When Donegal Rocked The City Centre And Scotland Dreamed Of Glory From Fishnet Tights To Poetry Nights The Arches Told My Story (In Memory Of The Arches 1990-2015 )

Hey everyone. I write this post with a sense of both sadness and anger, as i am very much still in a state of shock that The Arches one of Scotland’s best and my favourite multi purpose venue has been left with no choice but to go in to administration. This has come about in no small part to intransigence of the ruling Labour party in Glasgow who it seems want to bury their heads in the sand as to the impact this will have on the cultural, social, and economic  life of the city.

The fact that our city guardians allowed the highly toxic orange order to hold a ‘family fun day’  bizarrely entitled  Orange-fest  under the guise that it promoted ‘heritage and culture whilst allowing one of the city’s top venues to be closed down shows how misplaced some people’s political priorities really are.

As you can tell i am outraged  at this decision and believe me i have very personal reasons for being so. The closure of the Arches  is devastating news not just for the clubbers of today’s generation but also for many of shall we say a more mature vintage including those of us like myself, who have enjoyed many a cracking afternoon or evening in a fantastic multi purpose event space.  

As with any closure however the people who will  be affected most by this decision are the staff who will lose their jobs because of what i believe to be a huge mistake. I would like to extend my sympathies to all affected by this hammer blow to a social space which is far too important to lose. I have many great memories of The Arches in all its different guises I even used to pop in to the cafe bar for a quick diet coke after work or before attending a poetry or music event.

These memories go back over twenty five years, and encompass every aspect of culture from putting on my secret pre transition glad rags the love boutique and violate to watching theatre and poetry nights. From enjoying a crazy action packed Sunday at the festival of the Common Weal as the part of the yes campaign for independence last July to perhaps my favourite night at the venue in the summer of 2011 when Donegal rocked the place to its foundations and I broke the habit of a lifetime by leaving the last Saturday of the Edinburgh fringe before last orders to attend so much did it mean to me to see a certain band. My poem The Early Train is a must read for all who were there that night.

As I said my love affair with the Arches started early and within months of it opening I was a regular attender at cultural events in the venue. This was a place that once you had been there once it held on to you with a fierce grip and never let you go. It was for me and I suspect many others a cultural one stop shop. This was the place that had everything.

As I said those early nights at the love boutique were important to me as they gave me a place to express myself outside the traditional LGBT scene which at that time I was still apprehensive about venturing into. The early to mid 90’s were very difficult times to be trans in a city like Glasgow which though it had recently had the title European City Of Culture nobody really believed it and it took a good few years before Glasgow which was struggling with its post industrial identity finally embraced this cultural shift.

One of the reasons it did so was in no small part to the groundbreaking plays produced by the Arches Theatre Company. This was particularly true during the Glasgay festival of which it was always a keen supporter  and even at Christmas Arches pantomimes were always slightly different to those in the more established  traditional venues. Yes if you wanted ground breaking theatre In Glasgow the Arches was without doubt the place to go. This opened up a new market for theatre to a younger more working class audience, and the theatre itself was a far more intimate setting than some of the bigger venues. Also there was the added bonus the venue doubled up as a nightclub and as its reputation grew the Arches was able to attract some of the best DJ’s both in Scotland and in Britain.

Earlier in this post I made reference to some of my favourite memories in this all too familiar haunt citing the crazy but magical nights at the Love Boutique and who can ever forget Death Disco? Certainly not me and that’s the truth. It was nights like these that gave me the courage and strength I needed to become the confident woman I am today.

On the topic of my transition it is with very great affection that I look back on one of the greatest kindnesses shown to me on the early part of my journey. It came in March 2009 when knowing me as a seasoned regular and also as a poet the staff arranged completely unknown to me a very special treat and put me  on the VIP list to see the man who was, is and ever shall be the god father of performance poetry the legendary John Cooper Clarke. Of course i knew nothing about this until i was standing in the queue at the box office ready to part with cash.   On seeing me, a member of the box office team waved me straight through and told me i was on the VIP guest list. Needless to say i was delighted and for once in my life speechless.  On chatting to a member of the bar staff i expressed my surprise and gratitude for this unexpected gift and she told me it was my transformation present from the staff.  This was a truly amazing gesture and i have to say a memory i will cherish  for the rest of my life.

Though sad and indeed angry at the decision to close the Arches i  am comforted by the fact that many people will miss the old place as much as i will. This feeling of loss is summed up perfectly by my good friend and fellow poet Stephen Watt on hearing about the closure described it as ‘dreadful news’.  This sentiment is one which i am sure the vast majority of people of Glasgow and the West of Scotland will echo in their thoughts about what can only be called  a cultural catastrophe.  In different circumstances Stephen Watt would have been playing at the venue last night and i risking the considerable wrath of a much loved flatmate would have removed the last £10 from my bank to go and see him.

These however are not normal circumstances these were tragic circumstances and Scotland’s cultural  scene will be poorer  without the Arches .

My last visit to the what was and will forever be one of Glasgow’s most iconic cultural venues  was just after New Year to pick up my brochure for Celtic Connections. I would never have  guessed on that wet windy Thursday afternoon that i would never again venture in to one of my favourite places. So, if you are thinking that part of me died on hearing this news  i think you would be right. That said however, eternal flames never die and the spirit of the Arches lives on.

Looking back on the 25 years of this majestic multi-purpose establishment i have so many good times to be thankful for. There are far too mention in just one post but in particular  i’m thinking of the times when Donegal rocked the city centre  and Scotland dreamed of glory, from fishnet tights to poetry nights the arches told my story.

Love And Best Wishes Gayle  X

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