‘I’VE got 8K left over, I think you should make a show.”

But Andy, I dunno how to make a show, I’m just out of college, I need a script, a director, I dunno where to start.

“You’ll work it out.”

These were the words of Andy Arnold, original Artistic Director and founder of the Arches way back in 1997 when I first graduated from the Royal Conservatoire, and, for me they sum up the founding ethos of an organisation which was all about just trying stuff out, learning your craft without pressure, without any overbearing expectation, just letting you get down in the sandpit, play, get dirty and work it out. Work out how to say what you want to say, how to say it in the way that feels true and original to you, and maybe just in the process create something that matters to a whole load of other folk. This was long before the lauded contemporary performance practice course existed at RCS.

Long before the word “auteur” was reclaimed into Scottish theatre...long before ‘devised’ theatre was seen as anything other than slightly sub standard TIE material. People didn’t just ‘make shows’. You had to be a proper writer, or use a proper script, or be a real director, y’know, know real director stuff.

Andy had seen me organise an album launch gig there for Swelling Meg, my alt-folk rock band at the time. We took over an entire arch, filled it with the flotsam and jetsam of the underground music scene, brought in Caribbean food caterers, fed our wee mass, and generally made a glorious racket; two shaven headed girls on cello and double bass, a guitarist and percussionist kicking some arse into folk. He offered me my first professional acting job off the back of that performance and then followed it up with the insistence that I make my own show. That transpired into Horses, Horses, Coming In In All Directions, co-created with Ben Harrison; a promenade piece which took audiences through the various spaces in the arches, sat them under an enormous patchwork quilt, took them to a dark butcher’s world, where clay was moulded into body organs and thrown at wall. It culminated with Harry Ward and Itxaso Moreno thrashing about in a great shower of water (garden hose hanging by a few hooks) in the end arch with a team of drummers approaching while Patti Smith’s Horses howled out of the PA.

Twelve years later, after getting somewhat frustrated as a jobbing actor, it was the Arches again where I rediscovered my mojo. I applied to the Arches Award For New Directors and gained the bursary which allowed me to create Amada, my own directed show. That gave me the guts to stick at this creating shows/directing lark, and was the catalyst for and can rightly claim some ownership of RoadKill, Glasgow Girls, Whatever Gets You Through the Night, Janis Joplin: Full Tilt, Rites etc etc since. Shows which have packed out mainstream theatres in Scotland, London and toured to the US and Europe. None of these would have happened without my kickstart at The Arches.

The Arches has grown into one of Europe’s most dynamic arts centres. As a gig venue, a stage for some of the country’s most admired theatre programming and a vast club space that welcomes massive artists. The Arches represents a remarkable spectrum of local and international talent.

When Jackie Wylie took over in 2008, she carried on this ethos brilliantly. She understood Andy’s original vision but also how to adapt it for new contemporary audiences. It was Jackie who supported me again in getting Whatever Gets You Through The Night off the ground; it was a crazy, sprawling, multi-tendrilled joyous mass of a thing. I worked closely with Andrew and Laura Eaton-Lewis of Swimmer One and Hamish Brown and David Greig in enlisting 10 writers and 10 bands from the Scottish scene, and we created together a live show, an album, book and film. It was a huge experiment in trying to bring Scottish theatre and Scottish music together in a way which felt organic and untypical; not musical theatre but theatre which was fundamentally formed through working with bands we would go listen to and buy the albums of. Where else could you see in ONE show the likes of RM Hubbert, Rachel Sermanni, Ricky Ross, Emma Pollock, Withered Hand, Errors, Eugene Kelly, Meursault, Alan Bissett, Kieran Hurley, Big Tajj, David Greig, Stef Smith, Kirsten Innes, Annie Griffin whilst sitting on an old coach seat with pint in hand? The Arches. The Arches. The Arches.

I am one little person in a whole roll call of Scottish artists who started out here playing about in the dirt, working it out, who were then recognised by enormous organisations and have been welcomed with open arms across the most brilliant venues in the world.

The Arches was not some inward-looking little clique for those in the know, only ever performed to a select few. Work formed and gestated here, then took on the world. The bravest producers across the world know the work of this little cavern tucked away under the bridge. But Glasgow Licensing Board deem none of this important. That artists grown here promote Scotland as a progressive, innovative, cultured and deeply creative country across the globe. Nope, zero register.

Here is a venue which has subsidised itself for decades with an innovative model, whereby the commercial and club ventures pay for the riskier ventures. It was a beautiful symbiosis.

For an unprecedented six years, The Arches won gold standard under the Glasgow Community Safety/Strathclyde Police Best Bar None awards – recognition of best practice in maintaining safe and well-run premises. No other venue in Scotland has achieved that. Arches’s solicitor Archie Maciver said that in all but a small handful of instances the police were only aware of drug misuse because staff at the venue had contacted them. None of this seems to matter.

We have lost the womb of Scottish creativity. Shame on you Police Scotland and Glasgow Licensing Board. Everyone knows this is a nonsensical decision. Everyone knows this will not stop drugs in Glasgow. An infant could tell you this is solving nothing. Clubbers will move elsewhere, the problem will continue. You have gained nothing. Through lack of true understanding, you have killed a key bedrock of creativity in our beloved city. This is a black day for Glasgow and Scotland.

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