Save the Arches: RM Hubbert, Rob Drummond, Tam Dean Burn tell us why
With the long-term future of The Arches still uncertain as the venue appeals moves to shut down its clubbing operation, we ask actors, writers and musicians for their views on the Glasgow arts institution
The Arches' arts programme will continue as planned until June, after the Glasgow multi-arts venue announced that Creative Scotland and Glasgow City Council have agreed to provide an advance on its 2015-16 funding.
The venue will receive its pre-agreed funding to help it carry out its current programme of events, while also receiving ‘specialist advice to enable it to properly consider all future options’. The Arches has also announced that it will appeal the decision by the city's Licensing Board to restrict its opening hours, effectively outlawing its clubbing operation.
Last week, hundreds of creatives from across Scotland and beyond signed an open letter in support of the venue; we've asked a few figures from across the creative spectrum to explain what The Arches means to them – here are their responses.
Rob Drummond: "Without the Arches where would I have gone?"
“Without the Arches I might not have made it. I’d still be the same me with the same talent but without the Arches where would I have gone in the early stages of my career to try things out? As Andy Arnold might have said, where else would have given me the ‘right to fail’ coupled with the support to succeed? This is the worrying situation that may face hundreds of new artists in the coming years if the Arches goes under.
“The job Jackie Wylie [artistic director] has done is astounding. She has picked up where Andy left off and morphed that place into a powerhouse of European live art – a hugely respected, world renowned arts venue that should be the pride of Scotland. I know, because I have just finished an on-off two-and-a-half-year world tour with an Arches show, Bullet Catch, which was the launch pad to my career as a full time artist.
“And all this is now under threat. Because a night club closed. Think about that. This is the ludicrous situation we find ourselves in; petitioning for the reopening of a night club to save an arts venue. I’m sure there are many compelling reasons for the club’s late licence to be reinstated, as others more qualified than me will attest, but how crazy is it that one of those reasons is, so that the arts can continue to be funded. How about this? Let's fund the arts properly in the first place. If one good thing can come out of all this it is to highlight this almost-beyond-parody situation.”
Rob Drummond is a playwright and actor; Bullet Catch won the Critics' Awards for Theatre in Scotland (CATS) award for best new production in 2013.
Ryan Van Winkle: "A place to be surprised"
“The Arches does what an excellent, urban, multi-arts complex should do. It provides audiences a space to both enjoy and support work they know as well as the opportunity to stumble upon and be surprised by a whole lot of work they may never have sought out.
“The value of this kind of space where anything can happen, where different arts, cultures & subcultures mingle is undeniably important to the longevity & innovation in Scottish culture.”
Tam Dean Burn: "Utterly unique"
“The Arches are a home alone for avant-garde waifs and strays. The Victorian caves-become-venue really are utterly unique to Glasgow and everyone who enters them senses that. I’m sure even the cops who were ordered in to patrol recent club nights found themselves struggling not to fall under their dark invincible spell.
“The reasons behind [attempts to close down the venue] are even murkier than the darkest corner of the Arches. There's no sense in it whatsoever. For the individual and socially, alcohol is a much more potent, addictive and dangerous drug than ecstasy – I should know as I lost my younger brother to it – but no one anywhere is suggesting we go back to alcohol prohibition.
“Instead of blind useless drug laws, criminalisation and zero tolerance prohibition we need to have a grown up debate, decriminalisation and joined up policies on drugs. The Arches has been operating the safest club environment in the UK and Police Scotland must be stopped from their harassment of the venue. How dare they demand the Arches changes its pioneering business model!”
Tam Dean Burn is a film, television and theatre actor.
RM Hubbert: "No other venue provides such an experience"
“It’s hard to imagine doing what I do now had The Arches not been there. From promoting Mogwai there in 1997 through to supporting artists such as Tortoise and Godspeed You! Black Emperor alongside headlining a good few of my own shows plus writing and performing in my first theatre production (Whatever Gets You Through the Night) as part of an amazing ensemble, The Arches has consistently provided myself and many, many others with not only a venue for our artistic outpourings, but a well-run and more importantly, inspiring team of people in the background to help us do so.
“That’s before we even get to the cultural impact. Where else does experimental theatre sit (literally) side by side with a hard house club? International touring musicians alongside contemporary dance events? This criss-crossing of art forms helps all to evolve and learn. We’re exposed to wonderful things that we might never have known about had it not been for these disparate audiences mingling in the bar or hearing a snippet of something new and exciting between the rooms.
“I don’t know of any other venue in Scotland that provides such an experience. If The Arches has to go, I suspect that experience will go with it.”
Ben Harrison: "Unrivalled as an arts resource in Scotland"
“The Arches was where I conducted some of my earliest theatrical experiments, including Hanging Stars for Mayfest 1997, and Horses, Horses, Coming In In All Directions in 2000. At that time it was imbued with the can-do, have-a-go spirit of Andy Arnold and was a wide-open door for artists. As the venue developed under the artistic directorship of Jackie Wylie, sophisticated programmes of artist development, from live art through to more traditional narrative theatre, exploded and energised the arts scene in Scotland.
“If you are a young artist with a great idea the Arches is the place for you. It is unrivalled as an arts resource in Scotland that is genuinely artist-focused. Its national and international reach, perhaps best seen with the touring success of Bullet Catch and Nic Green's Trilogy, has created a powerhouse that punches far above its weight. I was a mentor for several years for the excellent Platform 18 programme which gives emerging artists the possibility of a production budget and technical and marketing support at a critical point in their careers. It is a fantastic and supportive model, nurturing the next generation and connecting them up with the wider Scottish theatre ecology.
“The death of any young person is a tragedy. It would only create a wider sense of profound sadness if this death and the associated investigation led to the devastation of the contemporary Scottish arts scene and its future, which the closure of the Arches would certainly ensure.”
Ben Harrison is Co-Artistic Director of Grid Iron theatre company, who won a Fringe First award in 2014 for Leaving Home.