And so ends the Arches. Not in a bang of techno and theatre and colour, but at the damp, cold strangling hands of legality and licensing throttling the life out of something that had become more than just a venue for some club nights, but also an important, perhaps irreplaceable, cornerstone of Glasgow’s contemporary arts and culture. I suspect it won’t be this year that the damage done to the city by the loss will be felt, nor next. But four or five years from now the full impact will become apparent.
I don’t want to get into the politics of what happened. There have already been dozens of articles by proper, grown up journalists about it who have eloquently discussed the ins and outs from both sides of the fence. I also don’t want to indulge in conspiracy theories – I’ve done enough of that myself with friends and elsewhere on the internet recently. Suffice to say that any Glaswegian venue that have received Gold Standard awards six years running from the police/council in recognition of how safe and well run the venue is, and still loses its license in such a way has a right to wonder whether darker forces were at work. Anyway, here is the Press Release issued on Wednesday just after they went into administration.
As for myself, my memories of the Arches are mixed. I only attended the nights there during my time as a regular club goer now and again. I found the main venue too big and too crowded to really cut loose. The music itself was often of the big room techno variety – not really my thing – but there were some good nights all the same; hours lost to the likes of Juan Atkins and Kevin Saunderson are hours well spent regardless of where you are and, looking back, the sheer amount of world-class talent (and Detroit legends in particular) that the Arches brought to this wee provincial city was a testament not only to them but to Glasgow, and its club going crowds.
Strangely enough, my favourite ever night at the Arches wasn’t techno or house, and it wasn’t in the main room. It was in one of the smaller, more intimate parts of the venue, and I was there to see the New York art punk band Television play one of the very best gigs I’ve ever witnessed. Two hours of Tom Verlaine and the boys working their way through their back catalogue, culminating in a jaw dropping, astounding, 30 minute long version of Marquee Moon. I floated for days afterwards.
Enough of the punk, It’s the techno that symbolises The Arches for most people, and the symbiotic link between the venue and Slam lasted 25 years, latterly as their monthly Pressure night. Of all the tunes to come out of Glasgow, Positive Education must be one of the most – if not THE most – famous. An enormous hammer blow of a tune that owes as much to Detroit and Chicago as it does to Glasgow, it seems a more than fitting call out to remember better times while this cruel and bizarre ending unfolds.
So goodbye the clubs, goodbye the theatre and the art. Goodbye to all that. Sound and thought made real and not just a slogan on a wee blog. Gather round, folks, this is what cultural vandalism looks like.