HWFG!: Remembering The Arches
30 years ago The Arches opened its doors for the first time and changed Scotland's arts scene forever. In their new book, two former employees – David Bratchpiece and Kirstin Innes – celebrate the iconic venue's enduring legacy
“The last minute scramble of 'oh fuck, oh fuck!'; that was every day in The Arches," says David Bratchpiece. “Performance art happening in one space, nudity; on-stage urination became a popular thing,” continues Kirstin Innes.
The pair are discussing the wonderful chaos of an average working day at historic Glasgow arts venue The Arches. Both former employees and passionate advocates for the venue’s cultural importance, Bratchpiece and Innes have co-authored a new book, Brickwork: A Biography of The Arches, celebrating the iconic venue’s enduring legacy.
For nearly 25 years – between 1991-2015 – the venue was one of the most celebrated in Scotland, and its influence extended across Europe and the rest of the world too, renowned for its radical, unique and distinctly Arches approach. Told through the words of “the people who made it what it was” – as it says in the book’s foreword – Brickwork features the testimonials of over 60 people, each with their own unique stories recounting their time spent at The Arches.
In fact, it was while reminiscing about one of the venue’s most popular club nights, Death Disco, during a Zoom reunion in lockdown where Bratchpiece and Innes realised they were both working on separate books about The Arches’ legacy. “In the chat room I was like, 'guess what? I've just been asked to write a book’... but I saw Bratchy's face just go [*gestures a confused look*], because Bratchy was already writing a book,” says Innes. “I totally thought I had my poker face on,” Bratchpiece jokes.
The discovery was a blessing in disguise, however, as the pair decided to work together on something much more comprehensive, and came up with the idea to tell the story in the style of an oral history. The book reads like a free-flowing conversation, with memories from a range of contributors – including the venue’s founder Andy Arnold, playwright Cora Bissett, and DJ and former Arches patron Carl Cox – pieced together almost like a puzzle from various interviews conducted by Bratchpiece and Innes over a four-month period.
“We went right into the night having conversations on Slack about where things were going to fit in where, but the story just did seem to come together,” says Innes. “Wee things would stick in my head and I'd be messaging Kirstin in the middle of the night sometimes, going ‘keep that bit in!’,” Bratchpiece continues.
As much as The Arches has done for Scotland’s arts community, though, a key revelation in the book points to the venue as the birthplace of that chant. Here We Fucking Go is the title of an entire chapter in the book, dedicated to the origins of the now infamous chant heard at gigs, club nights, football matches, and just about any event Scottish crowds can get away with chanting it. But the initial response to the chant was anything but welcoming. “The Arches was a bit like 'gonnae no do that',” says Bratchpiece.
“It was [at club night] Inside Out where it all kicked off… I couldn't make it out at first and I was just like 'what is this noise?' And my mate, who I worked with, was like ‘it's this new thing they're chanting’,” he continues. “Since then, there's a sort of mythology almost around it, so I'm actually quite chuffed that now in this book we're like...that's ours.”
Despite its closure in 2015, The Arches is still widely considered one of the most important venues in Scotland’s history, and the stories in Brickwork beautifully detail exactly why it’s held so dear in the hearts of so many.
Brickwork: A Biography of The Arches is published on 4 Nov via Salamander Street