Arches Call at CATS

Jun 16 2015 | By More

Venue closure casts shadow over awards ceremony

“Different type of working model” needed in the future, says founding director

If the Lyceum dominated the winners list at Sunday’s Critics Award for Theatre in Scotland, it was the Arches closure which dominated the speeches.

How could it not. The ceremony was held at Glasgow’s Tron Theatre and the five minute walk to the Tron from Central Station starts opposite the entrance to the Arches. More to the point, the Tron is where the Arches’ founding director, Andy Arnold, is now artistic director.

Andy Arnold speaking at the CATS 2015. Photo Stuart Wallace visit my website:

Andy Arnold speaking at the CATS 2015. Photo: Stuart Wallace

Arnold even co-hosted the event, playing a superb straight man to the banter and pish-taking of comedian Karen Dunbar.

Dunbar, hosting the event for the second time, sided easily with her audience, flirted mercilessly with the critics and recalled, with withering timing, their various critiques (good and not-so-perceptive) of her own work.

But amidst her casual manner and deliciously tart asides she revealed that, like many in the room, she got one of her first and most important breaks at the Arches.

Breaking off from the banter for a rare moment, she thanked Arnold saying: “I did a show for the Comedy Unit at the Arches in the beginning of 1998. It was that which put me into the radio show of Chewin’ the Fat, which then went on to television and did what it did and means that I am standing here.”

In the awards, lighting designer Simon Wilkinson’s beautifully constructed sweep of lighting across the Lyceum’s open, earth-strewn stage was instrumental in it winning Best Design award for Bondagers. But in accepting the gong, he recalled that his first step into professional design was at the Arches 15 years ago.

Struggling to place his first foot on the ladder, he was invited by Adrian Osmond to light Lion in the Streets which he was directing for the Arches Theatre Company.

Argyle Street entrance to The Arches under Glasgow's Central Station. Photo: Thom Dibdin

Argyle Street entrance to The Arches under Glasgow’s Central Station. Photo: Thom Dibdin

“That was an incredible opportunity for me,” Wilkinson said. “It was probably the show from which everything I have done in Scotland has come. And I think it would be a huge shame if that opportunity wasn’t available for today’s emerging theatre makers.”

It is the realisation that the Arches has provided a place for theatre artists to put their ideas, however out-there or inward-looking, into practice. And not just performers, but people all the different professions who come together to put a production on a stage.

As the Lyceum’s own artistic director Mark Thomson warned of the Arches Theatre Company’s potential demise: “artists are not going to emerge, they are going to disappear, unless that company is looked after and taken care of”.

Yet amidst the calls for the Arches to be allowed to go back to what it was before Police Scotland decided that it needed shutting down as a place of late-night clubbing and the Glasgow Licencing Board agreed, Andy Arnold himself sounded a note of caution.

His call was for a more inventive approach to the future of the Arches. The economic model of house music-based clubs funding the theatre and arts side has had its day, he said: “It can’t go back – what it was is now finished.”

He urged his audience not only to follow the expected channels of contacting politicians and protesting, to make sure that the arts company returns to the Arches, but once there, he said: “there needs to be creative imagination of a different type of working model for the future.”

Andy Arnold’s statement in full

Andy Arnold’s statement on current situation at the theatre and multi-arts venue The Arches, which he founded in 1991, made at the CATS 2015 ceremony, held at the Tron Theatre Glasgow on Sunday 14 June, 2015.

The Arches went into receivership and cancelled all future events with immediate effect on Wednesday 10 June.

“It is a tragic development that has taken place. I feel very upset about it, as many other people do. It was a large part of my life, but also I feel quite angry about the way things have developed.

“I don’t just mean the way the late licence was taken away, I think that the whole business plan of clubs funding the arts programme was on the way out there and had been for quite a while.

“There never seemed to be a plan B. I think that – even without that cutback in the licence – in a couple of years’ time it probably would have gone anyway. And I think what was needed, what is needed, is some sort of commercial creative imagination to think of something else which can bring thousands of people into that building to enjoy themselves in a hedonistic city like Glasgow without necessarily being club and house music which is inevitably ecstasy-driven and so on.

“It was a great part of it, and we started with the clubs and we never expected them to last that long.

“Up until a few days ago I would have thought that’s it, because now the company has gone into administration and there will be a lot of people who want to take over the place. But given the political support and John Swinney making encouraging comments, I really hope that there is a future, but it has to be something different.

“I would urge people here not only to contact politicians and so on; not only to make sure that the arts company goes back into the Arches; but also there needs to be creative imagination on a different type of working model for the future. It can’t go back. What it was is now finished. I will certainly do what I can.

“When we started the clubs: Cafe Loco, Love Boutique after that and Death Disco, they were part of the Arches. But the main money earners, the big clubs which started with Cream and so on, Inside Out, to be honest were quite a separate entity. And of course a couple of tragic events took place before I left and something had to change. I desperately hope that is not the end of it.”


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