: Nicola Walker, DJ at the Garage

Nicola Walker, DJ at the Garage

"They met there 50 years ago this year and I’ve been working there for 25 years. I only found that out a couple of months ago.

“I don’t think there are a lot of DJs out there who can say they’ve been in the same venue for 25 years, that’s a life sentence.

“I’ve literally got people coming in going, ‘I think you know my mum’ and I say, ‘as long as I don’t know your gran it’s alright’."

Anyone who grew up in Glasgow - and is over 18 - will have been to The Garage at some point, including some famous faces from the city and beyond.

Nicola recalled: “There was one time I did a stage thing where I interviewed Joey Essex. I asked him what his favourite flavour of crisp was and that really confused him.

“I’ve done a few nights with Hughie from the Fun Lovin’ Criminals, he’s a good friend of Donald MacLeod who owns The Garage and I’ve done a couple of guest DJ sets with him.

“I had Paolo Nutini in one night and he asked to come up and have a go at DJing. He wasn’t too bad, though I was talking him through it. He was really fun, he’s got a love for 70s disco.

Glasgow Times:
Glasgow Times:

“There have been a few good experiences over the years.”

As well as good experiences there have been friendships made - and some in unlikely circumstances.

Nicola said: "The turnover’s been so great among the staff over the years but there are people I’ve kept in touch with, like my best friend who I met at The Garage 20 years ago. She only worked there for a couple of years but we’re still best friends to this day.

“I’ve got other friends I’ve met through The Garage as well. I’ve got one friend and she and I didn’t like each other originally.

“I worked in The Garage and she was a punter and she was always chatting up the bouncer I was seeing. I never spoke to her, never liked her - then one night I got talking to her and found out the bouncer was seeing her as well.

“So we both got rid of him and we’ve been friends ever since."

Nicola was the first woman to DJ in The Garage, and though there have been other since she's currently the only female disc jockey.

Glasgow Times:
Glasgow Times:

She said: "There were women DJing in those days but there weren't at The Garage.

“It still happens to this day - and this really annoys me - people come up to make a request and if there’s a guy friend of mine or a photographer they go to them before me.

“And I’ll tell you what, it’s predominantly women who do it. I still find it really annoying because it is still a male-dominated industry.

“Obviously there are famous female DJs but I’d like to see more women locally doing it because it’s still really male-dominated."

After more than two decades there have been plenty of changes, at the venue, particularly after the Covid lockdowns which have meant plenty of youngsters experiencing a nightclub for the first time.

Nicola explained: "It’s funny, because when you come back after Covid you realise how much things have actually changed. People are in to slightly different music, there are songs that they wouldn’t dance to before and now they do, and I guess you’ve just got a new generation coming through who had never been out before.

“I think it must have been so hard turning 18 during Covid and then suddenly you’re 19-20 going out to nightclubs for the first time and you don’t know how to act.

Glasgow Times: Colin Mearns
Glasgow Times: Colin Mearns

Colin Mearns

"There are songs you can definitely get away with nowadays. Things like the older Taylor Swift songs. Love Story is a bit of a slower song but the students absolutely love Taylor Swift. Absolutely love things like Love Story.

“I’ve played stuff from High School Musical, You Can't Stop The Beat from Hairspray, you can get away with sticking stuff like that in now. Years ago you couldn’t get away with playing anything from a musical but nowadays the kids are a lot more cultured and it’s a lot more mainstream.

"The people who are coming to The Garage now are maybe like 18-23 and what is a throwback to them is not what a throwback is to you and I.

“They still love the old tunes, things like Queen's Don’t Stop Me Now, Proud Mary, the Grease megamix, stuff from Dirty Dancing. That stuff stands the test of time.

“The early 2000s is a great era for that as well, there’s still loads of stuff and all the kids know it.

Glasgow Times: Nicola Walker, DJ at the Garage
Glasgow Times: Nicola Walker, DJ at the Garage

Nicola Walker, DJ at the Garage

"They ask for (Avril Lavigne's) Girlfriend more than Sk8er Boi, that’s more popular to be fair. But even stuff like Gwen Stefani’s Hollaback Girl, Katy Perry’s stuff from that time - they love it.

"We’ve had loads of TikTok stuff, or other stuff going on in society - you’ll never get more requests for Baccara’s Yes Sir I Can Boogie than since Scotland started doing a bit better.

“You get all of those requests and some old songs making a comeback as well, which I really love because it’s like ‘oh my God I can start playing that again’.”

So, will Nicola still be behind the decks in another 25 years?

"What, on my zimmer frame? I’m not ready to hang up my headphones just yet.

“As long as Donald will have me then I’ll keep spinning the tunes for the young ones. I still love it as much as I’ve always done, I still have so much fun at work."